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Chijioke Edeoga make haste to come clear the mounting waste in Enugu!

Between November 2022 and February 2023, one of the strongest debates in the Enugu State political community was how the Labour Party candidate in the Governorship elections, Chijioke Edeoga was an incompetent man who could not rid Enugu of heaps of refuse while he served as Commissioner for the Environment.

Those who followed the campaigns, especially when it became clear to the ruling Peoples Democratic Party that taking the electoral trophies available in the state was not going to be a stroll in the park, would tell you that the debate over whether or not it was Edeoga’s responsibility as Commissioner to solve the states waste management problems was one of the hottest issues discussed by prospective voters. Not even Peter Mbah’s alleged forgery of his National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) was more hotly and passionately debated.

A series of explanations from the Edeoga camp that the mandate of the Ministry of the Environment did not include waste management and environmental sanitation rarely slowed the desperate media pummeling by the battalions of attack dogs, with claws and canines baying for the blood of the Labour Party candidate’s electoral fortunes.

It got so bad that Chijioke Edeoga dedicates a huge chunk of the ample time he spent on radio programmes to explain to his desperate attackers that his duty as Commissioner did not include waste management. The more he tried to explain things, the heavier the cocktail of brutal media assault. That the Enugu State Waste Management Authority (ENSWAMA) was vested in the office of the Governor, Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi, supervised by the Chief of Staff to the Governor, Dr. Festus Uzoh, and had its own General Manager in the person of Mrs. Amaka Anajemba, did not stem the mounting negative media.

The thrust of the debate was, “If Edeoga could not handle something as simple as waste management in the state capital while he served s commissioner, how would he manage the complex economic, social, educational, and dynamics of Enugu State if he was made governor?”

It was a very convincing argument, and if you were a neutral, nonpartisan observer, there was no escaping the convincing sway of this perspective. Chijioke Edeoga carried the burden of failure he was never responsible for all through the campaign and into the election, which he clearly won, but for the impunity with which the PDP and INEC manipulated the outcome.

Fast-forward to the present day. Enugu State is still beleaguered by mounting waste. Across major streets in many of the towns, heaps of refuse have successfully outdone the yellow commercial buses in occupying major roads in the state. The only difference is that while the buses pick their passengers and leave, the refuse heaps remain in their place, growing in size and stench.

The ugly, rickety, and disused tipper trucks that served as waste compactors for the state have all disappeared. And I have not heard the voice of any of those that were inviting Chijioke Edeoga to come clean up the state, even as a former Commissioner reminding the governor of the dank dens of despicable decomposition spreading all over the state. For a state that Governor Ugwuanyi proudly describes as a Civil Service State, a rather lousy explanation for the disappearing activities at the state’s industrial estates, Enugu has suddenly become a beehive of productive activity. If the state government continues to encourage the present spike, the state may earn its unenviable pride of place as the safest haven for flies, maggots, cockroaches, rodents, and bacteria.

In the university town of Nsukka, any visitor would mistake the major streets for badly managed compost heaps. Residents have been raising the alarm, warning of a possible epidemic should the authorities continue what evidently looks like intentional dereliction of duty.

The present poor sanitation management in Enugu, particularly Nsukka, appears to be intentional and may be a direct punishment by the government on the people of the area, for daring to vote against the ruling PDP. The proof of this can be found in occurrences in many of the local councils, where the governor is reported to have ordered the sack of people whose offences include such misdemeanors as having a brother who supported Labour Party.

This, and other related offences, may have accounted for why the government ignored the mounting waste, especially in Nsukka, where the governor, who lost a bid to go to the Senate, comes from. The governor appears to be extracting his pound of flesh from the people and seems determined to sustain this, at least for the remaining two months he has left in his tenure.

But this is such a shame. Those who unabashedly toe this path of primitive vengeance fail to realise that communicable diseases that result from poor sanitation are no respecters of persons. Cholera, diarrhea, dysentery, typhoid fever, intestinal worm infections, and other diseases afflict both the rich and the poor. Even if one is so lucky as to avoid such diseases, what about friends and relatives?

According to the World Health Organisation, there were 93,932 suspected cases of cholera and 3,293 associated deaths in Nigeria in 2021. Bringing the crises closer, 11 states of the federation reported 429 incidents of the disease in February 2023 alone. Luckily, Enugu State was not on this unenviable list, and that may perhaps be why government is taking the issue of public sanitation and healthcare for granted.

