With much gaiety and glamour, he came into the Abia political space to the admiration of teeming youths whose lives have been positively touched through his philanthropy. He was not born into what some people would like to describe as a ‘professional’ political family, but when the opportunity for party politics presented itself, he never quivered but accepted it with equanimity and today, he is a prominent member of what could be referred to as the club of Abia political juggernauts.
Rt. Hon. Chinedum Enyinnaya Orji a.k.a Ikuku is the Speaker of Abia State House of Assembly and son of the immediate past governor of the state, Sen. Theodore Orji. Born on December 25, 1970, in Amaokwe Ugba, Umuahia Ibeku in Umuahia North Local Government Area of the state, young Orji began early in life to exhibit leadership trait that was later to shape his life.
Rt. Hon. Orji cut his academic teeth at Ugba Community Primary School between 1976 and 1982 before proceeding to Government Secondary School, Owerri, for his secondary education (1982 to 1987). In 1996, he earned a Bachelor of Engineering Degree in Civil Engineering from the Federal University of Technology, Owerri (FUTO), having been offered admission in 1989.
Venture into politics
Despite that his father has been playing prominent roles in successive governments in Abia State since 1999, Rt. Hon. Orji applied caution while joining the murky waters of party politics. He tactfully and tactically played from behind, shaping his political future by positively touching the lives of the down trodden, particularly the youths. But in the fullness of time in 2015, Ikuku who had before then endeared himself to the people of Umuahia Central, now, his political turf, encountered no problem at all in convincing them, he had their full support. This support and love was to be made manifest when his people overwhelmingly voted for him to represent them in the Abia State House of Assembly.
A first timer he was although, but that did not debar Rt. Hon. Orji from being unanimously elected as the Majority Leader during the inauguration of the 6th Abia State House of Assembly. Orji’s mien, large heartedness, political savvy and sagacity accounted largely for this healthy political deviation from the norm as such principal position was hitherto reserved only for returnee members.
Ikuku, in 2019 was re-elected, this time around to serve the state in a higher capacity. The audacious manner he carried on the job of the Majority Leader of the House, presented him as a competent leader to his colleagues.
Inauguration as Speaker
Given the calmness with which he handled issues that erupted prior to the inauguration of the 7th Assembly, it therefore did not come as a surprise when his colleagues during the inauguration of the House on June 10, 2019, unanimously elected him as the Speaker.
In his inaugural address, Rt. Hon. Orji promised to lead a House that would be people oriented and driven; vowing to reposition the Legislative arm of the Abia State Government – it would neither be a rubber stamp to the Executive arm, nor be confrontational. The new Speaker’s vision of the 7th Assembly was one that would not sit idly and watch people or group to become cog in the wheel of progress of the Executive arm of the government led by Governor Okezie Victor Ikpeazu.
As he promised, the 7th Abia State House of Assembly under the leadership of Rt. Hon Orji is today seen as one that has not only passed very sound bills and provided strong oversight functions in its one year of existence, but has also ensured that the era of disobeying Laws and Resolutions passed by the House is over. Similarly, the era of non-implementation of directives and visions of the executive is over as it has meted out appropriate sanctions to defaulting ministries, departments and agencies of the state government.
Considering the difficulty encountered by some of the assembly workers due to un-conducive environment work environment and the impact on their productivity, the Speaker took urgent steps to address the problem. The first project Rt. Hon. Orji undertook as Speaker was the renovation of the House of Assembly Complex which has been turned into a tourist center of sorts. With this, lawmakers, management and staff of the complex now enjoy better work environment.
A man of many firsts, under his watch, for the first time in the history of the state, the Assembly Plenary sessions are streamed live on social media and other electronic platforms. With this, Abians and indeed the world can now follow the proceedings of the Assembly live in the comfort of their homes and offices, courtesy of the digital Speaker as Rt. Hon. Orji is also referred to because of the uncommon innovations he has introduced since he became Speaker.
Through enormous demonstration of political will and dedication to duty by the 7th Assembly, under the leadership of Rt. Hon. Orji, the House passed the Abia State House of Assembly Service Commission Bill (HAB1 2019) into Law, thereby bringing the state at par with what is obtainable at the national level.
