Saga of Ondo communities where residents, visitors frequently perish in auto crashes

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I lost my wife, Ngozi, in one of the fatal accidents that occurred here at Oke Alabojuto Road. We were together here in the market until it was time for her to go and bring the kids from school. She was standing by the roadside waiting to cross to the other side when a vehicle lost control trying to ascend the hilly road and crushed everybody and everything on its path.

“My wife was one of the victims. She didn’t die immediately. We rushed her to a private hospital from where we were referred to a general hospital. After a short time at the general hospital, we  were referred to FMC Owo. It was there she died. The accident was just one of the countless fatal accidents that plunged many homes into mourning till date.”

Above were the tearful  recall of  Pascal Ndukwuegbulam, a trader at Oke Alabojuto area of Ikare in Ondo State.

For several decades, the Oke Alabujoto road  in the heart of Ikare area of Ondo State passed off as a graveyard, following the innumerable accidents that claimed the lives of countless residents and visitors who visited the community from other parts of the country for commercial activities.

Aside from regularly claiming human lives, the fatal accidents were said to have also been responsible for the loss of other valuables, including houses, public utilities, shops and wares of the traders.

Another consequence of the challenge, according to a resident is that  “commercial activities which were the hallmark of the town nosedived because traders within and outside the state avoided the area like a plague to avoid being killed in the incessant auto crashes.”

The traditional ruler  of the town, Olukare of Ikare, Oba Kadiri Saliu Momoh,  told The Nation that occurrence of fatal accidents in the area predated his coronation in 1984 and that it had always made him unhappy.

His words: “Oke Alabojuto road, which is a major road in this town and state by extention was a very, very rough and dangerous road that discouraged many people from travelling and doing business in the neighbourhood.

“Accidents often occurred on the road and had consequently claimed the lives of innumerable members of the community and traders who came to do business here. Many houses and other valuables had all along been destroyed.”

As the monarch of the town, Oba Momoh said he was always uncomfortable each time information got to him that an accident had occurred in the area.

“I wasn’t feeling happy. Nobody would be happy to see such calamities happening  to his people, nobody. The people always cried to me every time accidents occurred and it was always saddening to me.

“We cried to the previous governments. They promised to do something about the state of the road but at the end of the day, they didn’t.

The amiable king said succour came the way of the people last year when the state governor, Rotimi Akeredolu, made good his electioneering promise to fix the road and put an end to the killing of innocent people in avoidable auto crashes.

“His Excellency, Governor Rotimi Akeredolu, came here during his electioneering campaign and promised to do something about the road. Last year, we cried to him  and he responded by coming to fix the road. No case of auto crash has been recorded since he fixed the road.

“Aside from fixing the road, the governor has also helped to fix some bridges that were previously not good for vehicles to move on. Some of the roads and bridges he has fixed are federal roads, but he has taken it upon himself to attend to them.  I took some chiefs to his office recently to express our deep and  sincere appreciation to him for coming to our rescue. The safety of our people and visitors plying the road and those doing business in the area is now guaranteed and we are happy for it.”

He further said: “Aside from putting  an end to avoidable auto crashes that brought sorrow to our people,  fixing the road by the Governor Akeredolu-led government has brought a lot of other benefits to our community.

“First, it has enhanced commercial activities and improved the standard of living of our people because traders from within the state and places like Kogi,   Benin, Lokoja and adjoining states now  have the confidence to come and do business here. Everywhere here in Ikare is  market. The boom in business activities has also had a ripple effect on other commercial activities like transportation. It  has been a win-win situation for us since the road was constructed.”

Beaming with smiles all over his face, the slim built and dark-complexioned monarch said: “I can confidently tell you that the quality of work on the road is excellent.  We always hold our meeting every nine days and I can tell you that we always spend half of our meeting days to pray for the governor.”

A survivor of one of the fatal accidents, Kehinde Ganiyat, said fatal accidents were almost permanent  features of the road until the present administration fixed the road.