What about diarrhea? This is a major killer disease, especially among children and infants, and it has taken its toll on the lives of children in Enugu State. A research paper published by Sage Journals in 2021 documented that Nigeria contributes to an estimated 151,700 annual infant deaths due to diarrhea.

Playing politics with the health of the people is one thing sensible governments do not think about. You can play divisive and vindictive politics with employment and other resource allocations, but certainly not with the health of the people, especially because, in the case of communicable diseases that this thesis is talking about, you are not in control of who it affects and who it doesn’t.

I am yet to see any political leader in Enugu that moves around with his personal air purifier. It means that one way or the other, everyone is vulnerable. Although there are some who can afford treated water, the sanitation challenge in the state is threatening the perennial water supply challenge that has been the lot of the state since almost forever.

The nauseating thing about the dirt and decay that have overrun Enugu is made even more intolerable by the unbearable presence of state and local government revenue enforcers in close proximity to these sprouting heaps of stench. At each smelly turn, you are bound to see these equally dirty touts wielding their sticks of compulsion against truck drivers and bus drivers in a manner that makes you conclude there is a conspiracy between dirt and dirty government to make life unbearable.

These ubiquitous thugs do not worry about the stench oozing from the heaps. As a matter of fact, the encroachments caused by those overflowing heaps constitute tools in their trade by narrowing means of escape by errant revenue defaulters and tax dodgers. It, therefore, means that for these government children, who have paid in advance to government for revenue beats, dirt is a veritable stock in their trade.

Jokes apart, should an epidemic hit Enugu State from these mounting heaps of death, the consequences could be devastating. Besides the streets currently being overrun by waste, there are other issues of hygiene the state faces. One is water supply as I have mentioned earlier. The next is the not-too-impressive domestic toilet system. What this means is that should one person contract any of these dangerous diseases from these wastes on the streets, the chances of spreading them to everyone at home through the toilet and other things shared at home is quite high.

Add to this the wretched public health infrastructure and know that what is staring the state and its people in the face has the semblance of the foreboding.

It is sad that in the face of this looming environmental disaster, the preoccupation of the Enugu State Government and the Local Government Chairmen is scapegoat-hunting. The entire attention of these guys appears to have been consumed by the struggle to double down on those they feel was responsible for their dismal electoral fortunes in February and March 2023. Governance has taken the back seat. Concern for the lives of the people has left with the election losses while the care that should be given to the city aesthetics has literally been buried under the rubbles of bruises political egos.

In the end, I still blame Chijioke Edeoga for this. He is responsible for the electoral woes that have resulted in our environmental woes. If he hadn’t stood up to challenge the PDP and their hegemony, the seismic shift in political alignments would never have happened this soon in Enugu, and we would never have had to deal with a government that visits vengeance on its own people, even at the risk of also being consumed by the consequences of the vengefulness.

Enugu is in a big mess, literally and figuratively. We need someone to clean up our streets and contain the stench and the brewing epidemic. Chijioke Edeoga, where ever you are, whatever you are doing, just be getting ready to come clear the mess.


Ikem Okuhu is a journalist, a Public Relations professional, brand strategist and teacher. With a career that traversed Print Media, Oil & Gas, Banking and entrepreneurship, Ikem is the author of wave-making book; PITCH: Debunking Marketing’s Strongest Myths, a dispassionate exposition of the dos and don’ts of successful engagement in the marketplace, especially the Nigerian marketplace. He is the founder/publisher of BRANDish, Nigeria’s first nationally circulating Brands and Marketing magazine. He has also handled the PR and reputation management consultancies for a number of brands, businesses and public figures.

  • Asadu Ikembuchukwu

    It was a huge embarrassment to visitors of UNN on Friday, to behold dozens of waste dump sites and scavengers in daylight. Last Friday was the induction of UNN facaulty of pharmacology graduates, the visitors came from as far as UNN admission tentacles extend. You can imagine the capacity of individuals that witnessed the ugly deco of the state. It is very unfortunate.

    April 16, 2023 at 4:46 pm Reply
  • Ifeanyi Marco Ifeacho

    This is naked truth.
    Conscience is an open wound, only the truth can heal it.
    This article has exposed enemies of the Coal City State

    April 17, 2023 at 3:31 am Reply

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