Chief Oluchukwu Ukie Ezeali is the Ebonyi state Commissioner for Business Development and CEO of P. Noble Hotels and Suites Limited. In this interview with PAUL OKAH, he speaks on the achievements of President Muhammadu Buhari, why the governor, David Umahi, deserves to be president in 2023, and other issues.
How do feel about your recent appointment as Ebonyi State Commissioner for Business Development?
I feel so elated that His Excellency, Engr. Chief David Nweze Umahi, gave me the opportunity to serve in his government as Commissioner for Business Development. It is an honour I so much cherish as my everyday determination is to help His Excellency to achieve the laudable objectives, vision and mission he has for Ebonyi people in particular and Nigerians in general. As you know, before the cabinet reshuffle on January 8, I served as Commissioner for Project Monitoring and Infrastructure, so the recent appointment is for me to also contribute my quota to the development of the state in the area of business. As you know, Governor Umahi has laudable plans for the people of the state, so it is always an honour to serve in whatever capacity he deems fit. Now that I have been transferred to the Ministry of Business Development, it further proves that the Governor has the interest of Ebonyians at heart. If there is no business development to match the infrastructural development in the state, then the government won’t achieve much. The target of the government is to attract more businesses into the state; hence the governor has saddled me with the responsibility of bringing more businesses to match the infrastructural development.
Governor Umahi recently declared interest to contest for the 2023 Presidency, how do you feel about it?
I am the happiest person on earth today, just hearing that the Governor met President Muhammadu Buhari on Tuesday, January 11, 2022, to formally declare his interest to contest the 2023 presidential election. The truth is that we have been asking the Governor to take this bold step, because he means well for his people. He is the best president Nigeria will ever have. When he gets the party’s ticket, he will definitely win the election next year and will consequently transform Nigeria the way he has transformed Ebonyi state. Like he pointed out while speaking at a press briefing, after meeting with President Muhammadu Buhari, Governor Umahi will replicate his progressive efforts in Ebonyi at the national level as he intends to bring a business-like spirit into governance. According to him, President Buhari responded to his interest by asking him to seek the support of the people. However, let me assure him that his people are with him and that he will clinch the position because of his track records. We really need someone like Governor Umahi to take Nigeria to greater glory.
What can you say about the APC government at the national level?
It is common knowledge that President Muhammadu Buhari has brought unprecedented development to the country through the APC government. He brought the country out of recession and has many track records that will continually make Nigeria the envy of other countries. However, the constitution mandates him to rule for a period of eight years. No matter the laudable plans he has for Nigeria, he will definitely handover come May 29, 2023. This is why I am happy that Governor Umahi has indicated interest to replace the president come next year. I particularly like the unity in the APC government. With many people like Governor Umahi in the ruling party, Nigerians can be assured of better days ahead. It can only get better. President Buhari has done his best for Nigerians in this Next Level administration; it is now left for Governor Umahi to continue the good works from next year. I want to add that the Governor Umahi I know will not disappoint us as we are familiar with his passion to revamp all sectors of the economy whenever given the opportunity.
Can you speak on the 2021 Christmas celebration in Afikpo?
As a rule, I don’t like blowing my trumpet as there are many things I do for people without speaking much on them. However, we celebrated the Christmas very well, to the glory of God. As usual, I did giveaway to residents of Afikpo North, who are my primary constituents and primary responsibility, because I am from Afikpo North Local Government Area of Ebonyi State. I also gave financial assistance to people from different parts of Ebonyi State and even people from different states across the federation. We should always give elaborately so that people can be touched positively and for them to thank God for our lives.
When people lack food at home during the yuletide, I usually feel very bad. If it were possible, I can feed the whole country due to how I feel about the poor, but I can only do my best. Food is one of the cheapest items any wealthy man should consider giving to the needy. I take example from my late father, who was instrumental to my philanthropy. He used to tell me that I will never be poor as a result of what I ate or give people to eat. That taught me to also look out for those who have not eaten; to ensure they eat too. It is inborn. Even my wife has been supportive in this regard as you can hardly come to my house without finding more than 20 people eating and feeling at home.
