• Thursday, April 25, 2024
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BusinessDay

The SSG who loves nature, promotes values

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Most people fear to take shady proposals to Ebonyi State believing that the Governor Martins Elechi, an economist and one of the minds behind the Ebonyi philosophy (creation), would hardly allow any questionable deals to pass through his fingers. Those who fear this should wait until they meet Fidelis Mbam, Ebonyi’s secretary to the state government (SSG), an alumnus of the National Institute of Administrative Studies (MNI), Kuru, near Jos, and an astute administrator whose footprints dates back to the old Enugu State civil service.

The residence of the SSG begins the message and the visitor is cautioned by the ambience to follow order and respect nature. This day is a Sunday and Abam, an elder and leader of the government bureaucracy, easily offers to drive his guests, journalists, though from afar. His reason: “I do not want to disturb my driver on a Sunday. Let him rest.” His guests looked at each other, wondering if there were still leaders with milk of human kindness to the extent of caring about the little needs of ordinary people such as a driver.

The compact farmhouse in the remote part of Abakaliki, the state capital, takes the story from there. Every inch of the compound is an attempt to preserve nature and bring it to interact with humans, and the SSG is the first to consummate this interaction. “Every morning, I come here and walk round the farm and when I go to the office, I feel very good as I face the world.” You can bet that this elderly man enjoys his interaction with over 20,000 fish, quail birds, chicken, guinea fowls, and even geese. He takes in the natural beauty and serenity provided by the rare species of plantain leaves, oranges, cocoanut and even allanblackia trees.

This farm and its extension can guarantee a stable economic life not only for the 20 workers but for any middle class Nigerian. Yet, Abam has a larger farm, the one he calls the real farm, in his village where hundreds of workers occupy themselves with tending to nature.

The SSG eats farm-fresh fish, vegetables, fruits, etc. Also, wait for this; he drinks natural water, the one he takes from rain, purifies it to get natural pure water in an earthen jar. As the team was driving out of the farmhouse, it ran into a red golf car with a woman at the wheels. “This is the SSG’s wife,” the guide intoned, adding to the shock of the team leader from Lagos who is now threatening to relocate to Abakaliki to drag right to free nature with Abam. “Why won’t this man live forever by the lifestyle he has adopted?”, he asked rhetorically. For the wife of an SSG to drive herself and be alright in an ordinary car where her counterparts elsewhere would not drive except it is a beastly SUV.

When top bureaucrats had an opportunity to do a programme at Kuru, Abam chose to use his spare time at Kuru to go to the veterinary institute and farm centre nearby to admire nature and look up special plants and crops. Most others took high shoulders away with new ranks and titles but our man chose to take quail bird and rare species back to Abakaliki. Today, while the titles are jaded, Abam’s take-aways are multiplying into hundreds of thousands of farm stock. Now, Abam is a multi-millionaire if not billionaire made on the strength of a growing integrated farm. At Abam’s, nothing is allowed to waste. A dog died in our presence and was ordered to the maggotry. There, it would help to breed maggots which are a rare delicacy, a form of snacks to fishes.

So, with a love for nature, discipline and zero-waste mentality, Abam holds forte at the SSG’s end of Elechi’s administration and forms an estate where crooks dread to thread.

Between Elechi and Abam, contractors, suppliers, labour and everyone that wants money from the treasury has to be careful and meticulous with proposals. The SSG mistaken let it slip that “here, expenditure is screened and re-screened.”

Now, asked how the Elechi administration has been executing gigantic projects to open the Ebonyi economy and anchor it on agro-allied and solid mineral base, through such projects as the N48Bn water scheme, the Ocho Udo City, state secretariat, international market, N100Bn road network, 36 Bridges of Unity, etc, the SSG laughed this off with ease. “First of all I will say, you know I described our leader as being disciplined, as being trustworthy, as being a man of integrity. He is a man with vision and mission. He had a purpose in coming into government and therefore with all these qualities, the little we get from the allocation we utilise it very effectively. We don’t want to waste anything. That is number one.

“Then number two, you see because many finance houses have seen that we are disciplined, therefore every finance house would want to deal with Ebonyians, would want us to come up and so we decided to raise a N20billion bond from the market.” The bond is to be liquidated within the tenure of the present administration.

Talk is everywhere in Ebonyi how Abam turned down an offer to replace the first (military) governor of the then young state, just to devote time to his ailing wife. At the end, he lost the wife and lost the chance to be governor, yet Abam appears to be the happiest man in service, happy with his God for making him reach the pinnacle of civil service; director, chief of staff government house, perm sec, now SSG.

As soon as Abam is allowed to finally proceed on retirement, don’t look for him among political meetings; don’t even look for him among bands looking for petty contracts to survive. Check him out among the birds, where he is at home with nature.

 

IGNATIUS CHUKWU