The 2021 Christmas celebrations have come and gone but the echoes, gossips, reactions and post celebration activities are still on at certain quarters in Umuaka and beyond. Here in Umuaka and her environs, the best way to describe the Christmas is to term it “burial Christmas”. Starting from 15 December 2021 till January 2022, each village in Umuaka Municipal Council and other towns in both Njaba and Isu LGAs etc had several burials to conduct. Some villages even had 2 or three funeral ceremonies on one day.
Many Akalites who came home for Christmas could not catch the usual Christmas fun due to some certain factors that posed as a barrier. Chief among these factors is the unending insecurity in the Southeast. There were no prominent events except burials. Even at that, some of the burials lacked the colour and glamour Akalites attach to such events as many VIPs stayed away from due to the fear posed by the widespread insecurity in the state. Because burials were the only event that brought Akalites together during the 2021 Christmas celebrations, many Akalites only met most of their loved ones, friends and relations etc at burial ceremonies and they exchanged pleasantries and took some pictures together.
Insecurity was the only reason that made many Akalites to stay away from 2021 Christmas celebrations. Both home based and Diasporan Akalites alike, to a very large extent or number, intentionally refused to visit home due to fear of being kidnapped or fallen victim of circumstance. The reason for this fear was the high rate of criminal activities reported in the entire town at several whatsapp groups and from Umuaka Times newspaper as well.
The stories concerning the insecurity within Umuaka were so bad that even Akalites at home were afraid to move around and go about their normal businesses. That was indeed a scary bad news but the good news was that an intervention put up by some concerned Akalites improved the security situation at home. Akalites in America, Germany, South Africa, UK, Angola and Mozambique pulled resources together and embarked on some preventive security measures which paid off eventually. Security patrol van, motorcycles and plain-cloth secret service agents kept on patrolling the entire town during the celebrations and even till now.
Having seen how the security arrangements paid off, there is a need for the entire community to embark on measures that will sustain the security patrol permanently in Umuaka.
The Hospitality Industry.
From indications, Umuaka as the fastest developing town in Imo State and Umuaka Market being the second largest market in Imo State, the hospitality business plays a major role in all these developments. Umuaka Times gathered that from December 20, 2021 to the early days of January 2022, all the hotels in Umuaka were fully booked. There are about 10 hotels in Umuaka today as at present. This means that as the community is developing and expanding in businesses and social services as well, there is also an urgent need to build more hotels and recreational centres.
Dusty Orlu Owerri Road.
The biggest problem many Akalites encountered during the festive period was the highly toxic “cement dust” from the Orlu Owerri Road which is under construction. The dust (even as at press time) is so thick that vehicles had to put on their head lamps during the day, while driving on the road in order to prevent any form of road mishaps. Already, some people have lost their lives as a result of the dusty road which makes visibility very poor. Those mostly affected are people living along the road and those doing business at Afor Umuaka Modern Market. Businesses along this road greatly suffered commercial setbacks during Christmas and are still suffering.
Motorcycle boys did not really enjoy the last Christmas in terms of their reckless driving method. The Orlu Owerri Road where they come out every evening to display their careless speeding “skills” has been under construction and not very motorable enough to attract their attention. The road construction, coupled with the cement dust drove the reckless motorcycle boys away. Alternatively, they decided to use other link roads in Umuaka to display their rough driving abilities.
Perhaps, it was a blessing in disguise for them because it was likely that if the road had been totally constructed and tarred, some of them would have crashed and died, considering their high level of recklessness and drug induced highness. Despite their absence on the road, Umuaka Times gathered that a few of them still got involved in road accidents and sustained some serious injuries.
Despite the bad road, some motorcycle boys did well in their “businesses” in 2021. Some of them “graduated” from being motorcycle boys to teenage car owners. It was common during the Christmas period to see small boys in their secondary school ages powering highly exotic German and Japanese cars which cost millions. At first, one would assume that their parents or elder brothers had sent them to an errand with the cars but on a closer look, their flashy dressing and the dressing of the other occupants in such cars, will give you a clearer picture that they are indeed the owners of the cars.
