(OPINION) Otukpo: The lost glory of Texas by Andy Obeya

I recall my childhood days in Otukpo, a town, popularly known as ’Texas’. Texas was the envy of all who heard about her, even though they had no idea of what living life in Texas was about. A town that meant a lot to different people.

A Texas guy was the toast of any town or company he kept within and outside his base. He understood what it took to make fashion statements and continues to dominate in that world.
In my time, a Texas guy didn’t bother about the place of origin of his friends: there was no ‘Enone’ and ‘Enochi’ dichotomy; neither would he differentiate between an ‘Emichi’ nor other non – Idoma friends. This natural bond which was respected by parents from all regions could only be imagined by those whose plates of food would always be reserved in their friends’ houses even on days they didn’t show up at meal times.

Reminiscence of growing up in Otukpo evokes a healthy dose of nostalgia. The Otukpo Rice mill was the oil well of so many families and young people who once lived in Texas. Agile men and women who were willing to make extra bucks to support their homes and personal effects always had something to do whenever they visited the Mill. Today, the mill which provided jobs for over 5000 persons is in ruins – a recluse of what it used to be.

Only eye witness accounts will tell us about the glorious days of the mill; how it was once the largest Mill in West Africa and that people came from different parts of Nigeria, even Africa at large to buy the rice that was grown and processed from Benue farms. I recall how we would make jest of young farmers who would come in from Agatu and Igede to sell their rice/fire woods then on their way back home, would stop by at the Otukpo Main Market to buy odd coloured Jeans, or at times, a gabardine material for trousers. Some of the lines during negotiations would be: ‘’ I just come sell my rice so I say make I buy Juns (meaning jeans)’’, or ‘’ my blother say make I buy am gabardine’’. In as much as this was funny to Texas guys, these young and energetic farmers found fulfilment in what they knew how to do best: cultivating the land to make real bucks.

Enanyebe, one of the fabric merchants,was the toast of women from all walks of life who thronged to her shop to buy, make deposits or complete payments for their Hollandaise, Super prints, Georges and other clothing materials. She would brim with genuine smiles for all her customers and acquaintances. She had a way of satisfying her customers and was willing to provide discount services to new clients just to encourage their patronage. People like Enanyebe who made cool cash from meeting the needs of the people abounded.

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