Recently, the administration of Governor David Umahi of Ebonyi State announced 15th October, 2019 as the deadline for the relocation of traders from the decrepit Abakpa Market in Abakaliki to St. Magaret’s International Market which is strategically located along the African trans-saharan highway in Abakaliki. The international market which has potentials to divert the humongous international and national trade currents which flow along the African trans-saharan highway into Ebonyi State is not the focus of this piece. Rather, this piece is concerned with the decision of Ebonyi State Government to convert Abakpa market into Ebonyi modern vegetable and fruit market. This effort has become necessary in view of the questions on the lips of some people. They ask: Why a vegetable and fruit market? What purpose will a vegetable and fruit Market serve Ebonyi people?
Recall that when Umahi began the transformation of Ebonyi road and other Infrastructural sectors in 2015, he was accused of turning Ebonyi State into one huge construction site without necessary human capital development programmes. However, when Umahi rolled out status-enhancing empowerment programmes which targeted youths, women, widows, widowers and the physically-challenged; and the unique agricultural revolution programme which came with the ban of the sale and consumption of foreign rice in Ebonyi State, the lips of Umahi’s critics were sealed by the realization that Umahism, a better and autochthonous form of democracy, was designed to administer comprehensive indices of good governance to the people for the well-being of the total man.
To answer the questions raised about the novel Ebonyi Vegetable and Fruit Market, there is need to look at Ebonyi State and her people, the vegetable/fruit market as conceived by Governor David Umahi and the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended). There is no doubt that with good roads, efficient water supply, functional education system, a creative and dependable healthcare delivery system, security of lives and property etcetera which are already in place, Umahi has succeeded in transforming Ebonyi State into a modern city state wherein life-expectancy is supposed to be very high. However, it is unacceptable that notwithstanding all these factors for which Ebonyi State is rated as the fasted developing state in Nigeria, life expectancy in Ebonyi State, according to a report of National Bureau of Statistics, was still at the low side of 48 at birth; 47 for males and 52 for females in 2018! It is the concern to bridge the gap between the available indices of development and life expectancy in Ebonyi State that more than all other factors made a paradigm shift from our present meat-based feeding culture to plant-based meals necessary, hence the Ebonyi Vegetable and Fruit Market project. This is true because research findings reveal that vegetarians or people who feed on plant-based meals have higher life expectancy for the reasons that they are immune to cardio-vascular diseases, kidney-failure, alzheimer’s disease, diabetes and other leading killer diseases which are rife in developing countries including Nigeria. In the present Ebonyi State, the high rate of deaths arising from the aforementioned diseases and the volume of funds and other resources invested in their daily therapeutic management are enough to make any administration that is concerned about the welfare of the the people to take decisive steps to protect the citizenry from avoidable death. For instance, more than 20 years ago, Dr. Dean Ornish, an American professor of clinical medicine and president and founder of the nonprofit Preventive Medicine Research Institute in Sausalito, California, showed that “heart disease could not just be stopped but actually reversed with a vegan diet”! Given the welfarist slant of Governor David Umahi’s administration which has maximum value for the lives of Ebonyi people, it is not surprising that Ebonyi State Government took the bull by the horn through the decision to turn the old Abakpa main market to a first-of-its-kind modern vegetable and fruit market in this part of the world. The intention of Engr. David Umahi in taking this proactive decision is to promote the cultivation of fruits and vegetables and a plant-based feeding culture in Ebonyi State. This was what the authorities in Finland did in the 20th century to stem the tide of high mortality rate and low life expectancy arising from meat-based feeding culture in that country. Even though that decision came at huge costs to the Finnish citizenry who had to change their dairy farms to berry farms, the country of Finland has continued to celebrate that decision till date. Above all, in providing for the fundamental objectives and directive principles which are the moral compasses for the governments of the Nigerian nation and her constituent states which Ebonyi State is one of, the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended) holds in its section 14 (2) (b) that, “the security and welfare of the people shall be the primary purpose of government”. This brings Umahi’s decision to relocate Abakpa traders and build a vegetable and fruit market therein squarely within the constitution. So, there are no questions about its legality or constitutionality. Plant-based diets have been certified globally as the surest way to good health and longevity; and Umahi deserves the support of well-meaning and patriotic Ebonyi citizens including the traders who are expected to demonstrate their commitment to the common good of Ebonyi people by relocating on schedule. This, the traders should do realizing that development comes at costs on both the government and individual citizens.
Having said these, it is hereby appealed that Governor Umahi’s administration forgives the initial hesitation of the traders and infuse more of its trademark human face into the execution of the relocation order to Abakpa market traders. This is enough to say that while the 15th October, 2019 date for complete relocation from Abakpa market to St. Magaret International Market should be treated as sacrosanct, Governor David Umahi as a compassionate leader may still add more palliative measures to the relocation order to assuage the immediate shock of relocation on the traders. Ebonyi people cannot forget the filial love and compassion of the apostle-governor of Ebonyi State for his people which he has demonstrated severally, especially when he relocated traders from Akanu Ibiam roundabout; and even during the eviction of the recalcitrant illegal occupants of Ebonyi State University permanent site.
Those who under-estimate the importance of a vegetable and fruit market in Abakaliki and in the rest of Ebonyi State, I leave with the words of Albert Schweitzer. According to the theologian, philosopher, and physician, “It is the fate of every truth to be an object of ridicule when it is first acclaimed.” The rigid pavement road technology, the overhead bridges and the Neighborhood Security Watch which Ebonyi people enjoy today were all treated with pinches of doubt when they were introduced by visionary Governor David Umahi. Certainly, the vegetable and fruit market project has come to further secure the welfare and increase life expectancy of Ebonyi people. This is the ultimate goal of Umahism; and Ebonyi people owe Engr. David Umahi a huge debt of support, encouragement and gratitude.
It is well with Ebonyi State!
Monday Eze, is a Senior Technical Assistant (Media) To Gov. Dave Umahi
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