My plans for Arochukwu-Ohafia road – Sen Mao Ohuabunwa

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The senator representing Abia North in the National Assembly, Senator Mao Ohuabunwa, has promised to do everything possible to ensure that the dilapidated Arochukwu-Ohafia road is fixed, to bring a lasting relief to the users. For one 1 hour 15 minutes recently in Aro, Senator Ohuabunwa fielded questions from Aro News team consisting of Patrick Asonye and Ugo Okoro, lamenting that the road is indeed a huge embarrassment to him. Scheduled to be over in 20 minutes amid a tight schedule, the interview inevitably stretched beyond one hour.

First, Senator Ohuabunwa took Aro News through his political odyssey; his primary job as a legislator and, wait for it, the tendentious Arochukwu road project. If there was a modicum of doubt about his concern for Aro road, his detailed explanations effectively put any such doubt to rest.

According to him, he has no choice than to continue to pressure the government to fix the road, admitting that 60 per cent success in his political career is contingent on what he makes of the Arochukwu-Ohafia road. “My brothers, as far as Arochukwu Road is concerned, I’m ready to go on my knees and beg anybody. If it’s not important to anybody, this road is important to Senator Mao Ohuabunwa. I have no other place to go. Dead or alive, I’m coming back to Arochukwu,” he said, appealing to all those that use the road to endure for another three, four years max. Excerpts below.

 

 

I’m committed to Arochukwu road, it’s in 2017 budget

Aro News: Distinguished Senator, observing your itinerary in the last couple of days, we wonder how you are able to cope with the crowd of visitors.

Sen. Mao: It’s God; that’s all I can say, because from about 5am people are already knocking on my door and the likelihood that I will go to bed by 2am the next day is not there. Tomorrow again before you wake up the same cycle repeats itself. It was out of providence that I still went to church today. In fact, I was lucky that it was more like a ceremonial service that made me meet them and do about one more hour before they closed. And since I came back, I only just went upstairs to change my clothes. Once you people leave, of course my ward people are already waiting for me outside to hold a meeting with them. Apart from them, there are other groups also waiting.

 

Aro News: Very well; we are inclined to believe that these meetings and consultations bring results. When we came here first under the auspices of AROSON, I heard you say a couple of things which, for us in Aro News, were off record. We shall now require you to recount some of those things, which sounded like your score card.

Sen. Mao:  First and foremost, I want to thank you for the interest, and for this interview, for taking the pains, because you guys had to postpone your going back to Lagos, in order to have this interview. So I want to thank you for exercising the patience.

Well, I can’t remember ever having a scheduled interview with Aro News. At best it had been to seek my comments on a news item, so I thank you very sincerely for giving me this opportunity.

Well, today, I am the Senator representing Abia North by the special grace of God. But I represented Arochukwu-Ohafia Federal Constituency for 8 years, and by the special grace of God the first Aro man to so do and also the first person – whether from Ohafia or Arochukwu – to represent Arochukwu-Ohafia Federal Constituency because we never had anything like that before. Before now, even when we were one local government, we had two Federal constituencies – Arochukwu Federal Constituency and Ohafia Federal Constituency. When other people – Mazi Isoka and Nnanna Ngwu went as Reps of Arochukwu Federal Constituency; or when Ojo (Maduakwe) them and others went under Ohafia. Then too, we had two state constituencies. Arochukwu had two state constituencies. That is Arochukwu-Ohafia LGA had two Federal constituencies. Abacha government brought us into being one Federal constituency. There was that policy that any local government with less than 11 wards would not be a Federal constituency. Ohafia met that requirement. Arochukwu didn’t, because we were 10 wards. That was how we were merged to become Arochukwu-Ohafia Federal Constituency. But luckily within that period, with the support of somebody like Mazi Dagogo, myself, Late Okereke Chioma, Onyemuche Elekwa and his brother, we were able to bring Ward 3. When I came to contest election, we had my own ward Atani, and what you call Ward 3 now were under one ward called Ward 2. So the whole of Ward 2 today and our own area was Ward 2. So by the grace of God I was privileged again to be one of those who brought Ward 3. But then, we’d already been merged. So there was no demerging. Like today we have 11wards in Arochukwu; Ohafia has 11 also. So Arochukwu and Ohafia now have 22 Federal wards together. We pray that very soon there will be delineation, which we have been pursuing, the one that is important to us is to bring Arochukwu local government back to at least two state constituencies because that one is key. Ohafia has two, Bende has two, Isukwuato has one.

