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Gov Ajimobi tackles Ibadan’s endless love affair with chaotic street-trading – Tola Adenle

What!  I could almost hear regular Nigerian readers who are familiar with Ibadan chuckle: “and you call Ibadan one of your favorite cities” – your “other home-town”?

I’ll throw in a little anecdote.  No offense meant, ladies and gentlemen to state I’m no good cook; in fact, I’m no cook!  I remember a kid I used to help on a private – free – basis with two subjects, English Language & Literature for his Cambridge exams years ago.  One day, Tunde, perhaps mustered the courage although, truth be told, he did not look diffident and said almost in a matter of fact way:  “auntie, I don’t think you should cook” and before I could ask why, he added, “each time I’m here, you smell your burning cooking before you rush to the kitchen!”

Till today, the kid – now a father – remains one of my favorite students, and we spoke as recently as Christmas.  In fact, he performed one of those Yoruba long-standing traditions when he earned his first pay-check in the States several years ago: sent me $50.00 which I was going to frame and keep – but then I lost it!

Of course Ibadan will always be a city I love despite a zillion ills a Lagosian might wish to point to, but hei, I realize them all and we need not dwell on them, not excluding the wall-to-wall construction and rehabilitation of roads that all got started at the same time and have reduced the city to one gridlocked and stressed-out masses, excluding me as I enjoy one of the benefits of older adults:  no work times to catch; plan your schedules to avoid the rush periods.

Okay, let me rattle what Lagosians smart-alecks and others from other parts of the country would want to shove in my face but that I’m willing to own up to right now:

  • I know, government should have first worked on small bridges/girders/culverts that would require a week to finish with pre-cast forms (like the one linking Celestial/Mokola with Jemibewon Road because such reduce the strain on the major roads before embarking on the major construction that require several months.  Now that tiny bridge has been on for over 6 months with no end in sight. To avoid the traffic, we parked at the Celestial Church the other day and I walked across the seemingly abandoned girder for the 100 meters or so to the fish sellers. Getting around Ibadan is almost like trying to navigate a maze!
  • Why do we need an expensive flyover at Mokola when the shopping area at Agbeni is impassable because of huge potholes? Even in cities in other parts of the world with tremendous vehicular traffic, big roundabouts are quite adequate for more volume of traffic than Mokola area handles, and there used to be one there long ago, hence the descriptive noun, Mokola Roundabout to this day.  Too much money thrown at so little problem.  There existed more than enough space to re-introduce a large roundabout and all would have been well.

Washington, D.C., another favorite city, has many roundabouts – circles, they are called there, and in addition to providing planting spaces where seasonal and perennial flowers/plants are feasts for the eyes year round, they move traffic in unobtrusive way. And, by the way, the roundabout at Total Garden around the University College Hospital (UCH) which has been removed used to do a good job of keeping traffic moving at an intersection that has two major high schools, an elementary school and a hotel; a UCH fence forms part of the intersection. Now, there’s a box or something in the middle and drivers have to duke it out for turns.

  • I will give in to one more “shortcoming”:  why would the old gate of the Oyo State Secretariat be demolished to make way for what is shaping up as a huge waste of money on, perhaps, the ugliest gate this side of the Atlantic when there are places screaming for small development funds to spruce the city up more?

I think credit – no matter how little – is due the government’s effort at giving the city a little face-lift even though above posers are real as they point to a non-optimum use of scarce state resources.

Street trading had turned most of the city into one vast market, including sidewalks where those rarities are.  From Mokola towards Dugbe, aggressive traders had all their goods spread on the sidewalk and pedestrians had to resort to dodging among vehicles AND – traders ready with swear words  against pedestrians who dared walk close to their wares.

I posted an essay I wrote years ago on container-type teeny shops and how their ugliness had made Ibadan landscape a big eyesore:

https://emotanafricana.com/2011/06/15/containers-everywhere-but-not-a-ship-in-sight/

Well, they are mostly all gone now, especially along the major streets and residential areas like Agodi, Onireke, Jericho, etcetera – all GRAs and supposed tony parts of town where you could – like Lagos – do all your shopping even though there’s no authorized market in sight. Steps from the front of Government House, you could buy cow-foot, cow tripe – saki – yams, fruits, plantains, phone (“recharge”) cards – just about anything, and from Sango to Mokola, every available space was a supermarket on tables, trays, containerized metal boxes, etcetera.

They are all gone now and, hopefully, never to return.  I said, “hopefully” because the traders are always ready to pounce on any available open space.  After the huge event center and a furniture store that used to display its wares along the road drove women chicken traders from the Agodi GRA/Iwo Road end to make way for two structures that do NOT belong where they are, the women took their chickens, stoves and pots to the side of the Muslim Praying Ground (Yidi) where women shoppers took over most of the road to have chickens slaughtered and dressed! The depth of the chicken stall and slaughter space is not more than 2-feet.  The chicken dressers are now all gone too, and the road and road-users are better for it.

The next “war” for government to fight is the Digital Billboards that have taken over the city and it is a war that Ajimobi would be criticized for but one he must be ready to fight and win.  There are posters everywhere and in an earlier essay also posted here, https://emotanafricana.com/2011/06/20/ibadan-poster-mania-other-filth-call-for-gov-ajimobi%E2%80%99s-immediate-attention/

I noted how Late Governor Bola Ige – 1979 to 1983 – not only gave notice about removal of notice boards and other public advertisements but ensured that government workers enforced the law/ordinance.  Several months ago, I noticed Oyo State’s “remove or register” notices pasted over ad billboards but was surprised to notice after several months that it seemed people ignored the notification.

