The Government of Senator Abiola Ajimobi of Oyo State has come under very fierce criticism and scathing remarks regarding the demolition of illegal shops and other wrongly erected structures that his government has embarked upon. I was lucky to tune in to the Ibadan-based radio station, Splash FM 105.5 this morning (Saturday, 24 November 2012) listening to all kinds of diverse opinions on this issue on the Edmund Obilo Show. Knowing the history and antecedents of my hometown, my people and the State in general, this reaction hardly comes as a surprise to me and many others. The only difference this time is that the Governor must not bow to the pressure coming from all sides, mostly for selfish and personal reasons and largely ill-thought out.
Let me make it clear here, as some people might insinuate, that I am not a propagandist for this Government, or the Governor himself; people who know me know I do not suffer fools gladly and if the Governor so much as move a foot wrong, I will always be the first one to slam him. I am not a member of his government or household cavalry.
Our people are not only resistant to change, they are also suffused with selfish interests and misplaced sentiments, and when it comes to issues like this, they go overboard with selfish and sentimental self-approbations. This trait is particularly unique to Ibadan people, sorry, I mean not only Ibadan indigenes, but also to other people who have come to settle there over the centuries. At this point it is instructive to note that Ibadan people are the only people you cannot refer to as an ethnic group or tribe in Yoruba land or even in Africa, for the simple reason that Ibadan was an amalgamation of various Yoruba ethnic groups. But that is history lesson for another day.
Ibadan has for many years been arguably one of the dirtiest cities in the world. No previous government, civilian or military had ever been successful in tackling or taming the scourge of dirtiness, negligence, lawlessness and disorderliness in Ibadan. They have always been playing to the hands of local politicking and selfish interests, and sometimes, outright criminality. And our problem in Ibadan is that despite the cosmopolitan and welcoming nature of its people, every settler or non-indigene not only take advantage of Ibadan people, but also do not care what happens to Ibadan, and enjoy disparaging us and parodying us instead of helping us to make Ibadan a better city for ALL to live. No apologies here to bruised nationalism; my mother is a non-indigene too, but my father was an Ibadan chief.
It amuses and annoys me to hear people asking the Government of Oyo State to provide alternatives to people whose illegal structures are being demolished. Why should the government be responsible for providing alternatives, when the Government never allocated these land or shops to them in the first place?
Our people in Ibadan just grab any space (and you know, legally, all land belongs to the Government) and erect ramshackle structures or put containers and just start trading. This is not done in any civilised country or any country that want to modernise.
In Ibadan, every road and street is lined with shops, mostly illegally erected, thereby clogging up the already woeful traffic and the poor road network. Trading is not the only enterprise or job that is available, is it?
People are talking of compensation and relocation from the Government. The Government did serve adequate Notices to all those affected, but you see, our people will always be economical with the truth, in fact, disregard the truth for selfish reasons. Also why compensate those who are occupying spaces illegally in the first place, even if such people have been paying illegal taxes or dues to unscrupulous local government officials over the years? The various local governments in Ibadan should be held responsible for such high-handedness and corrupt practices and handed over to law-enforcement and anti-corruption agencies to deal with.
It was the same sentiment that was wrongly used when Governor Fashola banned “okada” in Lagos. People were calling on him to provide alternative jobs for these displaced reckless, careless and untrained and riders. Why? It was not the government that provided motorcycles to them in the first place and told them to make a living out of it; and “okada” driving is certainly not the only job or employment or career available in Nigeria. They can go and work on the farms or learn other trades, or even go back to school.
The same goes for our petty traders in Ibadan. The public streets and areas are NOT meant for every petty trader in town. They are meant for the enjoyment of ALL members of the public.
The aesthetic values and face of Ibadan must be brought to the fore for all to see. This beautiful, great and proud city – you should observe it from the Bower Tower in the Agala Forest and Hill, the highest point in Ibadan - has been debased, abused, and taken for granted for so long. No other government had ever been able to take the bull by the horn and change the face of this greatest capital city in Nigeria.
It is a very cosmopolitan and metropolitan city. As far back as 1852, its population was over 100,000, and is one of the most welcoming and friendliest cities in the world. Ibadan was described in 1852 by Mrs Anna Hinderer, wife of the first white missionary in Ibadan, Rev David Hinderer, who spent 17 years in Ibadan, as the “greatest and largest city in Africa”. Note that even then in 1852, Ibadan was regarded as a city, NOT a town or village.
The aesthetic face and value of Ibadan is important to me, as a “son of the soil” who yearns for and wants progress and development to my beloved city and hometown. I have even discovered, unfortunately, that many people clamouring against what the Governor is doing are not Ibadan natives, or are from opposing political parties. Yes, take it from me. I tell the Truth always.
At first glance it seems that aesthetics is simply an advanced term for beauty and attractiveness, but this would ignore some important aspects of moulding a city. It also includes the feel, design, layout, and description of a city. It is a desire to create a place that is functional and productive along with being attractive, relaxing, and reflective of the city's history and culture. It involves the planning of parks, open spaces, and other public areas along with positioning the city's buildings and streets in such a way that are visually pleasing, easy to use, and promoting of healthy living. In essence, aesthetics represents the soul of a city and how it influences a city’s organs and limbs.
