Wednesday, September 27, 2023 has suddenly become epochal and memorable in the life of the present administration and developmental narratives of Abia, God’s Own State, since its creation on August 27, 1999.
It was indeed a day that what was only imagined by progressive-minded Abia people translated to becoming realistic, simply by the pronouncement and political will of Gov. Alex Chioma Otti.
It is all about the official commencement of the expansion of the ancient and outdated 3.5-kilometer Ossah Road, being as old and unbefitting as many structural relicts that have persisted in defacing and debasing the status of Umuahia as a modern-day capital town.
Perhaps, this was partly the reason, the legendary Ikemba Nnewi, late Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu who, in a fit of disappointment and disillusionment, described Umuahia as “a rural capital”. Ojukwu made the sarcastic but statement of fact when he came to Umuahia for the inauguration of Hotel Royal Damgrate in the year 2000.
Ossah Road has, literally speaking, seen many administrations come and go, yet none considered the road of any significance and deserving of serious government attention, both for aesthetics and traffic convenience .
Even a younger sister-state, Ebonyi, got its capital town, Abakiliki, transformed into such a huge, scintillating and attractive modern town in one split moment, while Umuahia continued to trudge on into greater deterioration, steadily losing taste, beauty and order from one administration to another, since the return of democratic governance.
The road, like an old hag it is, quietly endured the flamboyance and arrogant display of greed and wickedness by four successive civilian leaders, lumped together under the symbolic umbrella, called the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and led by mercantile political predators between May 29, 1999 and May 29, 2023.
It was an era, when looters camouflaged themselves as leaders. They came, saw but refused to do the needful other than pursuing their insatiable selfish and rapacious craving.
Beginning with the Orji Uzor Kalu’s administration between 1999 and 2007, the single-lane road, which serves as the major entrance to the state capital from Abia Tower on the Enugu Port Harcourt Expressway, wore such a decrepit look of a desolate ancient town for the eight-year reign of a man that was nicknamed the “Action Governor” by default.
Then entered the “son of the soil”, Sen. Theodore Ahamefula Orji, also known as Ochendo ( 2007 – 2015). He too squandered the incredible fortune that was the lot of his era as governor.
But for his incurable greed, he had the opportunity and immeasurable financial wherewithal to have turned Umuahia and its ambience, nay Ossah Road, into a beautiful town to behold.
To escape public opprobrium and reproach, especially by the progenitors of Ibeku land, Ochendo smartly but shamelessly bifurcated the single-lane road into two substandard divides.
Painfully, that was the best his avaricious tendencies could permit for his ancestral fatherland, where he was born, raised and would be interred for an eternal journey to the great beyond at God’s appointed time.
At a period governors in Nigeria had so much money to share, ranging from the Excess Crude Funds, Paris Club Refund, fat monthly Federal Allocations and Oil Derivation for Oil-Producing States, including Abia, Ochendo was busy acquiring palatial land, designing and redesigning his castle here on earth, specifically in his exclusive “Ochendo Close” on Azikiwe Road, Umuahia.
His unlimited access to the Presidential Villa, under the watch of our Ohuhu Brought Up Auntie Patience, with former President Goodluck Jonathan, coupled with the opportunities and privileges, which he could have maximised to transform Abia, were unfortunately squandered or merely appropriated for the development of his personal and family empires.
Without mincing words, Ochendo’s government had excess liquidity to pull down the structures on both Ossah Road as well as the Ubakala-Old Umuahia Road down to the City Centre (Garki), pay compensation to the owners and expand the single-lanes into standard dual-carriageways, with other road infrastrucure, such as street lights and beautifully maintained median.
But he would rather store the money in Jeepee and underground tanks in his heavily fortified country home until it would all turn powdery and worthless papers as many have today become.
He brought his successor, indeed, a protege, who, unfortunately, could not perform better than him. And could not differentiate between a jamboree and governance.
To Okezie Victor Ikpeazu (OVI), being a governor was not only about building projects.
So, for him, he must enjoy life, while it lasts. Therefore, the funds for capital projects in the state were better deployed in sponsoring globe-trotting and having the best of goodies, including partying in the best hotels in the most expensive cities, drinking very expensive, iconic, choice wines and so forth. And he would jocularly tell you that “afterall, person body no be firewood!”
Even his popular mantra during the 2015 and 2019 electioneering that “Nwa Aba g’imezi Aba,” proved only deceptive at the end of his eight years on the saddle.
His focus was neither on Umuahia, the state capital, nor his homeland, the Enyimba City. Instead, he ruled and left the two major towns in more deplorable conditions than he met them.
Thus, for Ikpeazu and his vicious and callous cabal, the pulling down of hundreds of residential and commercial buildings on Port Harcourt Road, Aba, and recklessly wrecking the lives of many families and industrial concerns on the road, would continue to remain an indelible memorial and relic of his rascally and insensitive regime.
This incredibly uninspiring narrative about God’s Own State for the past 24 years under the watch of PDP, eloquently explains why the good people of Ossah Ancient Kingdom and men of good conscience in and outside Abia must remain eternally grateful to the Labour Party-led government, with Gov. Otti steering the ship.
Otti has proved his unalloyed commitment to the process of rebuilding Abia, consciously and intentionally executing uncommon projects that would ultimately produce a New Abia, in line with his campaign mantra and the dream of the founding fathers.
In a speech, while flagging off the Ossah reconstruction project at Okpara Roundabout, Otti proudly announced that the payment of compensation to the owners of the 130 structures and buildings, which were captured for demolition to pave the way for the expansion work, had commenced.
He also enthusiastically announced that on completion of the Ossah Road, contract would be awarded for an extension of the dualisation from the Abia Tower to Onuimo Bridge, the boundary between Abia and Imo.
According to him, the essence is to ensure that once you enter into Abia from Imo, the ambience should be pleasantly different, beautiful and welcoming.
Obviously, for us as apostles of the governor, what is going on today in Abia is simply a tip of the iceberg.
Otti is sagaciously poised to continue to shock and shame the opposition PDP and its allies, who swore not to uphold the truth, if only for the sake of God.
He will continue to show class in providing quality leadership and good governance with monumental and impactful projects that are on ground and verifiable, rather than media-creations that characterised the PDP deceitful dispensation.
Interestingly, the ongoing transformation in both physical infrastructure and numerous other intangible accomplishemnts by the Otti-led administration, simply brings to mind, the title of an interesting novel, “What Napoleon could not do”, written by a Ghanaian-American, D.K Nnuro.
Simply put, what the trio of OUK, Ochendo and OVI could not do with PDP in their 24 long years, Otti is happily and faithfully doing for Abia and its people, on the platform of LP.
Article written by Eagle Okoro, an Umuahia-based public affairs commentator.