FEMI FANI-KAYODE, ONYEAGOCHA: BETWEEN WRENS AND THE SOARING EAGLE

Onwuasoanya FCC Jones

That individuals like Femi Fani-Kayode and Uche Onyeagucha could think they are verbally sparring with a colossus like Governor Rochas Okorocha is one of the prices one has to pay for submitting himself to public office. These men do not qualify to be in the lowest rungs among the personal staff of Okorocha and his Rochas Group of companies. At the time Okorocha started dining with heads of States of some of the world’s most respected countries and had heads of international and United Nations agencies at his beck and call, individuals like Onyeagucha, the jailbird and his new found ‘boyfriend’, Femi Fani-Kayode were still carrying files around government offices, looking for one lowly placed government official or the other whose shoes they may polish (with their tongues, if the need be), in order to have some money to maintain their notoriously hedonistic indulgences.

Onyeagocha, the son of a teacher and Fani-Kayode, the son of a lawyer obviously share more in common than just being failed lawyers who have not been able to argue out any notable case in court, but jumped to the seemingly easy route to wealth which they both see politics as. Both men are intellectually lousy and could have only become visible in a political system like ours, where garrulity and loutishness are seen as signs of vibrancy and most unfortunately, charisma. To them, mendacity is a talent which they are ready to consistently hone like Christiano Ronaldo is determinedly honing his dribbling and goal scoring skills in order to remain relevant in politics. Sneaky and parasitic, both men are also dependent on the goodwill of another strong politician before they can make any impact in politics. For Onyeagucha, such gamble had earned him a House of Representatives seat, when, what a majority of those who voted him knew was that they were voting for Odumegwu Ojukwu’s Party. unconfirmed reports has it that more than 80% of those who voted for APGA in Owerri Federal Constituency in the 2003 general elections had never heard the name, Uche Onyeagocha.

As at 2011, some people close to Onyeagocha alleged that he was on the verge of selling off some of the choice properties he acquired during his time in the House of Representatives in order to put food on his family’s table, but for Governor Okorocha who rescued him by appointing him into his government as a Special Adviser. Grapevine also has it that the Obinze born former lawmaker was also one of those who tried to sabotage the efforts of the Okorocha administration by failing to complete some projects awarded to them to do. Onyeagucha worked with Okorocha’s administration till the end of his first term,and hung around like a hawk waiting for something to pounce on after Okorocha’s inauguration for second term. Two years into Okorocha’s second term and it appeared to him that nothing was forthcoming, Onyeagucha turned colors and became the most virulent critic of the same administration he served for six years, and marketed to Imo people as the best thing that has happened to the State since its creation. He was always in the media granting press interviews to convince Imo voters on why a second term to Okorocha is the best thing that would happen to the State. At what point did Onyeagucha realize that Okorocha litters the State with abandoned projects? He might be thinking that some of the projects he was allegedly assigned to do under a direct labour arrangement are still abandoned. The other day, I drove to the General Hospital in Mbaitoli and found out that someone else has been assigned to complete the project, while it is suspected that another person was actually awarded the contract and paid in full, but that person allegedly made away with the money after doing a very shabby job, albeit, incompletely.

Till we are able to develop a political culture where people with traceable professional, entrepreneurial or even political background are allowed to handle political offices, we may continue to contend with leadership baggage like Femi Fani-Kayode and Uche Onyeagocha. Political offices are so sensitive and have a lot to do with the collective fate of a people that we do not allow people who see it as a platform to experiment their failed ‘guymanness’ to get close to power. It will be good to get a professional, entrepreneurial or even political dossier of either FFK or Onyeagocha before mother luck smiled on them.

Anyone whose parents can afford to pay his or her school fees and cater for other financial demands of theirs can actually become a lawyer. We can have some respect for individuals who went through tertiary education, self-sponsored.

