Laughing it off? No, Not this Part 1 of 3

By Francis Odupute Snr – A state governor was recently at a rural community with his political “god-son” to commission a borehole water project that the honourable lawmaker had given the community as a constituency project in about three years.

The atmosphere was gay, the people were in frenzy and the women were sweating it out as they danced, clapped and hit the maracas and other instruments of music in jubilation and praise-singing as they have been mobilised to do: Some desperate children climbed onto low-branched tree tops and dilapidated fences, just to get a good glimpse of the show. The photojournalists could not resist the temptation to capture several shots of the graceful traditional attires of the community elders thronging the mirthful number one citizen of the state, as he moved closer to the project to, be commissioned.

As the humour-loving, governor held the scissors, about to cut the tape to declare the bore­hole open, amid jubilant, natives, he shot a glance at the lawmaker and the following words jumped out jokingly from his mouth, “Honourable, these tanks are big 0, how many people did you project will use this facility?” “It’s up to the community and their leaders to decide”, replied the lawmaker without a thought. The crowd cheered and applauded ·in approval. The governor quickly turned to the crowd and threw another, teaser ‘in Pidgin English: “…my people, una sure say una ready, to, make maximum use of this water so?” “Yes”, the crowd yelled in excitement, and the community head standing beside the governor quipped, “Our women and girls dey kampe, we trust dem … no more trek trek go streams and rivers … “. The crowd clapped in support.

“Okay now”, the chief executive said, “the maintenance and protection of this bore­hole nko? How una go do am,” he queried. The youth chairman stepped forward with his right hand waiving in the air. “Your Excellency, Sir, we have enough capable boys in this community to monitor and administer the operation, maintenance and protection of this bore­hole from vandalisation. I will personally supervise it, sir!” he boasted. Jubilant youths rented the air with shouts of “up chair”, “Nothing do you” and some jargons.

As soon as the governor made to cut the tape to declare the bore-hole open, for consumption, the lawmaker quickly bent over to the video camera-man from the government-owned media house who was covering the event, and whispered saying, “please delete this part of the ceremony from the tape before going to press”. The busy journalist didn’t quite get what he meant but, as one under authority, he simply nodded his head.

“Who was fooling who?” you’d ask me. It would have sufficed to discard this as one of those FRANCODUS’ jokes and laugh over it, but because the story you just read is based on true-life experiences in our society, we have to discuss it. First of all, it beats my wits how our people have been so compromised, so exploited, shortchanged and subjugated that we have become too docile and ignorant of our rights and our responsibilities as a people. The tragedy of leadership in this country has brought it home to us that the strength of the oppressor is in the maintenance of ignorance and time has come for us to say, “Enough is Enough”.

How can you explain to our neighbours in developed economies that a whole community will desert homes, roll out drums, mobilise hungry women and their children to line up in the hot sun (no thanks to climate change and global warming) and stage cultural dances and praise-singing songs, all to commission a single overdue community bore-hole provided by a politician who has only reluctantly come to fulfill his electioneering promise of giving, us so, so, so and so, as constituency projects as soon as voted into office, when actually these are basic amenities that must be on ground everywhere for the population to use? When these were actually the reasons why we voted them in to represent us? And to think that the much publicized televised and flaunted bore-hole projects (which hardly last longer than 4 months after commissioning before it ‘caputs’) was reported to have cost several millions of naira? Bore-hole?? Millions of naira? Think about it! Something must be fishing.

I remember vividly well that sometime in 2007 or so, my local church embarked’ on a community help project in Evbuotubu community, in Egor Local Government Area of Edo State, through free medical services (held at the health centre) and by sinking a formidable bore-hole water project that was situated at the heart of Evbuotubu village along the road to Igwuogie village. As I write this now, the people of Evbuotubu are still, enjoying that borehole.

I may not be a bore­hole engineer but I have a fair idea of what it might cost to sink about 6 borehole projects in 6 villages in a community. I make bold to say that I am one of the people who’ were involved in that charity work in Evbuotubu, and later were deployed by our church leadership to begin evangelistic and church-planting work in the area as preachers and lay pastors. So I know to same extent, how much the church spent to sink the borehole, unannounced.

Now, to the main bones or contention:

What can you see from the story above? 1. Dataless or non-data-oriented leadership, planning and policy-making; 2. The challenges of mainstreaming gender in our developmental policies, programs and plans at all levels in our population.