BY AUSTIN OYIBODE
I was once with a hairdresser along DLA road in Asaba. Actually I was carrying out special report on the state of roads and drainage in the city since Governor Okowa came on board. I could remember the lady told me that if Okowa fails to work on the roads in Asaba and complete them before he leaves office, Asaba will be a forgotten place in the years to come. That lady is very wise and also very correct.
Her name is Mrs. Nkechi Okie, it was on Friday June 19, 2020. She told me that she has been doing her business along DLA road for over 10 years. For those 10 years, it was never rosy for her and her colleagues. Hear her: “We’ve been here for years and suffering. We thank God for Okowa for coming to our rescue. It has not been easy living in this area for years. He came and decided to help us. We appreciate him for everything he is doing for us. We love the governor, He is trying for us. See all the interconnecting streets, he is tarring all of them.
Mrs. Oky told me that the previous administration disappointed the people of DLA road. She said: “I was in this DLA when Uduaghan came and commissioned this road. Uduaghan commissioned an uncompleted road. There used to be massive potholes and flood water everywhere. You cannot even trek, you cannot pass through the road. Keke riders were always running away from this road. We were all here when he commissioned the road. We thought after the commissioning, the work will be completed but nothing happened after that. We have been here until Okowa came and decided to rescue us.
“That is the truth. I think we, in Anioma, this is an opportunity for us, if Okowa leaves office, I don’t think anybody will listen to us. This is the time he has to work on all the roads in Anioma land. If Okowa leaves, there may be nothing for us again. DLA road was a major road in Asaba. After Nnebisi, it was DLA. But the flood and water made people to run away from DLA to Okpanam road. Now Okpanam road is busy and bubbling with business. But thank God Okowa has come to save us.”
True to her words if Okowa fails to attend to all roads in Asaba and the adjourning communities of Okpanam, Okwe, Ugbolu and the suburbs, they may not see these social amenities in the incoming administration. The next government, for now, one is not sure where it is coming from, whether Delta Central or South. This is so because both senatorial districts are clamoring for the governor’s seat. However, anywhere it comes from, it is certain that the man who will be at the driver’s seat will be more interested in his senatorial district and beautifying his hometown.
With this understanding, the lady said Okowa will be remembered for generations if he takes his time to work on all the roads in Asaba and put them in proper shape before he leaves office as governor of Delta state. The woman was happy over the development in DLA road. Her joy was based on the fact that the previous administration made series of promises to work on the road, one of the leading roads in Asaba but it was all a failed promise. She was displeased but she had nowhere to vent her annoyance.
Prior to this administration, DLA road was a god-forsaken-road. It was one of the worse roads in the city of Asaba. Pot holes were prominent sights everywhere. Drivers were having hectic time navigating through the road as it was very bumpy and disturbing. During the rains, business owners in the road would always lose their customers as most parts of the road become impassable. But the lady was happy that the story has changed. Now DLA road does not know the difference between rainy season and dry season. It is now clean and motorable as any other road in Asaba. With the heavy undergound drainage the governor has completed and the smooth road, DLA residents have forgotten the years of pains and suffering.
Personally I live in that area and my church is located in one of the adjourning streets. And I have seen the work done by the state governor. My church is located opposite Superbeth gas. For those who are familiar with that area, the Superbeth gas plant road which is called Ekelie Street, was a bad sight to behold. There was a bad spot along the road. But the administration has not only worked on the bad spot, it has tarred the road that it is now a smooth ride through to the express way. In fact, all the all adjourning streets from DLA to the express road are being worked on by the government. This is a very good move.
Another road in that area is Agric road. Between 2008 when I came to settle in Asaba and 2011 I lived along Agric road. It was another waterlogged area during the rains. As soon as rain drops whether heavy or light, the entire stretch of Agric road is covered with water and residents begin to walk on water to enter their homes. Even when I had left the area, those that remained in it were still swimming in the flood until Dr. Okowa became governor. And that was when the story began to change. The drainage project was started and as I later understood, most of the people in that area didn’t believe it was a true project until it got completed and their eyes were opened.
