Democratic Socialist Movement

For Struggle, Solidarity and Socialism in Nigeria

By - DSM

ABIA STATE: A Beacon of South-East Ruling Elites’ Failure

ABIA STATE: A Beacon of South-East Ruling Elites’ Failure

Time for a United Struggle of the Working Masses

(By Chinedu Agbebire, DSM, Abia State)

Just as it obtains elsewhere in Nigeria, the poor working people of the South-eastern region of the country have paid dearly for unbridled looting and wastage by the self-serving capitalist elites in the past fourteen years of civil rule. This however explains why there is very little development despite huge revenue at disposal of the governments in the region.

In Abia state especially in Aba, the resumption of rainy season heightens the suffering for the masses as most of the roads become inaccessible because of their continuous deterioration. The deplorable conditions of most roads make rainy season a curse instead of blessing. Rain places compulsory curfew on the residents. Not that people are afraid of getting drenched, rather they are either afraid to swim in the dirty mud or being drown by the flood. Besides, people have to wait for about three to four hours after it stops raining so as to allow flood to recede. Worse still some are even displaced while some roads are so bad that they are not motorable. Ngwa Road, Umukama, Urata, Evina, Obohia, Ihiorji, College Road, etc testify to this. Instead of government to address all these problems, they are so engrossed in white-elephant projects and wastage of public funds on propaganda.

With the way transportation is organised one would logically conclude that Abia State Government does not have any plan on how to arrest this chaos. Government response was to ban commercial motorcycle (Okada) operation in 2009; a policy that has worsened the spate of unemployment. Okada was banned with ostensible claim of curbing criminal activities. But in reality it was banned so as to allow government officials and cronies to introduce tricycle schemes, which allows them to profit. In Aba alone there are about 17,000 tricycles. The condition of operation is that each operator remits N220 as a daily ticket fee, N20 as loading permit for every trip (N40 to and fro) and N2,500 as annual ticket fee. Worse still, the government contracts out the collection of these tolls and fees to individuals who in return employ the services of people who mostly behave violently. The implication of this is the high fare of township transport as the operators will like to make-up by hiking transport fare. Commercial bus transportation is largely undermined by poor and deplorable roads while Abia Transport Scheme is not fundamentally better due to mismanagement.

This pitiable condition is not only peculiar to road and transportation sector alone, it also manifests in education sector. Public primary and secondary schools have been largely eroded. Few that are still functional are more or less playing ground where pupils merely come to play and while away time as there are little academic exercises taking place. Many mushroom private schools have taken over with exorbitant fees. Some public schools in Etche and Danfodio Roads are evidences of neglect and ruin. An empirical observation of these schools shows that the schools have suffered severe neglect over the years. As a result, population of the schools has reduced drastically. This forced a teacher in one of the schools to helplessly lament: “you can see that the place is in ruin. Almost all our facilities have either collapsed or on the brink today… this has affected our population as no parent would want his ward enrolled… the result is that the students population has gone down by at least 70%. ” (The Sun, June 11, 2013). Apart from this there are only few seats for pupils. Some class population is as low as six pupils. Technical secondary school, Ehiere is equally a victim of neglect. Few months ago, NUT, Abia state branch embarked on strike over non-payment of their allowances.

There has been clear monumental failure on the part of successive government to manage state resources for proper development and governance. Rather, they are committed to milking the state dry. In 2007 alone, the former governor Orji Uzo Kalu left the state with a N29.2 billion debt burden with nothing tangible to show for it. Unfortunately the current government has not made any serious attempt to remedy the situation. Abia state is rich in mineral and human resources. It is the richest oil producing state among the five south-eastern states but the masses are totally alienated from enjoying all this. Expectedly, workers are also suffering from the misrule.

Pathetically, the trade union leaders in the state close their eyes on all this. The leadership of the organized trade union centers hardly spearhead activities aimed at sustainably defending the interest of the working masses. Unfortunately, these trade union leaders strategically collaborate with the ruling elite to undermine workers’ interests. Expectedly all these contradictions are the unfortunate manifestations of a system of economy that seeks the betterment and comfort of few over the majority. Workers and the poor masses have to fight for improvements in conditions, services and infrastructure. But until this iniquitous and anti-poor capitalist system is absolutely defeated through a mass struggle and a socialist society enthroned, any concession won by the working masses will be short-lived. This is workers, poor farmers, traders, unemployed and all oppressed strata have to get organized through an independent democratically controlled political platform to challenge the thieving ruling class.