HomeOpinionABIA STATE: Shaking Off An Ignominious Past - Nuelsnews

ABIA STATE: Shaking Off An Ignominious Past – Nuelsnews

I must start by boldly admitting that I am not a member of Labour Party,neither did I overtly campaign for Dr. Alex Chioma Oti OFR. I was rather circumspect, almost resigned to faith, that Abia was past redemption.

This was not altogether without basis: time and again hopes have been dashed and citizens of the State have gradually adapted to failure as a status quo rather than a choice. Each election cycle raised their hopes,then left them reeling in disappointment in a fashion that seems to conform to the biblical quote that,”the first shall be the last….”, considering that Abia is alphabetically the first State in Nigeria. But for how long?It seems there was a limit to suffering after all.

The 2023 elections became the turning point, the end of a long walk to freedom. Freedom from ineptitude and maladministration which had stuck to the State, such that the she became the butt of jokes, a tragic paradox considering the huge potentials of the State.

The mineral resources like kaolin, limestone, gypsum, among others are almost untouched while her highly educated and skilled manpower are left to their devices, contributing nothing significant to productivity because of lack of opportunities. And the government seemed comfortable with this anomaly.

By the time Dr. Otti was declared winner, and set down to work, not many believed he would surmount the labyrinthine problems he met. They include mountains of unpaid salaries and pensions, some dating back to 2014, a demoralized civil service that spent more time riding commercial tricycle than being at their work desks, a strangulated business sector left to sharks in human flesh that gorged their income through illegal and multiple taxation, dilapidated infrastructure hidden under so called “federal roads”, a perfect euphemism to describe nonchalance, and a general feeling of melancholy that reminded one of how government should not work.

The Governor quickly set to work, setting a verification process to know who worked for the State and what was owed. Long story short, salaries are now regularly paid every 28th of each month. My visits to different government offices show a great change in the professional conduct of civil servants,and their attitude to work. They are punctual, committed and ready to work unlike in the past they roamed the street to hustle in the absence of regular salaries.

Pension arrears have been tackled to the surprise of even detractors whose only grudge is that the government is getting higher allocation and has borrowed to finance a very ambitious 2024 appropriation. I am not a economist (and the Governor is a first class Economist who has managed banks) but I know prudent borrowing for investment is not a bad bet.

The problem is borrowing to pocket or consume. Yet this is going on just as there is a rejuvenation of Aba, easily the most important commercial city in the South East if properly harnessed, considering its proximity to Portharcourt. The Governor has left no one in doubt that Aba is his pet project, and this is visible in the quiet revolution in the City’s infrastructure like the complete rehabilitation of the terrible Portharcourt Road, where grass grew in green algae in the middle of the road, being handled by German construction giants, Julius Berger Nigeria. This is a first for the company in the State.

The Greater Aba Development plan is driving a turnaround that could make Aba Nigeria’s industrial hub soon. Umuahia is getting the right attention with multi-lane expressway roads to the capital city, and plans to expand the city’s frontiers to decongest the city centre. Governance is picking up rapidly with a robust House of Assembly where recently a pension law for former governors was repealed. The House is aligned to the grand vision of the Governor, though made up of both Labour Party and the oppositions. They seem to agree that Abia needs redemption , regardless of party differences.

There is something about this government that I love, and that is the fact that you can feel the presence of government. It does not feel so distant and detached anymore but seems engaging and visible. I recently visited a Commissioner and from my discussion I learnt that the Governor has zero tolerance for an appointee devoid of ideas. In this context, everyone is on a race for ideas to better the fortunes of the State, often at great sacrifice. I say this because the opulent display of the past associated with some appointees who lacked discretion has all but vanished.

The new political culture seems to be moderate and measured which is good for the State’s vault.This is not a piece to flatter the administration or to say we are in utopia but surely Abia has turned the corner after years in the doldrums. You don’t need to be in Labour Party or even love Dr. Otti to admit much has improved. I agree more remains to be done, but in all honesty, the first baby steps show a child that will grow into an adult.




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