For nearly three long years, a shadow of sorrow loomed over Igbokofi, a village nestled in the heart of Yewa-North local government area of Ogun State, Nigeria.
It was a place where expectant mothers, the very embodiment of hope and the future, met an untimely demise, a place where the cries of newborns were muted by the agonizing wails of those who never got to cradle their babies.
Pregnant women, the very vessels of life, were perishing like helpless fowls, their lives cut short in a cruel twist of fate.
The knowledge of this harrowing situation had reached my ears as early as 2020, and a deep-seated desire to visit this beleaguered community had taken root within me.
Yet, as a diligent correspondent for one of Nigeria’s most widely-read newspapers, my days were besieged by ceaseless assignments that beckoned me from every corner. Every waking moment was claimed by the inexorable demands of my role, which left me tethered to the bustling state capital, unable to venture beyond its confines.
However, the sands of time brought about a new chapter in my professional life. I transitioned to the role of an Editor at a rapidly ascending online newspaper, PLATFORM TIMES.
This change in responsibilities breathed new life into my long-standing aspiration to investigate the plight of Igbokofin and the heartbreaking accounts of maternal mortality that haunted the village. The burning desire to uncover the truth rekindled within me.
With resolute determination, a date was set for my expedition, an odyssey to confront the ominous reports head-on. On the appointed day, the sun had not yet kissed the horizon when I embarked on my journey.
The clock read 6:30 a.m., and I set forth from my dwelling in Lafenwa, bound for Ayetoro, the gateway to the mysteries that awaited.
As we embarked on our arduous voyage, the specter of fuel subsidy removal reared its head, much to the dismay of us passengers.
In a small car designed to accommodate four souls, the unyielding grip of necessity forced it to take on the burden of seven individuals, including the indomitable driver.
We were thrust into a cramped, almost surreal, experience for a grueling hour, our collective sighs vanishing into the ether as we each surrendered a sum of N1,200 for this trying journey. It was an image of humanity, crammed together like sardines in a tin can.
Once we had assembled the motley crew of passengers, the car set in motion, leaving behind the bustling streets of Abeokuta to seek out Ayetoro.
Our clock of progress ticked to life at 7:28 a.m., and by the time the hour hand had traversed its circuitous path, we had arrived at our destination at 8:29 a.m.
The road to Ayetoro was anything but kind, marred by a relentless parade of potholes that had emerged like battle scars, each one a testament to the challenges faced by those who traveled this path.
Upon arrival in the ancient city of Ayetoro, I disembarked from the vehicle, preparing to board a motorcycle that would carry me the final leg of my journey. It was at this juncture that an unexpected encounter transpired, altering the course of my day.
An elderly woman, who had shared the same cramped cab with me from Abeokuta to Ayetoro, approached me. She was of light complexion, her demeanor one of sincerity and earnestness.
“Sorry, Sir,” she began, “Could you kindly provide me with your contact number? I am seeking your assistance in securing a job for my daughter, who recently graduated from MAPOLY with a degree in Microbiology.” To my astonishment, I found myself momentarily lost for words. Who was I, a mere scribbler of words, to have the power to bestow such a gift?
In a moment of introspection, I contemplated my position. I was no longer affiliated with the esteemed newspaper I once served, and even during my tenure there, my influence was not of the caliber that could sway governors, their kin, or in-laws. I had never been among their favoured few, my name absent from the roster of their allies.
The woman had overheard my conversation while in the cab, a fleeting mention of “Oke-Mosan,” which had led her to assume that I was a figure of authority, perhaps a government official.
Nonetheless, my upbringing as a cultured Yoruba man compelled me to lend an ear to her plea. We exchanged contact information, and with that act of compassion, our paths diverged.
The encounter left me with a lingering sense of humility, a stark reminder that even in my new role as an editor, the power to uplift and affect change remained within my grasp.
