There was wild jubilation in Obosima autonomous community in Ohaji/Egbema Local Government Area on Thursday, December 28th 2017. It was celebration galore as the people sang and danced, ate and drank with undiluted joy to drive the point home that indeed with determination, nothing is impossible. It was the culmination of the realization of a dream that seemed impossible to ordinary minds but as the saying goes “when the going gets tough, the tough keeps going”.
It all started on October 2012, when Ohabele, one of the six villages in Obosima autonomous community kick started what was described by many as a white elephant project which to them was dead on arrival. It was a project that was meant to materialize at the beginning of 2013. Ohabele, a village made up of three kindred’s namely: Umunwajurudu, Umusike and Umunedi had embarked on this monumental project then with all their hearts to put their detractors to shame. The youths, the old men and women, the middle aged men and women, the married, the unmarried and even the children all contributed in one way or the other to ensure the realization of the Ohabele electricity project. Great sons of Ohabele such as Chief Cyril Amakeme, Chief Azubuike Barnabas, Mr. Ezeoha Ohakwe, Barrister Kevin Ugwu, Engineer Godwin Ugwu, Mr. Henry Nwosu and other men of means played very prominent roles to ensure that the project was realized at the stipulated time.
To the surprise of all, light began to shine in Ohabele on the first week of January 2013 with everybody wondering how Ohabele achieved a feat that remained elusive since the beginning of time. For instance, from Ohabele to Avu community in Owerri West Local Government Area where the wires that connected Ohabele were hooked is a distance of 4.2 kilometers. What a
monumental feat! The Ohabele electricity project gulped a whooping sum of Nil.5 million which the village realized without borrowing from any source. This they did by taxing themselves.
Spurred and motivated by Ohabele, the five other villages in Obosima namely: Umuagor, Umuonyere, Umungwu, Umuokem and Umuoroma vowed that they would follow the footsteps of Ohabele by taxing themselves mercilessly to realize their own electricity project. It was like a race for survival as they, like Ohabele were bent on doing what successive administrations in the state could not do for them.
For the people of Obosima, it is a long walk to freedom. The first attempt to hook Obosima to the national grid was made by Chief Samuel Onunaka Mbakwe who ruled the state as executive governor from October 1st 1979 to December 31st 1983. The plan was to electrify Obosima at the same time with neighbouring communities such as Ohoba, Okwukwu, Oforola and others. But somewhere along the line, the Obosima project was truncated whiie others had their light. This was based on the lame excuse that Obosima belonged to the opposition NPN while NPP was ruling the state. The transformers, poles, cables and other items that were already in place in Obosima were all dismantled and carted away.
The project was again initiated in 1995 by the Obosima Progressive Union (OPU) Lagos branch. The union came up with a blue print on how to realize the project. It was to cost the sum of N6 million but nothing tangible came out of it. Obiwuruotu Women Association of Obosima also intervened af a stage without good result. In 1996, when late Nze Everest Amunwa from Obosima was the chairman of Ohaji/Egbema Local Government Area, he took up the challenge when he declared that he would realize the project before leaving office. But his effort again hit the brickwall. In the year 2000, Hon. Celestine Uwakwe from Egbema who ruled the local government again started the project. He awarded the contract to a company known as Andy Glory (Nigeria) Ltd. It was to cover Obosima and Umunwaku. Umunwaku is made up of Obogwe and Amafor. The project attained 70% completion before it was again abandoned. The then OPU (Obosima Progressive Union) led by Ikemba Pat Ajare who is from Umuonyere Obosima then applied to the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) for intervention. The NDDC came in but instead of completing the project as planned, they changed the network from IIKV to 33KV to cover Egbema, Umunwaku and Obosima.
In 2006, there was light for two days in Obosima based on the IIKV concept before the whole project collapsed again. This was the situation before Ohabele took up the gauntlet to connect their village to the national grid which eventually came to fruition on the first week of January 2013 against all odds.
Umuagor and Umuonyere villages, challenged by the Ohabele example, toiled endlessly until they had their own light on Wednesday, September 27th 2017. Umungwu, Umuokem and Umuoroma had their own turn on Thursday December 28th, 2017, thus marking the connection of the entire Obosima to the national grid which elicited unprecedented celebration in the entire Obosima autonomous community.
With the way things are going, it is just a matter of time for Umunwaku to realize their own electricity project through communal effort like Obosima. This is because arrangements are being made by the people of the area to ensure that they realize the project as soon as possible.
It is on record that the issue of the electrification of these communities has been unashamedly politicized by successive administrations in the state. That these oil producing communities were in total darkness until Ohabele and later the entire Obosima took up the challenge remain a dent on the image of especially the present government in the state which has always claimed that these communities have been given electricity by the government. On several occasions especially during his electioneering campaign in 2015, Governor Okorocha had claimed that he had given electricity to Obosima and Umunwaku.
It is a shame that on several occasions, the money earmarked for this project had gone down the drain. Those that are responsible for this, especially sons of Ohaji/Egbema must realize that one way or the other, they must bear the brunt of their actions. The most recent incident happened before the 2015 general election in the state. There was a flurry of activities then which indicated that Obosima and Umunwaku as well as some other communities in Egbema were about to be connected to the national grid. Many economic trees were cut down in these communities in readiness for the project. The project was aired on radio and television and published in the newspapers and other media platforms uncountable number of times.
Governor Okorocha used it as a campaign point and people thought that the project had finally come to stay. A stupendous amount of money earmarked for the project was given to a son of the soil who is very prominent in this government today to execute the project. He was mandated to deliver before the 2015 general election. But the project was done half way and abandoned. These spate of abandonments made the people to believe that the Obosima electricity project was jinxed until the people vowed to break the jinx by themselves. In EEDC headquarters in Enugu, Obosima has a file which indicates that the community was given electricity in 2006 as was gazetted by the government.
Why successive administrations in the state should continue to pay lip service to the issue of the welfare of oil producing communities in the state remains mindboggling. This is mainly the cause of the unending crisis and restiveness in the area. When this happens, the blame is laid on the doorsteps of the people of the area by our leaders whose only interest is the oil that flows from the place.
In most of the oil bearing communities of the state today, there is no government presence and basic infrastructures are non-existent. When projects are started, they are never completed to the satisfaction of all. To keep the people in check, a select few are favoured and settled while the vast majorities are left unattended to. These divide and rule tactic that has been elevated to the status of a state policy and which the oil prospecting companies also use to have their way has been the practice for years with the dire consequences. The frequent uprisings in the oil producing communities that always culminate in the destruction of property and the loss of lives is as a result of this unholy practice. Mercifully, Obosima people have remained an exception to this rule. They have remained peaceful, focused and law abiding charting their own cause in line with the well acknowledged determination of the Igbo man to survive in the midst of all forms of deprivation and oppression. Obosima is today the most peaceful community in the entire Ohaji and Egbema.