The International Writers Magazine: Boondoggles in Africa
Abia & The Abuse Of Monorail
The idea of building monorail in Abia State is not bad, but it is coming at a very poorly chosen time, when the people of the state need reality rather than fiction. It is a fact that there is no pliable road in Aba, the Enyimba City of South-East and in many other towns and villages of Abia State, and Govenor Orji is here giving hope that Aba is one of the places that are viable for the monorail project. Hokum!
When the news filtered into the Nigerian environment that Governor Theodore Orji of Abia State has signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with a Canadian company, Globim Corporation, for the construction of a monorail transportation system in the state. (*according to Globim's website, the first phase of the Onitsha Monorail is budgeted at US $503 million and will have the equivalent of 36.2 kilometers of single track. No word so far on who the supplier for the actual trains and infrastructure will be or where it might be manufactured or what the local content might be.)
While he has promised that the state would provide labour and security required for the success of the project, it will be good to remind the governor that in his first term in office he awarded several contracts of which many are yet to see up to ten percent attention, let alone, completion. Was the Achara Ihechiowa-Amagwu road awarded to Worldwide Environmental Technologies LTD at the sum of over N380m not one of the many roads that were awarded, but later abandoned?
Looking for relevance by every means necessary and unecessary, Orji and his foot soldiers rather than engage in people-oriented works, took a dangerous image laundering campaign to Abuja and Lagos to hoodwink the Abia citizens in the Diaspora (who are wiser) that his Abia-led government was working, a project many Ndi-Abia who are not on his yesmen list are finding very difficult to believe. They knew that Orji is a governor who has developed Abia State to a very great extent, but disappointedly, only on the pages of the newspapers.
Orji has not started work on the many projects he has awarded, but the news on the newspapers is that he has done very well. The later statement, many people do not believe straight away. No matter how hard Orji’s image makers try to sell him in a good light to the people, one thing remains sacrosanct – he still remains unsalable.
The people of Ihechiowa for example and many others are crying for the dearth of government presence in their areas, yet Orji continues to show Nigerians the picture of Umuahia, the state capital, which was developed in the past administration, as if his government is on ground to develop Abia State.
It is not business of hypocrisy as usual, as many people of Abia State are no longer taking Orji and his many make-believe projects seriously. They see his projects such as the monorail as a conduit to continue to siphon the state more. In some quarters they see such projects as “419 Projects for Looting”. It is surprising how Orji could not fix the roads, provide security and business environment in Abia State, and here he is set to build monorail. Was this not the same way a former Governor of Imo State promised the people that he would build an airline, but that promise ended up as loot?
Monorail is capital intensive; and this is Abia State that hypothetically says that it receives N3.5 Billion as statutory monthly allocation, as against other states receiving more than. If a state in the South–South which earns say six times the money Abia State claims that it earns in a month is today gasping for the breath to complete the monorail project it had started, how come Orji is cutting his coat more than his size? This project in all angles and flim-flannery.
What was expected from Orji is to plead with Ndi-Abia and sign an MoU with them to come and help him and openly tell them that he is governance-confused and has too many problems with projects that are not financially feasible. Such as building where motor or train would be running in the air from Aba to Umuahia and to Port Harcourt in Rivers State, whereas the existing rail line in Nigeria, which only needs minor updates, was abandoned.
With speculations of what Orji is doing in Abia State, that state is better off without a governor. Abia State is constitutionally, and should not be a family business of the Orjis, who have made and are still making the state miserable for the residents. Abians money is used to build personal mansions as could be seen at Azikiwe Road with more than ten security men armed to the teeth guarding the place. Illegal collection of environmental sanitation fees has become the order of the day in Abia State, especially for people living in Aba. Yet, both the N8,000 forcefully collected from residents by the aid of combined touts and security agents as sanitation fee for downstairs, and N12,000 for upstairs, are not used suitably for meaningful development of the state.
This is a state where Orji wants to build monorail: An Abia State where there are over hundred charges of alleged stealing of Abia people’s funds hanging over the neck of the governor. A record of unprecedented cases of violent crimes is perpetuated? Several banks have been robbed and security personnel viciously killed, ladies wearing-trousers raped, and kidnapping of innocent people is the order of the day.
Without crumbling word, Abia under Orji has collapsed to a failed state in Nigeria: armed robbers and kidnappers now give ‘notice’ before they smack. The assault by hoodlums of First Bank Plc and Fidelity Bank Plc, both in Port Harcourt Road, Aba on Wednesday, June 2, 2010, is evidenced. Inter alia, this compelled Abia people to call for the immediate resignation of Orji for lack of ability to oversee the state, yet Orji failed to toe the path of honour.
How can a man like Orji who is incapable to lead his family lead a wise and formidable people of Aba? Chinedu his son, popularly called Ikuku Ochendo, has abruptly become the nauseating factor in the state with some records of notoriety. His crude and flamboyant excesses in the state are worrisome. Did he not abandon his wife for a girlfriend whom he has been lavishing attention? What is his work? Some assailants in the government would say that he is an engineer.
Like Orji, he does not pay heed to the cries of the people of Abia State, so his Chinedu does not lend a listening ear to his father. Perhaps, deaf ears run in their family. If not, how could Chinedu allegedly engage his father in a fight-for-all when his father engage moves to curtailing Chinedu’s excesses, as Chinedu allegedly moves on long convoy of cars, intimidating and scaring people off the roads and also alleged to be in the habit of driving out customers from supermarkets and in eateries, finishing in the occurrence with the soldiers in Umuahia, after he slapped an Army captain on mufti for rejecting to make way for Chinedu and his hooligans. How could Chinedu, 41, with all these questionable habits be preparing grounds to run for the Senate in 2015, as alleged?
In a safe and sane environment, Orji was supposed to resign a long time or the people mobilize for non-violent civil disobedience for the dislodgement of Abia government led by him; if not for anything, for the signed into law of the state's 2012 Appropriation bill of N129.9 billion he christened "the budget of transformation’’, and yet, there is no such thing as ‘transformation’ in practice.
© Odimegwu Onwumere, Poet/Author, and Media Consultant, writes from Rivers State.