Aba Urban renewal is a task that must be done

By John Okiyi Kalu on

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"All changes, even the most longed for, have their melancholy; for what we leave behind us is a part of ourselves; we must die to one life before we can enter another.
~Anatole France

I have always dreamt of a new Aba urban.

A clean Aba Urban with flowers planted everywhere. Smooth traffic and a bustling business community in the mould of Taipei, Guangzhou and Dubai.

In my dreams I see an Aba with malls as against street stalls, dirty old zinc makeshift market shops and street hawkers with tables in the middle of newly reconstructed roads. How wonderful it will be to have properly organized public and private parks as against vehicles parked at streets and sidewalk parks.

Most importantly, my soul longs for good strong roads with fancy roundabouts, adequate drainage system and streets with very clean buildings and streets lit at night to extend business hours for our traders and entrepreneurs.

I suspect most of those living at Aba or have relationship with Aba dream of same or better Aba. After all when our people travel to PH, Uyo, Lagos and Abuja they all come home to regal us "home boys" with stories of how clean, beautiful and organized those cities are.

Any follower of the current Government in Abia State led by Dr Okezie Ikpeazu will readily agree that he shares even better dreams of Aba. I doubt that even his political opponents will deny that since the days of Chief Sam Mbakwe (an Aba boy too) no other Governor of Abia State was as self motivated as he is to turn the story of Aba to one with happy ending.

But to achieve his lofty plans and dreams for Aba he will surely face obstacles and challenges from the status quo.

Admit it or not, there were powerful people who benefited from the rot at Aba and they will surely kick against positive change at Aba.

If you doubt my above assertion just ask yourself if those who built on drainage ways or are collecting rents from illegally constructed market stalls will be happy to lose their sources of filthy lucre today for the greater good of the emergence of a new Aba. What about those who have cornered public parks and are fleecing travelers and commercial transport vehicles owners at street corners?

It is laughable to expect someone who is used to throwing away his refuse into gutters to be happy to be compelled to dispose the refuse properly. Recently, I saw a truck driver along the famous Aba-Owerri road throwing away his refuse right in front of Abia poly and was strongly tempted to chase the driver and perform a citizen arrest and then hand him over to law enforcement.

Believe me, there are many vested interests in the rot at Aba that will use all and every means to resist positive change at Aba, as represented by the work of the Aba Urban renewal committee.

For instance, an illegal structure that was blocking drainage ways at Opobo junction was recently brought down to enable the opening of the drainage way and the widening of Ehere road. The next day I read a post at social media by one opposition news source that alleged that Governor Okezie of PDP was demolishing houses owned by opposition elements because they didn't vote for him. Non of the mumbo jumbo programmed responders asked if the said house was legally or illegally erected. No single commentator asked if there were buildings  with tags that say "this illegal structure belongs an opposition element".

Personally, I do not believe people should be compensated when illegal structures are removed because what is illegal is illegal and you cannot compensate someone for executing an illegality. Instead the owner of the illegal structure should be made to bear the cost of removal of the structure to discourage future illegal constructions.

The worst recent experience for me was witnessing and hearing a former commissioner verbally attacking a road contractor for insisting that the pavement of his illegal structural extension  and fence need to be removed for an ongoing road work to be done with the stipulated width. He apparently succeeded in intimidating the contractor and that road had to be done with that portion narrowed because of his recalcitrance.

Funny enough the former commissioner is a PDP member and was actually singing and dancing with others the day that road was commissioned. Don't ask me how I loathed him since that day.

Do you know that at Aba some hotels channel waste water to the streets? Yet when the urban renewal team approach the owners to either re-channel  the effluent water to a major drainage system or shut down operation they complain and form overnight association of the oppressed.

First they accuse members of the urban renewal team of either asking for bribe or executing an ethnic agenda. One of such associations recently published an advertorial in the name of "Ndi-Ohuhu Resistance Vanguard" and paid at least N550, 000.00 to Sun Newspapers for the full page advert.

My first reaction after reading their advertorial last night was to ask if a group that can raise that much money with genuine grievance should not rather be asking for a meeting with the Urban Renewal Committee or even the Governor to discuss their concerns. Is it not cheaper to do that if you have a genuine case?

Let me open your eyes to this simple fact.

If Aba Urban is successfully renewed the demographic that will benefit most are the so called "Ohuhu" people. They own more than 80% of the prime properties at Aba Urban and with renewal the value of their genuine properties will skyrocket.

