By Dayo Omoogun
Akoko-Edo Local Government Area of Edo State is located on the northern tip of the state marking its boundary with Kogi and Ondo States. With Igarra as headquarters, it is made up of such towns and villages as Igarra, Ibillo, Ososo, Lampese, Okpe, Ikpeshi, Atte, Uneme-Nekhua, Uneme-Erhurun, Somorika, Imoga, Enwan, Akuku, Ojirami and a host of others.
Akoko-Edo is about the oldest local government in the entire federation as of today having started out as a province way back in the 1960s with some contemporaries that have since being broken into two or more local government areas. There’s no debating the fact that such jurisdictions have since left us far behind in terms of visibility, relevance, infrastructural and social development. The travesty of retaining Akoko-Edo as one local government for so long is not lost on us the indigenes even if others carry on as though there is nothing the matter. This is the first point of neglect that needs once again to be brought in to public focus for urgent redress. The ready answer to this will be that the process of creating local government areas under this dispensation is quite cumbersome and very difficult to achieve. If that is true, how about trying the Lagos model where aside the nationally recognized 20 Local Government Areas (LGAs) the state has created several Local Community Development Areas(LCDAs) all in a bid for a deeper developmental penetration across the entire state.
We are not oblivious of the now fairly popular narrative thatsquabbling amongst the various Akoko-Edo communities over the location of the headquarters of the proposed new local government areas at the time deprived us of converting the most recent opportunity we had to reality. This is a very puerile argument because if the government of that day was really decided on creating new local governments out of Akoko-Edo it could have done so as was done in the case of a South-South state where till today some people are still unhappy at the site of the capital. Is that area not better for it development-wise now? After all, the government that did the last creations was one that ruled by fiat and could have gone ahead knowing the inherent benefits. Can anyone really disabuse the inclination of many people in the area from the belief that the loss was premeditated seeing that the opportunity was quickly transferred to another locality within the state thereby putting paid to our aspiration?Even among siblings there can be bickering over a father’s estate as each party angles for a better portion talk more of people of various heritage and ancestry . The government could havr gone ahead using its best judgement.
Akoko-Edo remains one of the local government areas without a higher institution be it federal or state. The promise exacted from the state government earlier in the year or late last year to the effect that a satellite campus of one of its institutions will be sited in the LGA has remained just that –a promise. While this remains the ugly scenario of our dear LGA, Etsako another LGA boasts of the Federal Polytechnic, Auchi as well as the Edo State University located in Oshiomhole’s Iyamho village. While we do not really begrudge them of their good fortune we believe that the saying that “what is good for the goose is good for the gander” is still valid. We believe also that at all at all na im bad,at all at all na im be winch. Indeed, this matter is gradually qualifying as a case of bewitchment. Else, how can our land be so consistently, brazenly neglected from regime to regime andfrom generation to generation?
Still on the matter of tertiary institution, the bill for the Federal School of Mines and Geology has become both a bait and a mirage. A bait to garner votes around every election cycle and a mirage where the more you look, the less you see. Recall that our man at the House of Representatives had reportedly said in an interaction with members of the Akoko-Edo Forum early in the year that the bill establishing the school was awaiting signing into law by the President and he was hopeful this would be done before the end of the year. However, the discrepancy between his claim that the bill had been passed by both the red and green chambers of the National Assembly as at Januarywhen the town hall held and was already awaiting the President’s assent when juxtaposed against a report that surfaced much later in October which stated that the bill only passed the First Reading at the Senate in February and was yet to scale second and third reading less than three months to the end of the year leaves much to be desired. It smacks of disingenuousness, contempt and a deliberate desire to deceive the people. In a much more discerning setting he would have been taken to task to reconcile the discrepancy or have his integrity scarred forever. It is noteworthy that neither of the reports was denied. It is interesting to note that this Akoko-Edo Federal Representative, Peter Akpatason, is currently the number four man by protocol in the House of Representatives. Number 4 man! This should have meant good news but unfortunately it only ends upaccentuating the unfortunate irony of our existential reality.
The area has one general hospital that has only one medical doctor as at date. The United Nations standard ratio of doctor to patients is one doctor to 400 patients. Recently there was an outcry following the migration of hundreds of Nigerian medical Doctors in search of greener pastures abroad that the ratio had worsened drastically in Nigeria to one doctor to 6400 patients. It is therefore depressing to imagine the likely ratio which obtains in our locality where if you put together all the doctors operating their private practices in addition to the one of the general hospital, they may still not be more than 25. Please do the math yourself for an area that the population is conservatively put at 400,000 people.
The most irksome of the entire Akoko-Edo travails is the part being played by the Obaseki regime, by omission or commission, not only in perpetrating the tradition of neglect but in taking it to worse, ridiculous, unpardonable levels despite the huge support he and his party got from the area while pitching for his second term in office and in spite of his several promises.
