For sometime, Abia State has been in the news for the wrong reasons. The reason is the seemingly high incidence of kidnapping and robbery by hoodlums, imitating the methods of the armed agitators in the Niger Delta. They killed, maimed and raped in the name of profit. Adopting crude and savage methods, they carved up parts of Abia and held the people down in great trepidation and anxiety. Thankfully, their activities have been brought to a permanent end by the single-minded and decisive move by the Governor, Chief Theodore Orji to invite crack federal troops to flush them out.
However, for all the consequences, of the senseless orgy of kidnapping none appears more upsetting than the bad publicity it brought on Abia State. For a time, all people wished to discuss was the question of kidnapping in Abia. Predictably, that odious news almost beclouded the good works of the governor, as well as the unprecedented edifying things in other spheres that add to the glory of Abia. For those who did not remember, while the miscreants were rampaging, not a few illustrious sons of Abia were elevated to very high positions at the federal level.
The first on the list of these elevations is the appointment of Lt. Gen. Ihejirika, a native of Ovim, in Isuikwuato Local Government Area of Abia State as Chief of Staff of the Nigerian Army. A seasoned and experienced army officer, Lt. Ihejirika’s appointment has been widely celebrated for all the right symbolisms. He is the first Igbo man to head the Nigerian Army, after late Gen. Thomas Aguiyi Ironsi, who was savagely slain in the counter-coup of 1966. It is worth remarking that both men are from Abia State. The most remarkable of all these, especially for the moment, is the irony. At a time, when Abia and Nigeria were being assailed by all sorts of security problems, one great son of Abia State was chosen and given the responsibility for Nigeria’s security and stability.
Another remarkable elevation is the appointment of Mrs. Rose Uzoma as the Comptroller-General of Immigration. She is the second woman to hold that position in recent times. Considered very dedicated and highly competent, Mrs. Uzoma’s elevation did not come as a surprise. She measures up to the mould of the kinds of persons that come out of Abia State. There is no point stressing what Nigerians should expect at the end her tenure. Whatever her mandate is, you can be sure that the commission will be run efficiently. She will be dedicated and passionate. And she will leave the place better than she met it. That is how Abia people are.
As if these were not enough, the Police Service Commission (PSC) also elevated two Abia indigenes to the position of Deputy Inspectors-General of Police (DIG). The first is Mrs. Ivy Uzoamaka Okoronkwo from Arochukwu. For some years, she was Assistant-Inspector –General of Police (AIG). Many thought she would have become the first female Inspector-General of Police (IG). But she was only made DIG and number two police personnel in Nigeria Police. Okoronkwo is widely respected for her integrity, efficiency and professionalism. Widely versed in law and other issues, the very beautiful woman is another recent crown on the glittering head of Abia State.
Mrs. Okoronkwo is not alone. Another great son of Abia was also elevated to the position of DIG. He is Mr. Azubuike Udah. Until his promotion, Udah was the AIG in-charge of Zone 2, Lagos. Those who are familiar with the workings of the police will tell you that you must be an insider to be given charge of Lagos. Holding that position meant that Udah knew his salt. But then, there was a pointer. He was the AIG in-charge of Zone 9 in Calabar. He was involved in both the battle against militancy and execution of amnesty programme that has fairly calmed the unrest in the Niger Delta. Udah hails from Bende Local Government Area of Abia State.
It was his close attachment to his state that led to his involvement in the botched amnesty programme in Abia State. These two appointments in the police tell a story about the quality of Abia people. There are just about seven DIGs. For two to come from Abia, in spite of the intrigues, balancing and politics, and the wide field of states, underlines that Abia people clearly rank among the first class Nigerians.
In normal times, talking about all these would amount to some immodesty. But things have gone down on the face of Abia. Things have happened to scrawl dirt on the illustrious heritage of the people. So people now forget that the man who built the Eastern Region when he was Premier, Dr. M. I. Okpara was from there. They have also forgotten Dr. Jaja Anuchia Wachukwu, the first indigenous Speaker of the House of Representatives, Prof. Eni Njoku, the first Vice Chancellor of the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, Navy Commodore Ebitu Ukiwe, the former Chief of General Staff, Mr. Paul Ogwuma, the former governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria(CBN), Major General Ike Nwachukwu, the former Foreign Affairs Minister, Chief Ojo Maduekwe, Mazi Sam Ohuabunwa, the Chairman of Pfizer, and also lately Mrs. Arunma Oteh, the Director-General of the Security and Exchange Commission (SEC).
There are indeed, many significant others in numerous fields –industry, banking and finance, commerce, academia, arts and governance. However, the contributions of these illustrious men and women, and indeed, their star quality stand in danger of being obscured by the deviance of a few misguided citizens who chose to live by the gun of mischief.
Now the next question is: is there a thing for Abia in these appointments? There is enough reason to believe that Abia stood to gain from these appointments. The reason is that almost all their responsibilities relate to security. It will be inexcusable, even for their careers, from the sort of madness in Abia to continue under their watch. If a Chief of Army Staff and two DIGs cannot keep Abia quiet, then their appointments would have been in vain. In reality, these appointments have taken away the difficulty the governor was having in impressing the Federal Government, the enormity of the insecurity in Abia. All that is required now is for the governor and these men and women to work in concert to uproot the problem so that the task of rebuilding Abia can begin in earnest.
Indeed, it would appear that some synergy is coming into place. From the interactions of Mr. Udah with stakeholders in the build up to the failed amnesty programme, he as a trained professional has a firsthand knowledge of the patterns, roots and manifestations of the insecurity in Abia. And this, one can say, he has made available to his colleagues. Beyond this, the recent deployment of troops in Abia, appears to take an unprecedented form. Rather than a sprinkling of soldiers, a huge number of troops are to be stationed at Ohafia, Asa High School in Ukwa West Local Government and Ngwa High School in Aba. What this means is that enough troops are on ground to police the swath of territory where the hoodlums roomed, killed, raped and maimed without challenge a few weeks ago.
It was also a great relief to see that the Joint Task Force (JTF) on the Disturbances on the Niger Delta was able to participate in the search for the 15 school children abducted in Aba. Before now, all such suggestions were hard to brook because of bureaucratic encumbrances. Their incursion; there is reason to believe, must have been made easier by the directives of the Chief of Army Staff.
In all these, whether the presence in office of these men and women will be of benefit to Abia depends on a large extent on the governor. Specifically, it depends on whether the governor wishes to succeed in defeating the insurgency permanently. A lot also depends on whether the governor sees opportunity in the cocktail of coincidences that has carried these Abia persons into very strategic offices while he keeps watch as governor of their state. Everything about the temperament of the governor indicates that he wishes to succeed. He has spoken of his willingness to deploy resources to ensure lasting security in the state, and expressed a wish for the troops to stay for the long-haul.
These are very good indications of a willingness to succeed. Once he restores security, it is easier for him to get on with the business of governance. And that is the right wish, or goal to pursue.
While it is safer to await the fruits of this optimism, it is impossible not to place on record that out of Abia, has come four fine citizens on whose shoulders the nation has placed enormous responsibilities and indeed, confidence. They represent what Abia is, its true face, and the quality that the people strive to attain. There is huge ray of sunshine on a temporary streak of darkness that fell on Abia.
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