…Emakalakala, the story of a forgotten and abandoned town of the first civilian governor of old rivers state.
It was a bright, sunny and calm Saturday morning. The serene EMAKALAKALA COMMUNITY in OGBIA LOCAL GOVERNMENT AREA of BAYELSA STATE was just waking up from yet another dark night when even pin drop silence could be observed.
EMAKALAKA is close to nature at its best with green vegetables, forests and trees snaking round the community.
The Town which produced the late SENATOR MELFORD OKILO the first civilian Governor of the old RIVERS STATE and Parliamentary Secretary during the reign of the nation’s only Prime Minister, lacks basic amenities including power and water.
EMAKALAKALA is one of about fifty- four communities in OGBIA LOCAL GOVERNMENT AREA of BAYELSA STATE.
A first time visitor to the town is likely to get a good first impression owing to its well-planned lay out and concrete walk ways which natives say was courtesy of the efforts of the first civilian Governor of Old Rivers State, CHIEF MELFORD OBIENE OKILO.
CHIEF OKILO who was Governor from 1979 to 1983 was credited to have created OGBIA TOWN, built the first GAS TURBINE that served most parts of the present BAYELSA STATE, then located deep in the mangrove swamp forests and creeks and provided basic infrastructure to these neglected communities.
At EMAKALAKALA, relics of these facilities and infrastructure built by CHIEF OKILO who was appointed a parliamentary secretary and Minister from 1956 to 1964 by then Prime Minister, TAFAWA BALEWA, a Minister of Commerce and Tourism from nineteen 1963 to 1964 and a Senator representing BAYELSA East from 1979 to 1983 are still visible.
But, eleven years after his death aged seventy-five, the legacies of SENATOR OKILO including the GENERAL HOSPITAL and the ODINADE COMMUNITY SECONDARY SCHOOL at his country home OF EMAKALAKALA lay in ruins, overtaken by weeds.
It took a long trek in the swamps and muddy pathway by a team of Journalists, the Environmental Rights Action and community leaders as guides to come to grips with the harsh reality and utter neglect of the people.
DOCTOR ARANYE OKILO, the Head Chief of the Town, a nephew of SENATOR OKILO and the first Medical Doctor from the community said it was unfortunate that despite all his uncle did for the Niger Delta, his place remain abandoned.
‘Where I am standing is the Emakalakala General Hospital, built by the Melford Okilo administration in the old RIVERS State. Over time, this place has become dilapidated to this level. Infact, since he died and up to this time, nothing has been done in this place.
“Contract for the refurbishment were awarded and abandoned. Several contractors have been responsible for this, all claiming that the government was not paying. At the beginning of the contract, this Hospital was closed, a full General Hospital and all staff transferred out. It’s been a problem to this community. No water, no light in Emakalakala except when Okilo was Governor.
“Water borne diseases are common in this place.If the people of Emakalakala are not important to government, at least let them consider Melford Okilo and his contributions to the Niger Delta, especially Ijawland”, he stated.
A woman, MRS. CATHERINE AMOS narrates the challenges the people of EMAKALAKALA suffer each day as a result of the situation.
‘We dey suffer many things. Like our Hospital before we been dey use am but now, since how many years, we no get hospital again. Women now when dem wan deliver, before dem go rush dem go hospital for other towns like Kolo, the woman go die, pikin die.
“ Emakalakala population no dey because of die die. Sometimes, you no get money, your pikin dey sick, husband or even you sef dey sick, you no get money go reach hospital for another community, the person go don die. So, we dey beg government make dem help us with our Hospital”, she appealed.
The community development committee Chairman, ELDER SUNDAY EBIRI decried the neglect the people suffer.
‘No government impact, no road, no hospital, no water, even security, the Police that were here, all of them have been transferred out. See the place, it’s like a bush. So, I am appealing to the Government.
“Okilo was a very Important man in Nigeria. They should look at the work he did and come to the aid of Emakalakala people. We are suffering too much. Every year, we lose up to 15 persons especially women because if someone is not feeling fine or a woman is in labour, how do you rush him or her to the hospital elsewhere without good roads”, he cried out.
The Vice President of the Youth body, MR. AZIBOLANARI SUMOPIRI also points to the decrepit state of the only secondary school in the community.
‘I finished from this school in 2002.When we were here, this school was so nice. But look at it now.It is in very bad shape. So, we are appealing to the government to help us. The last exam they wrote it here and as you can see, no chairs or desk. The school population has reduced drastically because our students now go to Yenagoa and other places to seek education’, he lamented.
Meanwhile, Community Rights Advocate, MR. ALAGOA MORRIS has advocated the establishment of an Institute for good governance democratic leadership in honour of the First civilian Governor of the Old Rivers State, the late CHIEF MELFORD OKILO.
He made the call during an advocacy visit to the EMAKALAKALA country home of the onetime Parliamentary Secretary and former Minister.
MR. ALAGOA MORRIS who is the Head, YENAGOA office of the Environmental Rights Action said despite being a Governor for only four years from 1979 to 1983, the legacies of CHIEF OKILO remain unmatched.
The Rights Activist called on government to take urgent measures to fix the abandoned General Hospital, Secondary school, water, road and other projects in EMAKALAKALA to give the people a sense of belonging.
“To keep the memory of Okilo alive, an Institute of Democratic Leadership and Good Governance should be established where whether you want to be Councillor, Local Government Chairman or Governor, you should go through that school to learn how to serve. Melford Okilo in his book ‘God, Man and Politics’ said we do not go into politics for material gains but to serve, and once you become Governor or President, you should serve every body irrespective of political affiliation. But today, from Alamieyeseigha to now, it has been a very sharp contrast with what Okilo did as Governor. The 3 Senatorial Roads are his footprints and in the days of Okilo we only heard of Thousands oo, nobody heard of millions. Today, we hear billions and trillions, yet no service delivery to the people. Thank God Journalists are here, we have trekked to the Hospital and the school, and what I saw today, that Emakalaka, Okilo’s place has been so neglected, it’s so sad”, ALAGOA stressed.
For the people of EMAKALAKALA, which is just a five minute drive from the historic OLOIBIRI OIL WELL, where crude oil was first struck in commercial quantity in the country in 1956, it seems theirs is a case of water everywhere but nothing to drink.