During the Christmas celebration, I shared over 1,000 bags of 5kg rice, over 100 bags of 25kg rice, over 500 tubers of yam to various families in Afikpo and Ebonyi state. As they are people who may not have money to buy palm oil to cook the rice or yam given to them, I made it a point of duty to share N5, 000 each to 200 people. This is what I also learnt from my father because he usually added money to the food items he gave to people during his lifetime. I had budgeted to give N5,000 to 100 people, that is N500,000, but I ended up giving N1m, out of my magnanimity as I couldn’t ignore the many people coming to meet me for money to celebrate the yuletide.
Apart from the N5, 000 to 200 people, I also gave N10, 000, N15, 000, N20, 000, N30, 000 and N50, 000 each to a few selected people, depending on the group or need they brought to me as I am not someone that likes ignoring people when they need my help. Many were woken up by my alert; either during the Christmas or New Year celebration, so more than 50 people benefited above N5, 000 from me.
Also, I have always told people that I have an exceptional lifestyle. Whenever anyone is working closely with me, I try to look out for how to impact on the person’s life. This year, in addition to what I did for my people, out of gratitude to Governor Umahi for appointing me as commissioner, I was able to buy a plot of land, valued at N800,000, for my driver. We have already started the foundation and I assured him, by the grace of God, he will move into the three-bedroom apartment I will build for him on the land before the end of this year. My security man in Abakaliki is also a beneficiary of a brand new commercial motorcycle or bike, which I bought for N350,000. I told him to give it out to someone to drive for him; in order to generate additional income to supplement what I pay him as salary. If he gets N2,000 on a daily basis from the bike, that will translate to N60,000 per month, which he will add to his salary. He is already living and feeding under my roof, so he has nothing much to bother about. I want my workers to be comfortable and to also grow with me. Let me point out that my driver has not served me in any other capacity as I employed him once I was appointed a commissioner. It is out of his diligence and commitment to his job that I am building a house for him. He is hardworking and deserves the house I am building for him. As a young man, I am satisfied that he now has a home for his family. It is a gift you can hardly see anyone giving to his driver in Afikpo. I chose to do it, not because I am the richest man on earth, but because I feel we have to touch lives while alive. He is going to be among the relatives I have built houses for. It is just part of my Christmas gifts to people.
I also gave N500, 000 to the Catholic Church at Mgbom to help in the uplift of the church, among other interventions during the yuletide.
Are you inculcating the spirit of giving in your children?
Yes, my children are already learning the art of philanthropy from me as I learnt from my father. Before I commenced the Christmas giveaway, I called my children together and we discussed it as I told them the importance of Christmas as it is a time of giving and receiving gifts and how much I wanted to give out to people. Just like my father, I am always willing to give out my last cash just to put smile on the face of the needy. I watched him give passionately to humanity. Even when he was alive, I remember his giving out money I gave him to pay school fees, medical bills and other things for people. I saw that it gave him joy to give out to people, so I always encouraged him and made him happy by providing the money for him to do what he knew best. Till his death, he was a member of St Vincent de Paul, an arm in the Catholic Church known to take care of the poor. They go extra miles to make sure that the poor in the community are well taken care of.
So, out of respect for my father, I made a vow during his burial in 2016 that I will continue to give to the needy and that I will establish the Onikara Ali Ezeali Charity Foundation, which we did in 2020. All my charity works are under the umbrella of the foundation. It is a way of immortalising my dad. The Foundation is registered with the Corporate Affairs Commission, the Ebonyi state government and also a legal entity. By the grace of God, I will continue championing the cause.
Can you talk about the scholarship you initiated for secondary school students?
In line with the belief of my boss, the wonder-working governor of Ebonyi state, Engr. Chief David Nweze Umahi, FNSE, FNATE, he believes in touching lives as well. Ebonyi state was relegated to the background in terms of education, but today we are performing very well. Ebonyi state is coming up in the education sector. Even those who write WAEC and NECO, Ebonyi has one of the best results in NECO exams, so I decided to support what the governor is doing in the education sector. On a daily basis, I get calls and text messages from numerous people seeking financial assistance to pay their school fees. I have paid WAEC fees for over 30 people in the past. Many parents meet me to help them pay the WAEC fees for their children and I always oblige because it is the minimum requirement for a particular position in the civil service. If you have your WAEC certificate, you can be able to get employment or even seek a political office, so it is important. So, as a key educational certificate, I decided to look beyond my relatives, who have been benefiting from my giveaways, to spread it across the 12 wards of my LGA.
