The Aba Urban Renewal Drive...Godwin Adindu
REMEMBER Aba? Have you wondered about these things: why did the great Ikemba Nnewi, Sir Odumegwu Ojukwu give instructions that his corpse must be hosted in Aba? why did Chief Ralph Uwazuruike, leader of the Movement for the Actualization of the Sovereign State of Biafra (MASSOP), make his declaration of the new Biafra in Aba? why did women in the old Eastern Region, from the four provinces, choose Aba for their earth-shaking riot in 1929, that brought the colonial administration to its kneels?
You must continue to wonder: why is it that every political leader from pre-independence era through the First Republic to date has shown an overt interest in capturing Aba? How come that every Igbo of repute has a story or a life that is somewhat connected to Aba? How come that Aba, more than any other eastern city, seems to capture the symbolism of the Igbo spirit of commerce, courage and creativity? How come that what happens in Aba or what concerns Aba concerns the world?
These are the puzzle Governor Okezie Ikpeazu of Abia State is trying to unravel through his Aba Urban renewal drive. The truth is that Aba has been a melting pot of human activities since 1903 when the District Colonial Office was moved from Akwete in today’s Ukwa East Local Council to the area called Aba. Then, in 1904, the colonial administration designated the place as a municipality to serve as a trading post for the old colonial companies.. So from day one, Aba was constructed to be a city of commerce and trade, Nigeria’s own version of the ancient Italian cities of Venice and Florence. And so it has been to date.
For decades, Aba remained the symbol of the Igbo man’s sense of community and Nigeria’s idea of indigenous technology. Indeed, for many years, the city lived its dream; the people lived to their fulfillment in a destiny tied to trade, fun, sex and money. It was the home of all, where men of every hue and colour became united by one kindred spirit and one common humanity. There was the Aba Man, a cosmopolitan hybrid, characterized by a dogged survivalist spirit. There was the Aba boy, a certain smart truant, not too puritanical but more clever in the things of the street than in the things of the classroom. There was also the Aba girl, a cultured bred who carried herself with so much respectability and walked as if she has put a price on herself.
The Aba-made-goods remained a story that went far and wide. The rare ingenuity of the people, the power of creativity of the artisans and tradesmen and their profound skill in developing local content of all products became a story that transcended many shores. It became a marvel to the world and a source of attraction to the city and her people. Thus, Abapresents an old legend of little great minds ruling the world from their little backyard huts and shades, from where, armed with common tools and a restless mind, they could produce anything but man.
Indeed, Aba has lived with many years of glory. Many Nigerians of old still retain sweet memories of the old Enyimba City. But, along the line of the trajectory of urban pressure, the narrative took an ugly twist. While it remained the melting pot, it lost its thrill; it lost its drama and attraction; it lost the charm that created a symphony of drama of the human spirit, an epicentre of a new world of possibilities. The story suddenly fell in pitch from the crescendo of great commercial hub to the lowly catharsis of a lamentable meltdown. And the reasons? The human population explosion was occurring without the corresponding action of infrastructural renewal. No government paid attention to the creak and squeak of a foundation that was carrying more than its original capacity. And Aba collapsed!
Thank God a Daniel has come to judgment! Just a day after his inauguration, Dr. Okezie Ikpeazu stepped foot in Aba and commenced a massive urban renewal drive that has become the selling point of his one-month-old administration. He immediately commissioned the construction of seven roads and established the Aba Urban Renewal Office. The office is a totally new creation with the mandate of reviewing the dream that is Aba, the mandate to regain the paradise lost. Under this platform, the government is set to bring Aba back to its old pride of place. It will be the driving force of the new administration.
As I write, the bulldozers are at work. Ikpeazu is working to restore the original map and the original plan, and trying to lift Aba to the global status of modern cities. The road construction is in progress alongside the desilting of drainages, gutters, storm water systems and flood channels. He has reiterated his stance not to compromise quality and charging the contractors to do quality jobs and to deliver on schedule or be blacklisted by the government.
You cannot make omelet without breaking eggs. Yes, the governor is breaking the eggs; he is stepping on toes and Aba people are happy for it. If he must create the new Aba city of everyone’s dream, then he must apply a strong political will. This is manifesting in the demolition of illegal structures built on service lanes, and on top of drainages. Along the seven roads under construction, the governor is demolishing illegal shops, illegal fences and such other structures that constitute a blockade to the free flow of traffic and drainages. This action will progress to other roads as work continues.
The governor is also reviewing the markets. And many illegal shops have been pulled down in the Ariaria International Market and the other markets. But, it is not only the structures that are going down, human being are also going down. The governor has had to dissolve the Committee on Review and Revalidation of Ariaria International Market headed by Mr. Chigozie Osuala and also invalidated all construction works authorized and executed by the committee in the market. This is the first action towards the plan for the upgrading and reformation of the market to its original master plan which include spaces for banking, fire service, car, police station and other essential services.
There is a new programme for domestic waste management under which Aba has been divided into six segments. By the time he is done, waste will be moving from the first depositors to the recycling plants. The dream is big, the will is strong and hopes are high.
But, more interestingly, Aba people are happy that a Daniel has come to judgement.
Adindu is the Chief Press Secretary to the Governor.