Why A Quiet Revolution Berths In Abia State
Abia surges ahead! The State is navigating through a turbulence of siege mentality expropriated by the deposed taskmasters. The sorts of turbulence that normally, herald a cruising swagger, on the airspace. Expectably, the victorious march elicits excitement and anxiety alike. But the shouts of freedom reverberate louder in the air.
Abia situation is akin to the transition from the biblical Egypt to the promise land - Canaan. The relocation to Canaan, though a land flowing with milk and honey, was a grueling journey - sleepless nights, hostile weather, scarcity of basic necessities of life, and the risk of carnivorous animals - yet the game worth the candle.
Those who felt that their empire has decapitated are not sleeping. They want to pull the roof down on all of us. They are leaving no stone unturned in order to reverse the hand of the clock. But Abians have vowed not to return back to Egypt. Sadly for them, the era of royal hand-pickings after demonic oath-taking in altars of principalities are gone for good. The era of celebrating illiteracy and glorification of mediocrity has expired.
The chief architect of modern Abia and the champion of the liberation struggle, Governor T.A. Orji is not also losing steam in cleaning up the Augean stables.
Governor Orji has institutionalized a sustainable peace among the stakeholders which is never witnessed since the creation of the state. If he is a dictator or averse to alternative view points, as advanced by a section of the media, he couldn't have continued to strike healthy collaboration from Abia leaders. Not even pecuniary consideration could make virtually all of them to sacrifice their pedigree and hard-earned reputation, if not that things are working out well in Abia. No state in Nigeria today can boast of this feat. Indeed, Governor Orji is a rare consensus-builder.
He battled the den of kidnappers and stamped out violent crimes from Abia domain. The state received accolades from far and near for squaring up with the challenge of arresting the menace. Businesses picked up once more. Investors regained confidence in Abia friendly business climate. Laying a solid foundation for the state became the flagship of Governor Orji's administration. Monumental structures for conduct of government business are built.
New office complexes for the executive, legislative and judicial arms of government which previous administrations treated with ignominy are erected in the state capital, Umuahia. Umuahia has been transformed from a glorified village to a sprawling 21stcentury city. Markets that used to occupy the heart of the town had been relocated to the suburbs and the hinterland. Network of new roads, that crisscross the state capital - opened up new areas for investments and property development. Many Local Government Areas have also benefited from the aggressive rehabilitation and reconstruction of rural roads infrastructure.
Governor Orji's poverty eradication strategy has become a benchmark for other public officers. He started with a monthly stipend of N15,000 each to over 4500 indigent youths across the 17 LGAs. The package was largely for students and those in apprenticeship, and the confessions of the beneficiaries indicated that it was a veritable stop-gap measure. It indeed acted like an economic soothing balm, in a country where there is no welfare anchor or social security package, for the weak and the less-privileged. At the last count, over 700 youths are beneficiaries of Governor Orji's free distribution of buses and taxis under the state youth empowerment programme.
No strings attached! It has boosted intra and inter-city transportation and created jobs in the transport sector. Hitherto, what was presented as empowerment packages were wheel barrows, machetes, hoes, and hire-purchase tokunbomotorcycles but today there is a quantum leap to reflect the present economic realities. Youths are no longer impoverished with tools that confine them to perpetual menial jobbers. Most of the beneficiaries are working towards boosting their transport businesses with a fleet of cars and buses in the near future. That is the reward of vision and human face disposition to governance.
Of all the Governor Orji's legacy projects, the modern dialysis centre at the newly constructed Abia State Specialist & Diagnostic Hospital marks an uncommon radical approach in health service delivery in Nigeria. It has considerably helped to curb medical tourism to medically-advanced countries. In 2012, reports from the Nigeria Medical Association (NMA) indicated that over 5,000 Nigerians visit India and other countries monthly, for medical tourism with lots of risks and challenges, which include misdiagnosis, legal and ethical issues, exposure to infectious diseases, as well as other complications, particularly post-surgical complications.
