From Jeff Agbodo, Onitsha
The people of Ezinkwelle in Nkwelle-Ezunaka community, Oyi Local Government, Anambra State, recently displayed the typical self-help spirit of the Igbo. They confronted a footpath that had been there for more than 90 years and constructed N1billion road in the hilly part of the community.
A member of the community told Daily Sun that the area was impassable and in deplorable condition: “It was surrounded by gully leading to loss of many lives in the past years.” The new road, connecting communities including Airport of Umueri, Nteje, Igboaram and Awkuzu, had been a nightmare to the residents and natives who could not access the area especially during rainy season.
But all that is now gone as caretaker President of Nkwelle-Ezunaka Town Union and Chairman of Ezinkwelle village, Willy Okafor, has commenced the construction of the road with concrete. This was after reducing the hill to about 20 feet downwards.
He disclosed: “The community has sunk about one N1billion on the road due to its nature. The construction is on going. Fund for the project is sourced from the vast land resource God has blessed the community with. This is coming from little savings accruable from the land sale proceeds.
“We are investing or putting back the resources gotten from land into the road construction to alleviate the sufferings of the people. We are doing our best to ensure that the little we generate goes into the development of the community without waiting for government to come to our aid.
“We are being seen as a forgotten people because before now, you hardly accessed this road. Today, to the glory of God, we can access the road with our vehicles. It is a continuous exercise, the little we get we put there and we will continue to do it that way until we finish it or government come to our aid.
“Before now, the road was impassable and very slippery road that people could not trek. People feared to come to our village because of the nature of the road. In the past, a tipper fell inside the ditch and the driver died and the wreckage of the tipper remained there because we could not bring it out because of the gully at the place. We don’t have any other access road and we can’t relocate from here because this place is our ancestral home.”
He appealed to Governor Charles Soludo to assist the community complete the road: “From our place is about 10 to 15 minutes drive to Umueri airport. The electricity you are seeing here today is a community effort.”
A community leader, Chief Ikechukwu Igbonagor, said: “Before now, nobody bicycle or even on foot could pass through this place during rainy season due to the nature of the road. Before now, when you told commercial bike to bring you to Abakpu with N100,000, he would not go because of the terrain and what he would suffer on the road.
“But, today we thank God that Chief Okafor has taken the bold step to construct the road which other successive community leaders could not do. This leadership has put smiles on our faces even the residents who bought land here could not access this place until now. We give kudos to Okafor’s leadership.
“The road is concrete base with six inches deep. This is to tell you the quality being undertaken by the community without any support from government or its agents but fully bankrolled from the community coffers.
It is rare in this country where a community can do such project.”
Another community leader, Chief Patrick Okafor, said: “We have been suffering on this road before now. We could not access the road during the rainy season; even bike could not access the road due to its slippery and hilly nature.
“But now, we are very happy that people from this village can go out to buy things with vehicles and come back within some minutes. The whole community is happy. It’s a giant stride.
“The leadership is also doing the road that links Oboko River, which was only a footpath. He has started work on it and it is now passable. I appeal that the community will continue to pray for the leadership because they are visionary.
“We need government to come to our assistance. The community needs to be encouraged and supported to connect the roads with other communities. People are thinking that government is supporting us but it is community self-help.
We have not witnessed any significant government presence in our community. We want this new government to help and support our efforts.”
A youth leader, Chukwunoso Nwankwo, said: “The village leadership has shown the youths a good example to emulate. That a community leader can construct road, provide electricity and streetlights with money he generates.”
Oldest woman in the community, 89-year-old Mrs Akueke Iwenze, recalled as a young woman how she fell severally on the road while coming from farm or market. She praised God that she witnessed the construction of the road:
“I’m happy to see this road in this good condition. I commend the community leadership headed by Ogbuefi Okafor for the road project. I urge him not to relent no matter the situation. We shall continue to pray for him to continue with the good job in the community.”