Restoring The Old Glory

...Being the Text of a Speech Delivered by Governor Alex C. Otti, OFR, at the Flag off of the Reconstruction of the Osisioma -Ekeakpara Road on Wednesday, May 8, 2024

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Protocols,

1. Let me, with a great sense of joy, welcome you to the formal flag off of the reconstruction of the 3.5 kilometre Osisioma-Ekeakpara Road. We have come together in continuation of our consistent efforts to restore the old glory of this city after decades of ruin orchestrated by wilful neglect, crass irresponsibility and a pathetic failure to appreciate the full significance of Aba to the economic health of the State, the country, and the West African sub-region.

2. Aba is unique, and special for many reasons. It is first and foremost, a city of dreams, defined by the resilient spirit and the industrious character of the residents and businesses domiciled in it. For decades, Aba, mentioned anywhere in the world, was synonymous with trade, commerce and industry. But it was more.

3. This city transformed the economic destinies and fortunes of many individuals and communities. In good and bad times, Aba was the place to be. It provided safe and fertile accommodation to multimillionaires and billionaires. It also gave hope to the thousands who started with nothing.

4. The young apprentices, fresh graduates and the energetic, skilful artisans, who trooped into Aba from places far and near, all found in the stories of the multitude who made it in this town, a strong inspiration, and belief that if they work hard, they too could find their place with the stars.

5. Aba is also a place of new beginnings, a city that welcomes, and offers to all who have been met with the shipwrecks of life the comfort to pick the pieces and start afresh. We saw this in the 1970s, and during the many other times unfortunate social and political events in the country and elsewhere have snowballed into losses and heartbreaks for our people. Many who returned here found in no time that with hope, honey can be made without flowers. Our people were able to recover so quickly from several tragic events for the simple reason that they found new hope, and new life in Aba.

6. So, for many of us who saw the magic of this city growing up, the deterioration of the last two decades and a half have been nothing but heart-breaking. And this emboldened us to rise in unison to resist the jackals, and all who profited selfishly from the ruins of this great city.

7. We said enough and refused to back down until we achieved the first leg of victory in what will likely be a marathon race to take back our land and rebuild it, in a way that those coming after us will be proud to continue the trans-generational task of keeping this city alive to its age-old promise of growing tiny seeds into giant trees.

8. The Osisioma-Ekeakpara Road whose flag off ceremony we have gathered to witness is symbolic of Aba’s glory of old. Leading to several industrial addresses that made this city thick in the 1980s and early 1990s, the collapse of this road also marked the beginning of Aba’s decline as the industrialists, movers and shakers of the economy of the city, began to relocate with great reluctance, but ultimately in pursuit of their business interests because capital as every businessman knows, only goes where it is rewarded.

9. So, when the businessmen and women left to other places, the entire Osisioma Industrial stretch became a shadow of its former self. Thousands became jobless and those who had relied on what they earned from their employment with the various manufacturing outfits or providing ancillary services to the big businesses found themselves battling with poverty, and the frustration it brings, including resort to criminality and other social vices.

10. The collapse of the big businesses that once thrived along this corridor meant more than just job and financial losses for the employees, the investors, and even multinationals. It also meant loss of faith in the promises of Aba by those who came to this city in search of means of livelihood. Our graduates, rather than return to Aba to contribute to the growth of the city of their birth, looked farther afield, disconnected completely from their childhood dreams.

11. From today, however, the story will be different. Already, since the news went out a few weeks ago that work shall commence here, a new sense of optimism has returned and you can see it daily in the volume of activities around this axis, in the number of inquiries we receive from people who want to set up shops along this corridor, and the steep rise in property prices because at last, people can see the light at the end of a long tunnel.

12. In about 12 months when this road project is completed, I estimate that this would become one of the busiest roads in the city as the big trucks and logistics vehicles return. The sharp rise in vehicular movement has been anticipated and factored into the road design.

13. I have mandated the Commissioner for Works and his team to be strict in their supervisory responsibility. They are also to ensure that nothing short of the highest standards of materials are used at every stage of the reconstruction process. Any form of compromise shall be punished severely.

14. This road will serve many users including those going to other major cities including Owerri and Onitsha. Its reconstruction is part of our strategic agenda to create many access roads into, and out of Aba, ease traffic congestions and expand the windows of economic opportunities for those looking to invest in the promises of the New Abia.

15. Our dream in the medium to long term is to make Aba the industrial and manufacturing hub of this part of the world. This city offers something you don’t find very often: reliable power supply following the commissioning and stabilisation of the Geometric independent generation, transmission and distribution power company. We believe that things would continue to get better, and when much of the teething problems are finally resolved, power supply for household and industrial activities shall be taken for granted within the Aba ring-fenced area.

16. In Aba also, you find a teeming mass of self-driven, skilled and energetic workforce. When you produce in Aba, you are guaranteed access to national, regional and international markets through land, sea and air.

17. With the resumption of services along the Aba-Port Harcourt railway route, the on-going reconstruction of the Aba-Port Harcourt Expressway, Aba-Ikot Ekpene Road and several other infrastructural development projects within the region, I have no doubt in my mind that Aba’s future is indeed promising.

18. To make this restoration project complete, you must be prepared to do your part as citizens, landlords and business owners. You are encouraged to pay your taxes and other statutory fees as at when due because you are obliged to do so as a good citizen, and most importantly, to support our shared dream of rebuilding this city.

19. We must take the cleanliness of the environment very seriously. The Abia State Environmental Protection Agency (ASEPA) shall continue to receive all the support it needs to promptly evacuate household and industrial wastes, but as citizens, we must be at the forefront of the sanitation efforts.

20. The rains are coming and to avoid the mishaps of flooding, you are all encouraged to refrain from littering the environment. Dumping refuse heaps on the drainage channels, and any other action that could threaten the free flow of rainwater will no longer be tolerated.

21. The security of this town is also in the hand of every resident. Please cooperate with the security agencies to fish out criminals and all whose actions threaten the peace of the town. As a government, we shall do everything to keep you safe.

22. I have sent a clear message to the leadership of the security agencies against the extortion of our hardworking men and women, especially transporters. We have gone ahead to set up a robust system to fish out the culprits, irrespective of the uniforms they wear.

23. The bulldozers and pay loaders shall now go to work and in about 12 months, we shall return for the commissioning. Let me apologise in advance for the inconveniences many of us living, or doing business along this corridor would experience while the engineers do their jobs. Please bear with us, but like a woman in labour, joy shall replace our short-term pain and misery in no time.

24. Thank you for listening and may God bless you.

Dr Alex C. Otti, OFR,
08/05/2024.