A first-time visitor to Asaba, the Delta State capital, especially at night, and at a time most statesâ€™ capitals in the country experience unending power outage,
would mistake the recently transformed city by the Dr. Emmanuel Uduaghan-led administration for Houston in the United States, reports Alphonsus Agborh.
The Osadebe Way-Nnebisi-Okpanam road was a dusty, narrow road. The stretch, which has turned into the commercial nerve centre of the town, was once devoid of any traffic.
In a nutshell, the town on the Niger, where the explorer, Mungo Park, died and was buried, the first capital of Southern Nigeria Protectorate, the home of the first Premier of Midwest region, Chief Dennis Osadebe; a town that is facing the commercial city of the East Onitsha across the River Niger has come a long way.
Today, Asaba has become a place for all, a home away from home, a tourist centre, a new haven as the parlance goes â€œAsaba Amakaâ€ i.e. Asaba is good, has come to significance because of peace and progress.
During the eight years military rule in the state, development in the city was on a snailâ€™s speed. The administrators then opened up a few roads, built the secretariat and laid one or two foundations. The first civilian governor, Senator Felix Ibru, on his part was so terrified that he never slept in Asaba as he flew in, in a helicopter from his village, Agbara Otor near Ughelli in the morning and went back after the daysâ€™ job.
But during the final return of democracy to Nigeria in 1999, the wind of change started. It was like a volcanic eruption of massive change. The governor, Chief James Ibori, empowered the people and new buildings started to spring up in Asaba. Because of the communal crises in Warri, many Deltans in the oil city started to relocate to Asaba, coming to the prevalent peace.
Governor Emmanuel Uduaghan-led administration, one may say, is so lucky to be associated with the fast development of Asaba that has taken place in the last two years.
The prevailing peace in the state started noticeably in 2007 when he was able to douse the tension that led to the warriors in Warri area to sheathe their sword and thus attracted investors to the state.
It is not, therefore, surprising that as a result of the peace, security and human capital development in particular, the people of the state found a new hope, while politicians and businessmen are also investing in landed properties with every parcel of undeveloped land now being developed. Thick bushes which hitherto were farmlands two years ago have been taken over by edifices.
The sprawling buildings with all sorts of aluminum and other expansive roofing sheets in DLA; Core GRA, Anwai Road, Okpanam Road, BONSAC, Akwu Ebulu, Expressway, Ibusa Road, DBS road, NTA/NLC area, Government House Road, Summit Road etc. are captivating.
An aerial view of the town shows the aesthetics of modern roofs, whose alluring colours depict a new town, which a few years ago, was a mere landscape inhabited by shrubs.
With the development of Asaba International Airport, there has been a massive construction of houses in Okpanam. A parcel of land opposite the airport, which used to sell for N400,000 skyrocketted to over N1 million, yet the fire in the people for rapid infrastructural development has not died. The merchants from the east, politicians in the state, civil servants and other businessmen are in a healthy competition to build on every available space in the new areas of Asaba.
Mr. Olayemi Adekunle, an architect, in his assessment of the modern Asaba, said it was, indeed, marvelous the way the town has grown within the past two years. â€œIt is like a competition, property developers are struggling for space and with the prevailing peace in Delta North and the three-point agenda of Governor Uduaghan, there is rush by all to own one facility or the other.
â€œ But as you can see, the architectural designs of most buildings make the town stand out uniqueâ€
As a result of the development, the community has lost its farmlands and land dispute has pitched the youth against the elders and the traditional council.
Several times, the Asaba monarch, Obi (Prof) Chike Edozien and other traditional committees have raised alarm over the trend.
A survey also shows that there are over 70 hotels, including a five-star hotel. The patronage of the facilities connotes the influx of businessmen and tourists to Asaba on a daily basis. Also, there has been a general complaint by residents in the town about the rate at which hotels are springing up, even though they boost tourism.
As for banks, Asaba boasts of over 30 commercial bank branches, most of which are situated along Osadebey way – Nnebisi through Okpanam roads, and this has stimulated the economy of the town. This is aside from the magnificant edifice of the Central Bank of Nigeriaâ€™s building, under construction and nearing completion.
It was as a result of the massive urbanisation and the problem of banditry attacks that compelled the state government to illuminate Asaba and Warri.
The state government spends between N50 million and 70 million monthly to power the light, through the use of generators from dusk to dawn.
For the residents of Asaba and visitors alike, the streetlight project is one of the greatest things the Uduaghan-led administration has achieved, as it has reduced cases of armed robbery at night and stimulated economic activities.
The installation of the streetlight along the Asaba – Benin expressway is another landmark achievement by the government. The plan of the state government is to extend the streetlight along the expressway to Alifekede-Agbor, the boundary town between Delta and Edo states and to other major highways in the state.
Though criticisms had trailed the projects, observers believe that the good surpasses evil as residents in Onitsha can now cross over to Asaba at night to have fun.
â€œNna, Asaba is like Houston or London at night. That is why some of us come from Onitsha to refresh. Even at 10.00 p.m, movement of persons is as if it is not yet 8.00 p.m,â€ says Mr. Okongwu Obieke from Onitsha.
With the emergence of Asaba as a new town, the state government should, as a matter of necessity, implement the master plan of the state capital which has been under the carpets for years.