BY HENRY UMAHI (KINGHENRYSUN@YAHOO.COM)
As the 2015 general elections draw near, the traumatised people of Abia State are excited about the prospect of change in terms of the administration of the state. From the south to the north and central senatorial districts of the state, the prayer is the same: Let the cup of inefficient and insensitive administration pass over us.
Indeed, in over seven years, the people of the state have been gnashing their teeth over the decayed infrastructure and the general poor state of affairs in the state. The situation is such that respected business mogul and billionaire, Chief Arthur Eze, openly admitted that the state was stinking.
Recently, Saturday Sun correspondent visited the state and discovered that nothing had changed. In fact, the state is still stinking to high heavens. The state roads are still in deplorable condition while garbage litters the streets.
Consider this: Even in February, when the rains are on holiday, Ohanku road in Aba leading to the hometown of the immediate past Minister of Labour and Productivity, Mr Emeka Wogu, remains impassable, both to human and vehicular traffic. The road is flooded with water from the gutters even as the entire stretch is enveloped by offensive odour. Every now and then, it was learnt, state officials come and damage the road more in the name of rehabilitating it.
A trader in the area said: “We are living in hell. The road is like a pathway to hell. The road is in a deplorable condition even as the overflowing gutter stinks so terribly. You are here, so you can see things for yourself. In fact, you were able to get to this point because the rains have stopped. If you come here during the rainy season, you would have been totally messed up. We have, indeed, suffered so much in the last couple of years. When you consider the fact that the road that leads to the home town of someone like the former Minister of Labour and Productivity is in such a decrepit state, you have no doubt that the present government is grossly inept. But the good thing is that in a couple of days, we will have the opportunity of sending out the clueless administration, if the votes will count, that is. We are fed up with the situation because those presently running the affairs of the state are not responsive to the needs and yearnings of the people. If we ask for fish, they give us snake; if we ask for bread, they give us stone. My brother, I have never seen a thing like this anywhere.”
Ngwa road, an arterial road connecting Ohanku, is also in ruins. There, you see traders doing business beside a mountain of refuse. The area emits an acrid odour because of the overflowing, rotten garbage. You see maggots and flies everywhere. Again, the traders have taken over a sizeable portion of the road where they display their wares. It was gathered that in the desperation of the people at the helm of affairs and their cronies to make money, they allow the traders to display their wares on the road. A traditional ruler in the area was also fingered in the traders’ occupation of the road as he receives a piece of the cake.
A source said: “The traders are allowed to occupy part of the road because they pay some people who claim to be government officials. Of course, the result is traffic congestion. Sometimes, people are knocked down by vehicles but the traders remain there because they do not have a choice as it were. The traders cannot afford to rent stalls, so they lay their lives on the line to earn a living.
“Regarding the overflowing garbage, it is a permanent feature of the area. The area has a permanent odour because of the refuse. Once in awhile, they come to clear the garbage but it is only when it had become a mountain. As you can see, some of the traders close to the mountain of garbage cover their noses with handkerchiefs. We recognise the dangers of doing business in such an unhygienic environment but what can one do? Funnily enough, a former deputy director general of the state environmental protection agency in the zone is gunning for the position of governor in the forthcoming election. We call him ‘dirty boy’ because he had failed woefully in his job. I wonder how someone who couldn’t keep Aba clean would be the standard bearer of a political party. It shows that the powers-that-be are bent on ensuring that we continue to live in misery.”
Ngwa road is not the only road taken over by traders in Aba. Traders sit pretty on a section of Danfodio road doing business. Ndoki road has also been taken over by traders who pay fees to some officials. In fact, the vicinity of the popular Enyimba Stadium leaves so much to be desired.
Indeed, Aba, the commercial nerve centre of Abia State could be described as one of the dirtiest cities in the country. Many of the streets are littered with dirt even as the drainages, where they exist, are blocked by garbage. The popular East Street, Hospital road, Park road and Obiora Street are some of the places filled with dirt. Most parts of the city are neglected, squalid.
If you see a portion of Danfodio road, you wonder what the residents had done to deserve the treatment they are getting. The place is flooded with disease-infested water from overflowing gutters. Even a war-torn city will fare better.
One of the residents, who simply identified himself as Omaka, said: “All year round, the place is flooded. It does not matter if it is dry season or rainy season. The gutters are filled with dirt and water covers the road. Some people call it ‘River Danfodio.’ It is not a laughing matter because it breeds mosquitoes everywhere. The residents are always falling sick but because it is not easy relocating, we remain here. We are expecting a change because of the forthcoming elections. Our only prayer is that they allow the votes to count. We have suffered so much for some years now and we are expecting a change soon.”
As it is in the cities, so it is in the rural areas. In fact, the state of roads in the hinterland is pitiable. For example, the road to Ofeme community, after Eme River bridge, which is a stone’s throw from Umuahia, the capital city, is in a sorry state.
“The state of Ariaria-Asa–Amator and Obrete roads is nothing to write home about. The roads are not passable, not to talk of being motorable. Pools of ‘streams’ inhabited by reptiles in the middle of the road are a common sight. The situation subjects the over eight communities to untold hardship. Last Christmas was terrible for people in the area because of the roads. Broken down vehicles was the order of the day. People, who came home for the Christmas and New Year festivities, had it rough. Each time I think of going home, I shudder because of the state of the roads. It is quite unfortunate,” disclosed Chief Chima, an indigene of the place.
Regarding the road to Arochukwu, in another part of the state, Okey Ikechukwu wrote: “The road is abominable. That is if we insist on calling what is essentially a dangerous stretch of treacherous undulations, massive pot (man) holes and sundry dangers a road. As you ‘drive’ on this road of questionable impact on the life of the people in the area, you can see those who are trekking beside your car briskly overtake you. Meanwhile, you are inside a powerful rough terrain vehicle and they are not. And those who ply this no-road every day are Nigerians who have as much right to tolerable social infrastructure as anyone else. Some mischievous observers who try to laugh it off by pointing to the well-known Igbo saying that there is no short distance to Arochukwu forget to add that the adage speaks of distance, not that there is no way of getting to Arochukwu at all.
“One thing is for sure today: whoever sets out for Arochukwu hoping for a leisurely ride may well need to put his ancestors on notice that he may join them at short notice. Those who brag about using ‘jeep’ to travel to Arochukwu should know that the fundamentally alarming fact that one may be tossed right out of one’s vehicle as it navigates the terrain. My experience during a recent visit to honour an invitation to Arochukwu came dangerously close to the above narrative.”