FEATURE ARTICLE

Temple Chima UbochiFriday, July 10, 2009
ubochit@yahoo.com
Bonn, Germany

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THE CONDITION OF ABIA STATE MAKES OKADA RIDING VERY IMPERATIVE
(PICTORIAL) 1

Of Ill habits gather by unseen degrees -- As brooks make rivers, rivers run to seas. (John Dryden)
He is free who knows how to keep in his own hand the power to decide, at each step, the course of his life, and who lives in a society which does not block the exercise of that power. (Salvador de Madariaga)
The government, which was designed for the people, has got into the hands of the bosses and their employers, the special interests. An invisible empire has been set up above the forms of democracy. (Woodrow Wilson)
In existing criminology there are concepts: a criminal man, a criminal profession, a criminal society, a criminal sect, and a criminal tribe, but there is no concept of a criminal state, or a criminal government, or criminal legislation. Consequently, the biggest crimes actually escape being called crimes. (P. D. Ouspensky)


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et's clear this before moving on: In my last article of June 19, 2009 (The State of the Nation: Rot in the Education Sector (concluding part)), I wrote amongst other things: "At this stage, this writer is still to fathom the reason(s) in this whole wide world why Obasanjo gave Nigeria "a poisoned chalice" in the person of this president; everyday, this question begs for more and more answers. I hope that Obasanjo will answer the question before passing on, when his time comes".

Then on June 27, 2009, Obasanjo magnanimously tried to answer the question by listing the five reasons why Yar'Adua won his support and why he went all out to rally support for him across the country. The five reasons listed by Obasanjo are: a consensus within the party that his successor should be a northerner; that he must be a former governor; that he must be well educated; that he must have a good record of fiscal discipline and that he must share in the policies and programmes of his administration for the sake of continuity. Obasanjo stressed that his support for Yar'Adua's presidency was based on no ulterior motive, and that he decided to pitch tent with Yar'Adua because he was the only one who had the attributes that were listed that his successor must possess.

This writer is not convinced by Obasanjo's reasons. Because having ruled Nigeria for three years as a military head of state and as a president for eight years, Obasanjo should have known better that that office is not for a faint hearted. Obasanjo as the then president was the head of his party, meaning that if he really wanted to do the right thing for Nigeria, his words or decision should have been final as regards to his successor, he should not have allowed others to force a successor on him. Obasanjo should bury his head in shame because he was required to rise up to the challenge twice, but, each of the time, he failed Nigeria. In 1979, he committed the first blunder by handing over to "Shagari the dunce" and in 2007, he repeated the same mistake by handing over to "Yar'Adua the dunce". The question is: Is the presidency meant only for northern dunces? Even if he wanted to hand over to a northerner, he should have looked for the best from there. Why must the person be a governor, after all, virtually all the governors (Yar'Adua included) were corrupt and misruled their state? Obasanjo should not have agreed to hand over to a person very unknown to him in terms of mental, physical and psychological capabilities. Yar'Adua is everything other than the things the five points meant.

Based on the demeanour of the current president in office so far, this writer is forced to question whether he acquired his two degrees he claims to have through transparent means and hardwork or did the surname he bears helped him out in acquiring them? Because Yar'Adua claims to be an analytical chemist, but, lacks analytical mind; he was a lecturer, but does nothing to lift the education sector out of the rot it is in. Even Obasanjo as a semi-literate president behaved more educated in office than the current one.

We were told that Yar'Adua made the original EFCC list of corrupt governors, but that Ribadu was coerced by Obasanjo's National Security Adviser into removing his name so that he would have smooth sail as the PDP presidential candidate then.

About continuing Obasanjo's policies and programmes; the people that brought forth that idea then miscalculated the havoc a dunce can wreck, because Yar'Adua has revised and reversed almost all the policies Obasanjo put in place and has watered down the fight against corruption at the behest of his corrupt friends and cronies. Yar'Adua has made mincemeat of all that Obasanjo laboured for as a president. Obasanjo made Nigeria a debt-free nation, but, Yar'Adua has gone on borrowing spree, taking one loan after another and plunging Nigeria and its unborn generations into debilitating debts, he has depleted the record breaking foreign reserve Obasanjo left for Nigeria, Yar'Adua is just a disaster for Nigeria.

