@egbas: See Aba and weep (Pictures!!!)

by Jude Egbas

“The decay of Aba made a former Governor of the old Imo State (Sam Mbakwe) weep, which was why he was nicknamed the ‘weeping Governor”, Governor Theodore Ahamefule Orji told a pack of bloggers and new media influencers on a warm November night inside the Abia State government House a fortnight ago.

“When I took over as Governor of Abia State, my resolve was not to end up as a weeping Governor”, he had added, clenched fists gracing the table to signal a steely resolve.

It was just as well.

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Occupying an area of 49 km² with a population of over 1,000,000 inhabitants, the commercial city of Aba in Abia State had dominated discussions all through our one week tour of the State. Frenzied bloggers and new media influencers made their desire to visit the town clearly known. The government officials who took the posse of sleek gadget users around Umuahia (the State capital) were harangued and chided for stylishly avoiding Aba because it was going to embarrass the State government. In groups and hushed tones, everyone discussed how a trip to Aba (some 57 kilometres away from the serene and quiet Umuahia) was going to be a referendum on the Theodore Orji administration and bring the entire tour to an abrupt end.

We didn’t have to wait for much longer.

Mr Eze Chikamnayo–a smooth talker who had only recently resigned his position as the Abia State Commissioner for Information in order to pursue a lawmaker ambition—led the convoy of two buses and a handful of cars into Aba on the last day of the tour.

It was the beginning of the tour for the rest of the bloggers but Ekekeee had visited Aba three days earlier in a bid to have an untrammeled feel of the pulse of the inhabitants.

We had resolved during a pre-tour brainstorming session over bananas and groundnuts in the office, to peel off from the rest of the guests after checking into our hotel rooms and to venture out into the streets of Aba for a bit of adventure; away from the avuncular gaze of government personnel.

We wanted to see Aba; the commercial hub of Ochendo’s Abia State; warts and all.

It was for us the commencement of the Abia tour which had been aptly hashtagged #TAOrjiFeedback in the social media space.

Another Sam Mbakwe Is Born

Clutching digital pads, smartphones and scribbling pads, Yours Truly and Emmanuel Nwachukwu joined Ayokunle Odekunle of Ynaija and Kikeowo Ileowo of The Paradigm into Aba aboard a commercial vehicle. We took selfies, chatted and threw jibes all through the ride through Isiala-Ngwa, Amakama, Umunkpeyi and arrived Aba all but worn out from making fun of Jude’s bald pate, Emma’s out-sized skull, Ayokunle’s ‘fake’ spectacles and Ileowo’s ability to smile and remain unperturbed in the midst of it all.

We hopped on a tricycle (Keke Marwa) once in the heart of Aba and ended up on Omoba Road. Because Emma is a denizen of Abia State, we tasked him with asking questions in the Igbo dialect while we taped and scribbled away answers. Our chauffeur, a wiry old man called Boniface from Imo State, had nothing complimentary to say about the Abia State Governor.

“There is no government presence here and this road we are riding on was constructed by the Sam Mbakwe administration. The Governor has long abandoned Aba”, Boniface lamented, while waving a flailing arm across the sea of filth, decay and bedlam that was Aba on Monday November 10th. Refuse heaps rose to meet us as we sidestepped this way and that and the traders encroached into the busy expressway as they hollered at potential buyers.

Once we had alighted from Boniface’s rickety ‘Keke’, we ran into Joachim Obike, a cab driver who operates from one of the cacophonous motor parks in Aba.

“There is nothing like free education here. Do not believe the government”, Obike told us in smattering English and Igbo. He wore a brown shirt that had since turned dark brown from over use and spotted a face cap while gesticulating furiously. “You can see that this governor has abandoned Aba. He treats Aba like some ghetto. He hasn’t done anything. All we see are campaign Ads on TV where he showcases only the few good things he’s done. Governor Orji thinks Aba doesn’t like him because he was once pelted with bags of sachet water when he came here for a campaign visit. So as a punishment, he governs only Umuahia while Aba rots…”

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Mr Obike who told us he has five children also added that ‘Ochendo Global’ (as the Abia State Governor is famously called everywhere you turn in the State) has made their own taxi venture less lucrative by floating his own transport buses whose fares are slightly cheaper. “He stopped a road construction project bankrolled by Mr. Emeka Wogu (the former Minister of Labour) because of petty politics. There is no way we’ll vote for Ochendo for the Senate”, Mr Obike snarled.

But he wasn’t done. “There are drainage and flood problems in Ohanka road, Eziama Road, Ogbor Hill, Ahiahia and Onitsha Roads…none of these places bother Ochendo of course. He has a case against Aba obviously.”

Hands submerged in jean pockets, we took a stroll to Park Road by York Street and other surrounding Aba streets. If there was any government presence in Abia State’s commercial capital, it wasn’t immediately visible with magnifying glasses.

Posters of the Governor prodding him to run for the Senate and proclaiming him the anointed one and ‘God sent’ littered the skyline, billboards and buildings. One ‘Ochendo Global’ campaign billboard stood just above a pile of waste and fecal matter on a busy Aba street.

During the interactive session with the Governor, someone had asked him why he was heading to the Senate instead of giving a younger person the opportunity to do so.

“It is the people that are pushing me to go to the Senate. I cannot disobey my people otherwise I’ll be causing problems for myself. I have never experienced the legislature. Let me go and experience it now”, T.A Orji said.

Back to our Aba trip, my friends and I hailed another ‘Keke’ to Ariaria market through the Federal Government abandoned Port Harcourt –Aba Road. Like the Aba market, the drainages were clogged with refuse and overflowed with greenish sewage water.

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But given that Aba still sticks out like a sore thumb in spite of all he says he’s been doing to get the melting pot of the State right, is Governor Theodore Orji worried?

“To get a kobo in revenues from the people of Aba is difficult”, the Governor said with resignation, “But we’ll keep giving it our best shot. People accuse us of not focusing on Aba but it costs me a lot more to embark on a project in Aba than in Umuahia or elsewhere. Aba is a peculiar city. But what people do is that they take pictures of the bad areas of Aba and splash on the internet”, the Governor lamented.

As we returned to Aba from Ariaria to make the trip back to Umuahia, Emmanuel Nwachukwu whose home lies just a few kilometers from Aba, broke down in tears as respondent after respondent lamented government neglect and deprivation in the city.

We had sauntered into Aba in high spirits but exited the city (after a long wait for a commercial transporter) through Ogbor Hill, with a crying son of the soil on our hands.

Decades after Governor Sam Mbakwe wept uncontrollably at the sight of an Aba that appeared to have defied all solutions, a scion from another generation had let his emotions get the better of him in the sprawling city.

And not even ‘Ochendo Global’ must have seen it coming.
TA-Orji

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This article was first published on ekekeee.com

Op-ed pieces and contributions are the opinions of the writers only and do not represent the opinions of Y!/YNaija.

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