But we are pushing, because Arochukwu really should have two state constituencies. Maybe after that, we can then talk about Federal, because Federal constituency is based on population really. It’s the Senate that is based on equality of states. That’s why no matter how small or big a state may be, it’s just 3 senatorial districts. God gave me the opportunity to be the member, so I thank God because my stay has been quite eventful and memorable.

Even if nobody praises me, I will continue to praise God for myself because I was younger and vibrant, that I was able to go – a first-timer then. In fact we were like the pathfinders. There was no file to refer to; it was purely from military to our set. The last civilian government lasted for only 4 years – that is 1979 to 1983 and it was truncated, and that was it. The other set of people that came after the military – 1992, 1993 era was more like a department of the Presidency, so we came in as the first people in the 4th Republic, and I was able to contest election then. There was no leader, nobody would say ‘you will be this and you will be that’. Everybody was a new comer. There was no governor to seek support from. Nobody would endorse you. In fact, the would-be governor had no choice but to come to you, more so if you were a grass roots person.

For example, in 1997 when I first ran, Orji (Uzor Kalu) was coming to me because I had won my own election under UNCP as a member-elect and they were still running. But after, Abacha died, before all of us now formed PDP. When I went in, the position of the Deputy Leader of the House was zoned to the South East because parliamentary offices were allocated in line with the geo-political zones. So what the South East got was Deputy House Leader and at the Senate we got President.

In that election, we were about 7 bright Igbo chaps especially our brothers from Anambra (you know whatever comes to the South East they believe it’s their birth right). I remember Barrister Chudi Ofodile, Nze Duru (a barrister also), Dr Jerry Ugokwe (an architect) and Barrister Tony Anyanwu(now late) from Imo State that contested that position. In fact, one of the chaps (his father was a Senator; he even came to campaign for his son), but God gave me victory with one or two votes to become the Deputy House Leader. Not only that, I was also elected to be Leader of the South East Zonal caucus before I went to ECOWAS Parliament where I became first Chairman, Foreign Affairs Committee. In fact, we started ECOWAS Parliament. Thank God I’m back to ECOWAS Parliament now as a Senator.

So within that period, I ensured that I kept Arochukwu-Ohafia in the limelight. It will interest you to know that the issue of Arochukwu-Ohafia Road had been there; it didn’t start within this political era, because you’ll recall that PTF was on this road. The road was terrible. Unfortunately the people we had as PTF reps, which was not by election but we were privileged to have Umu Aro, but unfortunately, maybe they took the government for granted or they did not understand the workings of government, because if they did, we had the opportunity like other areas to have even front-loaded the payments to the contractors, because at the time PTF was dismantled, our job would still have been ongoing. Because when I came in, Elite (construction firm handling the project) came to me, and they already had a N10million bounced cheque, which was not honoured.

In fact, the first programme I had was this Arochukwu Road, but because of litigations, that was how I now attracted this Bende-Ohafia Road, this one people are using. Before, you couldn’t go to Abam from that area. When we were campaigning with Gen. Ike Nwachukwu, we used 4Runners; we would manage from Ohafia to even Ozu Abam. So that became one of our campaign promises in 1998/1999. But when I couldn’t pull this one through because of the litigation on PTF, I was now able to get that one through. What was put in the budget then was about N100 million whereas the project was awarded for N800 million plus, to HiTech. But unfortunately there was no design. That road requires proper design because of the topography and erosion gullies. At every point, just give it one month, it will fail. So the contract was terminated when (Tony) Anenih came (as Minister of Works) when Oby Ezekwesili, then Due Process Madam. Then there was a policy that every road would be independent as regards design.