I have few words for Obasanjo and other Nigerians: Leadership is an attribute or quality from God, it cannot be bought and who that lacks it, cannot gain it through the back door. Before we choose our leaders, let's search for those who God imbued with that virtue or attribute.

The Bible in Romans 12:6-8 (NIV) says "If a man's gift is... leadership, let him govern diligently..." Good leaders have intuition. They "see it" when others don't; they "get it" when others don't. We all fall into three intuition levels:

  1. Those who will never see it. Putting these people into a leadership role is like putting a square peg in a round hole; you can keep hammering and driving it, but it won't fit. When someone's gifted to work in a support role, it's a mistake to put them into a leadership role. Besides, every orchestra needs a good second fiddle. We're only responsible for the gifts God gives us, not the ones we want - or other people think we should have.

  2. Those who are nurtured to see it. These folks have the raw material; they just need to be nurtured and mentored. Dr John Maxwell points out that the ability to think like a leader is "informed intuition." These people just need someone to inform, instruct and inspire them, and they'll become good leaders. The truth is, without intuition we're condemned to be blindsided by events and opinions all of our lives.

  3. Those who naturally see it. These are the ones who are born with true leadership gifts. They instinctively understand people and know how to move them from point A to point B. Even as children they act like leaders. Watch them on the playground and you will see everyone else following them. People with such God-given intuition can build on it, become great leaders and bless others.

Now, if you want to see leadership in its finest form study the life of Christ, who said, '… the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life… (Matthew 20:28 NKJV)!

Let's leave it there for now.

To the topic: This writer will be using pictures to show the readers the condition of roads in Aba, one of the cities in Abia State where the "governor" banned the okada riders because, according to him, they are facilitating the spate of kidnappings going on in the state. The reader should form his/her own opinion or make his/her own judgement. Note that all these roads are in Aba Town. Also the refuse dump (you will see down the line) is one of the thousands dotting Aba landscape. This writer is using the pictorials to prove that he is not making empty accusations, because the Igbo people say " a person does not need a mirror to watch a bangle on the wrist (ihe agbala aka, ejighi nyöö ele ya)"

On Monday, June, 29, 2009, Abia State banned commercial motorcyclists from operating in certain areas of the state, saying that they aid kidnapping and other crimes. The ban came barely 48 hours after the governor deposed two traditional rulers for allegedly aiding and abetting kidnapping in the state. The government warned that it would deal ruthlessly with anybody that flouts the ban. The government said that it has discovered that kidnappers and armed robbers use Okada to carry out their crimes and escape easily.

Thereafter, the commercial motorcyclists rocked Aba with protest on the same day; they took to the street in demonstration against the state government's banning of their operations in major cities in the state. Their procession paralyzed activities in many parts of the city. Chanting songs of solidarity as they move, they went through major roads in the town.

The leaders of the demonstrators complained that the two days period given to them as notice was not good enough for them to make alternative arrangement.

This writer wants to tell the inconsiderate governor of Abia state that a government that provides no jobs will be breeding armed robbers, kidnappers and other criminals; a government that provides no motorable roads will be breeding commercial motorcyclists; a government that bans the commercial motorcyclists is looking for big trouble and will get it full time, because those people have mouths to feed, bills to pay, children and wards to send to schools. It is not an over-exaggeration, some of those commercial motorcyclists are paying for their children and wards' university education through that means. As the government bans them, how will they meet up that responsibility?


Look at how one of the roads in Aba, that leads to people's houses and businesses, is!

In the words of the Okada riders during their protest: "We are demonstrating to make government realize that the two days notice to us was not enough. We want government to give us up to January 2010 for us and them to map out other things we can gainfully engage ourselves in. There are no factories or industries any more in Aba where we can go and get job. Banning us this way is like sending us out for more suffering. We are making this request because we found it difficult in the past to get better jobs before we got involved in okada business". One of them said: "As I am now, I am a professional driver. When Governor Theodore Orji said government would buy cars and buses to give out to drivers on loan basis, to use for commercial purposes and that anyone interested should come to Government House and register. We went but government gave out the buses and cars to politicians. No driver got any. Many of us here are drivers with our drivers' licences."

