Last month, I was privileged to visit Otuoke, the birth place and home of our President. Otuoke is a tiny village in Ogbia Central L.G.A in Bayelsa State.
As I began my journey from Yenagoa to Otuoke, I wondered what to expect as I travelled on the narrow road sandwiched by bushes on both sides which was obviously recuperating from the effect of the flood that had hit the communities in that local government area.
We passed through Elebele, a rural community brightened only by a few petty businesses… nothing spectacular. Next was Imiringi, a sleepy town awakened temporarily by the presence of the Federal Government Girls’ College, the Catholic hospital and a few restaurants a.k.a ‘bukas’. I wasn’t expecting much more, so that was fine. Emeyal was next, and to be honest, it was the usual somnolent atmosphere boosted by its listless citizens. Indeed, this was the prevalent mood in most of the towns that I passed through till I got to a junction (I don’t recall its name). The road on the right I was told led to Otuoke and without any hesitation, I made a dash for Otuoke. The road leading into Otuoke was surprisingly smooth and free of potholes. At some point there was even an army check point manned by heavily armed soldiers, and this signalled our entrance into Otuoke Town; this was when I began to suspect ‘danger’.
As I passed the check point and approached the town I didn’t know when I blurted out “Mamma Mia!!!”The air was rather refreshing, the mood was gay and I didn’t see children running around in panties. The roads built by Julius Berger spoke for themselves; they even came with drainages and street lights, no kidding! I knew I was in for more surprises so I wisely ’employed’ a tour guide who showed me around this ‘small London’.
I saw a mega hotel purportedly owned by the President’s wife; I was also shown the site of the completed Federal University, Otuoke. Now, this is it! Having a Federal University was all it took to resurrect the once comatose village. I was told by my guide that before President Jonathan ascended the throne, Otuoke was even more ‘lifeless’ than the other towns. It was a deserted town that nobody wanted to come to, but at present, there are boutiques and other businesses, mobile ambulances, a town square that could have competed with the Abuja eagles square in quality if only it was bigger. The Anglican Church rebuilt by (guess who?) would make Rome’s St. Peter’s basilica look very modest; The Church auditorium, Bishop’s court, the Church conference hall, the prayer chapel, I mean! Everything spoke money.
Then I looked up and beheld two ‘out of this world’ kinda buildings, better by a huge span than most of the ‘palaces’ in Abuja, complete with surveillance cameras and massive generating sets. I was informed that one was for the President’s Father while the other was for his Mother.
“Oga Zohn, now dis one na him be d president house,” my guide informed me pointing at another edifice.
“Mamma Mia!!!” I screamed again, this time deliberately as I beheld the gigantic 2 storied castle. However, I was quickly informed that the President didn’t like it anymore and so had contracted Gitto Construzioni to begin the construction of a befitting home for a President of his stature. What I saw is rather witnessed than told.
Was this kind of development a coincidence or was it deliberate? How is it that Julius Berger built the Otuoke roads? Otuoke had street lights, the Federal University was situated there and the neighbouring villages were living in squalor? Did I also mention that I was informed that there is uninterrupted power supply in Otuoke? My guide told me ‘Oga dem never take light here for almost 4 days nowoo’.
In Otuoke, everyone seems to be happy, like they are living on a salary, but you can also sense that they are very expectant; everyone seems to be waiting for the return of President Jonathan. Like the biblical prophecy of the Christ’s coming, ‘when thou shalt hear the sound of the helicopter landing on the helipad on top of the President’s house, know ye that he is nigh.’ And whenever he comes, a family could receive up to N100, 000, I am told. Youth groups, Corpers, (self-imposed) widows, and pensioners would all congregate at his door step. One would have to be orderly though because “the money go reach everybody”.
This isn’t a hate article towards President GEJ, because I probably would do more for my beloved village, Essien town, in Calabar. By the way, I just remembered some roads in Essien Town are bad and honestly I think we need a flyover, a cinema, an amusement park, a rail system for easy movement within the community, etc. This means I could even do worse than what President Jonathan has done in Otuoke, and if I did it, I would be as guilty as Jonathan is. When there is uninterrupted power supply in a place simply because the President hails from there that is selective development. When the roads in a town are constructed by Julius Berger and are pothole free because it is ‘Oga’s village’, while people are dying daily on Benin-Ore road, isn’t that robbing Temi to pay Timi? Was it the President’s salary that funded all these? I shake my head in doubt.
While I celebrate the socio-economic awakening that has fortuitously arrived in Otuoke, I earnestly wish it was replicated in inconsequential and very dark places like Zango Kataf in Kaduna, Mkpod in Oban, Cross River State, Alimini in Rivers State among others.
For now, I consider the Otuoke wonderment a show of nepotism that only escalates the inordinate intention for power and balkanises communities who are victims of imbalance in the developmental equation.
For now, also, I am really, really considering running for presidency, and when that happens, get ready for a new Federal Capital Territory; ESSIEN TOWN!
John Offiong [SAVVY]