Buhari’s Visit To Ebonyi Has Nothing To Do With 2023 Politics – Orji

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Barr. Uchenna Orji is the Commissioner for Information and State Orientation, Ebonyi State. In this interview, he speaks on the planned visit of President Muhammadu Buhari to the state, notable achievements of Governor Dave Umahi and other issues. Excerpts: 

 The President is coming for an official visit to Ebonyi state this month. Does it have anything to do with the politics of 2023? 

The president is coming to Ebonyi state to commission a number of projects that our governor, His Excellency, Engr. Dave Umahi has completed. The visit has nothing to do with 2023 politics. If you can recall, Ebonyi was the place Mr. President came in the entire South- East, if not the entire South. Ebonyi was the first state he visited and slept over after his home state of Katsina. When he came then, he laid foundation for so many projects. So, he is coming back now to see what the foundation he laid then has yielded. I can assure you that we have quite a lot of projects that he is coming to commission. He is coming to commission Africa’s biggest shopping mall never built anywhere in Africa. This mall has about 5,000 shops. He is also coming to commission Nigeria’s biggest state Ecumenical Centre, bigger than that of Abuja. He will also commission the University of Medical Sciences. He is also going to commission a number of our flyovers. Ebonyi state today is having the highest number of flyovers outside Lagos and Abuja. Some people have said, what is the need of flyovers? You can never know the need of flyovers except you appreciate how Lagos started and what it is today. With flyovers, you can predict what the traffic will be in the next 50 years. It can also give both local and foreign investors the confidence in investing in Ebonyi state. We have a very beautiful capital city in Abakaliki. There was an award we received recently that said that Ebonyi state has the second neatest capital city in Nigeria. These are some of the things that the president is coming to commission. The president is coming to officially flag off the construction of the International Airport which is going to be the best after Lagos and Abuja. It is sitting on 4.4 kilometres of land and it is having 3.4 tarmac. It is done in concrete pavement, the only one in the federation. Even Abuja and Lagos doesn’t have that. The concrete pavement is about 14 inches thickness which will make it last forever. That is the way the governor designs all his projects. Today, Ebonyi has the most beautiful Government House. We call it Three Arms Zone. It has a governor’s lodge, governor’s office and presidential lodge. These are the things that President Muhammadu Buhari is coming to commission. We have international market in the South East and it is the biggest in the whole of the South East. It is located along Trans- Sahara highway leading towards Cameroun from Cross River. 

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Ebonyi is known for its strides in agriculture. Are there achievements in the areas of agriculture that will be of interest to the president during his visit? 

In the area of agriculture, there are quite a lot of things that the president will also see. The federal Ministry of Trade and Investment said Ebonyi state is the largest producer of rice. We have rice processing plant that has 32 metric tons capacity per hour and 38 metric tons capacity per hour parboiling plant that is in place. This is owned by the government and different from over 1,500 that are owned by individuals. These are the source of our pride as a people. I can continue to list a lot of things that the governor has done which Mr. President is coming to commission. 

The governor is currently building an airport and he promised that before he leaves office in 2023, the first aircraft will land in Ebonyi. Is that promise still feasible? 

It is realisable. One thing that I know about the governor is that whatever he says that he will do, he will definitely do it. In 2015, he promised that he will build four flyovers and we were wondering, how is that going to be possible? Today, the governor is doing close to 14 flyovers now. So, I can tell you that projects are always very easy for him to actualise. I don’t know the magic he is using but all I know is that everybody is saying the same story that this governor is a wonder in the area of developments. Budget office in the federal Ministry of Finance in Abuja made an assessment about the state that has the best record in prudent management of resources. Ebonyi came first amongst the states of the federation. In the area of transparency and accountability in governance, Ebonyi state is one of the four states. In the area of capital project execution, Ebonyi came first. Again, in the area of citizen’s participation in project making, Ebonyi state is one of the four and we have gained a lot from that. So, I don’t have any doubt whenever the governor makes any promise. 

What are the major milestones recorded in Ebonyi within the first and second terms of this administration in the area of agriculture?

The state governor quickly discovered agriculture as an where we have a comparative advantage. So what the governor did differently is that he decided to remove impediments so that youths and women will be interested in going into agriculture. So he had to introduce what is known as mechanisation and commercialisation of agriculture. In mechanisation of agriculture, he had to procure equipment and farm machinery and distributed to farmers, including 13 V7 Bulldozers which he distributed to the 13 local government areas on the basis of one per LGA free. 

He also procured farm machinery including tillers, planters, and others. This he distributed to individual farmers through their cooperatives. He also had to partner with the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) and FADAMA 111. In terms of the project, he is paying the government’s counterpart funds in order to invest in agriculture in the state. In the area of commercialisation, the government introduced what is known as one man, one hectare. What the one man, one hectare means is that for every farmer, civil servant, and officer holder that must be assisted in agriculture, whether primary or secondary or tertiary, you need to have a value of one hectare, before it was N250,000 per hectare, so if you want to go into animal husbandry, rice production and yam cultivation, you need a hectare of land or a project or facility that is equivalent to the cost of one hectare of land. The government will now fund you and give the cost that is equivalent to one hectare of one land. That has really helped our youths and women who are office holders. 

Today, it is compulsory that officeholders must have their farm even before they are appointed and that made the state government show leadership by example and this has really helped us. We are also taking advantage of empowerment programmes of the federal government both the social investment programme and Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) Anchor Borrowers’ Programme, Commercial Agriculture Credit Scheme, and other programmes of the CBN. 

With Governor Umahi now in APC, what are the chances of APC retaining power in 2023 in Ebonyi state ? 

APC chances are very juicy. I will say that it is 100 per cent. Hundred percent in the sense that our people have said that wherever the governor goes, they shall go. This is because of the wonderful transformational leadership that the governor has led in Ebonyi. The real crème de la crème of the people in Ebonyi are with the governor. Again, what the PDP could not do for 16 years in the state, APC leadership at the centre did it between 2015 and 2018. So, we are at the right place. We are also at the progressive party. It is just a few people who are expired politicians that are crying foul and putting studs in the wheel of the state’s progress. 

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