There was a mild drama, followed by chaotic scenes yesterday when the PDP governorship candidate, Mr Umo Eno visited the Ifa Ikot Okpon Timber Market in Uyo to address the people on his campaign agenda. The market lies along Oron Road, near the new Ring Road, and is one of the biggest timber and building materials markets in the state. The well-known cement and building materials dealer, UBOTEX, is based in that market.
As a banker many years ago, I have made many trips to that same market. My younger brother is a major operator there. I know them fairly well.
Trouble started when the PDP candidate was introduced to present his address and he told the market leaders and traders that he would build toilet facilities in the market and ensure that the waste is drained all the way to the Atlantic Ocean. This attracted murmurs and laughter, as the people could not imagine that this would be the main preoccupation of a governor of a state that earns over N20 billion in FAAC and over N3 billion monthly in IGR. “Our market has adequate toilet facilities. Why did Umo Eno make that kind of pledge’’, a trader told me in bewilderment.
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Sensing that his message was not well received, the candidate cut short his speech and announced that he has donated N200,000 to the traders. He then made to leave. “The money was not even seen. We don’t know whom he gave the money to. Usually, cash donations at such events are placed on the high table in front of the leaders of the market’’. But what angered the young boys in the market the more was Eno’s refusal to share the sachets of gari he brought to them. They had found stacks of these sachets in some of the vehicles that came with him, and had expected that they are for them. These young boys engage in odd jobs in the markets to make ends meet. A sight of small bags of gari might have whetted their appetite in this very austere time.
As Eno’s motorcade was snaking out of the market, the boys started throwing stones at him and the police escorts had to fire sporadically into the air to scare them away. “Eno messed up what could have been a good opportunity for him to present his agenda,’’ said my brother who reported the matter to me later.
I recall that Senator Udoedehe, the candidate of NNPP, had visited that same Ifa Ikot Okpon market earlier this year and promised to launch a N5 billion grant specifically for all the timber and building material traders in the state to rejig their machines and tools and augment their working capitals. In addition, Udoedehe has also pledged to renovate the markets and fix access roads. At the Ifa market, the NNPP candidate presented a cash donation of N250,000 and some drinks to the leaders in appreciation of their warm reception.