OYO: PRIORITIZING THE PEOPLE INFRASTRUCTURE

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Nigeria: A Country of Walking Corpses

In just about a week, after the media trended the rising traffic of Ibadan for us, as we speak, there is a most recent demolition of MRS filling station at Challenge roundabout. The roundabout structure itself is gone too, now a plane ground, awaiting new development. The MRS station had been a popular landmark at that junction for decades, it is the last bus stop at challenge. For me, and for as many that are familiar with that route, that such major landmark would eventually vanish into the thin was almost a shock, but for change being a constant factor, it is not unexpected. Whether due compensation is allotted to the displaced owners of structures around there, it is yet the haggling point, but should there be such scenario, we are coming to it.

This sudden development in about a week seems like a public-pressured response to the traffic around there, considering the months of erection of bill board for this project which had lasted for months without the actual work commencing.  The project that was seen to be taken serious is the construction of bus terminal at the old Efunsetan roundabout,  now Lam Adesina way. Perhaps, the buses to be purchased, and the accompanying businesses that come with that make it a higher priority for the government than other begging projects that closely affect the people. Business first!

A road expansion is actually welcome around here, and would be commendable. I have heard people rumor the possibility of an overhead bridge to be constructed there, if you ask me, the threshold activities for such development are rarely in place. There is already a very close overhead bridge at Molete which is less than a three-minute drive from Challenge. I do not think the state is in competition of bridges to proof which administration is the best. Resources can be diverted to the immediate needs of the people. There is public housing challenge and that of education still in moribund state. Beyond the state of the roads, there is less priority on portable public housing, and we are not just talking about leaving the market forces in the hands of real estate companies, we are talking about how affordable is portable housing for the public. For those who may want to argue that our governor is rather having vision for the future, I come to you in peace, but we can only have an agreement if we assume that future governments are going to be blind to the future needs when they arise. Visions are beautiful, but the practicability and priority are more important. Even vision 2020 no longer sees itself.

In 2011, the late and ex-governor Abiola Ajimobi contested with manifesto to bring ‘New York City’ into Oyo state, in terms of Infrastructural plans. There were posters showcasing pictures of foreign cities often placed side by side with the brown roofs of Ibadan. The graphic representation told us how the brown roofs would suddenly transform into the beautiful city of skyscrapers. Modern Oyo state! That was the slogan. The dream was so big like Ben Carson’s, that till today, we are still dreaming it. I was in a government secondary school then which had no substantial teaching staff. Our science laboratory was rather a museum of non-functional, rusted and abandoned materials (they were not equipment, please). Today, one can tell how the government of then and the successive ones had shattered the dreams of those who finished from the school, and other schools of such nature in the state and in Nigeria as a whole. As many that are products of such education, that may read this too, might actually testify to the rotten state of public schools out there and how the future of young and less privileged children had been on ‘mortgage’ long before they realized. Fast-forward to today, public schools in the state are still far worse at standards, in fact, some are practically empty. Speaking up now is what we owe the coming generation, because the products of such dilapidated schools are the ‘hoodlums’ the governments across boards are usually eager to label. Like Burna boy sang, ‘we are the monsters you made!’

Oyo state is reported to be leading by allocating 21% of its budget to education in the recent 2021 budget proposal presented to the house of assembly. The governor has been commended in the social media for that. Although this is still below the 26% budgetary allocation to education as advised by UNESCO for developing countries, but as we know, in the land of the blind, the one-eye man is a king. Unfortunately, some leaders in the ministry of education once said the popular UNESCO recommendation is a myth. But, if it were ever a myth, it is more shameful for a country with moribund state of public education to ever try to downplay it. For Oyo state, we can only hope that this allocation is effectively utilized and not remain a media allocation. Historically, people have lamented the paltry sums allocated to major sectors especially education, but that such allocations are often mismanaged by the adminstrations of those institutions remains the worst nightmare. Effective policing of public funds should be a priority at the state and federal levels. An institution like the Ladoke Akintola University of Technology (LAU TECH) having suffered years of truncated academic calendar in the hands of the duo states of Osun Oyo due to poor funding, should not be further neglected in hands of adminstration high-handedness, now that it is has been taken over by the Oyo state government.

Insecurity is gradually becoming a specter hunting Oyo state. Indeed, the Ajimobi-led adminstration may claim to have solved insecurity with iron hand, I doubt that today we can say so. This is because the roots of insecurities have always been left unattended to; unemployment, poor education amongst others. Physical infrastructures are as important as the people infrastructure, because, a society cannot rise or develop above the consciousness of its people.

Gbenga Oloniniran, Ibadan.

gbengaoloniniran@gmail.com.

 

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