Welcome to the debut of CandidThoughts. CandidThoughts is a column that will seek to ignite debate, provoke thoughtful discussion of our challenges, illuminate the landscape, navigate the controversies and challenge anachronistic views. We will seek to contribute to the conversation, resist defeatism, and proffer solutions; all as our humble contribution to rescuing our society, strengthening our heritage and securing our future.
If you stumble on two or more Nigerians discussing, the topic is likely to be the recession that has seized the country’s economy and our pockets. While the Nigerian economy just slipped into recession, at least officially, the Arochukwu economy collapsed a long time ago. It collapsed due to a decade of unbroken neglect by the three tiers of government.
Since the return to civil rule the Arochukwu Local Government has existed largely in name with little or no impact on the environment. The state government for inexplicable reasons has decided to largely ignore the community in the provision of social amenities. The federal government is so distant that even when it’s agents in the name of contractors abscond with public funds meant for the execution of the federal road to the community nothing happens.
It is no longer news that Arochukwu has the worst infrastructure compared to any community with urban status in the country. The major entry into the town -the Ohafia /Arochukwu federal road -is laced with deep gullies at several points thereby making the road impassable. Motorists have to divert through several Ania and Akanu villages paying tolls at each village. The alternative route, the Abam /Arochukwu road is closed to traffic as the bridge is under construction and the untarred section is very muddy. The Nkana access is in a worse state. From roads to hospitals, educational facilities to public power supply, the story has been that of hopelessness. The only seemingly booming business is burials. Unfortunately, the employment this ought to create is outsourced. Undertakers, caskets, caterers are mostly procured from outside Aro.
The reaction of most Umu Aro to this sordid state of our motherland is to vote with their feet. The speed with which they have deserted their homeland would make Usain Bolt green with envy. Since our roads took a turn for the worse many of our well- to- do have not been to Arochukwu. Many have decided to hide in urban centres. Anything that would bring them to Aro is dodged with one excuse or the other.
Our recent experience has shown that unless we champion our cause no one would. Aside from lamenting and bemoaning on social media we must find a way of helping bring real solution or even palliatives.
One way of doing this is to make ourselves available. We should resolve to visit home regularly no matter the situation. When we are available we are able to appreciate, at first hand, the magnitude of the challenges confronting us. Adversity should challenge the ingenuity in us and we are more likely if we apply ourselves rigorously enough, to think outside the box.
Also, we can help organise our compounds and villages to function better with prospects of achieving more for the common good. For instance, our internal roads are in a deplorable state, washed away by erosion. While we expect the local government to rise to its constitutional responsibilities, we can pull resources together to create the necessary drainages that would channel water away from the roads thereby allowing them remain at least motorable. The cost of such projects may throw the struggling economy of an individual out of gear but there is no way it would overawe a determined people. The point being made here is that when a people are inspired to work together there is very little they cannot achieve.
Bringing people together for a common purpose is not always easy. Every compound or village has a fair share of ‘well endowed persons’ who would rather make bogus promises they have no intention of fulfilling, but we can get around this problem by pegging what should be contributed at realisable limits and allowing social sanctions deal with chronic deceivers.
We can work to ensure our compounds and villages enjoy reasonable peace. There exists too many quarrels in our compounds and villages today that it is almost impossible for people to come together to hold meaningful discussions. Recently, in an effort to galvanise the villages to take more interest in Eke Ekpe, it was difficult to find cohesive units to talk with. Either the village union had issues with the Eze Ogo or the youths were bent on making the village ungovernable.
In many compounds and village unions, it appears leadership has been abandoned to retired and old people. Where this is the result of an appreciation of skills and talents it is welcome. However, more often than not, it is because the younger professionals decide not to make themselves available. They are not willing to make the sacrifice. Even if they do not hold the positions, can’t they make themselves available in advisory capacity? After all, one does not need a title to be a leader. As Field Marshall Bernard Montgomery, that British first and second World War hero, pointed out many years ago, “leadership is the capacity and the will to rally men and women to a common purpose and the character which goes with it.”
When we visit home we are likely to notice that our young brothers and sisters, those we say the future belongs to, are busy destroying their present with no hope for the future. They have no good education, hardly their fault, but they also do not have the temperament, the presence of mind to successfully learn a trade, or acquire a skill. The nearest they come to acquisition of any means of livelihood is ‘okada’ riding.
Their preoccupation is escapist, seeking to drown their hopelessness in the use of narcotic substances. Little wonder they become wild, violent, shameless, rude and visionless. If we are closer and perceptive to identify the problems, we may be able, working with relevant agencies or groups to introduce schemes that will first seek to recondition their minds, then help them with skills acquisition. The proverbial future would be really bleak for Aro unless this descent into moral and social morass is arrested.
Arochukwu is sinking. Shall we stand by and watch?