Need we remind the governor of his numerous promises most of which are yet to transcend lip service half way through his second and final term? According to a report in the Vanguard newspaper edition of January 26, 2019, Governor Godwin Obaseki announced that he was going to provide an ArmouredPersonnel Carrier and collaborate with security agencies to improve security of life and property in the area and boost commercial activities in Igarra Town.
According to the report, he added that arrangements have (had)been made to get the Ojirami Dam functional. It will soon be 3 whole years since that statement was made. Ojirami has still not functioned.
In recent weeks, the utter disdain for Akoko-Edo showed starkly in its non-inclusion in a number of programs which the state government put in place for the benefit of the citizens due to flimsy, somewhat unfounded excuses.
First, the state empowered 500 farmers with 171 small irrigation gadgets towards enhancing the 2022 Dry Season Farming. Under this scheme which is intended to empower smallholder farmers by aiding their production throughout the dry season, Ovia Local Government got 139, Etsako got 20 but Akoko-Edo got none. Upon investigation, the reason adduced was that our local government area has no viable water source. By the way, whose fault is it if the area has no good water source when the government continues to mindlessly ignore the Ojirami Dam?
By far the most poignant evidence that Akoko-Edo does not matter in the scheme of things is the response of the government to the outcry of indigenes to the incessant kidnap of citizens on our roads and within our towns and villages. Following such an incident recently which provoked the hue and cry of the people,the State exco reportedly had an emergency meeting after which a decrepit motor bike was sent to the local security group. And that was it! Will it be out of place to ask our dear Obaseki about the Armoured Personnel Carrier he promised? If he has forgotten, we implore his deputy, Comrade Philip Shuaibu to remind him.
There is mining activity going on in the local government area which clearly is to the knowledge of the state government and at a time when it has become fashionable for states to regularlyflash the resource control card it will be nice to know whether the states have clean hands to qualify for equity. Is there any priority or concession granted to the locals in terms of employment or investment participation? Does the LGA earn any royalties from the activity? Do the mining organisationshave any Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) initiatives in place to improve the welfare and infrastructure of the communities being so ravished and ravaged? We will be glad to have positive answers to these posers. There are several other areas where the pact with the Obaseki administration has been disregarded and breached but let us limit it to these for this piece.
If we are going to be honest with ourselves we must not be sparing of our own elites too. Indeed, Akoko-Edo has been blessed with elites who have at one time or the other occupied powerful positions that could truly change the game positively for a lot of our struggling youth through gainful employment or business opportunities. Only a few go out of their way to look out for the interests of our LGA? If we do not understand that we are double minorities and we must maximize our opportunities towards enhancing our collective development, progress and relevance, then we have a very long way to go!Indeed there is a particular case where a friend of mine was about to get a contract with one of the education agencies and the last requirement was for his representative to endorse it by his signature. The lawmaker allegedly withheld his signature on the grounds that he also does business with the same agency and that his endorsement of his constituent’s contract might block his own chances. All entreaties by close allies of the legislator fell on deaf ears leading to the constituent’s loss of opportunity. Talk about representation!
I think we are afflicted by what I call “smallness syndrome” or a mentality of smallness, which ensures that we operate from a narrow prism of self and family, sometimes even sans family, no matter how high God elevates us. It is a foul spirit that is overdue for exorcism! While the already big peoples and tribes are fighting to gain more space, relevance and power, the people who most often remain aloof are the minorities apparently trusting that manna will fall from heaven.
Let me make some very important points as I close this piece. Someone has said emphatically that the only way for the Akoko-Edo sorry story to change is if an Akoko-Edo indigene becomes governor of the state. This is true only half-way because the personality of the individual who gets the seat will matter much more. If that individual attempts to be more righteous than God, if he is lily –livered, easily pliable, if he is afflicted with smallness syndrome as described above, if he is too exotic or “oyinboish” in his thinking, we will still not get the desired change. The truth is you can have someone with both the yam and the knife but who knows nothing about how to apportion appropriately or beneficially! You can have a puppet in borrowed robes. Let us therefore rise up and assert ourselves legitimately, within the confines of the law, for the benefit of our people and home land, wherever God has helped us to wield some influence. We must be intentional about seizing the moment. This way we will begin to make some headway and truly be ready for the governorship when it comes!
Are we ready to embark on PEACEFUL demonstrations at theState House of Assembly, Governor’s office as well as at the National Assembly to press our demands? Are we ready to utilize the media through paid public notices to tell the world about our frustrations? Are we ready to get more politically involved? Are we ready to take issues up legally with the government where clear travesties and injustices have been committed? Are we ready to invest more in our villages/ towns through private businesses? Are we all ready to take pride in and promote our culture like the Ososo people are doing? When we are ready in these ways, the world will take notice and it will become increasingly difficult to trifle with us?
As I put these thoughts on paper on this last day of the year 2022, I challenge us as a people to drop our timidity, our laidback, uncaring attitude. We must let them go so we can enter a new phase from 2023. We must add works to our faith lest it be dead.