New model for fast-track and integrated infrastructural development in the South East

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Twin Plagues of Mis-governance and Underdevelopment in Abia

Introduction:

Provision of infrastructure is at the heart of modern development .Without basic infrastructure socio-economic development is impeded and to a large extent truncated. A cursory look at the parlous state of infrastructural development in the entire South East geo-political zone, especially roads leaves one disconcerted, and with no choice but to think of the most effective ways out of the quagmire.

Background to the problem:

Over 80 percent of roads in the South East have remained the way they have been since the 70s. Some are still in the state they were in the 60s –mere dusty, red- earth wagon tracks. This sad situation is simply unacceptable and should not be allowed to continue that way. Every day many people lose their lives, limps or property as a result of bad roads in the South East. If you add the irrecoverable number of hours wasted on those roads, then the burden becomes simply unbearable.

Aba, for instance, has the potential of powering rapid socio-economic development in the entire South East zone and beyond. However, lack of vision and strategic planning have kept Aba on its knees for decades as it has been left to fester and suffocate in its own asphyxiating filth and rot. Year in-year out Aba is inundated by flooding and tons of heaps of undisposed garbage and open, stagnant sewage – these offensive pictures have come to characterise the town-as filthy, inhabitable, harsh and inaccessible for business. This status must been changed in order for Aba to attract portfolio investments that that create jobs and new opportunities for the people.

Furthermore, all the major and minor roads in the South East zone are either broken down, littered with pot-holes or simply impassable. For the avoidance of doubt, the roads are listed as follows though not limited to:

  1. Oturkpo-Nsukka-Ninth Mile road
  2. Enugu- Umuahia-Port-Harcourt road
  3. Enugu-Onitsha road
  4. Umuahia-Uyo road
  5. Umuahia- Bende-Ohafia-Arochukwu road
  6. Owerri-Mbaise-Umuahia road
  7. Onitsha-Mgbidi-Owerri road
  8. Owerri-Port-Harcourt road
  9. Okigwe-Mbano-Owerri road
  10. Owerri-Aba road
  11. Okigwe-Akara Izu-Abariba –Ohafia road
  12. Afikpo-Nguzu-Eda-Ohafia road
  13. Ututu-Arochukwu-Ikot-Ekpene –Itu road
  14. Uburu -Ihechiowa-Arochukwu road
  15. Okigwe-Arondizuogu-Nnewi–Onitsha road

These and many more are the roads which have remained great sources of nightmarish experiences for the people of the South East and others who use those roads. Each day, lives are lost, properties running into millions of naira are wasted, and so many dreams cut short as results of physical impairments, eternal injuries and disfigurements suffered as results of accidents; losses and deaths. Each day, since after the civil war, people embark on perilous journeys on these roads not knowing how the outcome might be.

Failure of Governments:

The truth is that governments at various levels have never taken the construction of roads in the South East seriously. With all the promises made by successive governments in Nigeria, the Obasanjo’s administration from 1999-2007 did not do anything worthwhile, same for Yar’ Adua’s administration. The Jonathan’s regime, in spite of all the high expectations, promises and massive support from the South East zone never took infrastructural development in the South East zone seriously. In all, not a stone was shifted in the name of construction from 1999 to May 2016. Neither a single road, nor a bridge was initiated and completed by any regime by whatever name so called. The Second Niger Bridge became a metaphor of sorts. Absolutely nothing can be pointed to as a legacy of the PDP-led administration in the sixteen years it enjoyed the unwavering support of the people of the South East.

To say the least, the zone was shamelessly let down in more ways than one. If nothing much happened in the zone in terms of infrastructural development in all of the oil boom years, then it would be foolhardy for anybody to think that much would happen now that the country has slipped into the worst recession and economic crises it has ever witnessed in all of its history. As this article is being prepared, all the Economic indices that could inspire infrastructural development are pointing negative: From run-away-double digit inflation, to the naira, which exchanges right now at 485 to 1 USD; or the brent crude currently at $48. Succinctly put, the future is bleak. To wish away these clear economic prognoses, is to live in a fantasy-land, an exercise in futility.

Therefore, what is the way out our collective stagnation? To continue complaining, praying, hoping against hope that one day all will be well -while watching many of our people being maimed or die on these roads? No! Agreed, that since 1970 to date the successive governments have failed woefully to foster rapid infrastructural development in the South East, shall we fold our hands and allow the intolerable condition to persist? Or do we take up the gauntlet and by so doing, take our destiny in our hands?

New model:

The new model of fast-track -integrated infrastructural development in the South East must begin with the discarding of the out-worn mindset that only governments can provide critical infrastructure such as roads, primary health care, rural electricity, waste disposal, erosion control, educational facilities, light rail transport system, industrilzation, power supply, etc. in the South East. The collective happiness and happiness of an entire race can no longer be mortgaged with governments that cannot live up to the expectation of the primary objectives for which governments are set up.

