DEVELOPMENT PROJECTS IN IHIAGWA
Horizon International Medical Missions (HIMM) now in Ihiagwa : http://www.himm.org/
Message From The Founder :
Horizon International Medical Missions (HIMM) is a non-profit organization founded under the vision of Dr. Kennedy Okere in 1999 (an Ihiagwa Indigine). In the year 2000, HIMM went on its first medical mission to Nigeria and was granted United States Federal tax exemption status after accomplishing its mission HIMM has a burden for the less opportune spiritually, economically and medically. We are dedicated to providing medical support to the less fortunate specially committed to Africa and the Caribbean countries. Our officials cut across people of all races and professions. We realize from experience that chronic diseases such as Hypertension, Diabetes and Arthritis, just to mention a few, cannot be properly managed during our short-term medical mission trips. Therefore, we deemed it necessary to set up clinics in different areas of our missions, which is a great financial commitment. We are trusting God to aid us in breaking the ground for our first clinic to be built in Nigeria starting this year. We sincerely welcome your prayers and financial support in making this a reality. We expect local health volunteers and HIMM foreign employees to be involved in the management of this clinic. We work alongside with universities in United States in exposing medical students, nursing students and medical residents to overseas missions. The relentless effort, prayers and support of the American people have enabled HIMM to realize her goals. At this juncture, by the mercies of God, I welcome you to our website and to HIMM. ***END OF MESSAGE****
It is also worth mentioning that HIMM is building a hospital in Ihiagwa to support and compliment health care in Ihiagwa and Owerri senatorial zones, Imo-State, Nigeria.
We say thank you very much Dr. Kennedy Okere and his team of Horizon International Medical Missions. (HIMM) for this wonderful contribution to humanity and our society in particular.
SELF-HELP PROJECTS IN IHIAGWA SINCE 1970 BY J.O. MURUAKO (AN EXCERPT FROM THE OHA IHIAGWA CULTURAL MAGAZINE MAIDEN ISSUE Published in 1982 by the Ihiagwa Student Association at UNN)
A study of the Socio-economic history of Nigeria marks the Igbos as a people who rely on self efforts – Personal, group and communal to achieve advancement in all spheres of development. The people of Anambra – The ‘Ijekoebe’ blazed a trail in the building of educational institutions and the award of scholarships. In the former Owerri Province, trading people of Nkwerre/Orlu and the Mbieri made marks in this venture of self development.
The people of Oratta Clan in the former Owerri Local Government who were mainly farmers did not make outstanding scores in this activity. However, Ihiagwa the land of the Otamiri and the socio-cultural center of Oratta blazed a very unpublicised trail in communal development. During the forties, Ihiagwa communally founded a maternity Home in co-operation with the Church Missionary Society, a postal agency, a Baptist School and residential building for the Catholic Mission. Ihiagwa was first among Oratta communities which offered scholarships to deserving sons in the fifties. Doctor Andrew Udophoro and Christian Anah are outstanding products of this early self effort in University education.
The Nigerian-Biafran war marked a watershed in the redirection of communal efforts towards survival ventures, and Ihiagwa community achieved remarkable results in these efforts. The post war period since 1970 saw the resurgence of self efforts in the community. Under the auspices of the Ihiagwa Welfare Association branches scattered all over the country and the Ihiagwa Central Executive Council based at home.
Ihiagwa people moved forward to repair the wounds of war with or without Government support. Ihiagwa was a war theatre and access roads to community were damaged and looted, the Maternity Home and Postal Agency partially destroyed and bare of all infrastructural facilities.
A patriot of Ihiagwa in the person of Mr. B.M. Udokporo who was the President of the Ihiagwa Central Executive Council geared efforts towards the revival and reconstruction of the institutions. Bamboo bed were initially provided for the Maternity Home while Mr. Udokporo got drugs from here and there to revive the moribund maternity Home. He Mr. Udokporo and the writer J.O.MURUAKO catered for the feeding and maintenance of the Midwife who returned to her post as soon as the shootings stopped. The Maternity Home was thus revived and recently a ‘launching’ was organised by the C.MS for the rebuilding and enlargement of the Maternity Home. Ihiagwa people rallied to the call and donated generously.
The damaged schools became the next focus of efforts in the seventies. A school Committee was formed. This Committee organised the renovation and reconstruction activities in the four elementary schools in the town. Ihiagwa was not favoured with a U.P.E school as other communities but the people’s effort made sure that Ihiagwa children did not lack classrooms or learning equipments. As the schools in Ihiagwa were being repaired by communal self efforts, activities were also directed towards the restructuring of the Nkwo-Ukwu market place which was extensively damaged during the war, the repairs to the access roads to Ihiagwa, the rebuilding of the Ihiagwa bridge and the reconstruction of the Postal Agency. At first a Market Committee set up by the Central Executive Council saw to the clearing and the re-planning of the Nkwo-Ukwu market. This done, the Ugwuegbu/Muruako administration organised the community and today, the Nkwo-Ukwu market stands as the best of the markets planned and built by self in Oratta clan. If the plan for Nkwo-Ukwu laid out by the administration had been completed by the succeeding administration Nkwo-Ukwu could have even competed favourably with the Urban markets of the local governments.
