By Rev Fr Gerald Nwafor
I listened attentively to the speech of the new governor Professor Chukwuma Soludo. I do have issues with some of the points he raised but I think the speech was more on what we as citizens of Anambra would do to help the state move forward.
As I listened, I heard the echoes of what John F. Kennedy (JFK) said in 1961 during his inauguration as President of the United States. “Ask not what Anambra can do for you, but what you can do for Anambra.” He beckoned the people of Anambra to invest in Anambra.
He beckoned the rich people in Anambra to move into road construction for their communities and gave a good example with Neni town. The governor saw himself as the servant and the Anambra people as the masters of their future. As I said, it was a long explanation of what JFK said 61 years ago.
“Let us get into the office and start to work,” the governor concluded on the inauguration day. I asked a simple question on how these goals can be achieved if he is the only one going into the office to start work? The market-woman, taxi driver, Keke-driver, landlords, sole traders, and many other people need to go into their own offices and start working.
The governor should take some time to educate our people on how to go into their offices and how to work in tandem with the plans of the government. It is not enough to collect taxes from the market women, but please create a means of paying the taxes directly to the government to cut off leakages, waste, and excesses.
There should be an electronic means so they can get alerts when they pay their taxes. This is the 21ST Century for crying out loud!
As he related it to me, the people who collected money from the Keke driver were four groups along Awka Road, Onitsha. “The first group said I did not register my plate number and they gave me a ticket and collected one hundred naira from me.
At that time, I have only one passenger whom I picked up from Savoy junction. By the time I got to Awka Road by Okosi Road, another group stopped me, and I was quick to bring out the ticket given to me by the first group. They said I should pay for roadworthiness which is one hundred Naira. I collected the transport fare of my passenger and gave them one hundred Naira from it.
The passenger came from another state. She asked if this was the normal way things work here. I don’t know whether to say yes and disgrace my state or to say no and have some little image saved. At Zik’s roundabout, I gave the remaining one hundred naira to the official union members waiting for me. She was maniacally bewildered that I have spent over three hundred in one trip.”
At Main Market Onitsha, a lot of money comes in and out daily. It was Jerome Udoji who told my father a long time ago that he rebuilt the whole of the east-central state after the civil war from the resources coming from the Main Market Onitsha.
Today the people in the main market pay even more and yet the development has vanished. Can you create a technological means of payment for the people in the main market, so the government would know how much that was realized in the once-largest-market-in-West-Africa? Today someone becomes the OMATA (Onitsha Market and Traders Association) chairman, and tomorrow he is a billionaire.
This type of sin is not only attributed to the OMATA position but also to the politics of Nigeria today. Politicians may be receiving some annuities from the OMATA chairpersons, which is why they cannot restructure the market to help the citizens.
The governor has started well with a good speech, but I want to see actions matching the speech. I am going to Okpoko with the governor. I want to see the transformation with my two naked eyes. I grew up in Oda-Akpu in the 70s and 80s. Okpoko was the place we went hunting.
I saw the early development and my father told me that there was no plan and he refused to buy a piece of land in Okpoko because of the plan-lessness. Almost 40 years later we have a government that wants to give a facelift to the Okpoko people. It will not be easy because people will lose their houses, especially the ones built upon the waterways, blocking the drainage system.
I was in Okpoko in 2012 visiting a priest friend and it rained. You cannot believe me. The level of the flood I saw was comparable to what Noah saw from the Ark.
The most astonishing part of it was the fact that I could not go back home the same day because it would take the flood over 12 hours to subside.
Finally, it is our sons and daughters who should pay their taxes. The governor has done his part by telling us what to do and what not to do. I hope people should stop dumping garbage into the drainage system. Unofficial touts should vacate the roads in Anambra.
There should be a school for the wheelbarrow pushers and the truck pushers. At least they should have one hundred hours of classes where manners and behavioral attitudes should be learned. The government should look into the past administration and borrow what was commendable and condemn what is abhorrent.
Nobody is perfect, that is to say, errors and omissions are common in human society. Therefore, the Anambra people are ready to work with you, and for you, for the betterment of the Anambrarians.
By Rev Fr. Gerald Nwafor writes from USA.