For the people of Sheleng in Sheleng Local Government Area of Adamawa State, the recent visit of the state governor, Senator Mohammed Jibrilla Bindow, to launch the construction of the 37-kilometre road that connects the vast Sheleng kingdom to the ‘rest of the world,’ was a dawn of new era. KABEER GWANGWARZO with additional reports from MOSES ALAO, write on the event.
It was not a road less-travelled; in fact, it was a popular road linking Sheleng to ‘the rest of the world’. But popular as the road was, it was a road abandoned; a death trap that has become an albatross for the agrarian communities of Sheleng Local Government of Adamawa.
As the local government headquarters, Sheleng is rich in history and human resources but the same cannot be said of its infrastructure, especially its roads, which many residents have bemoaned for the sordid states. With a traditional institution style of leadership said to have been in existence dating back to the early 1900s, an institution which some elders in the community told Sunday Tribune was second to the Lamido Adamawa Emirate Council, Sheleng was said to have been accorded great respect by colonial masters.
Sheleng Local Government is home to the Lala, Kana Kuri, Kiri, Bura and Lunguda tribes of Adamawa State, whom Sunday Tribune was informed were mostly farmers and fishermen, a development that makes the Sheleng road quite important to the economy of the axis.
But rich as the history of Sheleng is, it has an age-long challenge. The town is ‘cut off from source’ as a result of the deplorable state of a 37-kilometre stretch of road that connects Sheleng with the Numan-Guyuk highway. A road which residents of Sheleng lamented has never been tarred, noting that it was an eternal reminder that successive governments in the state have never cared for them beyond their votes, welcomes one into the town and also bids goodbye, though the departure through that road can never be good. For decades, the residents of the area maintained that they have resorted to seeking economic succour in Biu and Shani local government areas of Borno State, as Sheleng appeared to have been cut off from Adamawa State as a result of the deplorable state of the road.
According to an elderly resident of the area, Isah Abubakar Sheleng, though the area has had a successful traditional leadership with 11 traditional rulers so far, they were not able to convince successive state governors to construct the road and ease the burden of their people. He informed Sunday Tribune that Sheleng has a vast arable land, with 95 per cent of its people being farmers and fishermen.
Living along the coastal areas of Lake Chad River Basin and River Gongola, which flows down to Benue River, residents noted that they contribute immensely to the development of Adamawa State but “the government has never put us into consideration to give us a good accessible road.”
“It is sad and pitiful story that despite the major contributions in generating revenue to the local government, state and even the country, no government has made a successful effort to construct the 37-kilometre road that connects the teeming communities in Sheleng inhabiting the vast areas that share border with the people of southern Borno,
“Years have passed by and become decades but we have never had succour; our prayers and expectations on the road were never met. Politicians come here and make endless promises but after election, they all forget us,” said Alhaji Musa Adamu, who spoke with Sunday Tribune.
Sunday Tribune was told that a visit to Sheleng either during rainy or dry season would appear as if one was heading for “Golgotha,” with residents maintaining that during rainy season, they were always left with the alternative of travelling through canoes to cross the Kiri River, which at many times “claims the lives of people as a results of boat mishap or even hippopotamus attacks.
An aged woman who identified herself as Mama Jummai Fasma revealed that the bad road claimed the lives of her two daughters who were in labour, when they could not get vehicles to take them to the closest general hospital. “Many women lost their pregnancies as a result of this “dead trap road,” which is a hell on earth,” she said.
Governor bindow gives sheleng a new story
The tale of woes on the state of Sheleng road must have been so loud that Adamawa State governor, Senator Mohammed Jibrilla Bindow, during his campaign tour of the state while seeking election as governor, made a solemn promise to the communities in Sheleng. The governor, whose supporters hail with the slogan “Bindow for Social Change,” returned to Sheleng barely a year after taking office to fulfill that promise, telling residents and those in his entourage recently that the promise he made to the people of Sheleng and indeed the people of Adamawa remained sacred and sacrosanct despite various challenges facing the government such as dwindling resources.
Speaking during the kickoff of the construction of the 37-kilometre road, the governor stated that he knew the challenges facing Sheleng people before he became governor and had determined that if he ever got to the position, he would do all he could to address the challenge and put a smile on the faces of the people. He added that the story of Sheleng would change in the next 18 months, which is the period given to the contractor handling the road to complete the project.
Speaking during the event, the representative of the Amna Sheleng, the traditional ruler of the area, Alhaji Abdulahi Muhammed Managina, said: “Sheleng remains the only local government in the state, which does not have tarred road leading to the local government headquarters not to talk of motorable roads and accessible roads to the hinterland communities of the area. But we thank Allah that this is about to change. We also thank our hard working governor for remembering us for good.”
The governor, who told the contractor, Triacta Construction Ltd, that, the Sheleng-Kiri road, which is estimated to cost over N3 billion should be given speedy attention, further said: “I had plans to contest as a governor at this time and you do not support me, what would I have done? But you all made me the governor of the state and I have always prayed to God to make me a governor that will do what you want. I thank God that I have the privilege to start the construction of this road.”
Also speaking, the Adamawa State Commissioner for Livestock and Animal Husbandry, Hon. Isa Sheleng, said that after the construction of the road, the agricultural products from the area will worth better as against the present situation where any business man or middle man extorts the people on the ground of the poor condition of the road.
He further called on investors to come and invest in Sheleng, which he noted has several economic potentials that can improve the Internally Generated Revenue (IGR) and economy of the state.
Elated residents of Sheleng who spoke to Sunday Tribune said Governor Bindow has given them what their grandparents die struggling and fighting to get. “After decades of pains and suffering endured by the entire community, today turned out to be a watershed story, marking the beginning of posterity that will be full of joy for Sheleng people. And this has been made possible because a governor remembers to fulfill his promise to the people,” Alhaji Musa stated.
Witnessing the event were hundreds of residents who poured encomiums on the Governor Bindow-led administration for succeeding where past governments have failed. Some of the sons and daughters of the area who witnessed the event include former senators, serving and former lawmakers in the state, with all of them appreciating the governor for his strides in trying to change Adamawa with his roads construction projects across the state. Notable among these people was the immediate past Senator representing Adamawa South, Ahmed Barata, who expressed happiness at the governor’s action and promised the total loyalty of Sheleng people to his government.