By Sir Ako Obioma
After watching a young lady analyse the states of the Eastern region in her song and her unpleasant remarks on how Abians jealously destroy their own in preference for outsiders, I could only say she is right, more especially for Abia people in power. I’m a typical case study.
As at the year 2002, except Hapel Engineering, through expertise, hard work and ingenuity, I own the largest and most equipped indigenous road construction company from Abia state, and most politicians irrespective of party affiliations benefitted from me in their election directly or indirectly.
In 2002, Gov Orji kalu had little political misunderstanding with my elder brother, Hon Acho Obioma, he directed his arsenal on me but my leaving Abia state for Rivers state became a blessing in disguise. Orji Kalu’s major road contractors were Lebanese and outsiders except one Abia indigene.
When Sen T A Orji took over power in 2007, I had become quite big in road construction as I was among the first- five indigenous contractors to NDDC and very famous in FERMA and Federal Ministry of works rating.
On assumption of office, he magnanimously invited me to bring my company home from Rivers state and Akwa Ibom states to join him and help in developing Abia.
In selected tender, his government chose my company to construct some roads, this motivated me into relocating my head office to Umuahia, my hometown, and building brand new asphalt and concrete batching plants in less than six-months. I also commenced work even without mobilization.
As work progressed as I had invested over half a billion Naira on the projects, I made request from the Governor for funding, unfortunately, he approved only N100m and narrated how the previous administration emptied the state treasury. He encouraged me to continue work with the promise of expected funds and this inspired me to continue work.
As work progressed further and payment made in trickle with same excuse of expected huge inflow of funds from federal government, the huge debt which has risen to over N2b affected our operaations and made us to slow down our pace of work. Surprisingly, his son in collaboration with the Governor’s adviser on works, who incidentally is from Anambra state brought in some other contractors from Anambra and Lebanese, whilst my debt was been serviced in non-profitable manner just to keep me sluggishly at work in the state.
Sometime in 2009, during the OSISIKANKWU security threat in the state, the state government requested from the federal government for rehabilitation of the abandoned military barracks at Ohafia, and were mandated to make contribution towards realising the new brigade command.
The Governor promised to build all the roads, do civil engineering works at Ohafia and Helicopter Landing pad at Isikwuato, with link road and lounge within the short period required. Without knowing that other contractors his son approached have declined, the Gov approached me to take the responsibility. I had always taken his instructions as a senior brother, who won’t deceive me and as such can’t reject his work. Moreover, knowing it to be security project which funding are always available, I saw it as a deliberate move by the governor to make up for the other debts owed my company.
We deployed double all equipment and manpower, worked day and night and the projects which include roads, landscaping, parade ground, parking lots, lounge and Helipad at Ohafia and Isikwuato respectively, were completed in less than six months and commissioned by His Excellency, Dr Goodluck Ebele Jonathan to the admiration of Abians.
Unfortunately, this project which was supposed to lift me financially became my albatross. Instead of paying me for works well done, the Gov’s son came up with the excuse that my elder brother, Hon Acho Obioma was fraternizing with Dr Orji Uzor Kalu, and as such I should be crucified. Because I do not join my business or money with politics, and sensing deceit and betrayal, I quietly retreated back to Port-Harcourt and God in His infinite mercy repositioned me.
Honestly, it looked like the end of the world with my staff strength on return to my home (Umuahia) in 2007 at over 250 dropping to less than 25, and till today Abia State government has not made any attempt to pay any part of those debts despite promises.
The most disheartening part of this ordeal is that even the former President, who commissioned the barracks, confirmed refunding the entire money to Abia state and made sure neither the army, nor Abia State was owed a dime in respect to the work executed in that barracks.
With the coming into power of Dr Okezie Ikpeazu, whom I was the Chairman of his campaign fund raising in 2015, he promised to gradually liquidate this debts which rose to over N4b but till date, he has not honoured any part of our agreement, as he abandoned all my ongoing projects and neither awarded new ones to us.
Also, disheartening was not only the destruction of my hard-earned resources which I brought to contribute in developing our state, also is the Injustice and corruption that is being perpetrated through my projects. Like I earlier mentioned, since the federal government refunded Abia state and I was not paid, it’s obvious that someone fraudulently diverted my money. Now the same scenario is playing out in Dr Ikpeazu’s government and the Governor has to address this as quickly as possible.
On the 23rd of February, on my way to Umuahia from Port-Harcourt, I saw a contractor who incidentally is from Enugu state working on one of the projects I abandoned near Osisioma, which is a bypass to Ekeakpara and Guinness factory. As at 2013, we completed the entire road with drainages on both sides and primed MC1 leaving only asphalt because government refused to pay us and the ministry refused to raise our second certificate covering the area, on the excuse that they certify only completed milestone covered with asphalt. Since we do not have funds to continue, we demobilised the site pending when government pays.
I was shocked that the contractor could go to the extent of covering the entire drainages with laterite to deceive the public, so that he could asphalt the road, then open the drains as if they were newly constructed and claim our entire money. Meanwhile, this is one of the projects in court which the government has pleaded for arbitration, which is presently ongoing in Port-Harcourt. This is not my only projects the government is perpetuating such unfair act, for them their position is let him go to court but I know God is the court of justice.
I write, not for what’s holding me to leave me but for the world to see how Abians frustrate their own and to prove the young girl who made that video about Abia state right. I may not be the only one in this situation.
My only sin for receiving this kind of treatment was that I’m an Abian, a son of the soil, and a brother to Chomen, who allegedly fraternised with Dr Orji Uzor Kalu and later left PDP for APC. Yet, I was used during their electioneering in advancing their administration’s credibility.
Sen T A Orji, during his administration sacked all civil servants who were not from Abia in pretence of protecting and providing for Abians. I shouted, who is advising him to shoot himself in the leg because I knew it was not genuine, but a ploy to cover up because back home people were angry of the capital flight in the state.
His action could not be justified because the consultant collecting our internally generated revenue, IGR, were his in-laws from Imo State, while his major contractors were from Imo, Anambra and Lebanese. About three Abians (Umuahia) he brought in, including myself share same experience, and Bawas was a case study until he went beastie and Dr Okezie Ikpeazu calmed him down.
It was as if they deliberately wanted to impoverish Abians, so that no one could rise to challenge them, while those already up should be brought down. That’s why Umuahia where we come from looks like a glorified village.
However, I’m proud of what Dr Okezie Ikpeazu is doing with his kinsman and that’s why the past glory of Aba is fast being restored. With this, I think Abia leaders should turn a new leaf and Gov OKezie Ikpeazu, Phd, should champion it.
Onye aghala nwanne ya.
Sir Ako Obioma, is Akubaraoha of Umuopara in Umuahia and Chairman Daman Group.