HOW OUR VILLAGES IN SOUTH EAST GOT DESERTED AND HOW THESE AREAS CAN BE REPOPULATED.

OPINION
December 2018 just like every other Christmas season is usually a very busy time for the people of South East of Nigeria. This is so because millions of people who live far away from their homeland usually visit home at that material time to pay homage to their home towns and familiarize with their fellow citizens whom they have not seen for some times.
A noticeable thing about most villages especially in Imo, Abia and Ebonyi state is the effect of massive rural – urban drifts. There are a number of factors that have made our very will populated villages of the early 1980’s to now look like the ghost of their old self. This is what this piece is set out to interrogate.

South East consists of so many Igbo villages, in one of my tours this festive period, I found out that most of these villages in south east are deserted in the sense that most indigenes of these places didn’t see it as an important thing to do, I tried finding out what the problem could be I observed that so many villages are deserted because some people think staying away from the village gives them peace of mind, they wouldn’t have to face any confrontation from any kinsmen.

Village got deserted as a result of migration caused by marriage, most young men from other villages that stays in the urban areas comes to a particular village to pick a wife, once they get married to them, they all go back to the urban area, give birth to their children over there and they won’t even think of coming back to the villages.

Most of the indigenes left the villages because they went in search of a BETTER LIFE in the urban area and they have refused coming back because they have the feeling that they are not getting what they want in the village.

In our interview with most people from the villages in Abia State in south East. They gave us different reasons why the villages in South East got deserted and the best ways to which it can be repopulated.

Mr. Ikwegbu Daniel Onyedikachi from Umuokwe Umuhu Ezechi Bende L.G.A in Abia State, made his points by saying that South Easterners are predominantly hyperactive, they see staying idle or living average as a bad omen and a taboo.  He stated firmly that no man or woman wants to be in the village when their age mates are making names and livelihood in the urban areas and that’s the reason for the migration of people (mainly youths) from the villages in South East to bigger cities. Mr. Daniel said that the South Easterners are not so great in farming as we see it as unchallenging and degenerative, instead they love to trade in all things they lay their hands on, from kitchen to house wares, office and building materials, they mastered the act of bringing bright minds to the urban areas from the village each time, where they learn the gimmicks and the trade, and in turn, these young masters grow wealthy  and experienced enough to train other little boys with great minds , so coming back to the village most times is actually not so important to them because they can’t leave their business. He went ahead to say that greener pasture is a motivating factor because once the people hear of a location that has potential green gold; they flood to that area in search of livelihood. Also poor government contributed to the reason why these villages are deserted because in a village with no electricity, how would you convince a business startup or any of such in the village, bad road network can’t even allow a farmer to get his crops to the market for sales. Had government or individuals of good fortune shown them another lucrative means like mechanized farming and the advantages of easy raw materials for industrial purpose from local farms, they won’t think of migrating and leaving their villages deserted.

In conclusion, Mr. Daniel told us that the villages in Igbo land can be repopulated if the government can open up the rural areas, set up citadels, hospitals, industries, ministries and projects in the rural area, it will bring people back from the urban area . Individuals will be glad to work in the village with access to cheap food, transportation and housing. If all these things are done, there will be a demographic improvement in all areas including infrastructure and health and there will be no need for people to desert their villages.

Mr. Paul Ugochukwu Collins from Umumba Nsirimo Umuahia South L.G.A Abia State told us clearly that the local areas are not actually deserted rather it is just a case of rural urban migration, and the factor is evident everywhere. Mr. Collins said that people are in need of greener pastures and also civilization and urbanization is fast taken over our world and everyone has got to keep pace in other to follow the trend, he sighted an instance of how you will have to be in the village with limited internet provider, where as in the urban area the internet is steady.
Mr. Collins concluded by saying that the village can be repopulated, if the government must be seen to be true with their words, the things seen in the urban area should be replicated in our villages, because if people can get in the village the same services that should take them to the urban area then they will have no need to go as far as the urban area to get the services.

Mr. Onyedikachi Daniel Ebo from Ofeme Ohuhu in Umuahia North L.G.A in Abia State, spoke to us saying that village got deserted because people are going out to look for greener pastures simply because the cost of living down here is high. He talked about a case where you can buy a phone for N5000 (Five Thousand Naira (in Lagos, but when you come to Umuahia you will buy the same phone at the rate of N8000 (Eight Thousand Naira). Mr. Ebo stated that lack of federal presence is also the reason why the village got deserted because they have refused to do what they should do. He told us that the South East especially inside the villages have been militarized, so most people find it unsafe, moving around in an environment full of military men, even foreign investors find it very unsafe to invest in such environment.

Mr. Ebo finally told us that the best way the villages in South East can be repopulated is by reopening the Port Harcourt and Calabar Seaports, improving the infrastructure, demilitarizing the South East and finally allowing Nigeria to go back to regional government, then every region will have to manage and develop their regions, the center will be less attractive and the government will be closer to the people.

