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Presidential touch changes the story of Otueke

A trip to Otuoke from Yenagoa, the Bayelsa State capital, takes about 30 minutes on on average speed of 100km/h.  The road from Yenagoa down…

A trip to Otuoke from Yenagoa, the Bayelsa State capital, takes about 30 minutes on on average speed of 100km/h.  The road from Yenagoa down to Otuoke is a one carriage, but smooth. The first community on entering Ogbia Local Government Area from Yenagoa is Otuokiti. Both sides of the road, after Yenagoa, are a stretch of swampy forest.
Onuebum is the next community before entering Otuoke. What would give one the sign that one is about entering Otuoke is a police checkpoint mounted after the boundary between Onuebum and the town. Thereafter, by the right is a signpost indicating the location of the male hostel of the Federal University, Otuoke.
Approaching the community is the newly constructed Otuoke market by the left. The market is yet to be put to use. A stone-throw from the market is the water scheme for Otuoke being undertaken by the Federal Ministry of Water Resources.
Immediately after descending from a small hill into the Otuoke main town is another roadblock mounted by the operatives of Batallion 5 of the Joint Task Force (JTF), Operation Pulo Shield.
From this point, the beauty and aesthetics of Otuoke begins to unfold. The road straight from Yenagoa divides Otuoke into two halves. Beginning from the right is the palatial residence of President Jonathan still under construction. Both sides of the road are decked with ornamental trees that run through the town towards Emeyal, the neighbouring community after the permanent site of the Federal University, Otuoke. Solar-powered streetlights line up along the road down, beyond the permanent site of the university.
Opposite the president’s house is the Otuoke community town hall. Directly opposite the town hall is the St. Stephen Anglican Church, Otuoke, built and donated to the community by Gitto Construction Company. The donation of the church had sparked off controversy when President Jonathan was accused of being bribed with the gift of the church by the company.
Both sides of the road in the community are heavily built with modern edifices that leave one wondering where the many smaller weather-beaten houses that were hitherto the abodes of many of the residents have disappeared to.
Standing as the flagship of all the buildings is the gigantic Magels Resort Limited, a hotel said to be owned by the First Lady, Dame Patience Jonathan, with stern looking armed mobile policemen and soldiers providing security.
Situated close to the hotel are four blocks of two-storey marble-plated residential suites that appeared to have been recently completed, with a billboard announcing that they are to let for
accommodation for the public. It is also said to be owned by the First Lady, Mrs. Patience Jonathan.
Along the stretch of the road are the administrative block of the Federal University, Otuoke, the Dame Patience Jonathan Square, and other ongoing commercial buildings and residences springing up at both sides.
There is also the Comprehensive Cottage Hospital, a Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) project in the community, which equally generated some controversy. The hospital has since been commissioned by the president, and is fully functional.
Furthermore, the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) is seriously at work in Otuoke. Apart from the internal roads of the Federal University, Otuoke which the interventionist agency is currently handling, the commission is also building a giant one-storey lodge for the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC). The project is nearing completion. This is in addition to a federal skills acquisition centre, among others.
The roads within the original Otuoke community, before the ongoing expansion, are well paved with concretes and good drainage system. Further constructions are also ongoing. However, some old structures, including few mud houses, can still be seen inside the community.
Although it may be argued that the community has not seen the best in terms of the niceties of modern societies, observers say the foundation for the future greatness of the community is being laid.
The population of Otuoke is not very significant, just as its size generally is not large. The community, made up of seven hamlets or villages, would probably have remained obscure but for the emergence of their son, Dr Goodluck Jonathan as president and commander-in- chief of the Nigerian armed forces. The advent of the university has also forced development into the community.
The cost of land and accommodation is said to have risen sharply since serious development started in the university. Mr Moses Nwezea, a businessman who said he relocated to Otuoke from the North following security challenges, said that Otuoke had become so attractive that businessmen from the South East have invaded the town with their cut-throat competition to outdo one another.
According to him, house and shop owners are smiling to the banks, and businessmen with little capital are being forced out of business by those who are willing to pay higher than the original occupants. Otuoke has thus become a commercialised community. Boutiques, shops for different types of building materials, as well as household items, bookshops, pharmaceuticals, etc, abound.