We all like the scenes of London, New York, Chicago, Montreal, Moscow, Sydney, Hong Kong, Shanghai, Singapore, Dubai, even in Africa here, Johannesburg, Nairobi, Cairo, etc that we see in movies and for those of us fortunately to travel the world, what we physically see and enjoy in these great cities of the world. Even then, we see these cities doing even more, finding even more innovative ways to make their cities more attractive, more liveable and healthier to the residents. We like all other people’s cities except our own. Our leaders and the more privilege in our society take great glee and joy ain and are fond of taking every opportunity to travel to all these exotic and developed cities, enjoy the air, the water, the technology, the sights, the aesthetics beauty and other characteristics, the goods and services, the creativeness of the residents and their governments, and the sheer relaxation and comfort they present, yet find it difficult to replicate it back in their own native cities.
It never ceases to amaze me that when Nigerians travel all over the world – and believe me, we do travel – and come back from all the good and beautiful sights we have seen and experience abroad, we just settle back in quietly into our dour, degrading, degenerating, unhealthy environment.
Yet, this is far from being the case. I have travelled the length and breadth of Nigeria, and it always breaks my heart when I see the beauty of our land, our country, from Calabar to Minna to Kano to Ibadan to Ondo to Warri to Otukpo to Abuja to Lagos to Ilorin to Lokoja to Enugu to Port Harcourt to Umuahia to Benin to Ado Ekiti to Jebba to Jos to Sokoto to Yola to Aba to Asaba to Ogbomoso to Abeokuta to Akure to Yenagoa, and even Otuoke, the little village of our President, etc, and I look at my people who never appreciate their own environment nor do they care for it. Even the creeks of the Niger Delta are so beautiful, but the only way Nigerians look at it is if they see only Oil. We do not see the environment, nor do we really care if that environment is splattered with oil spills.
Towns and cities are always changing, in what they are and how they look. In recent years, though, the visual appearance of towns and cities has become increasingly important to a range of powerful urban institutions and organisations. Many urban centres, from world cities to edge cities, from historical centres to new towns, have been given design makeovers. Streetscapes have been remodelled to look more visually coherent; new green spaces and public art have been installed; benches and rubbish bins have become designer items; landmark buildings have been renovated or built from new. The aesthetics of urban spaces have become increasingly important.
What are we to make of these changes? Commentators and analysts explain them by pointing to the need for towns and cities to attract new investment and new residents by offering attractive urban environments in which to live and work.
The fact is, Ibadan, or for that matter, any city or town in Nigeria, cannot continue to exist the way we were a century, a decade or a year ago. There has to be changes and transformation for the better. In a way, the resistance to change in Ibadan is a reflection of resistance to change in the whole country, and the reason this country is still finding it very difficult to pull itself out from the Dark Ages.
People are ready to corrupt and bribe their ways in order not to change their perceived comfortable ways of life, which in many ways, again is a reflection of our selfishness and a marked disregard for the existence, comfort and life of our neighbours or for our fellowman/woman, society and environment. Maybe, as I always posit, it is an African cultural problem and malaise.
My take on the demolitions and the clearing away of the old ways of doing things in Ibadan is that only people who are against good governance, development and progress of the city and the State would not welcome what this government is doing. For us to yearn and demand for changes, people have to pay a price.
In Ibadan, lawlessness, disregard for the environment, recklessness, dirtiness, negligence, lawlessness and disorderliness are things we have been living with for years, if not centuries, and simply because of scared and failed past leaderships of Oyo State of the past who are always afraid to take the bull by the horn or lack the political will or are too morally compromised to act and clean out the Aegean stables of Ibadan.
The syndromes of “I don’t care”, “who will catch me or make me do it” must be expunged.
There are so many illegalities that have long been perpetrated in Ibadan: the scourge of the NURTW, the notorious, murderous and criminal motor union, extorting from commercial drivers and not remitting membership dues to their mother union or paying dues to the government; the administrators of the various markets in Ibadan – Dugbe, New Gbagi, Aleshinloye- pocketing the proceeds meant for the government or the local government who are the owners of these markets; taxis and buses parking anywhere they like and obstructing the free flow of traffic; uncontrolled street traders who take over half of the roads in various areas of the city; illegal structures such as building under high-tension power lines.
People should embrace this change and transformation and allow this Government to act without hindrance. All is for our own good and to make the city a point of good reference among its peers and to return Ibadan to its past glories. Beginning of change is difficult but when change finally happens and stays, and is sustainable and sustained, the benefit is great to the people. Lagos State is a shining example, and always one to follow anywhere in Nigeria.
Change is here; modernization is a way to make life easier and better for all. Yes, a lot of lives will be negatively affected, but then with the overall disorderliness, corruption and mismanagement, bad leadership in Nigeria, who life is not negatively affected by government actions, or inactions? We just have to pay the price now for a better future for our coming generations.
After all, it would be our pride and joy if Ibadan is one day mentioned before Calabar as the cleanest city in the Nigeria.
Let us do away with all these politics, selfish interests and misplaced sentiments and……
.......Let AJIMOBI do his job (to which we elected him to do, and he himself must not forget that he is our paid and trusted employee) of transforming this great city of ours, IBADAN, for the betterment and enjoyment and appreciation of all of us, indigenes, residents, visitors and passers-by alike.
Let the TRUTH be told ALWAYS!