“No victor, no vanquished” was the pronouncement made on January 16, 1970 by the then Head of State, Gen. Yakubu Gowon (rtd), at the end of the Nigerian Civil War. He also announced a programme of “reconstruction, rehabilitation and reintegration, popularly known as the 3rs.” But 47 years after, Uli community, at the celebration of Uli Day, has accused the Federal Government of neglect. PRECIOUS IGBONWELUNDU reports
Uli is a border town located on the Onitsha-Owerri Road along Anambra and Imo states axis of the Southeast geo-political Zone. It is bordered by towns such as Oguta, Orlu, Ihiala and Nnewi. Each of these towns is less than 25 minutes’ drive from Uli.
Uli and Amorka gained global recognition during the civil war as a result of their roles as the stronghold of the Dim Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu-led Biafran Army. While Uli Airport served as the escape route for the late sage after the territory was captured by the Nigerian troops, Amorka was home to his secret underground bunk that had exit link with the airport.
As the Federal Government prepares to commemorate this year’s Armed Forces Remembrance Day (AFRD), those indigenous to Uli have appealed to President Muhammadu Buhari to revisit the post-civil war deliberations and ensure they are duly compensated.
Despite promises by the government to initiate developmental projects as compensation to affected communities, the people of Uli and Amorka can only boast of ruined and abandoned infrastructure.
To them, the Uli Airport would have been renovated and upgraded for commercial purposes considering the strategic location of the town.
The people of Amorka believe that at least a Federal Government’s college or any institution that would attract development should have been situated in their community as compensation for the massive loss they incurred during the war.
Even the Ojukwu Bunker which they felt the government should have preserved as a museum alongside other civil war assets, has been overgrown by weeds, and has become safe-haven for Marijuana smokers and other criminal elements.
Southeast Report gathered from members of the community that in 2015, security forces recovered two of the bombs used during the civil war.
An aged woman, who insisted that our correspondent must get at least two huge men armed with cutlasses before entering the dark bunker said: “You can see for yourself that a thick forest has covered the bunker. You cannot enter that place alone. It is very dangerous. Get at least two hefty men with cutlasses so that they would defend you. Also make sure they are people you know very well. My daughter, do not go into that place alone.
“Ever since Ojukwu died, this place has been desolate. When he was alive, he usually came here with some of the Biafra supporters for private meetings. His helicopter would land at the borrow pit and then, a car would pick him and drive him into the bunker. After their meetings, they would leave the same way they came.
“But since his death, the only time we noticed something happening here was when government people came to remove two bombs that have been here since the civil war. One of the bombs exploded but the other one didn’t.
“The place has since become hideout for criminals and hemp smokers. I think the government needs to remember us by establishing something tangible in our community. It was not our fault that our land was used by the Biafran soldiers. The government should stop blaming us for what we didn’t do.
“We do not even have light here. For over three years now, there is no electricity supply to the town but our neighbours in Imo State enjoy constant electricity supply. Why are we being punished?”
According to the Chairman Caretaker Committee, Uli Progressive Union (UPU), Ogbuehi Dan Imochuckwu, the community has suffered decades of neglect simply because of its role during the war.
In a chat with Southeast Report, during the Uli Day celebration, he said: “Uli was one of the towns that suffered during the civil war and it is still suffering. Uli has an Institute of Technology which was converted into a university when our son, Dr. Odera Mbadinuju was Governor.
“But the university has been affected politically and most of the vibrant faculties relocated. The university is the only compensation the town has but it is now a shadow of itself.
“I think the Federal Government is really punishing us for allowing our land to be used by Biafran authorities during the civil war; otherwise, they would have established something that would show federal presence here.
“That is why we are appealing with the Federal Government to consider Uli by situating a federal institution in the town. The town has a good geographical location being that it is situated less than 45 minutes drives to either Onitsha or Owerri. It is also less than 20 minutes’ drive to Oguta Lake. There is need for federal presence in Uli to appease the people.”
Similarly, the monarch of Uli, Igwe Damian Onyekonwu appealed to President Muhammadu Buhari to remember the community by locating developmental projects here.
He said: “Uli has benefitted nothing from the Federal Government. Tell President Muhammadu Buhari to please come and remember Uli. Uli is in the map of the world, it is not good that we are forgotten.”
On the Uli Day celebration, the monarch said it’s a day the people of Uli home and abroad, gather to celebrate and brainstorm on best ways to move the community forward, adding that the event also served as a platform to reward hardwork. (The Nation)