Going through Obiagu road, it’s easy to get bamboozled by the sights of a few ‘good-looking’ structures, electricity and pipe- borne water, and erroneously assume that the entire area is that exquisite. Be ye not be fooled. An overwhelmingly higher percentage of the residents of Obiagu live behind those few ‘good-looking’ houses.
“Onye Njem ka onye isi awu mara ihe.” An Igbo saying goes. It loosely translates as —
“A traveler is wiser than a grey-haired person.”
Bold assertion isn’t it? One may wonder why. It’s not far-fetched: Well, because life on the road is literally a treasure trove of information where you get to acquire knowledge firsthand— not just from a spot, but from all angles of existence. The North, South, East and West.
On that note, Myafurika, amongst other things, aims to enlighten every visitor of the site by taking them on a virtual trip to places they had never been before, or even had a clue about their existence. On our previous excursions we went to mysterious, natural, aesthetically beautiful and awe-inspiring places. As we all know however, everything beautiful has a flip side that may not hold the same allure as the glittering side of it. Even the world has its ugly sides. This article hopes to illustrate the whole point as it progresses. In addition, the article will attempt to illuminate the neglected human and African problem, proffer a solution by attempting, using information gotten firsthand, to change the misguided way the problem is perceived in the first place.
I’ve heard often, how people eulogies the Enugu metropolis as clean and well planned. Where have they been thought? Enugu, Just like most other places, have dirt Swept under the rug. For example, behind the deep-blue asphalt laid on the roads, the glittering street lights that illuminates the nights, the traffic lights, and the strategically placed waste bins, are places in this same city that are a direct contrast to all the glamour just mentioned. They are so horrible, so different from the streets you see on NTA Enugu, that when you stumble upon them you wonder if you just entered some kind of Diagnon Alley (Harry Potter series), an entirely different world. The slum behind Obiagu road, Enugu, is a typical example of these places.
At Ogui New Layout, situated in the northern part of the capital city of Enugu state lies Obiagu. The name “Obiagu” carries with it a nagging stereotype that makes the average person translate it to ‘Oh, that bad neighborhood’ when the name comes up. As much as there is some validation in the afore claims, Obiagu is also an abandoned neighborhood that has been left to decay. While everyone wonders at the synchronised characteristics of the inhabitants there, people have subtly failed to properly acknowledge the most worrisome plague that infests the community— the horrible living conditions that have transcended from bad to heartbreaking.
Going through Obiagu road, it’s easy to get bamboozled by the sights of a few ‘good-looking’ structures, electricity and pipe- borne water, and erroneously assume that the entire area is that exquisite. Be ye not be fooled. An overwhelmingly higher percentage of the residents of Obiagu live behind those few ‘good-looking’ houses. These inhabitants are in want of basic social amenities like pipe bourn water, stable and steady electricity (Not oblivious of the knowledge that power is a nation-wide problem, however, certain people are more particularly affected). Infact, a certain area haven’t had power for four months now. Furthermore, there’s is no proper waste and sewage disposal because there’s no road leading inside the slum, therefore making it a near-impossible task for a sewage disposal tanker or the waste collecting truck to get in. There are no proper drainage systems too. In fact, Obiagu is an abandoned government project.
The infrastructural decadence in Obiagu makes it seem like there was a conspiracy theory that saw the rest of Enugu built according to a plan until got to Obiagu and a solemn declaration was made: “From here onwards, city planning should steer clear. Let the civilians build their damn houses however they want it”. So the drainage lines stopped there, but the water pressure had to find an escape. Now all the dirty water and refuses thrown inside the gutters formed the river-sized stagnant gutter that cuts across the middle of the slum. But the landlords built anyway, sticking the mostly unplanned and poorly erected ‘houses’ as tightly knit as possible. And they all channeled the sewage pipes into the river-sized gutter, where all the residents also throw in their domestic wastes and dead domestic animals. This way, the slum locally referred to as ‘Urban Jungle’ emerged.
The only government agencies found once in a while in this part of Enugu are the PHCN, the water authority for the parts close to the main road, and of course the police and drug enforcers when they’re in want of some incentives and are looking for marijuana smokers to make some money from by arresting them and eventually releasing them after a few penny has been paid. Otherwise, these people wouldn’t know there’s a government. They provide for themselves the basic amenities which their government ought to give.
Getting water here is a task quite too onerous.
The land is mostly rocky making only but a very few people own Wells. Then there are the natural springs which would have surely been beautiful if this place wasn’t what it is. Some of the springs were forces into abandonedment as the river-sized gutter extended into them. One, though quite close to the big gutter, is still in use. People don’t drink it however. They use the water mainly for washing, bathing and sometimes, cooking.
“Bethlehem”, a tiny maternity that sits at the centre of the community is the only health facility that Obiagu boasts of. Established in 1993, the clinic is very ill equipped but the matron delivers.
There’s a small market made of mainly wooden sheds, where the residents buy and sell. Some people from outside the area also frequent the market as commodities such foodstuffs, can be bought there at cheaper rates.
Because everyone knows everyone, the crime rate is relatively low. The few bad eggs don’t last because it’s either they get into trouble somewhere and get shot or the good eggs will get fed up and lead the Special Anti-robbery Squad(SARS) to the troublemakers’ doorsteps. Nobody in their right senses want to come under the radar of the trigger-happy SARS officers. As a result, the bad eggs keep low profiles. Contrary to popular belief, Obiagu is not filled with criminals. It’s filled with average Nigerians who are too busy surviving to even think of indulging in activities that are likely to increase their problems.
The only crime most youths who were born and raised here are guilty of is not being fortunate enough to be born and raised in a better environment. Nothing more. We have to stop criminalizing poverty. Perhaps if we had a little empathy and try once in while to imagine living in the shoes of the people who have to live in these slums, these slums wouldn’t still be in existence. There are many brilliant young people living in this slum who do lots of menial jobs in order to pay their tuition fees, house rent (which is relatively cheap in the slum), food, etc. Some families have lived here for decades. Come on people, decades of crime ought to pay, right?
Instead of neglecting places like the Jungle and tagging them danger zones, NGOs, individual philanthropists, and the government should go into these places and empower those people in anyway possible. There are talents in there too, not just in the ‘Big Men’ quarters of town. There are brainy kids there too who could use scholarships. These neighborhoods can also be rebuilt from scratch, this time properly and well-planned. I don’t think slums will remain for long if the society changed the way it sees these places. Life is full of hardship and ugliness, but being social animals, we already have a higher hand. We learned not to care, we can unlearn. Talk about un-African things, slums are un-African. Collective community building is the African thing.
The environment is beautiful by nature, humans made slums like this Obiagu slum. It’s our collective responsibility to unmake them.