EBONYI: The next Igbo development harbinger

Posted by Ireke A Kalu Onuma | 3 months ago | 566 times

For a long time Ndigbo have considered Abakiliki and that axis as the backwaters of our large pool of people.

And we have so treated them as such that when they found themselves in the larger house of Ndigbo from Eastern Nigeria, East Central State, Anambra and the Enugu States, we simply considered them not part of the plot.

As Ebonyi State, we have not considered them worth the glance or at most a full blooded Ndigbo. Whatever one may think, that has been the hard truth of our Igboness toward them.

They, on the other hand had not helped matters much. As Ebonyi State, they have done little or nothing to improve internally or push for a review of their outward image.

The succeeding governments have treated Abakiliki and the entire State as a colonial outpost where you are Posted as a punishment. No matter who had been the Governor there, they have barely stopped the bad image which the whole area commanded. And have not done enough to develop or improve the lots of the State. 

The place is and remains the food basket of Igboland, the various mineral resources found there, has been the major revenue earner for both the Colonial government and Eastern Nigerian government. Yet we barely give a glance at them. Before the political Dangote Cement, there was the famous but now defunct NKALAGU CEMENT.

Abakiliki and Afikpo are very old Igbo cities. Both suffered from being at the back roads of geopolitical dramas. And even though they've served as centers of major Igbo history, we simply considered them backward. And this is to our collective detriment.

This has all changed in the past few years. The present Government of Ebonyi State has simply changed all that. The Governor, Engr. Umahi, has not just remodeled Abakiliki, he has rebuilt it.

Ndigbo now have a great and evolving city where they can congregate, live, make a living and settle down. One needs to visit to know what's going on there.

My knowledge of Abakiliki started in 1982. Enroute to Ogoja for my Higher School. It was a dusty, awkward and painful place to observe. The people struck me as images from a desert and disturbed planet. Simply put I felt depressed just waiting there for my bus to Ogoja. And when ever I have to pass there, the feeling of being in the wrong place never left me. 

I have made a few more trips there in the early 2000s. And I saw slow changes but not enough to see some major vibrancy or character emerging from the city.

Today that has all changed. The road networks are superb. The new layouts are well Planned. And for a city that has been around since   the 1900s, the present expansion is a very welcomed development, even though late.

One may not like the politics of Gov. Umahi, but he is an Engineer that is not governing from his office, but out there building and constructing. The road networks across Ebonyi State is arguably the best today in the South East. He is putting paid to all the ignorance that has befuddled the citizens of the State.

Real Estate market today in Abakiliki and Afikpo are the most dynamic. The home we all seek when talking about THINK HOME for Ndigbo can be built in any of these places. There are advantages to getting a piece of land there. It is at the heart of the fastest growing economy in the South East. Agriculture and all its attendant Agro businesses is growing rapidly and opportunities still abound. With the wide expanse of Virgin lands still available, one can still find himself living close to nature with its health benefits.

Recently, a drive from Abiriba in Abia State, through Eddah in Ebonyi to Enugu was bump-less and smooth until we emerged at the the Express road at the Agwu junction of the Enugu to Port Harcourt express way. The Governor has taken a wide and integrated approach to developing the State. He has opened up the hinterlands, thus giving access to the States greatest resources: Agro Produces. 

I have to add that the journey took just under an hour and half. While before going by Isiukwuato through Okigwe and the Express usually takes about two and half hours on the Conservative side. 

While the more older states, with popular Igbo cities are drowning in their awkwardness, the Ebonyi growth and direction has become a beacon for us all.

We have in our hands two ancient cities, rebranding themselves and looking well ahead of others into the 21st century.

The Challenge now is to consolidate on the laudable successful achievements. The Governor should rescue the Nkalagu Cement factory. And open up Nkalagu as the next major city in the State. I hear that serious plans are already in place to actualize this. We cannot afford to allow the lopsided development tragedies of the past to be repeated here.

Ebonyi is the future template for Igbo aspirations and interests. We can create an easy go to getaways there to accommodate our visions of the future.

Written by Ireke A Kalu Onuma - iagbeze@gmail.com 
February 15th 2020, Lagos

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