by Okey Nwafor
Each time the raison d’etre for the Governor of Enugu State, Right Hon. Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi’s not batting an eyelid at the colossally deplorable state of the Opi/9th Mile Road in Enugu State is demanded, the attitudinizers of His Excellency leave nothing at creating a fray and jumping into same to civilize us on how the road in question is a Federal Government road, and as such, falls under the jurisdiction of the Federal Government of this Country. On that singular account, the onus is on the Federal Government of Nigeria in, not just building such roads but also seeing to their proper maintenance and goodness in which case it is illegal for a State Government, or any other government for that matter, to interfere with their constructions or reconstructions or maintenance, whatever it can be called.
In this country, people have read, heard and seen State Governors fix Federal Roads either by way of reconstruction or repair. People have also read, heard and seen some or all of these State Governors reimbursed or refunded all or near all or some of the funds vested in those reconstructions or repairs with or without asseverations to pay up the balance(s) in subsequent times. Of course, there exist at least implied troths or commitments that the Federal Government, whose duty it is to build and maintain those roads, would pay up.
Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi is said to be from Orba town in Udenu Local Government Area of the State. He is the sitting Governor and lives or should be living in Lion Building (Enugu State Government House). It is natural that from time to time, His Excellency should travel to Orba town to visit his family, and even if there are no family members living in Orba, is Orba, being his root/ancestral home not entitled to intermittent visit as a matter of customary obligation? If Orba, in His Excellency’s estimation, does not deserve such respect, the Governor must still visit for political reasons which are in his own interest. He may have to do a birthday party someday, bury a relative someday, accept a chieftaincy title someday or generally do any of those things politicians do betimes to attract the visit of their friends and colleagues to their country homes.
The paramountcy of country homes in the political lexicon cannot be overemphasized. The arrangement of the convergence/confluence of political friends, colleagues and contemporaries – heavyweights – in one’s home town could even be a guise to showcase the palatial edifice of the host to his friends and compatriots, and sometimes to cow natives and put them where they belong – trepidation. That’s conventional amongst politicians and it is understood. So, for a reason or another, this home-visit must occur, and in occurring, the access road is a factor to be put into consideration. The signification of the access road could be best discerned from the fact that Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi build a brand new road connecting the highway to the home of one of his associates when the said associate buried a relative. Recently, I think.
The Opi/9th Mile Road connects a very good number of Communities who are living on either side of the Expressway between Opi and 9th Mile Corner. The greater percentage of those Communities are in the Igbo-Etiti Local Government Area of the State, and some are in Udi Local Government Area. Ukehe specifically is one of the Communities relying on the said road. Ukehe Community is one town in Enugu State that stands out in various ways. Ukehe produced the first Executive Governor of Enugu State. Ukehe has a former Deputy Governor of the State. Ukehe has former Ministers of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. Ukehe has a former Presidential candidate of a leading political party. Ukehe has a former Justice of the Court of Appeal. Ukehe has the current Chief Judge of the State. In fact, there are numerous others to mention like the former speaker of the State House of Assembly and former member of the National Assembly amongst others. I won’t even mention the former national chairman of an alleged biggest political party in Africa or should I mention the former President-General of Ohaneze Ndigbo who all come from the great Ukehe town.
These senior citizens and others who are from Ukehe Community have this Opi/9th Mile road as the major access road to Ukehe. If they are going home from Enugu town, they need Opi/9th Mile Road. If they are going home from Abuja, they need the Opi/9th Mile Road. To get to Ukehe using Opi/9th Mile Road from Opi Junction may consume an average of two precious (but wasted) hours of not walking but driving, as against about fifteen minutes on a motor-worthy road. Ten minutes drive from Opi to Ogbede Junction and two minutes drive from Ogbede Junction to Ukehe. Thereabout.
Facing Ukehe from the other side of the road is an approach leading to Aku town. Aku is a densely populated Community whose inhabitants/natives grandstand in education – western education – currently boasting of about a hundred or so Professors in various fields of human (not animal) endeavour, including but not limited to individuals holding professorial status in more fields than one – multi-disciplined eggheads/intellectuals. They do not count their Doctors of Philosophy (PhDs) and their first-degree holders are generally regarded as uneducated or barely educated. They, like Ukehe and other Communities, rely absolutely on Opi/9th Mile Road to access their locality.