Engr. Sunny O. Sunny, a computer engineer along the Agric Road, told me that living along Agric road years before the drainage was constructed was a big nightmare. According to him: “Once it rained, it’s always a very bad experience. When taking my child to school, I carry him on my shoulder, remove my shoes, fold my trousers and walk through the water. It will take another three or four days for the water to dry up. And if before the end of three or four days, another rain falls, then you will be talking about eight days.”
He told me that when the state government began construction works along the road, they did not believe anything would come out of it. ”We thought it was one of the usual government tactics of checking and at the end of the day, nothing will happen. But as the days passed by, we started seeing caterpillars digging the ground. Some of us did not really get what they were up to. But as the work progressed, we began to get a clearer picture of what they were doing.
“And before we knew it, they began to lay underground pipes. It took sometimes, but eventually they finished and they covered it. They later came and tarred the road. People were like, how will water enter this underground drainage. Then they started putting the surface gutter and we saw how they were connecting it with the one underground.
“At the end, the rains came and normally, once there is a drop of rain, it gathers. So, this time it gathered but before five minutes, the water was gone. Then we said okay these people have actually done a good job. And since then, if it is rainy, no matter how heavy we are no longer afraid. We know that before five minutes everywhere will be beautifully okay.”
He was grateful to the governor for rescuing residents of Agric road. He added that following the job done by the governor “everybody passing here will be saying one word of prayer or the other for Okowa. You hear them pronouncing one blessing or the other for the governor. Some people will say if it is only this road the governor did he has tried. Talking about this Agric road, the governor has actually done a marvelous job.”
I also looked at Okpanam road. Look, I have been in this city since 2008. Though 2008 till now is not so long, I have, within this short period, known some of the things happening in this Asaba. And so, Okpanam road was an eyesore in years back. The heavy flood running down from the main Okpanam town was a very heavy one. It could take anybody along its path to the River Niger. The speed is very fast and always very heavy. Any vehicle traveling the road, immediately the cloud begins to form, showing signs of rain, the driver must drive at the fastest speed to get out of the road before the rains begin to pour. The story has also changed.
A spare parts seller along the Okpanam road, Mr. Onyeukwu Chekwube, said the story of Okpanam road was not a palatable one. He said there were potholes dotting every part of the road. Vehicle drivers, pedestrians and keke riders were finding it difficult navigating through the road when the rains poured. School children were some of the worst hit among the Okpanam road users then. “Any time rain is coming, people will pack their vehicles, they have to wait for the rain to stop. Even when the rain has stopped, they have to wait for the heavy flood to get down before they start moving because if you do not wait, you may enter a place where you cannot come out again.” He told me the drainage constructed by the former governor had carried people away because it was poorly executed.
He said former Governor Uduaghan took contractors to the road but they failed to do a good job for Okpanam people. “They made the road worse for us. I need to be honest with you. Uduaghan’s government worsened the situation of the road. He destroyed the old one we were managing and left us with nothing. The road became bad. The old one was a single lane. Instead of leaving the road for us, he scraped the old one away and left us with nothing, until God finally brought Okowa for us.”
He said prior to the administration of Governor Okowa, when the cloud is gathering, people will start running to get to their houses before rain will fall, if not they will be in heavy trouble when the rain catches them on the road. But now nobody does that again. “Even inside the rain you can drive through and enter your house. This is a good one. If the rain is falling, it goes straight into the drainage. It is well channeled. Before now, when the rain is gone, for a week, you still see the effect of the rain on the road.”
He said since Governor Okowa’s engineers worked on the road, “We feel comfortable. Even when the rain is coming, we are not scared again. There is now enough provision for the water to pass through. As soon as the rain stops falling, you won’t even see water on the road again. This present governor has done a lot on this Okpanam road. At the first time, it didn’t work, they had to come back again. And we are happy because it was a very big issue before now. He has solved our problem.”
Jesus Saves Road is still another road in the city that has received attention of the present administration. At present, the road is being worked on from the Summit junction, as I gathered, passing through the back of Konwea and ending at Zappa area of the city. The work is in progress. Apart from these roads, many roads in the city, including Maryam Babangida Way, other adjourning roads have received attention of the governor. The city is wearing a new look with the rehabilitation and construction of roads across the city. From the North t the South, East to West of Asaba, it is good news of roads everywhere. So, the sobriquet “Road Master” is not an error.