This journey to Igbokofi, initiated with the intention of unearthing the somber truth behind maternal mortality, had taken an unexpected turn, revealing the enduring spirit of resilience and hope in the most unlikely of places.
The scars of a crowded car ride and a bumpy road paled in comparison to the indomitable human spirit and the enduring capacity for compassion that resided in the hearts of ordinary people.
As I continued on my path, I couldn’t help but carry with me the weight of the aged woman’s plea, a reminder that sometimes, even the seemingly insignificant can make a profound impact on the lives of others.
The mission to investigate maternal mortality in Igbokofin would continue, but now, with an added dimension of understanding and a renewed sense of purpose.
The journey from Ayetoro to Ijoun began with high hopes but quickly turned into a stark revelation of the dire conditions faced by the people of Yewa. In search of a destination, I embarked on a harrowing journey that exposed the glaring issues of marginalization in the region.
The journey commenced at 8:40 am, accompanied by a motorcycle taxi operator who was waiting for one more passenger before setting off. Negotiations ensued, and once the terms were agreed upon, the expedition kicked off towards the first stopover.
This expedition, which initially seemed like a typical commute, unveiled the unfortunate reality of Yewa’s marginalized communities. I had heard rumours of the challenges faced by the local population, and they were soon confirmed.
The road was in shambles, there was no access to clean water, electricity was a luxury, and healthcare facilities were either absent or ill-equipped.
As the motorcycle raced forward, a stream known as ‘Odo Rori’ suddenly appeared. The bike operator instructed me to disembark and wade through the water while I navigated the bike to avoid submersion.
Shortly thereafter, another, larger stream named ‘Odo Yewa’ presented itself, and the author was guided through a rickety wooden bridge with extreme caution. Around 9:15 am, they encountered Baptist Day School, Ijaka, where students roamed, trying to navigate the challenges of getting an education.
Continuing on my journey, I came across yet another stream, ‘Odo Soge,’ a massive watercourse with a collapsed bridge. It was discovered that this bridge had been constructed years ago by Senator Iyabo Anisulowo. By 9:41 am, I finally reached Ijoun.
In Ijoun, another motorcycle operator offered to take me to the final destination, from Ijoun to Igbokofi, commencing at 9:50 am and concluding at 10:58 am.
The poor condition of the Ijoun-Igbokofin road forced them to take alternative routes, leading to Ilara, Ketu, and Imeko, before finally returning to the Ijoun-Ijale-Igbokofin road.
The road to Igbokofin proved impassable. The collapse of bridges necessitated walking through no less than three streams. ‘Odo Ijale,’ with its four-foot depth, provided no alternative but to wade through it.
The experience was grueling, yet, as I trudged through the stream, I thought of my wife and the delicious meal awaiting my return. My remebrance (Adhkaar) in Allah helped dispel the fear of drowning, a fear I had never faced in my nearly 50 years of life.
Throughout the one-hour journey from Ijoun to Igbokofin, no road was fit for passage. Vehicles dared not traverse this treacherous terrain; anyone who attempted it risked both destruction and submersion. The complete absence of vehicles on the road was striking.
This neglected, remote route wound through thick bush and isolated lands, sandwiched between dense undergrowth and farmlands.
Despite the road’s unfriendliness, it served as an economic pathway for smugglers, who transported bags of rice on motorcycles from Benin Republic into Nigeria.
After three and a half hours, I reached the destination, a forsaken Ogun community where pregnant women and children perish like animals.
This journey revealed the dire circumstances of this marginalized region.
Stay tuned for the forthcoming special report that delves deeper into the heart-wrenching issue of pregnant women facing peril in this forsaken Ogun community.
The journey from Ayetoro to Ijoun served as an eye-opener, shedding light on the pressing need for attention, support, and development in these overlooked communities.
WATCH OUT FOR THE SPECIAL REPORT ON HOW PREGNANT WOMEN DIE LIKE FOWLS IN OGUN COMMUNITY.
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