TNG Special: Obio/Akpor embassy in Abuja where constituents ‘smoke garri” on arrival from Rivers
By Emma Ovuakporie
…only Ikwerre music is played
…established 5years ago by Rep Kingsley Chinda for his constituents
…guests also enjoy free transport
Obio/Akpor Embassy is located in the heart of Suncity Estate in Abuja, the Federal Capital city, arguably one of the biggest estates in Africa.
One of the amazing features of the embassy is the ‘smoking of garri’ by guests on arrival from Obio/Akpor constituency where Kingsley Chinda represents in the House of Representatives.
In a chat with TNG, Chinda tells the story of how the embassy came to being from his University days in Rivers State University.
The Obio/Akpor embassy idea started way back as an undergraduate when I went into the Rivers state University, I discovered that no son or daughter of Ikwerre descent has been the president of the student union and I also saw that the Ikwerre students there were weak generally and I thought of what to do in order to sensitize and conscientize them.
So the first thing I decided to do even as a new student, a first year student was to set up what I call the Ikwerre embassy in the school, we got a banner, flew the banner in front of my room and went home to get a bag of garri knowing that students are always looking for garri to drink.
And so if you come to the Ikwerre embassy, we always give you free garri to drink and that attracted a lot of students coming to our room to get garri to drink and that popularized the room and also the Ikwerre embassy.
So anywhere on campus, if you are too hungry the next thing you hear is that I am going to Ikwerre embassy to smoke garri.
And we also played traditional Ikwerre music very early hours of the morning which we call eregbu, we will play that cassette and students will also be screaming and cursing and shouting, asking why are this Ikwerre people disturbing us, why won’t they allow us to sleep and all that.
But because they had that palliative of getting free garri from us nobody would want to attack, nobody would want to actually show any sign of strong enmity and so that helped to grow the Ikwerre student union in school.
Those who had issues knowing that there is an Ikwerre embassy, both girls and boys who had issues with accommodation or who had financial issues will always run to the embassy to tell us their problem and we struggle within our limits to solve them.
Now when I became a commissioner for environment in Rivers state I also had several calls from our people, some stranded in Lagos, Abuja that they don’t have money for accommodation, money for transport back home, either they came for visa application or for job interview and all that.
And those days the technology that we have now was not fully developed, so transfers were a little bit difficult. Where I wanted to assist, I had to either look for a friend who is in Lagos or Abuja to give money to such stranded persons to come back home.
So it occurred to me that perhaps the local government council can even build a hotel either in Lagos or Abuja, where some of our persons could have either subsidized or free accommodation, if they come for official purposes, not pleasure trips.
So when I had the opportunity to run for the house of Reps, I just made up my mind that one of the things I would do is to see how I can tackle accommodation to a reasonable extent for my constituents.
And so I assured that once we step our foot in the national assembly, that we are going to set up the Obia/Akpor embassy which will provide hospitality services for constituents that are coming for official purposes and that we would provide that for just three nights, so you have three nights free of charge a place to sleep, that will enable you carry out your business and go back home.
And to that we added a free transport scheme. So every month a bus leaves Abuja for Port Harcourt and takes people back.