In this interview, Chief Emeka Aforka, a former local government chairman and now aide to Anambra State governor, Chief Willie Obiano shed light on some of the policies and programmes of the state governor, insisting that those working to pull him down are only doing so out of envy and the governor has achieved what they did not know was possible.
Let us meet you?
My name is Chief Hon Emeka Aforka, the former transition committee chairman of Orumba North local government area of Anambra state, and currently the political liaison officer to the governor in charge of Orumba North matters.
Do you think your appointment is merited, considering that you had served as the chairman of the said area?
I have been a party stalwart in APGA for many years, and that was why I was appointed as the local government chairman in the first place, in which I served for two years and seven months. It was after my sterling performance that the current governor deemed it fit to appoint me as the political liaison Officer in charge of the local government.
Of course, having worked as a council chairman in the area, I am sure to have a lot of experience of matters concerning the local government.The similarity there is that this is one party which transited from one administration to the others, so it is the same party and those who did well are brought back to help the current governor.
What is your job description under this portfolio?
Being a political liaison officer to the governor, you are the eyes and ears of the governor in the area, you have the job of representing the governor and speaking for him in meetings in the local government. It is also incumbent on you to portray the image of the governor and ensure that the programmes and policies of the governor are felt, projected and promoted in the area. It is a very big job, and that is why we have a lot of challenges from those who are envious of the good height the governor is attaining.
Do you also have the capacity to attract projects to your people?
We do not have the capacity to attract project, our job is not to attract projects to the people or the area, but to monitor jobs are being initiated by the governor. As a political liaison officer, I have been able to monitor the projects of the governor in the area and I must give credit to the governor because he is a man of vision, who has come with a blueprint to develop the state. He has the mandate and he is accomplishing it with what he calls the three Cs, which is continuing the projects of the former governor, completing them, commissioning it and commencing new projects, and so far he has stuck to that and if you come to my local government, all the Cs are reflected in the area. Okpose-Ndiukwuenu-Awa road, a road of over 40 kilometres is being constructed by the governor, and I have been visiting the place.
But, recently, because of the rainy season, work has been stopped on the road and some disgruntled elements who are looking for ways to pull the governor down have gone to town with the false rumour that the road has been abandoned. This is not true, everyone knows that during the rainy season road construction usually suffer and there is little anyone can do about it, instead of remaining in site and wasting material, it is better to wait awhile before continuing and that was what the contractors did, they have not abandoned the road, but some people who call themselves presidents general have taken it as a loop hole with which to discredit the governor. When it is rainy season the pace of work is slow, and in this project, terrain is not good so we have to stay away for a while, why will the governor abandon a project he has committed a lot of funds into, why do you think he will do that? The governor is still very much interested in the roads, and all other projects in the area that were started by the previous government. That is why people like me who are the eyes of the governor in the area must speak to correct this impression. Beyond this, there are several other project in the area which he has completed, I don’t know why people will be crying that Orumba North is marginalized. The local government is not being marginalized, and as a matter of fact, the governor is a fair minded person and has been giving to the communities in the state various project without marginalization. Each time I see materials that contain blatant lies in the newspapers, I usually dismiss them as sponsored jobs meant to distract the governor, but such people do not know that the governor is not even looking their way.
I am only calling for calm from the people of the state because soon the rains will be over again and the governor will swing to work. For the people who are peddling cheap lies, they must know that it is not in the good interest of the state. I am happy that the majority of the people of the local government are happy with what the governor is doing. This is a governor who has done well for the state, he has attracted several billions of dollars investment into the state and is working religiously with his blueprint to achieve the best for the state.
What do you have to say to allegation of using certain projects to embezzle funds during your administration as council chairman?
This is a sensitive aspect of this interview, I will not like to speak for myself, but let the people who know what we did when we were in the council area do the talking for us. I have read some of the damaging things a certain President General has been saying about me, including the blatant falsehood that during my tenure we embarked on a bridge project, Arunota bridge for the sum of #68million, but that is false.
My record in the area can speak for me. Those are talks of people that are very selfish with the truth, I will like to put the record straight because there was no project in the entire administration of mine that was worth N68million, there was also no bridge project to that tune, and we never also paid any contractor that sum for a bridge project or any other project. What we did was very straight forward, and the record are there. I come from Ndiowu community, and the Bridge project we did was one to connect not just my community but three communities, Ndikelionwu, Okpoze Ndiukwuenu and Amaetiti. That project was my brain child, and I initiated it because i knew what the people are suffering and wanted to come to their rescue.
No person that is sane will mobilize a contractor for a job and pay them in full or more than what was originally awarded. The receipts are all there, and I challenge the people who are saying we paid the sum of N68million to produce their own proof, they are simply doing this because they are envious of the height I have reached with the governor. They have seen that my political career is growing everyday and the governor is close to me and I have his ears, I am sure those sponsoring this campaign of calumny are people we have retired politically. Initially I did not want to respond to this because they say silence is the best answer to a fool, but for the sake of the people who were being fed falsehood by the disgruntled elements, I had to come out to speak and put the records straight. We awarded Arunota bridge to the tune of N54million, and I can tell you that we did not pay the contactor more than that amount of money, infact we still have some money remaining to pay the contractor, and I can tell you that the bridge is over 70% complete before we left office. When I saw such malicious report, I knew immediately that they were out to pull me down. I am ready to prove that the contractor has not even been paid in full, let alone be paid over. The records of what I am telling you here is verifiable, and this can be checked. I don’t know what just two people who parade themselves as president General will stand to gain by telling such lies.
