A Mirror To The Future

...Being the Text of a Speech by Governor Alex C. Otti, OFR, at the Official Commissioning of the Ossah Road, Umuahia on May 29, 2024

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Protocols

1. It is with a great sense of fulfilment that I joyfully welcome you to the formal commissioning of the 3.5 kilometre road which stretches from Abia Tower along the Enugu Port Harcourt Expressway through Ossah Community to the Michael Okpara Square at the centre of the capital city. It is indeed a thing of great joy to see the excitement on the faces of so many people who have come to witness this ceremony.

2. We came to power on this day one year ago with a firm promise to make a difference, to serve the people with sincerity, dedication, and the courage to do things differently. It has been 12 months of striving and learning, and we are very grateful to God for the very privilege of serving His people, and to you, umu nne m Ndi Abia for all the support you have given to the administration.

3. This project was officially flagged off on Wednesday, September 27, 2023, four months into our administration, after due compensation had been paid to property owners affected by the road expansion and modification project as proposed at the time. The successful completion of this project after just eight months points to our determination to deliver on the important promises that won us the support of millions of Ndi Abia at home and in the Diaspora.

4. I want to specially thank the Hon. Commissioner for Works and his team for all the hard work, and professionalism they brought to the execution of this project. I want to also thank the project engineers and everyone at Craneburg Construction Co. Ltd. for demonstrating in no uncertain terms that contractors can be trusted to deliver very high quality projects ahead of schedule. I have listened to the Commissioner for Works and all other speakers who gave us the technical details, and specifications of the work that has gone in to bring this project to completion. What is clear from all the remarks is that this road has been constructed with great attention to details, and shall stand the test of time, and the elements.

5. This road project is very significant for a number of reasons. For starters, it is the first clear sign to anyone visiting the State capital from this axis that a new dawn, defined by bold thinking, is upon us. But it is a lot more. It speaks to the emerging tradition of excellence and innovation, stakeholder collaboration, and the place of due process in the conduct of government business.

6. This project as you know could not have been delivered without the active support of various stakeholders across frontiers. All of what was accomplished to get to this point, including relocation of electricity infrastructure, demolition of physical structures to expand the size of the road, and the watertight security for construction workers, equipment and materials could not have happened without the generous support of multiple actors connected directly and remotely to the execution of the project. The teams became better on account of what was learnt over the life cycle of this project. The lesson picked has proved immensely valuable in our other infrastructure development projects across the State.

7. This project is more than just your regular road. It will be the foundation of much of what we intend to do to turn around the fortunes of Umuhia as an important urban address.

8. Our design for Umuhia goes beyond administration and politics. The flag off of the Abia Urban Renewal and Public Transport Project for Umuahia will take place immediately we round off this commissioning ceremony.

9. The Urban Renewal and Public Transport Project will on completion change the face of public transportation in Umuahia for good, eliminating traffic congestion while improving passengers’ safety and comfort. Very importantly, it will improve the aesthetics of the city with the construction of world class bus and truck transit terminals at safe distances from the city centre, bus shelters along strategic points within the intra-city routes, and improvement works at major road intersections.

10. The foundation for much of the good things that the Abia Urban Renewal and Public Transport Project promises has been laid with the completion of this 3.5 kilometre stretch of road, and it can only get better. What I can ultimately assure you is that very soon, nobody shall be able to deride this important city again as a “glorified village.” The new infrastructural and social service systems we are introducing will bring our beloved Umuahia at par, or even better, than its peers in other parts of the country and beyond.

11. Recall that I announced at the flag off ceremony last year that we shall, at the completion of this section of the road, set our sight on the dualisation and holistic improvement of the stretch from Abia Tower to Onuimo, terminating at our boundary with Imo State. The aim, like I announced at the time, is to make all entry points into the State a grand epitome of the new spirit of Abia.

12. The dream remains alive as officials of the State Ministry of Works continue to engage with their counterparts at the Federal level for the purpose of aligning the engineering design and other important preliminary works. Other departments of Government are currently engaging with the stakeholders to complete the ground works that will bring all of us on the same page.

13. Our ultimate goal is to remodel Umuahia into a great city that supports its primary role as the State capital; but also as an attractive destination for those seeking to set up, and run profitable businesses, start a new life, raise families, and travel for leisure. We have a 360 degree view of what will change in Umuahia by the time we are done.

14. This city will in the next 18 to 24 months become a reference point in the development of sustainable cities in this part of the world. We shall invest massively in suitable support infrastructural facilities especially roads, rail lines, efficient water supply for homes and offices and independent and reliable electricity supply system.

15. As you are aware, construction works are also on-going on the long stretch of road from Umuahia through Uzuakoli, Ahaba Imenyi, Alayi and Ohafia. On completion, the road will seamlessly connect the major agricultural zones of the State to the capital and beyond, leading to improved food supply for residents as well as open up new frontiers for investments in agriculture, real estate, manufacturing, ICT, hospitality, retail trade and so much more.

16. We are looking at Umuahia beyond its current size. We are working with private sector partners and other stakeholders to further stretch the size of the city through the creation of new residential, ICT, and industrial zones, away from the present city centre. We shall build Umuahia to become a mega, sprawling city, efficiently mapped, planned and structured to reflect the big dreams of the New Abia.

17. As we have demonstrated with the timely delivery of this road project which shall now be named Aguiyi Ironsi Boulevard, we are not a government of highfalutin promises. We say what we mean and mean what we say. In the next few years, it shall be clear to those who live in this city presently, and frequent visitors, that Umuahia can mirror everything you admire in so many of the great cities of the world.

18. Government cannot do it alone. We shall continue to rely on your support through prompt and regular payment of taxes and other statutory levies. As citizens, we must be at the forefront of the campaign against indiscriminate dumping of refuse and other habits that sabotage the efforts of the Government to introduce sanity in the way we operate. We must never forget that genuine development starts with a change of mindset. There is the urgent need to drop the old behavioural patterns that are not in alignment with our collective dream of the New Abia.

19. Again, let me thank you for being part of the journey in the last one year. The next twelve months promises to be even better, and we invite you to be part of it because ultimately, this is your city, your Government, and your State.

20. Thank you for listening and may God bless you all.

Dr Alex C. Otti, OFR,
29/05/2024.