Is Ochendo truly a bad leader? PART 3

By John Okiyi Kalu on 30/09/2014

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No doubt the transport system in Abia is much better than Ochendo met it. His empowerment schemes for youths and transporters have worked well. His courage in banning ‘okada’ from Aba and Umuahia roads is worth applauding. I challenge anyone who witnessed a better empowerment system in Abia to speak up. I am not interested in discussing "wheel barrows" as empowerment tools but I am permitted to wonder why the wheel barrow man was celebrated whereas the man who gave many buses and taxis as empowerment is abused. Is it because the later is not in control of a mega buck media empire? As far as improvements in transport sector are concerned, I will score Ochendo 75% because he didn't do monorail for us. I want Abia monorail from Aba to Umuahia so let me keep 25%. But don’t imagine I don’t know about the tricycles he gave out free to many Abians as part of rural transportation improvement.


Early last year I noticed appreciable improvements in waste disposal at Aba. When I asked questions I was told about a model waste collection system that rewards those engaged within the system. Does anyone know why that model recently failed? Aba is back to its old self in the past three months. I noticed that the rot started again after whispers about possible gubernatorial anointing of the AGM ASEPA in charge of Aba who was reputed to have arrested the poor sanitation situation. Word out in the street is that his rivals to the plum job are deliberately sabotaging him to weaken his prospects. That might not exactly be farfetched because I once passed a neat road at Aba on a Friday evening but by the next morning as I was driving out of town I noticed a massive refuse heap on the same road. By Monday morning I saw pictures of same road with the refuse heap in one national tabloid. That same day the image showed up at Facebook as another evidence of “Ochendo failures”. Politicians get heart sha.


My grand mother told me that “onye ndiro gbara gburugburu na eche ndu ya nche” (a man surrounded by enemies watches diligently over his life) so there really is no sustainable excuse for the return to poor sanitation at Aba. Moreover, the states of the final disposal points at two different locations along the PH-Enugu highway are not exactly good advertisements for diligent and painstaking effort at improving things. The authorities at ASEPA should push the dump site further away from visible locations along the highway. They are blocking the highways with refuse and giving travelers wrong things to talk about; alternatively, they should think outside the box and construct an indigenous incineration unit for waste management. Surely the know how exists at Aba, the fabled Japan of Nigeria. Unleash the genius and the solution will appear. But since Umuahia is even cleaner than before, I will award 60% to Ochendo on sanitation improvement. Should I score Aba people on sanitary practices too? Nada!!! Make I still dey waka along Aba streets freely maka umuazi iwum barabara na ala. But umu guy ibem, ejigh dorty anya ishi bikonu. Ka anyi nyere onwe anyi aka.  (No translation available in English).


A lot of people don't know or don't care to know the real revenue profile of Abia state. For most, Abia is an "oil producing state" with one gold mine of a commercial town called Aba. On paper, they are right because Abia is listed among the oil producing states with the oil deposits found around the Ukwa axis of the state. Aba was also a commercial hub in Nigeria, though the correct current characterization should be "used to be". When people talk about Abia as an oil producing state they conjure the image of a state flush with cash and oil installations like Akwa Ibom, Rivers and Delta states. The only way I can explain the difference is to state that in 2014 Akwa Ibom budgeted about N470b, Rivers N485b, Delta N451b, Anambra N145b and Abia N115. The size of the budget of each of the first 3 states approximates to more than four times that of Abia. Even then, Abia only recently joined the above N100b club. In 2009 Abia budgeted N65.24b and the budget was not even fully implemented because of revenue shortfalls. By 2010 Abia's budget size was still N65.7b. For those who can't see the picture well enough, MTN's monthly revenue is about N60b.

 Furthermore, Aba ceased to be a "major commercial hub" in 2009 following the kidnap siege. Key industrial concerns left Aba for safer havens. How much do you even expect impoverished traders to deliver in taxes and levies? In case you don't know, it is doubly difficult to collect taxes and levies from traders than organized private sector. Where was the "massive" IGR from Aba expected to come from? Aba traders effectively started recovering in 2012 but business is still very slow. Only NBL has effectively returned to Aba with plans for expansion in the card. Thank God. PZ is holding out well and never abandoned Aba people but their operations are at a much lower scale now. Staff strength is reduced too. Equitable (IEA) has effectively been killed through a misguided communal action. Those are the key drivers of Aba's industrial challenge. Can Udeagbala's soap factory do for Aba what Equitable was doing for the town? My answer is NO. Even those who now buy bombardier jets don't have a single investment at Aba outside real estate acquired while in power. Amazingly these are the same people allegedly funding the massive anti-Ochendo social media lynch mob.


"God dey" and "dia is God" mean same thing: God exists and will judge us all.


I make bold to state that outside the situation with Aba roads, Ochendo has scored highly on most fronts. History will credit him with stabilizing Abia and laying the real foundation for the emergence of a greater Abia. If he can muster the resources to do at least 10 inner city roads at Aba, including Federal owned PH and Ikot Ekpene roads before December 2014, he will be celebrated on a grand scale by May 2015. The incoming government will then take up the challenge of first relocating Ariaria and Ahia ohuru markets as well as reconstructing the failed drainage system and pursue the development of a new Enyimba city around Osisioma area before doing any further road work in the current old Aba city. Government is a continuum and it is fair to say that if Ochendo had met good roads he wouldn't have bothered with new roads at Aba but will rather invest on other towns like Umuahia, Ohafia, Abiriba and Arochukwu. I do not expect his successor to spend too much resource at Umuahia beyond maintaining the facilities Ochendo has put in place. The challenge is at Aba and we should focus there for the next 3 years at least. Hopefully Ochendo will deliver another legacy of midwife to the first Abia Governor of Ngwa origin.


