By Okechukwu Keshi Ukegbu
Posterity will not forget Gov. Okezie Ikpeazu in a hurry for positive reasons. Even when he has wrapped up his second term on May 29, 2023 and barred by the constitution of our land not to aspire to become the governor of the God’s Own State, Abia, his name will keep resonating in distant lands. His legacies will continue to speak for him.
This should be the way of every mortal, especially leaders. We shouldn’t be forgotten in a hurry. And this lends credence and deep meanings to the sung the Christians sing to usher in burial homilies”We will only be remembered by our works”.
One of the strides of Gov. Ikpeazu that will indeed stand the test of time is his current intervention on Aba-Ikot Ekpene Road.
The challenges posed by some critical spots on this very important road have been perennial, especially a spot after the popular Opobo Junction where the governor is currently converting the once rough terrain to be smooth with solid drainage.
How would a timber dealer forget so easily the governor who reduced the craters that has grossly affected his business to pliable plain. This, to the timber dealer will be the height of ingratitude not only detestable by mortals but by divine beigns.
Also, how would the management of Nigerian Christian Hospital, Nlagu forget easily the reign of Gov.Ikpeazu when he has made critical interventions on the road that became their albatross, even creating a bypass through Umuobiakwa-Oworahiafor- Onichangwa, which emptied at the hospital’s gate.
Inarguably,the missionary hospital established in 1965 and located along the highway was a shadow of itself as it was only patronised by patients under critical condition due to the dilapidated nature of the road. The revenues of the hospital had a geometric decline.
In the pathetic words of a former Chief Medical Director of the hospital: “Indeed the economy of the hospital is critically down.
“Patients can no longer access the hospital because even the alternative rural roads to it are gone because the heavy duty trucks in their efforts to circumvent the dilapidated highway ply them”. patients
At a point, patients patronising the hospital were those whose conditions were critical and they see the hospital as a last resort.
The situation was horrible as a patient under critical condition can die in the process of conveying him or her to the hospital because the process was very rigorous.
Aba- Ikot-Ekpene Road is strategic to the economy of Abia state. The road links Aba, the economic heartbeat of the state to Akwa Ibom and Cross Rivers State and extends to the neighbouring Central African country, Cameroon.Traders from these neighbouring states form buck of the businessmen that patronise various businesses in the commercial city. Also during the heydays of made-in Aba shoes, markets such as Cameroon and Togo were captured. To describe the Aba- Ikot- Ekpene road as the proverbial “goose that lays the golden egg” may not be out of place. Unfortunately, to say that the road, especially the Abia axis of the road is in a deplorable condition is an understatement. The road is a disaster begging for serious attention. The road has been roundly neglected by previous administrations of the federal government.
The road project was reportedly awarded in 2009 to Brent Investment Ltd, by the late President Umaru Yar’Adua’s administration at the cost of N2.9 billion with a completion period of 20 months; the contract was meant to reconstruct the failed section of the highway. It has been alleged that inadequate budgetary provisions in the past years has been responsible for the delay and the gradual failure of the road hampering economic activities in the commercial city of Aba and other cities in the South-east. For example, the federal government did not make budgetary provisions for Aba-Ikot Ekpene road in 2013 budget, and so the contractor did not do much in terms of coverage and project completion. Also, the 2014 budget which was tagged all inclusive with a provision of N120 billion for the Federal Ministry of Works for capital projects could not proffer the solution.
The deplorable state of the road is exerting serious negative impact both on the Abia economy and citizens of Aba, especially those communities located on the fringes of this federal highway such as Alaoji, Ntigha, Umuafukwu, Ohanze, Umuokpo, and Onicha Ngwa, just to mention but few.
These communities are mostly agrarian communities and depend, to a greater extent, their farm produce for a living. For these communities to access Aba, which is their nearest commercial city, is akin to the proverbial “camel passing through the eye of the needle”. For them to access the town, they swim like amphibians and engage in a more tortuous odyssey than that of the “Magi” in T.S Elliot’s “The Journey of Magi”.
It will be recalled that sometime ago,an AfDB team accompanied by another team from the Federal Ministry of Works, Abuja had on the spot assessments of the road .The inspection tour offered them the opportunity of first hand information of the level of decay of the roads and the trauma and suffering of the residents and travellers in and around the road. AfDB did a technical analysis and studies of the roads before releasing funds for repairs of the road. The visit offered new hopes that the road would be fixed but to no avail.