opinionBy Chidi Egwuasi
Lagos — OKIGWE Senatorial District is one of the three Senatorial Districts that make up Imo State. It is made up of seven local government areas, i.e. Isiala Mbano, Ehime Mbano, Onuimo, Nsu, Etiti, Obowu and Ihitte Uboma.
It is a Senatorial District that has produced a number of prominent leaders in the South-East in general and Imo State in particular. For example, the first civilian governor of the old Imo State, the late Dr. Sam Onunaka Mbakwe was from Okigwe Senatorial District. The late Senator Emeka Echeruo who later became the Nigerian Ambassador to Germany also came from that part of the state. A one-time Vice-Chancellor of Imo State University, Professor Michael Echeruo, is from Okigwe. From there also came the late Professor Martin Ijere, an outstanding agronomist, and the present Deputy Governor of Imo State is equally from that part of the state, and Ikedi Ohakin, a one-time Commissioner for Trade and Industry in Imo State.
Ironically, in spite of the array of personalities, Okigwe still lags behind other senatorial districts in terms of development. It appears that Okigwe people are very lethargic when it comes to the issues of development. Besides, they are very apathetic to governance. For quite sometime now, one cannot point out anything good in terms of infrastructural facilities in this Senatorial District. It is the least developed of all the Senatorial Districts in Imo State. One still remembers a song that used to be sung some years ago that every town has developed except Okigwe and Orlu, saying that those who were ruling Okigwe at that time were not educated. However, Orlu has left that bracket of underdevelopment.
But Okigwe remains the least industrialized part of Imo State. In short, Okigwe is currently the economic graveyard of the state. Apart from poor industrial development, one cannot see any viable economic activity going on in that part of the state. Unfortunately, few Okigwe indigenes pride themselves as reputable businessmen who can bring about economic and social transformation of that area. Even a good international market like you have in other areas is lacking in Okigwe. With such situation, one is forced to ask what the economic and social bases of the area would be in the near future considering the fierce competition for resources in a state like Imo State.
Even the most primary occupation of mankind which is agriculture is not being practiced in a large-scale in Okigwe Senatorial District. Of course, this could be as a result of bad soil and environmental degradation which makes it impossible for people to practice agriculture on a large scale. Again, what are the people and their leaders doing to arrest such ugly state of affairs.
Ironically, we have a Senator who is presently representing this area in the Senate. What does he have to say about this ugly state of affairs?
What is he doing to attract development?
What is the state of health-care facilities in the area? Okigwe Senatorial District is supposed to have at least one general hospital. This writer is not aware of the existence of any. It is indeed a shame that such a senatorial district cannot boast of a good modern and well-equipped general hospital in this modern time. Apart from a big general hospital, most of the Local Government Headquarters are supposed to have good cottage hospitals. Unfortunately, the reverse is presently the case.
What about educational institutions? Imo State has three tertiary education institutions, i.e. Imo State University, Alvan Ikoku College of Education, Imo State Polytechnic. One does not want to talk about Federal University of Technology, Owerri, because that belongs to the Federal Government. Ditto for the Federal Polytechnic, Nekede. Unfortunately, none of them is in Okigwe Senatorial District. One does not know whether the State University has a campus of the university in Okigwe. Does the polytechnic have a campus in Okigwe Senatorial District as well? These are pertinent questions that would enable us to know our stand in the scheme of things in this country and in Imo State in particular. In spite of these shortcomings, what are the people doing to attract higher institutions to that area, knowing full well the importance of education for social, political and economic transformation of any society, especially in the modern world. Okigwe, no doubt, is lacking seriously in the realms of education.
