Having been severally warned by my friends and well wishers never to ply the Port Harcourt – Owerri federal highway with my car owing to the deplorable state of the road at Umuapu axis, I decided to travel through another route (Port Harcourt- Aba- Owerri federal road).
On getting to Obigbo( Onyigbo) axis of the road, I was stuck in a traffic jam for ten good hours not because of increased vehicular traffic but because one flank of the dualized federal road had completely broken hence forcing all road users to make use of one lane of the road which had big potholes in almost every spot.Many articulated vehicles fell down while trying to avoid the big potholes on the road. The police officers and the Federal Road Safety officials attached to that part of the federal road were as confused and frustrated just like other road users as they sat down quietly waiting for any miracle or magic that could clear the road.
Every road user seemed frustrated and helpless. While being held up in the traffic jam, I was between the devil and the deep blue sea as I could neither turn back nor continue my journey because I was travelling with my private car. My alternative route to Owerri from Port Harcourt was not better after all, I repeatedly assured myself .
This means that currently there is no other means motorists travelling from Rivers,Bayelsa and other south-south states can easily connect to Imo and other southeast states.
Having finished what I came to do in Owerri,I refused to follow the path I took while travelling to Owerri from Port Harcourt. I decided to park my car in a friend’s house in Owerri so I could travel with a commercial bus through the Owerri-Port Harcourt road that friends and well wishers had earlier warned me not to ply with my car.
Luckily, i met a honest commercial driver who advised me not to board a direct bus from Owerri to Port Harcourt if I had decided to travel through Owerri-Port Harcourt federal road. He advised me to board a bus going to Umuapu from Owerri and at Umuapu,I would enter a bike to cross the bad spots in Umuapu, thereafter i would then board another bus to Port Harcourt.
That piece of advice finally turned out to be a lifeline .On getting to Umuapu section of the federal road , I could not believe what I saw. I never imagined such deplorable road could be found in a much-touted Africa’s largest economy. I wondered if there were political representatives from that part of Imo state. I repeatedly asked about the senator and House of Representatives member representing that part of Imo state.
There were so many cars and lorries that broke down while others fell down at different spots on the road. I lost count of many articulated vehicles that fell down within that Umuapu section of the Owerri-Port Harcourt federal road. As I mounted the bike that would take me across that bad section of the road ,we fell many times as the mud on the road was very slippery.
That was a journey I would never wish my worst enemy in this life as I am aware that even Satan would not allow such road exist in hell where he superintends . As I boarded another commercial bus to Port Harcourt, I was more depressed as I tried ruminating the untold hardship I had passed since the journey began .I thought of how I travelled to Owerri with my car but came back to Port Harcourt with a commercial vehicle .It was clear to me that there was nothing to show that government existed in that part of Imo state.
I am aware that,that part of Imo state has a senator,Federal House of Representatives member,State House of Assembly member,Local government chairman , councillor and better still a governor who ought to consistently draw the attention of the federal government to the plight of road users in their constituency.
What do Nigerians need from their government if not good road network,constant power supply and security ? Believe you me,if these demands are properly met by the government ,other things will fall into their rightful places. I still wonder the agency or firm that ranked Nigeria the largest economy in Africa.
My Igbo people call it oke aha na-egbu nwa nkita, [The big name that kills the puppy]. Largest economy my foot! What type of largest economy are we when some of our young boys,mostly of whom are unemployed graduates , are into internet fraud(popularly called yahoo yahoo business) as a means of survival?
What type of largest economy will allow a significant number of her girls in the tertiary institutions take up prostitution as a means of survival for the harsh economic situation they are subjected to? As part of my evangelism crusade,I once preached to my neighbour, an undergraduate female student,at my off-campus residence in my university days,to stop going out at nights to work as a commercial sex worker.
Thereafter , she confided in me that she was ready to quit that job if anybody could take care of her aged hypertensive mother in the village and her younger siblings along with her own education .This girl in question was very brilliant and determined to become educated at all costs because in the cause of our discourse she alluded to Indira Gandhi’s quote as thus,’Education is a liberating force ,and in our age it is a democratising force,cutting across the barriers of caste and class,smoothing out inequalities imposed by birth and other circumstances .’
She went down memory lane to narrate how the prostitution was helping her in paying her tuition fees and taking care of her aged mother and younger siblings who were in secondary school. I became speechless when she asked me,’ Paul what do what me to do,should i drop out of school and go and work as a sale’s lady with my SSCE certificate where i will be paid between N10,000 and N20,000 and may still be owed at the end of the month? That question struck a chord in me and I accepted defeat in that evangelism crusade. Although I did not encourage her to continue prostituting after our discussion,I did not have any moral ground to discourage her either.
Late prof Chinua Achebe while reacting to the old belief that Nigeria is giant of Africa and that Nigeria is better than Ghana ,observed in his book, ‘There Was A Country’, as thus,’…of course the Ghanaians came right back by saying that Nigeria is bigger than Ghana in the same way in which threepence was bigger than than sixpence .’ We all know that threepence was bigger in physical size but with less economic value than sixpence. That is what people call ‘big for nothing’ . Largest economy, but some of her citizens are ready to sell their kids or even take up any dangerous and life threatening activities in order to survive.
How does Nigeria being the largest economy in Africa place food on the tables of her citizens or how does it save the women and children in the rural settings from preventable deaths? I think those that did the ranking only visited the beautiful scenery in Abuja hence the need for such generalisation. Is it not laughable and paradoxical that the Africa’s largest economy still confronts the challenge of her girls emigrating to prostitute abroad while her citizens who managed to leave the shores of this country as stowaway are ready to jump into the deep sea and get drown than returning to face the hardship in the land where one will take ones parents to the hospital and doctors will tell one what to do to save one’s parents but due to financial constraints ,one will watch one’s beloved parents die of a curable ailment? With the current states of the Obigbo (Rivers state) and Umuapu (Imo state) sections of the two federal roads, it is clear that politicians representing these areas do not come home at all. They are all based in Abuja, riding posh cars and investing in foreign countries. They will only come down to hoodwink the electorate once election draws near .
Meanwhile, Umuapu and Obigbo sections of the federal roads are not the only roads in the southeast and south south that require urgent attention .Different sections of the Enugu-Port Harcourt express road have completely broken down. The same with the ever-busy Enugu-Onitsha federal road .More so,the Onitsha-Nnewi-Okigwe federal road has been completely broken down such that if one’s car breaks down there,people will blame one for ever plying that road.
The blame has shifted from the government to the road users because no sane driver will ever ply that Onitsha-Nnewi-Okigwe federal road because unlike the Umuapu road I mentioned earlier where ‘okada’ riders could take one across the bad spots,this Onitsha-Nnewi-Okigwe federal road is completely impassable to pedestrians let alone motor cyclists or motorists.
I write this piece with bitterness and I want to state clearly that construction or renovation of roads should not be an object of politicking where federal government ignores a particular road because either the people of that area never voted for the government or that the ruling party at the federal level is different from that of the state . Abandoning a road is like a stone thrown inside a busy market ,nobody knows the next victim of such dastardly act .Attached, are few of the pictures taken from different locations of some federal roads in the southeast geopolitical region .
Dr Paul John