By Ifeanyi Umere

Recently, the internet was agog and replete with stories of the launch of the Geometric Power Group power plant in Osisioma LGA of Abia State on Monday, February 26, 2024. Indeed this is a remarkable feat in the annals of the economic history of Aba, Abịa, Ala Igbo, and Nigeria in general.

While people celebrated the groundbreaking event and stride recorded by Geometric Power Group, stories, as told by the government and rival opposition camps, began to fly. The aim of the story, however, was to spotlight the governor of the State, whether former or incumbent, who contributed more to making the project a reality. Some of the stories, mostly from the grapevine, told that former Governor Ikpeazụ led the initiative; others claimed it was the current governor, Dr. Alex Chioma Otti who made the laudable project.

What was missing was the history of the project and which governor actually laid the foundation and groundwork for what the world had celebrated just two days ago in God’s own state.

The history of the project preceded the two governors – both Ikpeazu and Otti after him. To give a little clue in terms of this, it would be helpful to Ndi Aba, Abia State, Nigeria, the world, and humanity at large.

According to the Business Day report of February 26, 2024, the initiative to build the project began in 2004 following a visit of the World Bank Group, led by its former president the late James Wolfohnson, at the instance of Dr. Ngọzi Okonjo-Iweala who was then the federal minister of finance. Okonjo-Iweala had brought the late James Wolfohnson to Aba to see the economic potential of Enyimba City. It was during this visit that Okonjo-Iweala hinted at the benefits a viable power project would add to the value chain, asking that Prof. Barth Nnaji who had led other viable projects elsewhere take up the taxing challenge.

Prof. Barth Nnaji, the Group Managing Director of Geometric Power Group, subscribed to the idea. Yet this wouldn’t have happened had the former governor of Abia State, Senator Theodore Ahamefule Orji, aka Ochendo Global, not intervened in the manner he did. To quote the words of Prof. Barth Nnaji, ‘After the visit in 2004, the duo asked me to consider building a 50-megawatt power plant in Abia for manufacturers, both big ones like the Star Paper Mill and small ones like the hundreds of excellent shoemakers and clothiers at the famous Ariaria International Market. They approached me obviously because I had led a small team of dedicated Nigerian engineers and entrepreneurs to build a 22-megawatt Emergency Plant in Abuja in 2001 for the supply of electricity to the State House, the NNPC headquarters, the Abuja Business District, and other places.’

Not much happened in the intervening years of the visit by the World Bank Group until Chief Theodore Ahamefule Orji became governor in 2007.

Out of his love for Abia and the quest to see Aba take its pride of place as the leading industrial hub of the nation, Sen. Orji, as the governor, approached Elder Adaelu, an elder statesman and leader in Osisioma LGA, the host LGA of what is today the power plant. Chief Theodore Orji achieved a compromise through settlement and award of compensation to those who would have suffered displacement, thus creating an enabling environment between the host community and the Geometric Group. 

It was out of his respect for the Governor Orji-led administration that Elder Adaelu processed and facilitated the ceding of the parcel of land that houses the investment to Geometric Power Group. Theodore Ahamefule Orji went one better in 2013 by constructing the 1.4km access road leading to the plant, to create access to the plant, fast-track its completion, and boost productivity and economic activities in the state when it was finally triggered. This was the beginning of greater things to come. Today, the rest is history.

The man who does not know where the rain started beating him cannot tell where he dried his body, Achebe wrote. The escapists of history are celebrating this landmark story but are conveniently leaving the part played by Chief T. A. Orji (Ochendo Global) in the realization of this project, so long as it serves their revisionist interest. No one remembers Ngọzi Okonjo-Iweala even.

Even in 2015, former Governor Theodore Ahamefule Orji brought former President Goodluck Jonathan to the state when the latter inspected the ongoing power project and vowed to remove all bureaucratic bottlenecks. The former governor, it was reported, prevailed on the former president to allow Geometric Group to lawfully take over the 9 LGAs now known as the Aba Ring-Fence Area held by EEDC following the privatization and unbundling of various government-owned investments. Due to bureaucratic bottlenecks, this was not to happen until the landmark judgment that was awarded during the Buhari presidency by the industrial court, which ordered the Enugu Electricity Development Company, EEDC to hand over all its assets and liabilities to Aba Power Limited, APL, a subsidiary of Geometric Power Group.

Construction of the history of the project will remain an incomplete package without the mention of Senator Theodore Ahamefule Orji who facilitated the whole process by influencing the ceding of the parcel of land where Geometric Power Limited built its staff quarters and offices, who also built the road as we have it today. It is only a revisionist history that will allow such an exclusive narrative to stand.

Arguments about what equity stake Abia has in the investment, about which governor initiated what, and which did not have continued to dominate the Abia political landscape. They only became more fiercely heated after the launch of the project and have shown no sign of abating. But not even one person remembers that as a former governor, Theodore Ahamefule Orji put in much effort, not by any measure insignificant, towards the realization of this historic goal.

Aba, with this multi-million dollar investment, will rise to greatness just as Sam Mbakwe and Michael Ọkpara had envisioned, but when the story is told by those who know it to the fullest, we remember that there was a man. We will remember because we are not history ingrates!