Ugwuagba Obosi motor parts and the untapped Igbo technological wizardry
By Polycarp Onwubiko
A man whose rickety Volvo car always drags him to a reputable Volvo mechanic, Baba Yaro [not real name] and out of exasperation suggested that he would dump the car as he has another car. An informal discussion ensured among mechanics, their customer who had constant problem with his old car and a skilful panel, Peter Omeje. He had thought of dumping his car.
The mechanics and panel beater advised the worried man to visit famous the “Ugwuagba Obosi old motor parts market” for the faulty parts or to even fabricate parts that he could not afford because of the progressively rising costs.
A standby car owner chuckled and said: “Ugwuagba is a wonderful place where you see the Igbo man’s technological wizardry in action; try and travel to the place and all the problems in your will be solved.”
I had wondered and doubted the ‘wizardry’ in refurbishing certain motor spare parts and so dared to visit that “famous” spare parts market located in Idemili South local government of Anambra state.
The commercial motor cyclist that carried me from the sprawling Upper Iweka round-about to Ugwuagba explained the marvels at Ugwuagba thus: “All brands of vehicle spare parts are fabricated here. Almost on daily basis, trailers off-load container loads of spare parts and ‘Tokunbo’ vehicles imported and cleared at the Apapa wharf Lagos. One can buy a vehicle body and purchase parts and get mechanics to couple them while ‘wizards’ forge parts that are not within reach to get the vehicle on the road.”
I went round the expansive market and discovered many other items like food vendors and ancillary markets that feed the traders, mechanics and auto forging wizards. There are mountainous heaps of spare parts which visitors mistake as scraps. Nature is so wonderful that one would have thought that the whole place would be oozing offensive odour but motor engine and sundry oils smother such odour. Observation shows that people milling there appear to be the happiest people in the world as middle men, indentured servants and the unemployed always run around to lure potential buyers for ‘commission’.
Innocent Nweke and Ifedi were forthcoming with marvels that characterise Ugwuagba Obosi. They said: “Ugwuagba old motor parts serves the entire South-East, South-South, Rivers; even Benue states and north central geo-political zones come to the market.
“Traders from these states prefer coming here than travelling to Lagos to avoid the hassles at the port and old spare parts markets in Lagos metropolis. Here is more convenient and cheaper as trailers loaded with containers of ‘Tokunbo’ vehicles and spare parts of various dimensions arrive here almost on daily basis.
“Again there are all sorts of skills here who have demonstrated ‘wizardry’ in forging alternative motor spare parts more serviceable than the original parts called ‘follow come’ or ‘direct Belgium parts’.
Prodded to speak on sundry issues and challenges confronting the traders and buyers, they asked a boy to take me to the Chairman of the Ugwuagba old motor parts market for challenges facing the traders and buyers from other states of the federation. At the storey building where the administrative office of Ugwuagba Obosi Old Motor Parts Market was located, it turned out that the chairman, Chief Emmanuel Ohamadike Obiagwu was away from the office. Same was true of the vice chairman, Gerald Ugoegbe but, fortunately, the secretary general, Theophilus Nwaukwa was available.
I explained to him the need to make both the state and Idemili North governments to help make the atmosphere more conducive for the traders and their customers.
He said: “We are grateful to the past Governor Peter Obi who constructed the major road here and other basic facilities. Governor Willie Obiano has continued where his predecessor stopped and we are happy with his developmental projects and programmes. I can say that Ugwuagba Obosi old motor parts dealers contributed a lot to his returning for second tenure.
“He gave us ten million naira which we have used in building a mighty hall for our meetings and we are appealing for more money to raise the structure to develop the structure further and put facilities that will make the premises very comfortable to the delight of traders.
“We are appealing to the governor to rehabilitate the major road in the sprawling market which the former governor tarred. As the rain is coming, the place is prone to water logging and the gutters are silted. There is also the by-pass road inside Obosi which serves as outlet to avoid traffic decongestion along the express Onitsha-Owerri road.
“We undertake weekly clean-up to prevent water logging and flooding. We have boreholes, toilet facilities by government and transformers given by the former governor; in fact we are grateful to the state government.
On how the market union leadership is grappling the insecurity situation in the sprawling auto market, the vice chairman said that the market has evolved a tight security system but the only security lapses is the petty stealing called pick-pocket by rag-tag boys who trail traders from far away states who are not security conscious. “However, the management of the market is up to the task in apprehending the hoodlums and handing them over to the police for prosecution.”
On the relationship of the leadership of the market with the Obosi community in terms of imposing levies and sundry demands, Nwaukwa said that the land for the market was purchased and registered by the Old Motor Parts Dealers Association. The buildings were erected by the traders. “We have cordial relationship with Obosi people.”
On the fees and levies imposed by the state and Idemili North local government council, the vice chairman said: “The union pays Capitation Rate every year to the local government council. We also pay to the state government “Traders Tax and Development Levies” in addition to sanitation levy; we don’t pay fees for the stalls because traders built the stalls.”
Like every other place in the state, the traders face electric power challenges in the place. According to the secretary, “the state government installed solar energy light but it has developed problems; we are appealing to the governor to liaise with the Enugu Electricity Development Corporation, EEDC to find lasting solution to the power problem as it affects the skills of people who do a lot of fabrications to demonstrate the ingenuity of the Igbo and prove that we can march the white man’s technology. We prefer EEDC to the solar system energy source of power supply.”
On the elected local government council performances, the vice chairman appealed to the governor to observe the provisions of the constitution so that the third tier will be carrying out their statutory responsibilities. On the Fulani cattle menace and slaughtering of people and sacking them from their ancestral lands, Nwaukwa condemned the lackadaisical posturing of the federal government and appealed to President Muhammadu Buhari to observe the constitution which place security of lives and property as fundamental duty and responsibility of any representative and responsible government all over the world.
“The inspector general of police should disarm the Fulani herdsmen and appreciate the fact that arming the state government established vigilante groups assists the law enforcement agents to minimise criminality in the remote communities. The federal government is not really doing enough to check the killing herdsmen and the lethargy might lead to self-defence which is a recipe for anarchy.