A Tale Of Abraka, Delta State; The Derelict University Town

A Tale of Abraka, Delta State; The Derelict University Townby Mathias Orhero
Welcome to Delta State, one of the most richest states in the Federal Republic of Nigeria and also one of the largest oil producing state in the Nation. Delta State!, formerly known as the BIG HEART and by some magical conjuration, came to be known as the FINGER of GOD! . Delta State, populated with over 4 million people of various ethnicities! You would think all these mean much but they don’t. Everyday is a struggle for the common people of Delta State. Some days are worse than some yet the people of Delta have somehow managed to stride through in the midst of so many vicissitudes that plague them. The state has only “paper wealth”. The state capital, Asaba, is in a ramshackle condition. The commercial city of Warri, which houses an Annex of the State Government House, is derelict, unkempt and in need of a deus-ex-machina. The vast population of youths that are unemployed are slowly running away to Lagos, Abuja and Portharcourt. Those that remain are running out of patience. Once again, welcome to Delta State, one of the RICHEST states in Nigeria! 

Welcome to Abraka, the citadel of learning! Home to the main campus of the Delta State University! Abraka, a kingdom recently divided among the two ruling houses of Umiaghwa and Oruarivie! Abraka also plays host to a Turf Club and the Conarina School of Maritime Studies. Abraka, a host also to a distance learning and continuing education center of the University of Benin. Abraka is home to the scenic beaches built by the River Ethiope, reputed to be extraordinarily deep and as clean as water from a spring! Welcome to Abraka, home of various hotels and secondary schools! You would think all these would mean much but you are wrong. They don’t! 

The town of Abraka is one of the most important kingdoms of the Urhobo People of Delta State. By virtue of luck and the good central position it has in Delta State, Abraka has always been a host to educational institutions since the colonial period. Abraka played host to the defunct Teachers Training College which metamorphosed into a defunct College of Education. The defunct College of Education ran Degree Programmes in affiliation with the University of Benin. 

When Abraka, first under Kwale(Ukwuani) division in the colonial period and later changed to Urhobo Division, came under the then newly created and now defunct Bendel State, which was carved out of the defunct Mid-Western State in 1976, it became apparent to convert the facilities of the College of Education then into a campus of the now defunct Bendel State University. Thus began the rise of Abraka as a citadel of learning, research and scholarship! Abraka played host to the Faculty of Education of the then Bendel State University which later metamorphosed into the then Edo State University, which also evolved into the current Ambrose Alli University, Ekpoma! With the division of Bendel State into Edo and Delta States in 1991, it became apparent to create a new university for the virgin Delta State. Thus in 1992, the Delta State University was eventually unveiled in Abraka and the town has grown to be known as the University Town. 

Abraka is divided in various sections. These sections are; Otorho-Abraka which is the ancestral homeland of the Abraka People and also host to a UNIBEN center, Oria-Abraka which hosts the Conarina School of Maritime Studies and the Turf Club, Ekrejeta-Abraka, which plays hosts to various financial institutions, Ojeta-Abraka, Urhuoka-Abraka, Umeghe-Abraka, Ajanomi-Abraka, Erho-Abraka, Urhuagbesa, etc. These sections are broadly divided into two royal kingdoms: Umiaghwa-Abraka, with its palace at Oria, and Oruarivie-Abraka, with its palace at Ekrejeta.

The people Abraka have been, indeed, lucky to play host to the only state university that Delta owns. This is the university that has produced a lot of technocrats, politicians, pastors, businessmen, civil servants, literary writers, journalists, academics, and a whole lot of others. Abraka shares its borders with Obiaruku, the headquarters of Ukwuani LGA and Amai in the same LGA; Orogun in Ughelli North LGA and Eku in its own Ethiope-East LGA. Although I am not an indigene of Abraka, the lucky town, I hail from the same local government area and I was raised in Abraka because my father is a University Lecturer at the University. I have lived and also did my undergraduate studies in this town for over 20 years now and I believe what I have to say from here on must be said.

Abraka’s luckiness is one of the most paradoxical cases one can ever find. In most university towns and communities, the state/federal government and actively attempts to develop the town that hosts their institutions. This is because this community serves as a first impression for most tourists, visitors and students from other states and countries. The Administration in most Universities also attempts to woo developments into the place or engage in active corporate social responsibility by developing the town. However, none of these is the case in Abraka. This town is deliberately neglected for reasons that are yet to be understood. 

