NOW THEY ARE SMILING AGAIN
• Bappa Azare
It was a tale of two villages plagued by a common disease. Located about four kilometres from Bauchi, the Bauchi State capital, Gudum Hausawa and Gudum Sayawa are two communities with many things in common. Besides the mountainous settings, dying and dead industries and beautiful panorama of fertile fields, a binding factor was the dilapidated road. So bad was the road that led to these villages that the inhabitants suffered under its impact for years.
As modernisation crept in, life on the road was, for them, one bumpy retrogressive journey. The road was so bad that, at some point, it took almost 20 or 30 minutes for vehicles or motorcycles to reach either Gudum Hausawa or Gudum Sayawa from the capital.
The villagers lamented that the situation was worse during the rainy season.
'We are very lucky to have water and electricity in our village but the major problem was the road,' Mohammed Bello, a fish seller in Gudum Hausawa told Daily Sun. 'In fact, we used to say that it was easier to travel to Gombe or Jos and come back than to leave Gudum Hausawa or Gudum Sayawa for a place as near as Bauchi,' he said.
Located in the industrial area of Bauchi, the two villages have seen the rise and fall of various industries. As industries die either due to lack of stable power or infrastructures to operate, villagers from the two Gudums who worked at mostly unskilled levels lost their jobs. As you cross to either Gudum Hausawa or Gudum Sayawa, the sorry state of abandoned industries that were active in the 1980s confronts your eyes. The villagers have since returned to their first love - farming – as the industries lie moribund, a stark reminder of the curse of oil and mismanagement.
'But the worst problem has been the bad roads,' Timothy from Bigi, a stone's throw from Gudum Hausawa said.
Transporting farm produce from the villages to the hinterland was a Herculean task, no thanks to the nature of the roads.
'The companies operated like this for years before their demise,' Dan Tala, who owns a provision shop in Gudum Sayawa chipped in. 'I think the bad roads must have contributed to their deaths in a way.' Mallam Umar Tukur, the village head of Gudum Sayawa told Daily Sun in his compound that the experience with the bad road was terrible.
Said he: 'It was very terrible especially when there was no hospital in Gudum Hausawa. There was the time I will never forget when we were taking a pregnant woman to the hospital. She delivered on the way but she died because of the bad road. Her baby also died. It was a very bad experience.'
Tukur said that leaving Gudum to Railway, which is about two kilometres, was more stressful than travelling to even Gombe. 'When you are returning from Bauchi at night, the commercial motorcycle that will carry you will charge you as if you are travelling from Jos to Bauchi. Most of them did not even want to go to Gudum because of the bad road so they charged heavily to carry you there. It was terrible.'
Tukur said that for the eight years that the immediate past governor, Adamu Mu'azu ruled, from 1999 to 2007, their cry for the road to be constructed fell on deaf ears. Their high expectations that the coming of democracy would lead to the construction of the road that had given them sleepless nights were dashed. According to Tukur, 'During that period, we cried a lot to the government about the road. They would bring engineers and we would start rejoicing but in the end they did not do the road. There was no solution from the companies too. We all suffered from the bad road until they (the companies) began to die gradually.'
The village head recalled various efforts made by the communities to address the bad road. He said: 'We did several things to ease the problem of the road. Each year before the rainy season we organised community efforts but they were not enough.' Tukur said when Governor Isa Yuguda carried out his campaigns in 2007 to the area, they cried to him about their plight concerning the road. The governor promised to do the road during his campaigns in 2007 and they were happy because they believed he would do it.
Their happiness knew no bounds when he actually promised to construct the road from Railway, Kuka, Kir, Luda and Burnu. A tarred road across these villages would not only relieve the nightmare but boost commercial activities, as the farm produce from the villages would easily be transported to the urban areas. After Yuguda's four years, the people of Gudum Hausawa were still waiting. Nothing was done on the road, and the people thought they had been forgotten again. Since politicians hardly keep their promises, the people resigned to fate and went back to life.
After four years, Yuguda came to campaign again and asked the people to forgive him. He said most people that he brought into government were sycophants who were not sincere. According to the governor, his lieutenants were working to enrich themselves while he was working to empower his people. Again, the people believed him when he asked them to give him a second chance. He promised to do the road when re-elected.
Tukur said no sooner had the governor been elected for his second tenure than engineers came to inspect the road.
'When they came at first, we did not take them seriously. We did not believe them but within three months, the road was constructed. We could not believe it. We are very grateful to his Excellency and we are praying for the government of Mallam Isa Yuguda to succeed because the road is helping us a lot now.'
Tukur said the people of Gudum Hausawa and Gudum Sayawa have never stopped thanking the governor for wiping away tears from their eyes since constructing that road that had given them nightmares for decades.'Now, within five minutes, you are in Bauchi, something that could take you hours before because of the bad road,' Kawu, a civil servant told Daily Sun.
'I came to live here about three years ago when I could not get accommodation in the state capital. Now with this road, I am happy because my car will not be breaking down constantly again,' Kawu said Tukur, however appealed to Governor Yuguda to complete the road from Gudum to Kuka, Kir, Luda and Burnu as he promised. The road currently terminates at Gudum Hausawa. 'The work, especially at the Gwalaga Bridge has stopped and during the rainy season, that place used to give us problems because the water does not flow. We have laid the complaint before the Commissioner for Special Duties, Alhaji Bappa Azare and he felt bad with the development. He promised that the road and the bridge would be completed soon.
'The River Gwallaga has claimed many lives. Yearly it claims at least five lives. But the death would reduce if the bridge is completed and it will also boost farming in the area because the farmers will find it easy to move with their goods. But without the bridge, the water overflows during the rainy season, making it difficult for vehicles and humans to pass.'
Speaking with Daily Sun in his office concerning the bridge, Bauchi State commissioner for Special Duties, Bappa Azare, said work would soon be completed on the bridge and two other bridges along the road.