By Jude Atupulazi
Even before you enter the main Abakaliki Township you already feel that something refreshingly different is about to unfold. The solid, smooth road that ushers you into the township makes you feel that. And when you eventually get into the township proper, the only word to describe what stares you in the face is, ''amazing''!
Indeed, my experience in Abakaliki, the Ebonyi State capital, for the second time in three years, made me angry. Angry that a state which the rest of the Igbo states have often derided is now miles apart from those states, infrastructurally, aesthetically and otherwise. Indeed, it is possible that if one is blindfolded and dropped into any part of Abakaliki, that person, on opening their eyes, will believe it if they are told they are in a part of Abuja.
From the neat streets, the beautifully, uniformly painted and designed street walls to the water fountains that dot virtually every part of the capital, you will hardly blame anyone for thinking fleetingly that they are in Abuja.
There are also the modern flyovers that dot strategic parts of the state. It is indeed as if the state government is building flyovers for fun. And it is not just that the flyovers are everywhere; they are classy to behold.
You will also not fail to notice the solidity of the roads, some of which are built with cement and many inches thick. You will also notice that no road in the capital city has a pothole; and every major street is asphalted. It is indeed as if the city was planned by the colonial masters.
Simply put, the Abakaliki of today is the fastest growing capital city in Nigeria; not just the Southeast. I also dare say that the city is better, overall, than virtually any other city in the Southeast. The only city that can be compared with Abakaliki is Enugu; but perhaps, such a comparison may not be fair, given the history of Enugu as the first capital of the Eastern Region. But when one remembers that Abakaliki was almost non-existent when Enugu became the capital of Eastern Region, one may be tempted to give the edge to Abakaliki.
Really, it is difficult for me to convey what I saw of that city to anyone, except that person takes a ride to the city.
Apart from the roads and the beautiful streets, the state government is building infrastructure that will very effectively complement what has been done in other sectors. It is easy to notice that whatever the state government builds, it does so with an eye for aesthetics. In this respect, one needs to see the ongoing new government house/lodge and secretariat project, all sited in one place. It is perhaps the biggest secretariat in the country. Very expansive and well connected with roads. The only way to move around there is to use shuttle buses. It is simply like a big university campus. Within this secretariat is an artificial lake which lends credence to the government's eye for aesthetics.
And the wonder is how the state government has been able to wring the changes I saw without any major IGR window which some sister states enjoy; yet not being able to replicate the Abakaliki example.
But that wasn't all I saw. While other state governments have been boring us with plans to turn waste to wealth, the Abakaliki Government has already matched word with action. I visited a waste recycling factory under construction. On completion, it will ensure that wastes are eliminated from the streets; even though I saw not a single unevacuated refuse dump in the city. How the government has managed to rid the state capital of refuse remains a question I'm still begging for answers, especially given the unsavory experience in many states where refuse heaps have taken over many roads. Perhaps, some states should come to Abakaliki to learn how it is being done, just like how their zero pothole policy is working.
Other Key projects already completed include:
Three modern flyovers at Sen Ofia Nwali Junction; Akanu Ibiam Junction and Margaret Umahi International Market Flyover.
The government has also constructed over 987km of roads built on rigid pavement across the state with a total of 44 3-4span bridges.
It is also building a 10 thousand capacity modern state-of-the-art Ecumenical Centre in Abakaliki with elevators.
Umahi is equally building what is reputedly the biggest shopping mall in West Africa, fashioned after the Dubai Mall.
The government is equally building new Government House which contains Governor's and presidential lodges, as well as Governor's Office.
There is also the new Olympic Size stadium under construction, as well as the new airport.
A new teaching hospital and a new Faculty of Engineering are now in EBSU, or Ebonyi State University.
Other strides of the Gov Dave Umahi regime include building of three industrial clusters in the three zones; building of three mega water schemes and dualisation of Abakaliki to Afikpo and Abakaliki to Enugu federal highway.
There are also three modern rice mills in Iboko, Osso Edda and Abakaliki.
On top of all he's doing is the regular payment of workers' salaries at the 15th of every month without any arrears, as well as the payment on the ''13th month'' to workers with 5 percent increase.
Ebonyi State has water-tight security without them making a sing song of it. Like I told some people, one could place one's mobile phone on one's head and walk through the streets of Abakaliki without fearing about being robbed and that is saying something.
When it is taken into cognizance the fact that the Ebonyi State Government does not have such markets as Ogbete in Enugu, Main Market in Onitsha, or Ariaria Market in Aba, one cannot but doff one's hat to the governor for making the best use of what he has.
Indeed the Ebonyi State experience is something that should be copied by other states. Governance isn't just about collecting taxes and exacting levies from people but about utilizing such for the good of the people.
There is little doubt that at the rate Ebonyi State is developing, it will soon become the destination point of investors and fun seekers and that is if it hasn't already become such.