Abia is in fact one of the few states that have had the courage to pass the Bill meant to deepen the nation’s democracy. Despite the fact that Rt. Hon. Orji is the leader of an arm of government that is not involved in the execution of projects, however, he has ensured the Assembly Complex is not lacking in the infrastructural index.
As a way of ensuring that his colleagues are exposed to the modern intrigues of making laws, the Speaker has been conducting seminars for honourable members and other assembly workers.
In order to assist the state government in solving some of the teething problems it encountered, the House under Rt. Hon. Orji set up committees to look into Abia State Environmental Protection Agency (ASEPA), Abia State Polytechnic, ASPIMSS, ABSUTH and HMB. The House also assisted in resolving the border dispute between Lopanta in Abia and Ebonyi State. It equally set up a committee to look into abandoned estate’s in the state.
Passage of Bills
Since law making is the mother function of the legislature, Abia House of Assembly under Rt. Hon. Orji made history with the way it passed the 2020 Appropriation Bill. Prior to his assumption of office as Speaker, it was customary for the state appropriation Bills to get the lawmakers’ nod months into the new year. But that has changed. Under the watch of Rt. Hon. Orji, the 7th Assembly gave the 2020 Budget accelerated hearing and passage that by December 24, 2019; the governor had signed it into Law.
This gave Gov. Ikpeazu course to eulogize the lawmakers thus, “I have been Governor for four years now, but this is the first time we are signing the Appropriation Bill into Law by this time.”
Outside the prompt passage of the 2020 appropriation bill, the House has passed over 17 Bills prominent under the period in review, among them were the Bills on financial autonomy of the Abia State House of Assembly, the Abia State Agency for free home healthcare services and the Abia State security fund which were sponsored by Hon. Solomon Akpulonu, the Majority Leader.
The Abia State Protection Agency Bill 2019, sponsored by Rt. Hon. Ifeanyi Uchendu, the Deputy Speaker. Others were the Abia State Safety Commission Bill sponsored by Hon. Ginger Onwusibe, Abia State Donor Agencies Trust Fund Bill, sponsored by Hon. Jerry Uzosike, Constituency as well as the Abia State Violence Against Persons Prohibition Bill 2019, the Abia State Marketing and Quality Management Agency Bill 2019 and the Abia State Specialist Hospital and Diagnostic Centre Umuahia Bill 2019 all sponsored by the Speaker himself.
The Speaker in his inaugural speech made it clear that the House would through its oversight functions; support the Executive in the discharge of her duties. To make this a reality, the House on July 2, 2019 during plenary beamed its searchlight on some government agencies that despite the fact that they generate revenue for themselves, receive subventions from the government, yet were unable to pay their workers salaries. With the House’s intervention in this regard, so many issues were strengthened to the benefit of the workers.
Excellent Executive/Legislative relationship
In an era when Executive and Legislative relationship even in the best of democracies have been anything but cordial, Rt. Hon. Orji has ensured that the 7th Abia State House of Assembly has maintained a rosy relationship with the Executive arm to the point that all the Executive Bills were given accelerated hearing and passage.
The Speaker’s vision
In outlining his vision for the 7th Abia State House of Assembly, Rt. Hon. Orji said, “In the course of my membership of this Honourable House, I have had the privilege of working under two lawyers as Speakers. Lawyers are known for doing justice to cases they are tasked with and it is my view that my two Lawyer predecessors did very well as Speakers. Now therefore, having tried lawyers, the mantle has fallen on an Engineer and by training, Engineers are known for designing and building.Honourable colleagues, I will design and build for you all, a model House of legislative excellence and harmony that will set Abia State on an enviable pedestal.”
The Speaker’s Chief of Staff, Kenneth Ezeigbo said his principal’s desire is to, through the support of Governor Ikpeazu, serve the state in such a way that he would be adjudged the best Speaker Abia State House of Assembly has ever produced and indeed Rt. Hon. Orji is already on the threshold of history.