You know before, what they did was, if they have a design they would say one kilometer of asphalt road, so and so inches or whatever would cost x amount, without taking into consideration the topography, soil, environment and all that, which vary from one place to another. That affected us, so they re-awarded that road for design. When that couldn’t pull through, I got the then deputy governor (now late) from Ebonyi, Prof Isu; he was the person who got this our own road, to do the design. That one was awarded, they quickly finished the design and the contract was awarded to Nigercat, I mean the Bende Road for N2.8 or N2.9billion (mark you, the gazetted Federal Road is Umuahia-Bende-Abam-Ohafia-Arochukwu). This our own was included with Abiriba as far as PTF was concerned. So because of the litigations, as I said before, I left that and got the Bende Road. After the design, it was then re-awarded to Nigercat, and I insisted (then I was in the House of Reps) that the work must start from my constituency. That was why the road started from Ohafia. Those bridges you pass were supposed to be part of the contract. After I left in 2007 nothing happened. All we’ve been getting has been palliatives, such as FERMA coming to do a patch, except the bridge at Amaeke that was reconstructed. The other ones are still that way.

Then the Arochukwu Road, while the design was going on, I used my position as Leader, through the President, Anenih the minister, I got Julius Berger to come and do Arochukwu Road. Julius Berger came to this town and spent 3 months. They helped me grade this road in front of my house, because I built this house in 2001. Julius Berger did from Amuvi, graded this road up to Ohafia, went into Atani (Aro), did not just Atani road, they graded the one that leads to my father’s compound. So Julius Berger was here, employed some Aro chaps. Then they did beautiful earth work from September/October 2001 to January/February, 2002. Remember that 2001 was our Centenary when I brought Atiku (Abubakar) here. I brought Atiku, (Pius) Anyim, all the ministers, I brought them into Aro. That was about the time this house was completed.

Julius Berger now went on Xmas holiday in December 2001. Throughout that period – Centenary, December and the visit – you would have noticed Julius Berger presence, their tankers were even sprinkling water from Ohafia to Arochukwu. The road was dusty but smooth, so they were sprinkling water to kill the dust. The road was in use like that. But because we had a governor who could not play politics, who was cantankerous – I mean Orji Uzor Kalu. Instead of playing politics to bring in the dividends of democracy, he was busy fighting Obasanjo. Recall also that within that period, he had problems with Anenih, when he accused Anenih of plotting to kill him. The consequence was that, all the equipment were moved out of Arochukwu overnight to Okigwe-Afikpo Road, which was Anyim’s project. Then there was a progressive gully erosion site at Obinto. When Julius Berger arrived and erected their signpost, miraculously that gully erosion stopped spreading further. Not that they did anything, the gully just stopped progressing.

They were planning that when they return from the Xmas break in January 2002, they will begin proper reconstruction work on the road. But because of the recalcitrant nature of the man who was governor then, the project stalled.

You know Obasanjo – if you stab him once, he’ll be ready to give you 100 – they removed them. I went to my governor, pleaded with him, but he refused to listen. That was the beginning of our problem on this road. But while that was on, I had an opportunity – Otumchere Oti had become the National President of Atani Welfare Union. He was transferred to either Kebbi, Gusau or somewhere there. He ran to me in the House, that look at my situation. Luckily Hakeem Baba Ahmed was the Perm Sec. So I went to him and presented Otumchere’s case to him. He said no, that they had finished the postings, there was nothing they could do. I pleaded with him saying Otumchere was the president of my hometown, unless you don’t want me to go home.

Baba Ahmed then agreed, and Otumchere was redeployed to Abia as Controller of Works for Abia. He used that opportunity to do that place through direct labour. So it was Otumchere who did it before God elevated him to become Executive Director of FERMA. While that was on, I was still pursuing this road. When the Julius Berger arrangement failed, I got what they call rehabilitation, and brought Mazi Hapel. Again, you see when I talk about Orji Uzo Kalu it’s because of the development he denied Abia State. When I was in the House of Reps, I got the then Minister for Culture, Frank Ogbewu to come look at our tourist sites. After inspection, everything was ready for takeoff but they needed the co-operation of the state government, we went to Orji Uzor and as usual he ended up doing nothing and that was how that opportunity was lost.