While commissioning the project in 2013, the Honourable Minister of Health, Prof Onyebuchi Chukwu commended the Governor for domesticating the feat and charged Nigerians to patronise the centre with the Federal Government's health insurance scheme, to enable them foot the bills, since dialysis is usually expensive.
The classy International Conference Centre that is almost completed marks yet another giant stride of Governor Orji. Repositioning the state to host topflight events is an awesome idea. With an inviting façade, the Centre houses four conference halls-the main hall, the banquet hall and two other halls with VIP Lounge and gallery. The main hall has 5000 sitting capacity while other halls can accommodate about 4000 other persons.
The International Conference Centre is digitalized with a full complement of latest information technology facility that is seen in all modern centres for conferences, conventions and business cocktails. It has an in-house IT and audio-visual facilities. Activities there can be streamed live on television stations and various social media platforms. Analysts are of the view that this is the first of its kind in the South East and the gains of such magnificent edifice are not only economical but also socio-political and strategic. In the education sector, which is the bedrock of every developed society, it is no longer news that Abia State came second in the overall best result of schools in Nigeria in the just released results of the May/June 2013 West Africa Secondary School Certificate Examination Certificate (WASSEC).
According to WAEC, 'the breakdown of the results show that 12 states in Nigeria recorded percentage that were above national average in the following order: Anambra State (67.85 per cent), Abia State (65.17 per cent), Rivers State (58.56 per cent), Lagos State (56.03), Cross River State (53.34 per cent), Bayelsa State (51.66 per cent), Enugu State (50.22 per cent), Delta State (46.49 per cent), Imo State (46.03per cent), Abuja (43.9 per cent), Ogun (39.92 per cent), and Kaduna (39.47 per cent)'. Abia students have continued to sustain the winning streak because of Governor Orji's robust transformation in the education sector.
The State Universal Basic Education Board that is primarily charged with the rebuilding and rehabilitation of classroom blocks and maintenance of standards in primary schools was recently adjudged the best-managed board in the South East by the Universal Basic Education Commission (UBEC) Abuja. Besides, the students that represented Abia State in the Grand Finale of the 10th edition of NNPC Annual National Quiz Competition held last year in Abuja came first and the winners are automatic recipients of scholarships to any tertiary institution of their choice in Nigeria.
The scholarships will cover the duration of their course of study. In agriculture, the Ochendo Liberation Farms- a farm settlement scheme in the three senatorial zones of the State has rebound agriculture to the front burner for food security and job creation. At Okeikpe, Ukwa West LGA, the State has a 4-hectare plantain plantation. Already, it provided employment opportunities to over 100 youths and young-adult rural dwellers in that domain while people have been encouraged to develop personal farms to eke a living. At Lodu, Umuahia North LGA, there is also a 4-hectare plantain plantation; and another 5 hectares of land was designated for massive production of special varieties of cassava that are biotechnologically versatile for human uses.
The 'Pro-Vitamin A' variety is planted in 2 hectares while TMS (419) variety is planted in 3 hectares. The Isiala Amaba in Isuikwuato LGA of the State, has equally earmarked a 4-hectare land for plantain plantation. These are meant to encourage people to build careers in the sub-sector. So far, over 200 farmers in the state have benefited from the suckers freely distributed. Abia has also been allocated 10,000 suckers of exportable improved variety of banana in the 275,000 stems of banana suckers procured by the Federal Ministry of Agriculture. Currently, the Golden Guinea Breweries Ltd Umuahia that was moribund before Governor Orji assumed office is being revisited with aggressive rehabilitation to enable it to take off again.
The news and the sight alone have rekindled hopes of new things and robust economic activities that would come alive in the state capital. And with the two new power plants almost completed in Ala Oji and Osisioma, which Governor Orji boosted with the provision of security, road network and tax waivers, the State is poised for a fresh golden era in all facets of human life.
Jasper Uche lives in Umuahia