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« Why we Must Confederate African Countries, Part II | Main | Vice President Atiku Abubakar Must Resign Now! »

September 08, 2005

The Rot in Aba: An Eye-Witness Account

by Uche Nworah (London, UK) --- Eziuche Ubani, the former media adviser to Ghali Umar Na-Abba (former speaker of Nigeria’s House of Representatives) writes a well read back page column every Friday in This Day newspaper, just like me, Mr Ubani is an ‘Aba brought up’ (ABU), a term people born in Aba, the Enyimba (Elephant) city proudly use to describe themselves.

We take so much pride in the ABU label as compared to, for instance the ‘Ajebota’ (softie) label normally ascribed to people born in Enugu or any other town where life was supposed to be rosy and beautiful. Although my folks are from Anambra state, but having lived all our lives in Aba - Abia state, it is natural for us to also claim Abia as our state. This logic is sustained by the fact that if for instance I had been born in America or in the United Kingdom, I would have claimed their citizenship by birth.

Ordinarily we ABUs take so much pride in our town, perhaps the song ‘I’m a survivor’ by the female R ‘n’ B group, Destiny Child best describes the indefatigable and ‘never say never’ spirit of people ‘born and bred’ in Aba. This obviously may stem from the fact that despite our not- so -‘ajebotaish’ upbringing, we always strive hard to overcome the challenges of our immediate environment and make something out of our lives. Hence, proudly we can name some famous Nigerians who are also ABUs. This also includes the Governor of Abia state, Chief (Dr.) Orji Uzor Kalu, the main subject of this piece.

As an ABU and a concerned one at that, Eziuche Ubani wrote an article on the 22nd of July in his weekly Friday column titled ‘The meltdown in Abia.’ With that article, Mr Ubani confirmed once again the saying that the pen (or is it the keyboard?) may indeed be mightier than the sword. His indictment of the Orji Kalu administration over the ‘meltdown in Abia state’ has indeed left some of the governor’s many special advisers and consultants panting for breath, and licking their wounds like wounded dogs. Since the article was published, I have at least identified 3 individuals who have tried to douse the fire raised by Mr. Ubani’s article in their different capacities as either media adviser, special assistant on media and information to the executive governor, or as secretary of the parastatal responsible for the clearing of the rubbish in Aba, the problem which is at the crux of this whole matter.

The first of the governor’s ‘executive foot soldiers’ to come to the governor’s rescue was Victor Onochie, Abia state Executive Secretary on Environmental Sanitation. Mr Onochie obviously was quite pricked by the truthfulness of Mr Ubani’s article, especially as regards the environmental and sanitary situation in Aba, the job that Mr Onochie was appointed to do but which apparently was not being done, like a man about to be drowned; Victor Onochie quickly wrote a rejoinder titled Abia: The curse of political liliputs & eunuchs. Expectedly, Mr onochie’s ‘white-wash article’ was granted audience in the Sunday Sun, a tabloid which belongs to the governor. In his article, not only did Mr Onochie fail to address the main issues raised by Mr Ubani, which is to explain why Aba, the commercial city and Abia state’s only revenue generating cash cow was being buried in filth and rubbish, and also explain for example why a journey from Alaoji junction, through Port Harcourt road to the Aba main motor park, a journey that in normal circumstances shouldn’t take 20 minutes has now become a journey through hell lasting hours if at all, a most difficult if not impossible journey, as a result of acute traffic caused by gashing pot-holes and mountains of rubbish lining the road.

The gridlock at Crystal Park Avenue/Port Harcourt road junction is routine.

In his poorly executed response, and attempt to discredit Mr Ubani, Mr Onochie decided to toe the line of least resistance, the road widely travelled, he resorted to subtle propaganda and name calling by alleging that Mr Ubani’s beef with Governor Orji Uzor Kalu was as a result of the governor’s refusal to support Eziuche Ubani’s political ambitions during the 2003 general elections. In Victor Onochie’s own words;

What else do you expect of a failed candidate who is not worth more than 100 votes in a general election? Yes, that is all Ubani polled in the 2003 elections when he contested the primaries for house of reps seat in Abia.

However, I submit that Mr Ubani’s article is consistent with what I saw when I visited Aba in July 2005 and took these pictures. I feel sorry for Victor Onochie and sorrier for the governor who appointed him, obviously Mr Onochie is not competent, and he owes the governor a huge explanation as to why he let things get to the level they have gotten in Aba. Maybe someone needs to read his job specifications and descriptions to him once again, the fancy title of his position not withstanding, broken down, Mr Onochie’s job is to ‘carry dirty’ and he is not doing that at the moment as these pictures show.

Mountain of rubbish at Uratta Road/Port Harcourt road.

Is this Port Harcourt road or Rubbish road?

Bonfire of the vanities? Heaps of rubbish along Asa road, opposite C.K.C Aba.

The same old story, view of Asa road from inside a taxi. Rubbish everywhere.

Another of the governor’s many advisers is Onuoha Udeala, the special assistant to the governor on media matters, Mr. Udeala seemed to have arrived late to the party, his response came almost 3 weeks after the damage had been done, and how did he try to justify his position? As usual, he wrote a rejoinder in the Sun newspaper (where else?); this also appeared in their online edition. In his write-up, he started by stating that ‘Governor Orji kalu and the government of Abia state are not averse to criticisms.’ In continuation he said that ‘We encourage constructive criticisms since they enable us bring about a desirable change in policies and programmes.’

