Aba, the commercial nerve centre of eastern Nigeria is one of the richest cities in the country. It is famous around West Africa and beyond for its business and manufacturing prowess.
The administration of Dr. Sam Mbakwe of the old Imo State which lasted from 1979-1983, transformed the city into a commercial paradise to the joy of all business loving Igbo people.
Perplexingly, since Mbakwe’s administration got truncated by the military in 1983, Aba’s environment; especially her road infrastructure has remained characteristically filthy-filled, smelling, disgusting environment and in deplorable conditions which totally contradict the inherent richness.
The city was designed to be the commercial and industrial nerve centre of eastern region by the colonial government, complemented by the old eastern regional government and crowned by the then old Imo state government.
Its commercial identity, industrial, economic and homemade technological profile is second to none among all cities in Nigeria, but it has experienced more neglect than other money spinning commercial cities within Nigeria.
Major industries have disappeared with most of them relocating to neighboring states who offer better environment, security and people oriented government centered on visible infrastructure that aid businesses and industries.
With all her creativity and ingenuity in manufacturing of all kinds of things from leather wears, clothing to all kinds of fabrication engineering, Aba degenerated into a city divided between roads, slums, artificial marshes and mountainous roadside refuse dump sites.
From the creation of Abia State in 1991 till when civilians returned to power in 1999, the people of the state and other business oriented settlers have been praying for a man, a leader with the spirit of late Dr. Sam Mbakwe.
Aba still remembers Mbakwe for the role he played in tackling the Ndiegoro Disaster which gave him the title, “The Weeping Governor.”
Prior to the coming of Dr. Okezie Ikpeazu in 2015, Abia people have seen Senator Orji Uzor Kalu’s administration from 1999-2003, they also saw the administration of Senator Theodore Orji from 2007-2015.
The 16 years of Senator Orji Uzor-Kalu and Senator Theodore Orji were years of regret that no Abian will dream of returning to. Every social amenity got spoilt and the remaining road infrastructure left by Mbakwe decayed.
Everything about Aba contradicts what the city ought to be or used to be. It is very ironical that a city so rich and blessed with factories all over her major roads and streets suddenly became home for beggars and petty thieves.
Aba became a strange city for every Igbo man who knows what Igbo culture is all about, as beggars took over every major entrances of the city making life difficult for pedestrians and demonstrating a culture very alien to Ndigbo.
Factories started pulling out, industries started folding, and businessmen even started relocating when the security situation of the city got out of hand.
The first impression you get while entering into Aba through Uyo, Port Harcourt, Enugu or Owerri routes are deplorable roads, annoying panhandling at the popular “Bata Junction”, unkempt small business encampments on the streets, dirt, trash and smelling environment with people hustling, eating and smiling in it as though it is normal and standard way of life.
Aba’s existence dates back to pre-colonial era, but this wonderful city of many opportunities nicknamed the “Japan of Africa” has an arrested development and is now arguably Nigeria’s capital of filth, as it is currently decaying and pleading for help.
The original landlords of Aba who are indigenous people of the communities that make up Aba like Ihieorji, Aba-Ukwu, Obuda, Ohabiam, Umuagbai, Nnetu, Eziukwu, Ndiegoro, Eziama and Ohazu will still be wondering how their once so prosperous city declined rapidly.
Important roads within the city like Ngwa Road, Port Harcourt Road, Ohanku Road, Obohia Road, Omuma Road, Ohazu Road, Cemetery Road, Eziukwu Road, Uratta Road and many others became nightmares with adjoining streets rapidly converted into dare-devils ghettos where all manner of things happen.
News Echo reports that the conditions of some human habitats in Aba cannot even be comparable to some of the worst slums and war ravaged countries in Africa.
Vultures were openly scavenging on heaps of refuse in the middle of the city road, as trash were found on almost every junction and piles of human waste littering many streets and getting ran over by vehicles.
When the current Okezie Ikpeazu administration came into power in 2015, everyone expected a speedy change in the condition, but it was not so fast in as much as they tried to fix some roads.
However, in the second tenure of Dr. Okezie Ikpeazu’s administration, lots of abandoned roads that were impassable for over two decades are beginning to take a new shape. Residents who were knowledgeable during the Mbakwe administration are beginning to make comparisons.
Three weeks ago, Ikpeazu commissioned quadruplet of roads in Aba in continuation of the urban renewal programme of the city. Among the roads commissioned included: Ojike Lane, Eziukwu road, Chisco Link and Milverton Avenue all in Aba South Local Government Area.
Everyone in the city knew the interest in Eziukwu road, as it leads to Eziukwu Market (cemetery market), the second largest market in Abia State, after the Ariaria International Market.
Other roads commissioned were: Osusu road in Over-Rail axis of the city which is now a shortcut to Ariaria International Market, Egege road, off Ama-Ohafia and Ebemma Street in Ogbor-Hill area.
A week after the above mentioned roads were commissioned, Ikpeazu continued with his Aba Urban Renewal Project across the five Local Government Area dotting the commercial city.
News Echo reports that prior to Ikpeazu’s urban renewal programme roads in the five LGAs of Ugwunagbo, Osisioma Ngwa, Obingwa, Aba North and Aba South making up parts of the city were all high way to the grave, as all that was built by old Imo State was never improved upon.
