By Ernest Omoarelojie
A few days ago, news filtered in that Okaigben community decided to reopen the Ofuri market, its main economic hub, which was forced into somewhat comatose. I do not much details but the little I gathered, protagonists of the move concluded it was time for the community’s much sought commercial renaissance. Frankly speaking, I may not be in agreement with the method, having suggested that it be left to a natural development process that is already in place, being a gateway from the south east to the north central, I am however, not against any move to reconnect a truth almost lost. In any case, whatever my thought is on the subject, is not as important the process that is already on . We all may have to wait for time to release the final outcome.
Briefly however, there is a need for everyone to be reminded that Ewohimi has a very rich history from which we learn that she had two major markets that thrived through ages-Agbado/Ogidigbo and Ofuri, each with a separate operation day. They both thrived until sectional interests took over, interests that dictated that Ofuri must be subsumed. As far as common sense can tell, it was a move time would revolt against, enough to have a revert to the way things were. It is unfolding, a testimony to the fact that Ewohimi is not too small for two or more markets. Therefore, nothing must be done to undermine what must be-the presence of both Ofuri and Agbado/Ogidigbo.
I want to reiterate that I am a bonafide son of Ewohimi, very aware that there are more benefits accruable to Ewohimi as a united entity. For that reason, I will never stand for for ‘sectionalization’ given my belief that ‘Caesar must be given what rightly belongs to him.’ For that reason, it is important that I dwell, once more, on the more important issues that affect us as a collective and are imperative to the survival of one Ewohimi. There are many of them-education, power, water, all of which are either grossly inadequate or outrightly unavailable despite the town’s huge potentials. We need to talk about and find ways of sorting issues relating to them particularly now that individuals and groups are repositioning to grab available political seats, the same that will determine much of what each community gets eventually. What’s in it for Ewohimi, in terms of people-oriented development? When are we going to talk about how the emergence of those angling for available positions will affect Ewohimi? That’s what I am interested in here.
Not too long ago, I wrote about the pathetic situation in the three secondary schools in Ewohimi. Among others, they are grossly understaffed, lack both teaching and learning materials and do not have what it takes to produce top notch grades if what is taught in them is a measure of what should comes out of each of them. From investigations, whatever is going on in any of the school, by way of facility or teaching and learning upgrade is via the efforts of the people. For whatever reason, the state government decided that it cannot be bothered about it. But for all intents and purposes, it is an issue over which Ewohimi must interrogate political powers seekers-would be senators, governor, House of Representatives and assembly members-with a view to having them lay down in concrete, contractual terms, what they will do about it.
I also wrote about the power situation in the town. As it was when I wrote about it, so is it now-comatose. It is instructive to be reminded that the town has been wired with transformers and all other requisites for power in place. Unfortunately, for sundry sad reasons, there is no light in the town for years on end. Sadly also, the state government is unconcerned as it is with the town’s moribund secondary education. Meanwhile, thieves have vandalised and scavenged all installed transformers, effectively stalling concerted attempts by the people themselves to resuscitate it.
For respite, members of individual community decided to instal solar powered street light to, at least, give a semblance of light to night life in the town. But generally, Ewohimi, the most populated town in Esan South East council area of Edo state is in perennial darkness.
If the situation both education and power sectors gives any concern indigene sleepless nights, the case with water induces nightmares.
Many years ago, Ewohimi was the source of portable drinking water for not just the people of the town. It was the supply base for its immediate neighbours, including Ewatto, Ewossa, Igueben, Ekpon, Ogua, Ohordua, Udo and Ebele. The Iyagun/Ewohimi Water Project, constructed by an Israeli firm, was the magic. With a dam, pump and distribution stations constructed at its Odu River site, a gravity storage and distribution station at its Eguare outstation, there was uninterrupted water supply to everywhere it was required, enough water for all.
Though the source of water, the Odu river, the dam, pump station and distribution outstation are still structurally in top notch states, there is no water in Ewohimi. The town is no longer sure of ever having pipeborne water even though new pump engines, dislodgement of caked sludge from the tanks, installation of new pipes and general reticulation are the only issues.
Instead of finding ways to have them sorted out, certain people simply opted to politicise and make nonsense of all resuscitation attempts by insisting installing a few non-functional boreholes. Its akin to living by the seashore and washing one’s hand with saliva.
A few months ago, there was another, very laughable resuscitation attempt spearheaded by Sergius Oguns, incumbent member, House of Representatives, Esan North East and Esan South East council areas. The project, captured under the 2018 federal government’s zonal intervention project, was awarded through the Benin/Owena Development Authority, to Kenhuma Concepts Ltd, an Abuja-based engineering with office at Suite A21 and A22, Sabondale Complex, Awolowo Way, Jabi District, Jabi, Abuja.
Records indicate that the federal government paid its 50% counterpart funding in 2019 prompting the contractor to deploy one river drainage equipment to the area. But shortly after the single equipment appeared, it disappeared. Since then, nothing has happened again an nothing has been heard with regards to the funds deployed for the purpose. No one can tell what happened to the funds and or contract but today, everyone knows that in Ewohimi, there is water, water, everywhere but none to drink.
Ewohimi is in dire need of basic amenities it ordinarily should have in abundance. Yet the people seem to be comfortable with the troubling situation. That is, judging by the manner they react to issues pertaining to political representation which is an important deciding factor. That must change, going forward. Ewohimi must learn to set the agenda by sitting every would-be representative down outside of the fulfill-all-righteousness campaign routines. While sitting each and everyone of them down, Ewohimi must interrogate their promises by examining their capacity to deliver on development to the people. Ewohimi must be able to extract time bound promises from whoever has winning potentials regarding the people’s needs, generally. That way, Ewohimi will be able to extract not only a binding contract but also one that becomes a reference point going forward. In addition, Ewohimi must stop playing the he/she-is-our-own or he/she-is-not-from-Ewohimi politics of alienation. Ewohimi must be dispassionate in making choices and must learn to act beyond party lines. Anything short will ensure that Ewohimi is settled in celebrating her captors and living in lack amidst plenty. It is time for Ewohimi to wake up. It’s time for Ewohimi to stop searching for what it has in abundance.