One of the Okada riders, Mr. Chika Nwangwu, lamented that he was working with the Aba Textile Mills until the factory folded and could not get another job before he took to okada business. Mr. Nwangwu said he has five children and all of them are in school, adding that if he does not have any other thing to do to take care of them that some of his children would drop out of school. He said, "Okada is from where I take care of them. I used to work with Aba Textile Mills before it folded, then I managed to start the okada business. We are appealing on the Abia government that if they are banning us they should give us enough time to prepare. We are not challenging them. We are only appealing."

Mr. Ndukwe Igwe said he was a tailor before he joined okada business four years ago. Mr. Igwe, who said he was doing very well in his tailoring business had to go out of it when importation of ready made clothes from Indonesia affected the business and to keep body and soul together he had to switch to okada operation. He said the implication of the ban is that since Abia state government did not provide tri-cycle or buses like other state governments did before banning okada operation in their states, and the okada operators do not have other means of livelihood, members of their families would die of hunger, with their children dropping out of school. He called on the state government to re-consider this decision because such directive can only be given in a military administration. He said if this is not properly treated like presenting the decision to the State House of Assembly for discussion, that the multiplier effect could lead to increase in crime which it said it wants to check by banning okada operations.


A Road in Aba Town: This is how Okada riders meander their way in Aba Town. How are they aiding kidnapping then?

This writer knows that this is not the first time Abia state government, under Orji Uzor Kalu and T.A. Orji, has accused the commercial motorcyclists of aiding and abetting criminal activities. In 2007, Orji Uzor Kalu as the then governor curtailed the hours the commercial motorcyclists can operate, accusing them of aiding armed robbers in their operations and escapes. But while campaigning for T.A.Orji (who was in prison then on corruption charges) for the gubernatorial post in the 2007 election at the Aba Township Stadium, all that Orji Uzor Kalu promised the state if his candidate (T.A. Orji) gets elected, was the removal of the restriction on the commercial motorcyclists' hours of operation. Anyway, his promise then was a PR stunt or just playing to the gallery and was not necessary because the people never voted for T.A. Orji, but, was rigged into office.


One of the many bad roads in Aba Town. Is this a river or a road?

Orji Uzor Kalu and T.A. Orji used commercial motorcyclists so many times and dumped them. Kalu as a governor used the okada riders so many times as part of his convoy (as out riders) to underscore his cheap and false popularity and to show discerning minds the kind of "little brain" he has.

Not all commercial motorcyclists must be aiding and abetting kidnapping and not every motorcyclist is a commercial one. There are private motorcyclists, as that is the only means of moving from point A to B in Aba in particular and Abia state in general. Almost all the car owners in Aba have parked their vehicles for good, because of no motorable roads and have bought for themselves a motorcycle to moving around. Is the government also banning the private use of motorcycles and what is the guarantee that kidnappers will not be using private motorcycles to do their crime, if actually it is possible to kidnap somebody with a motor cycle? The ban is senseless and wicked to the poor people using it as a means of their livelihood. That the commercial motorcyclists are aiding kidnapping is a misplaced accusation.


This is the common look of Aba Town

Abia State "government" (if it worths that name) is inept, that's why it issues policies before thinking of the wider implications such (policies) will have on the people of the state; the government in Umuahia that is groping in the dark, makes and issues policies before weighing their pros and cons. Quote this writer, the government will swallow its words by revoking the ban, because there is no basis to sustain it and the ripple effects will be more than what the stooge at the Government House Umuahia has envisaged. Because, a government that creates no jobs and decides to ban the okada business that many people have found solace in, will have a catastrophic situation to grapple with! Some of the suffering government workers who are being owed months of salary in arrears, have turned themselves into part-time commercial motorcyclists to keep mind, body and soul together, and to help take care of some of their financial commitments; so banning the "stop, carry and go" business will be a double jeopardy for those (government) workers as they will have no other means to turn to. Many of those commercial motorcyclists are graduates who did not find job and decided to help themselves out by engaging in a meaningful activity, no matter how degrading, instead of continuing to be a burden to their parents and others. What are they going to do now, if the ban holds? The crime rate will hit the roof soon in the state.

