Day One Magician: Who Will Save Okezie Ikpeazu From Himself? By Chinedu Ekeke
Supporters of Okezie Ikpeazu have been all over the place since last Monday. They say the man is a performer, that he is so far Abia’s greatest governor since the creation of man. And you want to know what the man did to stir this effusive praise? He began his tenure with illegality.
We can’t begrudge them; his supporters. They are at liberty to go orgasmic on the access they now have to the Abia state government house. But we won’t endorse their illegality with our silence.
Ikpeazu, the product of former governor Theodore Orji’s coordinated electoral heist and brigandage on Abians, on Monday, ‘’flagged off’’ the construction of 7 roads in the Aba metropolis. The ’governor’, who the election petitions tribunal sitting in Umuahia will soon sack based on mounting evidence of massive rigging, subversion of card readers and multiple thumb-printing in the election that threw him up, told Aba residents that quality work would be done on the roads.
We know Ikpeazu faces the legitimacy challenge; the reason he seeks to go populist from day one. The desire to run to the market with the narrative of Ikpeazu-the-miracle-worker did not permit the governor’s fans to remember that first, Monday, 1st June, was Ikpeazu’s very first day at work as Abia’s new governor. He was inaugurated May 29. The following two days were weekends. He is not a second-term governor who may want to advance the argument of having been in talks with contractors before his second inauguration. The man was getting to his office for the very first time.
Governor Ikpeazu’s inauguration took place on Friday morning, followed by a luncheon and gala night. The next day was Saturday and the next, Sunday. We must then ask Ikpeazu when the contracts for the 7 roads were awarded. When were bids for the jobs tendered? How about design, evaluation and cost of these road projects? At exactly what time did Okezie Ikpeazu look into the books of the state to ascertain the availability or otherwise of funds? What are the arrangements in place for payment of the contractors?
Apparently in a hurry to drive the conversation early in the life of his soon-to-be-truncated administration, Mr Ikpeazu forgot that in Nigeria, there exists a comprehensive guidance on procurement and award of contracts.
The Public Procurement Act of 2007 stipulates robust guidelines and procedures on the award of contracts. First, a tenders board should sit and discuss the award of road contracts. In this case, what body saw to the contract for the roads Ikpeazu flagged off? Was it the State Tenders Board? Who were its members? Which commissioner was involved? Finance? Works? If Abia has a state tenders board, what number of members forms a quorum in their meetings? Does the state not have any? These questions must be answered promptly, because, Abia belongs to Abians, not just Ikpeazu and Theodore Orji.
Given that he is yet to appoint commissioners in the state, is Ikpeazu suggesting that himself and his deputy were the sole members of the tenders board that awarded the contract? At what time – and from whose desk – did the memorandum leading to the convening and presentation of projects for consideration by the tenders board emanate? Who saw and debated on the feasibility studies, specification of work items, bill of quantities, project design, duration of project, proposed terms of payment, cash flow plan and the quality control of the roads? Is Ikpeazu under the illusion that we are all stupid?
Now that I have raised these real issues, I hope someone quickly comes to tell us that the grandstanding we saw on Monday was exactly what it is: merely posing for the cameras; or Mr Ikpeazu should know that he has flouted our laws and will be prosecuted immediately after he is removed from office.
During the campaigns, some of us had conceded some level of intelligence to Okezie Ikpeazu solely based on his touted academic records. Not like he made any quotable quote or sounded deep even if for once, we just assumed that having acquired an early PhD conferred on him the right to be assumed smart. Well, this demonstration of lack of understanding of the procedures for things as basic as the award of contracts puts that concession on trial.
The state of roads in Aba, infested with such level of decay, does not require drama and showmanship. Aba roads need proper fixing. And proper fixing of roads requires some time for planning and design.
Ikpeazu ought to know that many Abians have realized, albeit late, that Theodore Orji was able to ride roughshod on the people of the state because they kept quiet. This time, we will refuse to keep quiet. Everything that this government does, illegitimate as it is, must be subjected to proper scrutiny. That action, last Monday, by Mr Ikpeazu, is an extension of the irregularity that landed him the job. It was wrong and should be condemned by all Abians of goodwill.
If Ikpeazu is in search of quick wins, then he has his job cut out for him. Abia workers have been owed salaries for months; pensioners are still owed. Ikpeazu’s predecessor made it a deliberate state policy to starve state workers of their wages. The first place for Ikpeazu to start is the payment of salaries.
Yet there’s another quick win for him: that heap of refuse on the Aba side of Enugu-Port Harcourt Expressway should be cleared immediately. Incidentally, it was under Ikpeazu’s watch as the head of the Aba zone of Abia State Environmental Protection Agency (ASEPA) that that road was defaced with waste. A month or two before the elections, the Theodore Orji government struggled to burn the refuse so the site won’t embarrass them. Yet, as they burned them, they piled more, making one wonder what their immediate and long term plans, if any, for the refuse were.
Now, Ikpeazu can clear that expressway of the dirt. In our Africa, we aren’t raised to deface the entrance to our houses or compounds with dirt. Refuse, in the traditional African society, is kept at the backyard. So, if Ikpeazu cannot think of how to convert the refuse to energy, then the least he can do is to take them away from the expressway that connects Abia to other states.
If the procedures for the award of contracts were not already concluded before Ikpeazu went on to flag off the roads, then he has already contravened many sections of the Public Procurement Act. If they were concluded before his inauguration, then we should be made to know that the roads he flagged off were awarded by his predecessor Theodore Orji. If everything about the road started with Okezie Ikpeazu, then the man must be made to realize that upon conviction when he loses his immunity, he will be committed to prison for contravening the laws of our land. It’s for him to consider which he prefers: retrace his steps now or carry on with his crass showmanship. But I’m sure that for each action, he knows the end from the beginning.
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