Despite their industry and resourcefulness, the Igbo have not been able to adequately developed the South-East, no thanks to mismanagement by political leaders, writes EMMANUEL IFEANYI
Mr. Ejiofor Anadi always sheds tears whenever he remembers the condition of his hometown, Ogwuaniocha in Ogbaru Local Government Area of Anambra State, an agrarian coastal community that seems not to exist in the budget of the state government since the creation of the state.
“Ogbaru is in a pitiable condition. We have been recklessly abandoned by Anambra State government, both past and present administrations. If I talk like an Anambrarian (an Anambra State citizen) I may join men of good thoughts to credit Peter Obi on his good works in Anambra State, but if I talk like an indigene of Ogbaru, I need someone to convince me that Ogbaru is part of Anambra State,” Anadi said bitterly.
The situation in majority of the 16 towns in Ogbaru Local Government Area of Anambra State is felt in Ayamelum Local Government Area in the same state, Oguta Local Government Area of Imo State, Oru West and Oru East local government areas of Imo State, Uzo-Uwani, Oji and Udi local government areas of Enugu State.
It is same in Ivo Local Government Area of Ebonyi State and almost all parts of Ebonyi State prior to the emergence of Governor Dave Umahi. Whenever and wherever Igbo are mentioned, the description is always, “everywhere they go, they bring development with them”.
Igbo are known as carriers of development by others. However, their own land remains underdeveloped, as many of their states are left with only their capital cities to boast of. The South-East is owned and dominated by the Igbo who are also indigenous people in some South-South states.
They permanently dominate the entire South-East with five states of Abia, Anambra, Ebonyi, Enugu and Imo, who speak no other language except Igbo Language, and of course the official language, English.
One baffling thing about the South- East is that its development, not withstanding its small land mass, is not commensurate with the true culture of Ndigbo (Igbo people). Most emerging towns that recovered fully from the destructions of the 1967-1970 Civil War have remained stagnant in development, as most communities are even getting deserted as a result of rural urban migration.
Some believe that the demoralising post-war conditions in Igboland (Alaigbo) provided the push toward a global Diaspora that continues to this day which now makes it possible for the Igbo to be found in their hundreds of thousands in all parts of Nigeria and the world.
On a closer look, one will discover that such belief that relies on post-war conditions as the reason for excessive movement of Ndigbo outside their land has failed to update their stand with current realities of several decades of underperformance and administrative recklessness by some South-East governors and National Assembly members which has left Alaigbo underdeveloped. With a total land mass of 29,362 square kilometres (29,362 km2) shared by its five states – Enugu State (7,161 km2), Abia State (6,320 km2), Ebonyi State (5,935 km2), Imo State (5,530 km2) and Anambra State (4,416km2), the South East is Nigeria’s smallest geo-political zone by land mass.
So with five states, a total area of 29,362 km2, 15 Senatorial Districts, 43 Federal Constituencies and 95 Local Government Areas, the South- East is still struggling to extend development beyond the capital cities of her five states. There is absolutely no way one can say there would not be rural areas, of course not.
There must be rural areas, but there is a big difference between a rural area and an abandoned area. Most of the communities and towns described as rural are actually abandoned places with nothing that makes life worth living. Anambra State has 21 LGAs name-ly: Aguata, Awka North, Awka South, Anambra East, Anambra West, Anaocha, Ayamelum, Dunukofia, Ekwusigo, Idemili North, Idemili South, and Ihiala. Others are Njikoka, Nnewi North, Nnewi South, Ogbaru, Onitsha North, Onitsha South, Orumba North, Orumba South, and Oyi. However, only five – Onitsha South, Onitsha North, Awka North, Awka South, and Nnewi North -can be described as developed. It is important to state that Awka South and Nnewi North cannot be described as fully developed.
The rest have some suburbs and more of rural areas. Imo State has 27 local government areas which are Aboh Mbaise, Ahiazu Mbaise, Ehime Mbano, Ezinihitte Mbaise, Ideato North, Ideato South, Ihitte/Uboma, Ikeduru, Isiala Mbano, Isu, Mbaitoli, Ngor Okpala, Njaba, Nkwerre, and Nwangele. Others are Obowo, Oguta, Ohaji/ Egbema, Okigwe, Onuimo, Orlu, Orsu, Oru East, Oru West, Owerri Municipal, Owerri North and Owerri West. Out of these 27 LGAs in Imo State, only Owerri Municipal, Owerri North and Owerri West are developed.
Although Orlu, Okigwe and Mbaitoli are currently breathing air of development, they are still far from development. Other LGAs coming up are Oru West, Aboh Mbaise, and Ideato North, but all are individual efforts with zero government presence. Enugu State consists of 17 LGAs – Aninri, Awgu, Enugu East, Enugu North, Enugu South, Ezeagu, Igbo Etiti, Igbo Eze North, Igbo Eze South, and Isi Uzo.
