By Ben UDECHUKWU
When you walk down the street, you may see a house that could pass for the best architectural masterpiece, with well laid out landscape, synthetic paints and superbly attractive to the eye. Inside, the walls have not been plastered or even painted, the bath tubs are hardly functioning while the doors still lay by the walls waiting to be fixed.
That’s showmanship. The only aim it achieves is to entertain and make everything appear theatrical. In contrast, purposeful builders start from the inside, get the interior right before attracting visitors to the house. Put in another way, a showman lives in a fence without a house while the modest builder can live in a house without a fence yet.
I have watched Dr. Okezie Victor Ikpeazu, the Governor of Abia State as he works so hard to rebuild Abia, shying away from any act of foolishness that would defeat the interest of the unborn; consolidating on the gains of the past, repudiating any form of aesthetics without substance, being true to himself and understanding that “white wash” is not a product of posterity.
As urbane as his conduct had remained, it appears that Ikpeazu is not skilled in the art of showmanship. He does not know how to live in a fence without a house.
Unfortunately, this is what those 5th Columnists who did not give him a chance of making a significant mark as Governor, those who think about the next election, those who are willing to mortgage the future of two million Abians require him to do.
There are hospitals in the metropolitan cities, those within public traffic, those that would be noticed as grand achievement. He left them and instead found it very necessary to complete a model general hospital at Obingwa, a rural area. That’s the story of Ikpeazu, a Governor that appreciates need, prefers impact to public applause for showmanship.
Have you imagined why for thirty months as Governor, no major work has been carried out along Osaah/Mission Hill, the busiest entrance to Umuahia, the cynosure of all eyes, the Centre piece of attraction, one road through which vehicles from all parts of Nigeria assess Umuahia town. Okezie Ikpeazu is committed to areas that solve expedient economic problems at this time and not areas that would add aesthetics.
This explains why Arab contractors are in the hidden area of Aba road, with low traffic to visitors but in dire need of intervention to save the other areas from flooding.
The work being done on that road is for posterity not for show. Instead of building a place of attraction, like a CIRCUS GARDEN at the famous ISI GATE, Ikpeazu is giving attention to ‘hidden’ but needful roads.
He has gone to Awolowo. Uwalaka, roads in Low Cost Housing and several others not entertaining enough to show off.
This is the same pattern he has replicated in majority of rural roads applying his knowledge of NEEDS ASSESSMENT in Isiala Ngwa, Ohafia, Bende, Arochukwu, Abiriba, Obingwa and the very many hinterlands dotting the State.
If you go to Aba at this time, I mean driving through the ‘frustrating’ traffic at Osisioma, enter Aba main town through either the Ngwa High school end of Aba Owerri Road or the newly constructed Omni Road or perhaps move down to navigate through Tonimas/Umule bypass; you will see that Abia has a Governor who does not write the conclusion aspect of a project without getting the statement of problem right.
In town, either you are assessing Ariaria from MCC or Faulks Road, the signature you see is that of a man who had understudied the perennial problems of Aba with a view to providing an enduring solution. Within the Faulks Road axis, the magnificent Ifeobara basin, as not so aesthetically appealing as it appears, holds a promise of putting flood issues in Aba to logical end. Ikpeazu is actually getting the inside right.
Let me entertain you a little. If Ikpeazu was skilled in showmanship, he wouldn’t have started tackling the Osisioma traffic disaster with a flyover that outlays a ring road.
The attraction is not that Aba would have its first ever flyover. The selling point is that, the nightmare of commuters assessing the Enugu – Ph express road from Aba would end, just as the frustration of those coming from Portharcourt would not tempt them to do Umuahia from PH through Owerri.
Some road users from PH actually avoid Osisioma as history records that commuters could pass the night as a result of traffic logjam. Look at the amazing space around the Osisioma Round about. Imagine an amazing water fountain.
Imagine an entertainment park with 24/7 electricity with first class entertainers ushering in visitors to Aba. Imagine a gigantic statute of say Dee Sam Mbakwe. Osisioma will look beautiful, inviting and entertaining.
Expectedly too, after beholding the theater at Osisioma, you go into an Aba that would debase your mind. Those who think that the flyover project at Osisioma is causing them “untold hardship” are those who drive cars with neat bodies, whose engines are hardly road worthy. They are showmen!
Have you been to MCC junction along Aba Owerri Road? Did you notice that the area is large enough to contain a SQUARE that would attract great applause from those entering Aba?
Laying to the right is the road that leads to Umuojima and MCC/Old express. A showman would have attended to the express to impress those who want quick wins at all times.
Meanwhile, Temple Gate Polytechnic (one of the two private polytechnics in Aba) Juli Rose (the largest gas refilling plant in Aba), Our Lords Chosen Church (unarguably, an economy energizer going by huge turnover in their programmes), Oribis Hospital (a foremost hospital in Aba) thousands of small scale businesses were at the verge of closing shop because MCC and Umuojima were in dilapidated conditions.