Since the roads are bad and impassable, commercial and private vehicles cannot ply on them, how do the people go to work and their business? The government should be ready to have empty offices and closed businesses. Pandemonium will be unleashed in the state soon, unless the ban is revoked.


Look at how Aba people are suffering

Human rights groups and some individuals have been reacting to the ban from the government and the protest from the okada riders. This writer wants to share some of them with you. Most of all, the residents of areas affected by the ban, have appealed to the state government to fine-tune the policy until alternative means of transportation is introduced. According to them, "Almost 70 per cent of us do not have vehicles and yet we must get to our offices and business places."

The Human Rights, Justice and Peace Foundation and the League of Eastern Democrats assisted okada operators in Abia State in getting an order from the Federal High Court, Umuahia, restraining the Abia State Government and its agents from molesting commercial motorcyclists in the state, pending the determination of the suit.

Kevin Ani wrote this on the ban: Those cyclists and their leaders should go beyond merely protesting the so-called ban. They should go further and sack the illegal gang parading as Abia state government.

Why? Because there is no government in Abia State! If there is one, what is their vision of Aba? Even Amaechi in Port Harcourt has packaged a vision of greater PH and is building one. A nation without vision dies and clearly Abia rulers have no vision for themselves or their nation.

In the past, Igboland had trade unions, student unions, market unions, clergymen, elders etc. which could organize mass protests. Now everyone is keeping quiet while a criminal gang is running down the land with impunity. Is Abia state more advanced than China and many eastern countries where cycling is the norm?

To compound the tragedy, those who are supposed to lead are keeping mute... So far we have received no response whatsoever from Mazi Enyi Abaribe on the state of Aba, an Igbo city under siege by a criminal gang parading as government.

On a general note: Kevin Ani of NSIBIDI Press in his worry that Aba is being allowed to continue its decay without anybody giving a damn about it, wrote to Senator Enyinnaya Abaribe representing the town in the senator. This writer wants to share with you the exchanges which transpired between Mazi Kevin Ani and Senator Enyinnaya Abaribe.

Kevin Ani wrote to the senator:

Nwannaa,

As someone representing this section of our beloved Igboland, could you explain to Igbo people what the hell is going on in the Igbo heritage city of Aba Ngwa?

Is it possible that any free born son or daughter of Igboland would condone the level of decay that is going on and not do anything about it? No Yoruba man will do this to Yorubaland and no Hausa man will do this to Hausaland.


Do the Aba people living here feel any government presence?

Senator Enyinnaya Abaribe replied:

My brother Kevin,

Let me thank you for asking for explanations on what is going on here with regards to infrastructural decay and more recently the spate of kidnappings and other vicious crimes in Abia State.

  1. The responsibility for urban infrastructure is that of the State government and Local government.

  2. The Federal Government is concerned with Federal roads i.e. roads that connect states.

  3. Therefore for the urban roads shown in the pictures, not being federal roads, the matter MUST be laid squarely at the feet of the State Govt and Local Govt as due.

  4. Nevertheless, recall that these roads being shown was claimed to have been built by the Orji Kalu administration with billions of naira 3-4years ago.

  5. Part of my quarrel with that govt was my insistence that there should not be deceit in governance for which I was vilified and excoriated for not being "LOYAL".

  6. The result of all these years of deceit and misgovernance is what we all suffer today.

Indeed all of us, who come from Aba the Enyimba city, weep when confronted with this type of neglect and insensitivity to the welfare of Abians by those in charge.

Examples:

In 2008 NDDC wanted to build Obikabia Road linking Aba with Tollgate at Isiala-Ngwa. No sooner had it been put in the NDDC budget through our efforts at the national assembly, that the state govt announced awarding a contract to do that road. The contractor did one kilometre and packed up and left. The road is now abandoned.

In 2009 budget, we proposed that the 2 billion naira MDG fund be channelled to Port Harcourt Road & Aba/Owerri road within Aba. I spoke to the D/Gov on our intention but the next week, the state govt awarded same roads for about 5 billion. People in Aba will tell you how far they have gone. The roads in Lagos and Enugu are not being built by the federal government or Senators. For your information, Enugu receives less allocation than Abia State since they are not oil producing.

