How Ayade is bridging the gulf between East and West Boki through road connectivity By Ubong Akpan

Call them East and West Jerusalem of Cross River State, you will not be wrong, neither will you be charged with sedition. But unlike the inhabitants of the Middle East region, the people of East and West Boki, in Boki Local Government Area, are brothers and sisters who are disconnected as a result of the absence of road infrastructure.

Sharing similar linguistic, economic and social homogeneity, but detached by Afi River as well as lack of access road, for over 30 years, the people of East and West Boki have seen and experienced more than a fair share of the bad and the ugly. The two sister communities have seen administrations come and go, with several promises easily broken to their faces than they were made. They have been shortchanged by the same people who braced the odds during electioneering to solicit their votes and only to be seen no more.

For long, they have accepted the fate that confronted them unquestioningly and hoped against hope that one day, help might surface and a redeemer to bridge the gulf that separated them would come.

A journey to and from either of East or West Boki, which under normal condition, should ordinarily not exceed ten kilometers, stretched over a hundred, with the people having to navigate through Ogoja, Obudu and Ikom before accessing Boki 1 or Boki 2. For these two long neglected communities, it had been an endless ordeal that exacted an untold hardship, an unwarranted pain and stress.

Even though these two communities saw themselves as belonging in Cross River, they never actually felt as being part of the state. As far as the people of East and West Boki were concerned, they were sad and helpless victims of exclusion, isolation and marginalization that spanned over 30 years.

Today, however, it is fit and proper to say with glee that there is no time like the present as the waiting game is over. The despair that was for long part of their common diet is speedily turning to hope, cynicism to optimism and frustration to a sense of fulfilment. There is a sweeping reassurance and relief that they can indeed be part and parcel of Governor Ben Ayade’s developmental hurricane currently sweeping across the state

The harrowing years of spending frightful days and nights and seeing farm produce perish while conveying them to the market is fast coming to a terminal end as massive construction work to ensure socio-economic and commercial interconnectivity between the two communities is on a fast mode.

On this day of the media tour of ongoing projects in the North and Central Senatorial Zones of the state, hope sprang eternal, excitement was palpable among the people of Boki East and West.

Like the East West Boki, worryingly, the people of the northern part of the state making up the five local councils of Bekwarra, Obanliku, Obudu, Ogoja and Yala had for long been cut off from socio-economic activities with the rest of their brothers and sister from the central and southern part of the state.

A journey of three and a half hours from Ogoja to Calabar, painfully morphed into eight to ten hours depending on if you were commuting from either Obudu or Obanliku. The Calabar-Ikom-Ogoja federal road that links the northern part of the country to the South South region has for ages swallowed the lives of thousands of their loved ones to fatal road carnages.        

So, in a bid to arrest the slaughter, occasioned by road accident as well as blur the divide between the southern and northern part of the state and also re-energize, reactivate the tempo of socio-economic activities, Governor Ayade again, showed up as he is wont to do to flag off the construction work on the 133 kilometers Mfom-Okpoma-Imaje-Bekwarra-Obudu-Obanliku dual carriage road, which cost is put at N31billion.

Ayade, speaking while performing the groundbreaking, said the milestone was the beginning of a new journey in the history of the Northern Senatorial District which for 45 years had been denied the luxury of driving on good roads.

For 45 years, the people were totally disconnected from the point of mercantile and social interactions and indeed all prospects that give people dignity.

Like a people whose fate is intertwined, the economic life of the northern part of the state and the people of East and West Boki was completely gone, large farms that fed the entire South-south and South-east was also gone. Educational institutions and all that bounded them then was gone as a result of perpetual neglect and bad roads.

But in a twist of fate, God, in His infinite mercy, brought Ayade to restore the cord that once held them together.

With construction work at the East and West Boki road progressing at a fast pace, the locals could not contain their joy and excitement that for once, a leader is keeping his campaign promise to the people.

