My COVID-19 DIARY: Who Says Ndi Igbo Hate Themselves?

By Tai Emeka Obasi May 20, 2020

My COVID-19 DIARY: Who Says Ndi Igbo Hate Themselves?

Out of the blues China farted…and the world was watching them from afar while they ran around in circles, trying to avoid the obviously stenchy odour.

But for where?

China’s seemingly not serious enough excretion turned out lethal, very lethal indeed that my country over 11,000 kilometres away, not only perceived the odour as well but in equally devastating dose. And believe me, the stenchy smell is not fading away in a hurry.

Not quite two weeks into Nigeria’s own unpalatable romance with the pandemic, a select group out of my university Alumni, calling ourselves ASUTech ’80 – 90 Friends, that is if you graduated within this time, decided to do something. Before palliatives gained grounds, we were already half-way done. Three months earlier, the loss of a spouse to one of us brought us together. And the group was formed. It was and is still open to graduates from any of the two campuses of the state university. Today, they’re Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe University and Enugu State University of Science and Technology.

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A suggestion by one of us to assist some less privileged in the society through the hard times of the sit-at-home.call gained approval and we went into action.

Many of us live in diaspora. The United States alone houses over 50. Some reside in Canada, UK, Hong Kong, etc. Of course, almost every state in Nigeria has our member as resident.

Today, I’m enjoying the beauty of reconnecting with course and school mates, call them by nicknames and aliases, recall fond memories, crack old jokes. Believe me, the most enjoyable moment of one’s life is from undergraduate level through youth service. After that you’re on your own!

From Engr Joe Ikunna, who presently is in charge of the group as chief admin, through his able assistant, Engr Omey Nwangwu powering from her solid base in the United States to Engr Larry Mbah, presently the president of the Alumni, it’s fun galore. But we have many others. Governor Dave Umahi of Ebonyi State is within membership. Commissioners of Work in both Anambra and Enugu States are active members.

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There are many directors of notable parastatals, especially Ministry of Works that are members. I’m marveled at the heights many of my colleagues have attained. Definitely, we no dey carry last. We were trained for the challenges and I must salute our lecturers. They really trained us well, very well, if I must add.

But think our reconnection is all fun and think again. Fast!

The cold hands of death has really decimated us. Through our reconnection, I learned, sadly, that my roommate in year one, Austin Onwe, died in 2018. Also my roommate from year two to year three before we went on IT, Engr. Arinze Chukwuemeka died over 10 years ago. As well as Boniface Ukachukwu, who I shared my fabrication office with in Lagos during the early days I practised engineering construction, died last year. And there were many others. So so sad!

But life must go on.

So in less than a week we raised substantial sum from mostly engineers scattered all over the globe. Engr Godson Ajero was the chairman of the Palliates Intervention Committee and I doff my hat for him and his members – they did a marvelous job.

All five states of the Southeast are ably represented in our group as well as other geopolitical zones of the country but we decided to intervene in two cities – Awka and Enugu. And how did we arrive at these two cities? Both communities were magnanimous enough to give their huge acres of land for the university that trained us. We agreed it was our little way of showing appreciation.

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Awka zone was to come first. Because I reside in Awka, I was chosen as the anchor person. And because of the spirit …I couldn’t dodge the enormous responsibility. Together with two of my best friends in the university, Engr. Austin Nnanyel and Engr. Darlington Chukwurah, who equally reside in Anambra at the moment, we set out for a most laborious exercise. Engr. Dan Chibo also joined us at the later stage.

I’ve learned, and you can guess accurately from whom, to be very prudent with funds. Thank God for my wife, we were able to get to the cheapest sources. My good friend Ceaser Obidile involved his wife too to direct us to the best and cheapest source of rice – Achala.

We set out to provide each person we would consider eligible to benefit with 10kg bag of rice, 10 kg(two painters) bag of beans, 10 kg(two painters) of garri, 100 cubes of maggi, 10 sachets of tomato purée. That is for one person. We were planning that each recipient could hold onto it for two weeks before readjusting to the new situation.

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In the process I learned that the best quality local rice (Mars) can be found in Achala as cheapest source in Anambra. I found out that Eke Awka was selling big bags of white(iron) beans cheapest in Anambra. I also found out the best and cheapest source of garri around Anambra is from the Isu market near Awka.

Condiments sold cheapest in Onitsha.

We could easily have purchased rice from known big producers in Anambra but purchasing from local farmers was not only cheaper but also a means of assisting them in these hard times.

However, it was hugely tasking but thank God for my wife, we conquered. Achala local market happens only on Orie days. There we went, came with our empty 10 kg bags purchased at Onitsha, purchased tins of rice, de-stoned, re-bagged as appropriate.

For garri, Isu market happened only on Eke days…here we bought in big basins, re-bagged as appropriate.

Eke Awka is daily but by then market was not operating fully as COVID-19 fever was everywhere. To get the desired quantity we required was then a matter of phone calls and hard bargaining.

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After truly challenging ten days we had our foodstuffs, all bagged and branded?

Yes because without branding, recipients could easily give me or the sharers the glory. I insisted on branding but it was done at cheapest source and manner.

Then the issue of sharing. We were very concerned and specific that only people who truly needed assistance would benefit. We sought the assistance of the St. Vincent De Pour group, who were very helpful. On my own I could trace about 30 people with the assistance of Ceased around NODU.

We didn’t distribute at a centre. No. We went from house to house. We had to make sure anybody that would benefit really should benefit. Visiting their residences assured us. We didn’t want pretenders displacing real people in need.

We started distributing on April 11, which was Holy Saturday, all through Easter to Monday and finally wrapping up on Tuesday.

While am I telling this story?

Honesty, we didn’t want to publicise it. Majority of us believed in giving without making noise and we decided not to publicise it.

However, Enugu version, which took off immediately we wrapped up in Awka via my good friend, class and course mate, Engr Armstrong Agbo had more fanfare.

Chief Jim Ifeanyichukwu Nwobodo, who built the university while governor of Anambra State as the first university of technology in the African continent, was informed of our intention. He was so happy, took it as an honour that the boys and girls he groomed have become responsible and compassionate patriots and decided to host the sharing in his big residence in Nkanu.

In the process a few pressmen came along and made some stories out of the exercise.

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I am telling this story today in this season where haters of ndi Igbo are doing everything to divide us. To tell those that say that ndi Igbo hate themselves to shut up. Any day you hear anybody saying that rubbish, tell him/her to shut up too.

Somebody sojourning in Hong Kong donated substantial money to assist those he didn’t know anything about. So did those in US, UK, Canada, Abuja, Lagos, Enugu, Awka, etc.

Now, you think the story has ended? No way. This is only the beginning. The real story is on the way.

Keep a date tomorrow.

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