As a Senator representing the area, my responsibility in addition to making laws for the good governance of Nigeria, is to attract federal projects to the area but the restriction is that the federal government does not do what is in the exclusive list of the state governments in the constitution. Urban roads that are not linking other states cannot be undertaken by the federal government.

In 2009, we were able to get the Calabar-Aba road; Owerri town-Aba road; Ohanku- Aba road (NDDC), Obohia-Aba road (NDDC) Uratta Road (NDDC), Opobo road junction-

Azumini road included in the budget among other things.

Funds meant for these infrastructural and social services forms part of the monthly allocation to states and local governments. This information is available on the Federal Ministry of Finance website. Combined with internally generated revenue in the state, I believe that Abia has enough to take care of its citizens.

One thing is clear. Until we start to ask questions to those responsible for providing these basic needs of our people, they will continue to misappropriate and misallocate and misuse the people's resources.

Senator Enyi Abaribe

Kevin Ani wrote the senator again:

Nwannaa,

Thanks for your response.

  1. I have to say that you are among the few Igbo participants in present-day Nigerian politics to connect directly to Igbo people. The rest have access to the internet and other media but are burying their heads in the sand and exposing their thinking parts. Your openness deserves to be commended and I believe that with that attitude your political career will only grow in leaps and bounds, God's willing.

  2. We have to also add a caveat before people start imputing ulterior motive to our Aba campaigns: We do not own even one square inch of the territory known as Aba Ngwa.

  3. Our concern is around the criminal destruction of a city that has served as the epicentre of Igbo economic, political and cultural life by none other than Igbo people themselves. Those who do not already know the place of Aba in Igbo life and survival are invited to read Tom Forrester's book: The Advance of African Capital: The growth of Nigerian private enter- prise, (Edinburgh University Press, Edinburgh, 1994).

    I also know that after the genocidal war, Igbo families believed that if they could get to Aba Ngwa- walk, cycle, run or by train, by bus etc. they would survive, and they did. It was at Aba that Igbo cultural renaissance started to occur with music groups such as The Apostles, Wings, One World, Semi-Colon etc. taking the lead. Aba was the hotbed of

    Igbo nationalism where Igbo-haters like Awolowo feared to tread. Without Aba Igbo recovery from the genocide would have been a lot more difficult and prolonged.

  4. There is no free-born Igbo who will see the state of Aba today without shedding tears.

    It is therefore a matter of concern to me and like-minded Igbo nationalists to watch the city of Aba destroyed in this way by our own people. The only book about tourism in Nigeria written by foreigners described Aba as the dirtiest city in Africa and by extension the world. Another white visitor wondered why people lived in Aba which he called "latrine

    of a city". Thus within our life time, Aba is now a metaphor for dirtiness and chaos, derided by even Yoruba and Awusa whom the Igbo formerly derided. What a shame!

  5. Past attempts at addressing the issue have been deadlocked around whose responsibility it was to maintain Aba and its roads. Strangely, this has not been the issue in Port Harcourt, Uyo, Yenagoa etc. where massive transformations are happening. It is clear that in occupied Igboland, the political structures on the ground- state, local government etc. are incapable of addressing the Aba issue. But there are certain issues at the core of Igbo nationalism that ought to cut across political beliefs, orientations and posturing. Modernizing and repositioning Aba Ngwa is one of them.

  6. We are calling on Igbo nationalists of Ngwa origin to take the lead in by-passing the moribund political structures that are killing Aba Ngwa and take immediate steps to arrest the rot. Whole sale transformations are good, but a journey of one thousand miles starts with a single step. Even a simple tree-planting campaign to beautify the streets of Aba city which is located in the lush rainforest zone of our land is long overdue. Should such a campaign be launched by the Ngwa Diaspora today, many friends of Aba will contribute to it.

Ndeewo!

