Clement Adeyi, Osogbo
In Oke-Owena, Itagumodu and Dairo communities in Atakumosa West Local Government Area of Osun State, landowners, including farmers who are predominantly Yoruba, are sitting on a goldmine. Their land is rich with massive mineral resources, particularly gold deposits.
The mineral resources are potential sources of wealth with which they would have become affluent citizens, had they been proactive enough. They have neglected the fortunes that abound in them, leaving miners from other places to exploit the resources and amass wealth, while they wallow in abject poverty.
Their major occupation is farming, including cocoa farming. They also grow kola-nuts, plantain, yam, maize, oranges, and guava, among others. They are preoccupied with agriculture yet poverty has remained their lot.
Their farms are at the mercy of miners who are predominantly people from the North and the East. They sneak into the communities to carry out illegal mining activities through which they make fast money.
The miners, desperate to dig for gold, invade any cocoa farm where they discover gold deposits. In the process, they destroy the farm with reckless abandon, with the farmers having poor harvest. The miners also feed on the crops in the farms such as yams, oranges and maize while mining.
The farmers live in fear of attack, with their farms under perpetual destruction. Not only are they faced with the challenge of poor infrastructure especially bad roads and find it difficult to transport their food and cash crops to major towns, they equally lack good markets to sell their produce as well as electricity to embark on other micro businesses. This situation makes it difficult for them to make ends meet.
At Oke-Owena, where mining activities are rampant, some Chinese are also into the practice. In fact, they own the major industrial mining facilities. Some armed policemen are attached to them and provide them with security.
The land owners, farmers and indigenes are crying blue murder that they have been abandoned by government for failure to checkmate the miners’ illegal activities and provide the necessary infrastructure capable of encouraging them to engage in farming.
They lamented that the Chinese are polluting the rivers, their source of drinking water, with their equipment. One of the farmers, Elder Adeyemo Lateef, said: “I have been living in this village since 6o years ago. I have been a farmer all my life. I am a cocoa farmer. In my farms I grow other crops such as yams, kola, oranges. I used farming to train all my children in the university.
“We also eat from the farms and we don’t know hunger. We never knew there are gold in the farms until some miners came from the North. I mean Hausa men. Others from the East are also here. They started destroying our farms and stealing our farm crops. Later some Chinese people came. Our farms are under attack and there is nothing we can do. We have become poor.
“We cannot feel government presence. They have abandoned us at the mercy of the miners. They failed to provide us with social amenities. No good road, no electricity. No water. We want road, electricity and water. Government should do something about our farms being destroyed by the miners.”
Another case of dehumanisation in the communities is contamination of rivers that are the only source of drinking water to the people through open defecation due to lack of public toilet.
A petty trader, Madam Abimbola Oyeweso said: “We have been hearing about the campaigns by government to end open defecation. We are begging government either at local or state level to build toilet so that people would stop defecating in the open. This has been contaminating our rivers and causing cholera, diarrhoea and other diseases since we drink the water.”
Another farmer, Pa Olaitan Olayemi lamented: “I have been living in this community for long. I came here at the age of 20 and I’m more than 90 years now. But we have not benefited from government in any way. There is no road to this village. That tiny path that you took to get here was created by us. You can see that there is no sign of electricity here.
“We are not getting anything from government. We used to drink water from that river over there but since the Chinese miners started drilling with heavy equipment, the water became polluted and we cannot drink it again. The Chinese people promised that they will give us borehole but they didn’t.
“The miners are destroying our farms. They dig anywhere that they find gold once they do their survey. They take and eat yam and maize from our farms anyhow they like. We want government to help us. Give us road, electricity, borehole and toilets. Those are the things we want from government.”
At Ariyelepe village, there are electric poles with cables on them but the villagers said they remain mere decorations. The transformer given to them was not functioning and they have not used electricity for the past two years.
The Baale of the village, Chief Isaac Fadare, said: “Since they brought this transformer, we have not enjoyed it for one day. I went to Osogbo to bring it from the state government and it was installed but we didn’t know that it was not good. We have spent a lot of money on it to make it work but it doesn’t. We have been in darkness since last year.”
Mrs Florence Aboderin, a mother of four said: “Apart from the miners destroying our farms, water is another major problem.
“Getting water to cook and wash has been a major challenge in the villages. The water from the river is not good for drinking and cooking due to open defecation. I have been using sachet water to cook. We appeal to government to provide us with potable water.”
An artisan, Alaba Adewale said: “Government is making life difficult for us here. These cables you see on the poles are just for decoration. Government should give us a good transformer. We also need boreholes so that we can get water to drink since the Chinese have polluted our stream where we were getting good water.”
A farmer at Oke-Owena, who preferred anonymity said: “Government has abandoned us as if we do not exist here. They have not done anything for us despite that we have voter’s cards and voted during election. Government should come to our aid. They should stop treating us as if we do not exist. We are farmers and we are citizens. We also need social amenities.”