It was a bright Monday morning in February when this reporter arrived at Odo Aladura, a farming community made up largely of cocoa and oil palm farmers in the Ondo East local government area of Ondo State.
Ondo State is the highest producer of cocoa in Nigeria, with Odo Aladura one of several communities that has enabled the state to earn this ranking. However, the lack of potable water, electricity and other basic amenities has taken a toll on the livelihoods of both the young and the aged residing in this community.
Ondo State is the fifth highest crude oil producing state in the country, accounting for about 3.74 percent of the total oil produced in Nigeria.
“Yet, we have been abandoned to suffer; no electricity and potable water supply,” Samuel Akinsanya, an 87-year-old farmer in the community, lamented.
Mr Akinsanya is one of the oldest cocoa farmers in Ondo East. He said the lack of water and electricity had caused the youth to flee the community.
He expressed worry that despite all his efforts and struggles to ensure his community has potable water and electricity supply, he might not get to see that happening in his lifetime.
“Look over there, I gave them my plot of land to build that borehole, but it was not dug well. In less than six months or thereabouts it stopped working, and ever since then, nobody cares,” he said.
Mr Akinsanya is not alone. Seated by his corridor on a wooden bench of her house, Abike Temilade, 70, a petty trader, with sparingly grey hair, was busy with her chewing stick. In an instant, she stopped, spat out a mouthful, then she continued. While that was on, she narrated the ordeal her community has passed through due to lack of electricity and good drinking water to this reporter.
“It has been very long since we set our eyes on electricity in this town. If not for my children that got me a generator, which we do put on once in a while, it’s always a blackout here,” she said.
“So many politicians had come with lots of promises, but then, they gave us false manifestos, they did nothing about all our needs,” she said.
Another resident, Florence Ogunmoyero, who could not hide her pains after listening to the conversation with Mrs Temilade, cuts in.
“This is what we’re drinking and also using to cook,” she said pointing towards the water trickling down the edges of a rocky surface on the ground. Surrounded by this are leaves that have fallen from cocoa trees which could easily contaminate the water being fetched.
She said they have been neglected by the government to suffer despite all the campaign promises made to them.
“We’re only suffering here,” Ms Ogunmoyero lamented, while she continued scooping the water as it gushed out from the rock into her water bowl. She narrated how they go about fetching water from this source at night while others have retired to bed.
“We usually sweep off these leaves in the morning whenever we come to fetch water, because this is the water we drink and as well use in cooking,” she said.
“It’s been over 15 years without potable drinking water here, and over eight years since we last witnessed electricity supply,” she recalled, saying that the water pump installed for them about 15 years ago had gone bad and was stolen by thieves.
When this newspaper contacted the chief press secretary to governor of the state, Segun Ajiboye in late July, he said they were aware of the problem and that it would be fixed soon.
He said “go anywhere in the state and ask about the good work of our governor, you will hear people telling you that he’s trying his best.”
“There’s an ongoing water project called Owena, it will get to this community, I can assure you,” he said via telephone.
However, in late August when PREMIUM TIMES visited, the community was still the same.
Adesoro Olumide, a graduate of mathematics, waiting to leave for his one year mandatory National Youth Service Corps programme, said “I can tell you for free that a child of 15 years old in this town has never witnessed electricity supply, talk less of drinking good water.”
“Just move around and ask,” he added.
He said he loves farming but with the kind of suffering he sees farmers in his community pass through, he doesn’t pray to end up as a farmer.
“My parents are into farming, but the way they are suffering is not even encouraging me to think about going into farming,” he said.
He said most of the youth of the community, who are supposed to take over from aged farmers, are all living for the city where they can find good water and electricity.
“In fact if not for my mother and siblings, I won’t be here either,” he said.
Meanwhile, it was observed that recently, a Niger Delta Development Commission water project meant to channel water to the community has been completed, but was not functioning.
“It worked for about a week or so, but for months now it has packed up,” Mr Olumide said.
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