History was made on Saturday, November 25, 2023 when a sitting Governor of Anambra State for the very first time visited Olumbanasa in Anambra West Local Government Area, hitherto categorized as one of the unreachable areas of the State.
Governor Charles Chukwuma Soludo, CFR, dared where others dodged by completely avoiding like a plague. And by so doing, Soludo demonstrated uncommon courage and unprecedented hands-on leadership. He clearly showed through this rare venture that he is the governor of everybody and not just those whose locations can be conveniently accessed through well-paved roads. He spoke through his action, on the humid Saturday afternoon, that he really cares about everybody inhabiting every inch of space on Anambra State soil, no matter how far-flung their place may be. He proved to the world that he is indeed the voice of the voiceless and the standard-bearer of a forgotten people.
So, the journey for Professor Soludo was an emotional one as he wrote in his personal account: _“…my heart brims with emotions so profound they transcend the scope of language.”_ He was aware he was keeping a date with history and would leave no stone unturned to mine the advantage of the visit. Since the creation of the old and new Anambra State in 1976 and 1991 respectively, no governor of the State has set foot on Olumbanasa and similar communities in Ogbaru and Awka North local government areas.
The voyage on the River Niger which started at the Marine Jetty, Onitsha lasted for over one hour on the Nigeria Navy speed boats. The Governor’s boat finally moored at Igbedor waterside to meet large numbers of ecstatic locals who thronged the place to catch a glimpse of the Governor. A volunteer translator told this writer that most of “the people took the news of the Governor’s visit with reservation because it had never happened in their lifetime. And for the Governor to emerge from the Navy boat and actually wave at them with both hands was a dream come true.”
Aside from motorcycles (okada) and tricycles (keke), there are no other means of transportation in Olumbanasa, except on foot and boat. After a brief address at the river’s shore, the Governor and his entourage boarded the kekes and okadas to head for one of the main aims of his visit which is to mediate in the fratricidal conflict between Allah-Onugwa and Odekpe communities. The outcome was fruitful as he was able to persuade them to cease hostilities in order to enable government properly look into the inflammable issue of land boundaries which would eventually culminate in final agreement among the warring parties.
The Governor’s team rounded off their tour at Igbedor where the traditional ruler of Olumbanasa, His Royal Highness Igwe Pius Machonu paid glowing tribute to Governor Soludo for demonstrating exceptional love for his people by being the first governor to visit his domain. He appealed for the provision of basic infrastructure and expressed the dire need to build a bridge and road linking his communities with the rest of Anambra.
The Governor in turn stressed the importance of peaceful coexistence among neighbouring communities, saying that without peace there can be no progress. To the delight of the audience, he announced that he’s committed to establishing a Primary Health Centre that will be powered by solar energy. Government will also illuminate Olumbanasa with solar lights, provide boreholes and revamp their educational institutions. The peoples’ joy was evident in the traditional song and dance renting the air as well as the majestic hippopotamus masquerade that entertained.
It’s important to note that Governor Soludo’s visit to Olumbanasa was not a fluke. Right from when he was campaigning for office, he had shown genuine empathy for the neglected areas of Anambra State. This was why the first place he visited immediately after he was sworn into office was Okpoko, reputed to be the greatest slum in the State. And he quickly followed it up by awarding the construction contract of the first set of nine roads there.
The Governor’s voyage to Olumbanasa is therefore a sign of hope to other communities that have been categorized as the so-called “unreachable” areas. They can now afford to be optimistic that they too could one day play host to the number one citizen of Anambra State – the man who has pledged to bring about, not only physical and attitudinal disruptive change, but also non-discriminatory governance in the true spirit of “onye aghana nwanneya”, that is, “no one must be left behind.”
SIR PAUL NWOSU
Commissioner for Information