Miss. Oturi Favour  Onyedikachi from Ohokobe Ndume, Umuahia North L.G.A in Abia State stated clearly that Christmas is a festive period done in the honour of the birth of our lord Jesus Christ, its a period where gifts and food are shared in merriment and happiness, families get to come from different locations to reunite owing to the holidays attached to the period, compared to other Ethnicity, the  Ndi-Igbos hold it at high regards, they travel in their masses just to partake in the festive ceremonial days attached to it, such as ;IGBA-UCHE (Traditional Retirement), EKPE(Masquerade Day). Nevertheless, most Ndi-Igbos experienced a poor turn up of those staying in the urban areas and this led to a poor Christmas celebration as most of the awaited personnel didn’t show up.

Miss. Favour told us firmly that Ohokobe Ndume Community of Umuahia, Abia State was one of such communities that experienced poor turn up of the expected people from the urban areas and as a result of this the village was deserted. She told us that the poor turn up can be attributed to the following reasons ; ECONOMICAL CRISES ; owning to the economical situation of this great country Nigeria, businesses where faced with crumbling economy which most people weren’t able to resolve so as a result of that they couldn’t come back, so that they don’t end up spending more. TRANSPORTATION LAPES;  As a result of bad roads, unresolved increase in the transportation fee, Road Insecurity etc., so many resolved to staying back in their homes rather than risking their lives due to insecurity and at the end of the day the village got deserted. FEAR OF THE UNKOWN; this is one of the great reasons why our villages got deserted, it’s a pity that the Ndi-Igbos still run from their hometowns due to the fear of the unknown. They believe that someone out there is waiting to tie their destinies once they get back to the village, they are scared that someone in the village does not like their progress, thus they resolve to hiding themselves in the urban areas to avoid the UNKNOWN. Miss. Favour went further to tell us other limiting factors such as poor infrastructures in the villages, poor network coverage, unplanned expenses.

In conclusion, Miss. Favour  told us that these communities can be repopulated if the Ndi-Igbos should resolve to drafting out good business plans for each year, so that they won’t be stranded whenever they want to visit their hometowns, also the government owe it to Nigerians to regulate transportation prices, better roads should be fixed by the state and federal government, government should also provide proper security in these villages, she said that the local government and Abia State house of Assembly representatives has a big role to play in front lining the Ohokobe Ndume community, they should appeal to the state as well as the federal for better infrastructure in our community, if all these things are done, the village will be repopulated again.

Mr. Udenze Christian from  Elugwu Umuogba Ekeoba  Ohuhu in Umuahia North L.G.A Abia State stated  that occupational migration is one of the main reasons people leave their hometowns to the urban areas in search of good jobs, people migrate as a result of poor infrastructure in the village and also the poor living condition of the people ranging from health care, education, power, accessible roads and all these can make people leave the village to look for a better place more conducive for them.

Mr. Christian concluded by telling us the factors that can aid the stopping of the rural to urban drift, he told us that job creation in these rural areas will reduce the occupational migration, also the government should improve the infrastructure in the villages and by so doing things will be put in place.

Hon. Chiwetara Chinedu from Amaokwe Ugba Ibeku in Abia State made it clear in his speech that the village got deserted because many don’t have the opportunity to be coming back to the village, most people come back maybe once in 4years, he also said that the bad shape and condition of the economy is a contributing factor because one can’t possibly stay in his hometown without the cash flow and there are huge form of expenses in the rural area.

Finally, Hon. Chiwetara told us that before the villages can be repopulated; there should be a stable economy, so that people will have a reason to come back to the villages for investments and other goods things.

Having heard from all these people from Abia State in Nigeria, you will agree with me that, the main reason why these villages in South East got deserted is because most people have gone out to look for better life in the urban areas. Poor infrastructure also played a big role in making the village a deserted place. In my research I found out  that most of these people that left the village in search of greener pastures are actually doing nothing over there rather they are moving around seeking for job opportunities, we can repopulate our villages by hosting  a skill acquisition program in these villages it will go a long way in bringing these people back, also the government should look into the infrastructural development, build good hospitals and standard clinics that the villagers can go to whenever they are sick, instead of running to the urban areas for treatment, employ qualified doctors and medical personnel, establish good schools for the children in the village, employ experienced teachers that can impact great knowledge into the children. The government should make provision for mechanized farming, the people in the village will be so happy and the people in the urban areas will have a good reason to be back to their hometowns.

Finally, our people should stop living in fear with the mentality that the village is not safe for them. The village is for everybody, let us all come back and repopulate it.

*Interviews were conducted by Miss Obilor Grace Cliffs Chidiebube, a member of Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria (HURIWA) based in the South East of Nigeria.

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