The Sea Eats Our Land,By Eddy Aghanenu

Delta MapEach time one travels to the rural areas of our dear Delta State, one is besieged by very ugly and pathetic sights. The trip is no longer fun. It leaves a bitter taste in the mouth and anger. Anger at the deliberate neglect of the rural areas and the rural folks! Pity at these people who have so much to offer but now abandoned by their leaders! No one cares for the people. They are only useful during elections. They are figuratively raped by their own leaders and their dignity systematically taken away. No wonder, crime rate is on the rise in the state.

From Urhoboland to Anioma to Itsekiriland, Ijawland and Isokoland, the scenario is the same. One begins to wonder what the future holds for the state. According to a recent study by Delta Development Initiative (DDI), the state is projected to be eighty five million people by 2100. What foundation is the state laying now to cater for this population increase when we cannot take care of a little over four million people?

The first sight that greets one is the number of teenage parents. It is no longer the issue of teenage mothers but that of teenage fathers also. Girls of less than sixteen are already mothers to two or three children and in
most cases; the children are of different fathers. Some of these fathers are still in junior secondary school or early stages of senior secondary school. Both parents are still children who are still very dependent on their own parents.

The children suffer from malnutrition, barely clothed most of the time and have little or no access to medical care. The parents are helpless in bringing up these kids. Most of them are already old in their young age. They look haggard, unkempt and in need of parenthood themselves. The worst hit is the teenage mother who is left all alone to cater for the kids. Kids are strapped to their backs, others trailing behind as she goes about trying to eke out a living. They are found in building sites seeking for their daily bread. When no means is available, their body becomes the
easiest alternative. When they can no longer cope, the teenage mother abandons her children to her burdened mother and flees to the already congested urban areas to swell the prostitution population.

Meanwhile, the young father without any trade, education or skill joins of his ilk to while away the time by drinking cheap alcoholic drinks and indulge in illicit drugs. Since there is no means of livelihood, he gradually resorts to crime, cultism and becomes a valuable asset in election rigging.

Women are not left out. They carry most of the household burden. They have no access to government or cheap loans to aid their petty business or farming. The only alternative is the shylock lenders or cooperative groups
where the interest rate is very high. The little sales from farm products and petty business are used to pay and service the loans. They have barely enough left to take care of other needs. They are perpetually in debt.
Government empowerment scheme are only heard in the news. The women are in a pitiable state as they look lean, old and haggard from too much to carry in life.

The above are the things you observe in rural communities in Delta State and even urban areas. One is left wandering how it has come to such a bad state. We no longer care about human development. Public schools in rural
areas are just there in name. Teachers resume at their own time and teach whenever they want. The inspectorate section of the Ministry Of Education has gone to sleep. When the monitors are no longer monitoring, the
environment becomes chaotic. That is the situation of public schools in the rural areas. The youth they say are the leaders of tomorrow. I am yet to see how these youths who have become elders in their youths will become
leaders of tomorrow. How these youths who have no access to quality education or skills can become leaders of tomorrow is yet to be seen.

Some political leaders are even fuelling this state of affairs. They have an army of unemployed youths to recruit from. These youths engage in election rigging and even assassination. Women are hired to attend political rallies. The political leaders will not want the status quo to change. They are the chief beneficiaries.

Government is not addressing these issues. No amount of structural development (if any) without commensurate human development will be meaningful to the people. Government has to make deliberate and concerted effort to arrest this drift. The Ministry of Women Affairs has to educate the youths on the dangers of teenage parenthood. The ministry should also look for ways of engaging young mothers. They could be sent back to school or let them acquire skills that make them useful to themselves and the society.

The Ministry of Information has to do more in enlightening the youths on the dangers of election rigging and other forms of crime. The use of dangerous drugs should be preached against.

Skill acquisition centres should be created in every local government area and be made free. Local governments too can build skill acquisition centres. I know that there is the Songhai Centre in Amukpe. This is not enough for the state. Worse still, it has gone the way of other government’s projects in the state – a white elephant. Delta State can be the food basket of South South. They can engage, train the youths, equip them and provide fund for them to engage in agriculture. Extension workers must be available to guide the youths in agriculture. They should be encouraged to engage in quarterly crops such as vegetables, tomatoes and maize so that they will not lack funds. When this is done, the youths will embrace agriculture wholeheartedly. The way it is now, agriculture is meant for those who have no hope of making it elsewhere. The mindset has to change. This is where orientation comes in.

Women in the rural and even urban areas should be assisted with funds so that they can engage in meaningful ventures. Government should ensure that such funds really get to the people. Such funds should not be hijacked by
the political class. There are many instances where funds meant for the people are hijacked on the way by the ruling class. It never gets to the people.

Government has to engage in a total war to redeem the youths from self destruction. If they are abandoned as they are, Delta State will be like Somalia where crime is the order of the day. Let us bring life to the rural communities. For now, they are the dredge of society. Each time, I travel to any rural community in Delta State, I become apprehensive. Apprehensive not because of insecurity but because of degeneration of morals. The sea has encroached our rural communities and has eaten our land. If nothing is done now, we will pay the price in future in the form of insecurity. It is already happening. Let us not allow this stigma of Delta State being a crime prone area to continue. It has to be stopped.

The time to stop it is now. Let the government for once be sincere. It should no longer be government of television and billboard. Let the zeal used in erecting billboards and placing of adverts in the electronic and print media be used in working for the people.

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