It is easy to understand the moral poverty of individuals who came straight from been spoon fed by their parents to occupy public offices. Individuals who do not know what it means to earn a small amount of money, save part of it and at the same time pay for your rents, buy your clothes, and do other things for yourself at less than fifteen years of age without depending on parents or some relatives. Would either Onyeagucha or Fani-Kayode had gone beyond being wheelbarrow pushers in either Afor Obinze or Aiyegbanju market in Osogbo, if they had something close to the humble background from which Okorocha picked himself up and has soared to one of the tallest heights as one of Africa’s most respected leaders? The spirits of industry, creativity, courage, integrity, compassion and modesty which propelled Okorocha to the height he is in today are alien to the duo of Onyeagucha and Femi, hence, I cannot agree less with the man who thinks that loquacity is a measure of intelligence and political sagacity that he is not in the same class with Okorocha. In saner clans, Femi Fani-Kayode would hold a thanksgiving service, if he is employed in Okorocha’s house to wash cars. That is, if personal attributes are measures for success, rather than parental background.

It is instructive that at close to 57 years of age, Femi Fani-Kayode’s most highlighted column in his Curriculum Vitae is the fact that he is the son of the senior, more respectable and obviously more industrious Fani-Kayode. The next is the fact that he was pampered to attend the prestigious Cambridge University where his father also graduated top of his class as a lawyer. The question any reasonable reader would want Femi to answer is; would he have been appointed a supervisory councilor in his local council if he was not the son of Chief Victor Babaremilekun Adetokunbo Fani-Kayode? How could he want to stand shoulder to shoulder with a man whose heights and attainments in life are purely as a result of his personal efforts and God’s special anointing upon his life?

Of course, Okorocha cannot be in the same class with a man who had been by banned by the Senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria from holding public office as a result of the backhand deals that went on in the ministries he headed as a minister during President Obasanjo’s tenure. People like Femi Fani-Kayode are still walking free in the street because we are in Nigeria. For a man whose every chance at public office has always come under serious questions for mind bending corruption and criminal malpractices, what in this world will he have to do with Governor Okorocha, who had handled several federal government contracts, running into billions of Naira, held political offices at the highest level, contested for the presidency of this nation against the wishes of the powers that be, yet, has never been a guest of the EFCC or any anti-graft agency? Certainly, as a man known for his zero-tolerance for corruption, it is easy to understand his point of divergence with individuals of questionable public and even private records like Femi Fani-Kayode. What could a man who is known for his humanitarian services and compassion for the less privileged have to do with a man whose hands are allegedly soaked in the blood of  thousands of our brothers and sisters in the Northeast who fell to Boko Haram’s savagery because some individuals were used as conduits to siphon billions of Naira marked out for the purchase of arms for our armed forces? Certainly, Okorocha has no point of convergence with a man who has been queried by the EFCC more than Emmanule Nwude. How do we begin to explain the alleged misappropriation of over 19.5 Billion Naira which were supposed to go into the renovation and upgrading of our airports?

The worst imprisonment is the imprisonment of the conscience. When someone who has already been sentenced to a lifetime of imprisonment by his own conscience comes out to talk about prison term for another man, you can only sympathize with him and pray he frees himself from the prison term he is already serving by recanting his many cheap lies, doing some penance and returning whatever he has stolen from the people. Uche Onyeagucha is already a prisoner, but I will elect to free him from that dangerous dungeon he has put himself into by posting bail for him. This bail will come in form of reminding him of the things he already knows about the Okorocha administration, but which he requested to be told so that he can apologize to the people of Imo State.

Onyeagucha knows that I am not happy with the fact that his own people have rejected him and as a humanitarian, it will be to my joy to see him return to the warm embrace of his people. In an interview published by some tabloids, Onyeagucha lied that the Okorocha administration is notorious for littering the State with abandoned projects and queried if anything has been done by the government to build industries and provide jobs as were promised during Okorocha’s second term campaign. The reality of thousands of completed projects to the credit of Okorocha has been stated severally, and I won’t bother the people with more of such.