Do you know how many presidents general we have in Orumba North? Every community in that local government has its own president general, so why is it that only two are the ones making noise all over the place if it is not that they have seen that I have been appointed by the governor, who has further brought me close and they are thinking of a way to severe the relationship I have with the governor. I want to use this opportunity to tell you that we have several projects we were able to achieve in our administration. We started projects like the modern markets, four in number which we did. Orumba North as a local government is a rural local government and we have Oko which is like the urban area of the council. We started the modern market because what we see everywhere in the local government were shanties. This I think were some of the things that made them become envious because the markets have remained like that since 40 years ago and when we did it, people began to support our government and that was where the envy of the enemies started. There were surprised that what has not been done in over 40 years is what a small man like me has been able to do. I called together the people and tried to resolve land issues in the area and the people were happy again. We started the first modern market in Oko and when we saw that it going well, Mfuma people wrote to us and we also set machinery in place and also commenced the same process there. We set up a committee, they brought interim report and today it is under construction, unless it has been abandoned, these are some of the things that make them envious of me, they are other projects we did and I don’t want to bore you about that. The people are truly happy with what we did and that is our greatest joy, not people who have been peddling cheap lies just because they think that we are rising politically than them.
Why do you think your adversaries will be fighting you, and by extension your principal, the governor?
I don’t know what they stand to gain by battling me, but I know that it is all political and borne out of envy, jealousy, because they are afraid of our popularity. As a journalists, we can only ask you to go to town yourself and feel the pulse of the people about us. They have written petitions to the governor, concocted baseless lies to the people of the area and all sorts of things. If you go to the bridge projects they are sitting, you will see how far we went. Several materials which were supposed to be used for the completion of the project had all been procured, my happiness is that the people and elders of the council are not happy with the way the disgruntled elements, they have taken these things to a height by even dragging the state governor into it and saying that the governor was neglecting the local government, all these is meant to make the governor think that I am unpopular among my people. Their thinking is that once they say these things the governor will sack me, no one else will greet me along the road and the EFCC will come immediately and pick me and even put me in jail, but to their greatest disappointment is that their efforts have yielded nothing.
In all these, what call are you making to the people?
I am calling on media agencies and particularly one of the national newspapers that have been consistently used in peddling these cheap rumour, let them tell their correspondents to check and cross check their facts before going to press, they should also urge them to strive to hear from the other side, it is a simple thing, someone comes and says that Mr A is a thief, and you rush and write what you were told, so what happens to the ethics of the profession which requires that you should strive to hear from the other side before going to press. So any time these people come to you with baseless lies, it behooves on the journalists to seek the other side of the story so as to be able to dish out balanced reports. When a media company fails to do so, it automatically diminishes their popularity and rating.
Now, can you rate the performance of the Anambra State governor, Chief Obiano?
The administration of Governor Willie Obiano is a God sent one. His administration is focused, purposeful and very willing to work and very visionary. This is a man who came aboard and immediately hit the ground running, of course you can attest that security is a different ball game from what it has used to be. He is a man who in just three months left everyone thinking he has been here for years. As a journalists you can also attest that it is been a long time since you did crime stories like kidnap, bank robbery and all sorts. Before now, you know that people did not come home for burial services, our people who live in Abuja and Lagos were always afraid of coming back home that they may fall victim to kidnappers. It became so bad that people stayed back in Lagos to collect the bride prices of their daughters, something that culturally should be done in the village with the elders, but because of the fear of kidnap it was usually done in Lagos.
This man came and said people must sleep with their two eyes closed, and this is the basis of any economic growth for any state, If there is no security, people will not be free to do business, but I can tell you that because of what the governor has done, the state is generally peaceful, and people are free to transact business, just as foreign investors are now trooping the state. As it is today, the governor has attracted several billions of dollars investment from foreigners into the state. This is happening because the confidence of the people have been restored. Just last week, we were all at Coscharis Farms, Anaku, Ayamelum local government, that was from a local investor, and several others of our people who are based outside and who did not have confidence here, the reason they invested outside the state are now coming home to contribute their quota. You can also see what he is doing in the agricultural sector, He has totally revamped the agricultural sector, and has been creating wealth and employment through it, directly and indirectly. He has gone a step forward by constituting the Anambra Investment board which has the responsibility of sourcing landed property for investors to make it easy for them to get places to site their industries, and giving foreign investors other assistance that will help them establish in the state.
This is a man who believes that the state must have a facelift, that Awka cannot continue to be the capital of the state and still look so underdeveloped, this is the reason he set up the Awka Capital Development Authority. Projects are everywhere in the state and this is the first time we are seeing capital projects like three flyover bridges being constructed simultaneously, and yet that has not stopped other projects in various local governments of the state. All these is happening at a time when most state governors cannot even pay workers’ salaries let alone embark on projects. All these are happening, but the political detractors will still go to town with one rumour or the other, saying that nothing was going on in the state or that the state government has gone broke. Any day that rains stop work at sites, people will go to town with the rumour that work has been stopped in projects. Today, Anambra has ranked as number one in states that have never borrowed money and the governor has continually been paid their salaries, including donation of vehicles and also incentives like free transport and the increment in their salaries when other states cannot pay old salaries, so why will people not show some sort of commendation to a man who has shown all these efforts.
Our governor has shown us that anytime we need his attention to address some issues, he has always shown that he is not relenting. In my local government, he has lived up to his billing by continuing the project of the former administration, and just like the Ufuma –Okpoze –Ndiekwuenu road I told you, was awarded by the former government, but Governor Obiano came and flagged it off, and have followed up, except for the rains, and once the rains are over, we are hopeful he will mobilize the contractors to return to work again. He cannot be faulted in any way yet, so he is doing excellently well for now.