Others are Nkanu East, Nkanu West, Nsukka, Oji River, Udenu, Udi and Uzo- Uwani. It is also very unfortunate that out of the 17 LGAs, Enugu’s development is currently stranded in only three lGAs – Enugu North, Enugu East and Enugu South – while Udi, Awgu, Udenu and Nsukka LGAs are struggling to get glimpse of what suburbs should look like. In Abia State, the story is much more pathetic considering her strategic location.
Abia consists of 17 LGAs – Aba North, Aba South, Arochukwu, Bende, Ikwuano, Isiala Ngwa North, Isiala Ngwa South, Isuikwuato, Obi Ngwa, and Ohafi. Others are Osisioma Ngwa, Ugwunagbo, Ukwa East, Ukwa West, Umuahia North, Umuahia South and Umu Nneochi. It is, however, unfortunate that development still terminates in three LGAs while four others are fighting seriously to join.
The three most developed LGAs are Aba North, Aba South and Umuahia North. Umuahia South, Ikwuano, Osisioma and Obingwa LGAs are currently struggling to develop due to their proximity to Umuahia Metropolis (Umuahia North) and Aba Metropolis (Aba North and Aba South). Ebonyi, the youngest and fastest developing state in the South-East, has 13 local government areas.
They are Abakaliki, Afikpo North, Afikpo South (Edda), Ebonyi, Ezza North, Ezza South, Ikwo, Ishielu, Ivo, Izzi, Ohaozara, Ohaukwu, and Onicha. Just like other parts of the South- East, the real developed part of Ebonyi State remains only the capital, which has Ezza South, Abakiliki, Ebonyi and Ishielu LGAs, with development limited to Abakiliki and Ebonyi LGAs. However, Afikpo and Onueke towns are suburbs yearning for more attention.
Most of the neglected towns in Anambra, Imo and Abia states are actually towns which ought to have been developed first because of their locations and resources within, but due to certain circumstances best known to the previous and present administrations, they have refused to do anything about development. If someone says that Anambra State has smooth inter-community/local government roads, the question would be if Ogbaru, Ayamelum, Ihiala, Anambra West and Orumba South local government areas are part of Anambra State.
If they boast of how beautiful Imo State is because of Owerri Capital City, but the forgotten people of Oguta, Ohaji- Egebema, Oru West, Oru East, Njaba and Ngor-Akpala are all local government areas of Imo State Although there is every day hustling and bustling in Aba and Umuahia, how about Ukwa West, Ukwa East, Isuikwuato, Umunneochi, Ohafia and Arochukwu local government areas.
With their creativity, outstanding business skills, industrious and indomitable spirit, it is said that Ndigbo are the easiest people to govern because with a few infrastructure on ground and provision of basic amenities needed to preserve human existence, they can turn a desert to a mall.
However, with several decades of unrestrained looting under the supervision of some kleptomaniacs in various political positions, a people regarded as one of the most intelligent races and arguably the most travelled of the black race are still struggling to develop the capital cities of their states.
Apart from Anambra State which tried to shift focus from the over-concentration of development only in the capital cities, with due respect to the achievements of the Governor Dave Umahi-led administration in Ebonyi State, the remaining four states have nothing tangible to show in this regard. Although Anambra State cannot be totally exempted from this deliberate and self-inflicted underdevelopment due to the situations in Ogbaru and other local government areas listed above, it has made reasonable moves to curtail it.
Today, Anambra State can boast three major cities and nine rapidly-developing towns which may soon be swallowed up by the three major cities. A larger percentage of the development witnessed in some parts of Anambra State has individual efforts, but the government also plays it role. Today, the three major cities are Onitsha, Awka and Nnewi.
The nine rapidly-developing towns are Ogidi, Ekwulobia, Ihiala, Oba, Nkwelle-Ezunaka, Obosi, Ozubulu, Oraifite and Agulu. Bearing his mind on the ugly situation of his area, Anadi said he needed to be convinced further to accept that Ogbaru Local Government Area is a part of Anambra State because he is yet to see any reason to believe that the local government is part of the state rated as best in rural road network in the South- East and human capital development. He described Ogbaru Local Government Area as arguably the food basket of Anambra State.
According to him, over 90 per cent of the inhabitants of Ogbaru live on agriculture. “That is what we are known for. Growing up in the village was a memorable childhood CONTINUED FROM PAGE 23 experience; precisely Ogwuaniocha and Ogwu-Ikpele where I used to go for holidays,” he said.
Anadi said that apart from being neighbouring communities, Ogwuaniocha and Ogwu-Ikpele also share the same cultural and strong historical relationship because farming used to be the first training or informal education every child inherits from his/her parents before formal education.
He said that those who were not privileged to attend or complete their formal education but chose apprenticeship (Igba boyi), learning one trade or the other in commercial cities like Onitsha, Lagos, Aba, etc, must have learnt how to farm by experience before leaving the village.
“As life is full of uncertainties, if their masters do not settle them or maybe the person has problem with his or her business in any of those cities and returns to the village, the only available option is farming.
“No one will teach you anymore because that is what we know how to do best from childhood. The mass is more than enough. Even as I talk with you now, there are virgin pieces of land yet to be cultivated for the first time in history.
