SPECIAL REPORT: Abandoned Osun communities where govt presence is virtually non-existent
Almost everything that makes life bearable cannot be found in Koola and Famia, communities in Modakeke, Ile Ife, Osun State, where residents say they live like second-class citizens.
Residents of Koola and Famia say they are ”systematically discriminated” against in the state as basic amenities such as potable water, electricity, good roads, schools and healthcare facilities are alien to the communities.
On August 5, when CAMPUS REPORTER ventured into the communities to investigate the claims, this reporter was first confronted with an embarrassing sight of a decrepit road leading to the communities.
Seyi Olonode, a motorcycle rider who took our reporter from Our Lady High School, Modakeke, has not forgotten the day he had a terrible accident as he tried to avoid a pothole that was located along the road early this year.
“The potholes have been here for years and I was getting used to it, but around February, it had become deeper and larger. I lost control of the ‘okada’ when I hit it,” he said. “I was left badly injured with another passenger, a woman, carrying her three years old baby.
“During heavy rains, the surface of the road is easily damaged by heavy cargo trucks. Residents try to repair but the road is damaged after a few months. The road is always in a very bad shape and we find it very difficult to move around.”
It is appalling that residents who ply the road daily have accepted the rough ride on bikes as their fate as it has remained the same for years.
“The communities here; Koola and Famia had suffered neglect for years. Even cars that patronise here change their brake pads and oil almost all the time due to the bad roads. I have been living in this area for the past five years and the road had been the same; as a matter of fact, it is even getting worse. The government should listen to our cry and do the needful to make the place conducive for us,” he lamented.
When this reporter got to the only available (collapsed) school in the two communities on August 6, a section of the building had fallen off with debris yet to be packed away, roofs blown-off, ceilings off and surrounded by tall grasses.
“This is the only available school for our children. You can see by yourself that even animals are not supposed to be kept here let alone children acquiring knowledge. It is pathetic that the kids of those living here have got no other place than to attend the prison tagged school by the government,” Tunde Ajayi, a resident who took our reporter to the school, said.
“This environment is not conducive for learning because the kids can easily be exposed to dangerous animals. Even snakes can crawl into the class without the knowledge of anyone.”
We observed that the only three classrooms available for the pupils have only four desks and surrounded by broken chairs. The windows have no lock as the wood used for the construction had been destroyed by termites leaving rainwater to splash inside the classrooms. Whenever it rains, it is easy for the pupils to jump in and out whenever there is no teacher to monitor them.
The school has no toilets, no running water and no playground.
“Most times when it rains, you see parents rushing to the school to get their wards because the classrooms will be flooded. The fact that the school is unfenced has also exposed some of the students to danger as many of them leave their classrooms to cross the road without the consent of their teachers. You can see we indeed need more chairs and thorough renovation in this school. The government keeps coming with promises but are yet to fulfil any.
“I grew up here and nothing has changed. Sometimes we pick the kids as early as 12 noon considering the atmosphere of the day. You can’t trust the environment when it rains,” Mr Ajayi said.
A primary healthcare centre serving the two communities could as well not have been there because it serves no purpose. Its staff stopped coming to work due to the inability of the government to pay them.
With her beans tray in her hand, Mama Baale narrated how the health workers protested and left the hospital on the complaint that the government neglected them.
“The only ‘saviour’ we have is herbs when our children fall sick and since the hospital staff have left, births are delivered at home by midwives and sometimes old women are called in the community to help take care of that”, she said.
“Even when they were still coming to the PHC, they don’t come on a regular basis. Sometimes, they are not on duty and sometimes they complain that drugs are not available. And since we have elderly people in the village, we enter the bush, look for approximate leaves and use them for herbs.
“God has so far been wonderful too. There are people capable of child delivery too. The only time we face challenges is when things want to go out of hand. The PHC is not functional. ‘Iya Agbebi’ helped me with the delivery of my child. After delivery, we give them a token. We’ve been abandoned a long time ago,” a woman sitting beside Mama Baale said, declining to state her name.
Our visit to the PHC shows the reason why the villagers would rather love to take herbs to heal their illness and use midwives for child deliveries.
The health centre was locked, with cobwebs dotting the building indicating that it has been under lock for long. No toilet, no water tank or electricity at the facility. The centre is also surrounded by tall grasses.
Exasperated Community Leader
When our correspondent got to the head of the two communities, Mathew Ojo, he told our correspondent that he was not ready to talk saying he suspected it was a political motive towards the upcoming September 22 governorship election in the state.
However, when our correspondent explained that he came for a special assignment not related to politics, the elderly man narrated the ordeal of the two communities.
“I hope you are not one of those people that come when an election is close. We see them once in four years and after asking us all we wanted, they disappear and come back again the next four years. That was why my brother asked that we should not speak earlier.
“We’ve always been told right from my childhood time until I became the ‘Baale’ (chief) of these communities that the government is coming to attend to us. For so many years, these communities have been in darkness. Only a few houses are with generators and it pains to see people rushing to those few places to charge (their phones). We are treated like second-class citizens.
“Look at that school, it fell off some years back. It was residents in the communities that donated money to raise some part because there is the need for our kids to be in school. Several letters have been written to the state government about our plight but we only see them during the election period. Sometimes, we wonder if we are not part of Osun State let alone being part of Nigeria,” he said while pointing to the dilapidated school to this newspaper.
Mr Ojo said both communities have over 500 residents but share only one borehole.
“As I speak to you, the borehole we are using was constructed by donation of N100, N200 and every penny of the villagers in the two communities. We know it is not enough but it has reduced the stress of water. Only that when people are urgently in need of water, they resolve to stream.
“We lack all basic amenities that make life easy for people. Besides the school, you can see the hospital. It has been under lock for months due to the excuse of staff that the government is not paying them and that they even use some of their money to cater for ill residents. While it is sad that we do not have any place to treat ourselves, we cannot force the staff to stay because we don’t have the money to pay them.
“How was the experience you had when you tried to locate this place?” he then asked our correspondent.
“The road itself is another story of a journey of no return. For us, we have counted ourselves out of Osun State because we donate all our basic amenities ourselves. As old as I am, when it rains, I join people to fix the road and we claim to have a government. Which government?,” Mr Ojo says.
You Can’t Please Everyone – Osun Govt.
When contacted about the plight of these residents, the Osun State Commissioner of Information, Adelani Baderinwa, said it is ”practically impossible for humans to get all they desire”.
“I am aware that there is nobody in Nigeria today who is not aware that we are giving the best to education. We are putting best structures and trying to meet up with the requirement of one primary healthcare centre per ward. It is practically impossible for you to do everything because your resources are limited. You have to pay salaries, you have to go run a government and do other things we’ve been doing.”
The commissioner argued that the Rauf Aregbesola administration, which has governed the state for over eight years, should not be blamed for the decay.
“We renovated all 15 state primary health care centres in each of the wards and we can only work on resources available to us,” he said.
“For schools, we plan to take care of all the students’ population that we have. We plan to have 120 elementary schools, 50 middle schools and 20 high schools. As we speak, we built 35 elementary schools, 26 middle schools and 11 night schools. It is not because that is the desire but that is what our income can cater for. Mostly, it is a function of available funds.”
Mr Adelani did not, however, address the issue of the bad roads, electricity and inadequate water supply raised by the residents.
Pressed further, Mr Adelani insisted “humans do not get everything they desire”.
“We are not giving an excuse. It is the reality. It could not have been an excuse. You don’t get all you desire at a time even as a human being.”