Every New Year presents us with new opportunities. Some make new resolutions. Some self-styled prophets make new predictions. You start smelling the New Year as from late December when people, especially Ndigbo, migrate in droves to the East from different parts of the globe. It has become an annual ritual. At this period, there is no demarcation between day and night. As early as 2am or even 1am, many of them have hit the road to the East.

When I left my house at 3am on December 28, 2021, I thought that was too early and risky considering that I was travelling with my entire family. But I was mistaken. Too many vehicles were already on the road at that time. Even the police were not left out. They were at every pole on the expressway to give protection and ask for Christmas kola. They also helped to build traffic along the road.

Apart from the delays from the police, ours was a smooth journey. Or so we thought. We got to Asaba, the capital of Delta State, about 11am. That was when our trouble started. The traffic we encountered, as some Nigerians would say, has no part two. Sometimes, tired motorists engaged in a road rage over minor issues. One man, who noticed a little hit on his back bumper, came down from his car and started raining blows on the culprit. Serious fighting ensued. It took the intervention of other motorists to stop the fighting.

Suddenly, I noticed a vehicle breakdown in front of me. I tried to switch to the left lane. But the man coming behind me from that side tried to block me. I had almost entered fully when I heard ‘gboa!’ A ‘tokunbo’ Mercedes Benz 4Matic had hit my back bumper. There were little scratches on the front bumper of the Mercedes jeep. The driver came down and fumed: “I was on my lane. You left yours to scratch my car. You must repair this car. Else, I will smash your car.” Both of us tried to claim right. But somehow, we resolved the issue and moved on. 

By the time I looked at my time, it was 5.45pm. And we were still in Asaba. At that point, the car AC was no longer cooling well. About 6pm, we entered the Head Bridge at Onitsha. I looked for what caused the traffic, I couldn’t see. I was even lucky. I learnt that some travellers who left Lagos about 6am only got to Onitsha at 3am the following day. I suspect that it is the high number of vehicles passing through the narrow end of the Niger Bridge at Asaba that causes the gridlock. But why this perennial traffic situation has defied solution is what I cannot fathom. Perhaps, when the second Niger Bridge is completed this year, it will go a long way in restoring some sanity on that road.           

Nevertheless, this is what many Igbo suffer every year just to go home and intermingle with their people at home. The only cooling effects are the masquerade displays, the traditional-cum-white wedding ceremonies, medical outreaches, house warming, outing of age grades, chieftaincy title taking, and so on.

In my hometown, Isuofia, in Aguata Local Government Area of Anambra State, many activities make the season worthwhile. As I stated on this page in December 2019, “if people are not watching one entertaining event or the other, they are on social visits to friends and relatives. Yes, everybody has food in his house, but it is that one that is eaten communally that nourishes both body and soul. Even bachelors find this season a veritable time to hook up with some spinsters. This could lead to consummation of marriages.”

Besides, there are serious developmental projects that different villages and groups undertake within this period. For instance, Chidozie Age Grade of Umueze-Isuofia built a multimillion-naira sports complex, which it has since handed over to the town. Chidera Age Grade of Ozalla-Isuofia built a standard one-storey hall, which was inaugurated on January 1, 2020. On its part, Chidera Age Grade of Umueze-Isuofia installed solar energy streetlights in Umueze. Oganiru Age Grade, also of Umueze, built a two-storey health centre, which was unveiled and handed over to the town on January 2, 2020. This age grade also offered free medical treatment/eyeglasses that same day.

Rehabilitation of roads is also given priority attention. The major road linking Akulu Isuofia to Nanka, which the member representing Orumba-North/South in the House of Representatives, Hon. Okwudili Ezenwankwo, promised to rehabilitate last year with great fanfare had become worse and a total mess. Ezenwankwo’s contractor came and destroyed the drainage system already built on the road. He started a new one but, midway into the work, he abandoned the road and disappeared. Many people were cut off from entering their compounds.

Citizens of Akulu-Isuofia mobilized their illustrious sons through the social media and raised some money with which they made some palliative repairs on the road to make it a bit passable again.

In the same Akulu, a family called Umuezeogu gathered to share a cow one of their illustrious sons donated to them. There and then, four people pledged to bring four cows that would be shared at the same time next year. This is outside the monetary contributions of some other individuals towards the next annual ritual. Some family kindred have scholarship schemes through which they sponsor indigent family members to the university. Some are able to start a business venture because of some help from family and friends. Indigent members of the society receive Christmas gifts from both individuals and the community.