Since the advent of democracy in 1999 till date, the State Government has done virtually nothing to improve the living conditions in Abraka as well as developing social and physical infrastructure for the indigenes and students. Some of the neglected grey areas will be underscored one by one. 

1. Roads

The lack of good roads in Abraka will not come as a surprise to anyone who has been to Abraka or even Delta State in general. The State government seems to have a phobia for Road development and maintenance. The tarred roads in Abraka urban area are literally countable and they include; Expressway-General Hospital (FSP) Road, Expressway-Umuno Street Road, Express Way-Ekrejeta Road, Expressway- Campus 1 Road, Abraka Inland Road and Abraka Inland-Ivie Street Road. These bring the number of roads in Abraka to six(6). Even among these six (6) roads, three(3) were done by the NDDC, two(2) were undertaken by the Delta State University and the Abraka Inland Road is the only one done by the state government under Chief James Ibori. This list of roads exclude the old and new Sapele-Agbor expressways. 

Even the few roads in Abraka are all in a tumbledown state. The roads have potholes beleaguering them as if one is playing a dangerous driving video game. The roads are outdated and even the newer ones done by NDDC are not up to standards. The condition of roads in Abraka can only be seen! Words cannot fully explain how bad things have gone. Even the State-Owned, Agofure-Controlled, Delta City Bus Park in Abraka has large patches of potholes saying hello and welcome to everyone that transverses the area. The road leading to the various banks in Abraka such as Ecobank, Zenith Bank and UBA is in a decrepit state. This particular road has become a permanent lake which is an impasse when heavens let out watery fury. 

The popular Ivie road which is loved by students for its nearness to Site III of the Delta State University is in a state of catastrophe. The road is an eyesore. Even a man born blind can testify that this road is worse than being in a state of perpetual darkness. Bereft of fishes yet, this road has become a pond through which students must swim through on their way to classes. This road is a symbol of the Government’s failure to institute proper maintenance of roads. Even the most important road that should be done, the road connecting the Expressway to Site II through College Road, has been left undone for some unknown reason up till now. The road has virtually been abandoned as it is impassable. As said earlier, only a visit to Abraka can prove to the doubting thomas that the roads here are hellish and terrible. Maybe this picture below can say more of how the condition of roads are: 

 2. Street LightsIt is without doubt that the presence of street lights beautify a community, makes it more secured and encourages nightlife. The reverse is the case in Abraka. Nightlife is sore so much that around 7pm, shops are already packing up for the day. A walk in the streets of Abraka by 9-10pm will reveal only closed shops, closed houses, closing bars, etc. Even the popular kebab sellers, popularly known as Suya sellers, who are known for their night sales, close by 9pm in Abraka. Abraka at night is hellish and peach black. With no form of external light, anyone who saunters into the town will be inclined to believe that witches and wizards are at work. In my own street, it is impossible to get anything to buy once it is 8pm. Hence one must buy what is needed in the day time so as to avoid being a victim of emergency circumstances. 

It is not that street lights are totally absent but those few ones(not more than twenty) that are there are either not working and produce light that can be wrestled by a lit candle even in daylight. Secondly, the few street lights present are too far apart from each other and hence, makes no difference. These street lights have been there for more than 7 years now and they have not been given any form of repair or maintenance. They are also powered by solar energy. The absence and inefficiency of street lights give Abraka a touch of eeriness that no police can ever take off. 

The picture below will explain more. *Notice the street light at the top and how they are constructed as well as the distance between them: 

 A Tale of Abraka, Delta State; The Derelict University Townby Mathias Orhero
Welcome to Delta State, one of the most richest states in the Federal Republic of Nigeria and also one of the largest oil producing state in the Nation. Delta State!, formerly known as the BIG HEART and by some magical conjuration, came to be known as the FINGER of GOD! . Delta State, populated with over 4 million people of various ethnicities! You would think all these mean much but they don’t. Everyday is a struggle for the common people of Delta State. Some days are worse than some yet the people of Delta have somehow managed to stride through in the midst of so many vicissitudes that plague them. The state has only “paper wealth”. The state capital, Asaba, is in a ramshackle condition. The commercial city of Warri, which houses an Annex of the State Government House, is derelict, unkempt and in need of a deus-ex-machina. The vast population of youths that are unemployed are slowly running away to Lagos, Abuja and Portharcourt. Those that remain are running out of patience. Once again, welcome to Delta State, one of the RICHEST states in Nigeria! 

