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#OtvOPINIONS: The Abia I saw by Collins Uma

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As I told my friends Ayobami Ayolowo
(@Ayourb), Ediong Umoh (@NigeriaNewsDesk)
and Segun Dada (@dolusegun) with whom I
escaped and visited parts of Aba our tour guides
would not show us possibly because of time
constraints, I went to Abia with a hugely biased
mind. Over 10, I’d already scored Governor
Theodore Orji (Ochendo Global) minus 10.
Without ever having visited Umuahia.

When I got the invitation to be part of the tour I
wondered why the man who Nigeria’s social
media had given the award for the Worst
Governor on the Face of the Planet would invite
the most critical group of people ever to come
assess his performance. In my reply to Obed
Nnaji, Orji’s Special Adviser on E-Governance
who sent me the invite on behalf of his
principal, I said “Thank you for the confidence
exhibited by the extension of this invitation and
for the transparency you have got the Abia State
Government to show by throwing the
administration’s performance open for
assessment by a highly critical social media. I
humbly accept this invitation. I look forward to
the tour.”
A man who had been scored very low by even
those sympathetic to his party, PDP, on social
media was inviting social media critics, among
whom were members of the opposition, to his
state. This was something I wanted to see.
Besides, being an indigene of Abia state, I was
interested in seeing first-hand what my
governor had done in my state.
Moving from Owerri airport through the streets
of Umuahia when we arrived on November 10, I
could not see much difference compared to the
last time I passed through the town. Abia Tower
was same old same old. The roads were still so
narrow they brought on my claustrophobia. And
I questioned why Umuahia does not have an
airport when states like Jigawa and Kebbi were
building International Airports.
It could be argued that the bar for Ochendo was
set very low that any noticeable effort on his
part was bound to be celebrated but, the fact is
this: the man has done well in terms of laying
the foundation on which subsequent
administrations in Abia can build. One
unimpeachable indictment on his administration
is the lateness with which he started the
developmental strides he has aptly described as
Legacy Projects. It is however a bigger
indictment and physical commentary on the
negative effects of godfatherism in Nigerian
politics.
Below, I will mention some of the verifiable
Legacy projects. The immediate past
Commissioner for Information, Dr Eze
Chikamnayo, said there are over 10,000 of
these. I can only talk about some I saw.
1. The Abia Dialysis Centre/ Eye Centre.
I never knew a place like this existed in Nigeria’s
South-East, not to eve pn mention Ochendo’s
much-maligned Umuahia. Having one dialysis
machine dedicated to HIV positive patients,
another to Hepatitis patients, and four to other
patients is a very sensible decision. There is no
fear of going to hospital and coming out with an
ailment worse than that one went in with.
The Eye Centre, which is situated within the
same premises, also boasts of state-of-the-art
pieces of equipment. Interruption of power is an
alien phenomenon in these facilities as there
are huge inverters that take over power supply
if the supply from the national grid goes off.
There are also huge power generating plants to
take care of this. There are hospitals in Nigeria
where doctors have operated on patients using
torchlights for illumination. This is not one of
them.
2. The Abia State Secretariat
It is shocking that a state that was created 23
years ago did not have a secretariat for its civil
service until now. We did not enter inside the
building but, if it looks anything like the outside,
I think it is a winner.
3. The Abia International Conference Centre
This is a 5000-seater capacity hall with ample
parking space. According to Dr Chikamnayo, the
state government wishes to, through this, attract
major events and conferences to the state. This
is a good dream. Questions have been asked
about the impact of a project such as this on
the common man in Abia. As was explained by
our tour guide, several hotels (34, they said) are
already springing up around the International
Conference Centre. There is no gainsaying the
number of jobs that will be created from these.
4. The New Government House
The present Government House in Abia is a
personal house that belonged to an indigene of
the state, Emeka Omeruah. Omeruah donated
the building to the government when the state
was created over 23 years ago. No
administration has since seen the need to build
a proper Government House in Abia. Until now.
With the stage at which the project is, it is
unclear if Governor Orji will move into the
building before the expiration of his tenure. In
any case, he is building it for the next
generation. Legacy.
5. The Housing Estates
There are thousands of units of houses under
construction for low, middle, and high income
earners. There are also others strictly for
traders, situated in close proximity to one of the
new markets Orji’s administration has built.
6. The High Court
We did not see the inside of the court but the
external portions of the structure will make any
member of the judiciary happy. Dr Chikamnayo
said there are three of such across the state.
7. Schools
We were told that at least 70 schools were at
different stages of construction and remodelling
across the state. We were able to see a few of
these. Again, we did not see the inside of any of
these.
8. The Abia Digital Library
This is one of the landmark projects in the state
that should have Orji’s name etched
permanently in gold, if it is maintained. With
hundreds of computers and tastefully designed
interiors, coupled with a great ambience, this
digital library can stand with any other
anywhere. There is also an Ideas Room and a
Children Section within the facility. With Abia
achieving 2nd position in overall performance in
the WAEC Senior School Certificate Examinations,
this digital library is expected to be put to good
use.
9. Skills Acquisition Centre
This centre graduates at least 600 trainees every
6 months and pays each of the graduands
N30,000 upon graduation. Machines are also
given to them to start their own business
ventures. These trainees are taught different
skills ranging from tailoring and bead making to
catering. Each month they are on training they
get stipends of N10,000 each.

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  1. Aba
    Aba has always been an Augean Stable. Cleaning
    it up to the extent many would commend will
    only be by superhuman efforts. Ochendo might
    be many things but he’s obviously not
    superhuman. He claims to have spent more in
    Aba than on any other part of the state, but the
    people of Aba do not think so. According to the
    governor, at least 18 roads have either been
    constructed or renovated in Aba by his
    administration. In spite of this claim, we still
    saw lots of bad roads within the town with
    motorists having a tough time navigating round
    the potholes. Aba residents claim the
    government has done absolutely nothing for
    them.
    One commendation for the Abia government
    with regards to Aba, however, is the renovation
    of stretches of road at Ogbor Hill. The famous
    Aba Waterside is billed for relocation too. A
    resident who described himself as Mr Emeka
    Nnanna, a boutique owner, however, could not
    help but praise the government for the better
    security situation in Aba.
    There are other projects we saw such as the
    Abia Mall, the new Abia State Environmental
    Protection Authority (ASEPA) building, the new
    Event Centre located in the heart of the city
    where a traffic gridlock-causing market used to
    be, the new Broadcasting Corporation of Abia
    (BCA) building, the new terminus for
    transporters, the industrial layout, the 100-bed
    Amachara Specialist Hospital, among others
    scattered all over the state.
    At the interactive session with the governor, we
    were not given enough time to ask him
    questions. Only two questions were taken from
    bloggers. And it was supposed to be a no-holds-
    barred session. I was going to ask him about
    water supply in the state. In as much as people
    from different parts of the state confirmed that
    the security situation was better, they also
    confirmed that they do not know what it means
    to have pipe-borne water. Another question I
    had in mind was concerning the school fees at
    Abia State University. While a neighbouring state
    like Imo was declaring free education up to
    university level for all its residents (indigene and
    non-indigene alike), Abia was increasing the
    amount paid as fees in the state university. At
    the moment, students there pay far above one
    hundred thousand Naira as fees. And it keeps
    getting increased.
    I may never get answers to these questions. I
    wish I’d been allowed to ask them that day.
    I gave Orji minus 10 before going to Abia. By the
    time I left I’d changed his score to 5 over 10.
    Which is a good score seeing that he initially had
    minus 10. He should have found a way to start
    these Legacy projects earlier. Late takeoff of
    governance cannot be excused.

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