First Executive Governor of Ebonyi State, Sam Egwu and his successor, Chief Martin Elechi, have appealed to incumbent Governor Francis Nwifuru to rename Chuba Wilberforce Okadigbo International Airport, Onueke, after Senator Offia Nwali.
They made the appeal during the 63rd Independence celebration and 27 years of Ebonyi State creation at Ochudo Centenary City, Abakaliki.
Speaking on behalf of the founding fathers of Ebonyi State, Elechi said Ebonyi people were not happy with the naming of the new airport after Okadigbo, stressing that throughout his days in politics, Okadigbo did not play any active role for the creation of the state or its growth.
Elechi said, “Before these creation, there were founding fathers; before the withdrawal of white men from Nigeria, there were founding fathers that were driven to have new states and new environment that will favour their people.
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“Today, we are happy to be in Ebonyi State and an independent Nigeria. Just lately, development comes with turbulence and tribulations. We have been facing both , however, victory has been the crown of all the struggles. We are grateful to God and thankful to all those who are have one way or the other make out state.
“Also , Your Excellency Ebonyi people are not happy to hear our new airport being called Chuba Okadigbo’s Airport. Chuba is a great Nigerian, but he is not known in Ebonyi State neither will Ebonyi people say this is what he did for them.
“When I was state secretary of NPN, National Party of Nigeria, Okadigbo was vying for the Senate. We were friendly. All I remember is that he use to visit me at 5 Igboeze Street, Enugu, and we will settle over a bottle of brandy till the bottle was emptied. We did not talk about Ebonyi people or their problems and solutions.
“Understandably, General Muhammadu Buhari knew our problems. When he was the Brigade Major in Abakaliki, he gave us the pass that enable us to go to Ogoja to plead our case otherwise we would have been arrested by security people over what we were doing to create Ebonyi State.
“We love him and it was proper to name the airport after him. But since he didn’t accept it , the airport should be named after someone else. That airport is less that ten kilometer to the primary school where Senator Offia Nwali made his marks as a student. And that is the request I am making on behalf of the founding fathers and on behalf of the people of Ebonyi Central Zone.
“We thank you for your hard work for your vision for the development of Ebonyi State. It is a very good vision indeed,” he said.
The Chuba Okadigbo’s Airport which was built during the past administration of David Umahi cost the state N43 billion, but the present government has awarded contract to the tune of N13 billion for the re-construction of the runway.
This is due to the fact that the runway which was done on cement concrete is not smooth enough for the aircraft to operate.