Without sounding apologetic, the Okorocha administration has kept to its promise of providing jobs to the populace and industrializing the State and Onyeagucha is one of those who can attest to that (I hear he tells close friends and associates that he suspects Okorocha of minting money in his house, with which he executes these projects and sustains the numerous people oriented policies and programs). Onyeagocha, by insinuating that a government must build factories for it to be deemed as pursuing an industrialization policy casts a big question mark on his educational and leadership credentials. It beats my imagination that an acclaimed leader and an activist would support that government builds and runs factories in this century, when it has been severally been proven that government is not a good administrator of businesses. What government can do and is to guarantee a conducive environment for private individuals to build, own and run their industries in such an environment. Government’s duties in ensuring the growth of industries include; ensuring adequate security of lives and properties, implementing policies and programs that ensure the growth of small and medium scale industries, making infrastructure available for the setting up of such industries, ensuring access to soft and low interest credit facilities to would be investors, etc. Governor Okorocha’s Rescue Mission administration has done these and more.

On job creation, more than 20,000 new workers have been injected into the Imo State civil service since the inception of the Okorocha administration six years ago. While a good number of these new recruits into the State civil service were employed as teachers to make up for the serious deficiency in our educational sector; primary, secondary and tertiary. In the education sector alone, the Okorocha administration has employed more than 12,000 teaching and non-teaching staff in Imo State University, Owerri, Imo State Polytechnic, Umuagwo, Eastern Palm University, Ogboko, School of Nursing, Orlu, Imo State College of Education, Ihitte-Uboma, and across primary and secondary schools in the State. As a result of the government’s business friendly policies, more than 250,000 other jobs have been created by private sector operators who continue trooping into Imo State in their numbers to invest. These workers include the regular staff of the many hospitality and tourism industries that have been built in the State within the lifetime of the present administration, the casual workers employed by the several construction companies working in the State, etc.

The Okorocha administration has also directly empowered more than 10,000 citizens of the State to build industries in the State. This includes the grant of 1,000,000 Naira non-refundable seed fund to 305 youths in the State who are already erecting small scale industries in their areas across the State, which are expected to in turn provide jobs for other youths and citizens of the State, 3,500 women have also been assisted with funds to strengthen their businesses, while thousands of others have benefited from the several skill acquisition trainings being run through the Office of the First Lady of the State and other empowerment programs the State funds for the benefit of the citizenry. Conservatively, one can say that Okorocha has built more than 3,000 cottage industries in the State. This is considering the fact that some of the youths and women who benefited from the government’s empowerment and industrialization improvement grants are into different types of manufacturing, trading and also agro business. Chief Uche Onyeagucha is aware that the most industrially advanced countries of the world like China and Japan have cottage industries to thank for their status in the present world.

Without trying to insult any of these men, who are great Nigerians in their own rights, comparing them in anyway with Okorocha is like comparing the wren with an eagle, metaphorically speaking. Obviously, the wren as one of the smallest of birds wish it could be like and fly like the eagle, the king of birds. Governor Okorocha is operating at a level that these men may only wish for. As he completes his tenure as the governor of Imo State, Okorocha stands out as the most suitable candidate to succeed President Muhammadu Buhari should the latter decline to take another shot at the presidency come 2019. Onyeagucha and FFK can only hang around and pray for one appointment or the other to be dropped on their laps.

Onwuasoanya FCC Jones is an ordinary citizen of Imo State.

 

IN JOY, DELTA STATE DIRECTOR OF NATIONAL ORIENTATION AGENCY BOWS OUT IN GRACE

Abel Johngold Orheruata

Based on the Federal Civil Service rules, which stipulates 60 years of age and 35 years of service for the mandatory retirement of public servants, the State Director of the National Orientation Agency (NOA), Delta State Directorate, Sir Isaac Ezechi, retired from service on Tuesday, 25 July, 2017. He is expected to hand over the leadership of the Agency to the next most senior officer in the Directorate while the Agency awaits the appointment of a new state director.

Ezechi who rose to the position of Director from that of Deputy Director, Operation, in September, 2013, worked assiduously during his tenure, to reposition the Agency along with its various units and organs into a proactive, knowledge based and activity driven Agency, able to rise up to evolving challenges in our national space.

In a well attended retirement party in his honour, organised by the staff of the directorate, Ezechi expressed his gratitude to the Federal Government for the opportunity given to him to serve the nation as NOA Director and for the support given to the Agency during his tenure. Responding to the honour given to him by the staff, he stated that he was humbled in the sense that this is the first of its kind in the State Directorate of the Agency that a retiring State Director would be celebrated with a retirement party by this multitude.

