Umahi’s projects stoke conversations about his political future’

By Leo Sobechi
Orji Uchanna Orji, the Commissioner of Information and Orientation, Ebonyi State, in this interaction with LEO SOBECHI, argues that the nature of projects undertaken by the state governor, David Umahi, warrants speculation about the governor’s political future.

How realistic is the claim that Governor Umahi is developing a little Dubai in Ebonyi State, against the background of poor human capital?
It is indeed a miracle that we came to see under the divine mandate and administration of His Excellency, Chief David Umahi, who came on board on May 29, 2015 and rolled out programmes that are life transforming. This is particularly significant, when you look at where we are coming from, the deficits we had in infrastructure and human capital development; the fact is that we were once a totally neglected part of the country, where nothing good was coming from.

And so, today, under Governor Umahi, we are celebrating a state that has the best road infrastructure, talking about road built on concrete pavement of eight inches numbering not less than 1500kilometre state roads constructed by him, most of which are done in concrete pavement. Of course, we have over 500 kilometres Federal Government roads built by our dear governor, thereby making Ebonyi State to have the highest network of roads apart from Lagos and Abuja. And for him to actualize his dreams of making Ebonyi State an investment destination, he had to embark also on aggressive construction of flyovers. From any part of our neighbouring states to Ebonyi, you will be greeted by flyovers that is not less than 23 span in which most of the cases, you will see double lane been done by the governor also done in concrete pavement and so from Enugu to Ebonyi State passing through Ebonyi State, you will be greeted with not less than 5 number flyovers talking about Chief Ibeto flyover, Dr. Sam Egwu flyover, Senator Offia Nwali flyover, Dr. Akanu Ibiam flyover, Margaret Umahi International Market flyover and so on.

I can say that every section or major junctions of the senatorial zones has a flyover. You see the Iyere flyover linking Ebonyi to Abia State from the axis of Eda, you will see flyover linking Ebonyi to Abia from the axis of Uburu through Isiagu and we have the College of Medicine flyover, we also have the International Airport flyover that is under construction and each of these flyovers, I can tell you were built by the local contractors and indigenous engineers, none was built by expatriates.

As I speak, any part of the state you want to go will not take you more than one hour and that is a dream realized by the governor, thereby making Ebonyi a global community. In the face of all these, having regard to the fact that before now Ebonyi was like a dumping ground, a never do well state, the governor had to put up what is called Africa’s biggest light tunnel. The tunnel is like a fence of Ebonyi State, the moment you get to that point, you will ask yourself, are you in Dubai, United Kingdom, Washington DC? And that is what we call the Africa’s light tunnel named after President Mohammed Buhari, who also did the flag off of the project. The light tunnel is a four-way light tunnel linking to the major economic transforming facility that we have. We have the shopping mall with not less than 5000-number shop. Mr. Bruce of Silverbird came and said it is the biggest in Africa he is not a politician.

This light tunnel is also linked to Africa’s most beautiful Christian ecumenical centre, which is a spiritual place, a place where you can have your spiritual enrichment and also social corporate functions, including local and international conferences. It is a place to be, it is like heaven on earth.

This light tunnel also links to many other flyovers and also links to Southeast’s biggest single international market located along the trans-Sahara highway leading through Cross River to Cameroun. When the bridge between Cameroun and Cross River is done, it would become an international market for African countries to visit. I can tell you that it is a beauty to behold.

Now, this same phase of Ebonyi that is a light tunnel is also linking to Nigeria’s most beautiful Government House, is a three-arm zone, housing the Governor’s Lodge, the Governor’s Office and the Presidential Lodge. It is something you need to see and appreciate, because it is an edifice that can compete with any such edifices in the world.

We have a lot of other ancillary buildings located around the new Government House and we have the state executive council chamber and other facilities. This same light tunnel also links to the biggest international airport that is under construction.

