“Wooden-headedness,” Barbara Tuchman wrote, is a factor that plays a large role in government. In a time like this, it is pertinent to ask: Is Abia cursed – or Abians the cause?
In her “An Inquiry into the Persistence of Unwisdom in Government,” Ms. Tuchman further inquired: “Why do men in high office so often act contrary to way reason points and enlightened self-interest suggests?” Okezie Ikpeazu, the governor of Abia State, aptly presents a perfect example of “unwisdom in government.”
- Nigerians demand justice for baby Hanifa killed by school proprietor
- One year after Igangan invasion by Igboho: Evicted Fulani leader, others seek justice
In his recent radio interview, he crassly warned Abians – who had wanted to know whether it will take an eternity for Osisioma Flyover to be inaugurated– that it is outside the purview of their rights to question him – the man they employed; the man they feed with their oil and taxpayers money.
Declaring the flyover somewhat his private property, the “Nwa Aba” that Abians thought would rehabilitate and fix Aba blared: “Is the flyover their business? Did anyone ask me to build it? Am I not the person that designed and called the white men to build it for me? And I’ve been paying them as money comes in. Most of the people that ask about the flyover do not have cars – is it by foot that they would walk on it?
Alas! The above outburst exposed the nature and the psychology of a typical Nigerian politician as well as the “L’tate C’est Moi” mentality that pervades and deters politics and governance in Africa– where the opportunity to serve equals an opportunity to steal and enrich oneself.
That the state government expedite action on the site after the public made memes of the interview clearly affirms Tuchman’s assertion that: “wooden-headedness consists of assessing a situation in terms of preconceived fixed notions why ignoring or rejecting any contrary signs. It is acting according to wish while not allowing oneself to be confused by facts.”
Was Ikpeazu true to form? In their celebrated work on political behaviour, Eulau et al, noted that the analysis of political behavior proceeds from the assumption that politics as a special form of human activity is not, and cannot be, independent of what is known or knowable about social behaviour generally. Thus, Ikpeazu’s gaffe showcases what has been his form – that nature and character that the majority of Abians that elected him twice ignored or failed to fathom. His inability to draw lines between personal property and essential public infrastructures or understand the importance of efficient service delivery explains why Abia still stinks as Prince Arthur Eze reportedly decried in 2014.
The flyover has been at the entry gate of Aba is a tell-tale-tell sign of the decay and all that is bad in the state’s commercial and entrepreneurial hub. Generally speaking, Abia as a microcosm of the Nigerian State has been so unlucky when it comes to responsible and responsive leadership. Out of the five Southeastern states, Abia, despite being a Niger Delta State, is usually singled out as the seat of corruption and maladministration.
That Ebonyi, a non-oil producing state, could trump Abia in terms of infrastructure and service delivery proves the point that everything lies on leadership. What Abia State needs urgently is leadership. Good leaders, Schlesinger wrote, are fearless, high-principled, deeply versed in ancient and modern political thought, astute and pragmatic, unafraid of the experiment, and –this is significant – “convinced of man’s power to improve his condition through the use of intelligence.
In 1999, when the young Orji Uzor Kalu took over the levers of the state’s governmental machinery after the khaki guys returned to barracks, he declared “I will water Aba, I will fire (electrify) Aba. ”Fast forward to 2022, Aba remains a mess. Successive governments have failed to rise to occasion vis-a-vis addressing the plague of bad roads, problems of affordable and quality health care, education, pipe-borne water supply, flood, security, etc.
For a long time, indigenes and settlers in Aba have relied on self-help to live and run their businesses and have totally lost faith in the power of government to better their lives. Abraham Lincoln once asked the essence of government if not doing for the people what they can not do for themselves. Ndi Abia could as well agree with the English-American pamphleteer, Thomas Paine, that government is at best, a necessary evil. However, 2023, affords an opportunity for Ndi Abia to tag the last nail in the coffin of maladministration and malfeasance that crippled their State– will they seize it? Only time will tell!
Asikason Jonathan, a public affairs analyst writes from Enugwu-Ukwu, Anambra State.