Engr. Usiagwu Arthur Osaretin is the President General of Igbanke General Union (IGU) Worldwide. In this interview with ISAAC ASABOR, he spoke on what drives his philanthropic disposition towards community development, and appealed to other well-meaning sons and daughters of Igbanke Community to join hands in moving the community forward, even as he called on the governor of Edo State, Mr. Godwin Obaseki to complete the abandoned 8.5km road network in the community. In the same vein, he urged the leadership of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) to accord due recognition to Igbanke community as a member of the Nigeria Delta region.
You have been involved in the realisation of more dozens of projects in Igbanke, and have been passionate about seeing Nigeria have constant electricity which you recently demonstrated with what can in this parley be called “Operation Light Up Igbanke”. Can you throw insight to the philanthropic move?
Nigeria is a very large country and on daily basis the resources available can no longer cope with the challenges it is faced with. Therefore, the need to look inwards and develop a local framework required to solving our immediate problem has become more imperative than ever.
The electricity problem in Nigeria has become hydra headed! I feel we need to think outside the box to help government in addressing this huge deficit. We can make fifty percent of our energy need off grid. I have canvassed in different fora that there is need for Government to apply the energy mix approach as well as the embedded generation option in solving our electricity issues across the country. As a result of the epileptic electricity supply to my community, we decided to look inwards to address the continuous darkness across the streets of Igbanke. The town is an urban community with all the trappings of an emerging big city.
Today, through self-help, we are strategically changing the landscape and turning the Community into a big city through solar intervention across all major streets and government facilities across the community. The General hospital is now a beneficiary just like the divisional Police headquarters.
Some of our traditional institutions are already having a fair share of this infrastructural metamorphosis. Some of our well-meaning Igbanke sons and daughters are aligning with me to achieve our set target. It is my hope that others will follow in this drive to change the face of community.
In my own little way, I recently built and furnished a block of two classrooms in my alma mater, Igbontor Primary School, Igbontor-Igbanke and in turn donated the project to Edo State Government.
The facility was commissioned by the Executive Governor of Edo state, Mr. Godwin Obaseki, who was ably represented by the deputy speaker of Edo state House of Assembly, Rt. Hon. Roland Asoro. I thank God that my philanthropic disposition, as you described it, is been applauded by prominent members of the community. The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) Coordinator and an Igbanke leader, Elder Benjamin Oghumu and Chief Jimmy Emefiele Ehi, the Abakiku of Igbanke land and a host of other leaders graced my golden jubilee celebration a couple of weeks ago. What drives my philanthropic disposition towards community building is my desire to give back to my society. Owing to scarcity of funds, it has become quite imperative for kind hearted individuals to complement government initiative in bringing basic infrastructure to the people and this singular act is one of them.
Let me use this opportunity to appeal to my brothers and sisters to come in and join us in this our resolve to move Igbanke development to the next level.
Did you ever picture yourself becoming a community leader, and given the fact that being one is no easy feat, and what have been some of the challenges you encountered along the line?
I have found myself in leadership position since I left secondary school. I was the Student Union President of my community years back. I also became the secretary of our Club, Igbontor Dynamic Club, during which time we made tremendous progress in pushing the agenda to develop Igbontor community. This was in my schooldays. In the same club, I held the position of the Vice President for two terms. At our elite club, Association of Igbanke Professionals, I have also held all the most important positions. From Assistant Chief Scribe to the Chief Scribe, Vice President for two terms as well as President for two terms. My life has always been that of service to my community. I believe members of my community saw this progression and became resolute that I am the right person to lead the community as the President General of Igbanke General Union worldwide (IGU Worldwide).
Sincerely, it comes with its challenges. Sometimes I have to be up at nights responding to issues facing the community. Also to manage the divergent views of our people and arriving at a consensus, and these are usually herculean. You know Igbanke community boasts of over 45 Professors both within and in Diaspora, galvanising all opinions and pushing same for a commonly acceptable position is not always an easy task. The joy is that my community trusts in my ability to make wide consultations before major decisions are made. I must say that I have been enjoying tremendous support from my people since I mounted the saddle of leadership. It has been a wonderful experience
What is your take on how Igbanke people are been neglected from benefiting from NDDC’s developmental efforts?
As you are aware, Igbanke is a community in Orhionmwon Local government which is an oil producing local council.
Sincerely, I am at sea on why the developmental initiative of NDDC is not visible in the community. In our local government, Igbanke is one of the top urban settlements and despite that, its continuous neglect has become very worrisome. For instance, no Igbanke man is on the board of NDDC. I think there is no plan yet on the part of NDDC to push developmental project to my community. This alienation is one too many. I want to appeal to the management of NDDC to include Igbanke community in their map for project that will transform the lives of the people of Igbanke. This neglect is actually becoming unbecoming and we are quite optimistic that this position will change for better.
As the President General of Igbanke General Union (IGU) Worldwide, and also an affiliate of other development organisations, such as Igbanke professionals, is there any plan in the pipeline towards drawing the attention of Edo state government or the leadership of NDDC to the abject neglect of Igbanke in terms of infrastructural development?
We made concerted moves to visit our governor before the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic. The idea was to draw His Excellency’s attention to some abandoned project in my community. Remember the 8.5km road network graciously given to Igbanke land by the past administration. Our amiable governor did promise to complete the remaining internal section of this project. Over the years, this aspect of the road is yet to be attended to.
I appeal to our governor to help fulfill this promise to Igbanke people to give us a sense of belonging. This aspect of the project is long overdue and it is my expectation that our governor will do something quickly about it.
Our general hospital has become a shadow of itself. As a community, we have done tremendously within our capacity to upgrade the facilities in the hospital. Few years ago, Association of Igbanke Professionals donated fans, matrasses, air conditionals chairs and benches for out -patients receiving section. Igbanke Union in the United States also recently brought in ultra-modem facilities needed to improve the status of the hospital.
The major challenge facing the hospital is manning. We have visited the Edo State Hospitals Management Board (HMB) in Benin-city but to no avail. My appeal in this parley to the executive governor of Edo state is to urge him to help my community with qualified staff to man this facility for efficient service delivery to my people. I am confident he will address these areas.
Credit: Independent Newspapers