Emmanuel Ugwu-Nwogo writes that the Abia State government has begun a total revamp of the yawning infrastructural deficit in Aba, which includes the construction of the once impassable Osusu Road that has caused untold hardship on motorists and residents alike, with the facelift extending to adjoining streets of Ebenma, First Avenue and Egege/Ama Ohafia, all in the Ogbor Hill axis
As the scissors in the right hand of the Papal Nuncio, Most Rev Fortunatus Nwachukwu snapped at the ribbon, residents of Osusu road Aba watched in awe and jubilation at what to them was a spectacle. The dilapidated abandoned Osusu road has become a new road. Residents had resigned to fate after waiting in vain for previous administrations in Abia to fix the collapsed road.
One of the residents, who came to witness the inauguration of the road, Mrs. Uchechi Ibegbu was hysterical as she waved at Governor Okezie Ikpeazu and the Apostolic Nuncio, who is in charge of Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago and several other Carribean countries.
When she got hold of herself, the excited middle-aged woman asked rhetorically, "Is this Osusu road," Obviously, she could not believe her eyes. "It looks as if I'm dreaming," she added. Mrs. Ibegbu, who said that she has been living in the area for the past 15 years told THISDAY that seeing Osusu road "transform from impassable to a smooth shining road is something she had not contemplated would happen in the present administration". She stated that having suffered untold hardships due to the very poor condition of the road "we even doubted if the road would actually be completed when the contractor arrived to start work".
But the doubts in the minds of residents was finally cleared as Osusu road was among the multiple road projects inaugurated by Ikpeazu on January 11, 2021 to give Aba residents a new year gift to cheer about. It was not a lone package as the adjoining streets of Ebenma, First Avenue and Egege/Ama Ohafia, all in the Ogbor Hill axis of Aba were equally reconstructed and delivered as part of the cluster of roads in the gift package.
At the western flank of the sprawling city multiple roads that were already completed were similarly inaugurated on the same day to the delight of residents. These include Eziukwu, Ojike, and Milverton, famous for luxury terminals.
Enyimba City as Aba is fondly called has for so many years laid prostrate like an elephant with shattered hind legs, following massive infrastructure decay, which has become the lot of the city. The commercial city brimming with highly creative artisans became a metaphor for urban decay. Feeble efforts made by previous administrations to save the city from decay did not yield fruits, largely because they were not backed with political will. Buildings, shops and other structures that were erected on water channels through the connivance of fraudulent government officials were left untouched while the city wallowed in flood year after year. The dilapidated road network remained a sore spot for every administration.
However when he was campaigning to become the governor of Abia in 2015 Ikpeazu had promised that as an Aba boy(Nwa Aba), he would rebuild the city if given the mandate. He started cleaning the aegean stable during his first tenure but the decay was so massive that even when his administration said that it had built over 60 roads in Aba it was like a drop in the ocean. However, as the road rehabilitation continues to spread around the commercial city, residents are beginning to appreciate the extent of work already done by the chief executive of Abia in making the city of elephant stand on its feet again.
One major factor that led Aba to a situation of yawning infrastructure deficit was that since the inception of the present democratic dispensation in 1999 roads built by successive administrations were devoid of quality. They were not built to last and therefore turned out to be nine- day wonders.
A landlord at Osusu road, Jerry Kanu said the difference between Ikpeazu and his predecessors is that while he builds durable roads others built roads with short life span. According to him, Aba residents had watched in utter dismay as roads built in the city in the past did not last beyond six months. But Ikpeazu has changed strategy. He has adopted rigid pavement technology in his determination to give Aba residents roads that would outlive his administation.
The governor said he adopted this technique which is also called cement technology because of the decay that both the top soil and subsoil had been subjected to due to decades of neglect and piling of wastes on the roads. For instance, Osusu road was said to have been abandoned for 26 years, just like most of the roads in the commercial city. Aside from reconstructing the roads with rigid pavements, they also come with drainages and surface asphalting thereby making the roads strong and smooth to stand the test of time.
Said Ikpeazu: "Our government is committed to executing durable road projects using the cement pavement technology in Aba in particular and other necessary parts of Abia in general. This is the standard we have set for ourselves from the inception of this administration and I am confident that whoever succeeds us will be resisted by Ndi Abia if he or she attempts to construct the 'Dubai roads' that we saw in the past in this state. The era of 'Dubai roads' is gone for good and there is no looking back". He was using the local slang that depicts something that only glitters but doesn't last long.
While inaugurating Osusu road in the course of "Kinetic Abia" project tour, Ikpeazu spoke with great confidence about the quality of roads his administration has been building in Aba. He was so sure of the quality of his roads hence he declared that Aba residents would enjoy the roads for at least 30 years. The governor asserted that he is leaving a stamp of quality assurance on Aba roads, adding that executing projects of poor quality amounts to crime against the people.
