By Mark Mbam Jnr
The historian, Thomas R. Martins, in his narratives of the life of Herculus, a Greek hero who was born with great strength and extraordinary powers, described clearing the stables of Augeius as one of the most difficult tasks Herculus had ever faced.
The assignment before Herculus was to clean the stables of Augeius in a day.
This is the situation Governor Okezie Ikpeazu of Abia State has found himself.
Created in 1991, Abia State, comprising of 17LGAs, has attained some level of development.
However, there is the urgent need to step up action to achieve the dreams of the founding fathers of the state. Every sector is yearning for attention and, like the “Augeius stable” which no man can clean in a month but Herculus was asked to do same in a day, this is the expectation of most people of Abia and this is the task before Governor Okezie Ikpeazu.
But how is Ikpeazu faring? He had this to say recently: “As government, we are aware that the task before us is to develop Abia and we know that it is indeed an enormous one. We will do our best within the confines of what our resources can achieve but we cannot achieve this without the support of the people. We will do one project after the other”.
From the governor’s statement above, the following lessons are imperative in the attainment of the Abia dream. The government and indeed the people must come to terms with the fact that the task of developing the state is an enormous one. The enormity being that development is a process which moves along a period of time and regimes. So patience and support of the people is essential for its actualization.
Secondly, the quantum of developmental projects that could be embarked upon is a graphical function of resources available. This is to say that any meaningful government must prioritize its policies in the midst of lean resources.
Thirdly, the governor’s statement further demonstrates the importance of step-by-step approach in the developmental process.
For many residents of Abia especially those in Aba, the commercial nerve center of the state, it is either Ikpeazu is slow or under-performing, but an objective overview of the administration supports none of the two positions.
For instance, Aba has over 434 roads before the emergence of Ikpeazu as governor and all these roads are in deplorable condition. But like Herculus, Ikpeazu is expected by his critics to reconstruct these roads at once.
A visitor to Aba will be confronted with bad roads but all of them are federal roads abandoned, and successive administrations in the state have paid little or no attention to them.
Expectedly, the pressure is on the governor as an Ngwa man to turn around the ugly situation, but things are done one after the other. But because of the enormity of the task of clearing the city, the efforts so far made by the present government in fixing Aba seem unnoticed by the people.
Ikpeazu himself has not claimed that he has met the expectations of everyone but he has continued to assure that he would leave Abia better than he met it. The governor has said that his government is not in a hurry to construct roads for political accolades but will build roads that would stand the test of time.
Any visitor to Aba and other parts of the state can visibly notice that construction work is ongoing on virtually all major roads in the state with super drainage on both sides to ensure the lifespan of the roads.
Speaking in an interview with journalists in Aba during one of the governor’s inspection tour, Mr Rufus Nwamaginna, an Aba based engineer who resides along the “Terrible” Port-Harcourt Road, Aba, being a professional, said, “What Aba people and infact the entire Abia need is patience with the governor. I have lived here for over 40 years and I know the level of rot here in Aba but I look at the motive and the standard of work the governor is undertaking.
“I am not an Ngwa man and never a fan of Ikpeazu, in fact, I didn’t vote for him in both elections but when I look at the quality of the drainage being constructed along major roads in the city, I believe that massive construction work will be done in many of the roads in the forthcoming dry season.
“You know our people, the pressure expectedly is on Ikpeazu as an Ngwa man to repair Aba as his place and it is normal because he is ‘Nwa Aba” but many of the people complaining today were here since the inception of the present political dispensation in 1999. The question is, what did the predecessors of Ikpeazu do in Aba? Nothing. All the works done in this city were during the days of the late Sam Mbakwe in the old Imo State. I challenge Ikpeazu’s predesessors to point at a particular road they constructed in Aba.
“Ikpeazu may be slow but look at these roads in MCC, Ehere, Umuola, Ukaegbu and others already done by the governor. You will agree that these roads will stand the test of time and if he can complete Port-Harcourt Road, Aba – Owerri Road, Ohanku, Ngwa Road and Obohia Road the way he completed the aforementioned roads, the city people will dearly commend him.
“It is practically impossible to expect Ikpeazu to completely reconstruct all the roads in Aba but the governor should understand the yearnings of the people and within the next dry season work vigorously on those roads that are bad in Aba and other parts of the state.
“Ikpeazu is a second term governor and from Aba Zone, and it is expected and I believe he would want to place his name on marble and, for me, he needs encouragement and support with good advice to meet the needs of the people but all these protests and unreasonable criticisms have no meaning but a lot is expected of him”
“ For me all the Governor needs is to focus, prioritize his actions, because as a typical Aba man, all we need is action, whether the roads are federal, state or local government, Aba man wouldn’t understand, but from what I heard the Governor say recently, the money for most ongoing roads is available only waiting for the rains to subside, I believe that and you can see that work is going on in all the drainage points, even under the rain.
“I don’t believe in comparing Ikpeazu with any other governor of this state since I may not understand the political situations, but I know that if he can complete the ongoing works in Aba and other parts of the state before the expiration of his term, he will be a success story for life in Abia State.
But for Mr. Chisom Nwankpa, a youth leader and Ariaria based businessman in Aba, “ the problem of Abia State, the decay in infrastructure in Aba and Abia State is not the creation of the present administration but I am not saying that Ikpeazu has met all the expectations of the people.
“This is my22 years in Aba. I am a landlord and I live at Umungasi. No single government can transform Aba in 8 years but the problem is that past administrations didn’t help matters. The task is enormous and the expectation is high, because of the way things are in Aba.
“We shouldn’t have still been talking about Port-Harcourt, Aba-Owerri, Ngwa, Obohia or Ohanku Roads, even the Aba Road in Umuahia, all these roads should have been taken care of by previous administrations but they failed thus heaping the pressure on the present administration.
“However, I am happy with the quality of drainage being constructed along the ongoing roads, if they are completed in compliance with the deadline and ultimatum given by Ikpeazu to contractors handling various projects in the state”.
But how has Ikpeazu fared so far in the area of road construction within Aba and other parts of the state. The governor has promised to complete at least 500 kilometers of roads before 2023 and currently many road projects are on- going while over 80 of them have been completed across the state.
The Governor must be given credit for the quality of roads done so far in Aba, including Umuola, Umuocham, Umule, Omnne Driver, Ehilegbu, Ehere, Ukaegbu, Kamalu, Owerrinta, all in Aba. Re-asphalted roads in Umuahia and rehabilitation of many roads in both cities including the construction of the Umuene-Omoba Road in Isiala Ngwa south local government area of the state.
With the ultimatum and deadline given recently by the governor to contractors handling various projects across the state to deliver or be sanctioned, it is expected that there would be great improvement in infrastructural development in all parts of the state.