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It was on Wednesday August 24, 2011 when the news spread into town like wild fire that some August visitors had stepped down on the swampy-muddy-earth of Umeh road. Their mission was to inspect the aged-long inaccessible 7-kilometer road leading to the heart of the town. Interestingly, the Governor, Dr. Emmanuel Eweta Uduaghan personally led the inspection squad to this pioneer community in Isoko South Local Government Area. This was indeed remarkable for the Umeh people and indeed the Isoko nation. The governor's visit marked part of the crucial moments in the commemoration of the 20thAnniversary of Delta State. Since then encomiums have not stopped pouring on the governor and his team like an unceasing rain drops in the desert.

The Umeh road is a typical example of conscientious abandonment and gross neglect by successive governments. It is worse than the much echoed Lagos-Ore road. This agrarian and peace loving community with high agricultural potentials, abundance of aquatic lives, timber and tourism has virtually been cut-off from global civilization. It was therefore historic to watch a sitting governor in a lifetime dialogue directly with the villagers on how best to fix their bad road and to ameliorate their suffering.

Although the inspection visit fell on a friendly sunny day, the governor's team managed to navigate through the muddy clay soil to about half a kilometer of the 7 kilometer stretch until they reached a small hamlet along the road. Thank God it did not rain that fateful day.

Until Governor Uduaghan's visit, the Umeh people have never perceived government this friendly, perhaps because of incessant poor representation in the different strata of governments which over the years bred apathy among the populace. Little wonder they were quick to take to their heels as the August visitors were skidding through the swampy mud and advancing towards them. When they returned from their hiding and the Governor eventually unfolded his mission, the peace loving community of Umeh was agog with excitement and jubilation that knew no bound.

Like another Christmas in August, the governor's visit reinvigorated their spirits and threw the town into a festive mood, domestic animals were freely slaughtered, fishes from the rivers and bunches of plantains from plantations were harvested for merriment to usher in the coming of a new era.

The President General of Umeh, Chief Philip Utoro on behalf of his people expressed immense and profound gratitude to the governor and his team for the August visit and mission to Umeh town, noting that “Umeh will remain grateful to you and your executive”.

His Royal Highness, Owhe Odiri, the Odiologbo of Umeh Kingdom too could not hide his feelings. He praised Almighty Jehovah God like never before and literally turned an emergency gathering at the Odio's Palace in respect of the colourful mood created by the governor's visit to a crusade ground, preaching – the finger of God has come to Umeh to stay. He commended the governor and his brave team for their bold step and encouraged the governor to shun side talks and do the will of God for the people of Umeh who have suffered deprivation and neglect this much.

It all started like a child's play in a social network forum on the internet – FACEBOOK. The forum - UMEH NEEDS ROAD - was created by Barrister Duncan Afahokor, one of our own. The governor got wind of it and willfully joined the discussion. Although, he had the prerogative to remain silent in the chat-room, but he chose to identify with the people, he could have used his office to undermine various poor remarks and rebuke the personalities, but he preferred to tolerate all. Yet, it was not mandatory and/or obligatory for him to respond to every plea, rather the governor on his own volition made frantic efforts which did not end on mere promises, but surprised all critics and guess what – the governor had gone ahead of all in the forum and went for inspection and was indeed posting comments from the deplorable Umeh road on which basis the forum was created. That was a genuine and absolute show of love and somewhat psychological relief for a people who have been so traumatized by the daily emotional torture of their only inaccessible road for so long a time.

In his own words, the governor posted: “I sincerely thank U all for d various comments following my visit to Umeh today. Following my facebook 'townhall meeting' yesterday, I had to postpone my State EXCO meeting to 9pm to give me enough (time) to visit. So after our security council meeting in Warri at about 12noon, I told the SSG to follow me to Umeh. It was a remarkable trip. Apart frm the road, I was able to go into one of the plantain plantations & passed a footbridge over a flowing river, part of which was totally covered with water hycenth. In another segment of the river was a long fishing net. On another farm site were 2mud houses & a 'kitchen' which has only a thatch roof. The inhabitants had taken off when they saw us coming. They were eventually persuaded to come out of their hiding. I had an interesting converstion with them especially d 11yr old boy who apparently had gone to pick 'ikolo' or edible worm to cook d banga that was on fire. He is a boy full of courage & determination. Some okada riders joined us & we had fruitful discussions, not just on d road but issues of farming & livelihood. There were other encounters. In all, a lot can be achieved with d situation. We can start work ealier than I had envisaged. We were stiil able to hold our EXCO at 10pm after dealing with other programs. We finished abt 1am. Quite an interesting day. Thanks Duncan. Thanks PG. Thanks Zino. Thank U all. Let me assure all that I was at no time offended. I am aware that pple have lost confidence & faith in Govt. I am trying to correct that. God bless U all.”