Unlike what obtains in many other Niger-Delta communities, where old men sit in various community squares, even in the morning, whiling away time with the local gin (ogogoro), old men are not commonly seen in Otuoke. The reasons are not obvious, even as the area recently became a hotbed for kidnapping.
When Sunday Trust sought audience with some youths who were playing draught in the area, they declined to speak. However, the fact that cannot be taken away is that Otuoke has remained one of the most peaceful communities in Bayelsa State because the youths are not restive.
The people appear to have great love for their son, President Jonathan. They often express mixed feelings at the sight of a journalist, especially the one with a camera. Aware that next year is for elections, and perhaps for the fear of saying anything that may affect their son negatively in the presidential election, most of them shunned interview with Sunday Trust. Locals even opposed attempts to take photographs of structures in the community, probably for the fear of people’s negative reactions.
Some members of the community who spoke with our correspondent accused him of belonging to a political party. They feared that the opposition All Progressives Congress (APC) might be sending people to get “unfavourable” information to be used against their son, the president.
Besides President Jonathan, there are few other indigenes of Otuoke who have risen high on the social scale. They include Dr Okio Promise, Permanent Secretary, Special Duties in the Bayelsa State Governor’s Office; Chief Dr Playman ThankGod, Chief Executive Officer of Dana Airlines, and Sarafina Otazi, Commissioner for Women Affairs, Bayelsa State.
It is widely believed that Otuoke would certainly be taken to the next level of development should President Jonathan get another term in office in next year’s presidential election.
Peter Ezemezue, a patent medicine dealer in Otuoke was full of appreciation to President Jonathan over his vision for his community.
‘’He has tried to develop this place. From the account of those who have been living here before he became president, even this road you are looking at was not there. Everybody walked on a track-road to their houses. But look at the impact now, everywhere is open. He is trying to create more hope for his people. So, I will tell you that he has really created a positive impact,’’ he said.
However, Nweze Moses, a businessman said the physical transformation going on in Otuoke “does not boil down to the president as a person.’’
‘’With the advent of the school (university) people have pushed in money to buy lands and build structures for the students. The school is actually the catalyst for the physical transformation you are seeing here,’’ Moses said.
He condemned insinuations that the president is concentrating development in his country home to the detriment of other areas in the country, stressing that Otuoke is not better than most communities in the country.
‘’You can see it yourself. Thank God you came and there is no light. And this is very common in Nigeria. I think the good thing here is that we have a school (university), and that is what is giving a kind of life to Otuoke. Apart from that, there is no other thing different from what we see in other parts of the country.
‘’I think that is the problem we have in Nigeria. We give much emphasis on building insinuations or perceptions. Dr Goodluck Jonathan is not the president of Otuoke, he is the president of Nigeria. The entire country is his constituency,” he added.
For Pastor Emmanuel Egede, secretary, Otuoke Community Development Committee, Otuoke is having a tremendous impact of Mr. President’s Transformation Agenda.
‘’There are several ways we are feeling the impact of Mr. President’s Transformation Agenda. To start with, the presence of Mr. President has really brought a lot of enlightenment programmes to this community. In the area of education, there is a lot of manpower development.
‘’If you go to infrastructural development you can see a lot of changes on ground. Prior to his being there, there was no road to this place. Today, we have a durable road.
‘’The presence of the Federal University has increased the population of Otuoke. The presence of the university is also boosting the economy of the area. Development has come to stay. Buildings are coming up as a result of the university.
“We also have a federal skills acquisition centre, which is nearing completion. There are modern schools, the NDDC is contributing immensely. There is improvement in security, the value of lands is appreciating, while the communication system has improved,’’ Pastor Egede said.
The secretary further disclosed that Otuoke has finally been linked to the National Grid, adding that a federal government-sponsored water project, which is ongoing, is expected to serve 15 other communities.
He revealed that many indigenes of Otuoke had been sent abroad for greener pastures, while others interested in the armed forces and other security agencies have enlisted.
“We know that Dr Goodluck Ebele Jonathan is from this place, but he is not the president of Otuoke; hence, this is not the only place he is developing. He cannot bring the entire resources of the country to develop Otuoke,” he concluded.

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