Okezie knew that the shoe plaza area of Ariaria could get a boost if MCC/Old Express is reconstructed. He is done with Umuojima while the MCC project is progressing unobstructed. The revolution is silent, yet very productive and rewarding. No showmanship.
Hotels, hospitals and small businesses within and around Umuocham Road were disappearing. This road though strategic, is not situated where it could attract visitors. Okezie was not minded by location, he was interested in developmental needs. Umocham got attention, not attraction.
The same was what he did by the quick solid reconstruction of Kamalu Road near Star Paper Mill Abayi. Kamalu became a night hard for residents and road users. That’s not the type of road that attracts newsmen. Hidden, yet very strategic.
In less than one year of his inauguration, Okezie delivered Kamalu and inadvertently buoyed commercial activities around the area that housed the largest paper mill and fast growing private secondary in Aba. Move down to Brass Street, undoubtedly the most famous junction inside Aba.
Ikpeazu had a chance of starting his “project” with loud fanfare using Brass to make a statement. He would have impressed people with a magnificent PARK AND RELAX BUS STOP given that virtually all commercial vehicles coming from Lagos and the North stop at Brass Junction.
What did Ikpeazu do, he bulldozed Brass, ‘destroyed’ the vista just to get Faulks Road right.
For nearly one year, the governor has engaged the services of a first class construction company – SETRACO in massive reconstruction of Faulks Road, solid dual with pedestrian walk, to ensure smooth entry to and exit from Ariaria, the biggest market in Abia State, one market whose value was almost brought to zero owing to the impassable nature of the adjoining roads.
Okigwe Road has remained very solid. Few months after being sworn in, using the rigid pavement technology, he reconstructed Owerri Road within the same Okigwe Road axis. Those who see nothing good felt the road had no economic value.
Those who lived around the area praised Ikpeazu for rescuing thousands of residents who lived in Umuada, Owerri Road, Ugorji, Truemen and suburbs of Enwereji that could not assess their homes and businesses for several years.
Owerri Road did not look like a road for SHOW but wise Ikpeazu was interested in results not entertainment.
Ikpeazu still was not attracted to vantage nature of Okigwe roundabout. He did not give in to many calls of building a mock boulevard at the roundabout.
Instead he busied himself with reconstructing the road that led to the old general hospital from the roundabout, moved to reasphalt St. Michaels, Hospital, Jubilee, Azikiwe, Ehi, Cameroon, Tenant, Ube, Pound and Park Roads.
Ikpeazu did promise zero pothole for the “town” area in Aba.
That is almost 90% done. This feat is not making news because a beautiful robot/traffic light with digital signs at Asa Road junction would have made news. Ikpeazu is not a showman. People who mean business hardly are. Showmanship to them is only a surplussage.
I don’t know when last you visited Ngwa Road. Yes! Ngwa road and its adjoining roads are in ruins. While he merely did intervention work at the main road, he went deep inside, where outsiders may not see to I applaud, where visitors may not even acknowledge, where only those who have businesses will go, and reconstructed the famous Enwereji Street after several years of being in the worst degree of dilapidation.
Apart form Abians who live and do business in that part of the State, nothing of attraction happens there. Ikpeazu does not want attraction, he is only committed to the welfare of the people who freely gave him the mandate to work for them.
Today, he’s is making spirited efforts to recover Ohanku and Obohia to save the people from annihilation and not to impress anybody. At Ogbor Hill, instead of ‘impressing’ our neighbors by reconstructing the famous Ikot Ekpene Road, he went right inside Ukaegbu, Ehere and Umuola roads to make a statement that only showmen leave substance to pursue shadow.
A lot had been said about the pattern of payment of salaries. True to his type, in furtherance of his principle of objectivity, Ikpeazu refused to negotiate for pay cut which would see him paying salaries promptly. Some of his brother Governors battling with paucity of funds like him had done that.
The Peoples’ Governor continues to pursue a regime of fairness, believing that if he continues to do the right things, workers would be paid without being unnecessarily shortchanged. While this is going on, he has not stopped to revitalize the payment of counterpart funds in virtually all sectors, with particular interest in education and health.
By any means, I am not saying that there’s no aspect of our life that is not befitting of attention. This piece is a vote for value against mindless lust for aesthetics. A man who either constructed or reconstructed over seventy roads that possibly are not within areas of attraction in less than thirty months will do more for value and for show on the long run.
5th Columnists should continue to revel in showmanship while Okezie continues with the unfettered business of doing the needful. Leadership is not a popularity contest, otherwise I would have advised him to abandon any project that is not within the radar of attraction and concentrate on those ones that guarantee quick wins, public applause and designed to merely beautify no matter how useless they are.
Abia has a Governor whose thinking cap is properly fitted at all times. He needs everything but the distraction of 5th Columnists, those who are in love with showmanship.
UDECHUKWU writes from Umuahia