It goes without saying, that Abia remains one of the most unfortunate states in Nigeria. Successive governments there seem to have dealt the state a sleight of hand that has left it traumatized; pauperized, in mass suffering, poverty, filth, squalor and general under-development.
In all of the nineteen LGAs of the state,there is absolutely nothing to cheer about or show that successive governments that have the interests of the people at heart have been at the helm of affairs since 1999-when democratic rule returned to Nigeria. To borrow the words of the former CBN governor, Professor Chukwuma Soludo, there is no “signature project”, started and completed anywhere in Abia since 1999. No, not one. For those in search of what Signature Projects mean,they should turn to Akwa Ibom state for some clarifications. No pun intended. Signature projects create far reaching positive impacts on the life of a people and as such can be said to be naturally transformational. The despicable testimony of the monumental failure of leadership and betrayal of the trust of the people for such a long time is in everything that one beholds in Abia state.Umuahia,the state capital,often times resembles an abandoned cow market outpost, heartessly deprived of much needed care. No thanks to years of bad city planning, urban decay, neglect, degradation, overflowing filth and such other resultant effects of mis-governance,corruption,bad politics and predatory manipulation of the people. Succinctly put, successive governments in Abia since its creation have remained tragically visionless,wicked, pedestrian and lacking in noble ideas.
The security and welfare of the people shall be the primary purpose of government
– 1999 Constitution
Other parts of the state such as Aba, Arochukwu, Bende, Ihechiowa, Abam, Isukwuato, Ukwa, Ohafia and several others lay prostrate and bogged down by asphyxiating inertia, wasted opportunities and unharnessed potentials. Aba, the commercial hub of the state has overtime declined in strategic importance becoming a reprehensible eye sore, sad symbol of years of monumental failure of political leadership in tackling with relentless will noted perennial problems which malign the people.
The reasons for the sad and sorry state that Abia finds itself are not far-fetched: Over the years successive governments in Abia have resorted to empty posturing and gimmickry. They have more or less perfected the art of playing games with all that the people hold dear including their collective happiness, welfare and future. Thus, they failed woefully in creating an environment that could have become the catalyst for the socio-economic and industrial development of the state.
Between 1999-2015 there is actually nothing in infrastructural development that one can point to as transformational or monumental. In terms of roads, bridges, airport,stadiums, resort centres, recreational facilities, youth employment and empowerment, job creation,industrialization etc. There is absolutely nothing! No signature project! Is it then a surprise that infrastructural deficit in the state remains very high? Indeed, there is dearth of social amenities and critical infrastructures such as roads (-all manner of roads: access roads, feeder roads for poor farmers, inter-village roads, township roads, etc.) construction of bridges, primary and secondary school buildings, provision of primary health care facilities, rural electrification,water supply etc.
Only lip service is paid to these critical areas often for cheap political gains. Where anything is done at all, it is cosmetic, hap-hazard and unsustainable. These are the reasons why Abia has grossly remained underdeveloped and unattractive destination for tourists, investors and even some indigenes who would rather reside in the neighbouring states.
Whereas visionary leadership in sister states such as Akwa Ibom, Enugu, Cross River and elsewhere had taken full advantage of the return to civil rule in Nigeria to transform their home states forever making them Mecca of sorts, Abia state remains hopelessly sleepy, largely rural and locked down by its own inherent contradictions; lethargy and failure. In the absence of meaningful employment opportunities and the sweltering heat of bad politics buoyed by propaganda, witch hunting, pecuniary gains and hog-wash anti- people policies many out of sheer desperation, fear and utter hopelessness have resorted to sycophancy and praise-singing of inane politicians as a means of survival. Thus, has sycophancy been elevated to new art-forms of thriving business by armies of unemployed youths and legion of other besieged and desperate people who must survive somehow.
As though frozen in time, some of the rural communities in Abia remain largely untouched by passage of time or social change. They are found in such primordial state as they were since the civil war- bereft of any semblance of social amenities, modernity or anything whatever that can sustain human happiness and endeavours. This situation is simply unacceptable; politically incorrect and unforgiveable.
The way forward:
Going by the recent fall in the price of crude oil in the international market, naira depreciation and all the other negative economic indices for 2015, the revenue profiles of most states in Nigeria will definitely drop. That means that,the years of culture of profligacy and unbridled corruption are coming to a crushing end. That also means that states like Abia will be hard hit and forced to depend on Internally Generated Revenues, IGR to remain afloat. It means therefore that, the people of Abia can no longer afford the luxury of standing idly by whilst visionless, directionless and irresponsible political leadership continues with the business as usual templates; stasis and ineptitude that have characterized governance in Abia for generations.
The city of Aba must be revived through aggressive urban renewal programmes which will attract private sector investments. To make that happen, the problems of power supply, water roads and security must be solved beyond every shred of doubt. The problem of insecurity must be tackled as no one would like to come to a place where armed robbers and all sorts of criminals roam freely making life unbearable for people. Aba holds the economic potential of lifting Abia state from the doldrums it has fallen for decades, if only the leaders could open their eyes and sees these potentials.
As new crop of elected leaders jostle for power and ultimately assume political leadership in Abia in May, 2015, the people must resolve to break away from their depressive and unrewarding political past. They must hold their new political leaders accountable at every level of the democratic process. That is the first step, in the series of struggles that must be undertaken by the people to liberate Abia from the shackles of evil forces that have held it down since its creation rendering every effort at meaningful development puerile, and the people’s collective happiness and wellbeing, a pipe dream.