ONE of the campaign promises of the Abia State Governor, Dr. Alex Otti, was the establishment of a ministry or an agency that would serve as a special purpose vehicle, SPV, to drive the process of revamping Aba, the commercial capital of the state. Aba featured so strategically in Dr. Otti’s campaign for the governorship of Abia State to the extent that he was willing to introduce a full-fledged ministry to oversee the realisation of his dream of a renewed Enyimba City, where trading and manufacturing would once again flourish.

Oftentimes during his campaign outings in the run-up to the 2023 gubernatorial election, Governor Otti would, with a palpable sense of nostalgia, recall growing up in Aba, where industries such as PZ, Lever Brothers, Nigerian Breweries, Aba Textile Mills, Glass Industry, International Equitable Association, Star Paper Mills, Onwuka Nails, Steel Industry, and tens of other conglomerates and private citizen-owned manufacturing companies dotted the landscape of one of Nigeria’s foremost commercial nerves east of the Niger.

These manufacturing entities, some of which were established long before the creation of Abia State on August 27, 1991, provided direct and indirect employment to thousands of residents in Aba, indeed Abia, and created opportunities for businesses across Nigeria. Of course, they contributed immensely to sustaining and boosting the economy of Abia State in the early nineties, right after it was created. Aba was both a trading and manufacturing hub.

As Dr. Otti would say, Aba was to Abia what Nnewi and Onitsha, put together, are to Anambra State today. While Nnewi is the manufacturing hub for Anambra, Onitsha bucks up as the trading centre. It is an irony that Aba’s tragic descent into infrastructural decay and the socio-economic ladder was largely supervised by those who had immensely benefited from the opportunities the city had created for its enterprising residents. Self-seeking and centred political actors masquerading as leaders had taken undue advantage of their access to power and control of state resources to rob the city of its due development and economic prosperity.

This was particularly evident in the last 24 years, when Abia State and its people struggled to survive the asphyxiating grip of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP. One by one, slowly and steadily, the litany of factories and blue-chip businesses that made Aba tick folded up and disappeared or relocated to a more friendly environment outside of Abia. As in the case of Aba, so is Umuahia, the capital city of Abia.

Thirty-two years after it was named the capital, Umuahia has hardly grown beyond its glorified village status. Outside of the iconic tower on the Enugu-Umuahia-Aba Expressway by the entrance to Umuahia township, built sometime between 1992 and 1993 by then Governor Ogbonnaya Onu, the Abia capital lags way behind in terms of development when compared with her peers like Asaba, the capital of Delta State; Enugu, the capital of Enugu State; Benin, the capital of Edo State; and all the capitals of the other states created alongside Abia in 1991.

There is no meaningful development in terms of infrastructure, architecture, industry, or events that marks Umuahia out as a state capital. This is notwithstanding its great potential to be a reference point for tourism, industry, and commerce. The architectural wonder known as ‘Ojukwu Bunker’, for one, is domiciled in Umuahia. The historic War Museum, where some of the relics of the artillery, aircraft, and other ammunition deployed during the Nigerian Civil War (Biafran War) are kept, is hosted in Umuahia.

Umuahia remains the home of some of Nigeria’s iconic leaders, including the first Nigerian military head of state, General Thomas Umunnakwe Aguiyi-Ironsi, and the first premier of Eastern Nigeria, Dr. Michael Iheonukara Okpara. For 32 years, and worse in the last 24 years, Abia was run as a fiefdom by some feudal lords and their political minions, who saw the state as their private enclave. This group of people deployed crude power to muzzle opposition and voices of reason.

They created mini-states within the state and handed them over to their hirelings as compensation for acts of terror metted out to innocent citizens and political opponents, and in the process bought graveyard peace. But like the scripture says, evil can only endure for a while, no matter how long it lasts. So, on March 18, 2023, the people of Abia State, after several attempts at changing the status quo, eventually spoke in one voice by taking back their state. Their weeping turned into joy, and the years of mourning turned into dancing. Indeed, ‘Help is here’. The Lord did a great thing for them, and they were glad!

One hundred days after the silver lining appeared on the horizon with the election, inauguration, and subsequent assumption of office by Dr. Alex Otti, as the fifth democratically elected governor, Abia State has begun a journey for true and enduring greatness, a journey that would see her truly assume that place of pride as God’s Own State. For the first time since its creation, particularly in the last 24 years, the citizens are beginning to feel the impact of government and governance in a very unique way. Today, we have a government that matches words with action.

In his inaugural address to the state on May 29, 2023, Governor Otti declared a state of emergency in three sectors of the economy: environment (emphasis on ridding Aba and Umuahia of wastes that were threatening to overrun the two major towns), health, and education. Today, 100 days into office, Aba is free of mountainous refuse heaps, an ugly legacy left behind by past administrations. The same goes for Umuahia. Beyond just clearing the waste, the government has also set up a process to ensure the sustainability of the new culture of hygiene in Aba and Umuahia, in particular, and Abia State in general.  

In the health sector, the Dr. Otti administration has taken a bold step to revamp the primary and secondary health facilities, the majority of which are in comatose condition across the state. Under the state of emergency, the government has embarked on a programme of reconstructing and equipping three general hospitals in each of the three senatorial zones of the state: Abia North, Abia Central, and Abia South. It is expected that within the next few weeks, after the 100 days of this administration, these three facilities will be ready to serve the health needs of Abians.

Before then, however, the government had declared free medical care for its citizens across the state, and this programme is expected to run until the end of this year. The education sector is also receiving very urgent attention. Apart from coming up with a formal policy on education for the state, the new government has already concluded plans and is now in the process of setting up 17 model primary schools, one in each local government area of the state. Also, public schools, especially primary and secondary schools, whose lands have been encroached upon and either appropriated by former officeholders or used as compensation for politicians and other cronies, are being retrieved.

The ‘New Abia’ State Government, under the watchful eyes of Dr. Otti, was unequivocal in its promise to ensure that public workers in the state receive their salaries on or before the 28th of every month. Salary payments for civil servants in the state, local governments, and other public sector workers have, until now, been the subject of controversial segmentation between the so-called “core and non-core” civil servants.

Worse yet, payment of salaries in the last eight years before the coming of this present administration had always been conducted in arrears, many times falling past due by upwards of three months. Since assuming office, Dr. Otti has kept to his promise and has paid all categories of civil servants in both the state and local governments by the 28th of every month.

The governor has also paid the two months’ salary arrears (April and May) inherited from his predecessor. Beyond prompt and regular payment of workers salaries, Governor Otti has also started the fulfillment of his promise to ensure that verified pension arrears of retired workers, in some cases in excess of 40 months, are defrayed by December 31, 2023.

Uko, CPS to the Governor of Abia State, wrote from Umuahia

The post Erasing an ugly legacy in 100 days appeared first on Vanguard News.