Otukpo, the traditional headquarters of the Idoma people of Benue State, and proposed Capital of the proposed Apa State is a city-town famously known for the unique hospitality and gargantuan sociopolitical and economic status of some of its people.
The town is home to two Nigerian former Senate Presidents, Chief Ameh Ebute, and Sen. David Mark, Benue State Deputy Governor, Engr. Benson Abounu, football legend, Daniel Amokachi, Nollywood actresses, Ada Ameh, and Sharon Ooja, football stars, Ogenyi Onazi, and Moses Simon, Senior Pastor of Dunamis Church, Dr. Paul Enenche, Former Chief of Air Staff, Emmanuel Ebije Ikwue, billionaire real estate realtor and socialite, King Moh Adah Odeh aka Ochacho, music legends, Bongos Ikwue, and 2Face Idibia, and so on. In fact, several of 2Face’s songs are an ode to the “red dust city”.
But, what most people don’t know about Otukpo is that it has one of the worst (if not the worst) infrastructure/township roads in Nigeria.
The “Texas” nickname given to the town by the locals is only escapism from the sad reality of the once flourishing town.
Infrastructural deficit fits snuggly like a second skin on the city; potholed red dusty roads, rusty streetlight poles, dilapidated red-roofed buildings are palpable.
The shameful sight of the holey Enugu Roundabout said to be one of the largest roundabouts in West Africa, welcomed us to the ancient town.
I was accompanied by a friend who was in disbelief of the town; the so-called “Heart Of The Lion” and acclaimed “Talent Base Of The Nation”; home to many social and political “heroes”.
A section of the road was being sand-filled with laterites. All thanks to Mr Ngbede Valentine Ofoine, the man whom we have come to see.
When we arrived, Ngbede and his men were halfway done with their work.
He introduced himself as the National Leader of Idoma National Youth Development Forum (INYDF) and Adoka-Ole Youth Leader.
He said was fulfilling a covenant by sand filling the abandoned road.
“Today, Friday 17th September 2021, out of painful and humane sacrifice, I’m responding to duty to Sand fill this horrible, deplorable, shameful, pathetic and insulting as well abandoned Federal road that passes through Otukpo the ancient town of Idoma nation as part of the covenant I had with my late dad on his death bed,” he said.
“My late dad happened to be a visionary man. A man that had the burden for the development of his community (Adoka) and the Idoma Nation in general.
He was so passionate about the vision even to the point that he wanted to go to the university in his old age to study law so that he could defend his community, defend Idoma Nation. And I asked him dad at this age why are you going back to school to read the law? And he said this is my vision. And because of that, when he was leaving this world, we had a covenant.
I happened to be the first son.
He was worried that he was leaving without fulfilling his vision. But he had a conviction from God that he should not worry that so long as he have somebody like me behind, that I was going to start from wherever he is gonna stop.
And he called me to his bed side and I held hand with him and he told me all that God told him. And asked me to please not disappoint him. I had that covenant with him.
And I told him I was not going to fail him that I will start from where he is stopping and to make sure by the grace of God to complete it. And I’ve ever been living with that burden.”
He disclosed that after seeing the deplorable and shameful state of the road, he was left with no opinion than to use his children’s school fees to repair some portion of the road.
“What I’m doing here today, is a painful sacrifice. It’s my children’s school fees that I’m using to do the work you’re seeing here today,” he said.
“I came from the wake keep of my late uncle at Adoka to drop someone at Otukpo this morning, and I saw the road.
Immediately I saw the road, I called my wife from there, and I told her please bear with me there is a challenge here. I want to use the children’s school fees to fix this challenge please bear with me.
And she said go ahead, if God lay it in your heart to do it, go ahead.
So, I ordered for tens of trips of stony laterite that cost a huge sum of money running into hundreds of thousands to fill the river-like and the non-motorable section of the Federal road around the former Beco Filling Station so as to allow for a free passage by motorists.”
He said at the course of the work, some hoodlums attempted to jeopardize their efforts by extorting money from motorists, but, he was able to resolve the matter with wisdom.
“When I hired the people doing the work for me, we came to a compromise on what to pay them.
They started the work, and they now said that at least they must drink pure water so the road users who so ever that can give them N50, N100, they would want to collect. And I said okay, no problem. Just got ahold. So, while they were working, they were some dudes that came.
Hooligans usually extort money from people to go drink. And, they started collecting the money instead of the guys working for me.
And the people working for me said why should you be collecting the money while we are the ones working? And the hooligans said they are the ones in charge of the road.
I knew they’ve gone to high themselves and want to make trouble to rubbish the good things that we’re doing. Because I know there are some persons, some big names in the land that is against what I’m doing and they must send those guys to come and distract us to cause trouble so that the work will stop there. And I scent it. And I said no, I was not going to quarrel with them. And told them please whatever you want to do, just do it peacefully and let peace reign.”
He said he pray that more resources will come so that he will do more on the road stressing that if he has the resources he would do the best he can do on the road adding that he is no longer going to wait for any influential individual or government to do it.
He called on Idoma youths shun psychopathy and start contributing to the development of their localities instead of praising non-performing politicians for crumbs.
“I sternly want to use this opportunity to appeal to my fellow Idoma youths to wake up and break out from the shackles that are holding us down. To think Idoma first and do their bid to better the lots of Idoma nation. Instead of praising politicians for doing nothing!
We all need to join our hands to rebuild the broken and shattered Idoma land.
I know a notable politician who is putting up an enterprise at the same spot we are repairing. He came here last week, he saw the state of the road and left without doing anything about it,” he lamented.