By Chika Evidence
For any traveller, the idea of coming into Imo State is like a prayer our Lord Jesus Christ said to the father during the most agonising period in his life at the Gethsemane, heralding his gruesome death on the cross of Calvary. Having envisioned the sufferings and less than inhuman treatment that awaited him to death, Bible said: “He began to be sorrowful and troubled. …At a certain time, while going a little farther, He fell with His face to the ground and prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as You will.”
A voyage to the state is like treading on the path to Golgotha. It always conjures fright. Once experienced is enough as would not wish your worst enemy such game of death as anyone could die in accident as a result of bad roads. Passing through the Imo Roads is passing through the valleys of the shadows of death.
Imo State, which prides itself as an eastern heartland, no doubt, is supposedly lucky to have found itself at the epicentre of the major states in the eastern region. With the dilapidated nature of its roads, which are impassable, it has brought about serious devastating effect on the business community and the economy of the State.
Coming across a woman who introduced herself simply as Mrs. Sarah Nwanju, retired banker who has been in the fore front of empowering the youths, aged and the down trodden through her NGO, “it is hellish finding ones way around Aba and Owerri” she had groaned.
As I was going home last Friday, I found this woman who should be in her sixties, looking harassed, dejected and confused in front of ITC terminal along MCC Road. Looking at her, she was well dressed but with a heavy load of tubers of yam coupled with her seeming fashionable hand.
I was moved to stop to ask if I could be of help. After introducing myself, I requested to help, she told me she was going to Trans-Egbu and was at a loss on what to do.
Narrating her ordeal while the journey lasted, she said, “It has taken me roughly 8 good hours from Abakailiki to Owerri. When we got to somewhere, around Okigwe, two trailers bearing commodities had falling as a result of bad road, causing serious gridlock. As our driver meandered his way through, getting to Ekemele, it was a very disheartening and grieving experience. After spending hours without any movement, the driver had to go back towards Amaraku, then found his way to Ihitte-uboma and now through to Mbaise. It is very risky. Anything could have happened but God saw us through. The roads are simply death traps”
Like somebody had suggested, it will be better we all relapse to stone age where horses and other animals served as major means of transportation. Otherwise, how can it be explained that in the 21stcentury, major roads in Imo are such in bad shape.
This inglorious state of infrastructures in the States calls for a little inquiry into the administration of the immediate past governor of Imo State, Chief Ethelbert Okorocha.
Going through Naze-Nekede-Obinze road is like the valley of the shadow of death. One can recall the celebrations by the people of Nekede, Ihiagwa and her residents when Okorocha promised to repair that road. And true to his promise, he rolled out earth moving vehicles to the site. The hapless citizens had praised him to the high heavens. The students of Federal Polytechnic, Nekede and their counterparts in the Federal University of Technology applauded. In fact, they took turns visiting as they chanted all manner of songs in comradeship. Little did they know that it was another one chance. Little did they know that it was all scam as the roads were mere cosmetics. Efforts should be made to know how much that was claimed from the people’s common wealth over than sleaze.
Unfortunately, and of course interestingly, Okorocha before leaving office had constructed that road for three consecutive times. What is left of the road are soar legacies of pain with huge ponds, including the one the students call Owelle River.
Another sad moment is plying through Owerri-Mbaise-Umuahia road. Egbu is a no-no for pregnant women as some pregnant women would prefer to walk some distances to re-enter a bus. The reason is that however careful, a motorist might be, he will not fail bumping into dungeons with sharp steeps, causing passengers to either hit their heads on the roof, if not with a firm grip on the seat hangers, or the passengers falling over one another. At this point everybody loses sanity as what is important is survival.
Coming into Owerri, the capital city through Akokwa and the home town of the former governor Okorocha is a true explanation of man’s inhumanity to his kinsmen. It is better imagined than experienced. As soon as one passes Akokwa, the other shoulder of the road has been abandoned with erosions having a field day, eating off top soil surface. It looks like a confinement for the rejected despite magnificent private buildings all around. Then getting to Ogboko takes a lot of strong hearted. Though the former governor had put up a building that seems like a hotel even as the area was adorned with contentious Eastern Palm University.