Within this period, meetings are held at family, village and town levels. Women’s groups like ‘Umuada’ (daughters of the soil) and ‘Ndi Inyom’ (women married to sons of the soil) hold their own meetings. In these meetings, ways to engender individual and community successes top the agenda. Errant members of the community are also punished.

This is the beauty of Igbo communal life. Whoever says that the Igbo don’t love one another may not be totally correct. They have this concept of ‘onye aghala nwanne ya’ which literally means no one should abandon his brother. Or put in another way, be your brother’s keeper. It is when it comes to the pursuit of wealth and power that they appear to be selfish and individualistic. This is because everybody struggles to make it and no one wants to bow to his fellow man. We may see snippets of this character as 2023 elections approach. Call it pride, if you like. To me, it is having a sense of self-worth. I am already looking forward to this year’s end-of-year festivities, Asaba gridlock or no gridlock. What about you?

 

Re: Shambolic Nigerian health care system

Dear Casmir, the health sector has over the years bred capital flight against Nigerian economy through the patronage of hospitals in the advanced world. We should improve on high technology and high touch – that’s training of high quality personnel. So I suggest the construction of University of Health and Emergency Fund for Health (EFH) from which citizens can get loan for treatment without interest.

– Cletus Frenchman, Enugu, +234 909 538 5215

Casmir, compliments of the season. The Shambolic Nigerian health care system just like any other sector is due to several factors which include Government policy formulation, implementation which are often truncated by corrupt officials, appointment of incompetent officials due to quota system or Federal character instead of merit, inter and intra personality feuds among the healthcare team, over-politicization of the supremacy of medical doctors over the rest of other members of the team such as Pharmacists, Nurses, Medical Laboratory Scientists, Radiologists etc. A good government policy on health care system is highly required for an effective health care system in any society. In Nigeria, government pays a lot of attention to medical doctors at the detriment of other healthcare team. It’s very clear that a medical doctor cannot function well without a medical laboratory scientist who furnishes him the causes the infections he is about to treat.

In this same vein without the provision of the right drugs to take care of the infections from the Pharmacist, he will be powerless. It’s very important that the government policies must accord each team the desired support including remuneration to ensure smooth operation. Another example of poor government policy is on sale of drugs. Government policy has made it difficult for Pharmacists to do their work as drugs experts. How can drugs be sold in the open market and buses by people who have not studied different intricacies about drugs and government will protect them in the name of interlocutory injunctions in the law court. Shambolic health care system will vanish in Nigeria when we entrust the leadership of this country to officials with truly zero tolerance for corruption. A country where their leaders always go on medical tourism for stress orchestrated headache can never be out of Shambolic health care system.

– Pharm. Okwuchukwu Njike, +234 803 885 4922

Casmir, it is the  ‘wickedness of the wicked’ past and present leaders in Nigeria that makes them see the excellency of the state of health (quality and affordable medicare) roads, power etc abroad, shamelessly lap it up in a way of enjoyment and not want to import same into Nigeria. They would rather embark on medical tourism and vacation, maltreat/illtreat our health care providers and academicians, underfund the institutions at the detriment of the teeming population. They waste scarce forex on senseless ventures going to Sokoto state to look for what ideally should be in Sokoto (Yoruba word for trouser). Recently, a member of this clique who is aiming to SWAGA his way into Aso Rock (despite the fact that conventional principles are against his selfish ambition) returned after enjoying medical expertise/facilities abroad. He is very rich and rich enough to establish here what he went abroad for. Oh son of man why art thou like this? Like Oliver Twist, we demand for more government private sector partnership to up our standards. Happy New Year!

– Mike, Mushin, Lagos, +2348161114572

Dear Casy, when Idris dished out the music titled; ‘Nigeria jagajaga, everything scatter, scatter’, do you think Nigeria’s sickly health care system was spared? If not for the ordeal you had in the effort to save your son, one would have asked why you wasted your pen, paper and time writing on  warped health care in Nigeria? To me, you have just jolted the consciousness of the Powers-that-be to increase the budget for health care which lion share would mysteriously detour into the mouths of ‘snakes’ while the remnant would be ‘religiously’ utilised. Why compare our healthcare system with a sane health care system in a sane clime blessed with sane leadership? It just doesn’t jelly! Such comparison can only stand when the acquisitive tendencies of our leaders are amputated and the hypocritical anti-corruption fight suffers obituaries.  Have a prosperous new year.

– Steve Okoye, Awka, 08036630731    

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