by Samuel Ogundipe
When Yinka Abiola, 40, trooped out with his family to vote for Senator Ibikunle Amosun in the April 2011 gubernatorial polls, little did he know that the house in which he freshened up to go to the poll is on the crosshairs of the man he was so enthused to help sit in the number one political position in the state.
Narrating the excruciating pain that followed Governor Ibikunle Amosun’s misguided demolition agenda, which his media minions and proponents are propagating as “beautification project.” – a euphemism that would make even George Orwell roll in his grave, Mr. Abiola, a university graduate of engineering, told me he was on a short trip away from his Otta home when his family called by midnight to inform him that a bulldozer was about to demolish the house he’s lived in for 37 years.
His parents moved there when he was only three years old and the mud-patched bungalow has housed his bloodline since then.
Mr. Abiola’s journey to vagabondage started when an unidentified man in factory gear came to mark his home for demolition, as is usually the case when government is about to exercise the power of sequestration or outright illegality, in the first week of 2013.
He said himself and 4 other neighbours approached the man to find out why he was defacing the wall, the stranger refused to make any utterance but, when pressed, later asked them in his rudimentary Awori dialect to “go to Abeokuta”, apparently to seek further information. But will not say where, specifically, they should go.
Nonplussed, Mr. Abiola, the head of a family of five, hopped on the next available bus that will convey him 65KM north towards Abeokuta. He arrived at Abeokuta barely in time to still meet few officials around, yes, government staffs usually close between 2 p.m and 4 p.m but only few of them actually wait till the closing hour. He was directed to the ministry of urban planning, a redundant state bureau that is anything but what its name suggest. Here, he was asked to leave his contact details and return home to await further notification from the government. He did.
But, in lieu of any detailed explanation from the government, a bulldozer came by midnight about 3 weeks after his family house was marked for destruction. The house, and several others on his street, was demolished, overnight.
Now, without any remuneration or palliative from the government, the Abiolas are scattered at the homes of different good Samaritan. A family of five, separated by a government that should have kept them together for family values that is so much lacking contemporarily.
But the Abiolas are not alone.
Ibrahim M. Saluku, 53, is bewildered: “What state are we in?
“Why would any God fearing man do this to me?”
Like the Abiolas, he and his family are trapped in a Kafkaesque nightmare unfolding in Orwellian language.
Mr. Saluku, who says he’s widely known by his pseudonym, Baba 50/50, has been letting out lock up shops since he graduated from college.
He said he expended no less than ₦1.3M to build the six lock up shops. His wife partnered him after they got married. From books and stationery traders to mobile phone dealers, businesses are very good in all the shops he’s letting out due to its proximity to the Folagbade Road, which is ostensibly the most commercialised road in Ijebu-Ode.
The Salukus say they received no notification, whatsoever, from the government. Their shops, and that of several others, were demolished in an overnight heavy duty job.
The government recompensed them with the sum of ₦150,000. That is barely a fraction of what they spent erecting and maintain the properties. They said they’re not likely to take any legal action against the state. There are no incentives to do so, unfortunately.
Similar cases like these are ubiquitous in Ibikunle Amosun’s Ogun State. And citizens still have no idea how to respond, there have been a reported case of a citizen who died out of shock, some are living on the edge. Perhaps Oke Mosan is doing all these illegalities because its fully aware of the fact that the state residents are either milquetoasts or plainly clueless.
But there might be help on the horizon.
The Justice, Development and Peace Commission, a Catholic Church-backed public interest think tank, that has represented several victims of both public and private oppression in the past are consolidating the cases of several victims of the demolition for a civil lawsuit its director, Rev. Fr. John Patrick, says will be “massive and far reaching”.
In major cities all around the world, there are uptowns and downtowns. The downtowns usually serve as the heritage of the town cultural history. Governor Ibikunle Amosun’s misguided policy of destroying downtown part of the four major cities in the state is not only preposterous, it’s unmitigatingly insidious, too.
There are several infrastructural projects the state government could have embarked upon all around the state, especially at a time when the state is so financially strapped that austerity is looming to avoid a perpetual budget shortfall. The governor should have stuck to some of his campaign promises, e.g: education, power.
So many schools are without roof in the state, all higher institutions in the state are underfunded, several power transformers are damaged beyond repair, leaving several communities with little or no electricity. Water supply from the government is a quaint expectation from any discerning citizen. Ogun State boasts of some of the poorest power supply in the country.
No governor worth the chair he seats at Oke Mosan will jettison those pertinent issues for a project that is so unwarranted and out of place. Especially now that the federal government bureaucrats have stopped the state from continuing with any construction works on some of the towns in which buildings were demolished because they’re categorised as “federal roads”. Case in point: the Folagbade/Ibadan roads in Ijebu Ode.