 

Aro News: By the way, was the Julius Berger arrangement a properly awarded contract?

Sen. Mao: Well, the process was on. The papers were being processed. You know, because of my position, while the documents were being processed, the company moved in from Port Harcourt. They didn’t bother, because we had been going to the President, going to the minister. They saw the process progressing, so they didn’t have any problems coming to site. That also gave the president the lee-way, since that contract had not been formalized and gazetted, for him to pull them out. Even though that also failed, I didn’t just give up, rather I got what was called limited rehabilitation. That is, they won’t give you the whole contract at a go, rather a kind of ‘get paid as you work’.

At that time I had put Atani Road as a ‘spur’, because in a contract, you have a limit of about 2 or 5 kilometers as a spur. When I now got Mazi Hapel again, he graded Atani Road up to the roundabout. He did up to Nkwunabo. Before he could get to the milestone, the money finished, so they could not continue.

In fact, Atani gave me Ugwu Atani because I now made Atani Road a Federal concern. At that stage I challenged Otumchere to do something and he got Bencov in Aba, and awarded the contract under FERMA to do from here to Ohafia. Not full reconstruction, but to make it motorable with concrete and bitumen, not asphalt. Unfortunately the man couldn’t do much.

Besides, people did not help matters, because even with the signboard, some were still claiming that it was (then local government chairman, Chibuike) Jonas that was doing the job. But the truth of the matter is that, it was Bencov, through FERMA, that was doing the job. I am giving you the history of this road because that’s our major problem.

Then subsequently I left the House (of Reps) in 2007. I wanted to go to the Senate but it wasn’t possible as at then. I didn’t fail election. I just felt that after two terms, I should progress to the Senate. I left the Ohafia side to try their luck, and they did.

Even out of the House, we were still pushing because we still had the contacts, the appropriation arrangements had been there.

In 2010/2011, I got the then governor to re-award this job. In December 2011, the Arochukwu-Ohafia Road was taken over by the State. The governor then, Chief T.A Orji – awarded the contract to a company known as New Idea. But I changed their name now to ‘No Idea’. Then I was Chairman, Contact and Mobilization of PDP campaign in 2010/2011.

He also came here during the campaign, so he saw the road and promised Ndi Aro. So the man came in heavily, graded the road, did great earth works. That time you could do Arochukwu to Umuahia in 1hour, 15 minutes; maximum 1 hour, 30 minutes. That was December 2011 to the first quarter of 2012. We did not however know that the man had no engineering knowledge. What he did was to cover everywhere with sand, including water.

Yes, there was no pothole, but that was not a professional job he did. So when the rain came that year, it washed off everything. It was even better if he didn’t do the job because he had scraped off the existing tar. That is how he put us into the ditch. That’s why I gave him the name ‘No Idea’.

Then the governor was very angry, and more so the money wasn’t really coming in. I was still living in Abuja but relating with the governor. Sometimes when he’s in Abuja I would take him to the Ministry of Works. Many Aro chaps also started throwing their weights and contacts behind the quest.

By 2012 or 2013, this road was again at the Federal level and contract awarded to Beks. But like I said, I didn’t know the details. I was no more in the House, but later I found out that it was 15 kilometers.

It was pomp and pageantry and we were all happy during the flag-off. Alex (Otti) hosted Umu Aro and others that came to witness the flag-off of the project. Even when the minister couldn’t come (he was represented by a director), the governor came himself for the flag-off, which made us to think that, ’oh, we are getting there’. But unfortunately, I was disappointed personally like you’ve seen. For two years or thereabout, they couldn’t do any reasonable work; in fact, less than 3 kilometers.

When the ‘No Idea’ man failed, I requested from the governor to do us the Abam Road. That was how that came, because the man was very angry. I argued that this Abam Road is even the one that links most of the communities within the local government area, and it’s shorter for us. He agreed, and asked me to get a contractor. That was how I got Masta Services, a competent company that is involved in engineering, road construction and all that. They presented their CV (to the governor) and he was impressed. The job was then awarded and the first tranche of mobilization released. They started very well, but you know, the funds were not forthcoming the way it was expected.

