While growing up, we shared stories about roads that were once the dwelling places for deities and other supernatural beings. The stories then were that the portions of the roads, where these beings reside or once had their altars/shrines, are always bad. Some of these stories abound to date and seem to hold true because there seem to be parts of our roads that can never be fixed, irrespective of what construction companies do there.
There was this story about a part of the Enugu-Onitsha expressway that can never be fixed because it once housed a river goddess, aka mammy water. Stories then had it that the place had a big river, where indigenes came to drop their sacrifices for the river goddess. From the descriptions we had, this portion of the road is close to Enugu city and is situated near a valley. In the said area, a bridge was constructed to run across the river because the goddess sends her river to wash out roads constructed close to the river. So, the construction company, realising the goddess didn’t want disturbance, decided to build a bridge, which was more expensive.
However, because of the activities of man, which included constant defilement of the sacred river and the disturbance of the plying vehicles, the river goddess relocated her river. But before doing that, she cursed that portion of the road and vowed that it will never be in a good state. Legend has it that the goddess believed that she was tricked by the representative of the construction company, who promised that the bridge will not disturb her peace. This story used to make our day then even though it sounded stupid. But right now, each time I pass Ugwu Onyeama, located at the Enugu axis of the expressway, I couldn’t help but wonder if our childhood stories were true. If you ask me, I will say that Ugwu Onyeama is the legendary portion of the road that was cursed by the river goddess because it disturbed and desecrated her divine abode.
There is no road user that looks forward to passing through Ugwu Onyeama. Smaller vehicles, such as omnibuses and cars, have options of taking the Milky Hill route to avoid Ugwu Onyeama but heavy-duty trucks and long vehicles are cursed with meeting Ugwu Onyeama whenever they need to take that expressway. Many traders have lost their wares on that particular portion because their trucks fell. Some spend hours if not days on that same portion because a broken or fallen vehicle blocked the road and caused everyone to wait for it to be fixed. As if the sufferings people encounter weren’t enough, a part of it has been turned into an official site for the state’s waste disposal.
The use of an area close to that road as a dumping site is one thing that remains confusing. Since the Enugu State Government already knows how bad that road is and the several losses that happen there, it is quite wrong for it to choose that area for a dumpsite. Today, as drivers struggle with going in and out of gullies as well as swerving to avoid head-on collisions with oncoming vehicles, they have to add avoiding heaps of refuse on the road to their problems. Not only that, the burning of the refuse releases thick smoke into the road and causes drivers to have poor visions of their surroundings. I don’t know why Ugwu Onyeama has been chosen to be this way except that the river goddess legend might be true after all.
It is not today that attention has been drawn to that death trap of a road. I remember putting up a post two years ago concerning this same road. The only thing we see here is the government sending construction companies to grade and patch-up some portions of the road, only for it to get spoilt soon. That part of the road has been in a bad state for decades now and nothing shows it is about to be fixed anytime soon. Even the construction of the Enugu-Onitsha Expressway stopped a few kilometres away from Ugwu Onyeama, giving the impression that it is not included in the original plan. No one knows what is stopping that place from being put in order.
So here is notifying the Federal Government of Nigeria and the Enugu State Government to do something about the Ugwu Onyeama axis of the expressway unless they too are afraid of the legendary Mammy Water.