By Samuel Oyadongha
ANGALABIRI-VEHICLES were driven to Angalabiri, Ofoni, Ayamasa and Aleibiri riverine communities at Sagbama and Ekeremor Local Government Areas, Bayelsa State, the first time in history on October 14, shattering a jinx of over four decades.
No vehicle had entered the communities since conception, but the state governor, Hon Seriake Dickson, leading other government officials and his friend, a former deputy governor of Sokoto state, Alhaji Murktar Shagari, broke the curse with the ongoing construction of the N30 billion Sagbama-Ekeremor road project by his administration.
The road, which is 60 per cent completed, is expected to be completed in 2018. Joyous villagers, who saw vehicles only when they traveled to cities and never believed that vehicles will come into the locality in their lifetime, trooped out in large numbers to welcome the governor and his entourage.
At the moment, Toru-Orua, Angalabiri, and Ofoni on the Sagbama council area axis could be reached comfortably by road while the Ayamasa and Aleibiri stretch in Ekeremor council area could be reached by four- wheel vehicles.
Why we rolled out drums- Inhabitant
A villager told NDV: “We rolled out the drums because it was the first time in history that our people used to seeing only boats and other watercrafts, saw a long convoy of cars (all four -wheel vehicles) venturing into their land.”
“The adults were not left out as they were unanimous in their show of gratitude to the governor, who fulfilled his electoral promise to open up the area. The road, which traverses a large swathe of the dense mangrove swamp though yet to be completed, is a bold demonstration of man’s ability to tame his environment if only there is the political will,” he said.
Also, jubilant kids defied security operatives that escorted the governor and surrounded the Hilux Jeeps in approval.
Pa Andaowei, a 72- year- old fisherman, beaming with a smile, could not thank Governor Dickson enough on behalf of the Ekeremor communities, as he expressed appreciation to him for remembering them after they had been forgotten all for those years.
The septuagenarian said he was full of expectation that by next year, other vehicles will enter Ekeremor community by road.
We didn’t believe Dickson initially – Chief Oyarede
Spokesperson of Aleibiri Federated Communities, Chief Suru Oyarede, while thanking the governor for his commitment to the actualisation of the long abandoned road project, said: “When in 2012 Dickson came on board and announced the takeover of the project and his desire to go all out to construct the road, not many thought that it would ever see the light of the day.”
“Today, the governor has shamed the doubting Thomas, the cynics, the political jobbers and all those who had, over the years, played politics with this critical economic road. We lack words to appreciate the governor for what he has done for us as a people. He has wiped away our tears; he has made us feel that we are part of this country.”
Another promise fulfilled– Chief Agbedi
For Chief Fred Agbedi representing Sagbama-Ekeremor federal constituency: “This is another promise kept. A lot of people felt that nothing was going on but I think today the doubting Thomas has been proved wrong. I am sure they will come celebrating with us.”
Shagari, Okorotie hail Dickson
Secretary of the Bayelsa Elders Forum, Chief Thompson Okorotie, captured the mood and gratitude of the communities thus: “I am the happiest person over this development. It is only somebody like Dickson with an uncommon courage, with uncommon political will that can do what he is doing even at the time of recession.”
Former deputy governor of Sokoto state, Murktar Shagari, who accompanied Dickson, also expressed surprise at the boldness of the governor to construct the road in a swampy terrain.
He said even though it was obvious recession slowed down the work, the governor must be given kudos for continuing with it even with persistent economic hardship in the country.
Why I invited Shagari– Dickson
An elated Dickson, who asked the Niger Delta Development Commission, NDDC, to hands off the road, asserted: “They do not know what we go through to bring about development in this our difficult environment. I had to invite my good friend, Alhaji Muhktar Shagari, to accompany me so that he can see for himself how much this area is in need of development.”
He further asserted, “Most importantly, they do not know what we go through to bring about some semblance of development and so many more of our leaders will be invited to go round our state. Let them go into the creeks and see the conditions under which we live.”
Describing the project as strategic to the socio-economic development of the state, the governor said he was proud of his achievements, stressing that his administration has achieved 60 per cent completion of the road, which had been on the drawing board over the last four decades.
…promises to complete project
He said it was due to the long neglect of the federal road, which was being handled by NDDC that the state government took over the project to fast-track the development of the area.
Dickson, who assured the people that the road would get to Ekeremor by the end of next year, expressed gratitude to the chiefs and people of the area for supporting his administration and voting his party, PDP, in the last elections.
The Sagbama-Ekeremor road project designed as a ‘Trunk A’ road had been on the drawing board for more than 40 years, but was neglected by successive governments at the federal level.
Residents in western flank of the state have to go through Bomadi in neighboring Delta state before they can access their communities.