The Neglect Of Arochukwu

The Systemic Neglect of Arochukwu Kingdom
By Felix Oti on December 30, 2010

In every town, city, state, country, election season is always a time for the people to reflect, review and re-evaluate their options. It is a time to take stock of where they have been, where they are now, and where they are going. This stock-taking process informs their decisions on whom to choose to best represent their interest, and ensure that their plans for their communities are realized.

Since the return of democratic rule in Nigeria, Arochukwu have had the privilege of having her sons and daughters elected or appointed into positions of high importance, in both state and national levels of government; positions from where decisions could positively benefit the community in terms of infrastructures like roads, water, light and schools. Unfortunately, Arochukwu could not be said to have benefitted from having her sons and daughters in these positions of high influence and importance. The community’s advanced state of deterioration, and the extreme poverty situation of her people in the past twelve years, have left august visitor wondering aloud as to what ill-fate befell this historic community of international repute.

The roads to, and within Arochukwu, are nothing but deathtraps; many a pregnancy have been miscarried due to the terrible state of the roads. Today, it takes twice the length of time to get to Arochukwu from Umuahia, than it took 20 years ago. The main, and only, source of clean water is now boreholes, the prevalence of which poses serious seismic threats to the entire Arochukwu community; several public water projects started since the Shagari regime have been abandoned by various succeeding administrations, from local to national levels. Many schools have been without roofs and partial walls for years, and no new ones are on the pipeline; students sit on bare floors and under trees, while the few teachers who bother to show up provide their own teaching materials. The Arochukwu general hospital that used to be the pride of the Eastern region is now a residence for rats, snakes, and all other manner of mammals and reptiles. The only functional unit is the mortuary where the wearied and worn people of Arochukwu keep their dead while they source for funds to send them on their final journey home. The sick travel as far as Umuahia and Okigwe to get basic health services, because they cannot afford the prohibitive charge of the few private clinics in the community

Unemployment in Arochukwu is about 40% higher than the state and national average, because there are no private or public cottage industries to absorb the rising population of restive high school and university graduates; the resultant effect is increase in petty crimes and felonies in the community. Yet, Arochukwu local government is on pace to collect N1.6b from the Federation Account in 2010 alone (as at June 2010, it had collected N802.3m). Where does all this money go, for a local government with a population of less than 200,000?

Come 2011, the people of Arochukwu have the opportunity to remedy some of the dire situations they currently find themselves in, and the first step will be to choose and support candidates, in the coming elections, who are in it for Arochukwu. Paraphrasing General Babangida; “we don’t know who will represent Arochukwu in the coming elections, but we know those who will not”. And those who will not represent us are the ones who have been given the opportunities before, only to lead us halfway down the road and took the light from us. In the 2011 election year, the people of Arochukwu must reject these people in their entirety; no longer shall the fate of this community be entrusted in the hands of those who are in politics to line their pockets, and those of their immediate families; who turn our youths into criminal and murderers to achieve their selfish election ends, only to abandon them poorer and more desperate than they found them. No longer shall the people of Arochukwu listen to the advice and counsel of village chiefs and community leaders who mortgage their conscience and their people for bottles of cheap whiskey, occasional glasses of cheap wine, and a few fried chicken legs. We can do a lot better, and we must.

The 2011 general election presents an opportunity for Umu Arochukwu to say a collective “NO” to those political prostitutes, jobbers, and charlatans who have betrayed our trust in the past, and select those who share the Arochukwu spirit of our forefathers who always put Arochukwu above every other personal interest. It is an opportunity to select and elect into office, candidates who will carry out the collective mandate of Umu Arochukwu –ka akpaa ya akpa; failing which they will be responsible for whatever consequences that may befall them – including banishment from Arochukwu.

This is our chance to chart a progressive course for Arochukwu; our chance to decide what kind of legacy we want to leave for the next generation; our chance to consider whether it is still beneficial to remain in Abia state, or agitate to join Akwa Ibom state. It is an opportunity to wake up from our slumber and discard the policy of “oma azam n’onu”. It is time to say no, let it come from my mouth, and let the chips fall where they may! Arochukwu is too important to be returned to the care of those who brought her to near-collapse in the past 12 years.

We speak and act now, or forever wring our hands in silence.