BY SIMON EBEGBULEM, BENIN CITY
Politicians from the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) and the All Progressives Congress (APC) in Edo State may have issues with Governor Adams Oshiomhole in the urban Benin-City due to political interests, but people in the rural communities, particularly in Imeagbe, Imiakagbu, Okpekpe and many other communities in Etsako West, East and Etsako Central Local Government Councils all in Edo North see Oshiomhole as a messiah due to what they described as the miraculous jobs he did in their areas. The people go to the mosque, church and shrine praying for the governor to become the President of Nigeria.
One can only understand the reason for their prayers against the backdrop of the history of some of the communities before the coming of the administration of Oshiomhole. The stories of some of the communities were quite emotional when they were told last week by their elders when the governor went to inspect road projects and bridges there.
Most of the communities were cut off due to the lack of access roads and bridges. As a matter of fact, wealthy sons and daughters from these areas preferred to build houses in Auchi and reside there with their families abandoning their ancestral homes. Successive governments in the state had been unable to open up the roads and link them up with bridges due to the difficult terrain.
There was also a belief that spirits in the area abhorred development as a result of which the area was destined to remain bushy and undeveloped. While the Anegbette axis is swampy, Okpekpe is hilly and rocky. And due to the terrain and lack of access roads, when a member of any of these communities died in the urban area during the rainy season, according to the villagers, he or she would not be buried until the next dry season. Consequently, Oshiomhole took the bull by the horn and blasted over 30 meters of the high hill and constructed three bridges linking over fifty communities in the district.
Today, the roads in Okpekpe with its hilly nature are as beautiful as the ones in San Francisco. That is why the International Athletics Federation hosted the Okpekpe race last year in which Oshiomhole participated. During the inspection of the road last week, the governor accosted a woman carrying bunches of banana from her farm in Imiagba to negotiate the price with her. As a typical rural woman, she did not know she was speaking with the governor of Edo State and simply told Oshiomhole that she could sell the banana at any price.
When she was given N50, 000 for three bunches of the banana, she screamed as the amount was too much for the produce. She went on to inform the governor that she was ready to give out the banana for free to government because of the road they built for them. She said:
“Oshiomhole built the road for us and God will bless him. At least we now see people moving around and we can now take our farm produce to the market. God will bless Oshiomhole”. Unknown to her, the man in front of her was Oshiomhole; apparently she thought he was a sanitary inspector as one of the government officials said.
Inspecting roads with the Edo governor is like engaging in a marathon race. The governor can afford to walk ten kilometres during inspections, meticulously looking at the quality of work done. Sometimes he turns a civil engineer. Though his style of inspecting projects is always painful, it has helped some of his commissioners who have pot bellies. For instance the Commissioner for Agriculture and Natural Resources, Mr Abdul Oroh, has trimmed down.
In Etsako East LGA, Oshiomhole inspected the Ayogwiri- Apana-Imiegba-Imiakebu road as well as the Apana-Okpekpe road, which cut through difficult rocky terrain. The roads are complete with bridges. Contrary to the insinuation in Benin- City that the governor’s popularity has dwindled due to his tax policies, men, women including the elderly thronged the streets to show their love and appreciation to him.
Addressing a jubilant crowd of residents at Imiakebu, who described the road cutting through the rocky terrain as a wonder of the century, Oshiomhole said, “I came here to assess the extent of work. When we started the road construction, people thought it will not be completed. Any good thing in man’s heart, God has a way of starting and bringing it to an end.Today, I am glad that the road project has been completed on schedule.
You can see the quality of the road, so by the grace of God, we will bring more development.” He used the occasion to direct the construction of a roundabout at the end of the Okpekpe road. He also promised to sink a borehole in Okpekpe so that the people can have access to potable water. While appreciating the efforts of the governor, the Onwuwueko of Okpekpe, Peter Osigbemhe, expressed thanks for the strides in road and schools in the area.
In Etsako Central, Oshiomhole, who was accompanied by the Chairman of the council, Mr Emmanuel Momoh, and the Commissioner for Works, Osarodion Ogie, inspected the Ugbekpe-Ekperi-Udaba-Anegbete road which is complete with two bridges. The governor noted that the road had to be redesigned and reconstructed following the flood disaster in the area, last year, occasioned by the overflowing of the banks of the River Niger, saying the state government will only build roads that will last. The clan head of Anegbette, Ogbodaga Yakubu, thanked the governor for the infrastructural development in Edo North and his effort at alleviating the plight of rain storm victims in the town and environs.
Also in Auchi, Etsako West Local Government Area, Oshiomhole inspected the Council road, Iyofa road, Okotokwe road, Iyekhe road among others which were completed with drainage system. The governor told the jubilant crowd who trooped out to receive him, “I decided to come and see all the roads in these areas. People can see what we are doing on the major roads but can’t see what we are doing in the villages and traditional areas where there were no roads. We decided that to fight erosion in Auchi, any road we are doing must include drainage so that water can flow in a coordinated manner”.
He appealed to people in the area to avoid dumping refuse in the drainage so as to keep the channels free. Governor Oshiomhole who was also at Jattu inspected the Jattu -Elele Road which is also complete with side drains.
Asked how the governor had been able to execute these projects despite the dwindling allocation from the Federation Account, the state Commissioner for Works, Barr.Ogie said, “It is a matter of priority. The governor had to look inward to beef up the internally generated revenue and he was able to block loopholes in government. It is purely discipline.
Just as we are working in urban areas, we are also working in rural areas as you can see during the inspection. The same standard of road you saw in Edo North is in Central and South senatorial districts and that is why you see that the people are happy. And once the people at the grassroots are happy, the governor is happy no matter what the opposition wants to say.
You will recall that he started work in areas that were abandoned, and these are the areas where the downtrodden resides and you can see that when you help such people, God will never abandon you at the time of your need. His works will campaign for the APC in 2015 and 2016 and that is why we are not troubled”.