Ebonyi 2019: The Verdict Of The Unbiased
On Monday, 4th December, I was called out at 20:11 hours to the Akanu Ibiam overhead bridge by a friend for an important message. By the side of the water fountain under the overhead bridge, chatted and savoured the allure of the golden spectacle which Ebonyi state has been turned into by the third civilian Governor of Ebonyi state, Chief David Nweze Umahi; a man who has been rightly described by the presidency as "the wise man from the East". Minutes into our discussion, a verbal alarm tore into our discussion, diverting our attention from the subject matter to an unfolding scene at the Afikpo bye-bye point of the Akanu Ibiam roundabout.
My friend and I walked up to the side of the roundabout from where the verbal alarm emanated. There, we saw a commercial bus with inscriptions of one of the frontline transportation companies in Nigeria on it. Beside the bus was an angry young man who lifted another hefty man up in what looked like a make-or-break fight. The younger man accused his victim who struggled for freedom in a loud voice of being a kidnapper and human merchant. The young man punctuated his accusations with appeals to onlookers and passersby for assistance to deal with his victim. Through phone calls, I mobilized personnel of Ebonyi Neighborhood Watch and a patrol team of the Nigeria Police Force. Together, we rescued the victim who we understood was the driver of the commercial transport bus. The driver's young assailant was one of passengers in a journey which started earlier in the day at Lagos. Furious with rage, the passenger entreated the security agents not to allow his driver whom he introduced in plaintive refrains as "a kidnapper and human trafficker" to escape. It took the people and the security personnel ample time and efforts to calm the raging young traveler and the apparently terrified driver of the commercial bus. Then, the police asked the aggressor to state his grouse.
The young man narrated that he joined the bus in the morning in Lagos on the agreement that the bus would take him to Spera-in-Deo roundabout in Abakaliki to enable him take a transit cab to Afikpo to see his people whom he had not seen since April 2015. The aggressor added that the driver brought him to a strange place with flyover, water fountain streetlights and said it was Spera-in-Deo!
At that juncture, the problem of the young man was clear to us: He was returning to Ebonyi state after a 30-month sojourn outside Ebonyi state. He was returning to the old dirty and bare Akanu Ibiam [Spera-in-Deo] roundabout, but he is confronted with a new and better Akanu Ibiam roundabout with a 700 metre length twin overhead bridge, water fountains and streetlights. He was returning to the old Ebonyi state where there was no good road network, streetlight, water fountains, security of lives and property, no love lost between Ezillo and Ezza-Ezillo communities; but he would be confronted with a new Ebonyi state where there are smooth and durable concrete roads not only in Abakaliki capital territory but also in Onueke, Afikpo and in greater parts of the hinterlands; he was returning to a new Ebonyi where all the Abakaliki urban road network with a total distance of 500 kilometers have street and ornamental lights which apart from aiding security of lives and property add to the aesthetics of the new tourist destination which Abakaliki has become; he was returning to a new Ebonyi state where war belonged to the past as peace and tranquility reigned in Ezillo, Ezza-Ezillo and other communities. Thirty months ago, the young man left the old Ebonyi state where government projects and economic empowerment programmes were subjects of political patronages and expediency, but he was returning to a new Ebonyi state where government projects and economic empowerment programmes are administered without regard to voting patterns and political affiliations.
We tried to assure the young Ebonyian that he was in the new Ebonyi state and in fact at Akanu Ibiam [Spera-in-Deo] roundabout built by the creative Governor of Ebonyi state, Chief David Nweze Umahi, and that the changes he was seeing were a little fraction of the positive differences arising from the transformational agenda of his Divine mandate administration, but he found the sight and our submissions too incredible to be real. We called his attention to the shouts of "Onueke! Amudo! Abaomege! Afikpo!" which emanated from loaders at the Akanu Ibiam evening park, but it was obvious that the young man had started suspecting the entire environment including the people therein: He took the entire things we were telling him as well as the efforts of the touts at the Onueke/Afikpo evening park as one big stage management he was not ready to fall for!
"Nnachi, oogi oni no n'ibiye?" (Nnachi, are you the one here?) Rang an overriding voice heavily-laden with excitement. The speaker shoved through the crowed as he inched towards the addressee who had become a spectacle. The addressee started, wiped his face in utter amazement and turned to the direction of the speaker. The security personnel and all of us watched with bated breaths as Nnachi studied the face of the speaker. In trepidation, he asked: "Oko, were you kidnapped to this big town too?"
Oko responded with an adhesive hug. As Oko clung on Nnachi, he told Nnachi that he came to Abakaliki in the afternoon to buy somethings. He said he had already booked a seat in an Afikpo-bound taxi before they were attracted by the alarm of a supposed kidnap victim. Nnachi knelt down in penitence before the commercial driver he had wrongly accused of taking him to a wrong destination with intent to kidnap him. Nnachi pleaded for mercy stressing that no one would easily believe that Abakaliki would be completely transformed to an entirely new town within a space of 30 months. The driver who understood Nnachi's predicaments readily obliged Nnachi. As Oko walked Nnachi to a loading taxi, he told Nnachi that Afikpo internal roads like St. Mary's - Amangbala road, Eke market road, Ngodo road, Unwana road and Amasiri-Okposi-Uburu have all been reconstructed with rigid pavements, he exclaimed that "All political parties in Ebonyi state which are really interested in the development of Ebonyi state and her people should adopt Governor Umahi as their sole candidate come 2019".