Reliving her narrow escape from death, the trader said: “A trailer carrying bags of rice was trying to ascend the hilly road. In the course of doing that, the driver lost control and the trailer speedily rolled backward, hitting an electric pole and killing many people; traders, commercial motorcyclists  and passers by in the process.

“I was around the place where many people died but I can’t explain how I managed to survive. A woman who came to buy items for the daughter’s wedding was killed in one of the terrible accidents.

“There was hardly a week that an accident would not occur two times or more  and each time it did, many lives were lost.” The woman, a market leader in the town, Iyalaje, Alhaja Risikatu Mohammed, recounted how pregnant women and their babies perished in some of the accidents. “I am a bonafide daughter of this town, so I know everything happening here. Accidents were occurring on a regular basis here until now. At times, as many as 20 people could die in an accident.  We have lost so many people, houses and other valuables that one cannot give an exact number of victims.

“So many pregnant women have died with their babies in some of the accidents.  There was a particular accident where a pregnant woman had an iron pierce her stomach. The baby came out of her body and both of them died. Some women had an iron pierce into their private parts and died.

“On another occasion, an okada rider was electrocuted after a pole was pulled down by a vehicle that had break failure. He was trying to take his motorcycle away from the scene of the accident when he suddenly got electrocuted.”

The spate of accidents, she further said, “Instilled fears in everybody that we couldn’t come out to do business again. We are glad that those days of horror are over.  Our special appreciation goes to Governor Akeredolu and his team because if they had not come to our aid, we would have continued to be mourning.

“The story has changed completely today. Our businesses are doing well and we can afford to support our families.  We are supposed to be having a remembrance ceremony for all the people that died on this road because it was in the course of searching for what their children and entire family members would eat that they died.”

Another trader, who simply identified himself as Bunmi, said the construction of the road ended the fruitless practice of offering sacrifices on different parts of the road to prevent accidents. “If sacrifices were all that were needed to stop accidents, we would have long stopped recording accidents on this road because we offered more than enough sacrifices to appease the gods but they never worked.

“What the sacrifices failed to achieve over the years, the construction of the road has done. This means that it wasn’t any deity that was causing accidents but the failure of previous administration to pay attention to the pains of the citizens.”

Pascal, the trader who lost his wife in one of the accidents while going to take the children from school, was also elated that the road has been fixed. Comparing the previous state of the road with what is on the ground now, Pascal said: “I have not heard of any road accident since the road was fixed.  Life for everyone here is a lot better than what obtained in the past. We are grateful to the present administration in the state for this giant stride. If this kind of intervention had been done earlier, may be my wife wouldn’t have died.”

Reliving how he received the news of his wife’s sad incident, the widower said: “It was a day that broad day light turned to darkness for me.  It was like the end of the world had come that day. It is not an experience I would like to continue to talk about.”

Interestingly, not many believed the Oke Alabojuto road had a solution. In search of a solution to the countless number of deaths on the road, the locals have made several supplications to the gods without any success. Spiritual interventions were also not left out. But, with the last round of rocks brought down by the contractor’s tractors, the people of Ikare and indeed the entire Akoko people are singing a new song of victory over a hilly road that has claimed many lives in the past.

Also,  Oke Oka along Iwaro Oka /Abuja Road, is another road in the state where the lives of many road users had been wasted in accidents for many years. For many residents of the area, the road before now could be best described as a graveyard as it had, had innumerable innocent travellers perish on the hilly road, after their vehicles plunged into a massive ditch by the side of the road.

A resident of the community, who gave her name as Busayo Adebayo, said oftentimes, they would not be aware that an accident had occurred until the victims’ bodies begin to decompose in the ditch.

“We christened this road a graveyard because it had swallowed many human bodies. It was when the present administration fixed the road that many people had given up on, that accidents stopped occurring here. if it was in the past, you would not be able to stand here because stench from decomposing bodies would not allow you to stand here. The fixing of the road has made travelling very easy for people going to Abuja and other northern states to move with ease.