When an Umuaka Times reporter visited a POS agent on one of the days during Christmas at Ime Afor Market, he overheard a motorcycle boy turned car owner of about 20 years old telling his friend on phone that he bought his Mercedes Benz car at the cost of N9 million.
Poor Telephone Network.
Poor network coverage especially by MTN was another problem Akalites had to contend with during the entire period of Christmas and New Year celebrations and beyond. It was so bad that when a text message was sent to someone, the message would deliver the next day or hours later on the same day. Connecting to whatsapp or trying to make calls was also seriously difficult, both local and international calls. This development Umuaka Times gathered made many Akalites to stay in Owerri more than necessary where network coverage was better.
This problem also came with its own costs; one lawyer who had a zoom meeting had to hire a hotel room in Owerri in order to meet up with the meeting. The Simeon Okoro Annual Lecture which was held through zoom last year had just few persons log on from Umuaka due to the same problem of network connection. Throughout the festive period, Umuaka Times operated from Owerri in order to meet up with publication requirements.
A-Line Gone and Forgotten.
The popular A-Line which many Akalites and their friends used to visit to catch their fun was like a ghost town due to insecurity and the cement dust. When Umuaka Times visited the place, some of the shops were not even opened for business. Some have remained so for months while few that opened had just few customers. It is generally believed that when the road construction is completed and the security situation in the state improves, the glamour the famous A-Line was known for will return.
Girls Who Smiled to the Banks.
The year was not necessarily a bad one for many beautiful girls from Umuaka whose time it is to reign now. As early as the first week of December, a big number of them has sharpened their knifes waiting for the loud returnee yahoo boys from Umuaka and environs who live overseas. Some of the girls even went to the airport to welcome their guys whom they had missed for almost a year plus. Some got new guys who showered them with cash gifts and other items. Some of them glued to their boyfriends while others whose yahoo boyfriends could not make it home, recruited new boyfriends who also spoilt them with cash gifts especially the almighty dollar. The girls really made a fortune from their yahoo and none yahoo guys who returned home for the celebrations.
It will be correct to note also that it was not all the girls that had successful traps. Some regretted their unwise moves. Through the grapevine, Umuaka Times had the story of one beautiful girl who went to visit her newly acquired yahoo boyfriend in one of the hotels in Owerri. The biggest mistake she made was to ask her girl friend of over 2 years who is finer than she to escort her to see the guy. Getting to the hotel in Owerri, eye contacts and body languages found a deep expression between the yahoo guy and the other girl who escorted her friend and the rest ended up as history.
As at now, the Christmas and New Year celebrations are over. In the next few weeks, another celebration will set in. And guess what. Valentine’s Day.
Everyday is Now Afor Market Day.
Following the modernization and expansion of Afor Umuaka Market, many people from as far as Anambra State now come to Afor Umuaka to transact their businesses. This has indeed paid off to the amazement of all Akalites. As it stands now, there is no more Afor Market Day because everyday, Afor Umuaka is filled to its capacity and beyond. No wonder it is rated as the second largest market in Imo State. On daily basis, the market keeps expanding. One can now change foreign currencies in Ime Afor Umuaka.
High Cost of Transport.
There was a heavy hike in the cost of transport business during Christmas in Imo State especially in Umuaka. Bus drivers from 23 December 2021, hiked the fare from N300 to N1000 and above from Owerri to Umuaka, even till the early days of January. Many people did not find this hike funny at all, considering the dusty road the drivers always subjected them to after paying the high cost from Owerri to Umuaka.
In Umuaka also, commercial motorcycle operators did not help matters. They too were charging N400 within Umuaka and about N700 for communities like Ekwe, Amandugba and more. This development did not work out properly for them because of the shuttle buses and tricycle operators in Afor Umuaka now who shuttle to those neighbouring towns as low as N100 or more.
The 2021 Christmas has come and gone but some people will never forget in a hurry, the painful drama that accompanied it.
Umuaka Times can confirm a high level of optimism at certain quarters that 2022 edition of the same event will have more fun and less stress. Only time will tell in the next 11 months from now.