Ofiki River is a major part of Ofiki town and other 40 other communities. The popular Ofiki Bridge which sits atop the river has, for over six decades, provided access for residents in these communities to link other parts of the state.
It was therefore a major loss for these communities when on Sunday, October 21, 2018 around 6.37 p.m., the Ofiki Bridge, situated along Budo Aare Road on the Itesiwaju Local Government Area boundary with Budo Aare town in Ofiki community collapsed.
Aside the fact that about four people were trapped under the debris when it collapsed, for many residents, negotiating the bridge each day in their search for daily bread has been adversely truncated. Ofiki community is one of the six major towns: Ago Are, Agunrepe, Sabe, Baasi, Liwo that form part of the Atisbo South Local Council Development Area created by Senator Abiola Ajimobi in 2017. It is part of Oyo North Federal Constituency area of Oyo State and is made up of three quarters namely Sanndo, Ito and Agere.
The ancient Ofiki community has Sanndo as its administrative headquarters and this is where the king, the Aare of Ofiki’s palace is situated. And in line with its importance as the administrative quarters, Sanndo has modern institutions missing in some other places. It has a maternity centre, primary health care centre, a micro finance institution known as Ranmilowo Micro Finance Bank, a police station, an office of the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC), primary and secondary schools, private clinics, churches, mosques, traditional worship centres, the popular Olorunda Market built by the local government and a community viewing centre.
Indeed, Ofiki community is one that has a rich historical background and is one of the towns that can lay claim to being a part of the liberation of the Yoruba race, dating back to the 18th century. According to the Aare of Ofiki land, Oba Adeoye Gbenga Adigun, Ofiki and Ago Are both in Atisbo, are sister towns governed by the traditional rulers supported by both Baale Ito and Agere respectively. Both towns were established in the aftermath of the second Dahomey invasion of some parts of Yoruba land including the ancient Iluku city.
“The towns were established in the aftermath of the second Dahomey invasion of some parts of Yoruba land including the ancient Iluku city where we left to found the present town known as Ofiki by Aare Alayeyi. The people were later moved to Saki for security reasons. They left Saki after the Aha Oje war. And while going back to Ofiki, Ago Are was founded but some returned to Ofiki in the early 19th century,” Oba Adigun told Nigerian Tribune.
Ofiki shares boundaries with neighboring towns like Agoare, Owotoro, Sabe, and Irawo in same Atisbo local government area as well as Igbojaye and Komu in Itesiwaju local government. To the north, Ofiki also shares boundaries with River Okpara of Benin Republic which earned the town the status of a border community. Ofiki is blessed with fertile arable land that is vast and extends to the border of Benin Republic. It has deposits of gemstones.
“We are a farming population; indeed, farming is our major occupation and it is not unexpected considering the vast arable land God blessed us with. As a community, we are also blessed with gemstones mineral resources discovered and being mined at one of our farmland, Budo Aare which at present is a case of dispute with Igbojaye community in Itesiwaju Local Government Area near us,” Oba Adigun stated.
Aside farming, Ofiki is also known for trading, art and craft, mining, charcoal production and transportation business among other commercial ventures. “Ofiki is a land beckoning on the federal and state governments for exploration of its God-given resources in order to boost the economy of the nation. Though deprived of infrastructure facilities like good roads and water, it is my strong belief that under my reign, things would change for best,” Oba Adigun stated.
And like the community, the Ofiki Bridge is one with great historical value and background, estimated to be about 60 years old, having been constructed in 1958; the construction of the bridge was said to be as a result of communal efforts.
“The collapsed bridge was built during the reign of my grandfather, Oba Adewoyin Titilola Alabi, Oyinlola I, the Aare of Ofiki land between 1958 and 1961 with £22 contributed by farmers as royalty and as special levy,” Oba Adigun revealed.
The strength of the Ofiki River is seen when it overflows its banks, extending its reach towards the town when the water level rises and depending on the density of the rainfall. And so when the bridge collapsed, it reportedly killed and trapping the remains of three people: two Fulani men and a female said to be a Benue indigene. The unlucky residents were on their way back to their farm settlements in Alateorun and Ibileru.
The collapsed Ofiki Bridge is of great importance to the people. It serves about 40 settlements and other towns. Through the years, traders and residents travelling to Iseyin, Okeho and Ibadan from these settlements with farm produce, timber, cows, cashew nuts, maize, yam, yam flower, tomatoes, pepper and other farm produce travelled the route just as the bridge was a link road to Ogun/Osun River basin farmlands.
“The Ofiki Bridge also serves as a link road to Ogun/Osun River basin farmlands granted to the Federal Government by my immediate predecessor, Oba Tijani Olaribigbe, Kolade I, Aare of Ofiki in 1982. It is also the only bridge through which the farmers pass to access health care facilities and security. This collapse has affected so many communities: indigenes, artisans, traders, transporters, Fulani cattle traders, miners, farmers and everyone living within this community. We are all adversely affected,” the traditional ruler added.
Also speaking with the Nigerian Tribune, a trader and resident of one of the communities affected by the collapse who simply identified herself as Morili stated that, “this is a disaster beyond expectation. Three people died during the collapse. There may be other dead victims that we do not know about. Aside those who lost their lives, the collapse of the bridge has cost us access to the outside world. We have been cut off. Our traditional ruler has been doing all within his power to help with the situation. He has proved to be the father we need. Also, the chairman of the council has been doing what he can; he has been encouraging us and trying to get a way out. It is our prayer that this is resolved on time.”
Another resident farmer who identified himself as Eugene said “I can’t even explain how I feel. The collapse is a disaster for all of us; we are only encouraged that our oba is up and doing and giving us hope. The council also is showing concern. They are still trying to recover the trapped bodies and I, like others, am sad and confused. This is a bad thing; we all thought the bridge was in good condition.”
Talking about the effects of the collapsed bridge, Oba Adigun, who ascended the throne about 10 months ago, was more conscious of the adverse effects on his domain and the people. According to him, “with this ugly development, the socioeconomic life of my people will face a downward turn. If it isn’t resolved on time, the voting rights of the people will be affected in the 2019 general election.
“Also, the traumatic effect of the situation on my psyche as a newly installed king and more importantly on all my subjects is worrisome. Both the community executives, religious leaders, inhabitants have all been thrown into agony.”
Speaking on efforts to salvage the situation since the collapse of the bridge, he stated that, “volunteers and swimmers have been involved in the recovery operations just to get the bodies of the affected people out from under the debris. However, both local and state governments have been contacted. We were promised that high-tech tools will be dispatched to complement the local efforts. Also delegates from Oyo State Emergency Management Agency led by the secretary have been to the site to find out what can be done. I know they have done submitted their findings to the relevant authorities. We have also written to the state government as a community through the chairman of the LCDA requesting urgent reconstruction of the bridge.