“We thank God for giving us a governor who is always quick to address issues that affect the lives and welfare of the people. In the whole of Ondo, accidents are fast disappearing from our roads. Hunger, domestic violence and other vices that used to occur because of non-payment of salaries have all ended. Not only is he paying salaries as and when due but he has also cleared six out of the seven-month salary arrears. This has brought a big boost to economic activities in the state.”

Another resident, who identified himself simply as Ogunyemi, recounted how a final year student in private university had her entire family members killed on the road.

“The family members had attended her graduation programme and were going home. She was to go back with them but she stayed back because she needed to collect some documents. When her family members were returning home, their vehicle was involved in a fatal accident and ended up in the ditch. They all perished. We have been saved from the odious stench that oozes from the ditch after people die there and start decomposing. If every government had been responding to challenges like this all these years, we would have saved many children from becoming orphans, motherless, and fatherless. We would have prevented many women from becoming widows and many men from becoming widowers.”

After several years of woes, residents of Idanre, a popular town in the state, said they have also begun to experience a new lease of life as following the construction of new road that connects the community to Akure.

“We had always had vehicles involved in accidents along the road because there was a huge ditch on the way. At times, long vehicles would line up the road for a day or more immediately one of them is stuck in the bad road. All that has ended with the construction of this new road.

“Before now, we only had a single entry and exit road but with the new road, we now have a better and shorter road to the heart of the state. When the governor came and made promises to us about it during his electioneering campaign, we thought it was the usual deceit of politicians. We are indeed shocked but happy that he made good his promise,” said a resident who gave her name simply as Labake.

Songs of redemption have also been reverberating from the mouths of residents of Emure Ile with the construction of dual carriage way by the government. For the residents, the gesture is unimaginable to have come from a government that has spent just two years in office.

Emmanuel, a commercial motorcyclist, said: “We sincerely than God for using the Governor Rotimi Akeredolu to fix this road. As a transporter, fixing the road would help put a stop to constant damage to my motorcycle.

“What previous governments couldn’t do in four to eight years, he has done within two years. We are shocked to see the massive work that this government is doing in the area of road construction, not only here in Emure Ile but across the state. Kudos to him and his team.”

The state Commissioner for Information and Strategy, Mr. Yemi Olowolabi, said Governor Akeredolu met dilapidated infrastructure, especially roads, on ground when he assumed power.

Olowolabi said because of the governor’s decision to change Ondo State from the civil service state to an industrial state, the governor considered it necessary to first of all build infrastructure that would fast-track the realisation of his administration’s agenda.

He said all the roads that are being constructed and all those ones already constructed were meant to address many issues in Ondo State.

“One, no fewer than five companies have already taken off in Ondo State. This will, to a reasonable degree, contribute to efforts aimed at getting our teaming youths employed.

“More companies have also shown interest to partner with Ondo State just because of the current government’s serious effort to industrialised the state.

“We must also not forget that kidnapping and other criminal activities on some of our roads have been drastically reduced because of the governor’s major intervention in road construction.”

Also speaking, the Chief Press Secretary to the state government, Mr Segun Ajiboye, described the Governor Akeredolu administration’s achievement as unprecedented.

In a chat with our correspondent, Ajiboye said: “In less than two years in office, the Governor Oluwarotimi Akeredolu administration in Ondo State has had an unprecedented success in road constructions and repairs. Like no other administration before it, Akeredolu has kept to his promise to make both the people’s welfare and infrastructural development of the state a priority of his administration. From the mysterious Oke Alabojuto in Ikare Akoko, to Idanre, Akure, Owo and Sabome in the southern senatorial zone, the governor has displayed a determination that cannot be faulted as far as road construction is concerned.

“In the rural areas, the chairmen of the local government areas have been mandated to construct at least one-kilometre of road in their areas. This is also in addition to grading farm roads to ensure easy access to and from the farms.

“Even federal roads have not been spared. The Owo-Ikare and Akure-Ado-Ekiti roads have received attention from the state government.”

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