BY CHEIF (SIR) DON UBANI
In 1903, being desirous to expand and consolidate on its trade in the hinterland, the British Colonial Government decided to relocate its sub-district office which it had established in Akwete in February 1896 to Aba.?In choosing Aba as a sub-district office, the British Colonial authorities had taken into cognizance the centrality of Aba to such places as Port-Harcourt, Ikot-Ekpene, Owerrinta and Bende.
Aba, as a town, was naturally destined to blossom into a cosmopolitan configuration. Certain factors were to combine to give Aba a distinction of its own. The Aba River that meanders to join the Blue River at Azumini provided a natural flow of human traffic in and out of Aba, especially giving a boost to trade in palm produce.
The Ekeoha market became so magnetic that traders and buyers came from different places within and outside Igbo land to settle in Aba. The Enugu-Port-Harcourt Rail Line that the British Colonial Government had constructed about 1916 was an extra-ordinary advantage for the rapid growth of Aba into a commercial nerve of the defunct Eastern Region of Nigeria. The Friendly disposition of the indigenes of Aba to visitors, spontaneously made Aba a home for all, even to the extent of some people misunderstanding this natural disposition to mean that ?Aba is no man?s land?.
At the end of the Nigerian/Biafra war of 1967 ? 70, many Igbo decided not to invest much outside Igbo enclave because of their property that were unconstitutionally and unjustifiably confiscated, especially by the Rivers State Government, during and after the said war and tagged ?Abandoned Property?. Aba, therefore, became the second home of almost every Igbo man. This philosophical upsurge made Aba, not only to grow in numerical strength but also in geographical size.
To be fair to the British Colonial Administration, Aba was very well planned, with an attractive network of urban roads. Unfortunately, Aba has some challenges arising from its topography. Unlike Enugu, Owerri and Umuahia which are situated on hilly terrains, which make it easy for rain water to be easily drained, Aba has a flat or table land. This topographical peculiarity poses a major problem of infrastructural instability in Aba. The slightest rain-fall in Aba could, unlike in many other cities, lead to long lasting percolation and, in most cases, flood. In addition to this natural handicap, some residents of Aba metropolis do not help matters as they, knowingly or unknowingly, block drainages with disposable refuse. The consequence of these two deficiencies has been worrisome flooding of Aba each time it rains. The flood eats up the fabrics of roads and ends up leaving the affected roads dilapidated and this gives rise to infrastructural decay in Aba.
Infrastructural challenges in Aba have had a long history. Many administrations, including the present one headed by Chief T.A. Orji, have tried addressing the infrastructural problems of Aba, with specific emphasis being placed on roads. It would be recalled that the late Governor of the old Imo state; chief Sam Mbakwe, Ph.D, had to weep in the open in 1982 because of erosion menace at Ndiegoro and was consequently labelled a ?weeping Governor? by a section of the Nigerian press.
Despite the enormity of the challenges associated with the state of infrastructure in Aba, there has been a clear upsurge in the population accumulation of the town. Many concerned indigenes and residents of the Enyimba city, as Aba is fondly called, had, at different times, advocated that a state of infrastructural emergency be declared on Aba. Some others had, however, opined that the issue of declaration of a state of infrastructural emergency on the city was more of sentiments than objectivity. The justification for this school of thought could easily be found in the fact that mere declaration of infrastructural emergency on Aba may not necessarily translate to availability of fund to address the herculean problem of Aba infrastructurally.
As it goes beyond doubt, nature has a way of addressing issues. In its commitment to enthrone equity in Abia state, both the People?s Democratic Party; P.D.P. and the state Governor; Chief T.A. Orji, resolved that the next governor of the state should, of necessity, hail from Abia-South Senatorial Zone. This is one resolution no fairly-framed mind has questioned but rather applauded. On the heals of this resolution is the democratic emergence of a gentle-man of almost incomparable personality as the governorship candidate of P.D.P, in the person of Dr Okezie Victor Ikpeazu.
Again, this is one Unique accomplishment for which the people of Abia-South, nay the entire people of Ukwa and Ngwa would continue to hold Governor T.A. Orji and the P.D.P. very highly and dearly. In Igbo traditional, if not in every other tradition, it is said and indisputably believed that ?no sympathizer cries more than the bereaved in a funeral ceremony?. It, therefore, follows that no matter what claims a no-indigene of Abia-South might make, the onus of rehabilitating Aba falls squarely on ?the son of the soil?.
From this angle of reasoning, which is synonymous with infallibility, Dr Victor Okezie Ikpeazu; a renowned academic and quintessential environmentalist, towers above every other governorship candidate for the February 28, 2015 election in Abia state. Being a legitimate biologically-blooded indigene of Umuobiakwe village in Obingwa-Aba, Dr Ikpeazu has all it would take to return Aba to its prime status.
Already, Dr Ikpeazu has, on many fora, made it clear that the infrastructural re-engineering of Aba is beyond negotiation. As he succinctly put it recently during his interaction with a large audience of stake-holders in Aba at Aba Sports Club, the first one hundred days of his administration will mark the end of pot-holes on any road within Aba metropolis. Further more, Dr Ikpeazu assured his audience that, under his administration, Aba will undergo an unprecedented physical and urban renewal, culminating in infrastructural expansion of the town. Equally importantly, is Dr. Okezie Ikpeazu?s assurance that every resident of Aba, either indigene or non-indigene, would be given a thorough sense of belonging in the affairs of Aba.
The state is finally set. God, using Governor T.A. Orji and the People?s Democratic Party, has remembered Aba. The candidacy of Dr. Okezie Ikpeazu is a resurrection of hope for Aba and its residents. God, the Governor and the Party have played their required preliminary roles, it is now incumbent on the residents of Aba to complement this process of resurrection of hope by voting massively for Dr Okezie Victor Ikpeazu on February 28, 2015. Any thing short of this expectation would be disservice to Aba as a metropolis and Abia State as a polity.
Besides, Dr Okezie Ikpeazu?s election on the 28th February, 2015 will be a golden opportunity for Aba residents to reciprocate the time-held hospitality of the Ngwa man who has shown unprecedented friendship and accommodation to them and in whose land God has blessed them abundantly.