1. The city is rough and dirty. It has no order and thrives on anarchy… To the unschooled eye.
  2. From PH, it is a short, now, stress free ride.
  3. The port holes are gone. The soldiers and police are still there.
  4. Along the express, filling Stations as they are called dot the road. Most out of buisness and completely collapsed.
  5. The touts are still there, locked in every KM junction, though in a new uniform, but still the same sly, violent and street wise animal.
  6. Mortuaries have appeared, every KM or so. With diverse often comic sounding names… “The PRINCE Mortuary”, The Paradise Motuary, and the “Easy Passage Mortuary”.
  7. They seem to have sprang up in the past few years when the short highway from PH to Aba was a death trap rather than a link road.
  8. Easing into Aba, one is hit by the noisy, rough, and dirty scene of the motor parts market in Alaojii.
  9. Planned as a site where their buisness ought to be conducted far from the metropolis, without being an obstruction to commuters and citizens.
  10. What hits your sight and psyche isn’t any thing of such but complete disorder, anarchy and madness.
  11. Yet they thrive, live, eat and manage to smile and laugh.
  12. Just before Ugwunabo, the heap of refuse slows you down, first because it has taken over more than half the road and secondly because it simply has become a visible welcome sign to Aba.
  13. Nothing seem to have changed. The lack of development, the silence of the masses and communities, all conspire invisibly.