You know the state was managing. So the truth is that, funding is what has kept that road the way it is today. To be honest with you, it was one of the longest roads awarded by Abia State government, with a bridge. That road is about 34 kilometers, bad topography and with a bridge. You will appreciate what a bridge means in terms of project cost. The road is stone-based, with asphalt.

Meanwhile, we were praying that Beks would make progress on the Arochukwu-Ohafia Road, but nothing seemed to be happening. Luckily I got into the Senate.

Now in the Senate (coming from this background), and having been around all this while (because I didn’t leave Abia). In fact, I was more in Abia than Abuja. I refused to take any appointment at the state level. I remained a friend of the State, which was why I was able to attract not only that road, but even the renovation of (Arochukwu General) hospital by the State was also during that same period. I told the governor that those were the issues that I quarreled with Orji Uzor (Kalu).

I remember when we were younger, this hospital was like a referral medical facility. People from Ebonyi and Cross River axes used to come here for their medicals, but not anymore. Rather it became purely a mortuary. You only bring somebody who’s at the point of death.

Immediately I got into the Senate in 2015, the first thing I did was to move a motion on Arochukwu-Ohafia Road. That was the first week of our inauguration – the same June 2015- and it was unanimously resolved and a committee was set up headed by an engineer of repute, a former minister of works, Engineer Senator Banabas Gemade who was a former National Chairman of the PDP. It was a 7-man committee including those of us from Abia State – the former governor (Ochendo, Abaribe and myself).

We came, toured the whole road and went back and did our report. The Senate adopted the Report and said the road must be reconstructed and rehabilitated.

But unfortunately as I said, whatever comes from your constituency, you are the manager; you have to push it. If you’re not there nobody will leave his and pursue yours. Of course, there are some other competing interests in the face of scarce resources.

I was away for my re-run election when the 2016 budget came and passed. So Arochukwu-Ohafia Road was not captured in the 2016 budget. But luckily when I came back, after my re-run, because of my relationship with my colleagues and the leadership of the Senate, none of my committees was taken away from me. Even the one I was Chairman, I was allowed to get back to my seat and continue in my committees. Like I said, I am in committee on works and appropriation, which are the two key committees any parliamentarian would wish to belong in. Anyway, all committees are important depending on your interest, because you may be more interested in education or water. Appropriation is important to everyone because without appropriation, you really cannot go far.

For now I am more interested in Works because of the road. I wanted to be in a vantage position to do Arochukwu-Ohafia Road particularly, in addition to other roads both in the constituency (Abia North) and in other parts of the state. The Appropriation is the icing, because you have to be there to ensure that whatever is your interest is protected financially.

Luckily for me, the Minister of Works, Power and Housing, (Babatunde) Fashola meets me at two committees. He meets me as a member of the Power committee; he also meets me as a member of the Works committee.

Luckily there was a pool in the 2016 budget for some ongoing projects, it’s at the discretion of the minister. That is how he was able to look at our case, and gave some money to Beks. I was against Beks even continuing, but when we looked at the realities, we decided to let Beks. They came to my office and we had an agreement. Then I offered for them to use my house, everything; and when their engineers came, they came here first. Then they started the job about November/December 2016.

While they were on, I also brought the entire Senate committee on Works on the 18th of December; they were all here. They came to Arochukwu, they saw the road. Then the Beks people were here, all the Eze Ogos were present to receive members of the Senate committee on Works, and I hosted them here in my house.

I didn’t stop there; I took them through the tortuous road, through Nkana Road. When we got to the bridge, all of them came down from the vehicle and we walked. From there we came and joined the Ikot Ekpene-Aba Road to Aba, then back to Umuahia. I did that for them to appreciate the level of dilapidation of our roads, because every day I worry them at the committee level. At first they couldn’t understand, so they said ‘let’s go and see this Arochukwu Road’.

This road is popular now in the Senate, especially with the committee on Works and the committee on Appropriation. If you ask anybody they will tell you that I don’t joke as far as Arochukwu-Ohafia Road is concerned, and they know it.