For the initiator of the forum, Barrister Duncan Afahokor this was more than just an achievement. In his brief remark, full of excitement, Barrister Afahokor posted - “What else can I say, than a BIG THANK YOU to His Excellency Dr. Emmanuel Uduaghan for this historic visit to Umeh in Isoko South LGA, to assess the deplorable state of UMEH ROAD personally. For us, we believe the road is as good as done. May God give His Excellency the grace to complete what he has just started. Governor, Thank you, Thank you and Thank you. My sincere apology for any word or words used by any contributor to this page that you may have considered insultive and offensive.”

The governor's visit to Umeh seemed to have engulfed the imaginary lines of political sentiments in Isoko land, thus transcending party affiliations. A case in point is a grassroots politician of the Labour Party (LP), Chief Iduh Amadhe, who is contesting his alleged victory at the tribunal to unseat the incumbent Honourable Prince Johnson Erijo, Member of the Delta State House of Assembly representing Isoko South Constituency II under which Umeh is listed. Chief Amadhe also added his voice in commending Governor Uduaghan and his team for this bold step. He recounted that the neglect of the Umeh road was as a result of deliberate disconnect from the people and poor representation. He recalled that at a time he had to deploy his personal resources to hire caterpillar/bulldozer to grade the Umeh road which was in dire bad condition. The project of grading the Umeh road cost this illustrious son of Isoko land a fortune. Yet he is neither a representative of the Umeh people in any governmental fora nor does he live in Umeh community. Simply put, Chief Amadhe is a friend of the down trodden and a known friend of the Umeh people. Like Governor Uduaghan, he feels our pains.

Mr. Palmer Ogheneyole Nathaniel, an ardent believer and die-hard supporter of Chief Great Ogboru of the Democratic People Party (DPP) was also in this instance of the governor's visit to Umeh road betrayed by true emotions and had no other options but to sway along with the new ideals of the Governor Uduaghan led administration. In his own words, Palmer admitted that “It was unbelievable today, Umeh was thrown into heavy jubilation as Dr. Uduaghan came down to feel the pain of the people. I\'m most overwhelmed that the Gov. actually matched words with actions; I never believed it when I was told till I called someone in Umeh to confirm. I must say that swift responses of this nature will go a long way to silence many critics like us and i fervently beg the Gov. to write his name in gold in the heart of the deprived people of Umeh by realising the long awaited dream. This is time for action and I sincerely appeal to all the sons and Daughters of Umeh to follow this up before desperate Isoko Politicians hijack the project. This is good news and the whole of Isoko land is grateful.” He thanked the governor.

Umeh, arguably, can be said to be the most blessed in the occasion of this 20th Anniversary of Delta State. The dreams have never been this hopeful and strong. What else can we say than continue to pray fervently that our dreams shall come to pass soon where the bounty of our untapped natural, fertile and virgin landmass will be harnessed to the glory of Delta State. Umeh, my native land is a sure ground for an agricultural institution of commercial and international exposition.

The governor summed it up when he said that he is aware that people have lost confidence and faith in government and is doing his best trying to correct that negative impression. Certainly, a new vista has been opened in the politics of Delta State and the Isoko nation is watching with keen interest. The point has been established. Governor Uduaghan deserves commendation for his swift interest and absolute show of love and for taking his time to personally inspect the Umeh road which he got wind of through a social network forum in the internet. However the Governor needs to be supported by genuine representatives of the people. We only pray to see light at the end of the tunnel more so that the governor had assured that “we can start work earlier than I had envisaged”. This proactive approach is indeed an elixir. Umeh wadoo, Isoko wadoo, Delta wadoo – Heeee! Heeyeeee!

Edoreh Festus is a native of Umeh
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Articles by Festus Edoreh