Honourable Patrick Agha Mbah is the Transition Committee chairman, Onitsha North local government area and also the national president Onitsha Ado Youth Council (OYC). In this interview with Uchenna Ezeadigwe, he sheds light on efforts to make the commercial city great, and the 2018 Ofala festival, among other issues.
The Ofala has become an international event due to its popularity. It has brought economic and social benefits to the community. We are expecting a big experience that would meet the standards compared to that of the Calabar carnival.
I implore the youths of Onitsha within and diaspora to treasure the cultural norms and traditions that follow the Ofala festival. You would agree with me that Onitsha is the gateway to Igboland and holds the ace in Igbo culture and tradition. I urge the people of South Eastern Nigeria to see the Onitsha Ofala as an avenue to celebrate brotherhood. Ofala Onitsha is a celebration of Igbo cultural heritage and greatness.
Environmental sanitation in Onitsha and its environs still poses a major problem to the state government and other relevant agencies. What are you doing to assist in this regard?
The government of Anambra state is doing its best to keep the state clean. Last Saturday, the regular monthly clean-up was dully observed. The state government is very proactive towards issues of the environment. So far, the environmental sanitation is a collective responsibility of both the people and the government and it will do us good to abide by the rules because cleanliness is next to Godliness.
Apart from this festival, in what other ways have you been working towards making Onitsha a better place since your appointment as the Transition Chairman of this local government area?
Since I assumed leadership as chairman, I have tried to seize the opportunity to contribute my quota to the transformation of the area..
I have achieved a lot within the short period of time. First, we have established an Information, Communication and Technology (ICT) center which we made accessible to both indigenes and non-indigenes. We undertook this project because I understand the place of ICT in the global communication trend and how it can help our people. The siting of the project at the Ime Obi palace was well intended because the Igwe of Onitsha is not for a particular sect. Rather he is the leader for all; non-discriminating. At the level we are, we have had two batches of graduates from the ICT academy.
Due to the unemployment epidemic facing the country, the youths have been encouraged to venture into entrepreneurship. So, through the ICT education, they are encouraged to start from that point.
Secondly, with the help of the intelligence agencies, I have been able to tighten up the security level in the town to minimise the social vices plaguing the area. The prevention of crime in certain areas of the town was achieved in the ‘Light Up Onitsha Ado’ project. Lighting is one the greatest measures in preventing crime. Where there is light, the bad eggs are prone to move away from such place. Hence, instances of theft, rape have been reduced because of the project. A place like Ime-Ogbe is an evidence of such testimony.
Thirdly, the establishment of Skill Acquisition Centre is in top gear. We intend to bring in the Aba tailors to help train and mentor youths in the area. So, we are focusing our attention on human capital, especially the youths. Every year there is influx of graduate corps members in the Onitsha environment yet they are faced with unemployment. Thus, my team brought in NIIT, an ICT hub, to train and mentor unemployed youths in the Onitsha environs.
Our target is for everybody who has interest to get skilled. We have also made available the provision of boreholes (water infrastructures) in three communities in Ward 3.
Again, my government, in collaboration with the state government, undertook the decongestion in the market places, especially in Onitsha main market, through the installation of barricades. My administration is in sync with the policies of the state government. For instance, if you go to the Ose market; you would see sign posts that help you in directions for easy routes. And we are not stopping. We intend to do more in rebranding the face and structures in Onitsha town.
The only present challenge I am facing at the time is the flooding which is affecting the riverine areas of which Onitsha is a part of. Every other challenge will be handled professionally. With the support of the state government, we will triumph over any obstacles in future.
Are you satisfied with the rate of infrastructure in Onitsha North local government area?
By providence, the state governor has been doing a lot in developing every area to standard. For example, certain places in Akpaka and other strategic areas in the town are good. I will say that, by this time next year, the citizens will be happy with the level of infrastructure that would be put in place. The state government is really doing a lot to upgrade the standards of structures and it is very encouraging.
You were accused of empowering only members of OYC since assumption of office. What is your take on that?
The government is for the people. Government is no personal or family business. We are here to serve the Onitsha North irrespective of the party in power. The lighting project is for all, whether PDP, APC or APGA and the whole electorate. For example, many of the first batch of the ICT graduates are mostly non-indigenes. Out of 17 graduates, only 4 were OYC members. The ideas of empowerment are done on due process because the rule says 15 persons must come from the wards.
My staff members are not OYC members; there are non-indigenes. They are employable youths who are ready to work and learn. Government is an organised setting and we have to learn how to follow the rules of strategic organisation by joining a registered and legalised group in the society. The idea of OYC is a welcome development.
Recall that during the Peter Obi administration, he banned all youth organisations in Anambra state. With the formation of OYC and ASSATU, however, the Willie Obiano government took cognisance of youth empowerment and involvement. I want to use this medium to advise our people, especially the youths, to cue into programs in their localities. These programs were meant for their good. OYC is a platform to engage a lot of residents of Onitsha and we intend to use it to help lots of them. If you’re in OYC, you can achieve a lot by becoming part and parcel of the organisation.
Take for example, the Noah bible story. The same message that came to him went to other people. But they refused to heed the instruction. It is the same situation here. It is not the message but the people that is the problem. If the people could respond to the platform, then it is necessary to join and enjoy the benefits.
Government always works with a certified group. Thus, people should get involved with a secure platform. If the people can see that the monarchy, Obi of Onitsha, is strongly backing this platform as a guarantor, then it is right for them to take the opportunity to join the OYC.