By Iteveh Ekpokpobe
Delta State government is responsible. The governor, Senator Ifeanyi Okowa is the reason I am still a bachelor.
In my very young years, I learnt on the laps of my mother, Maria, that, women born and bred in coastal areas are most beautiful. She would describe how contoured their waistlines are. Their skins glow too. “Have you seen their eyes, Iteveh? Behind the water-clear innocence they radiate, is a fire of love no man can resist.” She told me this in later years when adulthood had crept in.
Years later, I have tried to access Iyede-Ame, one of the few Isoko coastal villages. All to catch a feel of what Mama said. It’s been a herculean task. The road is bad. It is strait. It is the kind of road Christians implore God to accompany them on. It is full of many dangers. There is no bridge, safe for a dilapidated makeshift manual conveyor. A Pontoon, constructed just after the Nigerian Civil War. The type one boards with his heart in his mouth.
Okowa has refused to construct the road to Iyede- Ame.
His refusal is five years into eight years of two terms. His refusal has subjected those locals to hardship untold. It has made them to question their identity as Deltans.
Iyede-Ame is a riverine community situated in Ndokwa East Local Government Area. It is one of the Isoko speaking towns found in the Old Aboh political division.
The Iyede-Ame access road was last constructed between 1993 and 1994. Not by government. The Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC) constructed the first road. The residues of the tar are telltale to its former existence. Late Chief Theo Ben Ekeh and grandson of the founder of Iyede-Ame had the details.
T.B Ekeh ruled Iyede-Ame for twenty one years. He pushed for the road’s early construction. It was done. He later clamoured for a resurface. The SPDC turned deaf ears. The resultant effect was the complete dilapidation which now nags the residents. Death did not also wait for him to push further. He was buried among his kindred spirits recently.
Ufuoma Ekeh, his great grandson, recounts that their great grandfather founded the village in the early years of the 19th century. “The man ran for his life from Otor-Iyede. Stories have it that he was almost killed for rituals. That the king had an annual festival of killing men he supposed stronger than him by ordering that a palm tree be cut and any man he picks must catch the falling tree with his hands. How can one man catch a falling tree? It was blatant invitation to suicide.”
Ufuoma narrates that his Grandfather got the hint a night before, that he would be selected by the king. He and family, before dawn, made away. They crossed the brooks of Asaba- Ase and found land along the coasts. They found life. They decided to live there. As the years went by, so was an increase in population recorded. Interaction with traders who ply the river engineered commerce in the zone. It became a land of rugged and untamed beauty, a place where people held fast to the old ways; proud people of ancient mettle.
At the moment, the community is bordered by Onogboko, Igeh, Ivrogbo, Akara-etiti, Utue and Lagos Iyede-Ame, an adjunct community. The town has two major quarters, Ushie and Ogbodogbo with several other adjoining communes, the mainstay economic activity being agriculture ranging from cassava production, plantain, yam, ozi, palm oil, fish, timber etc.
The community has a community high school with the name Iyede-Ame Secondary School- formerly Iyede-Ame Grammar School, opened in 1980. There is also an elementary school, Orewo Primary School, named after a fertility deity of the community.
Sadly, there is no health centre. There is no power supply. The electric poles erected for aeons are not wired. The community is not connected to the grid. Hence no portable water. How is this community expected to pump water without electricity?
The same SPDC constructed a solar powered water borehole for them. It did not last due to technical failure. That project is now moribund. Another ‘sign board’ to brag to the world that “we get am before”.
The Iyede-Ame story is not a nice one. Twenty first century has many cloaks of standards. One of such is availability of basic needs; health for all and portable water as a necessity and many more. The people of Iyede_Ame have been deprived for far too long. Their access to modern civilization is restricted. And that is the worst punishment any people can get in a digital world.
Barely weeks after heartbreak; when I was trying to find a wife; when my intuitions had pointed me towards Iyede-Ame. The lack of road is now a setback.
One of the voices crying in the wilderness, Mrs. Angela Ukponmwan, called this morning, in the Umeh Need Road (UNR) Facebook loop, that Chronic bachelors searching for wives should please take this advocacy for Iyede-Ame seriously, because that bridge could be the only reason they have not seen their wives. She concluded that “She is right there looking for a way to come out so that you can see her.”
I am not among those folks who believe that Governor Okowa is a ‘Road Master’. Many of the acclaimed roads have failed. Others are fast failing. For me, the true test will be in the award and construction of the Iyede- Ame road.
Let him prove himself now, by perfecting what he did in the Ijaw coasts. The Asphalt Overlay of the 19.7km Obutobo 1 –Obutobo11 – Sokebolou – Yokori road in Burutu Local Government Area. Those roads on the islands of Okerenkoko, Opuraza, Ogulagha, Burutu, Ogidigben and others.
I may just meet my wife soon. I may just be soon hinged. But I am deprived. Someone should tell ‘Ekwueme’ to stop depriving me. He should give Iyede-Ame Road!
*Iteveh Ekpokpobe, is Public Relations Executive and Investigative Journalist.