The Community then tackled the roads and the Ihiagwa bridge across the Otamiri River. Between 1976 and 1978, Ihiagwa people saw to the grading of Ihiagwa-Owerri road, Ihiagwa-Obibi road and the Ihiagwa-Eziobodo road. The internal main thorough fares of the town were either manually maintained by communal labour or hired. The writer vividly remembers a water mark in Ihiagwa achievements in the area. When Mr. A.C.Orah, a Commissioner in the former East Central State Government was to visit Ihiagwa, Our people repaired the whole length of road between Ihiagwa and the Owerri, Aba road. When news reached the community on the eve of the Commissioners visit, that the Nekede bridge had broken down, the people rallied and a task force under the late R.S.Asoluka worked all through the night to make the damaged bridge passable.
One of the sore spots in the post-war socio-economic life of Ihiagwa was and is still the passage across the Otamiri River in the South of Ihiagwa. The bridge linked the community to it sister communities of Obinze and Mgbirichi which inhabit the Ohaji and Ara clans of the Area. These areas are food producers. This bridge deteriorated from lack of care and was eventually destroyed to forestall the invading Nigerians from Port Harcourt.
Elderly Ihiagwa people still bemoan the severance of this historic link which spanned Dougla’s oil bean tree road to Port Harcourt. Ihiagwa people picked up the challenge and organised to reconstruct the long bridge. Money was collected, labour was organised and it was refreshing to see Ihiagwa masons, carpenters and labour massed on the River front chanting war songs while working. The Government later came in and took over the bridge work. This cooled the enthusiasm of the community and today the piles and structures built by Ihiagwa people bear testimony to the people’s acute sense of self help. The people did not stop at contributing their labour in the bridge work. They went further by depositing money with the Government for the completion of the bridge.
The Ihiagwa postal agency now upgraded to a sub-post office was built by communal labour in the early forties. It suffered extensive damage from Nigerian bombs and rockets. Immediately the guns became silent, the people cleared the overgrowth around the buildings and reconstruction work started. Over N6,000.00 was spent on this job and the reconstructed and renovated agency was reopened by Mr. A.C. Orah, a Commissioner in the Asika administration of the former East Central State.
Ihiagwa reached the zenith of its post-war self help efforts during the Ugwuegbu/Muruako Central Executive between 1976 and 1980. It was at this period that the battles of Ihiagwa communal autonomy and founding of a post Secondary School were fought and won. The post war community Council arrangement robbed Ihiagwa of her leadership role. The headquatres of the Ochee Community Council was sited at Eziobodo. The period also witnessed a concerted effort by the neighbouring communities of Eziobodo, Okolochi and Emeabiam to divest Ihiagwa of her leadership roles. The people of Ihiagwa resisted this move and a protracted political battle ensued. The high point of the struggle came when the Military administration created autonomous communities in Imo State. Unknown to its neighbours, Ihiagwa made her case for autonomy and was granted the status of an autonomous community. The antagonistic neighbours went into the conflict and initially prevented the recognition of the Nnaochie of Ihiagwa by the Government. Ihiagwa people took up the challenge and eventually got recognition for their traditional ruler. Today, Ihiagwa is an autonomous community with a recognised traditional ruler, thanks to the strong spirit of self help. These activities were unique in that Ihiagwa stood out as one of the few communities who selected their Ruler without internal squabbles, and the funding of the installation ceremonies was borne by Ihiagwa individuals and branch Welfare Associations without pressures on the incumbent of the office.
When the post primary school explosion occurred in Imo State in the mid seventies Ihiagwa was without a secondary school. Efforts were initiated by Ihiagwa individuals and groups to get a school founded by Ihiagwa people either alone or in cooperation with neighbouring towns. Approaches made to Nekede for a joint school at the former Nekede/Ihiagwa Central School (now occupied by the police college) was snubbed by Nekede people who went ahead and found their own school. Later the Government authorised Ihiagwa and Eziobo to found a school. In pursuance of their hostile attitude towards Ihiagwa at that time, Eziobo rejected Ihiagwa people’s offer of cooperation in this venture and went on to found a school on their town. The pride of Ihiagwa was wounded and in an emergency Conference in 1978, Ihiagwa people at home and abroad mandated the Central Executive Council to get Government approval for a secondary school. The Council went to work and after a determined effort approval was achieved. Ihiagwa people rallied to the effort and by January 1979 the Ihiagwa Secondary school was completed and opened. A magnificent self effort in which individuals, Ihiagwa women, Branch Associations and the home front made contributions.
It became apparent from the above chronicles that Ihiagwa has achieved much on their own without Government assistance. Readers would naturally wish to know why Ihiagwa was able to achieve all the group efforts and projects. As a moving force behind many of the chronicled achievements, the writer traces Ihiagwa achievements to the socio-cultural heritage of the community which imposed leadership position on the people. The geography of Ihiagwa created an urban sense in the people, which made group activities on community-wide basis. Thus came the formation of the Obiwuruotu Young men’s Associations in the forties, fifties, the Ihiagwa town Union of the fifties and sixties and the Welfare Association and Central Executive Council since the seventies. Behind these organisations stood the feared Oha-Otamiri, the Elders and the Women Groups. As we go to press the Ihiagwa Women Obiwuruotu Singing Group are taking over the cultural music scene of the Oratta Clan. With a crop of very patriotic men and women in these groups, Ihiagwa people acquired a motive force for the achievement of Self Help Efforts. The seventies could be regarded as a glorious era in these efforts and one hopes that those charged with the piloting of the community’s affairs in the eighties would be courageous and dedicated enough to organise Ihiagwa for greater achievements in Self Help Efforts.