Written by Usman A. Bello, Lokoja
Since the beginning, Ojoto, a small, sleepy roadside village in Ofu Local Government Area of Kogi State had been untouched by the slightest sprinkle of modernity. The only footpath that cuts through this promising but developmentally deprived village is so narrow it is barely convenient to ride a motor cycle on it.
From Ogbabo, people used to travel to Ojoto only once in a year only when there was a joint traditional engagement. “Our village simply didn’t exist on the map of the world,” said Daniel Ocheja, a lifelong native of Ojoto. “We were cut off from the rest of the world, including our immediate neighbours in Ogbabo with whom we share many cultural and historical ties, because we had no roads.”
This state of affairs changed in 2014 when the Kogi State government built a 12.8-kilometre-road and a bridge to link Ojoto and Ogbabo. “I had never seen a tarred road in my life,” said 18-year-old Shaibu Isa who pointed out that the construction of the road has afforded many members of his family to travel to nearby places for business and leisure with little or no difficulty.
The overnight transformation of Ojoto from a secluded rural backwater to a gradually modernizing society isn’t a unique story in Kogi State. Several hitherto isolated rural communities across the state’s three senatorial districts are getting a new lease of life. Other rural roads constructed by the current administration include those linking Odolu-Akpanya, Kpata-Kpale, Eehewu-Atakpa, Shintaku-Gbobe, Mozum-Keteshi-Landu-Odugbo, Etutakpe-Oganenugwu,Elubi-etiaja-Ajakagwa-Ufuaga and Ogbabo-Ojoto road.
It isn’t just the construction of roads that is revitalizing previously marginalized communities. Along the bank of River Niger in Lokoja, the Kpata and Kabawa communities, which had been almost literally pushed to the edge of existence, are bouncing back to life.
As Kogi State deputy governor Yomi Awoniyi said, these communities had existed for more than 200 years “without any plan for a shoreline protection even though they are prone to flooding from the River Niger.”
Several members of the communities said they had lived with crippling anxieties about the perpetual threat of floods all their lives. “You could be well and alive today and have great plans for the future and the next day a flood sweeps you away to the great beyond,” said Ibrahim Kola, a Kabawa resident.
The people of Kpata and Kabawa no longer have to live in fear and anxiety. A shoreline protection and embankment project to protect the Kpata and Kabawa communities from the adverse consequences of flooding is being undertaken. The project, which also includes an esthetic component that hopes to also beautify the stretch of road between the communities to create an exciting scenery as travelers commute from Lokoja to Abuja.
It isn’t only marginal, rural communities that have been witnessing infrastructural uplift in the past few years. Even Kabba town, which had for years functioned as the administrative capital of the old Kabba Province in the defunct Northern Nigeria, has had cause to cheer. For more than 50 years, the people of Kabba had no access to safe drinking water. The only water project serving the ancient town had broken down and scores of people had to take recourse to unsafe streams and rivers to meet their water needs.
This continued until the state government successfully completed the Kabba Township Water Scheme. People of the town now have access to reliably safe drinking water. “We lived like villagers,” said John Kolawole, a 65-year-oldKabba resident. “Our collective appeals to successive governments to come to our aid fell on deaf years. We are delighted that this current government has come to our aid.”
Kogi State’s Commissioner for Water Resources, Engineer OlatunjiOshanusi, said the Kabba Township Water Scheme is one of more than 35 interventions across the state’s three senatorial districts in the past three and a half years. Like Kabba town, these places had no access to potable water until the last three years. He also pointed out that more than 300 motorized boreholes have been sunk in over 270 rural communities across the three senatorial districts of the State.
Development experts say the infrastructural uplift of rural communities in Kogi State is the result of the concentrated attention the current administration has given the sector in the last few years. They point out that the establishment of the Ministry of Rural Development, a feat in itself, has been the biggest force behind the transformation of several rural communities.
“Because 80 percent of Kogi State is rural, you would think previous government would have had a ministry dedicated to developing rural communities,” said Dr. Musa Mohammed, a development expert and Kogi State indigene. “But it took the coming into office of Governor Idris Wada for the ministry to be established. It coordinates the activities of several ministries and agencies for the sole purpose of rural development.”
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