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From Umuahia to Port Harcourt

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IMAGE: Adeola Akinremi »


In the last one week, my cell phone trilled many times that I had to keep it away for some time, after all it is meant to receive text messages only, and I can always pick it up and read my tons of text messages any time I wish to. But when calls started coming in, I became disturbed at the trend. It was all about my last piece on Abia State.

To be sure, I have equally read thread of comments posted online as regards the piece. Let me say that I carefully chose the title of the piece last week to reflect my observation of the efforts being made to change the status quo in Abia State. And while many endorsed my observation as downright factual and as an interesting piece to read, a few politicians among them felt it was a bad press for their political machinations as 2015 draw near. I can’t say more.

But one important thing that cannot be taken away from the Abians is their keen interests in the political economy of their state. Truly, the interest of the Abians about how they are governed goes beyond the nomenclature of democratic dividends. For me that is a good thing for our democracy.

My journey through Abia townships ended in Port Harcourt and the Enugu-Port Harcourt Road through which I had my passage from the God’s own State (Abia) to the Treasure Base of the Nation (Rivers) left my body with pain too difficult to express, but I am happy I survived it.

On Enugu-Port Harcourt Road, I saw death come face to face as our vehicle meandered through the burial grounds in the middle of the road. And because I sat next to the driver, hell and heaven were in my face. I saw angels and demons. I was troubled by evil spirit, because I kept hearing ‘the road will swallow you.’ I turned backward to observe other people in the bus with me and I knew if any of them had anything to say it would have been gibberish from a sick soul, for we were in a state of mental depression.
As the curvaceous bus managed to push us out of many damaged parts of the road, we arrived in Aba and I was alarmed at the state of things in this popular ‘jungle’ that is highly celebrated for its creativity.

It was my first time in Aba and I saw a city that had receded into a jungle. Its road is impassable and its inhabitants are malnourished, not for the lack of food, but for the stench they stomach daily. Indeed, I saw a boy across the road whose laughter stiffened into a mask of pain. Blood appeared on his mouth and he was still full of joy, believing suffering will never destroy anyone, but will make one stronger.
Then I asked why is Aba like this and Ferdinand Ekpe says, “We are neglected and abandoned. We are left to rotten in Aba and the place is at its dead end.”

But the story is different from the sociologists who understand the nature of Aba. They say for the deliverance of Aba, the inhabitants must observe the rule. Many urbarnists say Aba has a great potential, but the people are hindering its progress. Pools of dirty water are collecting everywhere. Piles of rubbish littered the Enugu-Port Harcourt Road and people were seen doing more horrible things to damage the environment. Clearly, indecency and flagrant disregard for environmental friendliness has become a way of life in Aba.
But even in this jungle city, a few noble things remain: a shred of conscience, willingness for self-sacrifice, the pull of blood ties, a struggle for survival and the determination of the state government to change the situation for the residents.

For instance, Governor Theodore Orji has said: “Our irreversible commitment to Aba will continue to drive the vision of sanitising the city, for the enhancement of our people’s well-being. Our regime of matching words with action will see to it that blocked drainages are thoroughly desilted and illegal structures obstructing the rehabilitation and construction of new ones are summarily demolished.”

He has made several moves in that direction with road rehabilitation and drainage works in a bit to make life better for Aba residents. But the residents must begin to appreciate what the United Nations Secretary General, Ban Ki-moon recently said about Gaza. “Do we have to continue like this—build, destroy, and build and destroy? We will build again, but this must be the last time—to rebuild. This must stop now,” Ki-moon said about effort to rebuild Gaza at a recent special meeting of UN Assembly.

So the Abians in Aba must show some sense of ownership for the community where they live by protecting the infrastructure.
Now, we all know that before the exit of the Britons, Aba had become a household name in Nigeria and subsequently, made it to the African map as a commercial hub of note. Naturally, the status of the city compelled her to grapple with the influx of human beings who continue to arrive there in droves. 

So why should Enugu-Port Harcourt Expressway from Umuahia Tower-Aba Township Rail/Road Bridge to Crosdinh in Abia State that has been approved for reconstruction by the Federal Executive Council since August 2013 remains the way it has been. Is there anything wrong with the contractor or the contract?  The Minister of Works, Mike Onolememen must surely have an answer to this. He had told the nation in August last year that FEC approved the total reconstruction of the road “because the road had remained unattended to in the last two decades.’’ And that the contractors, Setraco Nigeria Ltd and Arab Contractors ‘’have been substantially mobilised’’ and were expected to take advantage of the dry season to start work in earnest. So what went wrong?

The Enugu-Port Harcourt dual carriageway Section 11, from Umuahia Tower-Aba Township Rail/Road Bridge to Crosdinh in Abia State, was approved in favour of Arab Contractors O. A. O. (Nigeria) Limited, in the sum of N50 billion, with a completion period of 40 months. The 56.1km road is the one that is expected to lift Aba in addition to the current efforts of the state government in that part of the state, but one year after it was awarded, the road remains a famished road.

Article Credit: Thisdaylive

Updated 4 Years ago

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Tags:     Port Harcourt     Abia     Theodore Orj