By Uche Ibe Nwosu
Obinna Oriaku: Why is he talking now; Why didn’t he say all these while in government, Facebook user asks
Recently, I had analysed some facts about Obinna Oriaku that people do not know. My focus was to inform some of his detractors that Obinna is not what some people think of him, especially against the backdrop of spurious and unfounded media allegations that have held sway for long before now. But I have however observed that some people would always question why Obinna kept mute over all the ills he observed while in government, only to start revealing them now. For this, some presume that he is a sale-out or a blackmailer who takes delight in biting the hand that once fed him. They feel that he is unfair to his erstwhile boss who, in the estimation of many, gave him enough latitude to operate.
As much as these questions are naturally anticipated, it smears of common sense to realise that Obinna, through the cooperation and support of his boss and the Governor Dr Okezie Ikpeazu, also implemented landmark reform policies that have today formed the bedrock for somewhat stabilised financial hold of the Ikpeazu administration especially during the first term. Nevertheless, pundits should not have been more curious about the vocality of Oriaku than his silence, as his silence, to me, would imply that he has something to hide or that he is still expectant of another appointment which the norm hence would stay quiet and hopeful as a loyal party man since this has been the tradition in Abia State since democracy.
In fact, the most common trajectory is for former officeholders to stay mute ,close their ears and eyes for fear of possible indictment by the men of EFCC as they were heavily entangled while in office. So, Obinna’s courage in speaking out, to me, means courage in the face of obvious victimisation and associated backlash which is common in politics especially in Abia.
But come to think of it, the seemingly complacent dispositions of persons who ordinarily should speak up in the face of misgovernance is why our State is the way it is. Notable personalities for a paltry plate of porridge have literally sold their birthrights and inadvertently aided and abetted the continuous retrogression of our dear state.
For the likes of Oriaku who chose to speak out, they are isolated and treated as leprous victims. Their stigma is that they dare challenge the status quo in a State that has been held down for years.
For the benefit of hindsight, Obinna is among the few appointees of the government that started from day one of his appointment to canvas for sacrificial service. Those who attended the 2015 inauguration ceremony for the new set of commissioners could attest to this. While giving the vote of thanks on behalf of his colleagues on that day, Obinna reminded them that while the recession persists, austerity measures were inevitable if the State is to move forward.
During his tenure, Obinna ensured that the press were briefed every month on the fiscal performance of the State . The height of transparency you may say, if compared with the taciturnity of the man that occupies the seat at present.
Consistent in Obinna’s regular media parley is his outspokenness on the rots in the system. In fact, he will always complain of a fundamental or systemic error and the complexities therefrom, he would always chide that tens of the Okonjo Iweala’s may not achieve much with the way the (Abia) system was configured or structured .
I still recall in one of his media chats at either Flo or Magic FM where he condemned outright the inexpediency and unsustainability of leaving the recurrent expenditure at 75% while a meagre 25% is left for capital expenditure. In order to implement this conviction, Obinna was instead accused of favouring the contractors against the populist “bring let’s chop it all” culture.
Those close to the system then will attest that the support of Governor, and late Chief of Staff, Chijioke Nwakodo at the beginning of Okezie administration, led to the enthronement of new reforms tailored towards some paradigmatic changes, like the streamlining of wage bills of civil servants in the State , automation of the pay- roll software as salaries were then being paid manually (cash) in some MDAs, closure of the 19 sub treasuries used for manual payments of pensions as well and automation of the pension payment systems, Parastatals reforms, Civil service reforms etc.
These innovations didn’t come easy as there were a series of talking/engagements and negotiations before agreements were reached. In other words, Obinna has always been vocal even while in government and was more vocal while in government than now.
On government procurement.There was a deliberate government decision to cut down the cost of governance on inauguration in 2015. This resulted in reduction of the overhead of the executive. The exco allowance was reduced from N1m to N500k. Abia was the only State whose executive council members used Hyundai Ix35 as official cars in 2015 which was bought then at N6.9m against our colleagues in other southeast states that used Toyota Prado that cost about N18m. The procurement of the Judiciary vehicles for judges followed the same pattern as the then Chief Judge of the state procured the invoice directly from KIA Motors Port Harcourt by herself .
These reforms on public procurement extended to the House of Assembly vehicles and the other set of vehicles bought while Hon Oriaku was in charge as the details of such procurement are in public domain .
This could have been used to silence him if they noticed any spurious dealings now that he is in opposition and talking .
All these were procured at best market rates without the usual government undercurrents.
Obinna did not only speak but also practised what he preached while in government.
Recall also that reforms were engendered across the sectors of government. Those were fallouts of engagements and negotiations. For instance, the Judicial reforms, civil service reforms, parastatals reforms , local Government reforms, procurement and cost of governance reforms, though many of these reforms remain unimplemented till date.
From the aforementioned, it’s clear that Mr Oriaku does not belong to the category of politicians or public servants that turn activists once ousted from power. He is bound to his convictions and for those principles he was schemed out from the government after the first tenure which today has proved to be the glorious era of this administration.
No wonder few amongst present day “pocket Hitler’s” (apologies to late Ojo Maduekwe) conspired to push him out to possibly silence him and perhaps rubbish his personality. But true to the old saying that a gold fish must be spotted in the midst of mucky waters, Obinna Oriaku has even soared more.
I am not surprised when a foremost revered traditional ruler in Abia His Eminence Eze Eberechi Dick recently conferred on him Ekwe Dike Ekwuola 1 of Abia State and not Ngwa.