You see, when people talk about Arochukwu-Ohafia Road and try to play politics with it, I laugh. For me, I look at it as God giving me the opportunity… I liken it to the fact that God found out that nobody will be used to do Arochukwu Road than an Aro person. Which is the conviction I have that God has given me the opportunity to return to the National Assembly. After all, I was away for 8 years yet nothing changed as at the time I came back.

We had somebody in the House for 8 years; we had a Senator for 12 years. So if it was something a Senator must do, at least after I left there was another Senator who was there for another 8 years yet nothing changed. Ditto members of the House (of Reps)for 8 years. So I believe that it is God’s design that Arochukwu Road will be fixed through the efforts of an Aro man. So I believe that God has given me this opportunity to contribute my own quota.

So I’m not joking about Arochukwu-Ohafia Road.  I’m ready to leave every other thing …Ordinarily, members of my constituency – Abia North as a whole – would have been asking, ‘ah, why are you always talking about Arochukwu-Ohafia Road? Is it because it’s your place? But they too understand, because they also need to access their Senator, which the road places a limitation.

Like today, many people have come, some will come tomorrow and the day after, and it’s the road they’ll drive through. So they appreciate my predicament, and share with me in this pain.

It’s not just about Senate; I’ve made friends over time – I’ve been in the North, East, South –South and the West. I have friends all over. So when they have relationships independent of me (either through marriage, burial or one function or the other) I won’t know, but when they come back they call me and say ‘MAO, what is really happening? That’s pain to me. They put pressure on me, but others will not know.

One day, an old school mate of mine – he’s now an Executive Director in a bank – called me and said he went to Arochukwu and here was what he experienced. I kept apologizing; I said please manage us. And because of the fact that you are a Senator, a visible Senator (and a lot of people don’t understand this thing); they believe that once you’re a Senator you should do magic.

But thank God that today, I’ve been able to use the contacts at our disposal to bring that road project into the 2017 budget.

If you look check the bill that came from the Executive, you won’t see Arochukwu-Ohafia-Bende Road that I’ve changed it to now. That’s why when it was presented I was shouting – tell people now that Arochukwu-Ohafia Road is not in the budget, not tomorrow somebody will come and make claims. But I thank God for the opportunity, that I’ve been able – with the support of my colleagues, especially the Chairman on Works, Senator Gaya and Senator Goje who’s our Chairman on Appropriation, and my colleagues, not just to bring back Arochukwu-Ohafia-Bende Road (because I want to put it rightly), but now sectionalized.  We now have section 1and section 2. The reason being that, the one being done by the Beks is 15 kilometers. Section 2 is now open, which another contractor will have to put in tender for. Since this people (Beks) have started from Aro end, maybe the other contractor can start from Ohafia end, and then meet at a point.

Also in this year’s budget, I have been able to put Arochukwu-Ohafia bridges. The bridges I’m actually talking about are those on the Bende axis of the road, especially that one next to Ozu Abam, it’s terrible; it’s frightening.

Aro News: Now, are you saying that Arochukwu –Ohafia Road is in the bill that the National Assembly finally passed?

Sen. Mao: Yes! It was at the National Assembly level that I got it included. How was anybody going to award contract when the road was not in the budget? Now if you say you’re going to award Ugochukwu Okoro PhD in Mass Communication but you didn’t give him admission, how will that be possible? His name is not even on the admission list. You get my point? Still with the analogy I gave you. Ugochukwu should first get admission letter and be a student before you can begin to think of a PhD (shows interviewers some WhatsApp chats with Fashola emphasizing the Arochukwu-Ohafia-Bende Road). The truth of the matter is that I have no other business with Fashola, except this our road.

Everybody is suffering it including me. My mother would have come for the burial of Ugo’s father, but if you put that old woman on this road, we’ll go from here straight to the hospital.