This writer is grateful to Kevin Ani for his concern for his home town; his comments or ideas are always well taken. Still, this writer will quickly add that any Igbo person, and not only the Ngwa people, that can, should initiate the move or contribute, in his/her own way, towards the lifting of Aba Town out of the decadence it is in. Because, the Ngwa indigenes are not the only people living and gaining from the town; infact, the non-indigenes outnumber the indigenes there 100 folds. Aba made and still makes so many non-indigenes successful in their different endavours. Orji Uzor Kalu's family is a typical example here. They were born and raised in Aba , and Aba is still their home. The Kalu family has taken a lot from Aba without giving anything back other than decay. Nnana, Orji's junior brother, who is only sleeping and warming seat at the House of representatives, is representing Aba Town despite the fact that he is a non-indigene. This point becomes imperative because representatives are choosen based on place of origin as against place of birth or abode. But Nnanna or anyother person living in Aba, is free to represent the Ngwa people because they are benevolent, but, on the condition that the person will contribute to the development of his constituency. The problem here is that Nnanna's performance in the House of Reps is below average and he has not contributed to any motion in the House of Reps since about 6 years or thereabout he has been in that supposedly hallowed chamber. Orji Uzor Kalu is living like the king of Abia State with Aba as his palace, Nnanna and Mascot Kalu are living like princes of Abia State with Aba as their court, Mama Kalu is the "Queen of Abia" State with Aba as her palace. It is mostly the non-indigenes who Aba Ngwa indigenes accepted with open arms, that have decimated the town and kept and continue keeping it in the parlous and pitiful condition it is now in. Igbo people say "A visitor should not be a torn in the flesh of his host, and when the time comes to leave, he should not develop a hunch-back (Obiara ngaa onye abiagbula ya, ya lawa, nkpunkpu apula ya n'azü)".

On the other hand, this writer, as a "son of the soil (nwaafo)", would like to take up Kevin Ani's challenge, if he can be supported by others. Anybody who has an idea on how to go about it, is free to get in touch with this writer. It is worth acknowledging that fellow Ngwa people are too complacent, apolitical and have failed to ask for their rights or to protect what is rightfully theirs. I hope that those of us who are outside of Ngwa land, will initiate the efforts geared towards the re-generation of Aba Town. This writer has been the "lone voice in the wilderness" from Ngwa land abroad, writing about the injustice the "rulers" are meting out to Abia State in general and the Ngwa land in particular. He needs the support of all.

Cornelius Akubueze wrote:

Imo state banned Okada pilots just few weeks ago, Abia follow this week, soon Anambra, Enugu, Ebonyi will follow and we think that Hausa and Yorubas are our problems, hell no we the Igbo are our own worst enemies. This is an opportunity for all these gazillion Igbo associations dotting every street in the Diaspora to come and show support for the poor man raising families by piloting Motorbike more than 16 hours a day just to put food on the table as our ignorant governors siphon public funds to overseas banks, jet off to foreign countries for medical updates and pad their friends and relatives overseas with public stolen money. No amount of self help fundraising efforts to rebuild schools, build boreholes, medical missions etc will alleviate the enormous pain our people are subjected to on a daily basis but when we begin to act as activists, question the policies of these maggots and actually protest against them or sue them to courts, we will begin to get real results. Let us for one time do something for the poor, let us protest this banning of the Okada pilots, these people are not the problem, the government is. Indeed the Government of the Igbo states should be ashamed that they are not able to apprehend criminals on motorbikes, that is because they have no true law enforcement. They are all crooks. Let us stand by the people; the okada people who are not only reducing unemployment in the population but actually providing invaluable service in a messed up society. The best and prudent thing the government can do is to regulate by licensing and working database all transportation operators, that's not hard to do but alas, the brainless leaders can't think of decency but ways to manipulate and destroy.


One of the thousands of refuse dumps dotting Aba landscape

To end this piece: Mazi Kevin Ani of NSIBIDI Press gave us an eye witness account by a Caucasian passer-by (the white man in the picture), who rightly described Aba as "The City Of Dung" by saying:

"...Aba was a real dump when I went there... I've made the mistake of going there during one of my trips to Naija and it smelled like crap, and the trash heaps around the city were so many and so high one would mistake it for a big Urban landfill. Sewage flowed down the dirt filled streets along with putrid seepage from the garbage piles-- turning the roads into putrid smelling mud slides that folks just walk through like it was nothing. It was ludicrous, and I was pissed to see thousands of people actually living in that latrine of a city..."

To be continued

THE THANKS IS ALL YOURS!!!

Appreciation to:

NSIBIDI PRESS tm

Human Rights, Justice and Peace Foundation [HRJPF]

All the names in the piece

Continued on Part 2

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