Every other "Ohuhu" man I have discussed Aba urban renewal with always end our discussions with "tell Governor to do everything necessary to save and renew Aba".  So I wonder who these new vanguard members are and what exactly is their interest. Are they expecting Aba to be renewed without removing the illegal stalls and shop extensions that make Aba look like a zoo?

From the little I know about Governor Okezie Ikpeazu I will advice those behind the "vanguard" to approach the Governor for discussions, if they have genuine concerns. The man who heads the Renewal Commitee, Solomon Ogunji, is a focused and fair minded person and I am certain he will willingly take them to the Governor to discuss their concerns. Likewise any other aide of the Governor will be most willing to facilitate a meeting.

But if they have other intentions, including attempting to intimidate the governor to abandon his well thought out plan to renew Aba, they will be wasting their time.

Governor Okezie anaghi eme nkuja and history is on his side while posterity urges him to stand firm with the majority of Abians and residents desiring a better Aba.

As an "Ohuhu" man myself with vested interest in Aba, I will rather appeal to the urban renewal team not to allow themselves to be distracted with side talks. Focus on the job but ensure fairness to all concerned within your given mandate.

Aba is overdue for tolled private vehicles parks instead of the current indiscriminate parking of cars on newly rehabilitated roads. Provide car parks in and around the inner city. Also make some roads like Jubilee and Hospital roads alternate "one way" to allow smooth traffic flow and toll every truck wishing to offload goods at Aba urban before7pm-6am window.

It is time to embark on Aba Urban beautification campaign to encourage landlords to repaint their houses and plant flowers or other trees where spaces are available. I am yet to fully understand why private investors should not be encouraged to bring in at least 200 cabs to run on trunk A and B roads at Aba while Keke operators are banished to trunk C roads and streets.

Do you know that as big as Aba is there are no taxis in the town?

Aba also need long buses to operate along trading routes and major roads like Aba Owerri road. When are we going to see those buses deployed to discourage traders from bringing private vehicles to the urban area and park them indiscriminately?

While sanitation has improved commendably at Aba, I still believe that the best solution is to license private refuse collectors to go house to house and pick up refuse for a small fee. The time to implement that aspect of the renewal plan is NOW. Otherwise once we start eating seasonal corns the tonnage of refuse at Aba will overwhelm the current waste management system. Those wastes at Aba should be harnessed to generate wealth for Aba residents.

To make an omelette you must break an egg. Positive change (not the APC type) come at a cost and only a determined team can deliver on it for greater public good.

In 2007/08 when the urban renewal team in PH started demolishing illegal structures and fence extension I was among those livid with rage. The most annoying order then, to me, was the order to reduce the height of all fences to eye view level and use transparent iron bars beyond that. People railed against the Governmebt official who supervised the implementation of that project and allegations flew here and there including allegations of removing properties owned by non-indigenes and political opponents of the government.

God forgive me for being among those who resisted )positive) change then. Two years down the line that policy was one of the best I remember that government with and since then I stopped building with high walls that lock me in as a self sentenced prisoner with risk of hoodlums spending hours inside without anyone outside knowing what is happening.

PH is a beautiful city today because of the "painful" renewal of those days.

Judging from my personal experience, I am in a good position to advice all those charged with renewal of Aba urban to courageously implement their mandate without fear or favor. Truth be told, great leaders close their eyes and ears to personal abuses and accusations while acting in the interest of greater good for the greatest number of people.

Usually it is time that vindicates visionary leaders.

Leadership is not a popularity contest and leaders with strong convictions and focused on greater good are not always popular with the people at the time of engineering change. I can testify that even Dee Sam Mbakwe met strong resistance at Aba and old Imo State while he was unleashing positive change.

Today, those whose parents fought Dee Sam and called him all sorts of names celebrate the man as the "best ever".

If your conscience is clear that you are doing the right thing the right way, please close your ears and eyes and go work for the renewal of the greatest Igbo and Nigeria city where even Ikemba Nnewi could not accept to be buried without his physical body and spirit passing through Enyimba city of Ndigbo nile.

Emesia o ga adi nma and the earlier the hard work starts the better.

After all, long before I was born  Harold Wilson said that
"He who rejects change is the architect of decay" and Robert Kennedy nicely concurred when he said that "change has its enemies".

To those charged with renewing Aba, always remember this quote:

"I shall not change my course because those who assume to be better than I desire it."
~Victoria Woodhull

 

Posted on April, 9 2016

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