BY CHIDI NKWOPARA.
Aba is one of the two commercial and industrial nerve centres of the South East geo-political zone. The other one is Nnewi in Anambra State. Apart from this truism, Aba remains one town that will remain evergreen in my memory.
Aba was virtually a forgotten zone during the damnable escapades of Osisikankwu and his deadly acolytes. Our correspondent encountered this group and narrowly cheated death at the time.
The drama started while trying to collect a supposed 15-page colour advert but ended up coming face to face with somebody that identified himself as Osisikankwu! After the publication, the Abia State Police Command went after our correspondent. He went underground for about one whole month. Since this near ugly incident, our correspondent developed serious phobia for Aba and everything in it.
When the directive, instructing our correspondent to “go and do a story on the deplorable state of Aba roads”, his heart skipped momentarily when the mind’s recording of what he passed through with Osisikankwu quickly replayed itself within seconds. It was akin to going back into the lion’s den, from where he miraculously escaped.
When it was certain the official assignment had to be done, he prayed to God to guide and protect him. After recharging his spiritual battery, he said to himself, “Aba here I come”.
The consciousness of the Aba reality dawned on our correspondent when he hit the bad sections of the Enugu-Okigwe-Umuahia-Aba-Port Harcourt express road.
This section of the road gave a clear picture of what was to be encountered in the commercial city. The Osisioma and Umungasi end of the Aba-Owerri Road was waterlogged. It was however worse for all motorists leaving Aba to join the expressway.
On getting into the commercial city, everybody appeared to be and were indeed, in a hurry. Street traders were everywhere. Stick wielding youngsters looked menacingly at every moving vehicle, especially those they felt were new entrants into the city. Uniformed personnel were equally in their numbers. Caution became the watchword but the assignment must be carried out.
At this point, two major problems reared its ugly head, all at the same time. One was how to identify the one-way roads, so as to avoid breaching traffic regulations and inadvertently running into the waiting hands of these red-eyed, stick welding youngsters. The second was how to identify and drive on the roads in the commercial city.
Our correspondent quickly pulled into a filling station and called the mobile line of a fellow Rotarian in the city He readily accepted to assist me and he abandoned whatever he was doing at the time and rushed to the filling station. The assignment started in earnest.
The first port of call was Kamalu Street where a serving member of the National Assembly, Senator Nkechi Nwaogu lives.
This reporter heard when some of the inhabitants of the street, or those passing through the street at the time, were asking “what is interesting about the deplorable road that somebody would want to take photographs of the waterlogged and unpaved road?”.
There were some others, who reasoned that Governor Theodore Orji or Senator Nwaogu invited “the photographer”. One voice said “the visit is one of the many abracadabras of government”. The side talks were ignored and work continued.
Getting to Osusu Road through Faulk’s Road was another jolting trip. The Faulk’s Road, which leads to the famous Ariaria International Market had failed at several points. This occasioned periodic traffic gridlock, especially at some hours of the day.
One could be easily deceived at the entrance into Osusu Road. It was paved but up to a point before heaps of refuse take over.
There are well built drainage system along this road but it is impossible to drive into Omuma Road from the Faulk’s Road end. All the adjoining feeder streets along this road are unpaved, muddy and difficult for even pedestrians to access.
There are several other very bad roads in the town, including Ohanku Road. Our correspondent was equally taken to the bad road leading to the home of the Minister of Labour and Productivity, Chief Emeka Nwogu. Some respondents wondered why the Minister and Senator Nwaogu have not been able to press even a button that would kick-start repair work on the roads leading to their residences.
A very articulate and well connected businessman, who simply identified himself as Emeka, recalled that there was a time the Aba-Owerri road was bad, adding that although it was federal road, the state government opted to and actually rehabilitated it. He however blamed the current deteriorating condition of the road to lack of maintenance culture.
Another inhabitant of the town, Kalu, recalled that there was a time when some of the roads in Aba, especially the stretch between Umungasi to Port Harcourt road, through Asa Road, were motorable.
“The government did some work on these roads but they were sadly allowed to go into a state of disrepair”, Kalu lamented.
For a housewife, Mrs. Rose Nduka Uduma, “the state government had earlier done a lot of work along Aba-Owerri Road and Port Harcourt Road and we were using the roads very well until two rainy seasons came and washed off the whole thing again”.
She lamented that the inside roads, the feeder roads that lead to these main roads are very bad and not motorable.
On what the bad network portends for business in the commercial city, Emeka said: “Imagine the traffic that used to come from neighbouring states like Akwa Ibom, Cross River, Rivers and Imo States. The bad road network has certainly slowed down business. It makes sense to think that if your road is not good, nobody would come to your place and yet, Aba is a commercial and industrial centre”.
An Owerri based panel beater, Mr. Augustine Nkaru, who says he goes to the city to make purchases, when the need arises, was of the view that Aba is the foremost commercial and industrial centre in the East, apart from Nnewi.
“We are praying that in due course, the Federal and Abia State Governments will actually pay attention to Aba, because all the roads under scrutiny are federal and state roads. Look at the expressway. It is a misnomer to give it that name”, Nkaru reasoned.