I have lived in the city of Onitsha for twenty-four years now, having moved here by virtue of my marriage in 1992. For those number of years, I have lived in a layout called Awada and no other place. For anyone who knows Awada, it is one of the riskiest of places to visit or reside in. I'll tell you why. It's because of the terrible ordeal of having to cross over from the New Cemetery end of MCC to the Oraifite Street end that leads one into Awada from the burial ground side of it.
The risk there is that if you are a pedestrian, you would have to cross over the high way that divides the New Cemetery angle to the Oraifite street angle. It's a major express way, and you actually have to cross over two major roads before the last one which is a service lane. It's a risk that I had gotten so used to that I never had hopes of having a better alternative. Even if you are driving to Awada, you would have to go all the way to Upper Iweka to make a U-Tturn to before you get to Awada. So, from whatever angle you look at it, you realize that going to Awada is herculean.
I remember the days when my children were still in primary school and I had to drop them off every morning at their school in GRA, Onitsha. It was terrible because I took a lot of risks back then. Not just me, but almost all road users because, connecting to the other side of town meant driving all the way to Zik's roundabout and coming down all the way. It was really hell. It was actually worse when I was out of town for any reason and they had to go home on their own via public transportation. I would worry myself sick about how they would cross that major highway. I would only breathe a sigh of relief when they called me to say they were safely home.
I could cite a various number of examples. Top on the list is the last car accident I had in 2007 along that major highway. It was on a cold December afternoon. I was heavy with child and went to GRA to pick my children from school. I took the road that led to the Graille Message building, and connected the express road. At that period of time, Awada residents usually took that road and then cut across the express to make an illegal diversion that linked you to the service lane that led to Awada. As I joined the express and tried crossing over, I noticed a bus speeding behind me from my rear mirror. I was about crossing over to the service lane with my trafficator already blinking and then the next thing, he hit me so hard and my car turned three hundred and sixty degrees and faced the other side of the road. I was so afraid. I was shocked. I was also surprised because the bus moved further ahead and stopped. I then realized it wasn't a case of brake failure like I thought. I quickly checked the back seat and all my kids were shaking with fear. The windscreen and windows were broken and were all over their tender skins. I took them out of the car and to a safer place before finally settling issues with the bus driver. It was a very bad auto crash that left me so traumatized that I stopped driving till date.
What am I trying to say? People like me who live at Awada have clamoured for a pedestrian bridge for the sake of our safety and that of our children. We have made requests to different governments in the past, to no avail. We have asked and asked and given up. On many occasions, we have watched helplessly as children and adults alike have been knocked down by hit and run drivers that won't even bother to stop when such mishaps happen. I remember one incident I witnessed on that same exact point along the express road by MCC. A truck had brake failure and crashed into a group of beggars who sat at the junction to collect alms from pedestrians crossing the road on their way from work or trade. The truck crushed those women beyond recognition. Innocent lives were wasted. And of course, people lashed out at the government for not building an over head bridge or pedestrian cross over bridge.
Most times when I return late from work, I go through the ordeal of crossing that road at night. It has always been really nightmarish because I always found it hard to focus because of my short sight. Crossing that road every night meant I had to look for someone to hold before crossing the two stretches of roads that tided me over to Awada.
It was therefore a thing of joy for me when I noticed that the usual crowd that always stood at MCC wasn't there on Tuesday as I alighted from the bus. I looked around in surprise and noticed people being chased away from the express by a team of mobile police men. I looked further ahead and saw that people were also, using the pedestrian bridge. It was a very happy sight to behold. It was a typical dream come true for me and all other people and we just couldn't hide our excitement. In my heart of hearts, I said a little prayer for our dear governor, Chief Willie Obiano, for this gift of a pedestrian bridge. I remembered all the times I witnessed people being knocked down by hit and run drivers and also all the deaths that have been recorded along that road and knew for sure that there was actually hope for the common man in our state. I wondered why the project was actually abandoned half way in the first place and blessed the government for thinking it wise to complete it this early in the year.
What I however do not understand is why people have to be forced to climb the bridge. Why would any sane person be coerced into being safe? You see, it's very easy to sit back and blame the government for not sitting up to their responsibilities, especially as it concerns the safety of the common man and indeed if it borders on the things that make life easy for the masses. Do we even know what we really want? What do we stand to gain from the pedestrian bridge at MCC??? We stand to gain a lot. We stand to gain safety. We definitely stand to gain among so many things, trust and confidence in the government of the day. There is so much more to be done, definitely, but a popular igbo proverb says that, 'e too dike na nke omere, omekwaa ozo'! Let's appreciate the government of Chief Willie Obiano for a perfect gift for the thousands of people who live in the Awada Layout of Obosi town. Let's be thankful for little considerations so that the big ones will come to us.
And to you, our dear Governor, much as we are thankful for this gift to us, this is also a reminder that the task is still unfinished. The stairs with which we climb the bridge has no railings yet. It's a safety hazard and should be completed as soon as possible. I am so sure that if there is a rush as is wont to happen sometimes, people might fall off from the stairs especially children. In that eventuality, even though we don't pray for it, the reason for building the bridge would have been defeated. Of what use would your efforts in making us safe be, then?
So, we implore you to ensure the bridge isn't left the way it is, presently. What is worth doing is worth doing well. Do it the way you planned doing it and receive you well deserved dose of praise. Of course, whatever you do will be credited to your name by posterity. Anytime I drive past the Nigerian Stock Exchange complex at Ridge Road, Onitsha GRA, I remember your predecessor, Peter Obi. The same goes for all his other laudable projects in the state. It would forever be credited to his name and memory. It can never be wiped out of the minds of Anambrarians. It's a permanent engravement.
Therefore, on behalf of all the residents of Awada-Obosi, I doff my hat to you, dear Sir. I thank you and I encourage you to do more. The records will always be there and remember, the only thing that can speak loudly for you would only be your antecedents. There's no two ways about it. I want to believe that the bridge is being used for now because of the rate of accidents being recorded. I want to believe very strongly that very soon, it would be a duly completed project. God bless you as you do this.
It's the season of Valentine once again. I want to remind us all that the major reason for this yearly celebration is Love. Love in its true sense. Let's kindly remember the less privileged in our society. If love is the reason for the season, kindly show it to those who need it the most. When was the last time you visited the motherless babies' homes? When you visit them, some of the babies cry when you want to leave. They hold on to you and with tears, pass a message from their heart… ' I m glad you came so you see, they need your love. When was the last time you gave out clothes to needy children and adults? I'm talking about new clothes straight from the market stalls, and not the torn ones rejected by your children? Please see this Valentine period as an opportunity to show love. Let's do it. Let's spread the love, for God is love. God bless you all as you show love and spread it. I love you all!