AS a child who was born, brought up and schooled in Aba, but now waiting for my National Youth Service Corps, NYSC, programme, I can confidently say that the commercial city is my home, because I am a typical Aba brought-up in all ramifications.
Besides, my parents had lived in Aba for over 50 years, right from when it was under the old Imo State to the present Abia State, even though we are not indigenes of the state.
As a student in secondary school then, I had continued to ask my father why the city was always flooded whenever it rained. He would always tell me that the city had become synonymous with perennial flooding right from the days of the late Chief Sam Mbakwe’s administration as the Governor of old Imo State due to the violation of the master plan of the city by greedy landlords and land racketeers in the city.
He told to me that the development had once made the residents of the city to physically attack and criticise Mbakwe during of his visits to the city in 1982 for neglecting them and their problems in the city, adding that it took the bravery and intervention of the security men to check the angry residents.
My father said that this happened even when majority of the residents knew that the late Mbakwe’s government had done much in the area of industrialisation and other infrastructures in the city. But as the saying goes, human wants are insatiable.
Then our house along the Aba-Owerri road, we hardly accessed it when it rained because it was always over-flooded. We and our neighbours tried to find a solution to the problem then by putting up concrete pavement along the entrance to our house to check the flood, but to no avail as the flood often overran the pavement into our house, especially when it rained heavily.
This is because there were no adequate drainage channels for the flood to flow out while the few available channels were blocked by those who built houses and shops on them in bid to benefit from the thriving commercial activities in the city. The Aba/Owerri road down to the Aba/PH road was destroyed and often overrun by flood, a development that forced us to park out of our own house after renting an apartment somewhere in the city.
The situation continued like that without any intervention from successive state and federal governments. With a democratic government in 1999, we thought the problems in the city would be a thing of the past, but for eight years, between 1999 and 2007, the government in the state was busy blaming the Federal Government for abandoning federal roads in the city, especially the Aba/Owerri and Aba/PH roads.
But unfortunately the same government in the state failed to construct or repair any state roads in the city like Faulks Road, Ariaria Market Road and other intra-city roads.
As if that was not enough, between 2009 and 2010, we the residents of the city faced the menace of kidnapping. My parents were forced to relocate to our village in Anambra and my studies at Abia State Polythecnic Aba came under threat. I was forced to relocate to Port Harcourt from where I came to school three times in a week.
The city, once busy with commercial activities, became deserted overnight as kidnappers had a field day. But against all expectations, the present government in the state restored normalcy in the city after overcoming the kidnappers by adequately empowering the security agents to tackle them.
The government, led by Governor Theodore Orji, did not stop at that as it engaged in a lot of developmental projects in the city to the surprise of many residents of the city who had lost absolute confidence in government’s assistance, having been abandoned and disappointed for long before.
Mostly surprising among the projects executed in Aba by the state government is the abandoned and impassable Ukwu Mango-Ariaria road. For more than 20 years, the road was abandoned and had become a dumping ground for refuse in the city.
Being the closest and easiest route to access the popular Ariaria Market, people and vehicles before now avoided the road like a plague. Most of the drainage channels, especially along the major roads in the city that were hitherto blocked had been opened by construction companies engaged by the state government. Now, we have happily relocated to our house at Aba/ Owerri Road which we abandoned some years ago due to over-flooding.
But one project that gladdened my heart the most is the pedestrian crossover bridge built almost in front of my former school, Abia Polytecthnic Aba situated along Aba/ Owerri road. The project is very strategic to the safety of pedestrians in the city, especially students of my school, considering the ugly experiences we have had before now in crossing the road during heavy traffic. While still in school, we had cases of people being hit or killed by vehicles while trying to cross the road.
It was for this reason that when I heard that Governor Orji would be commissioning some projects, including the pedestrian crossover bridge in Aba on March 30, I decided to forfeit all my schedules that day to witness the ceremony. It was my first time seeing the Governor at a close range and listening to his speech. In an emotion-laden voice, Governor Orji, before commissioning the projects, reeled out his government’s plans for the city and the challenges confronting the city.
He assured the residents that his government would continue to do its best in tackling age-long problems in the city and challenged his critics to be superior and constructive in their criticisms against his government and not go personal or antagonistic.
It was more than a groundbreaking ceremony as the who-is-who in the state, including students of my former school, traders, artisans, traditional rulers, religious and community leaders were all there to witness the ceremony. The challenge he threw at critics of his government reminded me of the story my late father told me when I was in secondary school about how residents of the city once attacked and criticized Chief Mbakwe for abandoning the city in the face of challenges, only to begin to appreciate his achievements in the city when successive governments in the state and federal governments failed them completely years after.
It is obvious that with the way Orji’s administration is going about executing projects in Aba now, he would surely be appreciated later by those few armchair critics who did not see anything good in his administration for the mere reason that they are not the one in-charge or that their godson is not in-charge.
Mr. STANLEY NWOSU, a graduate of Abia Poly, wrote from Aba, Abia State.