Abia State: a model for all.

Author:Asante, Ben
Position:Special Report: Abia State, Nigeria
 
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Abia State is Nigeria's technology manufacturing centre and enterprise zone. It serves both the domestic and ECOWAS markets. In recent years, Abia's economic importance under Governor Orji Uzor Kalu has reverberated far, compelling the World Bank president, James Wolfensohn, to pay a visit. Ben Asante went to Umuahia, Abia's capital, to see what makes the state tick.

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Apart from Godliness, the one thing that catches on in Abia State is patriotism. Situated in the southeastern corner of Nigeria, and run by Governor Orji Uzor Kalu, a businessman turned politician and now a second-term elected governor, Abia State is a model for what nationalists call "the love of country".

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On a single day during my recent visit to the state, the Nigerian national anthem was played six times to usher in different meetings which the governor hosted in the cabinet room. These ranged from courtesy calls by small groups to a big meeting with a delegation from the Federal Senate in Abuja, and a group of Chinese businessmen interested in establishing commercial farms and cottage industries in Abia.

Every morning before the start of work, Kalu worships in the small chapel attached to the Governor's Mansion. He is joined by key lieutenants, employees and, at times, by visitors. A devout Catholic, and as a demonstration of unity in a state whose population is mainly Christian, Kalu has

been keen on according equal recognition for other faiths, including rebuilding a mosque in Umuahia.

On the day I visited, the sermon at the morning worship was on the theme of unity and forgiveness. Sitting next to the governor was his deputy, Chima Nwafor. Between them stood unfinished business: the impeachment of Nwafor by the state legislature. But in the spirit of forgiveness, the matter was soon over, when the governor and his deputy went together to thank the legislators for dropping the case.

With an obvious eye on future national politics, Kalu has been smart enough not to allow distractions to his rule. In his first term he fell out with his former deputy.

The same businesslike manner runs through his office all day. Files are worked on and instructions given for action, allowing no single file to stay overnight. T. A. Orji, the long-serving chief of staff and confidante of the governor, is at the core of the implementation process.

Victor "Success" Onochie, a senior aide, tells me the governor is all hands-on and would even take work along when...

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