Aba has 10 major urban settlements: Abayi, Over-Rail, Ogbor-Hill, Ndiegoro (Ngwa road, Ohanku, Obohia, Port Harcourt road), Ariaria (Umule, Umuocham, Faulks, Powerline and MCC road), Okpu-Umuobo, Owerri-Aba, Aba Metropolis, Eziama and Main Osisioma Towns (Umuode, Umuojima, Umuatako and Eke-Akpara roads).
All the listed urban settlements fall within the above five LGAs that Ikpeazu has intensified the Aba urban renewal project, he recently began through the reconstruction of age long dilapidated roads within the commercial city.
In continuation of this urban renewal project, the age long dilapidated Ngwa road, Ohanku road, Port Harcourt road, Udeagbala road and Railway axis of Ehi road, Cameroon road, Market road and Clifford road off Eziukwu Market road are all currently under construction.
News Echo monitored the ongoing works and reports that the new drainage under construction in Ngwa road is currently being linked up with the Aba Master Plan drainage at Asa-Triangle off Obohia road which connects all storm water towards Aba River.
“Well, I’ve lived in this city for over 40 years. I wasn’t born here although, but I arrived here at the age of 17 when I came to serve my master. The truth is that a lot of things are wrong with Aba and all that are wrong have to do with bad governance.
“Take it or you leave it, Abia looks like a cursed state when it comes to leadership. They’ve never gotten it right. However, be that as it may, I think Ikpeazu is taking Aba somewhere.
“I don’t know if he can wake up tomorrow and stop, but with what’s on ground, he’ll write his name in gold if he can complete all these road projects we’re seeing now.
“I’ve said it times without number that Abia is the easiest state to govern. The people do not need any government’s empowerment. All they ask of on daily basis is good road. I’ve never heard Aba man say give us job! They know how to create job.
“If we have 15 million persons in Aba, I can tell you that over 13 million are business people who are self employed and only need favorable policies and infrastructure to succeed.
“Hence our customers can locate our business centres, buy their goods, and move them out without the usual bad road impediment. Who cares what’s happening in government house?
“Honestly I wish Ikpeazu well because the massive job at Ngwa road, Port Harcourt road and the ambitious ones in Ohanku, Omuma and Obohia are going to change the landscape of Aba,” Nze Clement Agbasimere, a businessman said.
Reacting to series of construction works going on in the state, Abia Commissioner for Information, Chief John Okiyi Kalu said that his boss, Dr. Okezie Ikpeazu builds to last.
“Governor Ikpeazu takes time to ensure that he crosses every’t’ and dots the ‘i’ in a project he is executing. In Aba in particular, he wants to see a good storm water management system in place along every road his administration is handling.
“This is what he is doing along Ngwa Road in Aba. It was always easier to listen to the noise and send caterpillars to Ngwa Road to excavate and asphalt the road for applause but not this governor.
“You must show him the path for water to drain to waterside seamlessly before proceeding to do other things. That’s why we say #IkpeazuSabiTheWork and Abia is moving forward.
“If we finish with Ngwa Road, we don’t expect the next two administrations to come back to the road. That way, we have effectively added to the road infrastructure stock of the state.
“Investors know that and they are heading to Abia in good numbers. Don’t sell that your property along Ngwa, Port Harcourt, Ohanku and Obohia Roads yet. You are about to hit the financial jackpot because the people of Abia chose the right man for the job.”
An impeccable government house source told News Echo that on Friday, the state government took a delivery of a 40 feet container filled with 2000 pieces of solar powered street lights from China.
The source said that the 2000 pieces of street lights are all for Aba and will be placed on completed and due for completion roads like: Osusu, Milverton, Eziukwu, Ojike, Immaculate, Aba-Owerri Road.
“The Government wants to lighten up Aba and return normalcy to street life. All those 2000 pieces of solar powered street lights will be placed on Aba roads. Aba will become a brand new city”, the commissioner stated further.
News Echo gathered that the work that began at Port Harcourt road, an abandoned Federal road that serves as shortcut between Aba Metropolis and the Enugu-Port Harcourt Highway came after the state government made huge payment to Setraco Construction Company handling the road.
Kenneth Obiechendu, a resident of Port Harcourt road said that the Ikpeazu urban renewal project will only be complete if he can recover most of the flood prone areas and lauded the governor for the obvious move so far.
“For me, I usually don’t trust government because of what I’ve seen in Abia for many years. I also believe that Aba people judged Ikpeazu based on what they’re used to seeing from the past governors.
“In his first tenure, he didn’t prove Aba people wrong because we didn’t see much. We all concluded that we’ve gotten another wasted eight years, but to my greatest surprise, towards the ending of his first tenure and the continuation of this second tenure, the man means business.
“He has started move to recover Ndiegoro, Over-Rail, and Ogbor-Hill. You know very well that Ndiegoro especially the Ohanku, Ngwa road and Obohia axis are flood prone. He’s also recovering Umuagbai and Uratta axis.
“This is what we want and if God helps him and he achieves this recovery, he’ll be spoken well of as Sam Mbakwe is today. Mbakwe is dead, but his works speaks for him. Ikpeazu can simply emulate that.”