#AbiaAt28: The Perception, Realities and Prospects -- Ikechukwu Iroha

By FN Editor on 27/08/2019

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In the words of Khalil Gibran, ‘Progress lies not in enhancing what is, but in advancing towards what will be.’ 
Abia is a state that has steadily been on the path of progress. Upon creation, the struggle to better and harness the rich potential of the over 4 million people started.

At the beginning, there were few road infrastructures across the length and breadth of Abia. Agriculture and its produce were not harnessed adequately. Manufacturers were so ashamed to label their products accordingly by attaching their names and their locations to their brand. We lost our identity and our pride as people blessed with enormous skills and ideas to bring things into existence. Our industries became moribund with no employment opportunities for our teeming youths. Investors avoided our Abia as there was no foreseeable plan to guarantee a return on their investments. Our schools were not recognized and our children suffered let down in the midst of their peers who were considered more open to better learning environment, even our health sector was not spared....These were our stories yesteryears and our challenges going forward.

It was therefore a major challenge, indeed, a daunting task for the people and the leadership to create something out of nothing. That challenge seems to have enamoured the spirit of the people to roll their sleeves and get down working. 
Admittedly, we are not where we should be as a State. Our pace of progress is not optimal. 
It is understandable when familiar forces join the fray to label Abia as being underdeveloped. It could be said that politics especially the smear and destructive type has not benefited us wholly as a State. The negative press, falsehood, propaganda, lingering court cases formed clogs in our wheel of progress.

Some of our challenges today, could be attributed to the level of bitter politics and opposition to government programmes for personal interest. They clearly do not know where and how the journey has been. However, it is a known fact that leading a state is a thankless job. Personally, I believe everyone who has led Abia State since inception, did put in his best. The failures and disappointments of yesterday contributed to our current reality.

So much has changed since Abia was Created on the 27th day of August, 1991. At 28 years, we have so much to be grateful for. These are the realities in our present Abia. In Agriculture for instance, Abia has made tremendous improvement. Farmers have experienced higher yields due to series of interventions from the government in form of loans, farm implements, supply of high yielding variety of seedlings; Tenera Palm seedling, Improved rice seedling.. construction of rural roads to ease transportation of farm produce. 
Unlike the era of subsistence farming in Abia, we have embraced mechanization. These new system of farming has endeared countless number of youths into agriculture with direct employment opportunities.

The current leadership in Abia has changed the narrative in the entrepreneurial and skill sector. Our people who hitherto could not proudly inscribe 'Made In Aba' on their wears can now identify with the campaign for Abia brands. The campaign for made in Aba speaks directly to the people's energy, commitment and hard work. The efforts of the State Government in the drive for such creative agenda cannot be overemphasized. It has increased the level of awareness to what can be achieved in the State, develop large markets and create direct and indirect employments. These interventions led the State to construct and reconstruct roads that have direct links or centers around manufacturing clusters or where there is a strong economic activities. Faulks road, Umule road, Tonimas road, Etche road, Ukaegbu, Umuola road, Aba/Owerri road etc are practical examples of how the economy has been strengthened through opening distribution channels for made in Aba brands even to our neighbouring States.

In education, Abia has continued to tackle the challenges in infrastructure. Our story is gradually changing. Over the years, we have maintained a prime position in both internal and external examination. About 350 new buildings and model schools across the 3 senatorial zone have so far been added to the number of already existing classroom blocks by the current administration. State owned University and Polytechnic are not where there used to be in terms of national Grading based on expositions and research achievements. Enrolment into Primary and Secondary school has increased over time with Abia, marked as one of the States with the least 'out of school children' in Nigeria by the Bureau of Statistics.

In security, Abia has been adjudged as one of the safest state in Nigeria. These statistics could be better understood with the recent influx of investors in the State. It has also seen Abia ranked top ahead of other states in Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) with subsequent improvement in income generation.

In industrialization, many moribund industries such as The Golden Guinea Brewery, Glass Industry, have been revived. These could not happen without direct government intervention and provision of enabling business environment. Business owners and promoters of industries including car plants, shoe automated factories, smart cities, fabricating plants etc have made Abia their new home for investment. Soon, unemployment will be a thing of the past in Abia. 
Our health sector is getting rebranded with technological improvement in health care services, more qualified health personnel and large quantity of health equipments some of which were a product of State intervention through NGOs from different countries. More health care centers have been built and equipped in Abia to carter for the health need of Abians.

Sports in Abia has taken a different dimension with improvement in our sporting facilities. We have more teams playing in our premier division than most states in Nigeria. Enyimba FC has become a name in Africa football with many national and international laurels to their credit.

The prospects are high. Abia is heading to Eldorado. It didn't come with ease but with long harrowing, tedious but engaging process with loads of round table business interactions, negotiations, arguments, coordinations and planning to create an Abia reserved for even generations yet unborn.

The success stories are building up from the long hours of planning and negotiations. We have investors developing industries on the basis of Public Private Partnership.
Abia has successfully developed a plan with the private sector that has been described as the most audacious and most ambitious project in Nigeria today, which stems from the vision to create massive economic infrastructures for the state and the region. Enyimba Economic City is the biggest single economic plan embarked upon by any State in Africa and has scaled through all paper works including relevant licensing from the Federal Government. It has attracted investment in billions towards its development and its projected to provide over 600,000 jobs to Abians and Nigeria in general. The city is sitting on over 9000 hectares cutting across 3 Local Governments in Abia with proximity to air, rail and water ways. A plan best described as exquisite. 
Nibra shoe factory in Ukwa, Abia Agro-industrial city are some of our major prospects going forward. With what has been achieved in these setting, Abia is projected to be an investment haven in few years with many benefits therein.

This is the best time to eschew politics of division and come home to develop the only state we can proudly call ours. Its a clarion call to bring our investments home for the benefits of our children.

Ikechukwu Iroha writes from Ohafia.



Posted on August, 27 2019

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