Recalling his first appointment as Director in acting capacity in 2008, the 1983 University of Ibadan trained economist and astute administrator, noted that he was not the most hardworking or intelligent officer of the State Directorate, but he was a dedicated one and that could be the reason God brought him back as Director through promotion to the apex grade level in the civil service after Political Appointee took over from him in 2009.

Sir Ezechi appealed for forgiveness from anyone whom he might have offended in the course of carrying out his official civil service duties.

Thanking the staff of the Agency for their cooperation while he was in office, Ezechi said he will remain an advocate and ambassador of the Agency wherever he find himself.

He also called on the management and staffs of the Agency to support and cooperate with whoever that will take over from him to enable him move the Agency to another level.

In their farewell remarks, during the free-will speech segment of the evening, Comrades Henry Iloba, Uche Anyabuine, Tracy Ikolomi, Pat Umunna and others, commended Ezechi for his disciplinary nature and administrative style all through his tenure and wished him the best of luck in his future endeavours.

On their part, both management and staff expressed their joy and prayer for the outgoing Director and the incoming while pledging their support for whoever takes over from him for a successful tenure.

Joining the staff in celebrating Ezechi were his wife, friends and kinsmen who came from far and near.

The highlights of the retirement party were presentation of gifts to the outgoing Director, cutting of retirement cake, interactive session and music.

 

LOSER WHO BEGGED ME TO ADD VALUE TO HIS LOW SELF ESTEEM, PROF UTOMI DRAGS UDUAGHAN TO MUD

I am pleased to hear the former Delta State Governor, Dr. Emmanuel Uduaghan respond to my comments on the poor state of finances in Delta State. To my mind, it is the direction of engagement that I hope will raise the quality of public discussions and move our democracy towards better serving the people. I therefore feel obligated to respond to the issues raised and to set the records straight for the benefit of the general public.

While I agree with the former Governor that our conversations of today should focus more on the future than the past, we must recognize that the damage done to Delta State by the mismanagement of its finances and resources still plagues the state as we speak. Uduaghan’s legacy is a sad reflection of this awful chapter of our history.

My comments on optimal debt-to-revenue ratios is verifiable and those who have the ability to do the math are all over the place. It was a comment made to draw attention to and prevent the worsening of a problem that is still on-going; because in spite of the bailout funds from the Federal Government, and the huge windfall from the Paris loan refunds which now stands at over N24billion, the Delta State House of Assembly (DTHA) has approved over N18 billion as loans for the Okowa administration this year alone. In fact, a N13 billion plus loan request was recently made to the Delta State House of Assembly.

Deltans need to be aware and decry this type of heavy debt burden, especially as there are no commensurate development projects or programmes on ground to justify it and to aid repayment in future. Gov. Okowa was right to raise an alarm about the over N600 billion debt that he claimed to have inherited. He has however proceeded to increase this debt burden by over N60 billion of his own. This is only further mortgaging Delta state and the future of our children.

Having made that point, I wish to address a number of inaccuracies that dominate what was attributed to ex-Governor Uduaghan. He would deny them if he has any credibility, for he had on many occasions said to me and to several others, including Arc. Kester Ifeadi of the Organization for the Advancement of Anioma Culture (OFAAC), that some elements in the previous government in which he served as SSG sabotaged our “Technology Village” project which was initiated by the private-sector in Delta North to jump-start a “Silicon Valley” type development in Delta State. He had also mentioned to some that he felt indebted to the Anioma people and he had hoped to make up for that sabotage from 2000/2001. Uduaghan must note that some of the world’s most valuable companies today, including Google and Facebook started in Stanford dorms that went across to become a value-creating ecosystem with Venture Capitalists in place. We planned the same program for Illah, and if the government of Delta State has not sabotaged this laudable project, it would have today become a reputable ICT hub driven by a learning centre of post-graduate level, just like Stanford, creating thousands of jobs for Deltans. It is the kind of hub in Silicon valley that makes the State of California the biggest economy in the United States of America; bigger than most countries in Europe and the world. Despite the sabotage, we still set up ‘Socket Works’, a pioneer e-Government service provider which created Nigeria’s new Passport, and partners with the Immigration Services till date.