Welcome to Abraka, the citadel of learning! Home to the main campus of the Delta State University! Abraka, a kingdom recently divided among the two ruling houses of Umiaghwa and Oruarivie! Abraka also plays host to a Turf Club and the Conarina School of Maritime Studies. Abraka, a host also to a distance learning and continuing education center of the University of Benin. Abraka is home to the scenic beaches built by the River Ethiope, reputed to be extraordinarily deep and as clean as water from a spring! Welcome to Abraka, home of various hotels and secondary schools! You would think all these would mean much but you are wrong. They don’t! 

The town of Abraka is one of the most important kingdoms of the Urhobo People of Delta State. By virtue of luck and the good central position it has in Delta State, Abraka has always been a host to educational institutions since the colonial period. Abraka played host to the defunct Teachers Training College which metamorphosed into a defunct College of Education. The defunct College of Education ran Degree Programmes in affiliation with the University of Benin. 

When Abraka, first under Kwale(Ukwuani) division in the colonial period and later changed to Urhobo Division, came under the then newly created and now defunct Bendel State, which was carved out of the defunct Mid-Western State in 1976, it became apparent to convert the facilities of the College of Education then into a campus of the now defunct Bendel State University. Thus began the rise of Abraka as a citadel of learning, research and scholarship! Abraka played host to the Faculty of Education of the then Bendel State University which later metamorphosed into the then Edo State University, which also evolved into the current Ambrose Alli University, Ekpoma! With the division of Bendel State into Edo and Delta States in 1991, it became apparent to create a new university for the virgin Delta State. Thus in 1992, the Delta State University was eventually unveiled in Abraka and the town has grown to be known as the University Town. 

Abraka is divided in various sections. These sections are; Otorho-Abraka which is the ancestral homeland of the Abraka People and also host to a UNIBEN center, Oria-Abraka which hosts the Conarina School of Maritime Studies and the Turf Club, Ekrejeta-Abraka, which plays hosts to various financial institutions, Ojeta-Abraka, Urhuoka-Abraka, Umeghe-Abraka, Ajanomi-Abraka, Erho-Abraka, Urhuagbesa, etc. These sections are broadly divided into two royal kingdoms: Umiaghwa-Abraka, with its palace at Oria, and Oruarivie-Abraka, with its palace at Ekrejeta.

The people Abraka have been, indeed, lucky to play host to the only state university that Delta owns. This is the university that has produced a lot of technocrats, politicians, pastors, businessmen, civil servants, literary writers, journalists, academics, and a whole lot of others. Abraka shares its borders with Obiaruku, the headquarters of Ukwuani LGA and Amai in the same LGA; Orogun in Ughelli North LGA and Eku in its own Ethiope-East LGA. Although I am not an indigene of Abraka, the lucky town, I hail from the same local government area and I was raised in Abraka because my father is a University Lecturer at the University. I have lived and also did my undergraduate studies in this town for over 20 years now and I believe what I have to say from here on must be said.

Abraka’s luckiness is one of the most paradoxical cases one can ever find. In most university towns and communities, the state/federal government and actively attempts to develop the town that hosts their institutions. This is because this community serves as a first impression for most tourists, visitors and students from other states and countries. The Administration in most Universities also attempts to woo developments into the place or engage in active corporate social responsibility by developing the town. However, none of these is the case in Abraka. This town is deliberately neglected for reasons that are yet to be understood. 

Since the advent of democracy in 1999 till date, the State Government has done virtually nothing to improve the living conditions in Abraka as well as developing social and physical infrastructure for the indigenes and students. Some of the neglected grey areas will be underscored one by one. 

1. Roads

The lack of good roads in Abraka will not come as a surprise to anyone who has been to Abraka or even Delta State in general. The State government seems to have a phobia for Road development and maintenance. The tarred roads in Abraka urban area are literally countable and they include; Expressway-General Hospital (FSP) Road, Expressway-Umuno Street Road, Express Way-Ekrejeta Road, Expressway- Campus 1 Road, Abraka Inland Road and Abraka Inland-Ivie Street Road. These bring the number of roads in Abraka to six(6). Even among these six (6) roads, three(3) were done by the NDDC, two(2) were undertaken by the Delta State University and the Abraka Inland Road is the only one done by the state government under Chief James Ibori. This list of roads exclude the old and new Sapele-Agbor expressways. 