So this road, for me, is everything. In fact, every other thing is secondary. But I’m rejoicing first because at least the President has assented to the budget. The next step now (when we get back) is: how can it be procured? And luckily for me, not only the minister, but the directors, the Perm Sec, go and ask him (who’s a long time personal friend of mine); go and ask Ben Akabueze (D-G Budget Office), or Udo Udoma(Budget and National Planning Minister); go and ask these people how I harass them on this matter. These are my friends. So being a Senator is added advantage for me. I understand the system. Those who don’t know anything should desist from mis-informing the people. Mark you it’s not enough that you’re a Senator, you must also be a knowledgeable Senator. I know the strings to pull.

So my brothers, as far as Arochukwu Road is concerned, I’m ready to go on my knees and beg anybody. If it’s not important to anybody, this road is important to Senator Mao Ohuabunwa. I have no other place to go. Dead or alive, I’m coming back to Arochukwu.

Having been given this opportunity by God; my brothers, I cannot lose focus. Perhaps what they’re trying to do is to get me angry, and then I say ‘ok, let me leave it and see how they go about solving the problem’. But I’m wiser than that. I won’t get angry and give up this road. Honestly, I won’t. I’m determined to disappoint those who’re wishing so.

At the end of the day – if I do – who will suffer? It’s me and my people. They will say ‘you are the Senator; you were our leader. Will I come later to give excuses – ‘somebody said he did this, he did that?’

So for the road, I am confident that – like I said on the 26th of December 2016 – that in the next three, four years maximum, Aro will be opened very well. Like I said, I’m also following up the Itu Road. The contractors are with me often, and with the Minister of the Niger Delta.

The Ikot Ekpene Road, every day I thank (Governor) Udom (Emmanuel); I thank (former governor Godswill) Akpabio. I discuss with them, I make promises that as far as that road is concerned, that ‘ahh, Uyo Airport is where I shall be using with my friends’. That is the way to go.

The Okobo Road, which God used me to bring – that’s Ozu Abam-Ndi Okereke Road, which is a state road. I took the governor there on 24th of May with the whole state executive; I took him there again on the 29th of May with the entire members of the State Assembly including the Speaker.

There and then, he promised to release some more money, because he was impressed with the level of work going on there. In fact, he assured us that before the end of this year, which bridge will be completed. When that is done, they will do at least one kilometer in, and one kilometer out so that he can commission the bridge.

So you can see that there is hope of light at the end of the tunnel. So the road issue, I am confident that, by the special grace of God, in the next two years we will have a major relief, but the worst case scenario, four years from now, this whole matter of road would have been fully resolved.

 

Aro News: So much about roads. Now let’s talk about health….

Sen. Mao: Luckily for me – as if God knew my heart – today the Senate President and his leadership made me Chairman, Senate Committee on Primary Healthcare and Communicable Diseases. I have been working with the Abia State Commissioner for Health, Ahukanna, especially as regards Arochukwu General Hospital, even before the Exco was dissolved. I’ve already forwarded a list of some Aro nurses who will be employed and posted to the General Hospital here.

That will be implemented hopefully as soon as the new exco is constituted. God has used me to ensure that most nooks and crannies of Abia North will be favoured with functional healthcare centers. For example, there’ll be a functional primary healthcare center in Atani, another in Oror etc. For the Aro-USA health facility, I am working to see that they have a doctor there.

By the time the government implements this year’s budget entering into next year, I am confident that we are going to have a new healthcare architecture in Arochukwu and other parts of Abia North, because there’s no part of Abia North that I didn’t cover. Of course, that one was within my purview, and I worked with the Primary Healthcare Development Agency to ensure that most communities in Abia North will have well rehabilitated and functional primary healthcare centers. Places like Mkporo, Isukwuato, and several other places that I’ve been able to capture in this 2017 budget.

Within this period, many Umu Aro (doctors) have gotten opportunities to do their house job, some to do internship, some outright employments as doctors and nurses in the Federal health sector.

Mind you I haven’t spent two years yet in the Senate. I fought a great battle to be in the Senate. It was the battle of life. Orji Uzor (Kalu) was determined to fight me to a finish, but our God subdued him.

 

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Daniel Ochonma

Daniel Ochonma, financial expert and businessman clocked 49 on the 31st of May. A native of Atani village, Dan was educated at Boys Secondary School, ...