•Town union, stakeholders disown demonstrating youths
From Aloysius Attah, Onitsha
A noble gesture by the wife of the Governor of Anambra State, Chief (Mrs.) Ebelechukwu Obiano at Ogbunike has sparked off a protest as well as counter-rallies and accusations in the area.
The governor’s wife, had, through her pet project, Caring Family Enhancement Initiative (CAFÉ) commissioned an ultramodern toilet facility at Oye Olisa market at Ogbunike, Oyi Local Government Area of the state.
The people rolled out the drums to receive the governor’s wife and her entourage and also lauded her for the project. They also gave their nod for the re-election of her husband for a second term in office.
But shortly after the commissioning of the facility, hundreds of youths in the community trooped into the streets in a peaceful protest over what they called government neglect of their basic needs, failed promises and politics of exclusion.
The youths, who said they were members of the United Ogbunike Youths Association, said the gesture was as an insult to their collective psyche. They marched through the Oye Olisa Market junction and the Awka Old Road before returning to the Ogbunike Town Hall, chanting anti-government songs.
But the government responded immediately, describing the youths as hired agents of the opposition. The Town Union president and other stakeholders also berated the protesters for their action.
Addressing journalists during the protest, Chairman, Board of Trustees of the youth group, Chibuzor Unachukwu, said the peaceful protest became necessary because the Willie Obiano-led administration had reneged on the promises he made to the people of the community despite the fact that the governor’s wife, Chief (Mrs.) Ebele Obiano, is an indigene.
Unachukwu, while presenting an eight-point petition by the aggrieved youths to journalists, noted that the first project ever commissioned in Ogbunike by the administration was the toilet facility, which he claimed was sponsored by an oil mogul, Chief Arthur Eze, from Ukpo community, Dunukofia Local Government Area.
He said that the governor and his wife had promised the youths that Ogbunike would be urbanised, the roads made accessible while the youths would be empowered. He regretted that the promises were not fulfilled.
His words: “We the youths of Ogbunike are presenting an eight-point promulgation of our grouse and expectations. The toilet facility is not the most pressing need of the community presently. A mini cassava or palm oil mill at the same location would have been a good revenue generator for us.
“The road cutting across Azu, Amawa, Umueri, Ifite was initiated at the request of our Igwe by the Peter Obi administration in 2012 and inherited by the present administration. Three years have gone, but asphalting has not gone up to two kilometres till date.
“We want Oyeolisa Road down to Kisa Osile River, passing through Ndiagu Ifite Road to Nkwele Junction done. People make comments all over Anambra that Ogbunike has benefitted more from this administration via appointments but they have failed to know that such appointments never benefit the common man in the street of Ogbunike.”
President of the United Ogbunike Youths Association, Okonkwo Franklin Ikechukwu, an architect, while corroborating Unachukwu’s position appealed to the Anambra State government to site small scale industries in the area to keep the youths engaged.
But the Senior Special Assistant to Governor Obiano on Media, Emeka Ozumba, in a press statement made available to reporters in reaction to the protest, expressed fears that some opposition elements might have infiltrated the peace-loving town of Ogbunike. He said such opposition figures secretly instigated a band of youths to stage a protest with placards and claims of neglect of the community.
Said Ozumba: “The wild allegations raised by the youths have no close relationship with the truth and are obviously orchestrated to mislead and incite unsuspecting members of the town against Mrs. Obiano.
“Chief (Mrs.) Obiano has neither a statutory role nor financial allocation from the government of the state. Her role as wife of the governor has no executive powers to it. However, in support of the programmes of her husband in the service of Ndi Anambra, she set up the non-governmental organisation (NGO) under whose auspices she embarks on several charitable programmes and projects, including the popular CAFÉ Housing Programme for Indigent Widows as well as borehole projects.”
He said the Obiano administration had done several projects, including completed road projects in Ogbunike, which the traditional ruler of the community, Igwe John Umenyiriora, even attested to publicly recently.
Town union, other stakeholders speak
Stakeholders and community leaders in Ogbunike also frowned at the conduct and manner of the youths and said they were misguided into taking such steps.
President General of Ogbunike Progressive Union, Dr. Nnamdi Michael Nwadiogbu, in a chat with Daily Sun said the youths should have consulted the elders and the town union before embarking on any protest.
“I believe that no idea prevails without the support of the majority and it is just right that one should follow the organogram of leadership before taking certain actions. We have a town union but the people who said they were protesting never consulted any of us. If they did, we would have advised them to take the proper way and method. If our community is being marginalised in the real sense of it, it would have been the town union that should take action and not them. The only major market we have in our community is the Oye Olisa market and Her Excellency really came to our rescue with the toilet facility.
“The question is, why did the youths not protest six months ago when the same governor’s wife, our daughter, came to commission a bungalow built for an indigent widow through the same CAFÉ? During Obi’s administration, we didn’t get any road tarred in our community but Obiano has done the St. Monica to Umueri junction, springing through Azu Ogbunike. The drainages have been done and they are now doing the final asphalt and I’ve been told that the Oye Olisa to Osile Ogbunike Road has been awarded for construction too.
“The governor has been doing well in Anambra State and political appointments are done according to spread of 181 communities in the state. It cannot be concentrated in our community alone. The people doing this have misfired because they are not the right authorities to raise any concerns in our community if any,” he said.
Corroborating the position of the President General, another stakeholder in Ogbunike, Dr. Peter Egenti, Chairman, Local Government Service Commission told the reporter that the action of the youths was a mark of disrespect to the community.
“They have not also respected the position of our daughter, as the governor’s wife by this attitude of theirs. Igbo have a tradition and children don’t just wake up and start pointing fingers at the elders. Have we discussed inside before they stepped outside? They are not the voice of Ogbunike and have no mandate to speak for us. They want to be willing tools in the hands of some opposition people. We are not the only community in Anambra and we are conscious of the fact that the governor wants to spread development projects evenly. We also know that there is no way he can forget his wife’s hometown. That is why we are disappointed with the action of those boys,” he said.
Another community stakeholder, Frank Chiejina, gave kudos to Mrs. Obiano for the toilet project, noting that her gesture had saved the community from several discomfort and spread of diseases in the market.