By Governor Charles Chukwuma Soludo
One of the amusing retortions I have received since I expressed readiness to set off from Okpoko is, “why Okpoko?”. There seems to be some sense of self-centred prioritisation from a few who believe there are more pressing issues than heading to Okpoko on a rescue mission. When you probe further to situate their dissent in context, what you get is that innocent desire in all of us to always “begin charity from home”. This may not be totally bad, especially when we all agree where home is or should be.
For me, it is One Anambra, one People, one Agenda.
If this be the case, it then follows that the often taken for granted but real assumption that “every system is only as strong as its weakest link” must then apply. This makes Okpoko a priority for starters and should worry every onye Anambra how a State that prides itself as the light of the nation would keep a deafening silence as Okpoko dies, yet spreading infectious social, economic and environmental malady that leaves Onitsha as a City in self-destruct.
Ụmụnnem, ife dị na Okpoko; the Genius, the unemployed and the criminal. The challenge before us is to decide whether to continue ruing the ugly situation or turn the flipside that will provide us enormous opportunities for the development of our Homeland.
Okpoko is the largest Urban slum in Anambra State. Therefore, we have to begin our urban renewal effort from our weakest link. Like my now 16 year old daughter once asked me when she was just 14, “it is not enough to wish change or show the will to cause a change. How are you sure, Daddy, that the people themselves want to change?”
Of course, this is not so easy a question to be answered without far-reaching consultation with the people. So far, the people of Okpoko and residents, from Ndikpa to East Niger, are more in a hurry for a change than we can ever be.
That trip I made in 2009 to Okpoko where I was accosted by a little boy, who raced towards me and audaciously demanded, “Soludo nyem ego” still occupies a better part of my memory. That boy, and millions like him need much more than money. They need a life.
May God help us!
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