By Orji Kalu Okorie
It is a popular saying in the South Eastern part of Nigeria that, â€œthere is no easy route to Arochukwuâ€. Arochukwu is an ancient name of a historic empire that has made history in the past and present. It is one of the most popular communities as it is noted for her merchandise in trade and education and settlement. Arochukwu thrived so well during and before the colonial period in Nigeria but, despite its long standing fame in education, trade and hospitality; one thing that has eluded her is a good road network.
It is also worthy of mention too that, Arochukwu which presently is the headquarters of Arochukwu Local Government Area (one of the 774 LGAs in Nigeria); is the only Local Government that member communities pass through another Local Government before assessing her headquarters. Arochukwu Local Government Area is made up of five clans namely: Arochukwu, Ututu, Ihechiowa, Abam, and Isu.
There are several roads linking Arochukwu; but sadly none of the roads is passable. The people are blessed academically, in trades and skills. The people are also predominantly farmers. Food items such as garri, yam, pepper, melon, rice and other raw materials such as rubber lumps, and timbers are produced in large quantities from the area. It is also of note that there is large deposit of limestone in the area.
In November 2003, the great people of Abam Onyerubi played host to the former Governor of Abia state â€“ Dr. Orji Uzor Kalu (MON) in a grand reception where the Governor in response to the request of the people, promised that he will award the only road linking Abam (one of the member communities) to her local government headquarters. It was cheery news to all sons and daughters of not only Abam people but, the entire people of Arochukwu Local Government Area as there was no good road for the people to also access the state capital.
Again, in July 2004, the Governor Orji Uzor who came to Abam to flag off the new development of rubber plantation reiterated his resolve to rehabilitate the road as his appreciation to the people of Arochukwu Local Government Area for their massive support to the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). Years went by without any sign of the governmentâ€™s preparedness to make real their promise.
In 2005 during the burial of one of their prominent son-Late Chief S.N. Okpi, the Governor who was serving out his second term assured the people once again that the said Ozu Abam Ndi Oji Ndi Okereke Abam Arochukwu road must be completed before his tenure ends. He further said that the road will be christened â€œChief Smart Okpi roadâ€.
Dr. Orji Uzo Kaluâ€™s tenure ended with the road only appearing repeatedly in the State yearly budget. In May, 2007 the baton of governance was handed over to Chief Theodore A. Orji. To many, it was as if all hopes were lost since a Governor from the same Senatorial district could not affect the rehabilitation of the road. But just one year after the enthronement of Chief T. A. Orjiâ€™s government, the government awarded the contract for the rehabilitation of the road; an action that brought so much joy to the people of Arochukwu.
Surprisingly, the rehabilitation of the 34 kilometers road was so slow that only about 2 kilometers was done before the end of Chief T. A. Orjiâ€™s first tenure. Then came another campaign period of 2011 where during his campaign, he assured the people that if voted again, he must complete the road rehabilitation before the end of his second tenure.
There is a saying â€œthat one is easily deceived by the mere mention of what he desired mostâ€ the people voted 100% again to Peopleâ€™s Democratic Party (PDP) in anticipation that the road will be a pay back to them. Surprisingly again, another two kilometers was realised in his second tenure.
In 2015, the road became a campaign topic, and the people again voted. 10 years down the line, only 10 kilometers has been asphalted with the bridge constructed. This simply means â€œone year one kilometerâ€, and it translates to completing the road within the next 28 years going by the current pace. Yet while the people rejoice for the governmentâ€™s intervention in constructing Igwu Bridge linking Abam and Arochukwu; it is still embarrassing to note that the road which rehabilitation work has been on for 10 years is only passable during the dry season, as the miry nature of the terrain makes it impassable during rainy season.
It is most disheartening even as the other road linking the state capital through Ohafia to Arochukwu is not the best either. The people are aware that now election is at the corner, that the various contesting parties would use the road again as a campaign topic. Is it not shameful that for 10 years, a 34-kilometer road linking five densely populated communities could not be completed at least to give them a sense of belonging?
â€“Orji K. Okorie writes from Ndi Oji Abam, Abia State.