By Andrew Agbese
South Africans call it ‘Stimela,’ while the Idoma call it ‘Ugbo’. The locomotive sure moves people and goods from place to place, but has come to represent more than a mere vehicle for transportation.
The Stimela that carries workers from up-country towns in Botswana, Mozambique, Lesotho, Swaziland, Namibia, Malawi, Zambia and Zimbabwe to work at the minefields was a hot bed of ideas against oppression.
It became a converging point for workers on their way to and from work on a daily basis to compare notes and iron out best ways of demanding better deals at their workplaces.
Stimela, in the literature of popular struggles, came to signify resilience to oppression and dignity in labour.
It was from a Stimela that Mahatma Ghandi got his first spark of resistance when he was thrown off the train.
It was on a train that the protest song of “Iyo, Siyelele Mama (O mother, we’re under attack)” first reverberated and till date remains the right ambience for its rendition.
It is not for nothing that Hugh Masekela’s song, Stimela, became the lead song for protest struggles. The image of the train has earned the symbol of popular struggles with its onomatopoeic beam, Jigi jaga jig jag, chakwuotukpo, chakwuotobiiiiiiiiiiiiiii.
The train is also a harbinger of prosperity. Whether it takes the workers to the fields or delivers heavy goods as it passes, it embeds enterprise and promises for the better.
The sound of the iron wheels on metal rails coupled with the blaring horns are positive sounds serving as wakeup call to the business-minded and commercially oriented.
The train offers opportunities for buying and selling at each station, deposits prosperity anywhere it passes and opens up remote areas to the rest of the world.
So, when the white men constructed the rail track from the eastern part of Nigeria through parts of Enone to the far North, Ado/Ogbadibo/Okpokwu Federal Constituency became blessed by the construction!
Many communities in Enone early enough arose to see the blessings of the moving train passing through them.
The stations became centres of commerce where the locals could sell their wares to passengers and the rail workers. This inadvertently raised the political economy of the grassroots!
The brief stopovers also brought recognition to the villages/towns and took their children to markets and schools in faraway lands. The train passing through brought progress. They call it ‘ugbo’ from the sound of the horn.
The onomatopoeia would later crystallise into a political force years later when, in 2015, a political movement known as the Ozigizaga and Moving Train birthed.
With the initial tag of Liberation 2015, Dr. Francis Ottah Agbo embodied the struggle for liberating his people from poverty and underdevelopment and promised to develop Ado/Ogbadibo/ Okpokwu Federal Constituency, if given the mandate to represent them at the National Assembly.
But zoning was not in his favour, so he quietly withdrew from the race until 2019 when he threw his hat into the ring and won big!
Incidentally, the first time Ottah Agbo sited a train at a station in Utonkon, he had no idea that it would one day come to symbolise his ideology, zeal and passion for development.
The train carried mid-level workers, traders and others who could afford the tickets.
As he sometimes boarded the train from Utonkon to Igumale or trekked all the way to Government Secondary School, Ulayi, and sometimes from Ulayi straight to Utonkon where he lived, Ottah Agbo began to appreciate the place of the train in the lives of people.
It was and remains the most consistent, unstoppable, surest and safest means of transportation; it hardly disappoints and is not prone to frequent mishaps.
His foray into politics was to reveal a similarity between his personality and a moving train. As the train does not retreat when on a journey, the Ozigizaga neither balks nor capitulates when on a mission.
Like the train, the sound of his footsteps vibrated the landscape.
Ugbo! The people chanted. E yéyé bu ugbó ma, zigizaga. Ozigizaga no wé ma!
And the name stuck.
During the campaign, his political opponents confessed they couldn’t see his brake lights or match his energy.
Like a turbo engine, when Dr. Ottah Agbo got running, he was and remains hard to stop.
They forgot that trains are not cars, hence do no need the rear lights and none dares follow them bumper to bumper.
He overwhelmingly won elections to represent Ado/Ogbadibo/Okpokwu Federal Constituency. Out of the 35 wards, which make up his federal constituency, he won 33, and in the 33 wards he won in all the polling units!
Once in the National Assembly, the Ozigizaga had to prove he earned the appellation.
The vibration he caused got him the chairman of the Narcotic Drugs Committee, even as a first-timer.
His colleagues in the opposition, not wanting to miss out in the use of his talent, also made him the spokesman of the minority caucus.
And the Moving Train has not lost steam, passing through communities in his constituency and engraving legacy projects and other benefits to his people since his inauguration.
Today, his constituents are like those who have bought tickets for a train ride. They’re anxiously looking forward to the next ‘trip’ from the Moving Train as it has become their sure hope of moving from bottom to top in their development journey.
Indeed the Liberation Train has become their veritable tool of experiencing progress, restoring Enone into the centre of gravity and development of Idoma politics!
There is indeed a story behind the Moving Train.