?By By Charles Ajunwa
On Sunday March 9, 2014, the South East Governors’ Forum (SEGF) reached another milestone in its existence as a rallying point for the governors of the five states that constitute the South-east geo-political zone. A thunderous ovation had greeted the announcement of Governor T.A. Orji of Abia State as the new chairman of South East Governors’ Forum after a meeting of the forum at Enugu, the regional capital of the South-east. Days after the change of baton the ovation is still resonating. It is a pointer to the fact that the choice of the visionary and hard working Governor of Abia to pilot the affairs of the Forum enjoyed a wide acceptance. Even the usually critical media practitioners could not help but applaud the South-east governors for their choice when Governor Peter Obi broke the cheering news to them. The newsmen that covered the SEGF meeting were moved to join the joyous throng, given that the new chairman of the SEGF is a man they know has already proved his mettle as a quality leader.
The smooth transition is commendable. In deed, the South-east governors silenced the prophets of doom who had predicted that the change of leadership of the SEGF would be chaotic and stormy. They had even gone to their rumour mill to spin out falsehood about the failure of the SEGF to agree on who should succeed Governor Obi as chairman. But while they were anxiously waiting for the South-east Governors to fail in their bid to choose a new chairman, the naysayers were roundly proved wrong with the maturity and high sense of responsibility with which the Governors conducted the transition process. It was devoid of rancour. There was no expression of primordial sectional sentiments. The transition process was as smooth as silk. Governor Orji enjoyed the trust and confidence of his colleagues hence they unanimously agreed to give him the mantle of leadership.
For those who have been following the political and leadership trajectory of Abia State Governor, Chief T.A. Orji, his choice to lead the SEGF was not a surprise. Here is a man whose political maturity reaction to national issues has propelled him beyond the confines of God?s Own State where he is the chief executive. In fact, it is no longer news that Governor Orji has become a strong and respected voice at the national level.
This much was pointed out by the Minister of Information, Mr. Labaran Maku , when he came to Umuahia last month to inaugurate one of Ochendo’s Legacy Projects, the Broadcasting Corporation of Abia State (BCA). A 48-room ultra modern office complex. The minister had attributed Governor Orji?s rising profile to his sterling performance, which has made the people of Abia, ?the Presidency and the national leadership of the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) to be very proud of him. It is therefore a wise decision on the part of the South-east Governors that one of them whose voice and opinion is respected at the national level should take the lead.
In his characteristic humility, Governor T.A. Orji has accepted the additional responsibility placed on his shoulders. He has also acknowledged that the task before him ?is enormous?. But he remains unfazed by the new responsibility. As a man of courage and wisdom he has assured that he would not be overwhelmed by the task of leading his people. He has continued to prove it since 2007 when he mounted the saddle of leadership in Abia State. As a team player he knows that he would not succeed alone and has therefore called for the cooperation of not only his colleagues but every segment of the South-east zone.
Yes, Governor T.A. Orji is a leader who understands and applies the popular aphorism that when a man dreams alone he becomes a dreamer but when he dreams with others he becomes an achiever. His predecessor, Governor Peter Obi of Anambra State had enjoyed full cooperation of the Governors since 2007 when the leadership of the SEGF fell on him. It is noteworthy that the SEGF operated without rancour and bickering and ego contest that was the case before Obi took over. It is therefore expected that such brotherly atmosphere would continue to prevail under the new leadership of Governor T.A Orji.
Good enough the new chairman of SEGF has hit the ground running. Governor T.A. Orji has set out his priorities right. He said that he would work hard to bring to reality the elusive economic cooperation of the states of the South-east zone. The clamour for the economic integration of the component states of the South-east zone has been on since the formation of the South East Governors Forum. Proponents of the South-east economic integration are of the view that it would enable the component states to tackle common development challenges by pooling resources together ?and investing in such areas as power, waste management, education, infrastructure, among others through a jointly owned investment company. This could be made possible through a jointly owned investment company like the Eastern Nigeria Development Corporation (ENDC) that used to be the investment arm of the defunct Eastern Region. In making economic cooperation of South-east states a priority issue Governor Orji believes that it is possible for the zone to have a common investment portfolio. As a man synonymous with legacy projects the Abia Governor said that the five states of the South-east could pull their resources together and execute projects that would be of mutual economic benefit to the zone and serve as a lasting legacy for the people.
Another priority area the new SEGF Chairman has set as his area of focus is to ensure that the South-east will remain united, cohesive and to speak with one voice as has been the case since 2007 when Obi took over as chairman. Governor T.A. Orji is a man of peace and he always craves for peaceful environment and strives hard to create it. It could be recalled that he inherited a highly polarized Abia State where the political elites were fighting among themselves due to the divide and rule policies of the past administration which was laced with injustice and enthronement of mediocrity, and disrespect to elders. But on assumption of office Governor Orji set himself to the task of reconciling all the Abia political elites and today they speak with one voice. All the centripetal and centrifugal forces tearing Abia apart and stagnating its growth have disappeared.
No doubt Ochendo would apply his healing balm in making the South-east to be united and speak with one voice. This has become more urgent as the Nigerian nation commences the process of holding a national conference where each zone of the country would table its demands and expectations for the emergence of a truly united, strong nation where peace and justice would reign. Good enough, Governor Orji has said that he would galvanize the South-east zone to cooperate with other zones of the country on issues that would promote peace, equity and justice and development of the country, citing the issue of insecurity in the North-east and the forthcoming national conference. Having placed his hands on the ploughshare of leading the South East Governors Forum, there is no looking back for Chief T.A. Orji. It therefore behoves on his brother governors, Ohanaeze Ndigbo, the political elites across the South-east zone irrespective of political leanings, and indeed every Igbo man and woman to give maximum support to the new chairman of the SEGF to work for the peace and progress of the zone.
is Chief Press Secretary to the Executive Governor of Abia State