I am inclined to ask this question this time. I have continued to think about it from what I have always heard people of other clans say about the Aro people. Yes; do people of other places (even those around us in Arochukwu) hate the Aros, or do they like them? Let me nostalgically go historical in an attempt to answer this question, so that the reader will gradually get to find out the answer himself too.
In my days at the School of Health Technology, Aba (between 1980 and 1983), I had come across a tutor in the school. The moment we were given scholarship to study Public Health at the school by the then Imo State government, we began our studies in earnest. In-between, I came to know there was no assistant secretary in the newly constituted Students’ Union Government; and as a member of the Students’ Representative Council (where I had represented my department), I then quickly decided to contest the vacant post. Another student from the Medical Lab Department, Kelechi, showed interest to contest the same post; so we went to the poll.
But before the contest proper, certain behind-the-scene things had happened. That tutor had called me to have a word or two with him; he had called me to ascertain where I hailed from, and I answered and told him Arochukwu. I later discovered he had also asked Kelechi where he came from, and Kelechi had told him he hailed from Afikpo. After he had noted where the two of us hailed from, he surreptitiously decided to pitch his tent with Kelechi during the election unknown to me; he had, according to a reliable source who later disclosed that to me, said he wouldn’t like ‘that Aro man to occupy the seat’ because ‘they are cunning and will always like to cheat other people; I don’t like them,’ the tutor had concluded. I later learnt of how the tutor did all he could do to ensure my opponent won the election instead of me but, in the end, I had twenty-one votes while Kelechi Agwu Egwu had nine.
On the other hand, while I was serving as a chief environmental health officer in the Ministry of Environment, Umuahia in 2004, a permanent secretary was posted to the ministry. I never knew him before he came nor did he know me. Subsequently, my departmental head had detailed me to carry out a duty at Aba, and I did that. When I came back, I wrote and submitted my type-written report to the permanent secretary. He summoned me and, after trying to see him and failed on three occasions, I finally met with him.
‘You wrote this report?’ He had queried me. ‘Yes, Sir,’ I replied. He repeated the question, and I answered him in affirmation, this time with apprehension in my mind. Then, another question came: ‘Which school did you attend?’‘Methodist College, Uzuakoli,’ I had replied. Yet another question followed: ‘Where are you from?’ ‘Arochukwu,’ I had answered. The permanent secretary then involuntarily and with acquiescent voice put down his writing pen and uttered ‘No wonder; it is only an Aro man that can do this type of thing,’ he submitted. ’It is only an Aro-Okeigbo man that can type-write a report with his money and submit same to his permanent secretary without being given touring advance; you are really an Aro man.’ He went ahead to speak well of Aro people and, of course, the college I had attended, saying further and stating that ‘from today, you are my personal assistant….’
At another time at Lohum, Imenyi (immediately after Uzuakoli as one comes from Umuahia), a landlord had sworn before me he would never give any Aroman accommodation because ‘they are“bad”people. ’That was in1986 when I was posted to Uzuakoli and when I had sought accommodation in his house. He had told me openly that ‘Aro people are bad. I don’t like them.’
The essence of pointing out these acts of personal experience is to indicate that some people actually hate the Aros while others like them. So I ask again: how do people of other communities see us, the Aros, today? As usual, I took this matter up with some people in vox pops and interactions; it involved nineteen people, some non-Aros and others, Aros. Many respondents (non-Aros) had indicated they did not like to do things with the Aros. At Abuloma Road, Port Harcourt where I had sought the opinion of Dominic (a phone dealer from Ebonyi State), he had called the Aros bad names that I do not like to write down here; he had said that Aros were domineering, cunning, most diplomatic and like to take over any place they can lay their hands on. He went further to say that that was why the Aros live and dominate his home town (and village) way back in his Ebonyi state home! Not knowing he was speaking to an Aro man in me during the interview, he continued to call Aros ‘the slave dealers’ who sold other people and left their own people then. ‘They are bad people,’ he concluded.
Then, during our UMCOBA branch meeting at Port Harcourt on Sunday, 19 August, 2018 at Kono (Ogoni land), a fellow Methodist College Uzuakoli Old Boy from an Abia community had told me, face-to-face, that ‘I respect Aro people a lot. They are everywhere. They are intelligent, industrious, hard-working and resourceful people who hardly fail where other people do so. They even live in my community in Abia state.’
So, there are two sides to the question of why the people of other communities hate or like the Aros. There are outsiders who love and like Aro people. There are others, too, who dislike and hate us. It really depends on the experience(s) such people have had from interactions with some Aro people. Those who have positive interactions talk good of Aro people while those who have negative experience(s) condemn us, and the latter tend to be more in number.
Now the question arises: Do you, as an Aro person, contribute to the reasons why other people tend to dislike and hate us by those vile, despicable, mean and ignoble acts of yours? Yes; it is up to you!