Demolishing street trading stands and unauthorized iso – posts – is not going to be popular but in the end, people will go for it.  The first complaints a relation gave me when I moved to Ondo State temporarily two years ago was how “Mimiko was destroying people’s livelihoods” by demolishing sheds, etcetera.  I asked her if she liked the pictures she saw on television of cities in America, U.K., etcetera and the answer was positive. I told her Nigeria would never get started on the path to such loveliness if every available space in every settlement is used for retailing, including grinding pepper!  She now loves her hometown of Akure.

Many state governments, especially in the Southwest that I’m aware of, are now in the habit of contracting the collection of revenues to private agents, sort of like private (profit-making) prisons in good old USA.  I do not know how this started but I dare say while agents may be smiling to the bank and government may also be getting its cuts, this form of revenue collection is not right, at least looking at it from two angles:

  • Most of government – the public’s – money is being given away to individuals for doing what government is elected or in a position to do – collect revenues to boost service delivery. Actually, I’m amazed at how much of their duties governments at “federal” and state levels firm out these days as “consultancy”, and wonder what government employees are left to do.
  • People may ignore the agents-as-government or pay less after “negotiations” but the psychological, even if subtle effect on law-breaker of seeing a government vehicle parked in front of his/her shop and paste a public notice of “remove or register” would not generally be ignored.

When Uncle Bola’s government tried it, we all scampered and removed our billboards unless you were ready to pay the appropriate “registration” fees which were renewable yearly.  If those at the top in the various government departments and/or agencies do their work, revenue collections would be successful as Uncle Bola showed in the matter of billboards.

If government can enforce the “register or remove” drive, most of the posters that have gotten out of size – pardon me – out of hand, no thanks to digitalization, would disappear, and those that remain would help the government in its revenue generation.

I believe Ibadan’s cleaning-up should yield an even prettier old city that those of us who love it would welcome very much, and would be a plus in the present administration’s effort to leave its own legacy of leaving Yoruba’s capital city better than it met the place.

One final thing that scares me, though, is the result of what would be racing tracks all over the city as I learnt on my return recently that all the bulldozed places: Onireke, Jericho, etcetera would become double-carriage roadways!  For what purpose?

These are very low-density residential areas with very minimal traffic, and as a friend from Lagos actually complained to me – he grew up in Ibadan – there are hardly double-carriage roadways in the City of London which handles far heavier traffic even in the suburbs than Ibadan.

I’m personally appealing to the governor, Alhaji Abiola Ajimobi to please deploy the money for those double-carriage roadways, if really true, to rehabilitate the many roads crying out for repairs within the city, especially, the commercial nerve center of Ibadan at Agbeni.

 

UPDATE:  June 15, 2013.  The Total Garden area now has a wider than the old Roundabout (Circle) – with a working fountain – back in place!

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2 Comments on “Gov Ajimobi tackles Ibadan’s endless love affair with chaotic street-trading – Tola Adenle”

  1. Fatai Bakare Says:

    The posers and suggestions (solutios) recommended, if made use of by the three tiers of government, will make the country a better place to live in with improved health conditions and one of the neatest coubtries in the world. But alas, we cannot see it done in the ‘global’ Nigeria of today that is so infected with corruption. However, since Ondo and Lagos (to some extent) have done it, it is imperative on the whole of the Southwest States to do it and make
    the region a place to emulate. It would be so clean that one would think twice to urinate in a public space.

    On the billboards, the various Southwest governments should be ready to implement the statutory laws on their books and be serious about them without being them
    for whatever reason–(ti a ba so omo iya eni loogun, omo baba kan o ni beru eni). But one of the problems in Nigeria is the continuity of programmes
    however good they may be. We had War Against Indiscipline (WAI) in the past to which lip service have been paid since the regime of Gen Babangida. We should stop playing politics with programmes that directly affect the lives of our people.

    On projects of less importance that some governments are embarking upon as important (won fete si ‘le, nwon npa lapalapa: treating ring-worms while allowing leprosy to fester), like the ones you mentioned at Ibadan, is the Nigerian factor which entails playing games, I am sure. It’s a gimmick to fill some pockets with millions of naira. But by saying it out they will know that the masses understand what they are up to.

    God make us see the light and use it to light the lives of our people to better
    things.

    Like

    Reply

    • emotan77 Says:

      Dear Fatai,

      Thanks v. much for contribution to this.

      Luckily, the road sides have been cleared at the portions that I understand are to be dualized; so amends can still be made. The clearance on both sides of the road can be planted with flowers, and the easy part is that government can encourage home-owners along these roads to beautify their frontages. Most people in those areas do not need much encouragement to beautify their surroundings although new wall fences are already up to shield the homes from the roads. Money saved from constructing dualized roads could be transferred to areas where better needed.

      I always like to believe there are people with noble causes who are misled by the coterie of advisers that now plague governments at all levels in Nigeria. This is why we must wait and see how these projects end up because I was away for over two months and so cannot really be sure of government’s intention although in a way that is a reason why governments at all levels must carry citizens along about what they intend to do.

      Regards,
      TOLA.

      Like

      Reply

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