By Michael Chibuzo
On Saturday morning, I settled down to glean through updates about happenings in my dear and beloveth state, Anambra. Alas I bumped onto a trending news item about a brute display of state power by Mr. Ossy Onuko, who I learnt was the Managing Director/Chief Executive Officer of Awka Capital Development Authority (ACTDA).
Moments later, I read what I believe was an attempt by the ACTDA Boss to state his own side of what transpired between him and the battered GUO Driver. The part I found most incredulous was where he stated that about 100 youths that HEARD he was having altercations at Unizik junction assembled at the location!
If there is one thing I am certain of in the entire unfortunate incident, it was the fact that the 100 youths did not hear of Ossy’s altercation randomly as that’s mathematically impossible, rather he mobilised them. The probability that 100 youths who should be going about their daily businesses in different locations got to hear of an altercation of a public servant with a driver of a commercial transporter and then all at once immediately dropped what they were doing to individually head towards the scene of the altercation is very close to 0.
So, it was obvious Ossy Onuko wanted to teach the poor driver a lesson, which has nothing to do with how to drive safely and responsibly, otherwise he would have reported the vehicle, the company and the driver to the FRSC. He simply wanted to display power, just like many others before him and in the future are bound to do. That is the typical Nigerian oppression spirit and it’s not strange.
Well, the ACTDA Boss has ‘shown remorse’ and apologised to the driver, GUO and the public over his conduct. Of course, nobody is perfect for we have all sinned and fallen short of the glory of God including my humble self. Therefore, I am not against the victim and public forgiving him, in fact as a bona-fide Onye Anambra and an active member of the public, I have forgiven him.
However, I want to look at this incident not from an individual lens but through an institutional prism. I am reasonably certain that if this incident did not go viral, there may not have been any apologies or attempts at restitution. What this means is that the driver would have been just another unspoken victim of state-backed oppression.
It even becomes more unfortunate when viewed within the context of the vision of the Anambra State government led by Prof. Charles Chukwuma Soludo who wants to bequeath to ndi Anambra an African Dubai Taiwan and a livable, secure and prosperous homeland. That vision is one that promises orderliness, tranquility, serenity, justice etc. It is hard to picture Anambra presently as a state heading towards that path.
The sheer brute force mobilised to settle a personal score by a public official in this instant case is simply in line with the growing trend in Anambra State where the state government employs the use of violence, disproportionate force and uncivilised methods to impose its will on the citizens or implement its policies. Revenue collection is one area where such crude tactics are currently on display.
It is not uncommon to see uniformed thugs harassing people in markets, along the roads, in motor parks, etc as task force members enforcing policies of the state government. Many Anambra residents are one argument away from experiencing the brutality of these state government agents. Despite the tax exemptions Prof. Charles Chukwuma Soludo announced as part of his palliative measures a month ago, petty traders, hawkers, artisans are still harrased by government thugs in uniform to pay illegal levies. Refusal to pay means confiscation of their little wares with a dose of violence to go with it.
When you factor in the state of our road infrastructure, sanitation, internal security, agriculture, as well as the poor governance framework that have all but crippled accountability and separation of powers, you will begin to see how illusory the vision of an African Dubai Taiwan really is. There is no inspirational stride you can confidently point to that is going on in Anambra State presently, which could suggest we are ready for the Taiwan leap.
In 2021 when Soludo sold his African Dubai Taiwan vision, I was expecting that once he assumes office, he would at least commission the creation of a modern master plan for Onitsha megapolis, Nnewi, Ekwulobia, Ihiala and Greater Awka. I expected a masterplan that includes provisions for intercity light rails, boulevards, green zones, mass residential housing, underground power distribution lines, pipe borne water supply, fibre optic cable routes, sewage lines, modernized road transport systems, etc.
Unfortunately, agencies that are meant to drive this process such as the ACTDA that should design a modern capital territory modelled after Taipei, the Taiwanese capital city, are more preoccupied with a fast and furious chase of a speeding driver. Well, for now, as Onye Anambra observing from the Office of Onye Anambra, I can only say, may God help Anambra State!