Chief John Okiyi-Kalu is the Commissioner for Trade and Investment in Abia State as well as Director of Strategic Communication of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the state. He speaks on the recent general election and the performance of the PDP in the state
What went wrong with the elections in your state that your governor lost the Senate seat even as your party lost the governorship?
We are still reviewing data from the elections to better understand what exactly happened. At the same time, we are preparing for seamless handover of power to the incoming administration based on the declaration by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC). There will be more than enough time to look back but in all these, I personally appreciate the democratic credentials of Governor Okezie Ikpeazu, who does not see electoral contests as a do-or-die affair. So, posterity will be kind to him and his family.
Was there issue of internal sabotage in your party as many government officials were not visible during the elections?
While many people talk about sabotage, I prefer to speak to individual choices and protection of personal interest. In politics, people take positions on the basis of personal interest and of course, group interest. I am in no position to know if there are cabinet officials or others in government, who did not share in our collective aspiration to install a PDP government led by amiable Sir Okey Ahaiwe. I am also not inclined towards propagating unverified rumoursment, which is to secure the people. Abia is today the most peaceful and most secure state in the South-East geopolitical zone and one of the top five in Nigeria. Beyond that, I am proud of the fact that we did not lose a single life during this election cycle. Abia State, under Governor Ikpeazu, came first in performance ranking of Nigerian states by the West African Examination Council (WAEC) back-to back-for four years. He has done many new classroom blocks, improved public school enrolment from about 140,000 to more than 600,000 pupils, esand innuendos but I won’t be surprised if there are government officials whose personal interests clashed with our collective position on voting for the PDP and its candidates. It is the nature of politics, especially during a transition year cycle such as we have just been through.
Do you think Governor Ikpeazu paid the price of PDP’s hold on the state since 1999?
Certainly, Governor Ikpeazu performed well in many areas including the primary function of govern-tablished a foreign scholarship scheme that is first of its kind in Abia and remains the first governor to establish a teachers’ continuous training institute in the state. When you look at infrastructure development, it is safe to say that no administration before him has done as much as he did with road infrastructure across the state. More than 160 road projects have been completed. Under his watch, we now have permanent structures for Abia State Oil Producing Areas Development Commission (ASOPADEC), Abia State Independent Electoral Commission (ABSIEC) and even completed Abia State Universal Basic Education (ASUBEB) building, among others.
I am also certain that the governor will sleep in the new government house in Umuahia before May 29.
Similarly, he did very great work in healthcare, agriculture, Small and mid-size enter- prises (SMEs) development and industrialisation.
Our trading environment improved tremendously under his watch and our traders are now making more wealth compared to where they were in 2015. When you examine where Abia was in 2015 and where we are today, you can’t help but agree that Governor Ikpezu performed well and I am happy that the recent report on Multi- Dimensional Poverty Index vindicated him by placing Abia among the top three best states in Nigeria.
That report came from a federal agency with support from global institutions and nobody in his right mind can say that Ikpeazu sponsored or orchestrated it. I think what has happened is that while Abia positively turned the development corner under Governor Ikpeazu’s watch, his opponents managed to frame all the real or perceived failures of the past as his personal fault.