Despite their industry and resourcefulness, the Igbo have not been able to adequately developed the South-East, no thanks to looting by political leaders, writes EMMANUEL IFEANYI
Mr. Clement Obi (an engineer) from Odide, Egbuoma in Oguta Local Government Area of Imo State told New Telegraph that any form of underdevelopment noticed in Oguta axis down to Ogwuaniocha in Anambra State should be blamed on the two governments and not citizens whose efforts are being frustrated by recklessness of those in power.
Obi said if someone had told him that 50 years after the Civil War, Ogwu towns (Ogwuaniocha and Ogwu-Ikpele) would still not have a good bridge link to his town in Egbuoma and other parts of Oguta Local Government Area he would not have believed.
The engineer lambasted the past and present governors of Anambra and Imo states and even those of neighbouring Delta and Rivers states for not coming together to think of a better way to develop the River Niger and Urasi coastal communities.
He said: “It’s unfortunate that up till today, we allow a federal road, the Onitsha- Owerri Highway, to ‘tell us’ the distance between Ogbaru and Oguta. Anambra and Imo governments are aware that the majority of the food our people consume comes from these two local government areas.
“I know Ayamelum Local Government Area supplies a lot of food to Onitsha, but Ogbaru does as well. Likewise does Oguta to all the towns within Njaba and Urasi River down to Orlu and Owerri.
It baffles me whenever I hear a governor from the South-East talks about agriculture. “They are not serious. Visit all agrarian communities in the South-East; the people are treated like lepers. So, why wouldn’t the youth see agriculture as a waste of time? That’s why everything food is costly here, including garri and fufu that we have all over our land.
“Who will sacrifice his time to ferry himself down to Ogwuaniocha to bring cassava? There are many farmlands in Egbuoma that produce all we need, but how many of them are accessible? People still manage to bring the little they can to sell at Afor-Egbu Market and Ihiala whenever they can. “What our government does is ‘eyeservice development’.
They concentrate on where the eyes can see and see some of us as forgotten people. If there was any governor who could have changed our situation in terms of a good road network between Oguta, Ogbaru and Ihiala local government areas, it was Chinwoke Mbadinuju who hails from Uli in Ihiala.
“He wasted four years and see what this place is now. Governor Hope Uzodinma currently has another good opportunity to make history because he is our brother from Oru;so we’re expecting a lot from him as governor of Imo State who is from this Senatorial Zone as well. “You need to see the rickety old canoes people are still using in Ogwuaniocha up till this day, even in Oguta.
These things are embarrassing and wickedness from the government. What will it cost them to unite or even pressurise the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) to fix it since the two local government areas involved, both in Anambra and Imo states, are oil producing areas.”
On rural development in Imo State, Obi said it is unfortunate that even towns that were well-planned by the colonialists and others touched by Michael Okpara of the old Eastern Nigeria and Sam Mbakwe of the old Imo State are forgotten. He added: “I’ll only speak of my senatorial zone, Orlu. When people talk of development in Nnewi because of their industrialists, I can’t help but to laugh.
Every Amaichi man, Ozubulu man, Oraifite man, Osumenyi man and Igbo-Ukwu man does his business in Nnewi. It’s the same issue here in Orlu if you bring it down to Orlu Zone in general. “Tell me one town in Igboland that has better planning than Oguta Main Town? It’s just shameful how they’ve allowed that beautiful town to keep decaying every year. It all bothers on terrible governance and all focuses on Owerri mentality. Owerri is our capital, but the government must realise people reside elsewhere.
“Orlu Zone is the home of industrialists as well. Have you been to Nkwerre, Umuaka, Mgbidi, Oguta, Awo- Omamma and Akaokwa? Are they not the same with what is available in all those towns in Anambra State, if not better? In all those suburbs in Orlu Zone our people are trying, but our government, over the years, has not been sincere to the people.
Is there any town in Igboland that is more developed than Oguta? But just to put a bridge across the Oguta Lake to link Oguta one and two has been a problem for the Imo State government.”
Clement Ezeh, from Adani, in the Uzo- Uwani Local Government Area of Enugu State lamented the neglect of Uzo-Uwani, precisely the rice-farming community of Adani. He described the situation as unbelievable.
