Imo: No rescue in Ikeduru

[FILE PHOTO] Rochas Okorocha

The lamentation of Ikeduru people at the beginning of the “rescue mission” government of the Rochas Okorocha administration in Imo State has come to naught as the rescue mission expires soon without Ikeduru gaining anything. Ikeduru is totally forgotten. There is nothing to show as dividend of democracy in the area.

Just as the people have been forgotten since independence and only remembered during election when their votes are needed, politicians have, once again, begun to scamper for the people’s votes as the 2019 electioneering campaign draws nearer.

I was scandalised the other day when I went home to see my people. I could not believe that there is no road to get to my village Owu Amakohia. All the roads leading to Ikeduru from all directions are devastated and impassable. Whether you are coming from Atta, Iho, Mbaise or Azaraegbelu axis, the trauma is the same. No road to connect from one community to the other.

Ikeduru is, perhaps, the only Local Government Council (LGC) in Imo State that has no single tarred road. What would have stood as the only tarred road in the forgotten LGC, which is the road radiating from Azaraegbelu through Avuvu to Owu Amakohia, was stopped half way after it had been destroyed in the name of rehabilitating it. The people living in that axis regret that the road was ever touched in the first place.

From all intents and purposes, Ikeduru Local Government Council (LGC) is a forgotten enclave in Imo State. There is nothing to write home about Ikeduru which has common boundary with Owerri the capital of Imo State. Some of the towns that make up Ikeduru are: Amakohia, Atta, Akabo, Uzoagba, Avuvu, Okwu and Amaimo. Altogether, there are 17 towns that make up Ikeduru.

With a population of about 149,316 and an area of 179 km2, Ikeduru is just in the catalogue in Imo State. The local government has gained nothing from both the military and civilian administrations since independence. The neglect of Ikeduru has placed its people perpetually in crushing poverty because without access roads, nothing good comes to the area.

The proximity of Ikeduru to Owerri ought to leverage it with development. But alas, this is not the case. Ikeduru is totally neglected and appears not to feature in any development programme of the Imo State government. The abject state of affairs in Ikeduru is lamentable. Something needs to be done to give the people a sense of belonging. Ikeduru people pay tax from year to year and yet get nothing. The people have been marginalised since the end of the civil war. There seems to be a conspiracy at Owerri not to extend development to Ikeduru. Whatever development you have in Ikeduru is through self-help effort.

Given the deplorable state of affairs in Ikeduru, can the people be proud to say they’re from Imo State? The appalling state of roads and other social amenities in Ikeduru prove this point. The asphalted road that passed through Iho, (Ikeduru Council Headquarters), was an accident. That road was meant for Mbaitoli when Mbaitoli/Ikeduru was one LGC. Throughout the length and breadth of Ikeduru, what you have are badly eroded roads.

Because Ikeduru has been forgotten by the successive governments in Imo State, some roads and wooden bridges that were motorable in the 60s have completely broken down and rendered impassable. Some community hospitals, clinics, dispensaries that were functional in the 60s have all closed down. I was shocked that the Amakohia Girls Secondary School that used to have white expatriate teachers among its staff has been overtaken by a thick forest! The state of underdevelopment in Ikeduru is shocking.

This is happening at a time when Ikeduru is supposed to experience development, having been carved out from the former Mbaitoli/Ikeduru local government, presumably, “to bring development to the grassroots.” But in truth, Ikeduru has been trashed and forgotten. The only asphalted road, done by the Mbakwe administration some 35 years ago, linking Afor-Oru in Ahiazu Local Council through Obohia to Ugirike, Amaimo to Atta, has been completely washed away. The road is impassable. After more than three decades since it was built, there has been no rehabilitation.

What happened to the rural development drive of the Mbakwe administration? It was the focus on rural infrastructure that opened many access roads in different parts of Imo State. The rural development focus brought industries such as the Aluminum Extrusion Plant at Inyishi, Imo Modern Poultry at Avutu Obowo, Amaraku Power Plant, among others. Sadly enough, all those projects built by Mbakew were abandoned while some were sold off completely. No other administration in the state has been able to accomplish the same feat I had shock going to Afor Okwu. Owu-Amakohia is sinking into the Ekeonumiri gully. Owu has been cut off from Okpuala Amakohia. Massive sand dunes have accumulated from gully erosion. The road is impassable. In the 60s, when the road was maintained by the Peoples Work Department (PWD) from Ikeduru County Council, there was no sand and vehicles passed freely.

Anyone who is not familiar with the place will never believe that a popular Amakohia Girls Secondary School existed there. The fortunes of the school turned for the worse when the state government downgraded it to a Junior Secondary School, apparently, because of bad roads. At a point, teachers and other staff refused posting to the school. The Ekeonumiri Market, which ranked with Afor Ogbe in Ahiazu Local Council, as a popular cattle market is gone. The cattle merchandise has gone to the annals of history.

Opposite the market are the relics of what used to be a dispensary. The dispensary functioned in the 60s and 70s and provided Medicare to Amakohia and the neighbouring communities. But today, rather than being upgraded to a health centre or hospital or left to remain as dispensary, the entire facility has disappeared, leaving the community with no healthcare facility.

It could be seen that within the perimeter of what used to be busy Ekeonumiri, with school, market and dispensary, nothing exists anymore, due to bad road. The market, school and dispensary have all disappeared. If the basic social amenities that functioned in the 60s and 70s disappeared, what does that say about governance in Nigeria?

In the 60s, as children, we used to pass through the Onuoma-Okwu Bridge to Afor Okwu. That road was passable during the civil war due to regular maintenance. Though the bridge was wooden, lorries bearing planks, palm oil and other agricultural produce passed through it. The Okwu Community Hospital at Afor Okwu has also closed down because of bad road.

The Onungara Bridge linking the two autonomous communities in Avuvu is impassable. The deplorable condition of the road has impacted negatively on the Avuvu Secondary Technical School, which no longer attracts students from the neighbouring communities.

At this juncture, I wish to call on the Imo State Government to do something in Ikeduru. The Imo rescue mission should turn to Ikeduru and do something there. The people are advised to be wise and vote on condition of benefiting from whosoever they may choose. Enough of politics of exclusion in Ikeduru.

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