I would like to commend his Excellency Governor Emeka Ihedioha, for appointing Dr. Carmelius Iwuagwu, as the Head of Service (HoS) in Imo State. Dr. Iwuagwu, a first class brain and unassuming gentleman, hails from Owu-Amakohia Ikeduru. He holds a First Class Honours degree in Mathematics from the University of Nigeria, Nsukka (UNN), and M.Sc. and Ph.D. in Project Management from the Federal University of Technology, Owerri (FUTO). This appointment shows that the Governor values excellence and shuns mediocrity.
But while commending Ihedioha for Dr. Iwuagwu’s appointment, I would also like to let him know that the new HoS has no road to go to his village Owu Amakohia Ikeduru. Ikeduru is a no-go area as far as access roads are concerned. There is no single good road in the entire local government council. Long years of neglect by the previous administrations in Imo State have brought Ikeduru to its knees. This is why the people want Governor Ihedioha to come to their aid in his road projects.
The listing of a peripheral road running from Okwu-Emeke to Uzoagaba, among those to be rehabilitated by the Governor missed the target. The Amuzi-Owu-Ekeonumiri-Okpuala-Eziama-Atta road, which crisscrosses over seven towns in Ikeduru is the most strategic road the Governor should consider, among others.
As it were, Ikeduru has been a forgotten enclave in Imo State. There is nothing to write home about Ikeduru in terms of development. Yet it shares boundary with Owerri the Imo State capital. Ikeduru is just in the catalogue in Imo State. The local government has gained nothing from the past military and civilian administrations in the state. 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 give it edge and access to development. But this is not the case. Instead, Ikeduru is neglected and appears not to feature in any development program in Imo State. The appalling state of roads in Ikeduru is lamentable. Something needs to be done to give the people a sense of belonging.
That was why Ikeduru people joined forces to support the election of Governor Ihedioha with high hopes that things will change for them. Year in, year out, nothing comes from the government to make life worth living. The people are literally subjected to inhuman treatment since the end of the civil war. There seems to be a conspiracy at Owerri not to extend development to Ikeduru. Ikeduru has produced prominent sons that have passed through the corridors of power in both the state and federal government. The late Senator Evan Enwerem, who later became the governor of Imo State in the early 90s, was from Atta, Ikeduru. His short-lived administration did not add anything to Ikeduru.
Whatever development you have in Ikeduru is through community self-help. The deplorable state of roads serves as proof. The concrete bridge at Ekeonumiri was built by Amakohia community at the end of the civil war in 1970. Arguably, Ikeduru has no single tarred road. The asphalted road that passed through Iho, (Ikeduru Council Headquarters), is an accidental road leading to Nworie Ubi, Mbaitoli Council Headquarters. That road was meant for Mbaitoli axis when Mbaitoli/Ikeduru was one local government. The entire length and breadth of Ikeduru are plagued by badly eroded roads and gullies.
Because Ikeduru has been neglected by the successive administrations in Imo State, some roads and wooden bridges that were motorable in the 60s are now impassable. Some community hospitals, clinics, dispensaries that were functional in the 60s and 70s have all closed down. For instance, it is shocking that what used to be the popular Amakohia Girls Secondary School that had white expatriate teachers among its staff has disappeared and the place overtaken by thick bush!
Last April/May, I had opportunity to move round some towns and villages in Ikeduru to see things for myself. I was shocked that even at the peak of the dry season, it was impossible to pass through some roads that were motorable in the 60s and 70s. With bicycle then, it was possible to ride across from one village to another. Today, those roads are totally impassable. This is happening at a time when Ikeduru is supposed to experience development, having been carved out from the former Mbaitoli/Ikeduru local government to bring development to the grassroots.
But in truth, no development has been recorded. The only asphalted road, done by the Mbakwe administration over thirty years ago, linking Afor-Oru in Ahiazu Mbaise through Obohia to Ugirike, Amaimo to Atta, has been completely washed away. After more than three decades, there has been no maintenance. The condition of that road is worse than whatever it was before.
From Afor Owu-Amakohia, I made my way through Ekeonumiri and found the road totally degraded. A section of the road in front of what used to be Amakohia Girls Secondary School has been overtaken by massive sands from gully erosion. Vehicles get stuck in the long stretch of sand. The road from that point is broken and impassable. No vehicles attempt to pass through it. In the 60s, when the road was maintained by the PWD from Ikeduru County Council, there was no sand heaps and vehicles moved freely.
On the side of what used to be Amakohia Girls Secondary School, anyone who is not familiar with the place will never believe that a secondary school ever existed there. The fortunes of the school turned for worse when the State Government downgraded it to a Junior Secondary School, because of inaccessibility.
Teachers and other staff refused posting to the school. Within the same perimeter was what used to be Ekeonumiri Market, which ranked with Afor Ogbe in Ahiazu Mbaise, as a popular cattle meat market. The market has disappeared and the cattle business gone into history.Opposite the market are the relics of what used to be a dispensary. The dispensary functioned in the 60s and early 70s and provided Medicare for Amakohia and the neighboring 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 nothing.
It could be seen that within the perimeter of what used to be a busy Ekeonumiri was a secondary school, market and dispensary. But today nothing exists there anymore due to bad road. Are we then moving forward or backward? If basic social amenities that existed in the 60s and 70s could disappear, what does that say about governance?
From Ekeonumiri, I moved towards Nkwo Amakohia and branched off to Okwu. From there, it was hell on earth passing through one of the worst rural roads in Nigeria. In the 60s, as children, we used to pass through the shorter Onuoma-Okwu Bridge to Afor Okwu. That road was passable due to regular maintenance by the PWD. Though the bridge was wooden, lorries carrying planks, palm oil and other agricultural products, used to pass through it. More than fifty years after independence, the Onuoma Okwu Bridge has completely collapsed and the road closed. The Okwu Community Hospital at Afor Okwu has virtually closed down due to bad road.
On the Avuvu axis, the Onungara road, linking the two autonomous communities in Avuvu is hellish and impassable. The deplorable condition of the road has impacted negatively on the Avuvu Secondary Technical School, which no longer attracts students from the neighboring communities due to bad road.
It is pertinent to ask what happened to the rural development drive of the Mbakwe administration. It was Mbakwe’s focus on rural infrastructure that brought many access roads to different parts of old Imo State. That rural development focus brought industries like the Aluminum Extrusion Plant at Inyishi, Imo Modern Poultry at Avutu Obowo, the defunct Amaraku Power Plant, among many others.
Sadly enough, all those projects built by Mbakew were either left to decay or some sold off out rightly. No other administration in the state has been able to match Mbakwe’s feat. All the roads built by Mbakwe’s administration have deteriorated due to no maintenance.Now that Governor Emeka Ihedioha is in charge and has beamed his searchlight on Ikeduru, the people are highly expectant that things will change. That was why they gave him 100 per cent vote. At the same time, the Ikeduru local council should wake up and not fold its arms, while its jurisdiction disintegrates.The Council should play a leading role in maintaining the access roads to enhance daily living and economic activities.