(Pio Anthony’s Blog, https://pioanthony.com/, September 14, 2019 )
My journey to Awba-Ofemili in Awka North Local Government Area of Anambra State began on August 21, 2004. It was a journey that gave me another home after my family home. I was accompanied by my mother to the priestly ordination of that year carrying my luggage. I was to begin my one-year apostolic work under the amiable priest Fr. Chike E. Uba (a.k.a Cargo). I was filled with anxiety about what I will meet there and how I will carry out my duties.
After the mass, I immediately joined Fada Cargo in his [Parejo] (I think) jeep and we headed to Awba. We passed Ifite-Awka and entered Amansea and I still saw high tension. So I consoled myself that this town (Awba) must have “Nepa”. Then we entered Ebenebe and still I saw lighted bulbs. Then Ugbenu and I still saw the lights on. By now, I had bade farewell to the tarred road at Ifite-Awka so I was consoling myself with the bulbs that were luckily on.
Then just before the “Nnam” river, all I could behold were electric poles devoid of any wires. I then settled that I was really (as my friends told me) going on a mission. Then, shortly after we crossed the river through an iron bar bridge upon which were laid heavy planks, I saw I different kind of nightmare called bad road. Then, I asked Fr. Cargo, “Fr, is this place in Anambra State”? and he smiled and said ‘you haven’t seen anything yet’. Then, we passed the junction leading to Ugbene and the road took control of the vehicle while the priest focused on what I could only refer to as “trial and error” in hope that the wheels respond to the steering. He said to me “we are lucky that it didn’t rain today”. And we continued with the struggle until we crossed “Oka-akwu” (a small bridge before Community Secondary School, Awba-Ofemili).
As we reached the main entrance of the town, all voices (filled with joy at seeing their priest) were shouting ‘Fada!!! Fada!!!’ Then I knew I had reached home. I immediately felt like I was in the midst of my people. Then the work I came for began.
For the one year I stayed with my people in Awba as we call it, I had to come to Awka with two different clothes on each occasion. Because of the nature of the road, I decided to put on a ‘not so nice cloth’ while coming to Awka, then I would stop at the Cathedral to take a bath, then change to a better outfit before going to wherever I was sent. My reason for this was simply that hardly do we board a bus without highlighting for more than twice to push the vehicle through the clay mud (while the vehicle was usually loaded with either bags of Garri or rice). But we were happy people. Sometimes I would join the priest in his jeep and sometimes even with the auxiliary gear, the very slippery road would turn the jeep 180o facing our departure. So we always had to push the vehicle no matter whose own it was.
Awba-Ofemili has no hospital till date, and Lights came for the first time on November 3, 2016 through the now parish priest Rev. Fr. Colman Onuegbu. And I have not seen any pipe-borne water in the town. But they are always happy people.
It was like a dream when Mr. Peter Obi flagged off the construction of the road from Amansea through Ebenebe, Ugbenu, and Ugbene to Awba-Ofemili. The construction gave the people hope. Then the first bridge build many years with iron bars and wood collapsed and we had to use a boat while the new bridge was being built by Mr. Obi’s government. After the bridge was completed, the second bridge bordering Ugbenu and Ugbene collapsed and a new one was built. Then drainages were constructed on both sides of the road up till Ugbenu, and Obi’s tenure ended.
The people of Awka-North (despite being neglected by Anambra state government for long as if they were foreigners) voted massively for Mr. Peter Obi’s successor under the “Nke a bu nke anyi” slogan. Then, ‘the actual work was gradually replaced by announcements about the work’ and the clock of development was turned backward.
It is now 15(fifteen)years since I worked in Awba-Ofemili, and each time I visit them, I find it hard to understand how someone can have the heart to come to this people and campaign for their votes when the person had virtually done nothing with the first opportunity given him/her to alleviate their suffering. I see now the base of the gutters constructed to hold the flood but the floods have taken the road while the people took the gutters. I see a waste of the resources of ‘Ndi Anambra’ as what was already 60% completed has now become 90% destroyed. Yet the people are happy people.
In spite of the nature of this road, it does not take me more than an hour to drive from Awba to Awka. Then I can submit that if this road was motorable, it would not take up to half an hour to reach Awka from Awba. Awba-Ofemili and her neighbor are known for their huge agricultural produce like rice, Garri and their natural fresh fish.
I was pondering on the distance between the capital territory and my beloved Awba and told my friend that if this road was good in 2002, Fr. Patrick Ekwuno (who was shot by gunmen at his rectory in Awba) would have survived as he reached the hospital in Awka alive. I think of many miscarriages that some pregnant women have had on this road. Some economic losses caused by this nightmare of a road. Mr. Obi already began the actual tarring of the road taking nearly half of Ebenebe, then handed over “for continuity”. So when I picked Fides Newspaper this morning the headline read “Bad Roads; Awka Residents Groan…” I thought of my people in Awba-Ofemili and others in their situation like Uga, Ndiukwuenu, and Ifite-Ogwari/Umueje, etc. I was wondering if it was not better not to give people hope in their suffering only to dash it to the ground when they have come to hold that hope so close to heart.
Politics in Anambra has to change from campaign roads to a campaign with what the campaigner had already done for the people.
IT HAS BECOME AN ATTITUDE OF SOME PEOPLE NOT TO SEE THE TRUTH IN YOUR OPINION BUT TO TRY TO PLACE YOUR OPINION UNDER ONE POLITICAL OPPONENT OR THE OTHER. I pray that you my reader would not be ‘politically (party) sentimental’ about my mission here but think of how beautiful the state will be with everyone doing his duties with all sincerity and devoid of too many pumps and pageants about a work that cannot be seen.
Thanks for reading. Your comments will be much loved.
I am always called Pio. https://pioanthony.com/