Kingsley Onyemaechi Megwara who heads the Diaspora Unit of Governor Theodore Orji’s administration details the importance of his work and achievements of the governor’s recent and other efforts to attract investors to Abia State with the support of the state’s Diaspora population, writes Lanre Odukoya
Honourable Kingsley Onyemaechi Megwara, closed the last quarter of 2012 with what he calls a Diaspora banquet held last December at Government House Abia State. Megwara who is special adviser on Diaspora Matters to Governor Theodore Orji was obviously acting on behalf of his principal who uses the annual banquet as a platform for reaching out to Abians in the Diaspora while encouraging them to bring investment home directly or in partnership with their hosts out there. The Diaspora banquet has proved an effective social network and ideal forum for Governor Orji in chronicling his achievements, highlighting the challenges ahead and thanking Abians in the Diaspora for being his partners in progress.
The success of Megwara’s Diaspora unit last year naturally spurred him into action, drawing up an ambitious time-table for 2013, which has already hosted the visit of two distinguished citizens, the USA Consul-General, Jeffrey Hawkins and Boom Intiratana, ambassador of the Royal Thai Embassy in Nigeria both of whom made lavishing remarks in praise of Governor Orji’s impressive second term record till date. Hawkins who visited early this month said he was deeply impressed with the developmental strides he witnessed everywhere he went expressing a desire in partnership between his country the United States and Abia State in security related matters where Abia seems to have excelled with a working relationship in education.
President of World Igbo Congress, Joe Eto, also came visiting and also voiced his observations of the developmental strides ongoing in the state. Eto said what he saw were impressive landmarks that would reposition the state long after this administration has left. His words: “I have visited a number of ongoing projects and I must say they are impressive. It was impressive to see the Ministry of Justice, the new Sate Secretariat, the new High Court, the JAAC building complex, the Dialysis and Eye Centre, the Specialist Hospital, the General Hospital at Amachara Umuahia,
Eto also pointed to the New Ubani Market, the new Timber and Industrial Market, the New Mechanic and Spare Parts Village, the new Abia State Mall as well as massive road construction work at various parts of the state with Aba taking the lion share as visible evidence of a governor committed to leaving a lasting heritage for the people of Abia State
Eto said it was heart warming to note that some of these projects would attract private equities and assist the government in developing the new Umuahia. “This administration,” he continued, “should make sure it completes the ongoing projects so it can get the whole credit for them and to also secure it, as a new administration may have other priorities.”
Orji’s investment drive Megwara has over the years proved to be one of the governor’s hands on men, a foot soldier who joined forces when it mattered most to fight, especially for the political and economic emancipation of Abians, and he has no regrets with a thanks but no thanks footnote message to the detractors of good governance. In the current dispensation, Megwara helps to co-ordinate Governor Orji’s Diaspora drives for a homecoming with all the gains and wealth of living abroad. Just last Wednesday Orji returned from another extensive trip to the USA where he was busy convincing investors to come to Abia State and do business. While there Orji, an English graduate alumnus of the University of Ibadan, visited the John Hopkins University in Washington and delivered a scintillating lecture on the roles of government in an emerging and young Nigerian democracy with the attendant challenges. Orji, Megwara reflects, interacted with professional investors and asked them to invest in Abia State, a welcome persuasion coming from the horse’s mouth and not his lieutenants this time around.
Yielding results There is no doubt that Megwara, is eminently qualified to drive the department, which has largely situated Abia of the present dispensation as Nigeria’s next destination for investment in different portfolio baskets. Megwara muses: “The Diaspora Matters unit is His Excellency’s way of reaching out to Abia sons and daughters, who are desirous of making contact with the state government while also attempting to attract foreign investment either directly or in partnership with other Abia sons and daughters, who come home regularly to make professional inputs in the development of the state. There is an outflow of great enthusiasm by Abians in the Diaspora to add value with their professional know how in taking the state to the next level.”
