Chidi Samuel || In Umuahia, the administrative capital of Abia State, resentment is building over the alleged relocation of Government House from the city to Aba, the state’s commercial hub by the Governor Okezie Ikpeazu led administration.
Abia, one of the three oil-producing states in the South East Geopolitical Zone, Umuahia being the administrative capital whose economic livelihood depends largely on government activities, and Aba, the economic capital noted for commerce and industry, but residents of the later say the current administration has practically starved it of government presence and has instead made Aba both the administrative capital and the commercial city to the detriment of business there.
An investigation by Alabingo.com since the beginning of the year indicates that the Governor Okezie Ikpeazu rarely sleeps at the Government House Umuahia. The business of Government is also conducted from Aba, the commercial town. The Governor from investigation comes to Umuahia for courtesy calls, even that is beginning to change as the Governor has started to receive those on courtesy visits in Aba.
One of such visits was the aborted visit of the American Ambassador to Abia state last month. The visit scheduled for Abia lodge Aba was canceled at the last minute.
The apparent relocation of Government House and activities has not gone unnoticed in the state. Prominent Abia indigenes are uncomfortable with the current situation and want Governor Ikpeazu to reverse the trend because according to them, the precedent is a bad one.
A respected retired Academician in Lagos who spoke to Alabingo on the condition that his name will not be mentioned in print, put it this way, ”imagine if President Buhari decides to rule from Katsina, what will Nigerians say? What message will that send? I don’t think that the Governor and those that advised him on this, thought through it, or maybe they don’t care!”.
Even the staff who work in Government House Umuahia and most of the ministries and government agencies are unhappy with the development except the ones of Ngwa extraction.
A domestic staff at Governor’s lodge Umuahia told this platform he could count on his fingertips the number of times Governor Ikpeazu has slept at Government House, Umuahia since he was sworn in almost two years ago. He recalled with amusement the drama that played out at Umuahia Government House, on June 27, 2016, when Justice Okon Abang sacked Ikpeazu as Governor of Abia State.
His words, ” My brother you needed to be here!… As usual, the Governor was not in Government house, as news made the round that Uche Oga, the court announced Governor of the state was on his way to take over the reigns of Government, people were running up and down, they were calling from Aba asking us to block every entrance to the lodge.”
That incident, which came to be known among mid-level and junior workers in Government house Umuahia as, ”the scramble for Akanu Ibiam House” forced the Governor to work from Umuahia for some days.
Abia Government House, Umuahia
Many civil servants at the state secretariat are equally unhappy with the situation and also the attempt by Ikpeazu administration to fill every available position in the state civil service with his kinsmen. A staff at the ministry of information who pleaded for anonymity decried the attempt by Ikpeazu to govern from Aba.
He said, ”This is unheard of in the history of this state but it is in line with the long-standing desire of Ngwa people to dominate the state. In fact, here in Umuahia, we call them the Fulani’s of Abia Politics. They do what they want without a care of how others feel.”
Businesses, especially, those who depend on Government patronage to thrive are also feeling the brunt of Governor Ikpeazu’s decision.
“Our business is suffering very badly,” said Mr. John Kalu who manages one of the biggest hotels along Government House Road, Umuahia. “I can easily count the number of clients I have had over the past few months.
“In the past, here used to be a beehive of activities, visitors after visitors to the Government House came to patronize us. But now, he said pointing at the reception, “see how the whole place is empty.”
The Chairman of Abia state chapter of APGA, Mr. Ehiemere in a telephone interview with our correspondent described the situation as a reflection of the confusion inherent in Ikpeazu’s administration. According to him what the state requires is change. The present Governor and the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, he said, has nothing to offer the people of Abia state.
Ehiemere said, ” There is no government in Abia, if you have a Government House and the Governor refuses to live there, what does that tell you? It is not a good thing. Even the Aba, the man ran to there is no road there!.”
When confronted with the issue, Mr Enyinnaya Apollos, the Chief Press Secretary to the governor, however, insisted that the claims were erroneous. He explained that although Umuahia is the administrative capital, the Abia State Government has Governor’s Lodges in both Umuahia and Aba, and that the governor do make use of both.
“I hope you know what you are talking about. Do you really know what you are talking about?” he queried.
“Is Aba in Abia State? Did they tell you whether the state government has a lodge in Aba? Abia State government has a governor’s lodge in Aba and Umuahia. Aba is the commercial capital of Abia State, Umuahia is the administrative capital.
“If the Abia State government has a governor’s lodge in Aba and Umuahia, it means the governor can stay in either the two. When people want to be mischievous, they go about telling all kinds of lies.”
He concluded that the governor lives in Umuahia nonetheless, but goes to Aba sometimes.
“The governor lives in governors lodge Umuahia, I repeat, the governor lives in governor’s lodge Umuahia and he goes to the governor’s lodge in Aba sometimes.”
Onyebuchi Ememanka, the special adviser to Governor Ikpeazu on new media also denied the allegation. In a telephone interview with our correspondent, Ememanka described the allegation as the handiwork of mischief makers.
According to him, ” There is no truth in the allegation. The seat of Government is in Umuahia. The Governors office is in Umuahia, the Deputy Governors office is in Umuahia, all the ministries are in Umuahia, as i speak to you, His Excellency is in his office in Umuahia, I am also speaking to you from Umuahia”.
Ememanka went further to explain that there is a government Lodge in Aba which predates Ikpeazu’s administration and because the administration has a deliberate strategy to develop Aba, the Governor uses the lodge when he is in Aba for inspection of ongoing projects.
He cited the example Former governor Peter Obi who spent more time in Onitsha as Governor of Anambra state because he needed to pay pay more attention to Onitsha, the commercial hub of the state.