Yes. In all fairness to His Excellency, Right Honourable Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi, Opi/9th Mile Road is a Federal Road. It was built by the Federal Government and should be maintained by the Federal Government. So, His Excellency, the Governor’s hands are tied, even as he bemoans the plight of his subjects that rely on that road. He would always either plead that, or his lieutenants would/will be on the ground to so do. One now wonders if the Governor has never fixed or attempted to fix Federal roads in the state. An online news media, on 25th November 2019 listed Enugu State of Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi as one of the States seeking the refund of funds vested in the repair of Federal Government Roads. A nagging question now becomes what these Federal Roads are which His Excellency fixed in Enugu State if the Opi/9th Mile Road is not among them.
In all honesty, this bad road actually doesn’t bother His Excellency nor does the plight of his subjects placing reliance on the said road mean a strand of hair off his nostril. He travels from Lion Building, Enugu to his Orba home town through a beautiful brand new road not built by him. Yes. Not built by him. (His only contribution to that road is his destruction of a portion of it somewhere in Nike in the guise of building a bridge.) Once he leaves Lion Building and connects Abakpa Nike, one won’t even blow one’s nose before the Right Honourable finds himself in Opi (certainly not through 9th Mile). From Opi to the Governor’s Orba is a gift from the gods. No, a gift from the Governor.
It is important to note that the Opi/9th Mile Road is an extension of Oba/Opi Road. The same road. The idea that Oba/Opi Road is the same Federal Road as Opi/9th Mile Road doesn’t come to the table for dialogue. It is an exception. The Governor is from Orba and so, as a matter of right or privilege, he practically replaced the Federal Road from Orba to Opi, from where he links the beautiful road fabricated by his predecessor, former Governor Sullivan Chime, but the idea of that fabrication that cut off a very large chunk of the State’s population from accessing their localities is a discussion for another day. NOTE: This Orba is in Enugu State and not Obi Cubana’s Orba in Anambra State
So, in summation, Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi comes out of Lion Building and, within thirty minutes, is in his Oba edifice through Abakpa Nike via Opi while his electors who have to go to Ukehe, Ohodo, Ozalla, Umuna, Ochima, Ohebe Dim, Aku etc all in Igbo Etiti Local Government of the State and some towns in Udi Local Government who should naturally access their homes from Opi in ten minutes or less are spending hours to do so. Advocates of Opi/Enugu Road via Abakpa Nike were smart enough to create barriers that won’t allow trailers and other big trucks to access it. In that way, the longevity of the road will be assured or at least encouraged. By ensuring and encouraging its longevity, hope is not anywhere near as regards the Opi/9th Mile road. After all, the Governor can always go home from Enugu just as he doesn’t need his Benue neighbours to go to Abuja. The Emene Airport is quite handy from Lion Building. In the same vein, his friends who are to visit his country home should use the same airport, get driven to Orba through Abakpa Nike and return the same way.
The Benue State Governor must be a magician. Isn’t it amazing that once you leave Enugu State and enter Benue, travelling that same road, one sail smoothly? How did Ortom of Benue do that? The same Federal Road?
How could a sitting Governor behave like one with a grudge against a/some section(s) of his own State? What did the entire Local Government Area of the former President General of Ohaneze Ndigbo, first Executive Governor of the State, Chief Justice of the State, a legion of Professors etc benefit from Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi’s over six years in office as Governor of Enugu State? And when someone attracted a rural road from the Federal Government to escape from that Community into Nsukka or a neighbouring town from which to escape the Opi/9th Mile disaster called a road, why didn’t the Governor honour the commissioning ceremony or send a representative? What’s this pettiness about?
As a matter of urgency, His Excellency should prioritize the Opi/9th Mile Road. Organized high profile attacks can be carried out on that road owing to the inability of vehicles to move at normal speed, and that could affect the lives and property of Nigerians, especially his subjects who rely on said road to access their villages. The tears (real or crocodile) he shed in Ukpabi/Nimbo is still fresh in the memory of Nigerians. With appropriate steps taken, similar tears wouldn’t be necessary.
Okey Nwafor is an Abuja based Legal Practitioner, Rights Advocate and Commentator on Contemporary Affairs