BY ALEX ENEMANNA
It is a known fact that so many rural communities around out dear nation have been abandoned in the developmental equation of our country. This is not because these communities live in a different world from the rest of, neither is it because they were created by a certain power different from the God all of us are made of. They are rather peopled by patriotic men and women who live within the estimated 923,868 sq km land of the nation called Nigeria, who also contribute their own quota to ensure this nation moves forward. Unfortunately, they have been met with the treatment only reserved for the prodigal outcast.
Nvosi, a community made up of about 30 villages, arguably the largest community in the popular Isialangwa South local government area of Abia falls in this unenviable category. To say theirs is a case of total disconnect from whatever government stands for will mean putting it mildly. Nvosi has not only suffered a deep rooted negligence and abandonment over the centuries but has also continued to be a sad reminder of how a community should not be treated by a cult that pontificates as government.
A recent tour of what used to be a shadow of hope in the villages around the community got this reporter devastated, broken teary-eyed. What you see around these villages is no more a case of infrastructure decay but a total absence of any scintilla of of it. Whatever semblance of government’s presence that existed decades ago have been washed off by a renewed, redefined and restrategised hyper neglect mission with the sole aim deepening the injury that already exists in the psyche of the people.
The people’s resourcefulness, creativity, never-say-never spirit and indeed the grace of God Almighty has been their basis for existence. Nvosi, a land overflowing with milk and honey, so blessed with richness in agriculture boasts of over 40% food production that finds its way to the Aba and Umuahia markets which has significantly contributed to the GDP of the aggressor Abia government.
The larger chunk of the much sought after Ngwa garri is produced in Nvosi, not to talk of their palm oil which has become more valuable in many Nigerian homes than the much mouthed crude oil. This is aside other cash crops such as cocoa, ginger, kernel, alligator pepper, plantain etc the lovely people are known for.
A people, whose unbeatable hospitality will endear you to visit over and over again, with a warmth embrace of friendship, brotherliness and a shoulder to lean on. A people whose rich cultural heritage has continued to attract both local and foreign tourists to the grossly under-developed community.
Just name anything that makes up a community, Nvosi is there. Is it their sense of humour and entertainment? Is it the productivity of their young men? Is it the beauty and fertility of their young women? Is it the igba mbo and being a help mate to their husbands for which they have carved a niche for themselves? What is it that makes a people that Nvosi does not have?
The question that comes to the mind of every right thinking person remains why has Nvosi been alienated in the developmental boardroom of a state it has contributed so much to develop? Why has Nvosi been made a victim of a refocused hate? Why have we been made a castaway in our own land for no justifiable reason? Why have we been subjected to public ridicule and a laughing stock among equals?
It is unheard of anywhere in the world that a community made up of about 30 villages cannot boast of a single police station. The only police presence that exists in the whole of Nvosi land is a one room police post in Ndiolumbe with less than 5 policemen in a community of over 25,000 people. Expectedly, this has not only given rise to a myriad of insecurity in the community but has also left the people with the self-help option to resolve disputes.
That is not all, some unscrupulous agents of darkness from neighbouring Akwa Ibom, Rivers and Imo states have keyed into the opportunity offered them on a platter of gold by the precarious security situation in the area to commit atrocious acts such as child trafficking, robbery and theft and walk away with blue murder. The invasion and occupation of Nvosi land by those whose business is to rob the hard earned reputation of the people to the mud is a cause for worry.
The public primary schools in the area have been totally over grown by weeds and occupied by dangerous animals. Some villages mostly affected by this are Ebeyi, Obuba, Umunkpeyi, Amaiyi, Umuhu, Umuguru, Umuokiri. All the villages are indeed affected but the ones here are out of hand.
When compared with governor Ikpeazu’s claim that the school enrollment figure has risen from 150,000 to 600,000 you begin to wonder if the governor and his handlers live in another world from the rest of us. He didn’t stop at that, he has been bandying a fictitious figure of how many pupils his self-serving government feeds on daily basis. It is dangerous to play politics with the future of these children. This reporter challenges anyone to visit the primary schools around Nvosi and see for himself what the people have been subjected to.
