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Okpoko as Anambra’s new starting point

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WORRIED by the monumental decay and perhaps the level of standard of living of Okpoko community, Soludo during his campaign tour, pledged to visit the area few days after his inauguration, a development that places him as a liberal democrat.

  His resolute standard has already received commendations from well meaning ndi Anambra and Onitsha business community, given Okpoko’s enormous potential as the main centre of government activities, if properly harnessed.

 In the late 19 60’s Okpoko Layout was a desolate swampy suburb on the South West axis of Onitsha, with less than 100 inhabitants. The NCNC Government of Dr. Michael Okpala inadvertently sidelined the swampy suburb 5 kilometers from the largest market in West Africa.

  The early inhabitants were dreaded, even terribly feared for whatever reason they represented. A chieftain and supreme leader of the layout, Chief Isaac Ichu, also known and addressed as Ede of Obosi, a name that brought shocking waves to visitors to Onitsha, scared people from venturing in the area for whatever reason, otherwise whatever you see, you take.

  Neigbouring communities observed that nobody had ever visited Okpoko in those days without telling one horrifying experience or the other. It was also alleged that many perished, kidnapped or used for rituals once you got lured to the place.

  It was further alleged that Ede of Obosi found lucrative business in the sale of land. The trade attracted many settlers to Okpoko. Being a swampy and unplanned layout, the way and manner of its development resulted in the place becoming another Ajegunle. On seeing the progress recorded by the Ede. Onitsha indigenes allegedly, again, invaded the area and  started asking property owners to pay land prices to them. Some people started paying to them while others resisted, stating that they had already paid to Ede.

  The scramble for Okpoko soon spread to the area called Nkitaku, now the commercial centre of OKpoko.

  During the military era, the government had declared Okpoko unfit for habitation and by implication, a slum waiting to be evacuated and demolished. The government’s anticipated policy brought fear and panic among the residents; although it did not stop the settlement from growing in population. The government ignored the area as there was no government presence such as schools, power, water and hospitals.

  The scenario, however, persisted until the Ezeife administration in 1992, when the first Okpoko Community Development Union came to be, even as the government started issuing Certificates of Occupancy to land owners in the layout. Many did not benefit as the government of Dr. Chukwuemeka Ezeife was short lived. The military government that came up again did not do much to improve the situation.

  Dr. Chinwoke Mbadinuju administration made inroad in the community by way of revenue generation with the highly potential outlook of Ogbaru Main Market, which was created early in 1980, to give way to reconstruction work at Ochanja Market as a result of inferno.

  It was an APGA government led by Mr. Peter Obi that made the first significant development by the construction of the first set of roads in the area between 2009 and 2012.

  His government commissioned a study in partnership with the United Nation Settlement Programme, UN-Habitat to assess the needs of the layout as a precursor to its rehabilitation.

However, the report of the study did not receive any attention. It is regrettable to note that those roads built by both Peter Obi and Obiano regimes have been swept away by erosion. 

  The sorry sight of the area must have touched Prof. Soludo during his campaign tours, prompting his planned revisit to the area soon after his inauguration.

  However, the visit has generated mixed feelings in the community. Some of the land owners and residents are afraid of government intentions.

  “Government may acquire our land without adequate compensation”, one said while others are of the opinion that the area may be converted to Government Reserved Area”.

  There is palpable fear from those who do not possess Certificates of Occupancy that they may totally loose out.

Some of the traders in Ogabru Main Market said, “We have high expectation from Soludo. He has interest of the masses. He will not hurt the feelings of his people”.

  Whatever his intention is, the fact remains that Okpoko is presently imbued with very brilliant and ingenious individuals who can create something out of nothing. They fabricate motor spare parts and various machines to compete with foreign ones. Their ingenuity should be exploited and turned to advanced technology. This is how Japan, China and advanced countries rose to fame.

  He should, however, be reminded that majority of those in Okpoko have no homes. They are squatters as many sleep in market places, pedestrian crossings and uncompleted buildings.

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