From Aba Women’s Riots to Bizarre Docility: When did the Fire Leave Ikwuano?
Politically, Ikwuano people are active people. This is obvious in the long list of elected and appointed officials this naturally blessed local government area has produced not only since the current democratic dispensation, but even before then. It is on record that the globally famous Aba Women riot originated from Ikwuano. Wikipedia records that “The Aba Women’s War was sparked by a dispute between a woman named Nwanyeruwa and a man, Mark Emereuwa, who was helping to make a census of the people living in the town controlled by the Warrant Chief, Okugo[sic]. Nwanyeruwa was of Ngwa ancestry, and had been married in the town of Oloko.” As a political nerve centre, this show of defiance and political awareness which began in Ikwuano became a national revolt against the Warrant Chiefs, whom they accused of restricting the role of women in the government. The Aba Women’s Riots of 1929, as it was named in British colonial records, is more aptly considered a strategically executed anti-colonial revolt organized by women to redress social, political and economic grievances. The protest took months for the government to suppress and became a historic example of feminist and anti-colonial protest with verifiable results.
The above story shows that even while others were asleep, Ikwuano people have always been vivaciously active in starting and enshrining changes that are sustainable.
Yet, in recent times, we have seen a dwindling of this spirit. This can be attributed to a variety of issues including but not restricted to leadership failure, lacklustre attitude to asserting our position, selfish interests trumping the communal, and a scary lack of unity-in-action. Thus we see Ikwuano leaders who are more interested in what comes to them and will not bat an eyelid to sacrifice the interest of the local government area to achieve their own personal interest. Over the years, this has led to non-Ikwuano leaders not taking us seriously.
But, our political leaders alone are not to be blamed.
One of the key things that come to mind is that despite being naturally endowed and of course blessed with human capital, we have failed for decades now to come up with a proper plan for self-sustaining economic generation. There is barely a trading or business point that employs over 50-100 staff from the length to the breadth of the massive local government area even though we are a high transit hub between two oil producing state capitals and one of the largest food baskets of Abia State. As a people we seem to prefer docility and inter-personal blackmail while always waiting for the government to come to our aid without any strategic plan to at least ensure the government listens to our needs. This “lack of vision” has therefore opened us up to ridicule as a people.
Indeed, the only semi-functional industry in Ikwuano is the Local Government Council (and recently, the revived Harmony Foams). Yet it is estimated that the cocoa beans produced in Ikwuano should be able to fetch over N500, 000, 000 annually, while palm oil and palm kernel oil should fetch at least another N100, 000,000 annually. With such economic potentials, we as a people have failed to develop an economic model to make us competitive in the twenty-first century thereby losing millions of naira in taxes which would have accrued to the local government council authorities and consequently used to provide other infrastructural benefits to our communities. Never mind the employment opportunities lost by this negligence and its boomeranging effects.
Our markets –Ndoro and Ariam, at least– which should have been serious marketing platforms for us have been allowed to fall into disgusting pallor. As a local government of over four hundred thousand people, we do not have a daily modern market. From the purchase of machinery to clothes, foodstuff, drugs etc, we rely on Umuahia and Aba majorly to service our needs. In addition, we do not even have a functional transit park for both commuters and produce despite the advantages we have. To travel to other neighboring states and communities from Ikwuano you must either first get to Umuahia to board transportation or Aba.
This seeming lack of vision has led to low investment drive towards Ikwuano as a council area by the private sector. Furthermore, this lack of a clear-cut vision has also turned us to the whipping child of many governments who see Ikwuano as the child whose due are only crumbs.
Indeed, by our very own actions and inactions, we have emasculated ourselves thus leaving us at the mercy of outsiders, and errant sons. Yet, we are a people birthed by forefathers who spit fire! When will the needed renaissance begin?
…to be continued
Video: Ndoro market.