How Abia Became A National Destination Of Choice – Ememanka.
The ongoing Revolution in Abia State under the leadership of Governor Okezie Ikpeazu is on an unprecedented rate. ‘Made-in-aba’ Brands have now become a Reference point for National Appraisal as well as Economic Development.
Read this wonderful Piece by Barr. Ememanka,
FROM PARIAH STATE TO A NATIONAL DESTINATION OF CHOICE.
As the chopper conveying the Acting President of Nigeria, Professor Yemi Osinbajo hovered in the skies of Aba preparatory to its landing on the grounds of the Golf Course of the Aba Sports Club last thursday, my mind took a trip into the past.
Was this possible some years ago?
In one week, Abia State has played host to three major national events and Governor Ikpeazu has played host to key officers of the Federal Government of Nigeria.
First, on Monday, The Chairman of the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commsssion, Mr. Ekpo Nta was in Umuahia with the top Executive Management of the Commission, including the Rector of the Anti Corruption Academy, Prof Akinnade to hold the Anti Corruption Summit.
The next day, the Honorable Minister of Health, Professor Isaac Adewole, Minister of State for Health, Dr. Osagie Ehanire, Permanent Secretary of the Ministry, all Directors and heads of all federal health parastatals in the country, heads of all local, international development partners in the health sector and all the commissioners for Health from all the 36 states of the country arrived together with their Permanent Secretaries and Directors arrived Umuahia to hold the 59th edition of the National Council on Health, the highest decision making body on health matters in Nigeria which meets one a year.
Then the big one, Nigeria’s Number Two Citizen and Acting Number One Citizen came a day after. He didn’t send a representative. He came in person. He didn’t come alone. He came with a federal minister, Executive Chairman of the Federal Inland Revenue Service, Managing Director of the Bank of Industry, Executive Secretary of the Nigeria Export Promotion Council, Registrar General of the Corporate Affairs Commission, Director General of the Small and Medium Enterprises Development Agency of Nigeria, Acting Director General of NAFDAC, Managing Director of the Bank of Agriculture and so many others.
So, essentially, this last week, the entire paraphernalia of the Federal Government of Nigeria was in Abia State!
This is a very significant development by every standard.
Some years ago, this was not only impossible but absolutely inconceivable. No one could have imagined this possibility.
For a state that had been overrun by kidnappers, armed robbers and all manner of sundry criminals, the closest we had of a federal presence was the heavy deployment of soldiers and policemen who were in the state to fight crime.
A state that witnessed a massive exodus of even its own citizens on account of insecurity and a major chunk of the state resources used to fund security operations.
A state that witnessed huge capital flight and brain drain as major businesses, industrial concerns and even her best brains left the state. Federal agencies like the Bank of Industry closed shop in the state and left.
Economic activities practically collapsed. Hotels packed up due to low patronage. Night life disappeared. Those days, as early as 6.30 in the evening, you won’t find a shop open on the major streets of Aba. You won’t find any petrol station selling after 6pm. Bank workers begged to be transferred out of the state.
Ururuaja left too and considering the strong bond I have always had with home, that was very significant. I left in tears and prayed silently in my heart that God will intervene in our situation and restore our state.
The answer to that prayer came in the form of Governor Okezie Ikpeazu who is today, changing that narrative.
Not only are our people coming back, government agencies are returning. Those who were never here are opening new offices. Those that are here are increasing their presence.
There is a new breath of fresh air in the Abia skies, not just from the improved sanitation conditions but from improved governance. Of course, the days of huge heaps of refuse taking over major streets are gone.
Aba and Umuahia, the two main cities in the state now bubble with activities. Come to Aba in the night and see action. Hotels and other fun spots are brimming with guests. Night fun lovers now have choices. Indeed, most hotels are upgrading because the competition is high now. Today, you can buy petrol at 9pm in Aba. Petrol stations remain open even till 10pm. For those of us that pray till late in the night, religious activities are now done till the early hours of the next day in safety.
People from other states have started coming back to do business in Aba. Aba shoes and clothes are now in top demand across the country. MADE IN ABA is now a popular refrain in our national economic song.
The hitherto unsung Aba shoemaker, tailor and artisan have now become stars and catapulted to the front burner of national discourse. Ikpeazu has turned them into symbols of our economic resurgumento.
Aba is now mentioned in our national budget, former Presidents, The Vice President, Senate President, Ministers, etc now not only use Aba products, they showcase them proudly.
Three major foreign civil engineering construction companies are working on different road projects in the state as at today – Setraco, Arab Contractors and China Zhinghao. There are about 15 other local contractors working on different road projects across the state. These companies have a high percentage of expatriates and Nigerians from other states working for them. They live here and spend their money here.
The improved tempo of economic activities have resulted in better IGR returns. For the first time in our history, Internally Generated Revenue for one month hit the One Billion Naira mark last December.
Today, professionals from outside the state and the country feel motivated enough to leave their lucrative jobs to come down to Abia and join the efforts to make the state better.
In the Abia State Executive Council alone, there are at least three Commissioners who left better paying jobs to come and work for the state. When you consider the fact that the entire pay package of a Commissioner is less than 10% of what these men were earning on their jobs before they came, you will appreciate better what I am saying.
It takes solid leadership to make this happen.
It is not by accident that these things are happening. It is the result of careful planning and execution. It is the result of a focused leadership and a deep resolve to make a change.
You think the Federal Government will allow its key personnel to be in one state within a space of three days without ensuring that the state is well governed? That these men will be safe?
It’s even more gratifying when one considers that fact that Abia belongs to an opposition state. These events could have been taken to other states but they chose to come to Abia.
Indeed, excellence attracts attention.
There is hardly any major national event in this country involving the economy and the development of local capacity that you won’t find Governor Ikpeazu as a major speaker.
Is Abia now an Eldorado? Have all our problems been solved? Have all our roads been fixed?
The answer is No!
We are still grappling with so many challenges. Cash flow is still not enough. Salaries of workers remain a huge challenge. There are still so many roads to be fixed.
But one fact is self evident…things are changing here and the future is bright!
Of a truth, Governor Okezie Ikpeazu is changing the Abia narrative.
PS: Barr. Onyebuchi Ememanka is the Special Adviser To Governor Okezie Ikpeazu on Public Communication