Vanguard (Lagos)

Nigeria: Ireto Road

IRETO Road is a street in Sapele, famed timber capital of Nigeria. It is probably the safest neighborhood in the town and got its name from one Ireto, now late, the founder of Ireto Hotel now called Richards Continental Hotel, still one of the best hotels in Sapele. Ireto Road is a monument to underdevelopment, is flooded in the rainy season, a dust strip in the Harmattan, and perennially a road to hell for pedestrians and drivers alike.

The Sapele Local Government Area Council never bothers to even grade the road and for the residents of the neighborhood, to live there must be to feel victimized, isolated and roundly alienated from the rest of the world. In that regard they are hardly differentiated from a lot of other Nigerians, except for the circumstances responsible for the pathetic state of their road.

They uniformly and unequivocally blame Chief Monday Igbuya, the member representing Sapele Constituency at the Delta State House of Assembly for the pathetic state of the road. They claim the money meant for its construction was converted, diverting same for the purpose of constructing two well tarred roads, one leading to his house and the other to his hotel!

The supporters of Igbuya flatly deny this, forcefully maintaining that Igbuya was not paid a dime for the road, and alleging rather that one Mike Diden is to blame, having sent one 'Bando' - recently convicted of murder - to chase away workers constructing the road, for the purpose of taking over the contract for himself. From their perspective, if anyone owes the residents of Ireto Road an explanation as to how the construction of the road became an abandoned project, it is one 'Ejele'.

Igbuya used to be Chairman of the Delta State House of Assembly Committee on the DELTA State Oil Producing Areas Development Commission, DESOPADEC, in which capacity he failed to have the road constructed. He is now the Assembly's Majority Leader and nothing has changed. Diden, on his part, apart from being a pastor, is of all things, a serving commissioner on the present DESOPADEC board, in which capacity he has indicated not the slightest interest in having the road fixed! It may be safely concluded that both men have failed woefully in their respective positions to improve the lot of the hapless residents of the street by allowing Ireto road to remain in the this state of disrepair.

It would appear that Igbuya feels that if he didn't get the contract why should he bother whether or not it is executed? As for Diden, he might as well not give a toss what becomes of the project. He is not even from Sapele Local Government Area and is just another resident of the town. He hails from Warri North Local Government Area and in fact once chaired its council. How he made the transition from a mere resident to the sort of stakeholder who wields such 'enormous power' preventing others from executing their contracts and not been in a position to do same effective rattles the imagination of many Sapele residents.

Inspite of Diden's conduct for which he can be forgiven, how does this compare with Igbuya's in this Ireto road affair? Igbuya is a legislator, not a contractor and folding his arms while the project went into freefall simply because Diden cornered it for himself is most appalling. Pointing the finger at Diden is entirely beside the point. The fellow is just another politician who happens to reside in Sapele.

Igbuya, on the other hand, is not only an indigene but a member of the House of Assembly, and in fact used to chair Sapele Local Government Council! Who prevented the project from being executed is not the concern of the residents of Ireto Road.

They want their road constructed and justifiably blame Igbuya for its abandonment because he is their representative. If Igbuya cannot appreciate this, then it is unfortunate because it means he lacks the democratic maturity required of a leader.

Unfortunately, the residents of Ireto Road ultimately blame Governor Emmanuel Uduaghan for their plight, given that at the end of the day, the buck stops at his table.

Their street not only lacks the status of a decent road but is plagued by low voltage electricity and hardly any government presence whatsoever.

They wonder why they are not beneficiaries of the governor's developmental strides across the state and why they must remain constrained to their pathetic excuse for a street.

Sadly, these two men, Igbuya and Diden, who may be said to have in several ways benefitted much form the governor, both being members of his party, the People's Democratic Party, PDP, are now at the center of a sordid affair that can only bring him embarrassment in the eyes of his constituents.

The Governor should visit Ireto Road and see what the Deltans who live there have to face up to on a daily basis.

He should insist on seeing the road in its stark grotesque reality to feel the pain of those who have to contend with it every single day. They look to him for succour and intervention and he must not let them wait in vain.

Mr. JESUTEGA ONOKPASA, a social critic, wrote from Sapele, Delta State.

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