A medical mission in 2011 shipped in a 40 feet container full of medical equipment and drugs distributed to the 17 LGAs in Abia. Then came the office of the Abia First Lady, Mrs Odochi Orji, which collaborated with Abians in the USA, who with American and South African doctors carried out surgical and optical work for those with eye problems and victims of breast cancer.
Megwara bubbles with enthusiasm and a sense of great expectation each time he talks of his boss and the transformation going on in Abia. He continues with his explanatory expositions: “Most of the investments projects recently attracted are in the hospitality business and skill acquisition. A skill acquisition centre was set up in Abia Polytechnic, with Mr Ukoha, an Abian based in Holland as the arrow head. Engineer Ukoha has so far confined the centre to the production of shoes, clothes, and bags.
Adds Megwara: “Confidence is returning to Abia State with a renewed energy to investors. In London, an Abian, Michael Igwe, is putting together a number of investors for an investment mission to the state. Abia is no longer code red.” In the refinery sector, Megwara points to real developmental efforts as work in progress. A United Arab Emirate oil company, the Alkamali Group visited Ukwa West and saw room for partnership with the state government leaving Abia with all the prospects for a future investment. Pall Mall, the promoters of Shoprite are working towards the actualisation of a mall at the Old Garki Market in Umuahia. The relocation of the old Timber Market and the Umuahia Market are nearing conclusion.
In one of his Diaspora visits, Governor Orji was in Houston Texas and Washington DC where a town hall meeting offered him an opportunity to brief Abians with video clips/power point presentation on what was going on at home. Megwara flew into Los Angeles to carry out a similar assignment and then moved on to represent the governor at the World Igbo Congress. ”At the congress, the Governor’s Forum gave us the singular honour to chronicle the achievements of the government of Abia State,” Megwara reflects.
The next important assignment was in Ghana where the governor received an award as the best governor on security matters. Security Watch Africa had gone round the country to see who is doing what in specific areas of national development. For security matters, six governors were on the shortlist: Governor Raji Fashola of Lagos State, Godswill Akpabio of Akwa Ibom State, Governor Ibikunle Amosun, and Governor Theodore Orji of Abia State. “In my opinion, nobody can doubt his achievement on security. How about the Champion Newspapers award, which gave him the Icon of Democracy award?” Megwara points to political divisions where before now brothers were fighting brothers, adding that today that is history. According to him, the state House of Assembly is occupied by 24 PDP legislators and the same applies to the House of Representatives with eight members of the state carrying the PDP ticket as well as the three senators.
It was a busy month when the Methodist Church prelate Dr Ola Makinde, admitted Governor Orji as a Knight of John Wesley. Reason? Megwara responds: “Governor Orji is not a member of the Methodist Church but recognizing the role of the church in state building is of greater importance in our society. He has equally been of immense value to the church in returning missionary built schools to the churches, increasing the number of pilgrims embarking on annual pilgrimages, building a total of five churches and assisting in the building of 65 churches and has remained the backbone of the Itu Mbuzo Mental Home and all the Motherless Babies Homes in the state with increased scholarships for indigent students including those nominated by churches.”
Megwara was also in the Republic of Benin where with the Abia liaison officer in that country, Felix Azu, he held a town hall briefing for the over 800,000 Abians resident there. It was one moment of rejuvenation, telling investors that in spite of the enormity of infrastructure projects currently being executed to make Abia a 21st century competing state, there was so much to be done. Aba, its flagship for business activities, he enthuses, is back and is no longer an anchor point for hoodlums. Megwara adds a sound bite: “In the next 20 or 30 years when the history of Abia is written, Governor Orji’s name would stand out,” with the milestone achievements in politics written in bold relief. The Abuja Group, he explains, as well as the home boys now flow on the same page. According to Megwara, Governor Orji’s argument has always been that there will be no room for investment where the security of investors and individuals is not assured.
Eyes on the future What is next in Megwara’s timeline? He says the next destination would be South Africa and the documentation of all Abians in the Diaspora, a project he says is on going. He is also working on identifiable export products from the state as well as locating foreign donors that can go into partnership with the state. In Canada, he hopes to exploit the presence of the ambassador, Chief Ojo Maduekwe, a distinguished son of Abia.