Why Abia political economy needs serious rescue, Special Focus
Created in 1991, Abia state, code named – God’s Own State – has such a good alias only to boast with, going by the level of decay in all fronts: economy, political and social blue print that it should pride with.
According to the Emagazine Special Focus on the goings on in the state( in the past 20 years) indications are that there will be more than a total sacrifice by all stakeholders, if the state will not be declared “insolvent” soon.
Reputed to have a parade of most natural and human endowments, the state’s rating by experts, as being the 34th in the States Performance Quotient (SPQ) of 36 states may still be cheering news, since it has Zamfara State to beat for that position in 2016.
In the South East geo-political zone of Nigeria, Abia is rated the least in all reckonings. But that it could boast having such intellectual, business and political moguls, and still remain prostrate does not help the state’s image..
Its having such great men and women has, ironically, turned out to be an albatross of sort to its supposed growth, as there is hardly a consensus on any issue.
Thus, a state, which has personalities of both the past and the living and whose names ring bell , but could not larch on it to call the shots in many fronts beats imaginations of many observers.
For instance, some of the names included are past heroes, like Dr. Michael Okpara, former Premier of the Eastern region of blessed memory, Gen. Aguyi Ironsi, the first Nigeria Army General and, first military Head of State, Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces; Chiuef J.O.J Okozie first Republic Minister, Chief Ojo Maduekwe, the late PDP godfather. Among the late business gurus were Chief Ugorji Eke, Chief Nnana Kalu , Chief S. O. Okam, etc.
Among the living icons from the state include, Commodore Ebuta Ukiwe, former Chief of General Staff of Nigeria(the current holder of highest Ibo title , the Ofo Igbo); Commodore Ndubisi Kanu, former Lagos State Governor.
Others are , General Ike Nwachukwu, former Adjutant General and Minister of External Affairs; Prof. Joe Irukwu (SAN), a boardroom administrator and an Insurance doyen; Prof. Anya O. Anya(SAN); Chief Mazi Sam Ohuabunwa, a business entrepreneur developer, to name but a few.
However, the special investigative team stumbled on some mind bugling facts on why the state has remained largely under developed , despite the fact that it has Aba, a commercial city , after Onitsha in the South Eastern region of Nigeria, it also has a vast agricultural landmass .
That it used to have one of the most viable textile industry, which today has its factories been taken over by hoodlums, prayer houses and dealers in second hand cloths, Okirika was disturbing scenarior.
Per capital income of an average business man in Abia is $500, compared with that of Lagos of $1.50. Anambra, $1.200 and Zamfara, $450.
Abia is the only state not easily captured on the mere weather map of the Nigerian Meteorological Agency, because there is no full coverage of its hub in Umuahia, the state capital.
The attempt made by former Finance Minster, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, to attract attention of the World Bank on the cottage industries in the state, especially in Aba town, ended up in controversy.
Allegation of the state government, then not making its counterpart funding on the conduit on that that the World Bank funds should be made through its Ministry of Finance, stalled the dream.
But the state did not lose all as the Alaoji Power station, though a private imitative, was able to pull through the intrigues plaguing any growth in the state. In 2012, the power station said it had capacity to generate about 2000 megawatts to the industrial sectors in Aba and environs, (Though the sector needs about 500 MWs to have constant power supply) team
Nothing else is known as bringing cheering news from the state. on road construction, it is said to be the only state with more than 60% of its roads abandoned.
The only business that grows in Abia including, commercial motor cycle and tricycles ridding; Kidnapping has grown as a venture, making other crimes less attractive.
An analyst, Mr. Reuben Odia, who worked with the World Bank as a consultant to promote small-scale shoe businesses in Aba described the state as the least in the comity of states in Nigeria ,in all front.
“Abia is the only state that records least in almost all development indexes. In terms of infrastructure development, it scores 15 %; in industrial growth, it scores 20% and in security, it records 10 %. Little wonder no investor likes eyeing the state. And unfortunately, the state has not been fortunate to have foresighted leaders as governors since its creation,” the consultant said.
Further inquiry proved that the inability of the opinion molders from the state to objectively wade into all issues stagnating the state’s growth is the most disservice to the state. Instances of how leaders in the nieghbouring Anambra, Ebonyi and Imo states are influencing decision-making in their respective states were cited.
There was an attempt by Theodore Orji, the immediate past governor of the state, to add his influence in changing the mantra, but it all fizzled out like a mere smokescreen.
For instance, the governor’s promise to bring back to life two public enterprises of the state: Golden Guinea Breweries, and the Ceramic industry, all in Umuahia, for eight years of his tenure was without result.
Theodore’s’ predecessor, Chief Orji Uzo Kalu, throughout his tenure was in a logger head with the Federal Government under Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, and ended his tenure in controversy, of sort, as he was accused of tampering with state’s fund, which he is in court with EFCC .
With the evidence that Theodore was not able to leave the much expected legacy, as no single developement sign post is recorded under his tenure , despite huge revenue received by the state as an oil producing state, distraught Abians are not yet better off with Okezie Ikpeazu’s emergence as their governor.
His promises of making a difference are being eaten up by time , as the peo9ple say they are not faring better . some senatorial zones accused him of political manipulations and neglecting their areas in infrastructure development .
“There is no difference between him and his predecessors,” chipped in Mrs. Rose Egere, an Aba-based business woman.
But Ikpeazu’s defenders say he is being put under pressure through court cases, challenging legitimacy of his winning the governorship election.
“The Governor’s zeal to create a niche for himself and the state is still on, after all he has more years ahead of him, one of his aids said.
But the buy-over policy, which has seen every governor of the state distribute pecks to leaders from the state to seal their mouths, is still in vogue.
Therefore, with the intrigues, anticipated growth, politically and economically for the God’s Own State remains a mirage, unless God himself intervenes directly to salvage a state named after him.
In the meantime, Abia State will continue to rock the bottom line of other states’ achievements.