Even the few roads in Abraka are all in a tumbledown state. The roads have potholes beleaguering them as if one is playing a dangerous driving video game. The roads are outdated and even the newer ones done by NDDC are not up to standards. The condition of roads in Abraka can only be seen! Words cannot fully explain how bad things have gone. Even the State-Owned, Agofure-Controlled, Delta City Bus Park in Abraka has large patches of potholes saying hello and welcome to everyone that transverses the area. The road leading to the various banks in Abraka such as Ecobank, Zenith Bank and UBA is in a decrepit state. This particular road has become a permanent lake which is an impasse when heavens let out watery fury. 

The popular Ivie road which is loved by students for its nearness to Site III of the Delta State University is in a state of catastrophe. The road is an eyesore. Even a man born blind can testify that this road is worse than being in a state of perpetual darkness. Bereft of fishes yet, this road has become a pond through which students must swim through on their way to classes. This road is a symbol of the Government’s failure to institute proper maintenance of roads. Even the most important road that should be done, the road connecting the Expressway to Site II through College Road, has been left undone for some unknown reason up till now. The road has virtually been abandoned as it is impassable. As said earlier, only a visit to Abraka can prove to the doubting thomas that the roads here are hellish and terrible. Maybe this picture below can say more of how the condition of roads are:

2. Street Lights

It is without doubt that the presence of street lights beautify a community, makes it more secured and encourages nightlife. The reverse is the case in Abraka. Nightlife is sore so much that around 7pm, shops are already packing up for the day. A walk in the streets of Abraka by 9-10pm will reveal only closed shops, closed houses, closing bars, etc. Even the popular kebab sellers, popularly known as Suya sellers, who are known for their night sales, close by 9pm in Abraka. Abraka at night is hellish and peach black. With no form of external light, anyone who saunters into the town will be inclined to believe that witches and wizards are at work. In my own street, it is impossible to get anything to buy once it is 8pm. Hence one must buy what is needed in the day time so as to avoid being a victim of emergency circumstances. 

It is not that street lights are totally absent but those few ones(not more than twenty) that are there are either not working and produce light that can be wrestled by a lit candle even in daylight. Secondly, the few street lights present are too far apart from each other and hence, makes no difference. These street lights have been there for more than 7 years now and they have not been given any form of repair or maintenance. They are also powered by solar energy. The absence and inefficiency of street lights give Abraka a touch of eeriness that no police can ever take off. 

The picture below will explain more. *Notice the street light at the top and how they are constructed as well as the distance between them:

3. Electricity

Everyone who has spent at least a night in Abraka can testify to the songs that are played at night by the presence of multifarious “I-Beta-Pass-My-Neighbour” generators. The sound pollution is accompanied with air pollution. This is caused by the perpetual darkness in Abraka. From NEPA, to PHCN, to BEDC, Abraka has always been in the bad books. It is normal in most university towns, due to the load carried by transformers, for electricity to be unstable. However, Abraka’s case transverses mere instability to that of a total blackout! Sometimes, one can go for 3 months without ever seeing light and even when it comes, it doesn’t stay long. Light may come for 30 minutes and then the next day, a bill is brought to your doorsteps. This is what obtains in Abraka. Light supply is so epileptic that students, who should be saving money for books, use their savings to buy generators and fuel. 70% of students, staff and indigenes own at least, a small generator. About 40% of these generator owners buy at least 2 liters of fuel on a daily basis. Students who do not have generators may not be able to charge their phones/lamps or even read at night except they go to a friend’s place, a public joint or empty classrooms in the campus and thus, exposing themselves to danger, robbery, rape and the harsh weather Abraka is known for. A hostel or estate having about 20 rooms/flats is bound to have occupants who put on at least 12 generators on a daily basis. Imagine students reading with this condition! The noise caused by some generators as a result of over-usage is enough to give a frail person headache for weeks. A neighbour of mine made me a bitter person on a daily basis whenever he puts on his generator that emits a sound and fumes that makes you wonder if the generator was a punishment gift from the Nigerian Police. Without electricity, heat prevails and mosquitoes have buffets! This is certainly why people become darker when they come to Abraka.

