As part of political realignment ahead of the 2019 general elections, President Muhammadu Buhari’s strategists are wooing the South-East, SUNDAY PUNCH has learnt.
It was gathered in Abuja on Saturday that the President had directed that infrastructure gaps in the South-East should be bridged.
It was also learnt that apart from reviving old alliances with associates, the president’s allies were also counting on political bridges built by northern politicians with their eastern counterparts over the years.
In addition to these political moves, Buhari was said to have ordered contractors handling various infrastructural projects in the zone to return to site.
This is aimed at ensuring the speedy completion of the rehabilitation of some federal roads in the region.
Findings showed that emphasis would be placed on the following projects: Port Harcourt-Aba Road, Abriba-Arochukwu-Ohafia Road (Abia State,; Oji-Achi-Obeagu-Mmaku-Awgu-Ndeaboh-Mpu-Okpanku Road (Enugu State), Second Niger Bridge and the Ikot Ekpene Border-Aba-Owerri Road (Akwa Ibom/Abia and Imo States).
Buhari is also said to be eager to erase the impression that he would punish the zone for voting against him during the 2015 election.
This is coming on the heels of subtle threats by some members of the ruling All Progressives Congress, especially from the South-West, to reassess their membership.
A prominent member of the party, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said, “Of course, a lot of realignment is going on.
“Even the media war between former Vice President Atiku Abubakar and Kaduna State Governor, Nasir el-Rufai, should tell you something.”
He added, “The 2015 elections taught us that no part of this country can be ignored. The PDP took the North-Central for granted and they paid for it. The news from the South-West is giving us concerns but we are addressing the issues. We don’t want to leave anything to chance.
“The president is a better politician than many are willing to give him credit for. He listens, he has instructed that infrastructure, especially roads in the zone, be revisited. He knows such projects have a direct impact on the lives of ordinary people.”
The Director General of the Voice of Nigeria, Mr. Osita Okechukwu, however, said it would be wrong to give political colouration to the president’s desire to give every part of Nigeria a sense of belonging.
He explained that in one of his first acts as president, Buhari approved a bailout for interested state governments, irrespective of political affiliations to access funds to pay their workers, some of whom were owed up to 18 months.
Okechukwu said, “The rehabilitation of roads has started across the land not only in the South-East. Mr. President is looking for the best way to meet up with the promises we made during the campaign.
“On the issue of our south-eastern brothers coming back home to the APC where they belong, you and I know that nobody can poach somebody like Orji Uzor Kalu. He is not a hungry man.”
The Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media, Garba Shehu, could not be reached for a reaction as calls to his mobile telephone were neither picked nor returned. There was no response to a text message sent to him as of the time of filing this report.
However, a highly placed Presidency source told our correspondent, “I am not aware of any special plan for the South-East but I know a stakeholders’ meeting similar to what was held for the South-South is being planned for the South-East (Zone) this year.”
… FERMA repairs federal roads in Imo
Motorists and road users in Imo State have begun to heave a sigh of relief as the Federal Roads Maintenance Agency commenced repairs of some failed stretches of federal roads in the state.
The motorists plying the busy Owerri-Obowo-Umuahia road described the repairs as timely and requested the agency to sustain the tempo of the reconstruction.
One of the commuters, Mr. Benjamin Mgbelechi, told our correspondent that the deplorable state of the road had forced motorists to look for detours before joining the main alignment, which he said occasionally led to crashes.
Mgbelechi noted that the state of the road had caused untold hardships to road users, adding that it is not uncommon for motorists who use the road to visit mechanic workshops more often than not.
Another motorist, Mr. Cletus Ohiri, stated that at Enyiogugu Mbaise axis, motorists witnessed constant traffic gridlock.
He said, “Owing to washout at that spot, motorists spend hours in heavy traffic.”
A 54-year-old resident of Umulogho in Obowo LGA, Mr. Okechukwu Isika, said the bad state of the road made it easy for robbers to operate.
Isika commended FERMA, adding that the repairs would save many ugly situations especially as Christmas approaches.
A trader, Mrs. Juliet Njoku, also noted that the bad road had affected their businesses negatively.
She said, “We pay through the nose to convey our goods to the markets. Even when we get to the market, the goods are not sold because of the (delayed) time of delivery.
“Also, when we add money to the goods to make up for the high transportation fare, people don’t buy. They usually say the price is high.”
A FERMA Engineer in Imo, Mr. Chukwuemeka Maduagwu, said the agency would ensure that federal roads are without potholes and failed spots.
Maduagwu said, “Within the limit of available resources, we will ensure that all failed sections along our vital economic routes receive attention within the shortest possible time, especially as Christmas approaches with expected increase in traffic.”
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