• Thursday, April 18, 2024
businessday logo

BusinessDay

Geometric, Otti and the allegory of Abia as Nazareth

Abia’s policies designed to support industries, attract new ones – Otti

For many decades, the popular question many people asked whenever Abia State was mentioned was, “Can anything good come from Abia?”

They were mimicking one Nathanael as told in the scriptures, who retorted to an invitation by Philip: “We have found the one Moses wrote about in the law, and about whom the prophets also wrote, Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.”

To this, Nathanael had asked: “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?”

Philip, not wanting to be drawn into an argument just said: “Come and see!”

From that point, Nathanael never went back.

Abia State has great sons and daughters who have excelled in all fields of endeavour. But over the years, an infinitesimal group of politicians has clouded the efforts of the enterprising people.

Some good things have however, are beginning to happen in Abia State.

Today, unlike those years, people have begun to talk respectfully about the God’s Own State.

In the past, many Nigerians used to sneer whenever Abia was introduced as God’s Own State. They used to ask, if the state was indeed, God’s own, how come it is badly run and remained decrepit for many years?

As has been established above in the introduction on the discourse between Philip and Nathanael, Abia’s case is now like that of that lowly-rated small village in Jerusalem, called Nazareth.

It was such a mean place that everybody knew that when talking about good things, it would not be found in Nazareth.

That was the stature of the community until a divine intervention changed the story.

It was in that backwater village that the Saviour of the world was born.

Abia State has begun to receive attention lately, not just because of the commissioning of the Geometric Power, but also the good start of the new government and administration in the state.

Today, people can testify to construction and reconstruction works simultaneously going on in many parts of the state. Salaries of civil servants are now being paid promptly.

What this simply means is that the state has delayed its development for many years by not putting the right persons on the driver’s seat.

Bad politics has denied the state the leap it would have made had there been a credible electoral process in the state.

Abians beginning to look towards home

As I sat in the Church on Sunday, March 17, 2024, a lawyer, who also is a friend of mine from Abia, came in and sat on the seat next to me.

At the end of the service, before we could bid each other bye, he bent over and whispered in my ear, “I am making plans to move back to Abia. Good things have started to happen in the state, and people have already started to move back to Abia.”

Indeed, development attracts people. The internal migration from the rural areas to Lagos State on a daily basis is huge. This is on account of development seen in the state.

The story of Abia State has begun to change, from that of a neglected state to that of an elevated one. It takes just a few good men to change the narrative.

The Geometric story in Aba began with Barth Nnaji’s quest to have constant electricity that could help some companies engage in fabrication and other small and medium enterprises.

The Geometric angle

This dream was given impetus by a chain of developments, which Nnaji has often shared.

First, he had an unpleasant experience when he purchased a large expanse of land in Emene, Enugu State to build a company to manufacture vehicle spare parts, including auto engines, only to discover that it couldn’t take off because of the poor electricity situation in the South East in particular and the country in general.

The second reason, according to him, is the request from the then Nigerian Minister of Finance, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, who is now the president of the World Trade Organisation (WTO), and the then World Bank president, James Wolfohnson, to build a 50MW power plant in Aba to assist both big and small manufacturers.

“They made the request in 2004 after visiting Aba and saw the enormous economic and technological potential of this city, the headquarters of indigenous technology in Nigeria, but was being paralysed by poor electricity.

“Both Dr. Okonjo-Iweala and Dr. Wolfohnson asked me to consider building this power plant because a team of Nigerian engineers I led had successfully built a 22MW emergency power plant in Abuja in 2001 to supply uninterrupted electricity to the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation headquarters in Abuja, State House, Central Bank and the Abuja Business District.

“What they didn’t know is that I was already reflecting over how I could help ameliorate the terrible electricity situation in the South East.

“We can say without fear of contradiction that the request from Okonjo-Iweala and Wolfohnson was a divine intervention,” he said.

That dream led to the launch on Monday, February 26, 2024 of the 181-megawatt Geometric Power plant.

Described as the biggest investment in the South-East Zone of Nigeria, Geometric Power was said to have spent about $800 million on its integrated power project, which includes building of 27-kilometre natural gas pipeline, from Owaza in Ukwa West LGA in Abia State, to the Osisioma Industrial Layout in Aba.