One can equally not talk of development without good roads. The state of roads in Okigwe Senatorial District is nothing to write home about. It is the duty of the Senator representing this zone together with his fellow legislators in the House of Representatives to point out the lapses to both the Federal and Imo State governments. The roads are presently in a very deplorable state of affairs. Of course, good roads are important for the movement of persons and goods. They are equally necessary for the linkage of various Local Government Areas of the district. People must move about to transact their business. For example, a journey from Anara in Isiala Mbano to Etiti Local Government area costs a fortune which should not be the case. Ditto for a journey from Anara to Okwelle or Anara to Amaraku. Apart from the high cost of transportation, a journey of perhaps 15 minutes now takes up to 40 minutes because of the state of roads in that zone.
Our Senator should please put pressure on the Federal Government of Nigeria to repair the road leading from Anara to Orieagu. In short, he should, in collaboration with other Senators from Imo State, put pressure on the Federal Government to repair most of the Federal Government roads in Imo State. We know it would not be easy. However, with constant agitation and reminder, the Federal Government of Nigeria would do something about the state of Federal Government roads in Imo State. It is the strong hope of this writer that the Federal and State governments would live up to their responsibilities towards the good people of that zone. In short, Okigwe should be repositioned for greater heights.
In the area of water supply, Okigwe is nothing to write home about. The Imo State Water Board is doing nothing about the Water Supply Scheme in Okigwe Senatorial District. Okigwe must have water supply scheme through the Imo/Anambra Basin Development Authority. Besides, a lot of communities should be assisted in the area of boreholes. Our streams and river systems should be well harnessed for adequate and constant water supply. In short, mini-water-works should be built in all the Local Government Headquarters. Besides, Okigwe Senatorial District should learn to tap rain water in various communities for use in the dry seasons since most of the streams and rivulets in that area tend to dry up in the dry season.
Okigwe elites equally have a very big role to play in terms of social, economic, political, educational, cultural and even scientific development of that zone. Scholarship schemes should be instituted especially by political office holders and renowned businessmen and women from that part of the state for indigent students. Okigwe children should be made to see the importance of education and should be well encouraged to go to school. There is therefore, the need to equip the existing schools and build more new ones for the sake of our children. Okigwe children should be able to compete favourably with children from other Senatorial Districts in the realms of education.
Energy generation, distribution and consumption should be of utmost importance in our scheme of things in Okigwe Senatorial District. What happened to the Amaraku Power Station built by the late Sam Mbakwe administration of old Imo State. Luckily, a new sub-station is now being built in Anara in Isiala Mbano local government area. One expects other local government Areas that make up the Senatorial District to have more of such. Energy is needed for industrialization. Industrialization cannot go on without adequate energy supply. Therefore, there should be adequate power supply for domestic and industrial uses in the area. Most artisans like hairdressers, welders, cassava and pepper graters would need adequate and constant supply of electricity for their businesses to function. The same could be said of barbers, radio and TV mechanics. As a matter of fact, most of the small-scale business enterprises in the area will need adequate supply of electricity.
Communication is another important area that should engage the attention of Okigwe leaders. With the advent of GSM in Nigeria, one hopes that people can stay in Okigwe and reach any part of the world for more networking and further business transaction. We are now in the era of internet. Okigwe Senatorial Zone should be linked to the internet. Computer appreciation should be a thing of pride among Okigwe people. Our people should be very conversant with computer operations. Okigwe needs many computer literates than ever before. In short, communications business should be a booming business in Okigwe Senatorial District.
Another area that needs tackling is the menace of erosion, especially gully erosion in parts of the district. What is the Imo State Environmental Protection Agency doing? What is the share of that zone from the international funds being disbursed to states by the Federal Government? For example, the Federal Government claimed to have spent over N300 million on erosion control in Imo State. What amount went to erosion control in Okigwe Senatorial zone. The menace of erosion in Ihitte Uboma, Isiala Mbano, Etiti and Onuimo local government areas is nothing to write home about. One, therefore, expects our Senator to liaise with the Senate Committee on Environment and the Federal Ministry of Environment to tackle the issue of erosion and other natural disasters in that district. Okigwe certainly deserves more attention than it is presently receiving.