Therefore, the people must be ready to sacrifice their resources in self-help efforts that are well co-ordinated and organized for effective and efficient delivery of social amenities. They must urgently organize themselves using the various already existing socio-cultural platforms to seek solutions to the grave challenges they face. Every socio-cultural organization in the zone should formalize their activities and transform themselves as veritable tools for socio-economic empowerment and sustainable development. As a way of going forward the following shall be done:

  1. Establishment of Consolidated Infrastructural Development fund in all the states of the South East.
  2. The fund shall be managed by trusted men and women from the Igbo race such as:
    1. Chief Emeka Anyaoku
    2. Chief Alex Ekwueme
    3. Dr. Ngozi Okonjo Iweala
    4. HRH Igwe Alfred Nnaemeka Achebe, Obi of Onitsha
    5. Prof Chukwuma Soludo
    6. Prof. Pat Utomi
    7. Mazi Sam Ohuabunwa
    8. Prof.Anya O.Anya
    9. Commodore Ebitu Ukaiwe

Funding of projects:

Funding of all projects shall be people oriented or self-help dependent and/or non –governmental. The trustees shall be at liberty to move overseas in search of Diaspora funds and around the country searching out every Igbo man, woman or youth to contribute to the development of our homestead. The first five years of the fund shall focus on road construction.

For instance, in order for the all-important Enugu-Onitsha motor-way to be constructed using the proposed new model, the following can be done:
The people of Enugu and Anambra states will collaborate and contribute funds consecutively for 3-5 years to re-construct the road.

Let us project a total number of five million people for instance, multiplied by 1000 naira only for 5 years.
First year-5,000,000×1000=5 billion naira. By the fifth year, the fund ought to have realized at least 25 billion naira. Corporate organizations and high net worth individuals, Diaspora citizens and organizations of Igbo extraction shall be captured using luncheons, galas and such other means as deemed fit by the trustees in liaison with Ohaneze, Aka-ikenga and other notable, core Igbo oriented organizations, traditional rulers so on to mobilise and co-ordinate the activities.

Since the projects are Igbo people’s projects, the trustees will ensure that reputable and trust worthy contractors who shall be closely monitored by the people are engaged for all projects.

Practicality/Legality:

The legal implication or impediments in the way of constructing roads belonging to either federal, state or local governments can be easily resolved and removed by the trustees through agreements with all parties concerned. The federal and state ministries of works shall be carried along in order for the fund to meet national and state requirements/standards.

It is practicable and better than just doing nothing – waiting for God to, or just continuing in the present climate of hopelessness and helplessness that has persisted since the civil war. Onye a juru,anaghi aju onwe ya
Within ten years of the implementation of this self-help model in the five state of the South East, places such as Aba will open up for mega business. And the infrastructural gap in the south east would have been closed considerably. Above all, the quality of life of the majority of people will improve as result of the new opportunities the new model presents in terms of socio-economic development.

In later years, apart from the sustained improvement in inter-state and intra-city road networks, the fund will also pay attention to the possibility of linking major cities and towns such as Aba, Nnewi, Onitsha, Asaba, Owerri and Umuahia with light rail system and tram-lines in the long term. Having sufficiently addressed the problem of road infrastructure, with time the fund can tackle the problem of industrialization, job creation, power supply, food supply, water supply, agricultural produce preservation and export potentials of farm produce such as palm oil, rice, cassava, etc.

Thus, with time the dream of Dr. Michael Okpara, Dr. Akanu Ibiam, of the South East becoming an industrial hub of sorts and leading the rest of the country in hi-tech expertise and skills will be realized. This lofty idea is do-able, we only need to imagine it and be propelled by the present nightmarish existence, deprivation and misery suffered by our people and resolve to change the situation through our collective intervention, determination and co-operation. We owe it as a duty to the future generations to take strategic and reasonable action today.

About author

Ben Ezumah

Ben Ezumah was born in Arochukwu, Abia state, Nigeria. He attended Holy Ghost College, Owerri (1983). His first degree was at University of Jos (1990) where he obtained BA (Hons.) in English and Linguistics combined honors. He obtained Post Graduate Diploma (PGD) in Journalism from the International Institute of Journalism, Abuja. (2003) Post Graduate Diploma in Education (PGDE) from the University of Abuja (2005), Master of Science (MS) Adult Learning in English as a Second Language (2015) from Walden University, Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA.(2015). As a result of his inter-disciplinary works and specializations, he can rightly be described as a Journalist, Educationist, Playwright, Essayist, Creative Writer, Linguist, Biographer and Poet. Some of his publications include though not limited to: Meditations of an Old Prostitute-a Collection of Poems (2002), co-author: Perspectives on Aro History and Civilization-the Splendor of a Great Past-Volumes 1,2&3(2001),2003)&(2007)respectively. Wedding-Bells that Never Rang (2013). Ben Ezumah was the pioneer Editor, Aronews for about ten years. He is a member of the Association of Nigerian Authors,(ANA) Nigerian Environmental Society(NES) among several others. Presently, he is a Deputy Director (Education) at SEB, FCTA Abuja, Nigeria.

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