I gave out 5 slots to all the 12 wards in Afikpo North, making 60, but added 10 from my Itim ward to make it 70. I spent over N1,260,000 to pay for the WAEC fees of the 70 candidates, pegging it at N18,000 for each candidate, apart from the more than N260,000 for payment of the coordinators, printing of question papers and other logistics. We conducted a mock exam on 30th December, 2021, for the candidates; in order to select the best from the lot so that the candidates can either gain university admission with their results or get better jobs or even aspire for political positions for their future growth.
In fact, when I went to observe the mock exam, I was impressed by the turn out and encouraged the children. I also paid their transportation fares, apart from their refreshments. I promised university scholarship to any candidate that will score A1 throughout in his or her result, as we see from other parts of the state or even Afikpo. Even if they are 10, God will give me the grace and finance to sponsor them in the university. They will become beneficiaries of P Noble University Scholarship Scheme. I spent over N1.5m on the mock exam, but God has been blessing me so I don’t regret it. I believe that when you give, the prayers of people will continue to make you progress in life. The names of the successful candidates have been shortlisted and will be published soon, even in national newspapers. It will be a transparent process.
On the other hand, we also carried out a medical outreach. Many people lack money for medication or even to see a medical doctor, so I also decided to intervene in this aspect. I budgeted money for treatment of 200 people by five doctors, but more than 500 people came. The doctors did very well. Even when they exhausted the drugs they came with, we had to quickly consult the Good Health Pharmacy in Afikpo for more medical supplies; in order to achieve our objectives. Many people didn’t know they had hernia and other ailments, but the doctors made serious diagnosis and recommendations, so I told them that I will provide extended support for the critical cases.
Some patients were diagnosed with eye problems, so we paid for the recommended eye glasses for over 50 people. Dr Udensi, our famous optician in Afikpo, handled that. I know that the prayers of these people have penetrated heaven on behalf of my humble self, my family and those who contributed to the success of the medical outreach.
With regards to empowerment, I bought five commercial motorcycles, popularly known as Okada, and shared to select people in Itim; in order for them to use it to generate income and curb unemployment.
Apart from that, I installed 25 solar lights in different parts of Afikpo North to help solve security problems by lighting up red zones and allow people move freely. I even saw a woman rejoicing, saying that she will no longer buy kerosene as the light is penetrating into her room.
I earlier bought 150 wrappers for my community people and 150 wrappers for my Ibe Ezeke matrilineal family. They came to celebrate the Christmas with me and I had to give them cash to celebrate well. I also gave over N200, 000 and bags of rice to my Ezi Ukie community people, including mothers, youths, elders and children to celebrate the yuletide. I made sure I visited different people at home to give them bags of rice and money for celebration, just like I did with those who visited me. I visited over 20 homes and made myself available to the people.
What is your New Year message to Ebonyians, especially with regards to economic hardship?
2020 was a year people said was not a good year, but I can assure you that we lived through that year. 2021 was also a year people complained was not a good year. There is nothing like a good or bad year. There hasn’t been any better year. You can make a year to be either good or bad. My father used to tell me that people will survive no matter the year. So, in this 2022, we have to declare positive things about the year. Even the Bible says that the powers of the mouth is immensurable and that life and death is in the tongue. So, we have to make positive pronouncements and commit the year to God because I already know that this will be a year of multiple harvests. I am going to harvest a lot of things. As much as I gain, I am also willing to give. I am not a seasonal giver. I am a serial giver. So, God will continue to bless me and whoever believes that this year will favour us.
Can you talk about the situation surrounding your appointment by Umahi?
