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The UNTAPPED-UNEXPLORED Resources of Abia State

Author • Joshua Oyeniyi


Picture this. It's February 23, 2022, and for the first time in my life, I'm leaving the 'chaos' - crowd, hustle and noise - of Lagos state, Nigeria. Lagos, the city that witnessed my birth, the ups and downs of growing up, down the line to studying at the University of Lagos. But when the National Youth Service Corps pointed to Abia on my dashboard, I couldn't help but feel a mix of nerves and excitement.

Already, I had made up my mind to go to wherever state the scheme would deploy me to and was quite unbothered with what may. It felt like déjà vu that day I saw Abia state on my NYSC dashboard. I could literally hear my heart pounding as fast as my breath can. To redeploy or manipulate this was a question? In that instant, a quick research session of this place as I am of acquaintance about the ethnic tension, insecurity and economic crisis rampaging the country allayed my concerns. Call it intuition or whatever, but something about Abia's website hooked me. It gave me the push I needed to dive into this adventure headfirst.

As of writing, I've not been to Aba International Market or many major tourist centers in Abia state. These places are on my to-do list before leaving the state as a serving or ex-corp member. I've visited some, I'm determined not to let a single adventure slip through my fingers...

Soon, I'll be an ex-corp member with the 2022 Batch A, Stream 1. This may raise concerns, but I've chosen to share my experiences as a corp member in Abia state, considering the state's development overview.

tower of Abia State

To start with, Abia state holds myriad treasures yet to be explored.

Entering the state from the first day, I found myself comparing Lagos and Abia State. No thorough scrutiny was needed to realize that few states in Nigeria could be compared to Lagos in terms of development, and Abia state was not one to be placed on such a pedestal. At least, not then. Searching for unique aspects became my focus. With one eye on something different from my everyday life in Lagos, the other on the road and the distance from Tower to Umunna Bende NYSC Orientation Camp. It felt like days on a road without traffic congestion, a non-issue for any Lagosian like me (maybe). The only concern was ensuring I was on the right bus after every effort in inquiry. In Lagos, only traffic congestion makes one forget they are on the road.

Yet, on the road, I began to feel that Abia state did not assume the size I perceived it to be. I ran to my Google map to verify this thought. To my chagrin, I watched the bus progressing in circles that could have been avoided with a link to the next community. It felt like you're in a maze. The distance from one community to another felt like an architectural oversight of the road plan amidst available fallow lands. I have no degree in building planning or architectural designs, but I felt this even as we left the orientation camp for my local government posting at Umuahia North.

My full-service year was spent at Umuahia North local government, the capital of Abia. It houses numerous government establishments, agencies, major private firms, and hotels. Although there are uncultivated lands, perhaps abandoned for government projects, the proliferation of hotels, eateries, religious centers, and restaurants in this area concerns me. It raises questions about what might be happening in this part of the state.

Drawing on my foreknowledge of the Igbo ethnic group from Lagos, I had always considered them solely business-oriented and top inventors thriving even in scarcity. I anticipated finding these attributes in the state's hub and learning from observing how things are done. I wouldn't say I was met with disappointment because, over time, I still assume this claim based on news of their breaking feats and legacies. The only issue might be something stifling development in Abia State, particularly in Umuahia North. Some indigenes opened up to me and agreed with this. The prevailing issues appear to align with the current trend of Nigeria's political structure.

One thing that draws immediate attention is that the state is blessed with loads of agricultural benefits. There are surplus lands without structures, yet left out for farm activities that could spur trade and profit schemes. It could be a way to reduce unemployment and substitute for the cost of buying food in the markets. However, many of these lands are government-owned, and venturing into this field might require following due processes from the Ministry of Agriculture, which oversees leasing. While a great investment for the government, many individuals dislike these processes, leaving the lands inactive for extended periods. Land is a valuable asset, contributing to its value, but much more can be gained when put to use.

In Umuahia North, numerous young, educated individuals lack an even platform to express their human resources and skills needed in various steering capacities of state affairs. Many have become redundant, limited to duties such as teaching, clerk assistance, hotel work, restaurant staff, down to drivers of Keke Napep and retailers. Cases of learned indigenes emigrating to other places that value their skills are common. In line with what some economists might see as an advantage, startups looking to grow could make this an experience for themselves. There are serving corp members who would love to continue their stay in the state after their service year due to the hospitality of the indigenes but might be forced to leave considering the limited opportunities for their careers.

On another note, the tourist centers around the state are yet to be maximally utilized for profit by individuals, private-owned firms, and government agencies. These centers stand out due to their historical relatedness to both old times and contemporary values. This is something many developed cities do to pass down cultural values to younger generations while meeting financial needs. I know about the Ojukwu Bunker and Cave in Umuahia North, but within the state, one can count as many as 16 centers that are yet to receive the required publicity and environmental satisfaction.

To measure up to the lack of time, other unexplored fields could focus on sports centers for young groups, market and trade activities for export purposes, transportation competitiveness, and cultural/festive activities or programs that could attract traffic from both states and national and international communities.

As I gear up to explore more corners of this state, I've got a feeling there's a lot more to discover. Abia, you've got my attention. Let's see what you've got hidden up your sleeve.

There will be much to say when I get to visit other parts of the state.

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