After May 29, President Goodluck Jonathan will leave the Aso Villa. SIMON UTEBOR was at the President’s Otuoke, Bayelsa State-country home where he is expected to retire to
The air around the sprawling estate is amazingly cool. Looking around, the answer to this quickly dawns on our correspondent. The estate is opposite a creek, and the rolling breeze keep coming.
It is Otuoke, the home town of President Goodluck Jonathan. Otuoke is a small island community in the Ogbia Local Government Area of Bayelsa State.
And there, the estate sprawls over a large expanse of land contrasting sharply with its rustic surrounding. It is said to belong to President Jonathan.
On the long road to the gates, soldiers and members of other security agencies, apparently on sentry duty, walked on the grounds. The overall air suggested guarded and protected serenity. No one needs the gift of clairvoyance to understand they are approaching a restricted zone.
Behind the gates, shoving their heads above the walls are no fewer than eight different structures apparently for different purposes: recreation, security posts and guard quarters. A visitor to Otuoke will not be penalised for calling the place a fortress.
Activities in this place, a source within said had been at a lull until a couple of weeks ago. And it is largely believed that come May 29, after the expiration of his tenure, President Jonathan would relocate to the place.
As if the President had the premonition that he would not live in Aso Rock beyond 2015, he was reported to have begun acquiring properties adjacent his sprawling country home by late 2013.
The President, SUNDAY PUNCH gathered, acquired properties on an area which runs to about seven acres of Otuoba which were around his mansion that had been there earlier.
The place was thereafter expanded to encase the mansion while new structures were erected round it.
It was also gathered that adequate compensation was paid to the owners of these properties to enable them relocate elsewhere.
It was learnt that Jonathan after acquiring those buildings in 2013, engaged the services of a construction company, Jiito, to expand the estate to accommodate his new acquisition.
Today, Jonathan’s mini – estate, which overlooks a creek that links Otuoke to other coastal communities of Bayelsa, is a cynosure of all eyes.
A visit to Otuoke on Thursday showed that Jonathan’s mansions, which had been undergoing construction and reconstruction in the last 10 years are now ready for habitation. The area they sit on is best described as an island.
It was learnt that before now, each time the President visited Otuoke, he usually slept in his wife’s (Patience) castle which is directly opposite the Federal University, Otuoke.
It was also learnt that the Jonathans own the choicest properties in Otuoke. The President was said to have built a two-storey building each for his mother and father opposite his own.
His wife, Dame Patience, asides a hotel, is also said to have numerous buildings that have been converted into hostels for FUO female students.
On the readiness of the Jonathans to return to Otuoke, one of the military personnel guarding his houses said all the mansions in the estate were ready except one.
The soldier, who declined to give his name, said the contractors were fixing air conditioners and window blinds on the last mansion.
The security operative said, “I can tell you that the houses are ready. Everything is in order. It remains only one building where the contractors are putting window blinds, curtains and air conditioners.
“I overheard some of the workers saying that they had been instructed to finish the last building before the second week of May. I think it is because the President is returning home.
“As of now, no domestic staff or relatives are living here. All his relatives have their homes. It is only military men and policemen that are living in some of the buildings.
“Even at that, many buildings are left unoccupied because the buildings are so massive and it will take a community to occupy them.”
The soldier, who said he had been living at the place for the past four years, claimed some of the President’s domestic staff were in his Kpansia, Yenagoa mansion, which he built while he was Deputy Governor of Bayelsa.
That the President will be returning to Otuoke according to the soldier, is only symbolic, stressing that apart from the mansions at Otuoke, Jonathan and his family members have numerous buildings at Okaka Estate, off Isaac Boro Expressway in Yenagoa.
Many residents of Otuoke are indeed longing to see President Jonathan, one of their illustrious sons, return home.
For them, Jonathan has made Otuoke, once a relatively unknown place, known to people outside it and turning it to a city to be reckoned with.
A resident, Prere Goodthinking, said though President Jonathan lost his re-election bid, he is God-sent, not only to Bayelsa people but to the entire country.
Prere said, “Whether people like it or not, Jonathan can best be described as an icon of Nigeria’s democracy. He is a man of peace, a gentleman and a great statesman.
“He has proved to the whole world that he is not a power-monger. He has shown the world that his ambition is not worth the blood of any Nigerian. We want other leaders to emulate him. We are going to celebrate his return and I hope Nigerians and the world will also celebrate our illustrious son.”
Another resident, who gave his name only as Ebilari, said Jonathan had made Otuoke to be on the world map for good reasons.
She said, “About 12 years ago, Otuoke was a jungle. Most houses there were decrepit. But today, you can see that the place that was once a hamlet has become a wonderful city.
“Buildings are springing up everywhere. Life has become more meaningful for the people. Before you mention three prominent places in Bayelsa, Otuoke must come up. Thus, we are proud of our son Jonathan. We are waiting enthusiastically to receive him after his national assignment on May 29.”