Also, I invited Uduaghan to do the ground-breaking of a Youth Centre to be built in Ibusa by an NGO that I founded called Centre for Values in Leadership (CVL), dedicated to the upliftment of the youths of Delta state for free. The location was in a developing area and Uduaghan as governor, pledged to tar the road in the next quarter. He publicly asked then Commissioner for Works, Mr. Paul Osaji, to commence work immediately on this road that would have linked Ibusa and Okpanam. But the road remains a mirage till date. CVL has started constructing another model at a different location. This NGO is also currently executing Youth Entrepreneurship Programmes in all the three senatorial districts of Delta state valued at more than ₦800m, and training 400 youths in four different centres: Ibusa, Agbor, Effurun and Ozoro. All the trainees completed the 2nd phase of the program last week with written exams. The 3rd phase of the one-year program will commence next month and it will focus more on the acquisition of sustainable skills and capacity. This specialist program would ordinarily cost millions per person at Lagos Business School but it is offered free, with free meals and daily transport allowances to support the participants.

Even more troubling from the claims on attracting investment is the one related to an Agriculture Industrial Town. I brought a team of foreign investors to Asaba and Dr Uduaghan welcomed them, assuring speedy allocation of land. After two years of trips to Asaba that didn’t produce any result, we turned to Edo State and within months a C-of-O was ready. Several hundred millions of Naira investments have gone into this project already with additional billions pledged. As we speak, more than one hundred hectares of jungle has been cleared and is continuing. An Independent Power Plant (IPP) to power this ‘Produce City’ in Edo State has commenced activities and hundreds of millions of Naira in investments have also been committed. In 5 years there will be more than 20,000 quality jobs created in that location.

Deltans will prefer that Uduaghan gives account for the IPP project he abandoned in Oghara that gulped over N20 billion under his administration with nothing to show seven years after. We welcome any debate on how to efficiently utilize scarce state resources for the maximum benefit of the people and prevent such colossal waste as was witnessed under Uduaghan – and is still the experience today under the current administration.

Finally, I was astonished to learn of “partnering” with the former Governor in search of foreign investments and coming up short. As I recall, I was delivering a lecture some years ago at Cramfield Business School in the UK when my Personal Assistant in Lagos received a call from Asaba that the Governor would appreciate my joining him on a US tour. It was indicated that I was out of the country; however, he insisted that it would add value if I could join the team in the US, and I made the trip across the Atlantic. Evidence of several successful foreign investments that I have attracted and which are on ground indicate just how bogus these claims are. It is also noteworthy to mention that I attracted a ‘Smart City’ project to Lagos State. If any foreign investors came near during this tour, it was by my trying to get partners in New York to show what they could do. I was not surprised when these investors did not get any response from him. A Councillor would have even done much better for our people than Uduaghan did then as Governor.

There is extreme misuse of the opportunities available to Delta State. It will take a serious and truly capable government to vigorously tap its potentials and create jobs for our teeming youths. This is one of the many reasons why I believe Delta State needs new political leadership in 2019. Deltans are not meant to suffer from the jeopardy of a clueless administration, especially at this critical phase of its existence.

I would have imagined that Uduaghan will be very sober and saddened by his legacy of mismanagement and gross wastage that he left behind in Delta State. Trying to spin his poor record in the hope that Deltans would have forgotten so soon is a failed attempt to rewrite history. Undoubtedly, he knows that only few Deltans speak well of him and it is his pain to struggle with that reality. As he grapples with history, what is more important to Deltans today is how we can rectify the wrong policies, decisions and actions of the past, so that we can create a government that would not only meet the needs of our people today but guarantee a better life for successive generations.

This is the task that I have offered to commit myself to between now and 2023. We are already looking forward to 2019 with hope and renewed zeal for the beginning of a ‘New Delta’ teeming with opportunities and alive with possibilities.