"If we fail to deliver infrastructure that will not outlive our tenure, it is criminal offence on our part," he said. In fact, Ikpeazu declared that the era of poor road projects was gone for good in Aba and the rest of Abia state, vowing that he would continue to ensure that all the projects he would leave behind would be a lasting legacy. He further stated that if he was not sure of the quality of roads he is building in Aba he would not have asked a high ranking Catholic cleric to perform the inauguration of the roads.
Ikpeazu further stated that the roads were strategic as they are linked to the Ariaria international market thereby providing easy access to the famous market from every direction in Aba. Using Osusu as example, he said that hitherto the road was impassable even for pedestrians and cyclists hence people living in that part of Aba were finding difficult to reach other areas of the city. However, with its reconstruction, Governor Ikpeazu pointed out that Osusu road has now provided easy access to Ariaria international market while the value of properties along the area traversed by the road has increased.
The state commissioner for works, Bob Ogu corroborated Governor Ikpeazu, saying that Osusu road was projected to last up to 40 years. He said that the governor has continued to revamp abandoned roads in Aba thereby giving the city a new befitting look. Ogu noted that Ama Ohafia was so bad that five years ago it was "unimaginable" that the road would ever be motorable again. But now, he said, Ikpeazu has not only reconstructed the road but did it in such way that it would take several decades for the road to go bad again.
The governor has often been criticised by opponents for not moving at appreciable speed in his Aba urban renewal programme. But his answer remains that he would not compromise quality with speed. He said that his own way of silencing and shaming his critics was to deliver high quality projects to the people. "This is the only way to vindicate myself," he said.
The contractor that handled Osusu road Uzoma Onuoha gave insight into the cause of delay in executing road projects in Aba. According to him, reclaiming the roads from heaps and layers of garbage dumped over the years was a problem of its own. He said that between 600 and 1,000 truckloads of wastes were excavated and carted away from Osusu and other adjoining roads before reconstruction could effectively be carried out.
Having apparently found his traction, Governor Ikpeazu said that he would sustain the momentum so as to cover more grounds in road construction within the dry season spell when construction is done with less disruption. He has turned his attention to other notoriously bad roads as he continues the race to rescue Aba from the scourge of infrastructure decay before the end of his second and last tenure.
Immediately after the inauguration of Osusu road the governor in appreciation of the good job done by the contractor, gave him a marching order to mobilise and commence work on Omuma road without delay. Work has also been going on at Ngwa road, which like Omuma ranks among the worst roads in the city.
Ikpeazu indeed expressed disatisfaction over the slow pace of work on Ngwa road and ordered the commissioner for works to put the contractor handling the project on his toes or risk losing his job. All eyes are now focused on the Ndiegoro axis of Aba where, aside from Ngwa, several other road projects are ongoing, including Obohia and Ohanku roads.
The road reconstruction is going on simultaneously with the massive watershed management project aimed at providing a lasting solution to the perennial flooding in the area. Among the road projects that would soon be completed, according to the governor, are Okigwe, Immaculate, Cemetery, and ABSUTH. Ikpeazu explained that his administration is focusing on the road projects "because we have the correct understanding of the needs of our people".
With the number and quality of roads so far executed in Enyimba city, residents are beginning to appreciate the Aba boy who had assured them that he would put the fallen elephant back on its feet again. Just like the ordinary Aba residents both the organised private sector and the entire business community are also happy that things are getting better for Aba. They have all lauded the governor for his painstaking efforts in making Aba roads motorable.
The president of Aba Chamber of Commerce, Agriculture,Mines and Agriculture (ACCIMA), Mr. Lawrence Obeta said the urban renewal programme of Ikpeazu in Aba was already evident around the city. He even suggested that other state governors should come to Abia for a peer review with Governor Ikpeazu so and learn how to build solid roads. On his part the president of Abia State Market Traders Association(ASMATA), Lucky Akubueze said that traders remain grateful to the state governor for opening up road networks around Ariaria International market. He noted that commerce and industry would receive major boost.
The state commissioner for information, Chief John Okiyi Kalu said that while rebuilding the internal road network of Aba the governor is also tackling the points of entry into the city. He noted that commercial activities in Aba thrive on patronage from neighbouring states and the rest of Nigeria as well as countries in the West African subregion.
According to him, it is very important that anybody coming to Aba should drive in and out of the city on smooth road networks. "Aba is surrounded by dilapidated federal roads but we are determined to provide alternative state roads," he said. He cited the Umuaro-Ekwereazu Ngwa- Nto Edino road, a bypass constructed by Ikpeazu to provide alternative access into Aba for those coming from Akwa Ibom, following the total collapse of Aba- Ikot Ekpene federal highway. "The regeneration and reclamation of Aba is on course," Okiyi assured.