By Paul Orie
THE greatest riddle confronting the people of Ndokwa East Council of Delta State today is underdevelopment. How to extricate themselves from this permanent state of distress is a distressing task particularly in a multi-ethnic state where the struggle for resources remains tense. For the calm and peaceful people of Ndosimili of Ndokwa East, this season of electioneering campaigns with politicians in the state issuing campaign promises to various communities in Delta State, they (Ndokwa East) people have not seen any politician from any of the political parties driving into Ndokwa East communities with their campaign vehicles festooned with posters like what is seen in Warri, Ughelli, Obiamku, Umutu, Ozora, Oleh, Asaba, Agbor, Sapele and a host of other communities across the state. They cannot campaign in the over 90 percent of Ndokwa East towns because vehicles, motorcycles cannot access the largely reverine areas of the Local Council. The terrain remains a hindrance to all forms of human activities.
Furthermore, Ndokwa East communities are sandwiched between the River Niger and Ase Creek, the latter being a major tributary of the former. Sadly, one finds a lot of River Niger distributaries and rivulets either meandering through or truncating the various communities, their forests and farmlands.
This is the proximate reason why politicians in the state who profess to bring development to the people through politics abhor travelling to Ndokwa East to canvass for votes in the communities safe for Ashaka and Ossissa Along Ase creek with motorable terrain. One has to state clearly that the deliberate policy of politicians, governors of the state not to study where they govern intend to govern, is an act of unpatriotism and dereliction of duty which they will not accept.
For record purposes, the only high ranking government officials who visited Ndokwa East were the late former military Governor of Midwest State, Dr Samuel Ogbemudia who in 1975 flew on aircraft to Aboh for the installation of the present monarch of the town, Obi Imegwu; General Ibrahim Babangida in 1988 flew into Okpai to commission the gas plant and later former Nigerian President, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo travelled by road through Ashaka to Okpai to commission the Independent Power Plant, IPP, in 2005 owing to the protest by Ndokwa women compelling him to travel there by road to see the agonising situation of the people of Ndokwa East.
Also in 1995, under the regime of the late General Sani Abacha, following the persistent agitation of Ijaw and Ogoni revolutionaries against the continued administration of injustice on the oppressed Niger Delta people, which has not ceased, the Ministers of Petroleum Resources, Finance and Internal Affairs, Chief Dan Etiebet, the late Chief Melford Okilo and the late Alhaji Abubakar Alhaji were in Okpai, known to have a large gas reserve where they had their lunch after touring oil communities in the region. Their trip to Okpai, in Ndokwa East was worthless because it did not add any soothing balm or value to the development of the people, same to the earlier visits of the personages earlier mentioned who cannot describe the area they travelled to.
It is worth stressing here that in 1983, the late Professor Ambrose Alli, the Governor of the former Bendel State, had to commence his re-election campaign from Utchi with a terrain that frightens Delta State politicians, including Delta North policitical actors.
With the electioneering campaigns gradually gathering steam, will our politicians, especially those candidates aiming to occupy government house, Asaba, including Governor Okowa who is praying to remain the chief occupant of the house for another term, and also those candidates contesting for the State House of Assembly, National Assembly, move into Ndokwa East terrible terrain either with speed boats or by road? This is a moral and political challenge for all the political actors/actresses.
The clear options are there: they either make a voyage with speed boats from Asaba on the West Bank River Niger downstream to Onya or even to Patani through Ijaw neighbouring communities sharing common boundaries with Ndokwa East communities. The second option – traverse Ndokwa East communities by road from Asaba through Oko in Oshimili Local Council down to Utchi, Okpai Aboh to Onya. The third option is to navigate the Ase creek from Abala Uno through Inyi, Onuaboh, Iselegu, Ossissa downstream, to Ashaka, Anyama, Ibadeni, Azagba, Ekpe, Ase, Asaba Ase, again to Patani. What a rewarding voyage!
Though it will be a rewarding trip if politicians of the state decide to move to Ndokwa East through the options provided above and use their experience to evolve policies that will uplift not only Ndokwa East communities, but other reverine communities of Delta State if they do not defy the yearnings of people they rule or intend to rule. The pertinent question to ask, if politicians come to Ndokwa East communities to campaign, is: what will they see or experience? Definitely a tremedous shock and a large dose of frustration in Ndokwa East people; the unrestrained menace of flood and coastal erosion closing in on the communities with damaged buildings and cracked walls; several of them collapsing, farmlands being washed away and deserted communities as a result of this. The victims of flood and erosion now reduced to refugee status, taking refuge in Ashaka, Kwale and starting new life outside their homeland.
Next, the campaigning politicians will see the vanishing aquatic splendour, the flora and fauna pummelled by oil exploration, chiefly by AGIP, Sterling oil and others. The beautiful tropical forest dying, water transportation stymied by poor vision of our politicians since 1960. Other agonising things they will see include clear stagnating socio-economic development, absence of electricity, markets, school buildings devastated by flood, inaccessibility of the local council communities by roads, people drinking water from unsanitary sources – lake, polluted River Niger.
The stagnating economic lives of the people worsened by the drying up of Ase creek and other creeks, hampering water transport. A rewarding trip awaits Delta State politicians, but will they come out with policies that will improve the area or as usual turn around to defy the yearning of the calm Ndosimili people of Ndokwa East they intend to lead with policy recoil. At this juncture, it is instructive to emulate the patriotic and monumental steps of Professor Alli. What will be the role of Ndokwa East politicians, professionals who have since jettisoned their people, but still in active politics for selfish reasons?
- Orie, National Publicity Secretary of Ndosimili Development Union, Lagos.