Never has one man done so much for a community as Mr. Jim Ovia is doing for Agbor and the entire Ika community. There is hardly an aspect of the lives of Agbor people that his drive for community development has not touched. Apart from the pride that his exemplary entrepreneurship has brought to what it means to be from Agbor, he has single handedly proved that one man can make a difference in community held hostage by a non-performing political class.
Already, fear is rife among developmental experts and agbor talking heads alike, due to our parasitic and lackadaisical tendencies, that what Jim Ovia has contributed to Agbor is already being wasted. Herein lies the great danger to the future development of Agbor kingdom and the entire Ika community.
Recently, I dined with two Agbor Ime-Obi renowned citizens and we spent hours discussing Agbor development and the future of our Kingdom. When we talked about roads, they aptly responded that Jim Ovia has provided that by tarring the Obi Ikechukwu road. When we talked about water, they quickly responded that Jim Ovia has provided. When we began discussing the current state and the future of these projects, I could hear worry in their voices. One of them calmly asked: How much can you ask of one man?
The emerging problem now facing Agbor, as in all things Nigerian, is the maintenance of the Obi Ikechukwu road and water infrastructure provided and what will become of them in the nearest future. This is not yet being actively debated by Agbor people, at least not openly, even as problems are already emerging.
The questions that should be addressed are: Who will maintain these infrastructures in two, five, ten years from now, considering the lack of responsible political leadership and government? How will we pay for these maintenances?
I hope the answer will not be: Mr. Jim Ovia again.
What happens when he retires from business as he will do some day? He certainly has a right, just like Bill Gate did, to take time off to focus on himself and his family and enjoy the fruits of his labour.
It is typical trait in many of us to wait until problems emerge before we start troubleshooting. It is this trait that has put us in the situation where our infrastructures collapse around us while we watch helplessly. Conventional wisdom dictates that a troubleshooting handbook be created before the problems rare their heads.
Although most people will argue that infrastructure maintenance is the responsibility of the government. I would respond that so too is the provision of infrastructure in the first place, under normal conditions. Times are not normal these days. It is such awareness that prompted good men like Jim Ovia to spend his fortune, and as part of his own social responsibility, in providing what the government cared less to provide for Agbor. Isn?t it then our own responsibility to at least maintain what one man has given to us? It is the least we can do.
Already, we are failing the test today. We are failing to take the task of maintaining what one man provided in the name of love very seriously. Every rainy season reveals our failure. The gutters along Obi Ikechukwu road are now clogged daily with dirt leading to water and dirt overflowing onto the road and into people?s compounds when it rains. This eventually is resulting in a new problem that will among others erode the beautiful road. Of course, some home owners living along that road are doing their best to clear the gutter in front of their homes but most do not. This follows the same old pattern.
So here is my question: Jim Ovia giveth, Agbor taketh, Agbor enjoyeth but who keepeth?
Fortunately, this problem is not unique to Agbor or to Ika land or Nigeria. The point to realize is that an individualistic approach to maintaining projects such as Obi-Ikechukwu road, like every man clearing his own gutter, is unworkable and unsustainable. This is in no way taking away the responsibility of people to clean their environment. A systemized but collective maintenance approach is the best and most sustainable. In this case an entity or organization should assume the responsibility, and consistently so, of maintaining these generous projects in Agbor on behalf of the people.
In my mind, while I lay no claim to any Eureka-like solution, it is increasingly clear to me that Agbor kingdom, with the nod and commitment of the Dein, will have to think creatively on how such a systemized but collective system should look like and function. The important thing is that it is managed with the involvement of the entire people as stakeholders. Such involvement, no matter in what shape in comes, will breed heart-felt attachment between the people and these projects instead of the current parasitic attachment which enables people to aggressively milk these projects but still be able to watch the projects wither away without blinking.
Someone has to take the lead in educating each and every Agbor man on the value of maintenance and how it can be done collectively.
Should we also beg Mr. Jim Ovia to play an active and creative role, somehow, in building up the capacity of Agbor people to maintain these infrastructures fervently too? Why not? This should be considered since he is one man whose intention can not be doubted by any Agbor man or woman. He can tap into his pool of experts and management skills to help Agbor build a community based management team.
A stable and effective maintenance system will enable good men to expand or create more projects for Agbor.
What is the point having all these only to lose them soon? Why can?t anything we do things that last beyond one generation?