Abiodun Awolaja, just back from a tour of Ondo State, reports a visit to the Caring Heart Neighbourhood Market, Isikan and the Caring Heart International Automart situated on Ilesa-Akure road, Akure.YOU might just want to go there. Why not'Isikan. One of the wonders of today's Yoruba land, actually a tourist site. In the olden days buyers wallowed in the mud, worming their way through sweaty market women, buying produce fresh from the farms: vegetables of all kinds, gari, yam flour (elubo), smoked fish, dried fish, fresh fish, meat and other eatables. The Yoruba do not joke with food, and soup, they say, is the friend of the flesh/skin.Yes, the life that doesn't eat pepper endangers itself; it is a precarious one.However, stepping into Isikan market in Akure nowadays you find neatly ordered rows of shops painted in the Ondo white and orange; you find modern toilets, a crche where your babies can rest and have fun while you trade, a police post to deal with (wo)men controlled by evil thoughts and ready to be used by the devil, a fire station to contain careless sparks---and, yes, the shops are for a pittance.There is market segmentation here- the markets are in two phases, each with its own management and neither the rain nor the sun will harass the market folk. You go to phase II if you want more educated goods.When the dainty enter a market, they walk gingerly, but the community of the untidy wobble in a pitiable sight. You cannot afford not to be dainty in Isikan: the ambience is arresting in its clinical neatness.And sitting in an executive chair in the office next to the fire station is the manager of Phase II of the market, Mrs Ronke Owoyemi from Ilaje Local Government. She spoke with the Nigerian Tribune in Yoruba. 'The market is a morning one. Before we came here, the shops have been built and we are running them properly. Today we held a meeting with the commissioner on how the markets should progress the more. We are women and we know the value of the markets that the governor built for us.Since politics started in Ondo State, this is the first time that women are benefitting.'We have seen what we want. This is very pleasant to us because this place used to be a mess of water.The governor sand-filled everything. Now when you enter the market you do not have to put off your shoes, as you do in Mile 12 market in Lagos. This governor has been doing what we women want, what the people of Ondo and even the foreigners on the land want, particularly when you go to the grass roots. We pray that he wins election for a second term of office so that he can complete all his projects.It was not he himself that said he would run for a second term but we the people of the state who are benefitting immensely from his administration.'You know that when women uphold a man, he cannot fall. We thank him for the markets he is still building across the state. Asked what the differences between the former market and the current one were in terms of the volume of sales, the woman showered prayers on the writer, and then said: 'Before, the buyer might be as far as a mile away. But now you see three or four cars entering the market at a time; they make their purchases, leave, and then another set of cars stroll in. ''And were there other things the market women wanted from the governor' ' We want the governor to help us more because at the back of this Phase II market, we still need to repair some places. You know that the governor lends women money to trade with; we want him to continue doing so because that is our due.'You know that when a woman has a job, she wouldn't say 'Oh, my husband hasn't returned home from work, so I can't buy this or that.' A woman who has no job would beat up her children even if her husband goes out for just two hours, because she does not have any money in her hand to give them and they would keep pestering her. But if she does have a job, she would say 'My children, I'm going out. Your father is not yet home but take this money. I want to go and get some things because your father might come in with a visitor.' This is because she has a job.'A woman with a job will seek the promotion of her husband; she would not disturb him when members of her club have chosen a particular cloth material which costs, say, N30,000.''Her advice to the people of the state: 'Let us all Ondo State people now accept that we have a governor to represent our interests. During Baba Ajasin's time, he did well. Now, Olusegun Rahman Mimiko has taken over from him and he is doing things that we can see. Mother and Child hospitals, mega schools, markets, he has done all. And we are beginning him that when he comes back for a second term, he will undertake those projects that he still has in mind for the good of Ondo State. God will continue to support him and he will continue to succeed. God will support you (the writer) too .''The markets are informed by government policy. Speaking with the Nigerian Tribune on the rationale for building ultra-modern neighbourhood markets across the state, the state Commissioner for Education, Honourable Aderemi Olatubora, said : 'Some of our detractors would ask why the state government should be concerned with the building of markets. There is no law that prohibits the state government from building markets. 'We have identified markets to be a major avenue of social interaction and congregation, and even an organ of governance in any Yoruba setting. That is why you always find that in any Yoruba setting, the market is always located around the palace. There are customary reasons for locating the market very close to the palace because information dissemination from the palace is usually done through the market women, who would go to their respective homes and pass the information to others. We also have identified over the years, the importance of market as an avenue for social interaction in the state and so we found that if we address the problems of market women, the poverty in our communities is almost 25 per cent solved.'And do you want a car' You needn't go too far. Neighbourhood markets apart, Governor Olusegun Mimiko has gone ahead to situate the ''Nigerian Cotonou'' in Akure, the state capital. The Nigerian Tribune visited the Caring Heart International Automart situated on Ilesa-Akure, where Sunday Adelanke Adelae, General Secretary, Automobile Dealers' Association, Ondo State, revealed that Governor Olusegun Mimiko had given a new lease of life to automobile dealers in the state.A sprawling edifice, the auto mart boasts vehicles of all categories According to Adelae, the presence of the auto mart in Akure meant that those taking the risk of buying vehicles smuggled into the country should cease from their crime.On the role of the auto mart in the economy of Ondo State, Adelae said 'We moved in on June 27, last year. Before we moved in, we were not sure of what we were going to meet here. We were not happy that government was moving us here. But when we moved in, we discovered a lot of things. First of all, we discovered unity among motor dealers; we were not united before.'Secondly, we discovered adequate security. We used to have series of vehicle theft, but the governor made that impossible here. Third, we now have good publicity. People come from various places; we have been receiving tourists, for instance students of Kogi State Polytechnic. People come from Abuja and this has made this place and Akure as a whole very popular. 'Then, with regard to sales, although it is gradual, we think that, in the near, future things will get even better. The sale, on a percentage, is between 40 and 45 per cent; maybe the economic problem we have in the country is contributing to this.However, this automart is well located.Adelae, who said ninety per cent of the vehicles in the market were tokunbo (second hand), said if people wanted to have brand new cars, the automobile dealers would bring them into the country in no time. However, he admittedthat there were various challenges facing the dealers. His words: 'Electricity has been erratic. Then, government gave us two boreholes, but unfortunately, the location of this place is a bit sloppy and pumping water to the hilly area was a problem. So, we had to construct another borehole, which is not yet completed. Apart from these, we do not have a canteen. The one built by government has not been rented because it is N260,000 per annum.''But what were the dealers doing to remedy the situation' Adelae said his members had contacted the state government on their plight: 'We have written to the government. We have spent N1, 000, 009, 200 and we have requested a refund from the Special Adviser on facilities. We just sent the letter today.''Challenges or not, the auto mart, according to Adelae, has elevated Akure and its economy to an enviable status. So, when next you visit Akure, you might just visit the car market. Sure, the market governor himself, Dr Olusegun Mimiko, would be pleased you did. Click here to read full news..