Living at the border sometimes can be a curse and at the same time a blessing especially in a country like Nigeria. My experience as an indigene of Iwoye - Ketu, a border community in Imeko/Afon local government of Nigeria has afforded me the right to this conclusion. While it has been a blessing from the Benin Republic end of the community, the story is opposite from the largely dominated Nigeria part of the town. At times, and most recently, the indigenes of the community are beginning to imagine how better their living conditions would have been, if they had fully belonged to the Republic of Benin as a community.

Nigeria is a very big country, an envy of most nations, and the nation has awarded itself the title, GIANT of Africa. In fairness, Nigeria deserves the title except that it is not living up to it. What then is in a name that fails to bring good fortune to the bearer? Will it not be reasonable to be an ant and enjoy life, than to be a wretched elephant? The call for the restructuring of Nigeria is indeed the right call.

Something is fundamentally wrong with Nigeria. Unfortunately, the already worse situation is not given the needed attention. We allow religion and ethnicity to dominate our national discourse at the expense of good governance.This is why I was completely dissatisfied when the issue of dressing became the focus of Nigerians, majorly the young people, on the social media, shadowing the more serious issues that took place at the recent NBA conference in Lagos. We must get serious in this country; both the citizens and the so-called leaders.

Benin Republic is a very small country bordering Nigeria in the north and to the SouthWest. It has a population of about 12.5 million people. The country has practically no mineral resources. It is not an industrialized nation as well. The main source of foreign exchange is through their Port Authority and basically farming. Yet, they have had a relatively stable economy. The citizens enjoy a fair share of the country's wealth; the government provides the basic social services: education, health, electricity, and water. Above all, the citizens obey the laws of their land.

While we beg, plead, and cry for the government of Nigeria's attention in Iwoye, it is the government of Benin Republic that cared for us on the other side. The Benin Republic electricity project in Iwoye is nearing completion and very soon, we shall begin to enjoy an uninterrupted power supply. They have built schools, hospitals and provide adequate security through their disciplined and well equipped Police officers permanently stationed in the town. Presently, the government of Benin Republic is sinking a borehole in Iwoye. They don't joke with their territory or their people at all. In fact, when coming from Abeokuta now, on getting to Imeko, our people now prefer to follow Ilara, another border community in the local government, to connect Iwoye via Illikimou, Idigny, and Akpotokou - all Benin Republic communities but with good road network.

Whereas, we don't  participate in their electoral process as much as we do in Nigeria. On their election day, which mostly happens on Sundays, you will hardly notice something is going on in town. Their Politicians don't share money and they don't need soldiers or even police to man their ballots. In fact, may God forgive some of us that used to make mockery of their political process, too boring.

In the Benin Republic, whether you support the winning party or not, you will not be denied any right. Your community will not be left to suffer neglect either. The immediate past President of the country, Boni Yayi, an indigene of Saworo, a town after Savé en-route Parakou. In a simple language, Boni Yayi came from a minority tribe in the country. He had some troubles with the majority tribe, the Fon's and Egun people in the choice of his successor in office. 

Patrice Talon who is now the President and who belongs to the majority tribe, troubled him a lot in the process leading to the Presidential election in 2015. As a result, the Yoruba's and Baruba's in that country were solidly behind their own, Boni Yayi. But, that is just it. Everything stopped at the elections. Patrice Talon's government has constructed a very long stretch of road from Idigny to Akpotokou and from Akpotokou down to Savé. This happened without the people begging for nothing. This is a journey that one will travel for about one and half hours at high speed. Interestingly, there is no major community along that stretch before Savé, just villages and settlements.

In Nigeria, to get an ordinary street road of less than a few kilometres fixed, one would have to 'know the know' in government. When such a road is finally constructed, drums will be rolled out. To make matters worse, the community will have to begin to adulate the government, and paint the pictures that didn't even exist just because they don't want to incur the wrath of the POWERS. Conversely, one will hardly notice any fanfare from any government officials of the Benin Republic. The minister of Power of the country came to Iwoye the other day, just before the commencement of the electrification project unannounced. There wasn't any ceremony at all. If it were to be in Nigeria, it would have taken us like 3 months to prepare for the coming of the Honourable Minister. The political leaders in our area will even fight over who and how the minister is to be received.

Nigeria is not working. It is not working for the poor and the rich. It is not working for rulers and the ruled. It is not working for the elites and the masses. It is not working for the majority and the minority. It is not working for the privileged and the less privileged. It is not working for anybody and for everybody. Nigeria must be restarted. 2023 elections must kick start the process, otherwise.

 Abel Babatunde writes from Iwoye-Ketu, #Zone4, Imeko-Afon LG., Ogun State. 

 He can be reached for comments or criticism via adekunle4b@gmail.com



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DejiKing Concepts Enterprises: LESSONS FROM THE BORDER By Abel Babatunde.
DejiKing Concepts Enterprises
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