Of all the places I’ve been, my first real journey into life started in Udi L.G.A. What could be in Udi? Will it be beneficial to me? Will I ever get to make good use of my service year? These were the questions I asked myself as I looked at my NYSC posting letter. I traveled to my place of primary assignment, the Udi District Hospital in Udi town with high spirits and optimism. Soon enough it became a home away from home.
Hilly suburbia is a term I would use to describe Udi. The headquarters of the local government area is in the city of Udi on the A232 highway. According to Wikipedia, it has an area of 897km2 and a population of 234,002 at the 2006 census.
Villages in Udi include Udi, Obioma, Abia, Agbudu, Obinagu, Umabi, Umuaga, Nachi, Oji, Amokwe, Enugu Amokwe, Etiti Amokwe, Uwani Amokwe, Eke, Ngwo, Asaa, Imeama, Ngwo Asaa, Ameke Ngwo, Nsude Uboji Ngwo, Amankwo Ngwo. Umabi comprises of five villages, Inewe, Ufiala, Umunchi, Okpewe and Amaji.
Udi Local Government is bound on the North by Igbo-Etiti, on the south by Enugu North, on the East by Enugu East and the West by Eziagu L.G.A all in Enugu State. Udi can be said to be west of the Coal City. Igbo is the major spoken language but it is important to note that no Udi town speaks exactly the same dialect. For example, when the Ngwo people say “Anyi di oyi” (We are fine), Obioma and Abia say “Anyi di nma” (We are fine). This was noted by Chijioke Njoku in his study of Udi.
The occupation of the inhabitants of Udi is majorly agriculture. They engage in farming practices such as cultivation of cassava, yams, cashew trees, stringed beans, vegetables, cocoyam, oil beans, tropical fruits and other assorted agricultural products. The Orie Agu market days and Nkwo Agu market days are the best time for the Udi people to trade their farm products to people who come from around the country.
Due to their hills, water is a major challenge in Enugu State, but the land close to the 9th Mile Corner is blessed with a natural aquifer which is very close to the earth surface. The area serves as a good source of pipe borne water which is used in all parts of Enugu State and beyond. Also because of this aquifer, the largest brewery in West Africa (Amah Brewery) and major bottling companies like Coca-Cola, Limca, Seven Up even the Aqua Rapha company are set up here, creating employment and generating revenue for the people of Udi.
For those who enjoy taking a sip from nature’s brewed wine, the best palm wine in the whole world ‘Aneke Achime’ flows from Nkwo Agu market in abundance. People from far and wide come to the Afia Mmanya to buy the wine. The palm wine is usually taken with the infamous abacha and bush meat at local joints.
No other place offers a wide variety of healthy food like Udi. Okpa (Udi bread) is popular, prepared as a delicacy and sold by the Udi people. Others include Igba, a replica of okpa made from uza aki (cowpea), bitter yam a replica of abacha, achicha made from pounded dry cassava with fio fio, ukpaku, even crickets are garnished and sold as a delicacy boasting of a high level of protein.
Before coming to Udi, I was warned to stay away from masquerades. I was told that a woman should not wear trousers whenever the masquerades were out. The people of Obioma celebrate the Nta festival, this is when the Onyenweani masquerade comes out to serenade the people. The people of Ngwo celebrate the Odo festival, Amokwe the Ichu Afo festival, Nsude the Nkwa Festival.
Some sites include the Ngwo Pine forest, Ngwo Cave and waterfall, Milken Hill in Ngwo, Nsude Hill in Nsude, Iyi ohu and Tata stream in Obioma where cameras are forbidden, the infamous Orimiri Jordan in Nachi which its water appears every 20 or 30 years. When it came out in 2013 it was said to possess healing abilities that could cure all types of ailments.
Working in a hospital, it wasn’t hard for me to identify the major challenge in the community. There is a high rate of teenage pregnancy and rape cases of young girls in the community. There is no proper channel for education of the girl child. No access to services and information, the people simply live in ignorance. Health issues are skyrocketing especially the epidemic of HIV /AIDS. Many of the girls are victims of molestation, trafficking and child labor. With no NGO to guide them and no adequate punishment for sex offenders, the girls are subjected to an early life of motherhood or married off to paedophiles as a means of poverty alleviation for their ailing parents. I strongly advocate that a scheme be initiated for enlightening and empowering every girl child in Udi community.
The people of Udi live in a world of their own, unperturbed by the fast declining economy of the nation. In no distant time, Udi community will be notable for its high supply of agricultural products in the country due to their fast growing agricultural practices. What do I think? I think the people are homely, full of life, industrious, resilient and even if they don’t know it, full of hope for a better community, hope for a time when the world will know this safe haven buried in the heart of Enugu State, a diamond in the coal mine.