By Kenneth Uwadi
This is certainly not the best of times for over 15 communities of Egbema and Oguta in Imo State of Nigeria, many of whom have been forced to flee their homes in the last four weeks due to flood and are now taking temporary shelter at tents. The flood though is going down but the degree of harm caused the people of Egbema and Oguta by this flood is better imagined than seen. Opuoma, Obiakpu, Mmahu and Abacheke communities of Egbema have very sad stories to tell about the flood. All the riverine areas of Oguta , including Orsu, Nnebukwu, Orsu Obodo, Ezi Orsu got caught up by the flood.The country home of former speaker of Imo State House of Assembly, Chief Goodluck Nanah Opiah in Abacheke-Egbema was overrun by the flood.
This flood disaster shows clearly the lack of planning of the country by present and past leaders. Houses, dams, roads, drainage, and other amenities are not planned to meet the needs of the people. The dearth of social and holistic planning as a result of long time implementation of neo-liberal policies have increased the level of poverty in Nigeria drastically and have pushed Nigerians to self help.
The flood submerged farmlands, schools, churches, houses, fish ponds and properties in Egbema and Oguta. It is the worst in recent history. A monumental disaster indeed. I wish to commiserates with the families that lost homes,properties and farms in Egbema and Oguta to the flood. My heart also goes to other victims of flood in other parts of Nigeria. I wish them well. Many eyes of the flood victims in my place(Egbema) betrayed layers of unspoken fears and uncertainty. Many do not even know where to start from again when they will return to their abandoned homes. The very poor ones whose homes were mud houses were currently at a loss and were not sure where to go after the flood until government and powerful individuals stepped in to ameliorate the plight of victims of flood in the State.
Political leaders of Imo state kept party differences aside as they rushed to Egbema and Oguta to sympathize with the flood victims. Ex-Governor Ikedi Ohakim, Former Imo House Speaker Chief Goodluck Opiah, Prof Viola Onwuliri, Chief Gerald Irona, Senator Hope Uzodimma , Reps Deputy Speaker Chief Emeka Ihediora ,Chief Osita Izunaso, Senator Chris Anyanwu, Nollywood Artistes, Chinedu Ikedieze and Osita Iheme, Vice President Namadi Sambo have shown that they feel the sufferings of the people as they paid a visit to them and provided relief materials. For this, i say many thanks. The response of the state government under Governor Rochas Okorocha is also impressive. Governor Okorocha who is a guru in touching lives of the less privileged positively left no area untouched, to this end; he visited and distributed some relief materials to the flood victims. Kudos, to him.
Governor Okorocha came to Egbema with members of the state executive and other top shots. He also organized a fund raising for the flood victims in which 50 million naira was raised for the victims. He pointed out that the state government in partnership with the Federal Government would bring spray machines to fumigate areas affected by the flood. Owelle made one touching statement "I want to just let you know that your governor is working overtime to make sure that as soon as possible everybody can get back to normal'' What a reassuring speech. The victims need this encouragement; they need somebody to tell them that there is a future for them; they need somebody to help them plan their future.The Governor also said "Are you upset my people? Have you been lying awake worrying? Well, don't worry, we are here and we will always be here to take care of you.”
In an SP poll I conducted recently in my blog , 88 percent rate Okorocha’s response to the flood victims as excellent while just 12 percent see it negatively. To me, Governor Okorocha’s flood response to my people is outstanding. Okorocha did a good thing for the people of the area with his lorry loads of food for the victims and he deserves commendation. It will be a mistake to give traders of specious rumours cause to become giddy over the governor’s time frame in reaching out with relief materials to the flood victims. Let’s be clear from the outset and stop playing politics with everything. Owelle is not perfect, and I do not agree with some of his choices but when he does well we should shun unnecessary politics and praise him so he can do more. May God touch his heart to do more for my people.
Efforts should be made to stop diversion of the relief materials meant for the flood victims. We are made to understand that some persons are feeding fat from this flood situation by diverting the relief items to unknown places. This is unfair and government should handle the situation well. Unless the distribution of relief materials is done with a human face, it is bound to cause further hardship for the mass of already impoverished flood victims, instead of bringing comfort. The materials should truly get to the victims for such persons to be able to move on with their lives since they are humans and not mere farm animals. Anything short of this will amount to victimizing the poor and helpless. The people of the State are watching to see how the challenge of this disaster is tackled. We cannot afford to disappoint them. Efforts should also be made to construct standard drainage in Imo state river areas that would absorb the overspill from the river channels, local rainfall and run-off, and tides, which are the causes of flood. With the climatic change, the flood will come back in 2013. We have to be prepared; the floods whether we like it or not will come again.
Next year’s floods could be worse than this.Something has to be done to safeguard Imo from future flood.
I must confess that the recent policies of Owelle are encouraging. There is re branding in his policies and decisions. It was Prof Dora Akunyili, the former Nigerian Information Minister who on assumption of office initiated the move to re brand Nigeria. According to her the process of re branding is a quest for a new national identity, which hitherto had been marred by the overall poor image. By so doing the major goal was to have the government ultimately chart a new course for its “new” people. Okorocha to me strive to change the perception of Imo political terrain and by so doing is rebranding his style of governance in Imo State.
The people are watching. Once again, well done our governor, mboola.
(Uwadi writes from Mmahu-Egbema, Imo State, Nigeria)