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Why Anambra’s Governor Must Stop That Airport Project – By Peter Obidike

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Gov. Obiano

I am yet to be convinced of why Anambra state should embark on the construction of an airport at Aguleri or Umuleri (I don’t have the exact location and please don’t ask me to check, you too can help check). This had generated a heated argument between myself and my uncle and took the greater part of our “gisting” on Sunday with him supporting the project on the basis that it will create jobs and so on.

I had earlier cited a commentary by Chidoka, the former FRSC chairman, condemning the project and I quickly supported that condemnation. I do not know Chidoka’s motivation given that he is vying for the governorship position in Anambra, thus he could be an interested party in anything that will oppose the government stake. For me, it is a no brainer given that there are already existing airports at Asaba, which is 2 minutes away from Onitsha and say 30 minutes from Nnewi and these are the largest two markets and cities in Anambra. Or could the justification be that it’ll be for the government workers at Awka or its officials? Then I will  need to know how many of  them that will be travelling to Abuja to collect the monthly “allowee” for the state. At the last count, Peter Obi told us he went alone, unless maybe Obiano has brought back the rats that filter away the people’s resources.

For God’s sake,  am struggling with this decision which may have indeed been progressed to the extent of major fund commitment on the side of the government. Meanwhile, the Enugu international airport is a stone’s throw at say about 30 minutes drive at most. I was told it could serve as a hub, and for which region I asked? This is with Enugu, already approved as an international cargo airport.

I told my host that for me, worst case scenario, rather than build an airport I would rather use that fund and build a super highway from Awka to Enugu airport to ensure those executives at Awka targeted by this airport will have an easy access to Enugu airport.

And it goes back to the question of motives in leadership and whether our elected leaders are really there for the common good or to massage their bloated egos. What about the regional integration they have been talking about? What about ensuring that the Enugu and Asaba airports are utilized to an optimum capacity while channelling scarce resources into other productive areas of the economy that will serve a greater number of the people they were elected to serve? Have you been to Heathrow or Dubai airport? I am sure these leaders are frequent flyers. I am also sure they are witnesses to the volume of traffic and how busy an airport can be. Can they in their true conscience say that any of the existing airports at either Enugu or Asaba has reached an optimum capacity utilization which will warrant another white elephant project? My host talked about jobs that would be created with the construction and eventual operation of the airport and I asked whether there are no other industries that can be built to match such job creation.

True, to be fair to my host, I did not have ready alternatives for sustainable industries that can be built given our experience with government running of companies. When I cited that of the brewery which the former governor, Peter Obi built, I was corrected that the company does not belong to the Anambra state government but the former governor. But I insisted that in any case Anambra state has some shares in the company. But even if that is not the case, there are sure industries the government can support through private public partnerships such as the automobile industry at Nnewi or other manufacturing industries there or at Onitsha, but not the building of a wasteful airport for God’s sake!

In the best case scenario, that money will better serve the interest of Anambra people if the governor channels 100% of it into education if he is bereft of ideas to move the state forward, which I am sure is not the case, given the calibre of people he paraded during his road show last year or so in Port Harcourt and Lagos. And that is what worries me the more, how could such egg heads (on a serious note, these guys are on the level of Okonjo Iweala in terms of exposure) support such project? Or is it a case of the elite self serving themselves? Or a case of advice entering one ear and leaving through the other? Whatever be the case, I hope the governor listens to good counsel and reasoning and do the right thing by stopping this wasteful project right now.

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