The Abia State Governor, Chief T.A. Orji, recently announced his intention to build an airport in the state. Since that announcement, there has been a flurry of reactions from several segments of the society. Some people consider it not a priority in the state while a major segment of Abians consider it very timely. Below are five reactions by eminent Igbos on the project
First reaction by Dr Okenwa Nwosu
“Only one of the 36 states can afford to pay workers’ salaries with internally generated revenues, Daily Trust investigations revealed – underscoring the level of dependence of the federating units on the central government. The remaining 35 states generate only a fraction of funds they require to settle their wage bills annually. This means that without federal funds, these states cannot even afford salaries payment, not to talk of executing any projects.” – News Report
I believe that the main season for publicizing Abia state government’s decision to embark on a new airport is to elicit reaction of the general public for or against this major undertaking at this point in time. If the incumbent Abia state administration could care less about what public reaction to the proposed airport might be, then it should not have bothered to first fly the kite by announcing its intent long before committing itself to anything. It is based on this that non-Abians, like yours truly, feel compelled to chime in regarding the plan to site a brand new airport to serve Abia state residents.
I have elected to narrow my comments to whether building a brand new airport in Abia state, at this very moment, should be the topmost priority in the jurisdiction’s developmental agenda. From above excerpt, the reading public has been reminded about the obvious; all states in Nigeria, with the exception of Lagos, cannot meet its basic monthly payroll without receiving monetary handouts from Abuja. With this type of balance sheet, where does the incumbent Abia state government plan to raise the hard cash with which to embark on the proposed airport-building project? The answer can only be one thing – to borrow funds from any willing creditor in order to foot the bills. Here is the tough poser which must be answered by the state’s chief executive and the generality of Ndi Abia. Is a brand new airport in Abia of such critical import that increasing the state’s indebtedness, at this juncture, is a worthwhile investment for the overall wellbeing of all concerned?
To answer the preceding poser, I have elected to isolate the map of Abia state in relationship to the five already functional airports surrounding it. I live in the eastern suburb of Washington, DC in Upper Marlboro, Maryland. It takes me 50 minutes, driving at average speed of 65 mph to get to Dulles International Airport from where the preponderance of my flights originate and end. That is a distance of more than 50 miles each way. The airports in Port Harcourt, Owerri and Uyo are much less that 50 miles from major population centers in Abia state. Enugu International Airport is nearly as far from Umuahia, Abia state capital, as Dulles Airport is from my residence. The point that I am trying to get across here is that building a brand new airport is hardly the only means of providing accessibility of air travel to Ndi Abia. Assuring a well-maintained road network in Abia and contiguous states can make the functional nearby airports utilitarian for Ndi Abia without the immediate financial burden of building and equipping a brand airport facility from scratch.
Regional integrated development is an essential mindset which can help our folks to better prioritize deployment of scarce funds in many of our states which cannot even meet their routine recurrent expenditure without receiving regular life-support infusions from Abuja. Duplication of effort, based on state jurisdictions, does not come across as a judicious way of getting the maximum bang out of the buck as far as Ndi Abia are concerned. A similar quest to build a brand new airport in Anambra state is increasingly making less economic sense now that the ultramodern airport facility across the river in Asaba has become fully operational. Maybe Anambra state government should better use for its scarce funds in rebuilding the crumbling educational infrastructure than in building another brand new airport on the eastern bank of the Niger River.
Second reaction by Chris Aniedobe
Let’s have thirty six international airports – one for each state – so that airplanes will be like okada in Nigeria. Seriously, we do not even have the air traffic controllers for that many airports and the many Tokunbo airplanes that will be plying them.
But what is the use of being Pastor Ochieze having a Gulf stream jetliner if he cannot land it in his backyard? With considerations like that, you can see the need for International Airport in Abia State. Abi?
The much vaunted Asaba International Airport looks like a Primary School facility in America with a Runway. So when Nigerian politicians are talking airports, let’s not get the impression that it will look anything like the airports you and I are used to.