Unable to come to terms with the stark reality that construction work was actually going on, and that Boki 1 and Boki 2, otherwise called East and West Boki will experience road connectivity, Solar Japorson from East had this to say: “The governor is doing what others before had failed to do for us. For years, the two communities could not access each other. Crossing Afi River to the other side was impossible.”

According to him, the governor must be commended for his bold and courageous effort at changing the socio-economic narrative of the people of East and West Boki.

“Governor Ayade is really a leader who feels the pains of the people and is ready to soothe them.”

With the expected value to be added to their farm produce through appropriate pricing, with the construction of the road, another resident, Elder Francis Offem said: “I am a driver who drive a Toyota Carina 2 to move my farm produce to the markets, but during rainy season, I am left with no job as the bad state of the road made it impossible for me to convey them to the market. Before now, I could only carry 20 bunches of bananas and plantain during the dry season to the market. But today, with only the grading so far done, I can now carry 50 to 60 bunches with ease. Indeed, Governor Ayade is God-sent to the people of Boki. For remembering us with the construction of this road and most importantly, the building of the bridge to link Boki East and West. We will eternally be grateful to him”

For Mrs. Esther Barong Obi, “God will bless Governor Ayade for the construction of this road. We are happy for his courage to take us out of our misery. My ambition as distributor of farm produce in far places as Onitsha, Rivers, Aba, Abakalike and Benue is now looking like a reality.”

At the site of construction work on the 147km Mfom-Iyala-Bekwarra-Obudu-Obanliku road, in Bekwarra Local Government Area, Mr. Stephen Ushie Ogar, in Iyanya Village praised Governor Ayade for making good his campaign promises of enhancing the socio-economic activities of people in the rural areas. In his words: “Successive governments have come and gone, but none of them had ever made us feel part of the state as Ayade is doing. When he wanted to be governor, he came home to us and told us his plans if elected. Today we are seeing those promises come to pass and we are happy."

The road which is being executed as a dual carriage, Governor Ayade, realizing that 90% of his subjects who live in the five council areas are mostly farmers, felt the need to give the road a perfect makeover.

On the seriousness attached to the quick completion of the project, the contractors, Messrs. Sidney Construction limited expressed delight at the support they are getting from the State government.

According to the project manager, Engr Johnny Rajall, “at least 60% of the back filling on both sides of the road has been done,” adding “our company has adopted an approach where all our equipment are not concentrated in one area of the road. We started from Mfum to Okpoma and Okuku and now we are in Bekwarra."

Rajall stated that “from Abuochichie Junction, we have some of our equipment working and this will continue until we get to the foot of Obudu Mountain Resort. Owing to the rainy season our intention is to concentrate on the backfilling of the road, but very soon, the concrete sections of the road will be started which includes drainages and culverts.”

A chief in Inyanya Village, Chief Justin Agbajoh said the project is a dream come true for them. “I am very happy with this road and I would like to use this opportunity to on behalf my community, thank Governor Ayade, because before now, this road was impassable and it was difficult to transport our produce from the farms to the markets. But now you can see for yourself even before the road is finished that the work done so far is helping our people a lot.”

Also a woman leader, Mrs. Victoria Odey, could not hide her joy and excitement as she showered encomiums on Governor Ayade. “I am very happy because of this road, we now feel like we are in the city already. Our small village will soon become an express road, thanks to our performing governor, we are so happy. For us, this is like our next heaven as our women can carry their groundnuts, cassava from the farms to the markets. As women, we are grateful and we will continue to pray for the governor to succeed and complete this project successfully."

For the people of Bekwarra, Obanliku, Obudu, Ogoja and Yala council areas, as well as the East and West Boki, there is no better way to end the long years of socio-economic ostracization, tears and misery than Ayade’s effort at blurring the infrastructural divide through road connectivity and ensuring that the binding cords which once held east West Boki are pieced together.
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