Hurray, My Dead Community School Resurrects!

By Steve Osuji
About two years ago,  this column(Expresso) had bemoaned what it described as the ‘Demise of my Old Community Primary School’. Illustrated with ugly photos of  a crumbling edifice with roofs caved in and the surroundings taken over by weeds. It was a picture of dereliction writ large.
Readers of the article had mourned with me, many mooting the idea of initiating a self-help drive to rebuild the school. Apparently moved by the Igbo spirit of communalism and self-improvement, some men and women of Ibeme town who returned for the year-end seasonal festivities in 2022 couldn’t bear the sight anymore. They decided to take their destiny in their hands.
The seed of Ibeme Unity and Development Initiative (IUDI) was sown in December 2022. IUDI idea found fertile grounds among  Ibeme forward-looking sons and daughters and the seed grew in leaps and bounds. It was registered as an NGO designed to help forge unity between the two autonomous communities that make up Ibeme in Ugiri, Isiala-Mbano Local Government Area of Imo State.
Like many other towns in Imo State, Ibeme had been deeply fractured by the vile politics of autonomous communities imposed by equally vile politicians. Since the return of partisan politics, many states in the southeast have been mired by the idea of creating myriads of mushroom communities ostensibly for deepening grassroots development.
But the dozens of little fiefdoms have only created more discord among the people and little progress and development. Friction and bad blood have grown between two hitherto single communities; tussle for ezeship which linger for decades have been the order and brothers have become mortal enemies in many places.
Ibeme had her share of autonomous communities’ blues – and nary any development had been occasioned by the break up of Ibeme.
Those who envisioned IUDI had this scenario in mind. It shall promote unity and harmony among the people and work fervently for the progress and development of the entire homeland.
IUDI, is a model NGO, we dare say, and it shall be fiercely apolitical.
It has a peculiar administrative structure viz: a Board of Trustees; a Management Committee and a General Council. By the end of the first quarter of 2O23,  registration of IUDI with the CAC had been concluded and funding raising started by August.
Ibeme sons and daughters, home and in diaspora responded to the call with a rare enthusiasm never known before in the land. Many donated as little as ten thousand naira while some brought in the significant millions. Many contributed materials and some gave of their time and skills – pro bono.
Soon there was enough funds in the kitty to begin. It was a complete revamp of the E block made up of 12 classrooms and the principal’s office. The project gulped about N25m.
Accountability was the watchword; and no member was allowed to profit from any aspect of the project as a matter of rule. The work which started in September was completed and handed over on January 4th this year.
IUDI enjoyed the buy in of the traditional rulers of the two autonomous communities making up Ibeme  (Ibeme Amaise Heritage Kingdom and Ibeme  Ancient Kingdom). The people of Ibeme were joyous as they marvelled at the scope of work accomplished in such and short period. This is an unprecedented feat in Ibeme, everyone seemed to say.
Other stakeholders like the Presidents-General, Local Government Education Board,  the Imo State Universal Education Board (IMSUBEB), among others were properly apprised of the IUDI mission.
During the handover of the completed work a couple of weeks ago, the IMSUBEB chairman, represented by board member for Okigwe, was full of praise for IUDI and Ibeme people as a whole. He said Ibeme raised the bar in the noble art of self- improvement and development.
Of course,  it’s the long-held Igbo ethos of ibu anyi danda; the same spirit that drove Ndigbo to build the Sam Mbakwe International Cargo Airport (SMICA) in the 80s before crowd funding was born, baptised and made a modern vogue.
It bears emphasising that SMICA is the only airport in Nigeria built solely by the people. It is also remarkable that Ibeme Community School (ICS) which is 80 years today, (having been founded in 1944) was established through the communal efforts of our fathers who sojourned in Port Harcourt.
In closing, it needs to be reported that it’s not only the primary school that was dilapidated, the entire Ibeme is in disrepair lacking roads,  hospital and other basic infrastructure.
 IUDI as a change agent is poised to kick off another project as help doesn’t seem to be coming from anywhere soon. Across the country, the LGAs which are set up to cater for the grassroots have been hamstrung by state governments. This is why a school would go to ruins in the first place –  because the LGA system in Nigeria has failed.
While others would choose to sit down and lament this sad situation, IUDI would rather seize the bull by the horn and take action.
As IUDI kicks off her PROJECT 2024, it beckons on friends, associates and all people of goodwill to come give a hand of support.

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