Seriously, think about it. The only thing stopping Gov TA Orji from buying his own jet is his own Airport. It is all about ugwu ndi Abia State. Governor of Enugu State gets to park his Gulfstream in his backyard. Now imagine where the Governor of Anambra State will park his own? Asaba or Enugu. Ugwu adiro there. Then imagine where Governor of Abia will park his own – Portharcourt or Owerri or Uyo. Ugwu adiro there. So to get around these minor inconveniences, the best thing to do is to spend 10 billion Naira to build an International Airport in Abia and may be another one in Uli, Anambra State for Anambra State Governor to have a convenient parking spot. One of the contestants for Anambra Gubernatorial actually made that a manifesto item. How long before Ebonyi announces plan for International Airport in Abakaliki?
Folks, we are not well. If TA Orji spends this Airport money in rehabilitating and equipping all the Primary and Secondary Schools in Abia State and in making Abia State University a world class university, it would be well worth a thousand Airports. Verizon and Sprint and TMobile and IBM have their tech support centers in Phillipines. Why? Human capacity. They have surplus skilled techs. How about we make Abia State University the best school for Computer Sciences and Engineering in Africa with a view to attracting high tech companies ten years from now?. If it good for India and Pakistan, it is good for Abia State.
How about Orji makes Aba a hub for small and medium sized manufacturing? Aba is ready. All Aba needs is a small power plant and roads. The entire West Africa is ready for Aba tailored suits and Aba made shoes and belts. A country like Thailand is making and shipping suits worldwide. Is there anything those people can do that the smart kids of Abia State cannot do? How about TA Orji just spends one hundreth of his Airport budget to make Aba the fashion center of Africa. Is there any reason why Aba made suits cannot sell in Europe, Canada and USA when Malaysia and Thai and China made suits are selling like hot cake.
I do not understand our Governors. I just don’t. Look at all the money that our people are spending in India and South Africa for medical treatment. Why can’t one Igbo Governor just convert their so called security vote into a worldclass hospital so that people from Sudan and Congo and Senegal will be coming in for treatment. Let’s say we have a situation like that and people are flying in from all parts of the world to Abia State Medical Complex, and the Governor feels like he needs an Airport to facilitate medical tourism – then he would be making a whole lot of sense.
How about Governor Orji decides to build the best cancer treatment center in West Africa in Abia State. Make that a world class center for medical excellence and watch medical tourists flock to the place from all over Africa.
We are not well, in short. All our Governors want is to just go to Abuja and get their allocation and spend it on useless capital projects. Look at South Korea today – a high tech country. Fifty years ago,Abia state had more human capacity than South Korea. They sent their kids to world class technical schools and brought them back to transform their country. Is there anything they can do that our kids cannot do if we invest in our kids? Governor Orji, please cut the Airport crap and invest in strategic human capacity development of Ndi Abia State. Abia kids should be your number one concern. Convert them to world class artisans and let’s create tech jobs in Abia State.
Imagine if Governor TA Orji just sends 100 of Abia’s top kids in science and technology to world class Universities and promises to give them a low interest loan to start a business in Abia State. Imagine if he does that for five straight years. The impact will be huge. Imagine if Governor TA Orji sends just 100 Abia kids to China or Thailand to learn tailoring and brings them back with loan to start sowing and designing apparels for export? Imagine what difference it would make.
Instead, all our Governors do is build useless roads and fail to maintain them and in five years, the whole thing is washed up and they start all over. That or build useless hospitals and not equip them. That or build secretariats and local government buildings and open them with much fanfare. That or build stadiums and airports. But go to some of the schools our kids go to and tell me if something is not wrong with us.
Quotable Quotes: How about Orji makes Aba a hub for small and medium sized manufacturing? Aba is ready. All Aba needs is a small power plant and roads. The entire West Africa is ready for Aba tailored suits and Aba made shoes and belts. A country like Thailand is making and shipping suits worldwide. Is there anything those people can do that the smart kids of Abia State cannot do? How about TA Orji just spends one hundreth of his Airport budget to make Aba the fashion center of Africa. Is there any reason why Aba made suits cannot sell in Europe, Canada and USA when Malaysia and Thai and China made suits are selling like hot cake. — Aniedobe