Port Harcourt Road…

  1. Turning into Port Harcourt road, one sees and feels the shame and faliure that is Aba and Abia State. Total collapse of roads and infrastructure. Unconcerned citizenry going about unperturbed.
  2. It appears that the whole conspiracy to ruin any effort towards development and decent living is hatched here.
  3. A freightning monument to faliure. Port Harcourt road best tells the story of a past long gone and a present ever painful with no hope of a future.
  4. They live, walk, trade, hawk and commute here with no visible qualms.
  5. The road, city and communities along this most busy, yet dilapidated street is completed collapsed. Chaotic is the word that simply defines it.
  6. Dirt is venerated here. By the standards of this country, Aba has no peer. Commotion and senseless high octane living is encoded in the DNA of the people.
  7. The street, the longest in the city, is a microcosm of the city. It defies order; defies understanding and pictures the trouble the city has had to contend with over the years.
  8. The street is a grater of pot holes, deep enough even in dry seasons to trouble even the toughies of tankers and trailers that ply the road constantly.
  9. It’s a grave yard of sorts. A graveyard of dreams, hopes, aspirations, motor vehicles, parts, humans, waste and ambitions.
  10. The heaps of refuse, dumped consciously and irresponsibly in the middle of the road is not an eye sore to the people, it’s like a permanent fixture. A landmark, used as a directional guide if you are giving out a descriptive address.
  11. Yet the people are unfazed, fussless and without any visible emotion. After all, the refuse are theirs.
  12. Along the collapsed thoroughfare, another city has grown. With no laws, and government presence. The new city is an antithesis of the old, whose original idea, was to use it a a front for expanding the city.
  13. Crystal Palace, Humphery Anumudu Motor shop and the Heavy duty spare part plant and big bonded Wharehouses were great idealistic investments, with visions of a city bread and ready to step into the 21st century.
  14. These are long gone. Dead on arrival. Discarded and rejected by a city too attached to its troubled past.
  15. Today, the noise is music. It echoes from everybody and everything. The trading is frantic and frenzied. None is impaired by the confusion… In fact, the confusion is orderly. It is the very blood of the city’s livelihood.
  16. There are no children here. Those you count as one would surprise you with their street smartness. They hardly function with a guide or nanny. Yet, they are optimistic, something you wouldn’t expect to see here.
  17. The context of the street is defined by its confusing outlook. It’s both hellish and aspirational. Hope is tendential here. Conspiratorially, this arcane, vexatious and criminally textured land is “gospel soaked”.
  18. The new city is confrontational, anti ideological, immoral and imbued with greed, avarice and a tendency toward cruelty. This is obvious, for the drive goes beyond the search for food, but for space and niche.
  19. There are more churches per square meter, per street, per building than anyother city in Nigeria. And they compete… You will assume for souls. But that’s an assumption that would hit you in the face.
  20. Posters, stickers, sign boards and loud speakers all compete against each other. They advertise all sorts of things. Sell all sorts of miracles, hopes, successes and hardly mention your soul.
  21. The place thrives on superstition. There is a comfortable marriage of the churches, folk native seers, and the funny imported “Indian gurus”. All seek the same thing: “Your Money”!
  22. Sleek, top quality billboards advertising the more sucessful “preachers” stand alongside signposts of schools, hospitals and businesses which are dwarfed by these billboards.
  23. The schools, hospitals and businesses are long gone. Total collapse is the word. Human, Capital and Resource Flight has been ongoing for long, and it has strangled the city and brought it to its knee.
  24. The houses, warehouses and structures are replaced and taken over by churches, prayer houses and dubious enterprises that reflects the new face of the city.
  25. The boldness, the vision and pushful creativity that built this city over the years is gone, replaced by a debilitating soullessness that is cold and unproductive.
  26. The artisans and enterprenuers have been replaced by pastors, herberlist and gurus pitching for your pockets and earnings. They preach wealth to a people burdened with poverty. Lost souls seeking respite, yet none seem to come. Quasi religious mysticism and surreptitious superstition envelopes the city and dictates its rhythm.
  27. There is no visible government presence. The collapse and decent to anarchy is final. Police presence is an eye sore and a rarity. There is no control.
  28. Every inch of the road is taken. Petty trading, ranging from street side fries, to phone card vendors, Vaulcnizers, mechanics, pot pouri of hawkers selling everything. The houses are either offices, storage spaces or churches.
  29. The off roads all the way inside is where people live… or appear to live. Living here is a paradox. Life appears endlessly to be receding. Randomly, awkward and unapproved buildings, built for occupying spaces and admitting more tenants are the vogue.
  30. The living conditions here is dirty, grim and dark. Ramshackles, in conducive for human living. Families of up to eight crammed into makeshift rooms, with none existent sanitary conditions. People bath, shit and urinate right in front of their homes. The block high rise houses are crammed next to each other, creating a hot cauldron, where little or no air and light gets into.
  31. The city is vibrant. The zeal is relentless and contagious. People live on very, very meager resources, yet unperturbed and unworried. They ply their trades on the streets, starting early and closing very late.
  32. There is neither rest nor holiday. Trading and its contingent activities happens round the year. They say in Aba, “whatever you can’t get here, you can get anywhere”. What they don’t have, they fabricate.
  33. Port Harcourt road, like Aba seem abandoned and under siege. There are no regulations, laws and order. The government is invisible, everything, yes everything is in a state of absolute disrepair. Dust, smoke, fumes from burning street refuses and tyre fill the air. The sight is obnoxious. Toxic rather. Madness is forged here.
  34. Yet, the government wastes resources painting the culverts and boulders that divides the road. Painting the culverts while the roads are in disrepair? Absurd. Totally insane. Crammed in this piece of real estate is a dark underworld of crime, gangs and tribes that thrives off the back of the population.
  35. There’re no investments of worth. No job creator and the aggregate of what is done here is translatable, but outside the indices of any economic margins. How can this be fixed and transformed? Asking this, you are asking for a long barrage of sermons, lectures, agitations, comic and very tragic monotonous views about the criminality of the government and it’s few accomplices.
  36. Everyone is a politician here. Everyone had an opinion. None has a solution. The dirt is created by all here, the chaos too and the abuse of scarce infrastructures are caused by residents, yet none takes responsibility. When I raised the question of the gross and blatant indiscipline, which every one here exhibits, rather than take responsibility for these, guess who’s to blame? The government. Which here means anyone, a bit above the average poverty line.
  37. The byline here is that this is a city in reL need of rethinking, reinvention and renewal. The spaces between odd and irresponsible is very marginal, and that’s where Aba and by extension Port Harcourt Road falls. The ebullient and aggressive spirit of the people must me managed to produce a living worth a city like this.

Ireke A. Kalu-Onuma

January, 2014