I may not know the reason for my initial reappointment as Commissioner for Projects and Infrastructure by Governor Umahi. However, I like understudying His Excellency and I keep telling people that the Governor is very intelligent and has excessive wisdom. Hardwork pays. In any position you find yourself, do your best and work hard. I try my best to execute all assignments given to me by the Governor and help to achieve the vision and mission of the present administration. I am also using the opportunity given me to serve to grow politically as the governor has been encouraging me. I call him my mentor even to his face. It is not out of sycophancy, but from the bottom of my heart as he has really mentored me. I have learnt a lot of things from him. Even when I thought I was doing well in the private sector, the governor has really opened my eyes to new ways of doing things. So, I am continually grateful to him for introducing me to politics and offering me opportunities for development. I will always assure him of my loyalty; no matter what.
Can you say that it is tasking to work with the state government as commissioner?
To whom much is given, much is expected. That I am now the Commissioner for Business Development shows that the Governor has faith in me to contribute my quota to the development of the state. So, I will continue to do my best to ensure that Ebonyi is taken to enviable heights. As you know, infrastructure is all about construction. You know my background. I spent all my life in the construction sector, constructing even in the most difficult terrain in the Niger Delta or with the most intelligent people in NLNG and other establishments with track records of project management and execution. I believe that there will be no challenge I can’t surmount or anything I can’t do to help His Excellency achieve his vision of a better Ebonyi state and Nigeria in general.
What can you say is Governor Umahi’s drive, with regards to execution of projects?
Go to any country of the world today, the reason we refer to some countries as developed is because they have infrastructure. Governor Umahi has done well for the development of Ebonyi state. If you know the history of Ebonyi state, it was hitherto referred to as the Dust of the Nation; that is before the coming of Governor Umahi in 2015. People were ashamed of admitting that they came from Ebonyi state because of lack of infrastructure. However, Governor Umahi came and changed all that. Ebonyi has become the envy of the whole country as even other states are coming to understudy the projects going on in the state. The infrastructural transformation of the state is unprecedented and second to none. One needs to visit the state from time to time to appreciate what the governor has been doing. Recently, eight Progressives Governors visited Ebonyi state and were astonished at the development and unprecedented transformation. The common question was how and from where the governor gets money to execute the numerous projects in the state, with their asking if it is not the same allocation they have been receiving from the federal government. For us that know what project management is all about, it is all about being committed, dedicated and being prudent in the management of scarce resources. For instance, in the construction business, someone can finish a project with one million naira, whereas another person will not finish the same project with even two million naira. The person that used one million naira for the project must have been prudent, while the other guy that couldn’t finish the same project with two million naira was extravagant. So, the governor has been very prudent. Knowing how to distribute and appropriate funds is another part of the governor many people should appreciate as he has been achieving a lot in the face of scarce resources.
The governor uses the direct labour approach to achieve results. He eliminated the bottleneck of using contractors, who are conduit pipes, to siphon public funds. He gives job opportunities to thousands of Ebonyians through the direct labour approach. Some companies give you bills to include their wives, families, directors and shareholders you are not even seeing. Therefore, the governor cuts cost with the direct labour approach. The other companies include overhead costs and other costs that are not even relevant to some projects. The bottom-line is that the governor is using scarce resources to achieve mighty things by adopting the direct labour approach, which gives job to thousands of Ebonyians, instead of allowing some companies to siphon money.
Ebonyi has been transformed beyond measures to an enviable state. As you might have observed, the roads are very smooth and the interconnectivity is second to none. No matter which part of the state you may come from, you will connect to the state capital within 30 minutes or one hour, either from Afikpo, Uburu or what have you. Before, it would have taken you more than two hours because of the bad road.
How do you feel about the criticism of the governor, especially on social media?
I feel so bad when I see the governor being criticised on social media. I have told my Afikpo youths to desist from criticizing the governor out of blind politics or doing the bidding of their paymasters in the name of opposition politics. Constructive criticism is good as it would make any government to sit up and continue doing good. But blind criticism, like I see most of our people do, is very bad and unacceptable. How can you focus on criticising someone sacrificing himself to develop the state? The governor has been putting things in place to transform the lives of Ebonyians. I always tell my brothers in Afikpo to channel their energy into constructive criticism; instead of satisfying their paymasters. It is bad and bitter because the governor is trying his best by being passionate about the projects he executes for the state.
