Otti rewriting the sorry story of Abia’s economy


Otti rewriting the sorry story of Abia’s economy

By Ogbonnaya Ikokwu

Wednesday May 8, 2024 will remain evergreen in the minds of the residents of Osisioma-Ekeapara Industrial Layout in Osisioma, near Aba, the commercial hub of Abia State, as a turning point in the development trajectory of the area.

It was the day the development-oriented Gov. Alex Otti visited the hardworking dwellers of the area with the transformational agenda of the New Abia Movement.

The governor was in the layout to commission the
3.5 km Osisioma- Ekeakpara Road for reconstruction.

The Osisioma industrial layout housed a litany of manufacturing companies that provided jobs and business windows to millions of Aba residents for decades before many of them fled the area because of the deplorable state of the road. One of the landmark outfits in the area is the Aba Depot of the Nigeria National Petroleum Company (NNPC).

Owning to the heavy business concerns in the layout, many commercial banks, hotels, hospitals, schools had established their branches in the area.
Private individuals, who were involved in small and medium scale businesses, also found the area as an appropriate site for their businesses.

Osisioma was a bustling commercial zone until about two decades and half ago when things started falling apart. The road, which carried heavy trucks, collapsed as a result of the lack of maintenance.

Gradually, small failed spots escalated into deep potholes that turned into pools of water, especially during rainy seasons, until the entire stretch of the road became impassable.

One after the other, the banks and manufacturing companies situated in the area began to take their flight out of the area. Jobs were lost, small and medium scale businesses shut down. Hunger, pain and sorrow became the fate of Aba residents, whose livelihood depended on the once-flourishing business environment, because of the insensitivity of former Abia governors to the plight of the people.

Come to think of it, Osisioma Ngwa Local Government Area (LGA) had always been the stronghold of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) during the period this very important road was neglected. PDP either by crook or hook had always churned out large number of votes from the area, which aided them to continue their forceful hold to power in Abia, except during the 2023 General Election, when it lost grip of the LGA to the Young Progressive Party.

It is important to point out that an elder statesman and foremost industrialist of Abia origin, Elder Emmanuel Adaelu, hails from Osisioma. Also, a frontline politician and the first female Senator from the state, Sen. Nkechi Nwaogu, is an indigene of Osisioma LGA. Again, a critical PDP chieftain, Chief Allen Nwachuckwu of blessed memory, also hailed from the area.

Painfully, despite all their contributions and support to the former governors, non thought it imperative to fix the only road to an economically-viable locality that generated high revenue from company tax to government coffers, and not even in honour of the famous Allen Nwachuckwu, popularly called Obioha, or the highly revered elder statesman, Adaelu.

One may wonder why the past governors of the state refused to pay attention to a road that leads to the Osisioma industrial layout given it potential to create employment and boost the economy of the state and its internally generated revenue.

The answer may not be far from my thoughts. In view of the politics of bitterness and selfishness often exhibited by politicians in this part of the clime, one can deduce that the road was abandoned probably because non of the past governors owned any serious business concerns in the area. Also, the past governors might have felt that the greatear beneficiaries of the road, if rehabilitated, would be the politicians in opposition political parties that own multi-million naira businesses in the area.

Again, it is a common knowledge that politicians, who bought their ways into political offices, had always shown that delivering the dividend of democracy to the common people were not majorly their primary concern. Therefore, they would rather spend money to maintain their structures than invest in quality infrastructures.

That is to say when a leader is chosen by the people through the ballot, they also stood to reap the dividend of democracy in return. That has been the experience of Abia people over the past eleven months Gov. Otti took over the reign of leadership in the state.

It has been an eventful journey from one flag-off of road project to inauguration of completed road and other projects, with the objective of making the people to breath fresh air. The ideology of Gov. Otti is that the people have a right to basic infrastructure, such as road and power supply, to enable them to engage in profit-driven economic activities. To him, what he has been doing for Abia residents is not a favour but an obligation.

Speaking at the flag-off of the road, Gov. Otti vowed to restore the glory of Aba as the commercial nerve center of the state after many years of neglect by successive administrations. He insisted that rebuilding the road was part of his dream to make Aba the industrial and manufacturing hub of the South-East.

He said the reconstruction of the Osisioma-Ekeapkara Road is part of his administration’s strategic agenda to create many access roads in and out of Aba, decongest traffic and increase the windows of economic opportunities for the people.

Gov. Otti lamented that the collapse of the road marked the beginning of Aba’s decline after decades of neglect by past administrations led to loss of jobs, financial losses for investors and multinationals as well as the exodus of industries and businesses that once thrived along the corridor.

He said, “We have come together in continuation of our consistent efforts to restore the old glory of this city after decades of ruins orchestrated by willful neglect, crass irresponsibility and a pathetic failure to appreciate the full significance of Aba to the economic health of the state, the country and the West African sub-region.

“For decades in the world, Aba was synonymous with trade, commerce and industry but it was more, this city transformed the economic destinies and fortunes of many individuals and communities.

“For many of us who saw the magic of this city growing up, the deterioration of the last two decades and a half have been nothing but heartbreaking and this emboldened us to rise in unison to resist the jackals who profited selfishly from the ruins of this great city.

“We said enough and refused to back down until we achieved the first leg of victory in what will likely be a marathon race to take back our land and rebuild it in a way that those coming after us will be proud to continue the trans-generational task of keeping this city alive to it’s age-old promise of growing tiny seeds into giant trees”.

According to the governor, the road, which would be completed in 12 months, will open up new opportunities for investment and growth, in addition to serving many road users, including those going to other major cities of Owerri and Onitsha.

The governor tasked the Commissioner for Works, Engr. Otumchere Oti, and his team “to be strict in their supervisory responsibility and ensure that nothing short of the highest standards of materials were used at every stage of the reconstruction process” and warned that any form of compromise would be punished severely.

He called on the residents, landlords and business owners to play their part in the city’s restoration by complying with tax payments and environmental regulations. He said that actions that threatened the free flow of rain water would no longer be tolerated as a task force had been set up to curb illegal dumping of refuse.

The Commissioner for Works, while assuring the people of timely completion of the project, said that overlaying concrete pavement with a 50mm thick asphaltic concrete wearing course, reinforced concrete drains on both sides of the road, with surface runoff directed through a two-kilometer-long drainage system as well as street lights to illuminate the entire length of the road, would be adopted during the construction.

He said that the ministry would provide thorough supervision to ensure strict adherence to specifications and urged the public to care of the road and avoid activities that could undermine government’s effort.

Also speaking, a former ICAN President, Sir Chidi Ajaegbu, said that the people of Osisioma and the entire Abia people were proud of the administration of Gov. Otti as he had within the period under review turned Abia into a huge construction site, noting that the reconstruction of Osisioma- Ekeakpara Road, which had been deplorable for more than 25 years, would resurrect dead companies in the area.

The Contractor handling the project, Mr Uzo Okeke, who appreciated Gov. Otti for revalidating the road contract with the company, promised to deliver the project in a record time and in line with the job specifications.

Ultimately, light is gradually beginning to show at the end of the tunnel all over Abia State with Gov. Otti working round the clock to fillful his campaign promises.

#The New Abia is here. To God be the Glory

Ogbonnaya Ikokwu, a journalist and public affairs analyst, writes from Umuahia.