By Josephat Obi Oguejiofor
THE promise of Obiano’s tenure was that more attention would be paid to the improvement of Anambra North. With less than two years to his exit, how far has the region bridged the gap of development? Development can be human, economic and social but let us concentrate on infrastructural development especially roads, which can open up the district and greatly improve its economy?
One approaching Aguleri will surely see some beautification marks; the large roundabout at Nkpuonumba, adorned by a majestic status of Blessed Iwene Tansi; the newly completed monument with a molded shark towards another roundabout as one branches off into the town; a new hostel being constructed at St. Joseph’s; and the water project still under construction to serve the town. It is also remarkable that one who drives down to the river will observe that all the roads branching off from Oyeagu-Otuocha trunk B road into the town have been tarred.
The tarring of roads in Nando started by Obi has also been completed. Now one can drive from Ubaruisioye, Nando to Aguleri; from Agbudu to Onitsha- Nsukka road, and from Abube Nando to the Onitsha Enugu express. There are certainly some other projects in the developmentally backward local governments. The road from Aguleri to Eziagulu has the benefit of a large bridge, but the road has stalled for years. It means that during rainy season the inhabitants of Enugu Otu Aguleri still have to find their way to Ifite Ogwari or Igbakwu by boat to come out of their enclave. But by far the promise of greater development has till date not been fulfilled in Omambala and Ogbaru.
From Oyi Local Government, it is remarkable that some roads started in Ogbunike to emerge at 7th mile are yet to be completed after so many years. Awkuzu is worse. The short stretch of road from Nkwor bursting at Abba – Awkuzu road seems to be targeted only at tarring a road to one commissioner’s house; and since the short stretch attained that objective, the work has stopped. The next project in Awkuzu is the construction of a very vital road that leads from Eke Awkuzu to Umunya through River Kisa to join Ogbunike. After about half a kilometer of tarring, the road has been abandoned for more than one year now. At Nteje, the road that leads from St. Paul’s Anglican Church, Nteje to Odumodu and thence to Umudioka, which was started by Obi had the fortune of having a connecting bridge completed by Obiano. But the road that connects Ashala Agu Nteje to Abube Nando remains abandoned. Nkwele bye pass completed by Obi’s government remains the only asphalted road that goes through Nkwelle Ezunaka.
Apart from Aguleri, what is happening to other towns in Anambra East council? Umuleri has a new road that leads from Onitsha-Nsukka to Oyeagu- Otuocha road. The town also rejoiced at the citing of an airport in their territory. At inception the government proclaimed that the project will be completed in two years. During his re-election campaign, it was announced that the Chinese will now do the work. A sharing formula for projected profit was also announced. Now the Chinese are gone. The government has swung back to construct the airport. But the state of work at the cite habours no promise that the project can be completed in less than two years, and will most likely be abandoned by the next governor.
The developmental situation of Anambra West Council cries to heaven for vengeance. Its headquarters at Nzam look like abandoned edifice, overgrown by grass. The perimeter fence around the quarters remains uncompleted since the inception of the local government. There is not a single good road to the towns of Anambra West, except the one tarred by Obi’s government from Umueze Anam to Mmiata Anam.
From that axis, just some more work would have taken the road to Nzam, but this has not been done for more than six years. Completing that road would have opened up the whole of Olumbanasa (incluing Inoma, Ego Oja, Odey, Odekpe, Igbokenyi, Igbedor, Ala na Onugwa) to the rest of the state. Anambra West Council is a veritable example of an abandoned local government, with practically no notable project initiated by the current government.
Ayamelum Local Government remains a place where one heavy rain blocks access to the whole local government. This is because with heavy rain the Onitsha-Nsukka road becomes impassable from Igbariam to the towns in Ayamelum. There is no alternative road of entry to the council area. The mantra from defenders of the state government is that the road is a federal road. But responsible state governments do not wait for the federal government before coming to the succor of their people.
To his credit, Obi’s government constructed a long road leading from Anaku to Omor, Igbakwu, Ifete Ogwari, Omasi, and hacking back to Onitsha–Nsukka road. That is the only serious government project in the whole of Ayamelum Local Government since the current democratic era started in 1999. Umerum town remained virtually cut off from the rest of the state until Vincent Ofumelu, representing Oyi/Ayamelum at the House of Representatives, started working on the road linking the town to Omor. Ogbaru Local Government has just one central road that runs through most of its towns. This road was tarred by Obi’s government from Onitsha to Ossomala. The road continues to Ogwuikpele but the current state government has been on that stretch for more than six years now without any serious result.
It means that Anambra North has so far failed to witness the developmental stride that made many Anambrarians support zoning the governorship to the district. The implication is that it is not necessarily the geographic origin of the leader of a government that ensures that good work will be done, and especially that due attention will be given to disadvantaged regions.
It is notable that major developmental strides in Anambra North were achieved by governors from other senatorial districts. Some of these strides include the Oyeagu – Otuocha road; the Nkwele bye-pass; the Onitsha-Ossomala road; the bridge across Omambala River; the road from Anaku to Omasi; the road from Umueze Anam to Nmiata Anam; and from Nteje to Umudioka. These were done at the era of Ngige and Obi.
If the aim of politics is ultimately the welfare of the populace, what we learn from all the above is that zoning is not an effective means of achieving that hallowed objective. That lesson is indeed the antithesis of zoning governorship in Anambra.
Rev. Fr. Oguejiofor is a professor of philosophy at Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Awka, Anambra State