When the newly politically assembled social media warriors for the cause of Aba and Abia tell us that Aba people are suffering, I agree partially with them. Our points of disagreement are on two fronts: Aba is not Abia but one of the cities in Abia. Secondly, while it is politically correct for them to locate the problems of Aba with the state government, I will rather move further and tell the whole world that Aba "problems" stem from three distinct groups/institutions: Federal and State governments have failed to fully do their part and the people of Aba have also contributed to their own woes.


If the Federal Government led by ‘our’ President Goodluck Jonathan had reconstructed Aba-Ikot Ekpene road and highway that is now unusable, Port Harcourt road Aba that is in near state of total failure and their associated entry points to Aba, which are all within Federal jurisdiction, visitors to Aba will at least have good access to the town. Business will boom because a good percentage of those who patronize Aba markets come from Akwa Ibom, Cross River and Cameroon. We are cut off totally from them because of the poor state of Ikot Ekpene-Aba and Ikot Ekpene-Umuahia highways. Unfortunately most citizens can't make the distinction between State and Federal roads, but the law is clear on responsibility for Federal Roads maintenance. Likewise if the state government had leveraged more on the current good relationship between the Federal Government and the state (from 2010 to date) they would have impressed on the leadership at the centre the need to do the needful for Abians that voted for both governments. Or at least approve World Bank funds for reconstruction of Aba drainage system.


It will be too generous to excuse residents of Aba too. In the first place, some of us warned about the dangers of the 2008-2010 kidnap “wars” with emphasis on the potential to devastate the state socio-economically. Many of the movers and shakers of Aba that fled in those days are yet to return, having settled in Lagos, Port Harcourt, Abuja and Enugu. Whatever investment associated with them is gone with them. Sometimes I also wonder if Aba people need government to teach them how to properly dispose refuse. A typical Aba resident will wake up midnight and sneak out to dump refuse on the street and gutters. If it rains in the day time, they have a refuse disposal boom day. They drop wastes for water to carry to possibly Government House Umuahia for collection by the Governor. Even those who come to designated dump sites will rather dump refuse around the dump site instead of into the provided collection bin. Emere ya unu eme bikonu?


There is an emerging fourth group responsible for Aba woes. They are the social media political hirelings who have no sense of allegiance to the great Enyimba city beyond working for their pay masters. They have continued to thoroughly demarket Aba and scare away visitors and potential investors to the only town “owned’ by all Igbo. Please someone should answer me honestly: does it make sense for a resident of Aba who has been living and doing business there for years, buying cars and new clothes to come to social media and tell the world that ‘Aba stinks’ and is “dead”? If Aba stinks, why are you still living there? Or are you a pig that thrives on stinking wastes? One of them even recently abused Aba people with false claims that there was hepatitis B virus outbreak at Aba. And people clapped for such shameless mischief and lies because they hate the incumbent Governor?  Even during the scary early days of Ebola outbreak, there was no effort those mischief makers spared in scaring people from Aba with false reports of Ebola outbreak at Aba.  Can people go to that extent because of politics? God have mercy!


Permit me to tell those who are resident and/or doing business at Aba and are involved in spreading such misinformation one home truth: you are hurting yourself. You are the proverbial cricket that was being roasted and yet believed it was producing oil. In case you don’t know, the number of visitors to your shop is reducing daily because people are afraid to come to Aba because of what you have been writing and sharing about Aba. Even those from other states that are helping you to rebroadcast them must be thanking their God for their luck in getting a ‘mugu’ that will help them kill off Aba as a commercial hub in Nigeria and take the businesses to their preferred towns and states. Surely, every customer/investor that Aba loses will certainly show up at another city's market. And without those businesses Aba is nothing even with all roads tarred and plastered like heavenly streets.


Even if you want to join the lucrative online critics’ trade, please take time to learn how to criticize without harming yourself and people you love. It takes more time to build than to destroy and I can assure you that even if you fix all the roads at Aba it will take years to reverse the ill feelings you have created towards Aba, all because you want to help your master bring down Ochendo. Unfortunately for you and your master, Ochendo will complete his 8 years tenure whether you like it or not. To add salt to your self-inflicted injury, his people will elect him to the Senate without your vote, if he chooses to run for Senate. It is really as simple as that. My humble advice to you is to concentrate on seeking out the best Ngwa man to replace Ochendo as Governor in 2015. When the next Governor comes, he will build on Ochendo's successes and learn from his mistakes. But if you continue to attack Ochendo and make it difficult for him to support the emergence of an Ngwa Governor that will focus on Aba, you will have to live with your hand work. I am from old Bende and have nothing to lose if the next Governor emerges from the moon. My only worry will be that I have not personally served the cause of equity and fairness. I can live with that. Can you???


“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn't do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover. ”

—Mark Twain (1835-1910)

[Samuel Clemens] Humorist, Essayist, Novelist


O kwa unu sim puta? Aputalam!!!


NOTE: In the final part of this article I will publish, by sectors, all the projects done by TA Orji’s administration that I have personally verified. Every Abian or resident is free to verify them and challenge me on any that is non-existent. I will stop writing on Abia if a single one is found to be non-existent.


Posted on October, 1 2014

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