The Abia State tour has come and gone but the note on trips remain.
One thing any one who went on the Abia Tour will tell you is that the immediate past Commissioner of Information (He resigned a few days before our arrival to pursue his political career) who was our guide for most of the tour is a smart man. He almost made me lose a line of thought by subtly replacing the word ‘functioning’ with ‘functional’ when I asked about some classrooms in Isikwuato.
The trip was also an eye opener at another level. I got to see first hand how difficult it is for us to actually hide our alliances and how this is manifested in the type of questions we asked or didn’t.
I have compiled some comments, questions and retorts in an effort to bring you the behind the scenes of the Abia trip.
1. Money is an important part of governance and how much a state makes at the end of each month should to a large extent the level of development. The ‘Aba’ question arose from Day 1. Why was there no development in Aba, despite its being the commercial hub? The Commissioner in trying to say Aba was not exactly the commercial hub responded that the Aba man may sew his shirts in Aba but he travels to Lagos with his 20 shirts and sells them there and returns when the money is safely in his account. (*crickets) When further queried about what the state’s IGR is he responded “Do I look like the cashier or Auditor General to you?” (*sigh) In fairness to the Commissioner,it had been stated earlier that all questions involving budgeting and expenditure should be reserved for the meet with the governor. In fairness to the bloggers, some of them were not paying attention. As evidenced by this next encounter…
2. The State Government has relocated the Umuahia Main Market which, according to the Commissioner had existed from the 50s in the center of town. The market is being replaced by an Event Center(still er. Under construction) . The market was moved to Ubani and in order to attract development in that area, the government is building a housing estate there. So, the Commissioner explains to us that the roofs are colour coded so the estate managers will find it easier to allocate the houses. Immediately after this statement someone asks: so why do we have different colours of roofs?
3. Still on the market, someone asked if the governement calculated the social implications of moving a market that had been on existence from the 50’s to a new location. To which Commissioner goes: We might as well discuss the social implications of Fashola cleaning out Oshodi”. (What more can I say?)
4. The question of development in Aba was to arise again the next day after we visited a secondary school in Isikwuato and were told we would be taken to see the helipad which served as an aid to fighting insecurity in Aba. The Commissioner made an interesting comment about security: “Security issues are local and must be tackled locally.”
Then in discussing how the costs of insecurity affected development in Aba, he adds,
“When we were fighting insecurity in Aba, do you think we were going around with knockout?”
5. A highlight of the trip was a visit to the health facilities. From the way the Commissioner spoke of the facilities, you’d realise it is one of the bigger achievements of the administration. Day 1 we were taken to see the Specialist Center where they had both a dialysis centre and a specialist eye clinic. You can see some photos here
Day 3 we were taken to the annex of the hospital where they have a 100 bed facility. ( Should I mention that someone actually asked how many beds were in the facility after the commissioner told us it was a 100-bed facility? I think I shouldn’t :|)
One blogger was struck by the fact that there were no patients in the hospital and asked why to which the Commissioner responded “Because we are not sick yet.”
6. The need for government to cut down on workforce was again highlighted when the Governor noted during our meet with him that of the between 5.3 and 5.5 Billion allocation Abia gets from the Federal Government, 4.5Billion was spent paying wages every month. He also told us that Abia’s IGR is about 700 Million monthly.
7. People were not happy about how the Governor and his people were making it seem like the government of Orji Uzor Kalu never existed. The fact that the Governor and Commissioner were part of that administration didn’t help matters. Why are you speaking do badly about an administration you were part of, someone asked. The Commissioner responded, “When you are entering a bus do you ask who the driver is?”
The governor’s response was more classic: “I was part of government but I was not governor. You do what you are asked to do. I did my job deligently. That why I was Chief of Staff from 1999 to 2007.Others were sacked but I remained. If you don’t do what the governor says you will be sacked. I did not want to be sacked… Being Chief of Staff is not the same thing as being Governor”. (Amen)
8. We drove to Aba, day 3 through the Umuahia-Aba road. And just before Ogbor Hill, the Commissioner stopped to explain some “hard truths” to us: “This the real Ogbor Hill”, he declared. ” Not the Ogbor hill of the people doing intellectual gymnastics on the internet”. And then turning to the road, he asks ” How many roads in Lagos do you know in Lagos that looks like this?”
9. One can’t complain of the welcome we were given when we met with the governor. As he walked in he gave us a “how una dey” with a smile. And then the Commissioner gave us this: “Welcome our brothers on social media. Our brothers on Facebook . Our brothers on Twitter. Bloggers and counterbloggers. The anonymous and the real.”
10. One can’t help but mention the response the Governor gave when someone asked why he was speaking against the one who annointed him: “I was not annointed but democratically elected. I won the election while in jail. No one wants to be a bishop without a cathedral. You take the blame but not praise where you will be teleguided.”
1. It needs to be said that the sheer number and irrelevance of some people one saw on this tour leaves a lot to be desired. While one has never been against these tours, there is a need to not turn it into a caricature by inviting people just because. (One may have been invited just because so one may be subbing oneself in this regard)
2. Abia has obviously received the short end of the stick as far as governance,is concerned. It is sad that after 23 years the State is yet to take off. The fact that places like government house and secretariat is yet to be built says a lot. Government is a continuum and in places where someone at least started something, another will not have to go redo it. That Abia is where it is now says a lot about a lack of foundation. Like the Governor himself admitted, if some of these projects started in 2007, they would have been completed now.
3. That the Governor admitted that governance only took off in 2011 says a lot. By their own admission only 2 years has been spent on real governance. So I shall join their arithmetic and score them below 25%.
4.Finally, there is a lot of framing going on in the news. On social media popular views prevail even when they are not necessarily true. Abia is very far from what Abians want it to be but it is not the stereotype that the average social media influencer would want you to accept.
Someday, justice will be lifted up…but not today 😦