This international airport is sitting on 4x4km land and you will appreciate that it is one of the biggest and fashioned after Lagos and Abuja International Airports. We want to tap into the Ethiopian Airline and air business. So, we are looking at an international airport in Ebonyi that will create job opportunities for the people, attract investors and above all, we are looking at an airport like a hub for importers and exporters.

The government is also raising importers and exporters, who are also going to be flying to any part of the world in anything international community or flying straight to Ebonyi. You know the implication of all of this with CCTV cameras for security and the fact that people are gainfully employed, investors would like to come to the state where there is safety.

he governor also looked at the fact that Ebonyi was nowhere to be seen in the map of developing states in Nigeria. He then decided that Ebonyi should be seen on the map on account of streetlights.

Today Ebonyi State is reckoned with as one of the neatest cities in Nigeria with many water fountains, beautiful roundabouts that are able to also attract the entertainment industry. I am not exaggerating; of course one of them is the biggest water fountain in Nigeria. Apart from these water fountains, we have the roundabouts not less than 13 roundabouts anybody that comes will concede that the governor has done very well.

In food production, the tenacity of our people has been demonstrated in manual labour. The governor believes that that era in agriculture should be a thing of the past. He decided to procure farm equipment for land development and flattening to make way for mechanization and commercialization of agriculture. Thereafter, he gave Trans planters, seeders, harvesters and all that to cooperatives free of charge.

In addition to the agricultural programme of the FG, that has really done a lot to transform agriculture and has really impacted on the agricultural programmes of Ebonyi State through the CBN (Central Bank of Nigeria).

Today, we have to go into farming and each person will have the opportunity of accessing N250, 000 in which you, must have a minimum of one hectare. That has really helped in making Ebonyi one of the three top producers of rice.

The state has also procured a lot of rice processing plants, we have 32 metric tonnes government-owned rice milling plant, Ebonyi has it as the highest. The old Abakaliki rice is in the Guinness Book of Records; some of them now have rice polishing machines and rice milling plants.

In Ebonyi State, we have a plant that does this and so that has really helped in ensuring that we enhance our rice production in Nigeria and that we have a system that stimulates agricultural development, including cassava. We have the biggest fertilizer programme in Southeast and one of the three biggest in the country. We have NPK for rice and other crops. We have a waste to wealth programme. A machine was procured and installed by the governor so farmers could maximise their farm produce, including rice and wheat. They can now sell it and make money and the byproducts could be processed and turned into other uses.

It has really helped in the area of agriculture. We also have what is called industrial clusters, which is the biggest in the whole of Southeast.

What does the governor think about health?
Governor Umahi decided to transform the healthcare system, with necessary healthcare facilities coupled with road construction. Today, every Local Government Area has a general hospital. It is a policy of the government, such that we have 13 general hospitals.

Some of them have become centres of excellence. We also have the virology centre, which is a part of the facility created for tertiary healthcare issues and has done a lot in tackling the Lassa Fever but it was going to be the highest. When it came on board, that has lifted the menace of Lassa fever. Today, we have it built by the governor and he also donated it to the FG Teaching Hospital FETHA, Abakaliki single hospital complex in Nigeria.

Today, the governor is constructing the College of Medicine that will be a centre of excellence for the treatment of heart diseases with a centre of excellence for the production of dialyses.

In the entire Africa, you will not find a place that is producing dialysers but the governor is making this arrangement so that Ebonyi State will be an alternative to India, UK in the area of treatment of those terminal diseases that take our big men outside the country.

We are looking at 10,000 jobs through the Federal and Military hospital complex, what is called the military referral centre that is ongoing. It is going to trigger a lot of jobs opportunities for our people. It is also going to complement the healthcare needs of our state.

Many people complain that the governor is focusing on flyovers; roads even with few vehicles in the state. Again, the governor wants to pursue three ambitious projects, the airport, the ring roads and then the medical facilities. Is he building for today, future or for glamour?
The governor is building for today and tomorrow. He is looking at 100 years to come. The projects would A stand the test of time with a minimum of 50 years guarantee before we talk about maintenance.

