Last week, we sought to draw attention to the hell on the Auchi-Benin- Ekpoma Road in Edo State. During that discussion, we mentioned that this road in particular is a road which leading politicians of Edo state extraction could take on, judging from the political weight and clout that they wield. We also mentioned the names of Edo politicians who in our estimation could pull resources together and bring the network of their political power to bear on the rehabilitation the Benin Auchi Ekpoma Road.
One of the things that I did not say last week is how the terrible condition of that road takes credit for many of Edo’s security problems – kidnapping, assassinations and killings. In 2022, my church member Ella Williams was shot dead on that road, together with the spate of kidnappings that rocked Edo. Another point we failed to highlight is that these Edo political bigwigs don’t ply that road. If they did, my guess is that the affliction they would pass through on that road might spur them to action.
However, while the focus last week was on this Edo road, I was to find out over the weekend that the Benin-Auchi-Ekpoma Road is not the only road in the south-south of Nigeria that is hellish. There are a great many of them. I found this out from travelling from Benin City to Kwale in Delta State to grace an occasion. To get to Kwale, you would first of all get to Agbor. From Agbor, you veer off the main/new road to your right and if everything is fine and well, you would be in Kwale within 20 minutes.
From the point that you veer off to your right to Kwale, you are to find yourself on a hill overlooking Boji-Boji Owa. What you see from atop this hill is a quaint little city spread out like unbroken china in the sun. For all of the towns and cities in this part of Delta State – Ogwashi Uku, Umunede, Asaba & co, the scenery is a picturesque one. Apart from just passing through on the day of this visit to Kwale, I know these towns to be able to make a comment or two about how much ‘development’ has taken place in them – as a young lad, I went to a school in Delta state which I refer to as the Harvard of the Delta. From there, I attempted to gain admission to the Ogwashi-Uku Polytechnic, lived there awhile before moving to Kwale whilst an undergraduate. Based on the above, I was able to understand some of the topography, the demography and political calculations of this region of the South-South.
Some years after I came back to Agbor, I was to be pleasantly surprised how much of Owa had ‘developed’. If you drove through Owa itself, you would find it decked on both sides with solar-powered street lights and well-laid out culverts. In the political configuration of Delta state, the Anioma peoples seem to come third in population after their Urhobo and Itsekiri brothers. The argument was that after the tenures of James Ibori, (Urhobo) Emmanuel Uduaghan (Itsekiri), it became the ‘turn’ of the people of Anioma to use resources of Delta State to ‘develop’ their own part of the state after Ibori and Uduaghan.
But the ‘development’ which has taken place on the road leading from Umutu to Kwale in Delta state appears to me to be a sham. For as we embarked on this journey from Agbor to Kwale, which ordinarily should be no less than 30 – 45 minutes, we had to spent over two hours meandering through thoroughfares. That thoroughfare led us straight into Premier Forest where we found several ‘hidden’ acres of a rubber tree plantation. Nobody of the over 40 passengers in that vehicle had a kind word for the people responsible for this long, tortuous journey which we were subjected.
What I found out as we entered Kwale was that there were posters of well-placed Anioma people, strategically positioned after the bad spots, calling on Anioma in Delta state to vote them in, in the 2023 elections. Looking at the distraught faces of my fellow passengers, I was sure that the irony of the posters on bad roads was not lost on us. The supreme irony however is that the people seemingly responsible for taking action on that road, and who have not taken action or done soothing about the Umutu-Kwale road were the ones with the biggest posters.
For our journey back to Benin City, the driver decided to test the vehicle against the broken, twisted, bent and mangled Umutu road instead of making a detour again through the hinterlands. It was a costly mistake, and this was that after we suffered through and got to Okhuaihe, one of our vehicles almost caught fire. That no life was lost was a miracle from God. It would have been a needless waste of human life.
The state of the Umutu-Agbor Road is no different from the Benin Ekpoma- Auchi Road in terms of its poor condition. It is a ‘state’ road and it’s such a shame that the outgoing government of Dr Ifeanyi Okowa left it to disintegrate.
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