My joy is that Nigerians are celebrating the governor. I didn’t grow up all my life in Afikpo. Many of my friends in Port Harcourt are also celebrating me because of what the governor did by bringing me into political limelight. So, those criticising the governor should have a rethink. They should ask themselves how we were seven years ago. Umahi has demystified governance to show that you can actually achieve a lot with little resources as a governor. Leadership is not for everybody. Some people, when they take up the mantle of leadership, will go extra miles to implement policies, which will go extra miles to impact positively on humanity. A governor can apply different measures to achieve an objective for the overall good of the state, which many may misconstrue. Look back at the previous two administrations in the state and compare it to the achievements of the present government.
When I came into Ebonyi state from Port Harcourt, I didn’t believe anybody would like to settle down in the state, even my family, because of the situation of things with the previous government. So, when you compare and contrast, you will see that there is really no need for criticising Governor Umahi. The Governor is, however, not averse to constructive criticism as it allows him perform better. He has a listening ear. Some of the things you are criticising are the things he is over sighting. No human being is perfect. People make mistakes. However, the governor has immortalised himself because of the numerous projects he has executed. Even in this harsh economy, he has constructed 16 major flyovers in Ebonyi state. Compare that with our neighbouring states. In fact, a state in the South East that is known for economic activities has been doing one flyover since six years and it is yet to be completed. The governor of that state was even trending on social media just this week for telling residents of the state to go to hell for asking why he has not been able to complete the flyover project since he assumed office. This is a state that has more allocation than Ebonyi. The state has 13 per cent derivation fund and more IGR than Ebonyi, but can’t complete just a flyover, whereas Umahi has done 16 since assumption of office. It is all about prudency.
I repeat, there is no LGA in Ebonyi state you won’t get to within one hour because of the smooth road, unlike before that you will spend more than two hours to get to one LGA, with your vehicle breaking down in the process. We are more than grateful to the Governor for what he has done for us as a state.
Do you think the international airport project will be completed this year?
The first flight in the airport will touch down before May this year. During my appointment as commissioner for projects, I keyed into the pace of His Excellency to ensure speedy completion of the project. With his marching orders and everything put in place, the project will be completed on time for the first flight to land in May.
The governor has executed or initiated many interesting projects, with many competing against one other for timely completion. If you start with the King David’s Medical School, you will see that it is a school that is almost the best in the whole of Africa, if not in the whole world because of the ultramodern facilities installed in the medical school. It is meeting the 21st century demand, which is exciting. It is also an economic boost to the state because, when it starts generating income, it will become a multiple source of revenue generation for the state. In fact, the last estimation we made showed it will create over 5,000 direct and indirect jobs. You will have people selling things, engaging in supplies and other services; thereby leading to massive employment.
The Shopping Mall is another mega project in the state. For instance, many families usually travel to Enugu to buy things from Shoprite. However, the governor has thought it wise to build a befitting, cosmopolitan shopping mall in Ebonyi. It is a replica of what we have in Dubai. Presently, everyday supermarket has taken over the mall. Before the first quarter of the year, it will start functioning very well. This has brought unprecedented development and exposure to our people. There are some people in the state who wouldn’t have known what a mall looks like, but the governor has brought it to their domain. The facilities in the mall are world class as you have escalators and other things installed. This has brought the world to us as you don’t need to travel to Dubai or other countries to get what Governor Umahi has brought to us through the mall and other projects. Like the medical school, the shopping mall is going to also provide over 5,000 jobs. The staff strength of everyday supermarket is over 300, so you can imagine what the mall will be like. So, when people claim that Umahi has not provided empowerment, I ask if they see at all. It is not when somebody dash you money that he has done empowerment. There is no empowerment greater than the provision of jobs and enabling environment for you to ride on to achieve success. Had it been that the governor had shared money like other governments, the impact will not be felt more than the projects he is executing
Our state will continue to enjoy the projects for decades to come. That is why I said he has immortalised himself in the state because, as long as we use the shopping mall, international airport, King David’s Medical School and other projects, we will remember that he built them.