Descending further to the valley is Orashi River in Umuchima, in Ideato South local government area of Imo State, there you come to terms with your death. Surely, you find one of the seven wonders of the world – where a bridge was constructed without any steel reinforcement, except cement and sand coated with asphalt. This Rochas bridge is a depiction of the insanity and height of wickedness in governance. It is on this that I would rather plead his case because he cannot be said to be normal if he could treat his people in such disdainful manner.
Making a spiral movement ascending the hill to get into Mgbe in Orlu local government is another sad tale one cannot forget in a hurry.
Recall Okorocha had also boasted he was constructing another bridge across Orashi river but this time at Okwudor. Making real his promise, he constructed a bridge, most people have come to name Okorocha death bridge. The record has it that many people have perished on this Njaba bridge even as a big portion of the bridge caved in as the slabs were designed and constructed by ‘kim-bom’. Again, the bridge failed to meet the minimum standard of engineering.
Interestingly, Okorocha’s strong footprints can also be felt within the Owerri metropolis. Embarking on a journey from Wetheral Road to Port-Harcourt road which ought not to take more than 7 minutes at speed of 50 kilometres is the punishment of the journey to Canaan land. You have to go through rough-gallopy terrain with potholes around Civic Centre. As at press time, Assumpta Road is shut down and abandoned. This is not unconnected with the existence of one of the biggest man-made lakes with depth of a sea and so muddy that it has the capacity to create a true eco-system with frogs, crocodiles even as sea weeds and other creatures are already jostling for space and hunting their preys. Unfortunately, the historic Owerri Girls Secondary is almost a closed institution were it not for human resilience. All the students in this school have all mastered the way of the monkeys.
Popular MCC Road, which used to be a smooth road has become a place of horse race where vehicles are unsuitable for plying. Coming into the road from Wetheral, the land mark is an experience of scattered bread shaped commercial buses all fighting one side of the road. This has led to many accidents. Getting to Toronto junction, and making one’s way towards Umu-Orii, Uratta, Owerri North local government area of Imo State. The dungeon is capable of swallowing a one storey building. Getting to this spot, one can appreciate that the bad spot has created another economic value where people backed by some youths to continue their journey across the shore of Urattta lake. Truly, nature abhors vacuum.
It is true that there is news of severe flooding in most parts of Nigeria and beyond. Except riverine areas of the state, Imo is confined to state of despair by one man. Yes, he has blamed it on acidic rainfall. Those who believe that are either accomplices to the destruction of the state or agents of darkness.
For the present government led by Rt. Hon. Emeka Ihedioha, the ball is in their court to prove Imolites that, yes, even if the brightest of Angels have been tainted, that there remain few bright ones.
Going round the street, Imo people are already becoming impatient, which is not unconnected with the slow pace at which Ihedioha is tackling the horrendous destruction perpetrated in the state. Some Imolites are already referring the Governor as ‘Okochi’. Okochi means dry season. Governor is dressed in this robe because he said he is waiting for the rains to subside before any meaningful work.
In fairness to Ihedioha, he inherited nothing but a state in desolate. He has done well in structural re-engineering of the civil service, which was confined to the dust bin. He is doing well in the area of education. The recent resolve to beam a searchlight in what happens in privately owned schools is a step in the right direction.
While faced with confusion of huge debt bequeathed to the government, which Imo people are aware of, but it is not enough to yield to failure because leadership is all about fixing it, even when it is rotten.
I learned of the recent protest of motorists whether it was pre-arranged or not is not at issue. The conundrum of passing through hell plying impassable roads only to face with all manner of levies and multiple taxation can be frustrating. This matter should be managed immediately because of the huge expenditures in maintenance of these vehicles because of the negative tolls the bad condition of the road is taken on the transport machines.
One of the legacies of the past administration is building an industry of blackmail and propaganda nurtured by woeful pseudo-leaders. It is not unlikely that these machinery of under-development is being greased with looted Imo funds. Of course, the personnel are known state traitors if not enemies.
Imo for today is indeed a place where many sufferings are known while little comfort has become a scarce commodity, but all hope is not lost yet.
* Watch out for our investigation into what might have been happening to that your child in creche.
– NewsTrack Nigeria