He does not want a situation where in the future development would entail destroying buildings. He is taking care of the issues from the beginning and addressing issues fundamentally aimed at resolving future conflicts. He wants Ebonyi to be the economic hub of Southeast in line with his proclamation in 2015, through construction and investment that will attract investors.

We have pharmaceutical investments in Ebonyi State and we have so many companies buying into the projects. The governor is doing a ring road. That is not even part of the programme to link up the eight local government areas in such a way that all the farm produce can be evacuated to the metropolis. This will enhance the economy of people in the local communities and reduce insecurity within such communities.

We are also saying that Ebonyi will truly be the salt of the nation, being the light of the nation, the governor has really set the pace. When the former Ohanaeze President General, Nnia Nwodo came to Ebonyi he observed that what any other state would do with N10million, the Ebonyi State governor executes the project with N1million. He does not tolerate any waste. He believes in passion for service and I can tell you that he is an ordinary man in behaviour, but does extraordinary things.

Governor Umahi is a man that possesses the three 3Es of leadership; he has education, experience and empathy. What is education without exposure? He goes out and comes back to replicate what he has seen in developed countries.

We are enjoying a state that is developed with every LG having streetlights with steady supply outside the national grid. It is generally believed that if this man has the opportunity, he would fix the power need of the nation.

What is the assurance that the governor would accomplish all these projects within the remaining part of his term?
The level of ovation that in the state was high when the governor did five and ten flyovers in the state. Today we are looking at 13 flyovers. He started by doing a light tunnel, which he said would be the biggest, today we have the biggest light tunnel.

The governor started a shopping mall, it is bigger than ShopRite, and today it has been completed. It is a beauty to behold. The international market was in a sorry state. Now it is one of Nigeria’s biggest international markets. Abakaliki used to be worse than the worst; today it is among the three most beautiful capital cities.

So, the ring road, the College of Medicine and international airport would be delivered. By the end of 2021 airplanes would be landing at the airport.

You said something about having business education before coming into politics. How do you place that side by side with the leadership and his politics?
The governor is a real and unique person. I will say God prepared him to serve Ebonyi State. The governor became a captain of note in Ebonyi State and all the constructions he undertook are still standing. He was the longest serving state party chairman. He became a deputy governor and became the first deputy to enter the big shoe when the time came. God told him that he would be the governor and he became.

Within those periods, he traversed the state and saw where it was pinching our people. God gave him the instrument to touch lives. It is just a testimony that God is with our governor.

We had shame, but today God has used this man to remove our shame. It is all about leadership and passion. He is a man that came with fivefold covenant, one of them being to ensure the empowerment of the widows.

Today, we have 4300 widows given 40, 000 and he has the covenant to empower women, N250,000 to go into any business of their choice. Even the clergy, including all the clerics receive N500, 000 to N800,000 to go into agriculture so that they can have a fallback when they come down from the pulpit.

For those into barrow pushing, even those into IPOB in Anambra and Lagos, a micro credit of N130million was provided for them under what we called the street to skill programme. Right now, the number of Ebonyians in the street of Lagos has reduced.

Like Solomon did and built a temple when you turn back looking through the temple to answer your prayer that is why today, 3rd May 2021, we are going to that temple to bring about peace in Nigeria. The stormy times and water will be a thing of the past and that is the man we are working with. He believes in the efficacy of prayers asking God to do whatever he wants for this state and as David of this time, he still sings praise to God.

I tell you the political future of the governor are in the hands of God. It is what God can do. After election comes governance and politics that is non-partisan, that does not have any coloration. That has guided his attitude to the party at the centre before he joined, to Mr. President and the nation. He believes that we must be obedient to constituted authorities and God will decide.

This Interview was first published in Guardian

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