Governor Theodore Orji
Godwin Adindu captures the effort of Abia State Governor Theodore Orji to restore the lost glory of Nigeria’s industrial city of Aba
Governor Theodore Orji of Abia State has a dream. He has a dream that one day Aba, the great Enyimba City, the Japan of Africa, would take its pride of place among the great industrialised cities of the world. Like Joseph of old, I can interpret the dream of the king. And, today, Orji has stepped into Aba in a grand style, to stamp his feet and to leave his footprint in the sands of time.
This yuletide, holiday makers and indigenes would meet a new Aba City. Some three weeks ago, the governor flagged off the construction of 16 new roads in the city. Today, the caterpillars are at work, Aba is wearing a new face. This is a fulfillment of his promise to launch a massive infrastructural renewal of the city immediately after the rains. The governor recognises the crucial place of Aba in the economy of the state. He recognises the rare creative talent which germinates in Aba. He recognises that no exploration on the history of the great entrepreneurs of the world can be complete without the mention of the giant minds of Aba. And true to his promise, he has re-entered Aba with a Midas touch and his dream is to leave a legacy.
Perhaps, Orji, being a literary scholar and a great man of letters, must have stumbled on Longman’s immortal lines: “The heights by great men all remind us; we must make our lives sublime and, in parting, leave behind us footprints in the sands of time.”
He has an inspiring predilection for footprints – legacies both tangible and intangible, the indelible memories that transcend life and time. This can be accentuated by the new four-storey new secretariat complex, the ultra-modern conference hall, the new government house complex and a host of other projects in the state. He has a passion for monuments and for the good that is not interred with our bones. In Abia, the story is about the legacy projects and the current dream is to make Aba a living legacy.
Aba has been the centre of criticism against the Ochendo government. But, the critics did not seem to understand the history of the cumulative decay of the city which started with the previous administrations of the state. They did not also factor the fact that Orji has only a paltry N3.5 billion monthly federal allocation to cater for the entire state. But, today, Orji has marched into Aba to match action with words and his vision is to create an enabling environment for the reemergence of the small and medium scale enterprises and for the growth of the informal sector in Aba. He wants to restore the lost glory of Aba.
Indeed, Aba is rich in history. The city is key not only to the Igbos but to the entire people of Nigeria and Africa. Apart from its political history with the Aba women riot of 1929, there is a rare ingenuity and dexterity for creativity and innovation which germinate in Aba. In little corners of the ancient city, little men of giant minds replicate the kind of creative imagination for which the three Japanese cities of Tokyo, Kyoto and Osaka are known. Today, the new political will of Ochendo is to rebuild and transform the city, and the determination to re-invent the Japan of Africa.
Aba is also the commercial hub of Abia State and the business epicentre of the South-east. A greater percentage of the state’s Internally Generated Revenue (IGR) comes from Aba. It is a city of commerce and enterprise and a place where men sit back in their backyards and try to design, create or develop a product. By the time Aba was in its glory, it was a great centre of business. People came in hordes from all areas of the West African sub-region and the sub-Sahara to buy the Aba made goods. The city made a great contribution to the Nigerian economy, contributing both to the industrial growth and tourism.
Besides the people’s talent of creativity, Aba also played host as zonal headquarters of many multi-nationals. During the civil war, the area sustained the secessionist Biafra in the area of local food production. But, suddenly, Aba fell from the pinnacle of its glory to the backwaters. Without any measure of control, the once beautiful city built by the colonial government became a mad house. The situation was worsened by the menace of flood and filth. Makeshift kiosks sprung from everywhere and people built on top of drainages. Without an enabling environment, the small and medium scale enterprises began to die. The final death knell was the spate of insecurity witnessed in the area in recent times.
Aba also has a recent history of insecurity that came to its peak with the crime of kidnapping. Realising that law and order are the conditions for all other socio-economic activities of man, the governor waged a war against insecurity by confronting and combating the menace of kidnapping and other violent crimes that gripped the area. In collaboration with the federal government on a three-pronged strategy that involved the Army leading an expedition in Abia, Orji stabilised the state and ensured that peace returned to the once volatile areas of the state. He has continued to sustain this atmosphere by retaining the services of the Army in the area.
With security in place, the governor has gone ahead to woo foreign investors to the state. All the companies that once relocated from the city have returned to Aba. The strategy is to revamp the industrial base that existed in the area. This would assist in creating job opportunities for the teeming youths and boast the governor’s youth empowerment programme.
There is a new picture of Aba in the mind of Ochendo. There is a mental prototype of what Aba should be in the mind of the icon of democracy. Thank God, he is today in Aba with the full might of power working towards the actualisation of the Aba of our dreams. The transformation is starting with the construction of 16 roads.
The caterpillars are at work. Through Azikiwe, Asa road, Brass, etc, it is a new face for a once fallen city. By the time Ochendo is done, Aba residents will sing a new song. The critics will swallow their words. They will sing eulogies to a man whose entire trajectory in power has been a rescue mission for the people of God’s Own State.
• Adindu is the President-general of the Abia Renaissance Movement (ARM)