By Amos Igbebe, Asaba
Entering the community, usually on okada, one gets the impression of having come to one end of the world. Ukwu-Nzu, a community under the Odiani Clan in Aniocha North Local government Area of Delta State, is one place where the residents can rightly claim to have been forgotten by the powers that be. With the dusty road commencing at the Onicha-Uku –Ukwu-Nzu — Ugbodo at the exact point where one is welcomed into the ancient village, one gets the first impression that the road leading to the community probably forbids tar.
The okada rider who took our reporter into this village could not stop complaining, not necessarily because of the bumpy ride occasioned by the poor nature of the road, but because there would be no passenger to take back out of the village. According to the rider, in the dry season, the road, as poor as it is, appears like heaven but as soon as the rains set in, lives and properties become endangered species in the agrarian community. This is so because it renders the village a god-forsaken-community in the state. With torrents of flood waters coming into the village from the neighbouring communities and others, life is put at a standstill.
The mere sight of strangers in their domains, taking photographs of the gullies and the erosion ridden roads provokes shouts from among the residents as they call out from their windows in loud voices; “make una come help us do the road. Na so so picture una dey take”. Mrs. Mary Osundu, a trader in foodstuffs, told 247ureport that over the past years, there have been a number of surveys and ‘picture takings’ without any actual work being done to improve the lives of members of the community. The mother of seven, Mrs. Gloria Ozowa, narrated with sadness how the state of the roads had made life unbearable for them.
Her narration shows the deplorable state of the road. “This road was what we used when we were small but it was not bad as this. The gully started about 20 years ago and has continued to grow bigger since then. If you come near this village during the rainy season, you will see the extent of the suffering of our people. Now that the rainy season has come, we have to follow our children to school so that rain will not carry them away. Last year, one small girl died in this erosion water. The force of the water carried her all the way to Obomkpa, a community from here and she died before she could be rescued.”
She appealed to the government and other concerned agencies to help their plight as they were tired of seeing people coming to video and survey the roads and gullies but with no visible solution in sight. Another member of the Ozowa family, Mr. Emmanuel Ozowa, expressed his own feelings questioning if they were still considered as part of the Nigeria nation. The young man, who deals in aluminum, insisted that the only time they felt a sense of belonging to the Nigerian state was during the elections when their votes are counted.
“They come here every year to survey the road, but they refuse to do anything. There is no road to enter this our place. I don’t know whether they have counted us out of Delta state, or whether we are still part of Delta State, because our village is very different from others around us. They have just abandoned this village for a long time. But when it is time for election, they count votes from here. We support them to go into government but once they enter, they don’t remember us again. This gully has condemned many houses and destroyed people’s properties in this village. Every time they come here for election, they count our votes, but when it is time to do roads, they forget us.” he lamented passionately.
He went further to add that they also gave support to sons of the community who were into politics, only to be forgotten when the ride becomes smooth and sweet. He listed some of their indigenes in government to include Dan Okenyi, Emmanuel Eboh, former commissioner for works and so many others, stressing that if the gully that is threatening the corporate existence of the community could be handled by the youths, they would have done so a long time ago.
“This gully has condemned many houses in the community. And it is beyond what the community youths can handle, so we are waiting for those in government. We have many people in government, Dan Okenyi, Emmanuel Eboh, former Commissioner for Works. The person we know would have done something about it is Iyke Uwagwu but they took the local government chairman from him and gave to another person.
Another respondent along the same Ogbe-Okwe Road, along which the gully has claimed many houses, explained that during the rainy seasons, they were sometimes left trapped for days with no way to access the markets in the neighbouring villages. The import of the narrations of the trader, Mrs. Faith Odogwu, is best conveyed in her exact words. “If rain fall for market day, we go dey hungry because we no go fit go market for Issele-uku, we no go see anybody when go carry us go. We go wait reach the next market day. And if rain fall again, the same thing. We dey produce yam, garri and coconut but we no see road to carry am go sell. Na so dem dey promise us before election. We don vote tire. We go go vote for dem on the day of election, we go stay under sun. At the end, dem go give us mineral to drink, and we no go see dem till another election don reach. goment, abeg make una help us, no let us start to dey thief.”
A retired soldier, whom our reporter met while trying to push his bike along the road which had already been rendered unmotorable was a sorry sight to behold. The elderly man, Mr. John Odor, supported the claims of other respondents, noting that the surveyors of the roads kept coming without any attempt to get them done and make life good for them.
Joyce Mele, who is a hairdresser and mother of one, gave more insight into the suffering occasioned by the gullies. According to her, the gullies have led to series of injuries, and sometimes loss of lives and properties which are carried away by the fast moving currents as it runs through the village. Born in the community, she explained that she had witnessed the gullies getting wider with every year’s rains with endless list of casualties, injuring many and carrying properties on it path.
It was a collective Save Our Soul message from the community as they called for the federal and state governments and other concerned agencies to come to their aid and give them a reason to feel a sense of belonging to the state. In one voice, and lead by the community’s traditional ruler, Obi Christopher Ogoh I, the people of Ukwu-Nzu appealed that subsequently the contract be awarded to a god-fearing contractor who would execute the project and make life meaningful for the people. They also called on their sons in the government to help do the necessary lobbying to get the projects done in record time.
But Chairman of the Aniocha North Local government Council, Hon Chuks Oseme, who was voted into office on October 25, and sworn in by the state governor, Dr. Emmanuel Uduaghan, failed to give audience to our reporter. Despite waiting for almost 40 minutes in his office, just to get his response on the results of the investigation, the chairman turned down the request on the excuse of being late for a meeting in Asaba. His action corroborated the response of one of the respondents who had said “we always vote for them and after making many promises, they don’t attend to our needs”.
Against the regular fracas media practitioners encounter with security and personal aides of political officers, the case of the chairman was, however, different. His police escorts and personal staff made attempts to assist our reporter to gain access to the Chairman, but his response remained “I’m in a hurry. Come back next week”.