Now if the above statement is true, isn’t it what Eziuche Ubani did in his article? Again, just like Victor Onochie before him, Mr Udeala failed to address the issues raised by Mr Ubani; he rather used the opportunity to outline the governor’s numerous ‘achievements’, the way he went on about them, I was quite surprised that Mr Udeala even found enough space in his article to enumerate all of them. Unlike Mr Onochie, he didn’t call Mr Ubani names directly but rather tasked him

To use his column to alert the federal government on the deplorable state of federal roads in Abia state, particularly in Aba… He should use his contact with those in authority to appeal to the federal Government to release to abia N3 billion bond, approved by the Nigeria stock exchange for over three years now.

Port Harcourt road, typical of Aba roads, water-logged and pot holed, sorrows everywhere for Aba residents

Ngwa road by Asa/Port Harcourt road junction is no longer passable; hence ‘Okada’ motorcycles have taken over.

Another of the trio is Iyke Ekeoma, I am sure we have seen him somewhere before, if I am right, it must have been during the Ogbonnaya Onu administration in Abia state or during the administration of one of the military administrators in the state when he performed the same media advisory role. In all these, I haven’t yet read any sequel from Mr Ekeoma although he has made some pronouncements in the state owned Abia Broadcasting Corporation on behalf of the governor, but then thinking about this now, I am wondering if maybe the governor does not have one too many media advisers. But looking at the way both have handled the gathering storm generated by Ubani’s article, one need not be a soothsayer to see that they have really not done a lot for the governor, unless maybe they are short of good counter evidence to present to Abians and the Nigerian people. As the elders say ‘it is difficult to conceal pregnancy’ and reality bites.

As you may know, Governor Orji Uzor kalu wants to be the President of Nigeria in 2007, if you ask me, there is nothing wrong with his having such ambitions, as a matter of fact it is nice to see an ABU having such ambitions but the governor should know better. Didn’t they say that charity begins at home? Well, his hordes of advisers should have told him that the measure Nigerian people will use to judge him will be his achievements in his backyard.

Agreed the Governor started well during his first term, when there were efforts at urbanisation and road construction hence his being called the ‘action governor’ by President Olusegun Obasanjo, this was when the going was good between the two, although I am not so sure if the president would not now be thinking that he may have praised the Governor a bit too soon. 4 or 5 years later, it is difficult to believe that this is the same Aba that witnessed all those ‘road constructions’ by Elite Constructions Company, a company rumoured to also belong to Governor Kalu.

Jinx maker or Jinx breaker? A billboard at Nicholas Avenue/Umungasi junction announces the Governor’s presidential ambition and calling him the manager Nigeria needs.

Who is to blame for the fast rate of ‘wear and tear’ of Aba roads? It is important to remember that prior to Orji Uzor Kalu’s 1999/2000 road construction efforts, almost all the roads enjoyed by Aba residents had been built in the early 80s by the late governor of Imo state, Chief Sam Onunaka Mbakwe (Dee Sam), the roads then were built by Monier Construction Company (MCC) and they really lasted several years until Governor Orji Uzor Kalu’s attempt. That being the case, maybe Elite Constructions Company has some questions to answer to the tax payers over the quality of materials they used in Aba roads.

As ABUs, are we being unfair in our critiscms of one of our own? I don’t think so. We are only complaining because we know that things can be better, especially in Aba, the town that generates the most revenues in the state, a town that is famous even beyond Africa for the level of enterprise of its people, one of whom is the governor himself, whose SLOK empire actually started in Aba. We hate to see Aba, our beloved town underachieving and not realising its potentials.

Let us leave the Federal road/state road dichotomy aside, there are some governors who have taken on the challenge and have gone ahead to rehabilitate federal roads in their state, the same can still be done in Abia. What about the rubbish? What about the Chairmen of Aba’s two Local Government Authorities? (Aba North and Aba South), Whose primary responsibilities also include road rehabilitation and refuse collection? This is another sad tale as well.

Probably as a result of the ‘non-attractiveness’ of the positions of local government chairmen in the government hierarchy, the media in Nigeria may have in the past brushed past them to blame only state and federal governments when things are not working right, but then aren’t LGAs created to bring government closer to the people? They are definitely not doing this, it is indeed a wonder what they do with their monthly allocations, but the state governor can not also escape the blame, because he is the Chief executive of the state, the buck stops right at his desk.

Sadly, Aba people have never been blessed with any reputable and hard working local government chairman, as far back as I can remember, we have always been saddled with journeymen, trespassers who only come into Aba town hall to raid and loot her treasury, at some point there was Chief Ngozi Anyaehie who only came to the office with his buddies to play cards or poker with high money stakes.

Tax payers money in action or dividends of democracy? The freshly painted and glistening Aba Town Hall.

During my 1 day visit to Aba in July 2005 (I couldn’t stay a day longer because of the stench in the air and the difficulty in moving around); the only evidence of government or tax payers money in action that I witnessed was the freshly painted Aba Town Hall. What a joke.

So where do we go from here? Well, someone seems to be listening to Eziuche Ubani’s critiscms after all, according to Onuoha Udeala,

In the interim, the government has set up a task force to rid Aba of filth. There are also mobile sanitation courts set up to try offenders of the state environmental law. In fact, Governor Kalu has voiced his disenchantment with indiscriminate dumping of refuse by residents who are mainly traders, and has vouched to make Aba one of the cleanest cities in Nigeria.

Well, well, let us wait and see but if you ask me, it’s all gibberish and a load of rubbish.

Uche Nworah is a freelance writer and lives in London.

Posted by Administrator at September 8, 2005 02:25 AM


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