Below is a picture of how students in Abraka read at Night on a DAILY basis:

4. Security

Security is one of the key factors in any university environment. It is the responsibility of the government and the University administration to make sure the campus and its town are safe and secured from armed robbers, thieves, rapists, cultists, etc. Although Abraka is relatively peaceful because of the nature of students on ground, it still has a long way to go. Abraka lacks the type of security that can make anyone sleep without worries when the door is wooden. It is a well known fact that armed robberies directed at students have become rampant in Abraka. Hostels are robbed and female students are molested. This has gone on for far too long. Students blame the indigenes for this and the indigenes blame students. Apart from the robbery of students, members of DELSU staff are also at risk. Kidnapping, though reduced, is still being carried out. Some kidnapped victims have not been found up till this moment! There was even a time a staff was killed in the staff quarters inside Campus III of DELSU. Burglary is also the norm in Abraka. Students return to their hostels to find missing televisions, radios, bags of garri and rice, clothes and even pots of soup, stew and cooked rice. This has become the norm even in the campus hostels. The police and the government seem not to be concerned with the trend. It is a well known fact that the police in Abraka seem to be more concerned with apprehending internet fraudsters (Yahoo Boys) that swarm the community rather than armed bandits and thieves. Cultism also adds to this issue. The indigenes of the community as well as the children of DELSU staff have been initiated into various gangs and they unleash havoc on innocent citizens. 

The picture below shows a tricycle driver, popularly known as Keke driver, who was apprehended for robbery by combined efforts. There are several of his types, and even worse, that flood Abraka unchecked:

5. Infrastructural Decay/Lack of Basic Amenities

The final point I will treat here is the lack of basic social and infrastructural amenities in Abraka. Abraka seems to be a pariah whenever development is discussed. The best thing that come to Abraka is the appointment of one or two persons into the government and nothing more. Even these appointees seem not to care about what goes on in Abraka. Government schools in Abraka are old, dilapidated and rusty. No government agency, parastatal or even liaison center are in Abraka. Abraka lacks public water projects usually embarked upon by governments. Abraka has virtually nothing to boast of other than the state university and there is only little the university can do. Abraka is one of the ugliest and dirtiest places in Delta State because of its neglect. Students leave Abraka with a bad impression of the place and its government. The government has refused to do anything to attract people to the place or even to make it hospitable for students and staff therein. The little infrastructure in Abraka which were setup by private firms and personalities are decaying gradually due to lack of proper maintenance. Abraka is a shadow of itself. Even in the area of basic and secondary education, there is nothing to write home about. Both private and government owned schools are less than standards! Teachers and students lack motivation. The learning environment is hostile and the physical structures are in ramshackles! 

In Abraka, no season is anticipated due to extremities that can be controlled. In the wet/rainy reason, 90% of roads are unmotorable and more than 70% are not even trekkable. The lack of proper drainages in the town contribute to the severity of this situation. Sometimes, residents and students swim through foul water just to leave their homes. In contrast, the dry and harmattan seasons bring with them another problem. In these seasons, the still, foul waters make way for sand that cannot be walked upon in most streets. The sand in most streets is enough to build a skyscraper! Tricycles(Keke), motorcycles(Okada) and some cars CANNOT pass Abraka roads in dry season due to the presence of a river of sands in the soil. Abraka lacks any form of economic activity other than buying and selling of basic goods and amenities. Students who intend to work while learning will be disappointed because there is virtually nothing in Abraka to be engaged with. The most notable landmark in Abraka junction is a raised telecast screen which doesn’t work again. 
Concluding Remarks

It is hoped that the plight of Abraka will get to the right audience so that the sufferings of students and staff of DELSU as well as indigenes of Abraka can be seen and heard. Abraka is like a plague in the eyes of the government. Some say it is because of political reasons, others say it is because witches and wizards are too much in Abraka. Yet again, some say it is because the community elders and contractors hoard money meant for development! Whatever the case may be, Abraka is a project that must be opened by the government! For too long has this town been left in shambles. For too long has the voice of the people gone unheard! Abraka has all the potentials to become a cosmopolitan center. Abraka has the potentials to surpass Nsukka, Choba, Ulli and other University towns if only appropriate measures are taken. Once again, welcome to Abraka, Delta State! I hope my tale has unearthened the daily struggles of the inhabitants of this serene, scenic and small town known as Abraka!

Mathias Orhero, a literary scholar and writer, writes from Warri. 

literarymathy@gmail.com

Advertisements