“Going by the kind of crops, the quantity of some agricultural produce produced by the communities in Ogbaru varies. For instance, Ogwu-Ikpele people cultivate pepper, potato, groundnut and garden egg in commercial quantities, compared to Ogwuanicha.
“On the other hand, Ogwuaniocha people produce more palm oil than Ogwu-Ikpele. In summary, every community in Ogbaru can boast mass farming of yam, cassava, fish, rice, timber, etc,” Anadi said.
He regretted that despite all that nature has offered to Ogwuaniocha, Ogwu- Ikpele and other parts of Ogbaru, bad governance, which is felt through poor infrastructural development and lack of government’s assistance in the provision of farming machinery, has rendered the youth helpless and jobless.
According to him, they are left with no option than to migrate. He added: “Talking about infrastructural development, if all the local governments in Anambra State are rated like school subjects, Anambra State government, both past and present administrations, would get F9 in Ogbaru; in terms of provision of healthcare, security, education, roads, electricity, etc.
“I remember a former Governor of Anambra State, Peter Obi, visiting Ogwuaniocha in a jet because the roads were and still too bad for him to make use of. So, he had to come by air to campaign for the then speaker of Anambra State House of Assembly, Princess Chinwe Nwaebili.
“I was sitting for my SSCE then in Community Secondary School, Ogwuaniocha, where he landed. As usual, he gave our people a bag full of empty promises. Later we heard that another Governor, Willie Obiano, had taken over from him.
“But we have doubts because since then, Ogbaru people are yet to see the evidence, we are yet to feel the impact of a new administration. We are not in any way better than what we used to be.
Let it not shock you that Ogwu-Aniocha community has not used electricity for the first time in history.” Anadi said that his own community does not have a health centre or private hospital; they only survive on local chemists and herbal medicine. This, according to him, has led to their aged parents, children and pregnant women dying on a daily basis. He added: “My community and the neighbouring communities do not have police stations; our lives are always in danger. We survive on the mercy of hoodlums.
Recently, our youths died, many were injured and our properties were destroyed during an internal- communal crisis witnessed in Ogwu-aniocha and Ogwu-Ikpele.” Anadi also said that educational system in the area has collapsed and that apart from indigenous teachers, non-indigenous teachers and the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) members find it too difficult to cope with their environment owing to lack of basic amenities, including potable water.
“I do not like talking about our bad roads because my heart bleeds whenever I remember where I am coming from. You’ve seen anyway, but could you imagine that in this era, going to Ogwu-Aniocha, Ogwu-Ipkele and neighbouring communities, you have to wait at a junction and join four or five people coming from different places in one motorcycle otherwise called Okada so as to reduce the cost of transportation as an individual.
“If it is during the rainy season, you will remove your shoes and fold your trousers because you must be ready to trek farther than where the Okada will take you to. But if it is during the dry season like now, you have to arm yourself with extra-clothes because you may not be recognised by people you are visiting on your arrival because of dust on our bad roads,” he said, as tears rolled down his cheeks.
Anadi said that the situation of Ogbaru has become so bad that some people are beginning to see it as their destiny. “I refuse to agree that it is our destiny as the state and the Federal Government have proven to us with total neglect despite the natural resources God has blessed us with. “Going by the geographical settlement and constitutional arrangement, it may seem that Ogbaru is the last bus stop.
It appears you cannot access any other place through Ogbaru – you either come from Ogbaru or you go back to Ogbaru. But that is not true. It appears so because the government has failed in discharging its responsibilities. “If 70 per cent of roads and bridges linking our internal communities as well as other states can be fixed, it will solve 40 per cent of the state economic problem and at the same time better the lives of indigenous people of Ogbaru.
“I know some people may see our periodic visitor, flooding, as an enemy, but it wouldn’t have been so, if government had done what it ought to do by controlling the disaster; you will know that water is a blessing. “You cannot talk about Ogbaru without water. Ogbaru is water and water is Ogbaru. It is our identity; it is our inheritance.
However, flooding has contributed to the massive rural-urban migration of our youths.” It was also learnt that oil exploration by an oil company had been ongoing in Ogwuaniocha and Ogwu-Ikpele without the people noticing the presence of the company and its activities until 2016 because the firm was operating with no signboards.
Reports had it that the company brought in and set up over 300 caravans, constructed helipads to land its helicopters, assembled earth-moving and other heavy equipment, moved in its rig with its workers, mostly foreigners.
With Ogbaru having connection with Delta State through River Niger from Okpai in Ndokwa East Local Government Area and Imo State through Oguta, the oil company reportedly laid pipes running hundreds of kilometres to Oguta in Imo State and Okpai in Delta State as a collection point, making it difficult for the people to know what was happening in the abandoned communities until recently.
Currently, the once peaceful communities are restive, as stipends from the oil company which adopts a divide and rule system has set the two communities against each other. New Telegraph monitored the muchtalked about developed capital cities of the South-East states and discovered that there is nothing much to talk about as almost all the five capital cities still lack any form of potable water for their residents.