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Ochendo at 71: Trajectory of a humble background

This year’s 71st birthday shindig of Theodore Orji, immediate past governor of Abia State, inspired me a great deal to retrospectively recall his 58th birthday celebration which held on the 9th of November 2008. It is a necessary comparison intended to persuade us to appreciate the reality of time and its inevitable flight in the cycle of life.

The biblical note of caution, which enjoined us not to despise the days of small beginning, will in this wise make its way into our forgetful minds, driving home the truism that humility begets exaltation. For Theodore Orji, a senator of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, it is a trajectory of humble and awe-inspiring background as well as deployment of implicit confidence in God.

At 71, Senator T. A. Orji still radiates adolescent charm and my persuasion is that Osinulo, his delectable wife, will continue to love and adore him.

He was born into the polygamous but Christian family of Chief Tom Orji Ikoro, a renowned warrant chief whose conduct and candour were largely influenced by his association with the colonial masters. His mother, Lolo Virginia Orji of blessed memory who lavished love on him, had groomed him to become a reverend father but providence and divine destiny had other plans. Consequently, his academic effort was kick-started as St. Michael’s Catholic Primary School Ugwunchara, then to Catholic Secondary School (Sancta Cruz) Olokoro-Umuahia, and subsequently to the prestigious University of Ibadan where he bagged a Bachelor of Arts Degree in English.

Orji’s wealth of experience in civil service which began from old Imo State eminently qualified him to constitute the bloc that midwifed the newly created Abia State in 1991, where he held sway in Government House Umuahia before proceeding to other Ministries, Departments and Agencies which were on hand to give the new state a civil service identity. It was in the course of professionally discharging his duties as administrative secretary, Independent Electoral Commission (INEC), that fate facilitated his meeting with Orji Uzor Kalu, currently the Chief Whip of the 9th Senate. It was a divine design which took him through the gubernatorial crucibles of functioning as Chief of Staff, the heartbeat of governance, before becoming the first democratically elected governor from Abia Central political enclave.

Ochendo’s fitting accession to the gubernatorial seat of Abia State is reminiscent of the biblical Joseph, whose economic recipe earned him the prime ministerial position of Egypt. Like a golden fish which cannot be hidden, Ochendo’s gubernatorial candidature was unanimously endorsed by the generality of Abians in 2007. Little wonder that even in EFCC detention, Abians unanimously released him with their votes and enthroned him as governor of the State.

As a governor, T. A. Orji proved his mettle and jump-started several visible infrastructural milestones in Abia State. Civil servants were among the first to smile home with one grade level of promotion across the civil service strata, followed by a state-of-the-art workers’ secretariat. The civil servants were largely spared the nightmare of having to work from demoralising rented apartments and antiquated primary school buildings.

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Irrespective of the obvious reality that the luxury of time and resources impeded Orji’s effort to complete and inaugurate the on-going new Government House Umuahia, history will not be complete if histrajectory of humble and awe-inspiring background patriotic and sterling efforts at its flagoff are not effectively acknowledged. He remains the founder of new Umuahia christened “Ogurube Layout”, where investors and government are racing to acquire choice facilities for life-enhancing investments.

Ochendo clinically contained the security situation in Abia during his time and as a reward, the state became a beneficiary of the combat-ready 144 Battalion Goodluck Jonathan Barracks in Ohafia and Army School of Languages, Ovim Isuikwuato.

At the expiration of his eventful governorship tenure, T. A. Orji further advanced the ideals and virtues of equity by encouraging Abians to go south in choosing the next governor, thus qualifying him as the “Father of Equity”.

As a senator representing Abia Central at the National Assembly, he has attracted innumerable ovations. The multiplicity of Orji’s life-touching and enhancing programmes being seamlessly and genuinely administered has puzzled and compelled his detractors to backtrack in regret for their initial unfriendly dispositions and vituperations severally unleashed on the innocent mien of Ochendo. The sacrosanct reality, however, is that T. A. Orji got himself adequately and studiously prepared for the task of being properly counted at the National Assembly.

While some senators from other political jurisdictions delight in warming the seats at the National Assembly, Ochendo saw it as another veritable medium to allocate enduring values back home. In this wise, he has birthed and sponsored over five motions and 14 bills of national importance, chief among which is the Nigerian Investment Promotion Council Act, aimed at compelling government to give maximum support to foreign and domestic entrepreneurs.

Perhaps what would have been the icing in Ochendo’s sponsorship of bills is the bill that sought and secured Senate nod to elevate Abia State Polytechnic to a federal institution but which for political reasons has remained latent. It remains to be told what offence South-Easterners committed to warrant constant neglect and ill-treatment.

Ochendo’s life-impacting programmes as a senator are driven through the platforms of social empowerment, community aid, youth empowerment, annual scholarship, health-care delivery, rural electrification, agriculture and water resources. All the five local government areas that constitute his senatorial district have largely benefitted from his multifaceted people-centred programmes. Nothing could therefore be more deserving as his recent award as the Best South-East Senator.

Ugochukwu, a public affairs analyst, wrote in from Umuahia.

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