Ezeh told our correspondent that he doesn’t understand if his local government area is moving forward or backward. He said: “If you want to know how backward the Uzo-Uwani Local Government Area is, visit the headquarters at Umulokpa and see which major development we can boast.”
Ezeh, however, said that the current administration in Enugu State and the presence of Enugu North Senator, Chukwuka Utazi, who hails from the local government area, is actually helping a little bit in terms of development.
He said that he is yet to know why Igbo people claim they do not have food when they should have asked their governors why they deliberately abandon places like Uzo- Uwani and Ayamelum local government areas in Enugu and Anambra states. According to him, the people were very happy when early in 2020 the Federal Government said it was going to resuscitate Omor-Adani River Basin rice projects, but nothing has been done since then.
He said: “We were told it is phase one of the Agricultural Transformation Agenda Support Programme (ATASP–1) and that the Federal Government is ready to resuscitate the moribund facilities at the Omor-Adani Staple Crop Processing Zone to increase rice production.
“I was happy because I know both Enugu and Anambra governments have closed their eyes to what they have in Omor and Adani. Uzo-Uwani, over the years, is seen as a backyard area ikn Enugu State by past governors.
“This agrarian local government area has suffered a lot. “If Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi can remember us and do what he did for the long-neglected Umulokpa-Adaba-Ukpata- Uvuru-Nkpologu Road, which links many communities in Uzo-Uwani Local Government Area to our headquarters at Umulokpa, then there could be hope because I know that road is over 30 kilometres.
“They’ve also done something on the Ukpabi-Nimbo-Ugbene Ajima-Eziani Road as well as the Edem Ani-Urobo-Abbi Road.” Another indigene, Okechukwu Ugwu, said that poor infrastructural development is a problem, but when it comes to food production and rural urban migration, the activities of killer herdsmen are a major setback. He said: “You saw what happened at Nimbo a few years back. Let me tell you, no community in Uzo-Uwani is safe.
From Abbi to Nrobo, Adaba, Umulokpa, Adani, Ukpata, Ogurugu, Nkpologu, Igga, Asaba, Akpogu, Uvuru, Ojo, Nkume, Ugbene and Nimbo, we’re all farmers and herdsmen aren’t helping matters. Everything about food scarcity is closely associated with Fulani herdsmen’s activities in various communities and the inability of our government to rise to the occasion.
After they successfully massacred our people in Nimbo, the violent herdsmen have created serious fear for farming business and people are leaving our villages for fear of either economic loss or loss of their lives. The herdsmen’s unrestrained attacks on our agrarian villages and towns have brought a lot of consequences. Massive rural urban migration is one of such consequences.”
Mr. Ndubuaku Onyeka Ochompo, an engineer from Umudara-Umuguma, in Alienyi Autonomous Community, Mgbidi Oru West Local Government Area of Imo State, said the poor state of infrastructure is turning his once lively town into a ghost town.
He said: “I’m based in Mgbidi and I work in Owerri as an engineer, but I’m not comfortable with the poor development of our rural areas. Most of our rural areas have become nightmares to the people.
That a place is tagged rural does not mean it should be abandoned and left without government presence. “Nobody is saying they should build everything in the city here, but at least give people a sense of belonging. Rural areas are the main places where you see the original owners of the land. The cities are also occupied by people from these rural areas who have one or two businesses to do there.
“Development should start from the wards to the local government areas then to the state level. It baffles me whenever we have a new government in Imo State; all you’ll hear is the development of already developed Owerri.
How can a governor abandon all local government areas and communities that are terrible in all ramifications and move to Owerri? “Mgbidi, my town, cannot be tagged a rural area. Mgbidi is a suburb and the gateway to Imo State but I feel bad that all our tarred roads have gone bad. “You can go round and see that currently there is absolutely no good tarred road in this prestigious town that should be competing with other major towns in some parts of the country. “Oru West Local Government Area generally should have gone farther than where we’re now.
From Alienyi, Uzinaumu, Ihitte all in Mgbidi to Otulu Junction is in a terrible shape. This is the road that these communities need to transact their local businesses, but the government doesn’t care. “In the previous administration, they started something from Otulu Junction and stopped it without any tangible reason. They did work where those passing through major roads can see and abandoned it from inside where the road covers more distance.
