Opinion

Akpokue, the Listening Governor, and Other Stories

By Jude Atupulazi

As you read this, Christmas will just be ten days away. It is that period of time when many people go into a frenzy as they prepare for Christmas. Their frenzy is such that you wonder if they had not known that Christmas had a fixed date. But, perhaps, it will be harsh to blame them, seeing how things are in the country. Nevertheless, this period comes with expectations. Apart from the expectations that come from the home front over what to buy and eat, there’s this one that comes outside the home. It has to do with what the public expects from government.

In Anambra, one thing that you can be sure that people will expect is security. But that seems to have largely been taken care of, despite growing pockets of criminal activities across the state of late. We shall come back to this.

The other expectation is good roads.
Prior to this time, the state had witnessed what appeared to be a total, or near total, collapse of road infrastructure. It was as if an invading force wreaked havoc on our roads. It was such that the state once eulogized for having the best road network had grown tired of having that appellation overnight.

Many people began to find driving as a nightmare – no thanks to the many gaping potholes across the state. It was almost getting to a point where drivers had to choose which pothole to enter; being that those potholes were unavoidable.

People cried out. I did too. My paper, Fides, did too. On one occasion, we had to carry a screaming banner headline on bad roads in the state. This cover story on bad roads in the state seemed to have galvanized the government into action as, less than a week after the publication, emergency work was started on the roads. It looked like emergency because in some of the roads, cement was used to patch the potholes to the consternation; even amusement, of the citizenry. But the fact remained that they were patched.

The government had cited the rains as reason for not tackling the roads and promised to do that once the rains subsided. Now, the rains are over. The dry season has set in and may remain for as long as late March next year. This means that the government has much time on its hands to fix the roads; even as we are in the first month after the rains.

Now, a look at roads across parts of the state will reveal that the government is finally doing something. Some portions of the roads are seemingly being reconstructed; like we are witnessing at Amawbia By-Pass. Many of the potholes are also disappearing fast and motorists are heaving a sigh of relief.

What we are witnessing now only suggests that the governor has a listeningear. It suggests that he feels the pulse of his people and it is always good to know this. For this, I give him a big thumbs up. We can only hope that good palliative work would be done on these roads to at least last beyond the next rains.

Christmas Decoration
I have been reading all over the place about figures that the state government was said to have allocated for Christmas decoration. I’m talking about the fancy lights and other decorations in the streets of major cities in the state. According to some accounts, the state government spent more than a billion, while some said millions were spent.

I’m not really going to bother myself about what the actual figure was but I’m going to ask if it is really worth it, spending any appreciable amount on decorations when there are many other things to do with our scarce resources.

Assuming the state government spent N5m only on decorations, wouldn’t that money have been better spent on some other thing? It might seem insignificant but such ”little” expenditures eventually amount to something significant.

I suggest that henceforth, the state government will do well to invite corporate organizations and individuals to do the decorations for free. They can be free to advertise their products while doing that but the main thing is that the streets will be decorated.

For instance, if Fidelity Bank has been given the nod to decorate the streets of Awka, it can do that saying something like this: ”Fidelity, your number one bank, wishes NdiAnambra a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.” This message will be surrounded by neon lights and placed at strategic places alongside those of other banks, corporate bodies and individuals. It will last from between December and early January at no cost to government who will use the money they saved from not doing it themselves on other important areas.This way, no one will accuse the state government of wasting money on ”mere” decorations.

Cult-related killings in Awka
Last Wednesday night, residents of Awka, the capital city, were brutally shocked by news of the shooting and killing of three members of the Awka Vigilante. The latest killings added to the number of such killings in the recent past. Indeed, I have been informed that hardly a month passes without people being killed in Awka over cult-related issues. It appears as if the people have become bored with such killings which no longer generate news.

But people are getting very worried about these killings, especially when the law enforcement agencies seem powerless (or is it clueless?) to stem the tide of the killings.

Their inability to do that can only suggest that more of such killings will continue to happen, unless those behind the mask are exposed. It is very clear that those doing the shooting are not the main men. Therefore it is the duty of the police to fish out the bosses as only that can stem the tide.

Malaysia/Yahoo Boys are coming…
The yuletide means different things to many people. To some, it is a time to re-unite with family and friends. To others, it is a time to come home and show off. The latter group includes those we call Malaysia and Yahoo Boys. These are young men with no fixed addresses. But one thing that stands them out is their flamboyance. They look exotic, even if that means looking like crazy people. They often wear dreadlocks and earrings. And, of course, they wear ”sagging”. This means wearing trousers that are not drawn up. Those who wear their trousers this way often expose their pants. They don’t care a hoot. It is just their fashion.

But there has been another dimension to their activities. They are now known to do things like making their female friends go mad. They are also known to kill them for ritual purposes.
I witnessed one live at the popular Rose Life Junction in Awka one afternoon.

A young lady who was walking happily with a young man suddenly ran amok, chasing people and rolling on the road. Her male companion disappeared into thin air. The people around kept exclaiming that Yahoo Boys had done it again.

Before then, a young lady was said to have run mad at Regina Caeli Junction, Awka, after being dropped off by a young man. When she started removing her clothes on getting off the car, the young man was said to have driven back and said, ‘I warned you not to touch my things!’ he had immediately driven off while the lady was taken to a nearby prayer house.
Just last week the social media was awash with pictures of a young lady who was showered with hot water by her male friend who was said to have wanted to butcher her for rituals. This time, the friend was arrested.

This period is the time these bad boys flood the town. Their flamboyant lifestyle usually appeals to our girls who see them as generous. But they forget that what is sweet can also kill. This is how many of them have become victims and in many cases, their families never know the fate that befall them.

As these bad boys start to arrive in town, our girls are warned to beware of all that glitters because they often don’t turn out to be gold.

Obiano Again!
I will not round off by not hailing our governor on his street lighting project. In the history of the state, his regime is the only one that has been fully committed to lighting up everywhere. This has reduced crime and boosted businesses.

In Awka, major junctions are booming with business at night because of the lights. Even at 12 midnight, one could see women selling hot rice to night crawlers and those returning late. It is a wonderful feat by the government which has paid attention to such little detail as lighting up everywhere.

For this, I hail Obiano. This is one area he has beaten others hands down. Etoo dike na nke omere, omee ozo!

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