Rebuilding Abia, 21 Years After Creation

On August 27, 2012 the government and the people of Abia State celebrated with fanfare, the 21 years of existence of the state, which was carved out from the old Imo State by the military …

administration of General Ibrahim Babangida. But Abia which prides itself as “God’s Own State” appears to have just rediscovered itself. The journey into self-rediscovery is what the government and the people of Abia rolled out the drums to celebrate as the state is now placed on a new foundation for growth.
The concept of new foundation was initiated by the state Governor, Chief Theodore Orji, in September last year, when he marked the first 100 days of his second term in office. It was a move said to have been propelled by his genuine assessment of how Abia had fared after two decades of existence as a component state in the Nigerian federation.
Orji’s assessment was damning as he pointed out that the state had not lived up to the dreams of its founding fathers in terms of decent urban areas, durable infrastructure and creation of jobs. “The reasons for these are that some of our past leaders failed to look beyond the needs of the moment,” he said, adding: “They failed to have the sense of justice; failed to listen to their conscience and failed to galvanise the mutual purpose and can-do spirits of Abians.”
He, however, promised to reverse the static movement of the state by laying a new foundation on which Abia would soar endlessly. Thus, the 21 anniversary became an ideal opportunity to assess how far Orji has gone in laying the new foundation and the shape it has taken. In his goodwill message, delivered by the Deputy Governor, Chief Emeka Ananaba, at the grand finale of Abia Day 2012, the governor told the people of the state that the new foundation had not only been laid, but had also taken shape.
According to him, the new foundation rests on his “legacy projects” which had taken off and which he had also vowed to complete before leaving the Government House Umuahia in 2015. “Our new state Government House foundation has been laid, so is our International Conference Centre; our new Civil Service Secretariat, numerous housing estates, our various market developments, and solutions found for some of our difficult road infrastructure are the many developing structures of our legacy projects which support an enduring idea of a state, its economy, politics, and public service orientation,” he said.
Orji alluded to the fact that the projects constitute the foundation for the new face of Abia. “Our government is doing all these work of a ‘founding government’ 20 years after the creation of Abia State. That is all the more reason he lamented that Abia’s past was eaten by locusts, hence he was certain that what we are doing for our state will tomorrow become the cardinal pillars and foundation stones of this state.”
It may have appeared preposterous for the governor to be talking of a new foundation for Abia after 21 years of existence. But Orji has always argued that having inherited a house built on a faulty foundation, there was nothing else to do other than knock it down and start afresh with a better foundation. He reasoned that it was nothing to be ashamed to start a new foundation for Abia if only to get it right instead of allowing the state to be sailing like a ship without rudder.
“All the projects that we have embarked on have been carefully selected to reflect the urgent mood of our State. A mood of an Abia State that is now ready to take its collective destiny in its hands, and move in unison with our citizens, and without being a captive of one group or one family,” Orji said in his anniversary message.
Indeed, the mood of the time among the people is that the state had begun to move and in the right direction. Even the hitherto fractious and divisive Abia political elite have caught the infectious mood of the moment as they have rallied round the governor to ensure that the new found momentum of development is sustained.
Chairman of Abia State Advisory Council, Dr. Anagha Ezeikpe, commented on the newfound unity among the Abia political elite and said it was made possible because “we now have a governor who behaves like a human being.”
He recalled: “In time past, we tried to bring all of you (elite) from outside so that we can exchange views but it did not work. The elite, even those in the same political party, found it very difficult to subsume their personal interests for the overall interest of the state hence the constant squabbles. But all that has changed for good.”
Ezeikpe, who ranks among the founding fathers of the state, was elated that the elite have found a rallying point in the governor, noting that Abia would be better for it. The elder statesman described Orji as a governor who “listens to advice and promptly implements the good ones.”
Chairman, Abia State chapter of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), Rev Chidi Okoroafor, captured the mood in the sermon delivered at a thanksgiving service preceding an award ceremony to honour the state indigenes who have distinguished themselves in their fields. He declared that the future of Abia is bright and that the state is moving forward in a positive way. According to him, not only the economy but every other facet would be better.
“I do not believe we have seen the best of everything; the best is yet to come,” he said, urging the people of the state to support their governor and pray for him to succeed in his avowed mission to expand the frontiers of development in the State.”
At the ceremony the contentious Abia Charter of Equity echoed as Ezeikpe called on the political leaders to always abide by the provisions of the document with a view to ensuring that no component part of the state is marginalized. The Charter of Equity had in the past been subjected to various interpretations and in some cases, outright denial of its existence as politicians took positions that favoured them at any particular point in time.
Ezeikpe, who was among those that worked for the creation of the state, apparently put to rest the issue of whether the charter exists or not. He explained that the document was drafted to assuage the fears of marginalisation being expressed by some parts of the state when the campaigners for Abia creation were going round to rally together all the old political and cultural blocs that today constitute Abia.
According to him, the charter stipulates how Abia shall be ruled in a way that every part would have a sense of belonging in distribution of political offices and development projects. To contain likely abuse of the charter in future, Ezeikpe said the Advisory Council had sent the document to the state House of Assembly for passage into law so that it would be binding on any governor that comes into office, irrespective of political platform, to implement the provisions of the charter.
The 2015 transition is however expected to provide a major test for the workability of the charter as the issue of power rotation would be hotly debated after Orji’s exit.
But as Abia celebrated her 21 years, it also celebrated its indigenes and friends of Abia who had made remarkable impact in their chosen careers thereby “keeping the dreams of Abia State alive and sharing with our ideals.” Orji believes that every indigene of the state has a role to play for the success of the journey to the Promised Land since everyone is blessed with a particular talent.
His argument is that no Abian should sit on the fence and wish that the state would be great without making any contribution. “These dreams of Abia State, which our founding fathers handed over to us can only survive and grow, not just because we think about it, dream about it, and verbalise it, but because we have come to believe in it, act it and make sacrifices to pursue it in a responsible and concerned manner,” he said.
Those honoured to mark the anniversary include the Editor of THISDAY, Ms Ijeoma Nwogwugwu, who had risen to the top in her journalism career, a male-dominated profession. Abia was proud of its daughter and she was recognised and honoured along with 20 others who have equally distinguished themselves in various fields of endeavour, including politics, business, sports, medicine, academia, security, farming, civil service and law among others.
Nwogwugwu was bestowed with an award of Ada Ugo Abia (highly esteemed daughter of Abia) along with five other women, including Deputy Inspector General of Police (DIG), Ivy Uche Okoronkwo (rtd). There were two other categories of awards namely Enyi Abia (elephants of Abia) and Oke Oji (great Iroko tree).
The ten recipients of Enyi Abia were DIG Azubuko J. Udah (rtd), Hon Justice Ikechi F. Ogbuagu, retired justice of the Supreme Court and Chief Anthony Enukeme, an Aba-based industrialist and chairman of Tonimas Nigeria Ltd while Flying Eagles Chief coach, John Obuh and Chairman/CEO of Masters energy, Mr. Uche Ogah were decorated with the award of Oke Oji along three others.
Beyond the euphoria that attended the anniversary and the general belief that things had started to work, a certain segment of the populace is still sceptical about the new face of Abia given the experience of the wasted years. But to this category of people, the governor said: “We should never yield to the lustful ambitions of those nay-sayers who seek to destroy the harmony we have built in Abia State for their selfish ends of returning Abia State to the confused and painful days of the locusts. Abians are saying, never again!”

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