The road cuts across Oru West and Oru East because it leads to Amiri. I beg them to help us. “The governor should instruct his Works Commissioner, Ralph Nwosu, who is also from here to help us. During the rainy season, we feel like we’re forgotten and abandoned because everywhere has a look of trapped and abandoned people. The bad state of our roads is affecting everybody. “This is arguably one of the dominant commercial towns in Igboland, but things have gone too bad.
Let the government officials remember that some of them are from these rural areas or suburbs they have abandoned. I visited the Amaofuo community in Oru West towards Ubulu and I was shocked that they don’t have a motorable road again.
“What about Aji, Nempi, Eleh Road in the same Oru West? These whole communities have been cut off because of bad roads. These used to be towns that were rising together with Mgbidi in the early days.”
Mr. John Ogugua from Omor in Ayamelum Local Government Area of Anambra State said he is yet to know why the government deliberately decided to allow an important food centre like Ayamelum to decay without intervention. He said: “What’s happening is appalling.
I don’t just know the right negative word to use to qualify the rate of our development; but the rate of our development is not how we expected it to be. It’s very retrogressive in nature. We’re just stagnant.
“The main problem of the Ayamelum Local Government Area is bad governance. The area is where the current Speaker of Anambra State House of Assembly hails from, but since this administration, you can’t see any sign of the government’s presence in Ayamelum. Since the inception of Governor Willie Obiano’s administration, he has not done any single developmental project in Ayamelum.
“All we have are bad roads and poor health facilities. In fact, no single infrastructural development is around us. It is only recently that they started grading the only major gateway that links us to other local government areas or other states which is the Onitsha-Omor-Adani Road that links us with Onitsha and Adani in the Uzo-Uwani Local Government Area of Enugu State. “When you ask them, they’ll say it is a federal road.
That same road was blocked during the flood to the extent that whenever people get to the boundary between Ayamelum and other local government areas, they’ll use boats to enter into our land. Ayamelum is the food basket of Anambra State.
I say it unequivocally. “We’re known for virtually every arable crop. The rice we’re producing is even exported outside Anambra State. We produce yam, okra, cassava and maize in commercial quantities.
I’m not talking about subsistence farming. The only thing my people are asking for is just the road to enable them to bring out their farm produce to sell. Most of the farmers watch their farm produce perish because it’s difficult to get out to sell the produce. “When Dr. Chris Ngige was governor, he was the first to remember Ayamelum Local Government Area.
He awarded that road, but because he was removed from office, he couldn’t do anything about it. When Peter Obi came in, he continued from where Ngige stopped because he gave us between nine to 11 kilometres of road which is the other road we’re currently using from Adani to Omor.
“That is the only access road we have now. But since the inception of Obiano’s administration who happens to come from the same Anambra North Senatorial Zone like us in Ayamelum. He is from our neighbouring local government area which is Anambra East Local Government Area.
“He has not done anything for us here in terms of infrastructure. Yes, he may have done some things in human capacity development and political appointments, but he has done absolutely nothing on infrastructure.
“The state of our infrastructure is greatly affecting our youths. It is pushing all of them outside Ayamelum. What is the essence of wasting your time farming and at the end of the day you’ll not be able to sell the farm produce? There is no single functional hospital in case you’re sick, there’s no road.
“Do you know that the majority of our pregnant women travel outside Ayamelum to be delivered of their babies because there’s no single good hospital in almost all parts of Ayamelum? The health centre here is under-equipped. Our women suffer a lot to get medical help in other LGAs. “That’s exactly why our people are migrating outside the Ayamelum Local Government Area.
As at today, our people still fetch water from streams to drink. And you know how unhygienic that is. Government is doing absolutely nothing in Ayamelum and our people are running to Onitsha to at least see what real life looks like.
“Our National Assembly representatives are not doing anything. The person representing Ayamelum/Oyi Federal Constituency is from Ayamelum, but since he was sworn in, he has never attracted anything to our people. Everything is centred on bad governance.”
The Youth Lader of Mgbidi Autonomous Community Town Union, Comrade Madu Ogochukwu Gabriel, who hails from Ugbele in Mgbidi Autonomous Community, Mgbidi, Oru West Local Government Area of Imo State said he is not satisfied with the level of development of Imo State, especially in the rural areas and suburban areas. Gabriel regretted that two of the most promising developing towns in Oru Clan – Awo-Omamma in Oru West and Mgbidi in Oru West – have an arrested development because of long years of neglect by successive administrations.
