The Last Bus-Stop for the Mad; Tale of a Community in Abia State

Going to Amaudo, Itumbauzo, in Bende Local Government Area of Abia State, is like the biblical journey through the valley of the shadow of death. It is akin to journey to Golgotha or a trip to the land of spirits.

The facility (left) & Eze Chima Ndom, Onyirimba nke Itumbauzo Ancient Kingdom (right)
The facility (left) & Eze Chima Ndom, Onyirimba nke Itumbauzo Ancient Kingdom (right)
Amaudo belongs to another time and age. The road is indescribable; it is narrow, broken and gully-ridden. Going there, you feel like you just might be heading to the edge of the earth. It’s the end of all roads. The people navigate precipitously on motor cycles, as only a handful of vehicles go there. In fact, taking a vehicle there is a risky venture because there is no guarantee that man and machine will come out intact.
Ordinarily, the area should have a special strategic significance because it is the boundary between Abia and Akwa Ibom states. So, it is a delicate touch of irony that the people speak languages obtainable in the two states. But it is neglected and abandoned, sitting in the sun like a forgotten old woman.
Yes, Amaudo is in tatters, like a mad fellow. Ironically, mad people are cured there. In fact, it was gathered that no mad person goes there and remains the same after three months.
Place of peace
Amaudo Itumbauzo Centre for Mentally Ill Destitute is a haven of peace and tranquillity. Tucked inside a very remote location, it is not a place you could easily stumble on. Yet, it provides succour to troubled heads, minds and hearts. The area still retains much of its natural setting; there are trees and shrubs with birds singing merrily.
The serenity of the environment is profound. The premises are quiet and green. It’s a patch of Eden. Once in a while, you see some of the inmates walking as if in a trance. One of them, a shrinking violet, actually asked the reporter to give him money during a recent visit.
The facility “provides accessible, affordable and sustainable systems of mental health care as well as rehabilitation for individuals, who have become homeless due to mental health problems and learning disabilities.” The home has capacity for about 65 inmates. Perhaps, because of stigmatisation, the inmates are not unnecessarily exposed. They are divided into sections or houses and each one has a house parent, who takes care of them.
Admission of patients  
Offering insight into how inmates get into the facility, the paramount ruler of the community, Eze Chima Ndom, Onyirimba nke Itumbauzo Ancient Kingdom, said: “In the beginning, people do not bring in inmates on their own. The management of the centre picked those you can call the rejected from the streets. Later on, I learnt, the policy was amended, whereby you can bring in your relation and he or she will be accepted if you meet up the requirements. I love that amendment.”
Sister Charity, who works in the centre, further disclosed that patients picked by the roadside are treated and fed free, while patients brought in by relations pay N60, 000.  Such patient, she added, must also be accompanied by someone and that person will take care of his or her own feeding. She further said that patients were treated and discharged within three months. “Nobody comes here and remains the same after three months,”  she stated.
Genesis and benefits
How did the centre come about and what does the community benefit from it? Eze Ndom volunteered: “The establishment of the centre is of immense benefit to us. It was in 1990 that Nkechi Colwill from England came here, saying that she wanted to open a welfare centre. I promised to give her a land for the project. So, we started looking for land, but it was not without problems. I encountered some challenges before we got the site. The centre has been established and young men and women learning vocations are from all over the state. Some of them come from other states. There are some people who got scholarship because of their relationship with Amaudo. So, that’s one of the benefits we derive from the establishment of the project.
“The greatest benefit is that the destitute and mad people feeding from the garbage bin are no longer there. From time to time, they go and get another set if the previous set had become okay and discharged. Usually, government officials and the locals are invited to the discharge service.
“When it started, Nkechi Colwill used to bring in white workers, but while that was going on, we wondered what would happen if they left, in terms of taking over the management of the place. So, we recommended the bringing and training of a reverend gentleman to take over from the white people. If you go there now, you won’t see any white person; you will see Kenneth Nwaubani, who is the director general. At first, I was threatened by some people, who were not happy that I brought in the woman. I told them I was the person and they asked if I knew the danger of what I had done. I asked them what the danger was and they said that the mad people would negatively influence my people. We accepted them with our full heart.”
Understanding mad people
The royal father further said: “We used to hear that mad people were violent; we thought that they attacked people. We soon saw how the white woman brought them in. She used to entice them with food and sweet words. So, we discovered that they were not violent and we have learnt to bring them in. We are not afraid of them. It is only people who are not informed that think that they are violent.”
He added regrettably that the lot of the people are unhappy. “We have gone to successive governments to ask for help and they would tell us that it was noted. It is being noted for many years till today. The only road we have is terribly bad. We are not being treated properly, as far as provision of amenities is concerned. We do not have electricity; they just lined up poles. We’ve never had electricity since the world was created. We also lack potable water. If you come here during the dry season, you will not like to drink our water. Our water looks like tea; we go looking for water inside the bush. We are really suffering. Another thing is that our people are not adequately represented in the scheme of things. Our young graduates are not been given jobs,” he lamented.

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