The plant is billed to generate and distribute power within the Aba Ring-Fenced Area (ARFA), which comprises nine of the 17 LGA.

The facility comprises two companies – Geometric Power Aba Limited, the power generation arm, and Aba Power.

On the political front, Abia has been governed or administered since its creation on the 27th of August 1991, during the regime of General Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida, by a number of chief executive officers. But since the return of Nigeria to civil rule in 1999, the state has been under the leadership of four governors, viz: Orji Uzor Kalu, Theodore Orji, Okezie Ikpeazu and the current one, Alex Otti.

The Otti magic

At no time in all of these years that there has been somewhat a flicker of what resembles a purposeful leadership than now.

Incidentally, the breaking of power jinx in Aba and its environs is happening under Otti as the governor of Abia State.

Today, the governor is complementing the good work by Barth Nnaji with good governance which has seen a moody-looking Aba now wearing cheerful looks.

Unlike in the days when the roads were impassible, clogged by flood, major roads in the Aba metropolis and elsewhere in the state are being rebuilt and re-engineered to reflect a 21st century city.

Those who doubted that anything good could come out from Abia are the same people who have literally turned their mouths into loud microphones to sing the praise of the new administration in Abia.

When he mounted the saddle, he promised to do things differently. But like every politician, not many people took him seriously. But his style of matching his words with action, seems to have convinced the naysayers that “this is a different kind of politician.”

Whereas the target of most state governors is to emulate Lagos, Governor Otti has told Nigerians that he was looking to compete with Dubai and not Lagos State.

The Obasanjo historic visit

Since the good things began to happen in Abia, prominent Nigerians have been visiting the governor to give him words of encouragement. Some also go to him, like the biblical Queen of Sheba, primarily to tap from his wisdom.

One of such visits to encourage him, was the one made last Friday by the former President Olusegun Obasanjo.

Obasanjo lavished commendation on Otti, pointing out that ending the oppressive and humongous pensions of past governors and deputies were outrageous.

He described as daylight robbery the state’s inability to pay the pensions ordinary retired workers since 2014, while those former governors and their deputies were still collecting hefty amount of money.

He said: “I watched the television and I saw repealing of Abia pensions and I asked you what exactly is this, and you said to me that the pensions scheme for former governors here was too outrageous.

“It’s like trouble because it allowed them to have a house in Abuja and elsewhere, and it allowed them to cart away with whatever they can, yet the pensions of ordinary people from 2014 are unpaid.

“What sort of leadership! You came and said there will be an end to that rascality. I congratulate you, and I say to you, I hope that your colleagues will follow your footstep?”

He congratulated Governor Otti for his tenacity and for weathering the storm to become Abia Governor and reminded him that a lot of works were expected to be done.

“I say congratulations. Congratulations for your tenacity, congratulations for your not giving up, congratulations for your weathering the storm and congratulations for what you did yesterday (signing the repealing of pension law for former Governors and Deputy Governors) and congratulations for what I found you doing this morning (exercise).

“This morning, I came in and I met you exercising, a sound mind and a sound body and I say to you, now I know your secret. I was glad when you said you do that every other day. It’s just like me playing squash on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, I think a leader must keep himself or herself in a healthy condition,” he said.

He further said: “There are still a lot of work to be done, I said to you, and here you have started, but you should never be tired. Don’t be discouraged; you will be abused, you will be called names but if we have one third of our states doing what should be done, this country will be a different country.”

The former President urged Otti to pay attention to infrastructural development of the State, explaining that with infrastructure and good leadership the State would attain greater heights.

Obasanjo noted that Abia and the South East people were industrious and enterprising, adding that what the people of the zone required to achieve greatness was good leadership that would give them encouragement and support.

“I will urge you to pay adequate attention to infrastructure, because if you give infrastructure and you give the type of leadership you are giving, the people of the state will have nothing to worry about. On their own they are enterprising. All they need is the leadership that will give them all the encouragement.
“I have always maintained that if there is any zone in this country that could really give what I call regional development, it’s the South East geo-political zone, because you are almost monolithic in everything,” he noted.