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‘I was challenged by suffering of my people’

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A young female councillor in Bayelsa State, Tyna Miracle Onem, who built and completed a concrete motorable bridge with her car grant and money from her ward projects, said she was moved by the communities’ suffering for over 30 years.

The bridge, which links over four communities, including Otuoke, the hometown of former President Goodluck, also links the community’s health centre, school and farms, according to her, was the most important need of her people for years.

Speaking with The Guardian at Otuokpiti, Tyna, who is Deputy Majority Leader and Councillor representing Ward 2 in Ogbia Local Government, said she was almost discouraged by people to jettison the project, but her zeal and determination took prominence.

“I was not motivated at all, because I know the problem of my people. As a grassroots politician, I know the challenges my people are facing. Growing up as a child, I have been crossing that creek before a narrow wooden bridge, known as Monkey Bridge, was constructed across it.

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“When I became a councillor, I told myself that this is the opportunity for me to change this situation. In fact, people were suggesting that I should provide solar streetlights or refurbish the Police station.

“It got to a point that I got confused, but the reality then was that without the bridge, vehicles could not have access to the only Police station and health centre in my community.

“Another issue was that that is the only bridge connecting our farmers to their farms. In fact, elderly people almost always fall off the bridge while going to the farm or health centre. In many cases, they are injured in the process.

“After commencing the project, it got to a point where I feared I might not be able to finish it, because the money available to me was not enough to complete it. But because of the zeal I had for the project, I added money that was given to me as a councillor to buy official car to the project.

“The governor gave us N2million for ward project and N2.6million to buy car and run our offices. I spent all the money in the project and it was not enough. At a point, some persons started laughing at me, that I started what I could not complete.

“To shock you, I bought one 16mm iron rod for N6, 200 and a bag of cement at N4, 000. We are not talking of sand and gravel. Before we started that project, we had to stop the creek from flowing at the point we earmarked for the bridge, so we could build the pillars. After blocking the creek from flowing, I hired pumping machine to constantly take out water from the project site and each day, I spent N30, 000 for that machine.

“To cut the story short, somebody graciously posted the picture of the bridge when it was about 70 per cent completed. I must confess at that point, I had exhausted the money I had for the project and was thinking of what to do about it when Governor Douye Diri invited me to Government House and gave me extra money to finish the project.

“I must say that my people are eternally grateful to the governor for what he did. I say so because that bridge connects my community, Otuokpiti, to Otuogori, Onuebum, Otuoke, Metal and Imiringi. You can imagine what that means to trade and our social life.”

Also speaking on the importance of the bridge to the community, some community members said it has brought a great relief to them.

Mrs. Elizabeth Egbei, a farmer, said: “The bridge makes me feel happy, because some of us, especially the elderly, often fall from that bridge each time we are going to the farm or health centre.

There was a day I fell, got injured badly and even lost my sack of cassava in the creek while crossing the monkey bridge.

“Another time, a woman taking her child to the health centre fell into the creek with her sick baby. Just imagine how painful that can be for any mother.

“I am glad that she built the bridge. I pray that God gives her more opportunities to build more projects that would change the lives of our people.”

For Mr. Meniden Wongu, an unemployed graduate from the community, the bridge would bring the Police closer to them, as it was very difficult to get help during in times of distress before now.

He said: “I am happy that the bridge has been constructed. This would help the Police to response to distress calls from the community. As you can see, the Police station is just right across the creek and before the bridge was built, the Police would take over an hour if they want to come into the community, because they have to journey very far to reach us from the other side of the town.

“Even to cross the monkey bridge was a challenge, so you can imagine how it affects the operation of security agents.

“I want to thank her for this project and wish to appeal to the governor to give her more opportunities to help us construct the road that runs through our community, because that is the only road linking the Otuoke expressway to the bridge that connects our health centre, Police station and neighbouring communities.”

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