The popular Nvosi High School Umunkpeyi which in the past used to attract students from far away Aba, Umuahia, Uyo and Port Harcourt is now a shadow of its old self. The few structures that are still fragilely standing may not make it till the next rainy season. The students who are lumped in one class now study in fear and uncertainty over what may happen next.
This of course has forced many parents and guardians to withdraw their children and wards from these death traps masquerading as public schools. This has created a big market for the skeletally functional private schools who fleece these parents with outrageous charges.
There is a long catalogue of state wickedness against Ndi Nvosi. The absence of health care facilities across the land has left the people more despondent and hopeless. The rate of maternity death in the area is mind-boggling. My people die of typhoid and malaria like no man’s business. Their lives are not valued in a state they have contributed so much to build. Their welfare is treated with utmost disdain in a state they call theirs. The politically motivated structures they hurriedly erected in few villages just to deceive the people in the name of health centre are not qualified to be called Consultancy rooms because in a Consultancy room there will be tables, chairs, pen and paper and other stationeries. These so called health centres do not have anything that gives them such a highfalutin status. They’re a sheer waste of farming space.
Some villages who have defied all odds to breath the air of civility like others by providing their own power supply through torturous collective decades of efforts are still being frustrated with outrageous charges by Enugu Electricity Distribution Company. How do you justify a ten thousand Naira estimated billing for a home with just one television and two bulbs? This is inhuman as it is scandalous, dubious and highly extortionate.
In all fairness to Dr. Orji Uzor Kalu who held sway in the state between 1999-2007, the only motorable road the whole of Nvosi can boast of is the popular Ururuka road that cuts across six villages of Umunevo, Umunkpeyi, Umuawuru, Umuejea, Ohuhu Ekwuru and Ndiolumbe. The road serves as a link between Aba and Umuahia, which today the governor Dr. Okezie Ikpeazu plighs to his office from his Umuobiakwa home. To so many children born in Nvosi Community, the road is a tourist site.
In the past, the local government authorities occasionally graded the roads for the people to at least have a faint right of way but in the past 10 years that has stopped. In so many Nvosi villages, our sons and daughters don’t come home with their cars due to lack of right of way, not even road in the actual sense of it. If not for the community that has ensured that our right of way is not totally over grown by weeds, whatever that would have happened now is better imagined.
Baffled by the skyrocketing death rate from cholera and other diseases, as a result of the unhygienic water the people drink, few families who can afford to drill a borehole have taken their destinies into their hands. The question remains, how about those who can’t afford it?
The presence of government known to the people of Nvosi Community is the one that comes once in every four years to fraudulently curry their votes and disappear into the thin air thereafter. Whatever happens to their security, welfare, education and anything that makes life more livable becomes a wetinconcernus issue.
Nvosi Community has for long been provoked. The fact that there is no single presence of government in the entire community apart from a dead Customary court in Okpokiri Umuehim leaves so much sour in our mouth.
In his interaction with this correspondent, a roadside mechanic revealed how authorities from the local government come with a throat-slitting business premises charges, in a premises they have done nothing to lift the people’s burden. This again reinforces the need for a total independence of the local governments to act truly as the government closer to the people.
Since the return of democracy in 1999, no single Nvosi indigene has been appointed into the state cabinet even with the administrative ingenuity and educational milestone the people have consistently recorded in and outside Nigeria.
It’s obvious that the only language the government understands most is the language of arms and violence. Our continued calm must not be taken as a sign of weakness. The state and federal government should as a matter of urgency mobilise resources and embark on an aggressive infrastructural renewal of Nvosi Community. We’re not different from the parts of the country where the children school in a conducive and comfortable atmosphere. We’re not different from the rest of the country where healthcare facilities are available at moderate or no cost. We’re not different from the rest of the country where a stable potable water supply is available. We’re not different from the rest of the country where the security of the peoples lives and property is a priority. We’re not different from the rest of the country where a sense of belonging has been deeply entrenched.
If our cries are not adhered to, we will have no option than to device a means to attract the attention of the government in whichever way we can. The deliberate provocation has hit its apex and must not be allowed to continue.