The international airport is another cash cow. It is another source of employment for many Nigerians, not only Ebonyians. This is all courtesy of the governor. Many people don’t appreciate someone with vision. They prefer the man that gives them stipends for immediate hunger they feel they have, though no one is actually hungry in Ebonyi state. This is because, as we are executing projects, we are also creating job opportunities for people. It is Ebonyians that are executing the massive projects you see in the state.
Last time, while I was still Commissioner for Projects and Infrastructure, the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) wrote to me requesting for 20 Ebonyians to be shortlisted to fit into the airfield operations, in preparedness for the takeoff of the airport. Is it not a credit to the state? I presented the memo to the governor and, in his own wisdom, he said we will do it judiciously by getting candidates from all the 13 LGAs in the state. Is that not an achievement? If one person gets a slot from Afikpo North, haven’t we benefited? In the next ten or so years, the person will become a director or somebody that will hold a quota for human empowerment. This is just a little of what the governor has been doing. There are other legacies of the governor, which people ignore or pretend not to see because of selfishness and being myopic.
In the past administrations, even commissioners were not accessible as you will be mandated to fill one form or the other, due to protocols, to steal money and become unnecessary big men, but Governor Umahi has demystified governance and made governance to be transparent and his commissioners and SAs to be accessible at all times. If you are not ready to serve, then you will be shown the way out. So, we are doing everything possible to ensure that the dreams of the governor are achieved.
The flyovers are good examples of his visions. The congestions in Lagos will never happen in Ebonyi state because of the designs of the projects, though many people are being attracted to come into the state for one business investment or the other. The road network is encouraging as investors feel more at home in Ebonyi state.
If you go to our international market, you will always be proud of the state. You can do a tour of projects in the state to verify things for yourself. Mark my words, in the next two or three years, Ebonyi state will take over other states in the South East in the area of development. Enugu has been the central hub of economic activities in the South East, but Ebonyi is going to take over because we now have the many things people usually go to Enugu for.
What about construction of the Afikpo-Abakaliki expressway?
The Afikpo-Abakaliki expressway will not remain the same in the next four months. Though it is a federal road, we have been doing maintenance work on the road. If you are coming from Abakaliki, immediately after Onueke, you will see our maintenance team working on the road. Governor Umahi has attracted FERMA to do a complete overhaul of the road for the safety of users.
There are allegations that Governor Umahi is not fair to Afikpo people, with regards to citing of projects…
There is no LGA that will say that Governor Umahi has not been fair to them. Only bitter minds will say that Umahi has not been fair to Afikpo with regards to citing of projects. When you compare the projects executed by the governor in Afikpo with those executed by past administrations, you will that the governor has done wonderfully well. He has done 8 inches concrete paved road in Ndibe, etc. It is sad that people tend to forget things quickly. Instead of being constructive to ask for more by being thankful, they are vitriolic. You can’t be criticising the governor and at the same time asking for more. Look at the Ogbebi Ngodo road. The house built by late Zubik was deserted by people more than ten years ago because of the bad road, but the situation changed with the coming of Umahi and construction of the road. He connected the road to St Mary’s Catholic Church and Amangballa roundabout. See the Amasiri to Macgregor, to Amuro roundabout and Eke market road, the governor constructed it. Afikpo never had any dualised road, but governor Umahi did it. The dualisation is easing traffic. There has not been any recent record of accident because of the dualised road. But before now, accidents were happening on a daily basis on the road, but he expanded the road and dualised it to solve the problems inside Afikpo town. So, what more can anybody ask for that the governor has not done?
Even in Amasiri, which is also part of Afikpo North, the governor has constructed a flyover. Projects are also taking place in Unwana, with internal roads being tarred. Amasiri flyover is about 80 per cent completed. When completed, it will ease a lot of traffic because the Amasiri to Owutu is already a smooth expressway, courtesy of Governor Umahi, the same thing with Unwana. So, when I take time to aggregate the number of projects he has executed in Afikpo north, I am always humbled. So, Afikpo North people are grateful to the governor. We should be thankful to the governor; in order to attract other projects because a thankful heart receives more blessings.
Do you see an end to Afikpo electricity problems?
