Chief Theodore Orji, governor of Abia state, has in the past few weeks been conferred with three awards that underscores his dogged efforts to provide security for the citizenry as well as transform the socio-economic and political landscape of the state. He was first conferred with the "Icon of Democracy in Nigeria,” award by a Lagos-based national newspaper, “Champion”.
This was followed by “The Best Governor in Nigeria on Security Matters,” award by the Ghana-based Security Watch Africa and lastly, the Methodist Church of Nigeria, bestowed on him with the “Knight of John Wesley.”
For about two years, the state was literally seized by some suspected militants and kidnappers who were apparently not favoured by the amnesty granted to some militants in the Niger Delta region, who had hitherto protested against the neglect of the area by the Federal Government despite the huge oil and gas deposits in the region.
The state capital, Umuahia and Aba, the commercial hub of the state, practically became unsafe for businessmen, investors and the ordinary citizens. It was fashionable then to either rob commercial houses or kidnap people for ransom. The insecurity problem in the state even got to a stage where journalists who were passing through the state from Akwa Ibom, were kidnapped at a village in Aba, a development which elicited widespread condemnation within and outside the country.
However today, Abia is considered one of the safest states in the country following the water-tight security measures put in place by governor Orji, and his administration. The fresh air that is blowing in the state apparently explains why “Security Watch Africa” asked him to come over to Ghana to tell his story for the benefit of other leaders in Africa who are faced with similar security challenges.
Delivering a lecture titled, “Sustainability of the Security in Africa” in Accra, the Ghananian capital, governor Orji told his audience that Abia state, had in the last three years been ranked as the as the safest state in Nigeria.
“We are now regarded as the fastest growing economy in the country, with growing internal and external inflow of investments. Our confidence has been renewed in the belief that peace and security must necessarily precede and reinforce sustainable development in any state.
“It is my belief that even the invitation to speak in this forum is a clear indication that our effort to achieve human security and sustainable development in our state is now getting the attention of peace watchers and lovers’.
Governor Orji said that security threats do not emerge overnight, but are results of accumulated stress and unsavoury developments, some of them public policy failures of past governments. According to him, his administration sought and reunited estranged political elites of the state both those living within and outside the state, as well as engaged suspected kidnappers and some of those allegedly involved in criminal violence in a dialogue.
“We also and embarked on inter- state collaboration in the monitoring and tracking of kidnappers and other criminals with the aim of isolating them for apprehension and legal prosecution.”
Beyond that, he said that his administration embarked on a co-ordinated crackdown against criminals, as well as took the battle to the kidnappers den. It was in that process that the kin ping of kidnappers ‘OSISIKANKWU’ was killed in a gun duel with security agents.
He said his administration had provided the State Police Command with patrol vans and other logistics to enable them maintain the prevailing peace in the state.
While Governor Orji was preparing for the Ghana trip, the Champion Newspaper gave him an award of “Icon of Democracy”. Chief Emanuel Iwuanyanwu, publisher of the newspaper, said the award was bestowed on the governor because of his people-oriented programmes and his visionary leadership.
Governor Orji is the first state chief executive in the South-East to be so honoured since the award was instituted 24 years ago. Iwuanyanwu said the Champion Merit Award is geared towards “giving honour to whom honour is due”
Speaking at the award ceremony, the governor Orji said recalled that when he assumed office in 2007, “the political playing ground was not level and citizens were prevented from playing their civic obligation in accordance with the dictates of democracy. He noted with happiness that that the citizens of the state have started enjoying the fruits of democracy.
Not a few say that the conferment of Knighthood of John Wesley by the Methodist Church is a clear testimony of the governor’s unrelenting services to the church and humanity.
“His Excellency Dr Theodore Orji who is here today, has put to use his God-given talents, time and resources to promote God’s work in his community, the church, nation and the world in general. He has continued to make indelible impressions of his contributions as timeless legacy in the collective memory of all Christians in Nigeria, Abia state, and of the people of God called Methodists here in his state.
In the thanksgiving service held at the Methodist Theological Institute Chaplaincy, Mission Hill Umuahia, Primate of the Methodist church, His Eminence, Dr. Sunday Ola Makinde, described governor Orji as an agent of moral, economic and social change in the state, and commended him for his dogged fight in the elimination of idol worshiping in the state, and for handing over mission schools to their original owners.
Governor Orji promised that his administration would continue to respond to the needs of the people and reiterated that rehabilitation work on roads in Aba would start at the cessations of the rains.
Governor Orji was first elected governor in 2007 on the platform of Progressive People’s Alliance, PPA, but crossed over to the ruling People’s Democratic Party, PDP, in 2010, following irreconcilable differences with the founder of the party, and former governor of the state, Dr. Orji Uzor Kalu.