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Olumbanasa and Soludo the explorer and hope bearer

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By Christian ABURIME

The chronicle of human exploration is as old as the story of civilisation, and many of the tales of world explorers have become legends over the centuries.

Commencing from the early 15th century until the middle of the 17th century, European explorers took to the seas in search of trade, knowledge and power.

Thus the Age of Exploration saw a big surge in human discovery, and marked the onset of globalisation. It also witnessed the emergence of some of the most renowned explorers in history.

One of them was Christopher Columbus. Often called the ‘discoverer’ of the New World, Columbus embarked on 4 voyages across the Atlantic Ocean between 1492 and 1504. He was credited with rediscovering the United States of America.

Fast forward to the 21st century, and Nigeria seems to have found a new explorer in Professor Chukwuma Charles Soludo, CFR, the governor of Anambra State.

How many Nigerians ever heard of an island called Olumbanasa in Anambra State, until now? Well, Professor Soludo has somehow ‘discovered’ Olumbanasa. As the spirit of adventure has driven individuals in human history to traverse uncharted territories, seeking new horizons and uncovering hidden gems, it has spurred Governor Charles Soludo not just to explore and discover, but to bring hope to a forlorn people.

Nestled amidst the tributaries of the Niger River, Olumbanasa is a remote island community, home to a population of over 5,000 individuals. Located in Anambra West Local Government area, Olumbanasa comprises seven Igala and Igbo-speaking communities which are Ode, Odemagu, Igbokenyi, Odekpe, Igbedor, Ala, Onugwa.

Despite its rich cultural heritage and agrarian potential, Olumbanasa has remained cut off from the mainland, lacking access to basic infrastructure and amenities. Its isolation has not only hampered its development but also dimmed the hopes of its inhabitants.

In fact, since 1991 when Anambra State was created, no governor ever dared to visit Olumbanasa due its extremely precarious terrains that made it almost inaccessible. Yet, on November 25, 2023, Governor Soludo embarked on a historic journey to Olumbanasa, becoming the first ever governor to set foot on its shores.

The reception he got from the locals was palpably ebullient and infectious. His unconventional mode of transportation – a boat, Keke (tricycle), and motorbike (Okada) – symbolised his willingness to connect with the community on their terms, to experience and intimately understand their daily struggles firsthand.

Olumbanasa, with its infrastructure deficits and unresolved conflicts, embodies the challenges faced by many overlooked communities in Nigeria today. The governor’s unprecedented visit signifies more than a symbolic gesture. It was a declaration of intent, one which showcased Soludo’s bold leadership, his willingness to embrace risks for the greater good, echoing his promise to serve the marginalized.

Venturing into an uncharted territory within his own state, redefining governance by action, his commitment to an inclusive government marked a turning point for the community, igniting a spark of hope that had long been extinguished.

He met with community leaders, listened to their grievances, and pledged to bring about the development they so desperately craved.

But his promises were not empty, political words. Governor Soludo immediately directed the Commissioner for Public Utilities and Water Resources to connect Olumbanasa to the national grid, a move that would bring electricity to the community for the first time. He also tasked the Commissioner for Local Government, Chieftaincy and Community Affairs as well as the Anambra West Transition Committee Chairman, to initiate plans for the construction of holding camps, health centres and schools, alongside posting of teachers to the ravaged communities.

Governor Soludo’s gesture extended beyond infrastructure development; it was a mission of peace and reconciliation. He addressed the warring communities of Ala N’Onugwa and Odekpe, urging them to lay down their arms and embrace harmony.

His message of unity resonated with the locals, offering a glimmer of hope for a future free from conflict. Above all, the governor also donated N5 million cash as welfare for the warring communities and N2 million as logistics support for members of the communities who came to receive him for transportation.

The impact of Governor Soludo’s visit was immediate and profound. The residents of Olumbanasa, once resigned to their fate, are now filled with renewed optimism. They saw in their governor a leader who cared, a leader who would not abandon them to their isolation due to the peculiar nature of their geography.

In a way, the action of the governor was simply fulfilling his campaign promises anchored on APGA’s credo of inclusive governance that leaves no one behind. He has not only brought hope to a forgotten community, but he has also set a new standard for leadership.

In the same way that history would remember the explorers who charted new paths, Soludo’s name will resonate for bringing hope and development to Olumbanasa, marking a significant chapter in Anambra’s story of transformation and inclusion.

It is not a surprise that Ndi Anambra now fondly call Soludo ‘Governor Umu Ogbenye’, literally translated as ‘Governor for the poor and downtrodden people’.

Indeed, the Solution is here, affording the most remote and neglected corners of society an opportunity to experience the transformative power of empathetic leadership.

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