By Chukwuemeka Igu
Thirty one years ago, the dreams and aspirations of illustrious, selfless and visionary sons of ours came to fruition as the then military head of state, General Ibrahim Babangida approved and created Abia State. The announcement was received with excitement, joy and enthusiasm.
As a young state, there were loads of expectations, hope and projections. But alas, the state has remained in the doldrums of underdevelopment, economic mismanagement, infrastructural rot, executive recklessness with impunity and above all, zero regard for the people’s welfare.
Government after government in the state have run the affairs of the state in a rented apartment. While those at the helm of affairs have built mansions for themselves within months of taking over the mantle of leadership, non has deemed it fit to built a government house for the state. We have spent billions of naira in paying rent, which would have been enough to give Abia a befitting government house and reduce government expenditure.
For thirty one years, Abia State cannot boast of an airport. Successive governments have not made any attempt to give the state at least a local airport, while our neighbours like Akwa Ibom, Imo, Cross River and Rivers all have airports which is as well a huge source of revenue for their respective states.
For thirty one year, Abia could only manage to build one flyover which took the present administration of Dr Okezie Ikpeazu close to seven years to build. What a shame! Abia became a laughing stock among the comity of states in Nigeria. For thirty one years of our existence as a state, Abia has not been able to boast of quality road network. One can boldly say that Abia has the worst roads in the south east if not in the entire country..
Payment of workers’ salary, pensions and gratuities has been a problem despite the huge federal allocation to the state. Abia earns higher than Ebonyi, Enugu and numerous other states in Nigeria due to the oil deposited in the state, plus its internally generated revenue, yet we have never had a time when workers were paid as and when due.
Abia primary and secondary school pupils and students in public schools still pay school fees which has been a thing of the past in other states. Public school teachers in Abia are always on strike due to non payment of salaries. Recently, Abia State Polytechnic, Aba lost accreditation due to non payment of salaries. What a shame!
Abia State Hospital Management Board are owed up to thirty months of salaries, Abia State College of Education Technical, Arochukwu twenty eight months, to mention just few.
The late Dr Michael Iheonukara Okpara had a vision and laid a foundation for agricultural development to generate revenue, today, governor Okezie Ikpeazu has leased out those agricultural estates to his friends and political associates, namely, Abia Rubber Plantation, Amaeke Abam, Arochukwu, Abia cocoa plantation, Abia Palm, Abia Cashew, Ulonna Farm Settlement etc and the money went into private pockets.
Abia at 31 is still struggling to have a model capital city. One can say that the Okezie Ikpeazu led government is the worst thing that has happened to Abia State. While other governors are strategizing on how to give their states a face lift, Ikpeazu is busy chasing the wind, following governor Nyesom Woke of Rivers State around like a shadow.
To be candid, Abia has no reason to celebrate this milestone. Abia is a shame. This is not the Abia in the dream of our founding fathers. Every well meaning Abian must rise up and resist every attempt by Okezie Ikpeazu and his cohorts to install Prof. Uche Ikonne as the next governor of Abia State. Prof. Uche Ikonne is an accident waiting to happen.
We have had enough of clueless, irresponsible and wasteful administration. Time to make that needed change is now. We have suffered enough.
This is a new beginning. The night is far spent. Morning has come. We must wake up and do the needful which is to run these political thieves out of government and bring in credible, competent and visionary leaders. Time to act is now!
*Chukwuemeka Igu writes from Umuahia*