In 2004, I was a young Edo man in my twenties. I had returned from the United Kingdom where I had gone to earn a university degree after which I started doing some work in that country. I made progress rapidly and soon after I returned to my home town, Benin City, to get married to my fiancée who I had left behind as I proceeded to England to study.
Upon return, the state in which I met my beloved city of Benin was perplexing and that is putting it mildly. The street in Erhunmwense area of the town where I was raised with many fond memories, had become a den of armed bandits of various kinds, cultists, armed robbers, hired killers, you name it. Young men moved along the street with assorted weapons ranging from guns to axes, machetes and others.
They were said to be untouchable because they were actually armed by and they worked for the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) government of the day at the time. It was a lawless state of affairs. Dog-eat-dog, survival of the cruellest, anarchy seized the soul of the ancient city of Benin and all other towns and villages in Edo State were not spared. The story of the terror that ruled the land at the time will be told in future episodes of this story. For now let me just tell of how my wedding day, which was supposed to be one of the most important days of my life was almost ruined.
Driving today from Erhunmwense to Ogba area of Airport Road, Benin City, will hardly take more than 15 minutes. But on my wedding day in 2004, it took much longer. I had engaged the service of a commercial bus driver on that day and considering that the journey was withintown, the driver took his time.
We were to move from my Erhunmwense neighbourhood to Ogba area where my wife’s father resides. Both traditional marriage and the church wedding were billed to hold on the same day so we set out around 10am only to find that all the roads leading to Ogba area were not motorable.
I had been going to my in-laws’ place mainly when it was dry and I did not quite take into cognisance how terrible the journey would be if it rains. Well, it rained the night before my wedding day and driving with my guests from Erhunmwense to my Father-In-Law’s house in Ogba became an embarrassingly impossible task.
Every road we turned into to avoid one impassable road turned out to be impassable in the end. Call it Ekehuan Road, Airport road, Zabayo street, Akenzua,… you name it. They were all not motorable! They were dotted with huge gullies and craters. Our vehicles got stuck a number of times and people dressed up to attend a wedding had to get down to push out the vehicles from the ditches that trapped them. For my compatriots who are of Edo origin, we were in the shame together, but for my friends who were visiting from the United Kingdom and other states of Nigeria, I could not bear the shame each time my eyes locked on theirs during what turned out to be one of the most embarrassing journeys of my life. We kept checking our wristwatches and calling to appeal to my then future In-laws to be patient. Will we ever get to this venue, will we not?
There was no road in Benin City. The PDP government of the day was a mess. If you are a Benin City resident who was already grown between 1999 and 2006 and you claim not to know the embarrassment which the PDP caused the people of Edo State, then you are simply dishonest.
PDP can make whatever claims they want in any other state in Nigeria but not Edo State. They left only bitterness, sorrow, blood and tears in their trail in Edo when they held sway….
… TO BE CONTINUED