He said: “Awo-Omamma and Mgbidi are the towns our clan always boast of among all other towns in Oru Clan, but their developments are slow because of lack of social amenities in areas like industries, factories, banks, good roads, regular electricity supply, etc.
“The neglect of these two towns, which are completely suburbs and their neighbouring rural towns, is regrettable. Rural development focuses on the process of improving the quality of life and economic well being of people living in rural areas.
But all that is lacking in our clan.” The youth leader added that the constant over-concentration of developmental projects in the capital city of Owerri is not encouraging people to invest in other parts of the state. He said: “We are still watching this particular administration because it is young. But I also think the government is following the steps of others in over-concentration in Owerri because road construction is focused on Owerri. Hopefully soon, we shall have the privilege of seeing new roads in the suburbs and rural areas because we have been denied of that for many years.
There are no new roads in our area; the one we had did not last. We also need massive road construction in our areas just as they do in Owerri.” Gabriel said that Mgbidi and Awo- Omamma are two business suburbs that have numerous dilapidated roads that when fixed, will wake up the two sleeping business towns from their slumber occasioned by many years of neglect. He added: “I’m not happy. We have numerous roads in the areas that when fixed will develop the area. In Mgbidi, we have Stadium Road that connects from Onitsha- Owerri Expressway to Orlu Main Town. We also have the Mgbidi-Oguta Road which also connects from Onitsha-Owerri Expressway.
“There is also the Mgbidi-Orlu Road that connects between the Onitsha-Owerri Highway straight to Orlu. Another issue is that the much-talked about Onitsha-Owerri Highway which links Anambra and Imo states is dilapidated as it has caved into two at the Oguta Junction. But I thank Governor Hope Uzodimma for the work going on at the site.
“That part of the road has perennially caused our people unforgettable agonies. But recently, I saw the drainage which will channel the storm water from Oguta Junction to Mmiri Nwataoma (Obana River) in Mgbidi. The drainage goes through Umuopara- Mgbidi, across Ihitte-Mgbidi Road and Oguta Road down to Chiderah Hospital and Mmiri Nwataoma “There’s also the recently flagged off Awo-Omamma-Okwudor-Njaba Road that will connect Oru East and Njaba, which is in progress. When completed, that road will boost the economic status of our people.”
Gabriel said with good roads and other necessary infrastructure, more businesses and companies will come into Mgbidi, Awo- Omama, Omuma and Nempi towns all in Oru East and Oru West local government areas. He linked the retarded development of Oru East and Oru West to lack of local government autonomy. According to him, local governments have much work to do with rural development and when the state controls all the affairs of the councils, the local government system is left with little funds to spend. Gabriel praised the business prowess of the two towns and called on the state government to modernise the Afor-Awo Market in Awo-Omamma as it did to Eke-Mgbidi Market to enable people to trade in a more comfortable environment.
He said: “In Mgbidi, we have a modern market called Eke-Mgbidi which has more than 1,000 stores rebuilt by the Rescue Mission of Governor Rochas Okorocha led by Hon. Dominic Mgbeanulu as the TC chairman then. Mgbidi also has a booming Timber Market which is doing very well and comfortable at its present site at Ihitte-Mgbidi. “The proposed Heartland Gateway International Market by Rochas Okorocha’s administration has not taken off.
I’m hoping the current governor will carry on with the plan which will be a plus to the administration when completed. In Awo-Omamma, we also have Afor-Awo which is also a big market, but needs to be modernised. Not forgetting another good modern market at Nempi called Orie-Nempi.
“The Eke-Mgbidi, Mgbidi Timber Market, a modernised Afor-Awo, Orie-Nempi and by God’s grace, a completed and functional Heartland Gateway International Market, will make major towns in Oru like Mgbidi, Awo-Omamma, Omuma and Nempi commercially viable.
They’ll help boost our economic values and bring development to us.” Gabriel praised private investors in the medical sector who have established many private hospitals, clinics and maternity hospitals in Mgbidi, but called on the government to show its presence by completing the uncompleted Oru West General Hospital in Mgbidi and another one for Oru East located at Omuma.