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Thursday, 28 February 2013

Abia Making it to the Top from Ground Zero…Eddy Onuzuruike

You often hear the expression of the self-made-man. This is the case where a man inherited little or nothing from parents or family. He may have become rich in commerce out of serving other people, most times from other ethnic zones and races. The highest academic qualification sponsored by his family may have been the FSCL certificate, and from there obtained scholarship that propelled him forward. 

In these scenarios, he started from the scratch with little or no help or from ground zero for a more modern expression. The case of T.A. Orji’s Governance in Abia could be likened to these circumstances.

Abia created in 27th August 1991, had a succession of military administrators and three democratically elected governors. I will maintain a modest stance by allowing Abians to do the scoring. Obviously there was little or nothing on the ground.
Today there are giant strides that could be seen and one keeps wondering if the previous administrations had attempted half of these, Abia would have been far ahead.
This brings to mind the Ochendo legacy projects. These are projects spanning from Ukwa to Aba, Arochukwu to Umunne Ochi, Ohafia through Abam, Bende to Umuahia, transversing the three senatorial zones. Chief T.A Orji seems to be answering the question, ‘what will you I be remembered for?’

Professional groups like lawyers, auditors, architects, engineers and all from time to time hold conferences in different states and countries. International bodies like the World Bank, IMF, and UNESCO move from one city to the other and can only berth in cities and towns that have facilities that can accommodate high caliber formal occasions. This backward trend is on a fast rate of change with the construction of the International Conference Center- a commodious and imposing exotic structure, first of its kind in Abia. So it is with the new Government House, ASUBEB and ASEPA complexes all in Ogurube Layout.

The Civil Service by its nature thrives in a peculiar environment. In the state with not less than 20 ministries, over ten are housed in rented spaces. Governors have come and gone but only Ochendo has tackled the dire need with the twin, magnificent, new secretariat buildings on Ndume Otuka Road with an expressway connecting the new and old for ease of administration. The BCA radio and TV has served the state from inception, rendering the most potent voice but nobody has thought about the welfare of its officers most of the time scampering around and building temporary shelters as office blocks. Today there is a towering edifice with 48 rooms for staff and studio, adjudged the best in Nigeria by no less a person than the national chairman of RATTAWU during the Good Governance tour.

Other existing office blocks like the magistrate Courts have been in a state of great disrepair. Some have actually maintained the shape and state the colonial masters left them. It is common knowledge that some judges retire to leaky rooms and dingy chambers to write judgments. Offices are left with broken locks, tinkered windows, rotting doors to the detriment of official documents that are classified or confidential. The hitherto hallowed judge’s privacies are constantly invaded, and nobody has thought along a remedial line but today, all these are changing. The ministry of Justice is beautifully housed.  Ultramodern court complexes are near completion in Umuahia and Aba.
The health sector was thus far devastated ranging from poor service, low moral and poor infrastructure. As this piece is being read, there are over 250 primary health centers in and around the state. Abia has become a medical reference point as neighboring towns and states are streaming to Abia Diagnostic Centre, the robust partnership with Indians in Me Cure Healthcare Limited- a state of the arts diagnostic laboratory outfit. Abians don’t need to go abroad for medical checkups except they want to. Old age diseases which were death sentences now get solace in the Abia Specialist Hospitals equipped with dialysis machines in Umuahia and Aba.  Amachara Specialist Hospital and School of Nursing has a superb paediatric section. Ochendo cares for all, especially old and children. At Obuaku in Ukwa, Abia medics in the Diaspora are gearing to partner with the Government in an international hospital project living up to his avowal of being the governor of the able and healthy.
Amongst all, Ochendo is in a hurry to improve and upgrade Aba despite environmental challenges some exacerbated by the hasty lifestyles of the inhabitants. He has among other improvement frameworks taken on 16 roads, over ten are already completed which includes Ngwa Road, Azikiwe and Geometric Road. These have terminal dates for completion before the rains are back.

Is it in education the bastion of intellectual growth and development? Do we need to remind us that education is still free from primary to secondary with free busing in Umuahia and Aba.  Scholarship and bursary which took the back seat in numerous administrations are back. Just recently, he handed back some schools to the missions who are the original owners on a platter of gold reinforcing the believe that the missions are better in discipline and moral standard. Abia State University and Teaching Hospital, Abia Polytechnics in Aba, The College of Education Technical in Aruchukwu and the School of Health in Aba are funded from the State coffers. Additional are the Schools of Nursing and Midwifery in Abiriba, Aba, Umuahia and Amachara.

Can we talk about all these without employment opportunities, the cause of restiveness in the youths? There is a tremendous leap in agricultural reforms. Abia farmers were the earliest few in the country to access the federal government assisted multimillion naira loans. Fadama 111 is on full scale execution as the governor has ordered for the payment of counterpart funds at the State and Local Government levels. The ADP is fully empowered taking on the new phrase the ‘Food chain’. Policies that will change our youths to become producers instead of beggars have sprung into reality. Abia rubber has been rejuvenated and employs an appreciable number of youthful hands. The Mega farms projected for the 17 local Government Areas with the pilot scheme already sited and functional in Okeikpe, Ukwa West. The Oil Palm Estate at Ohambele Ukwa East has been injected with a new lease of live with Malaysian partners. All these will yield not than ten thousand jobs complementing the numerous youth empowerment and skill acquisition schemes previously executed.

I can go on and on in all sectors. Abia is destined for great things only if we believe. The above reform and giant administrative masterstrokes are in Abia geographical entity, tangible, verifiable and enjoyed by all. According to an Igbo adage, ‘you can only deceive the blind that there is no oil in the soup, but not for salt and pepper.’ All would not have been possible if not for the diligence, perceptive management and the people-oriented policies of Ochendo in the face of paltry monthly allocations of 3.5 billion naira, where over 75 percent are voraciously guzzled by a behemoth wage bill.
This is a new year let us do new things, ennobling and sanctifying. Any who denies all these does not know Abia well. Let us support the Governor Sir T.A. Orji and make Abia a better place for all.

Eddie Onuzuruike.


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