Nnewi-Igboukwu-Ekwulobia road: Once a beautiful bride, now suitor-less!
Students of Nigerian political history, especially those interested in the antics of opposition politicians, will appreciate the importance of Nnewi-Ekwulobia road. This road, which passed from Nnewi, through Nnobi, Awka-Etiti, Ichida, Igboukwu, Isuanioma (Prof Soludo’s breakaway entity), Isuofia to Ekwulobia, (all in Nnewi, Idemmili, and Aguata LGAs), is one of the oldest tarred roads in the then East Central State and used to serve directly and indirectly, more than 50 communities, for which was a connection to the rest of the civilized world. But the road was unknown to the rest of Nigeria and the outside world until two Nigerian politicians turned it into a ferocious battle ground.
Dr. Alex Ekwueme was the Vice President of Nigeria and hails from Oko in Aguata LGA of Old Anambra State. That means that he travelled to and out of his town through Nnewi-Ekwulobia Road. But he belonged to National Party of Nigeria, a conglomeration of all the big-men of those days. Then, there was Jim Nwobodo, the handsome, well-dressed governor of old Anambra State, in whose domain the road was located. However, Jim Nwobodo was of Nigerian Peoples Party, while the road was a federal (NPN) road.
The stage was thus set for a titanic battle between Nwobodo (Governor/NPP) and Ekwueme (VP/NPN) and at the core of the war was who owned and thus, should reconstruct, the Nnewi-Ekwulobia road. Nwobodo/NPP declared that the road was in Anambra State and thus under their control while Ekwueme countered that it was a federal road and that Jim should hands-off. It was a battle royal and it made history as one of the few occasions in Nigeria in which politicians were battling to do ‘good’. My response then, (I was a youth corper at Azare, Bauchi State): I don’t give a damn about who repaired the road; let the road just be in good shape!
That was then. Today, the Nnewi-Ekwulobia road is a poster-boy of governmental insensitivity, infrastructure decay, and the daily pains of Nigerians. I was home (Igboukwu) recently and needed to ’patronise’ that road for ten days in August and what I saw was horrible. Nobody is jostling to repair what was once a road (some parts of it cannot be defined as a road). Indeed, from August 10 to 20, the Igboukwu segment of the road was impassable. The state government had sand-filled the road sometime in April and when it rained, it became a potorpotor-infested road. Two lories that had the audacity to attempt passing through got stuck/capsized and totally blocked the road. Vehicles had to go through the local roads and pathways within Igboukwu, thereby causing heavy and unusual hold-up within the town. Citizens on each side of the road could not visit each other and places that took five minutes to visit took 30 minutes or 1 hour- within Igboukwu.
I visited the Idu’s palace more than 12 times within that period and I had to do several detours, at times, going through other towns to do so. Large vehicles, which could not pass through the narrow roads within the town had to suspend their trips or access Ekwulobia through Adazi/Agulu axis. Beyond Igboukwu, the road is also in a terrible shape, especially at the Ichida-Awkaetiti boundary and most of the stretch between Awka-etiti and Afor-Nnobi.
Why won’t the politicians fight over the road again? Why won’t PMB/APC and Obiana/APGA battle over this road? When will Fashola’s billions touch this road? Everywhere in Anambra State, the operational phrase is Willie is working! When will he work on this road; a road which he flagged-off its repair with such fanfare? How and why should such a beautiful bride be abandoned by all the suitors? When will the requests and petitions of Idu of Igboukwu and his citizens get to the ears of state and Federal governments? When will they wipe away our tears?
Dr. Muo is of the Department of Business Administration, OOU, Ago-Iwoye
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