The Afikpo electricity problem has been a matter of concern and a complex issue. As you know, I own one of the biggest investments in Afikpo that consumes electricity, so we are not silent on the electricity issue. We have been committing personal resources to complement the effort of the state government in the restoration of electricity. If you recall, during the yuletide, there was power supply in Afikpo. However, the major solution is the completion of the Amasiri substation. Once completed, Afikpo will have 24/7 power supply, like other states. Apart from that, our major issue is that our people allow hoodlums to vandalise transformers and other electrical equipment, which is why it is not every community that has light at the moment that the light was restored. We should be able to caution our brothers because we are the ones responsible for the vandalisation. We are the ones suffering the blackout, not government.
During our last meeting, we asked the former commissioner for Power and Energy, Engr. Ogbonnaya Uche Ude, to document how much it would cost to replace the vandalised transformers so that they can be replaced for Afikpo to have light. The light comes once in a while, because the feeder is not stable as a result of overloading. That’s why we are hoping on the Amasiri substation.
What would you like to be remembered for, with regards to serving in the present administration?
There is nothing else I would like to be remembered for other than the service I am rendering to my people. Above all, I am happy to be part of this administration that has transformed the state. The incoming administration is going to face the major challenge of doing better, because we have set the pace for them to do better. Ebonyians now have a benchmark. Before, we used to hear that there was no much money for projects, that Ebonyi gets low allocation and that there was, therefore, no fund for projects, but today the governor has changed the narrative. It is now known that the allocation can do projects and also pay salaries.
Ebonyi is one of the states where salaries are paid on time. Ebonyi is one of the states where salaries are not owed. The records are there. Some states owe salaries, but nothing of such happens in Ebonyi. The governor is prioritising payment of salaries and this is done before the end of every month, no matter how much.
As for pensioners, if you check very well, the major load is that the previous government did not pay gratuities and pensions and this was transferred to the present government. Nevertheless, the governor has been able to release the gratuities in batches. Before the first quarter of the year, I believe the next batch of payment will be released. Generally, the government has done well and we hope the next government can take it from here.
Being a political year, do you think all projects by the administration will be completed?
We had 2022 Projects Kickoff meeting recently with the governor. We are not oblivious of the fact that the tenure of this administration is fast coming to an end. By June this year, the heat of political activities would have started intensely. Remember that the Governor has also declared his presidential ambition. So, we have put modalities in place to ensure that all projects are completed this year. I can assure you that whatever project that was started by this administration will surely be completed before the handover date.
What is your advice to Ebonyians?
My advice to Ebonyians is for them to look into what the present administration has done and be thankful to the wonder-working governor. All the projects he has executed should be a wonder to all reasonable human beings. Things that were hitherto thought imaginable are being completed with ease. Some projects that would have been abandoned by past administrations are being completed under nine or ten months. For example, the flyover at Amasiri junction has not taken up to six months, but is already at 80 per cent of completion. We should pray for Governor Umahi. As he has decided to run for the office of the presidency, with what we have seen he has done in Ebonyi, Nigeria will be better for all of us. I talked about prudency before. If a man with lean resources can do the mighty things the governor has been doing in Ebonyi, imagine what he will do if he becomes the president of Nigeria. It means that every sector will be revitalised and productive as they will be uncommon development in all sectors of the economy. He will ensure that every governor earning allocation utilises the money. He would like to transform every state with example of what he has done in Ebonyi. Some governors are coming to copy what he has done in Ebonyi state. Ebonyi state has shown we can do projects without ambiguous costs or padding costs. This is something we should be thankful for because our money did not take capital flight. 80 per cent of the people executing projects in the state are from the state, so the money is just circulating.
It is only a lazy person that will claim he doesn’t have a job in Ebonyi state. If you go to any project site, out of your humility, if you speak to any of the supervisors, you will be gainfully engaged for your daily bread. The money of our state is not used to pay the parents or wives of directors of different companies as their shares, thereby inflating the cost of projects. The money is paid to workers under the direct labour approach. Those things have been eliminated. Governor Umahi should also be remembered because of his reduction of urban migration. Initially, after school, a lot of people will travel to towns to look for jobs. But now, a lot of people are coming to Ebonyi state, because there is life in the state. There are also great opportunities in the state. These are numerous things we should be thankful to the governor for.