By Olakunle Olafioye
Losing her husband of 18 years was a major blow on Mrs Fausat Ogunbiyi, a mother of three, but more severe was her pains when it dawned on her that two of her children would have to be separated from her if her dreams of getting them educated to an appreciable level was to be kept alive.
Ogunbiyi, together with the late husband and children, had lived at Itoki, an Ogun State border community, which shares boundary with Lagos in Ifo Local Government Area of the Gateway State, where her children attended modest private schools.
But the untimely demise of her hubby threw a spanner into her ‘slow but steady’ family life. Graciously, however, Ogunbiyi’s first and second children were in their penultimate terminal classes in primary and secondary schools respectively when her husband passed on. The young widow had to reluctantly succumb to the pressure of releasing her eldest child to one of her late husband’s relatives while she continued to take care of the remaining two.
But last year, the widow had to give in to another harsh reality of conceding her second child to her elder sister in Alagbado area of Lagos State after she completed her primary education. Ogunbiyi told Sunday Sun that since she could not single-handedly finance her children’s education in one of the private schools within the community, she decided to enroll her in a public secondary school. But there was a snag. “The nearest secondary school was several kilometres away and located in a neigbouring Lagos community. The majority of the children who attend the schools from Itoki go either by bus or on motorcycles. So having to spend an average of N400 per day on my daughter’s transportation to school was a major challenge for me. In fact, by the time I calculated it, I discovered that would be cheaper to enroll her in a private secondary school within the community than allow her attend the public secondary school which other children in the community attend. After much consideration, I decided to let him go and live with my sister in Alagbado where she now attends a secondary school,” Mrs Ogunbiyi disclosed.
Ogunbiyi’s frustration accentuates the plights of most residents of Ogun communities that share boundaries with Lagos, but who have to resort to sending their children and wards to schools outside their state of residence due to poor state or non-availability of schools in their communities of residence. Apart from the poor state of schools in some of these border communities, dearth of health facilities in most Ogun border communities is yet another challenge that has compelled many residents to resort to patronising hospitals in neigbouring Lagos communities. A resident of Akeja, another Ogun border community in Ado-Odo Ota Local Government Area of the state, Mr Femi Shobayo narrated the frustration of the people living in the community, but who have to contend with the deficient health facility in the area and rely on the over-stretched state hospital at Onipanu, Ota.
According to him, the hospital which is the major sign of government presence to the people in the locality is overstrained by the huge crowds of people who turn out for medical attention at the facility on daily basis. This, Shobayo noted, has forced many people in Ota and its environs to embrace the option of patronising government hospitals in nearby Lagos communities like Orile-Agege, Alimosho and Ifako-Ijaye.
Recounting his personal experience concerning the overstretched health facility within his community, Shobayo said: “A few weeks ago my wife called me to inform me that my mother who has been ill for a while was complaining of certain discomfort so I had to rush back home to take her to the hospital, because that was where she was being treated at the time. Of course, we had only taken her there previously strictly based on appointments, but because her case seemed more of an emergency on this particular day, I decided to take her there. By the time we got to Oju-Ore, the road was totally congested owning to the deplorable condition of the road. So, it took us a long time to get to the hospital. By the time we got to the hospital at about some minute past 10:00 a.m or, to 11:00 a.m we were told that she could not be attended to because those that would be attended to on the day had all been allocated numbers. So, no new patient would be taken. I decided to take her to Ile-Epo General Hospital, which is in Lagos.”
As critical as health care services are to the survival of the people, dwellers of several border communities in the Gateway State claimed that successive governments in the state had failed to accord it the priority attention it deserves. From Itele to Ayetoro in Ado-Odo Ota; Ijoko to Itoki in Ifo LGA; Matogun, Oke-Aro to Ope-Ilu also in Ifo, the lamentations range from total lack of reliable health facilities to inadequate or poorly equipped ones. Findings by Sunday Sun showed that only two general hospitals serve the people of Ado-Odo Ota LGA and Ifo LGA, which rank among the most populated LGAs in the state.
A resident of Matogun, another border community in the state, Pastor Isaiah Shoremekun, said that the poor state of health facilities in the area has made many residents to patronise private hospitals.
“Those who cannot afford private health care services go to general hospitals in Lagos. The majority of the people living in Oke- Aro, Iju-Ishaga, Ope-Ilu are using the general hospital located at Ifako Ijaye in Lagos State because the only general hospital in their local government is over 30 kilometers away.
Besides, those who have been to the hospital at one time or the other would confirm to you that the hospital is anything but a model of what a general hospital should be.
“Apart from that, taking a critically sick person from this part of the state to either the hospital in Ifo or the one at Ota is never a reasonable decision, considering the terrible state of the roads in these communities.
“The government needs to wake up to its responsibilities to the electorate, including those living in the border communities. They should not only come here for our votes during electioneering, they owe us the duty of providing basic infrastructure such as good roads, hospitals and schools, in order to make life easier for us,” he said.
The poor state of roads in some of these communities remains a source of common lamentation among residents of many border communities in Ogun State. Sunday Sun correspondent who visited some of these communities reports that apart from visible landmarks which signify the boundaries between Lagos and Ogun states, the almost impassable conditions of roads in some Ogun border communities, right from the boundaries, is another major indication that one is crossing over from Lagos into Ogun State.
For instance, at Ipaja- Ayobo LCDA end of Lagos which borders Ado-Odo Ota LGA at Itele and Ayetoro communities, road users lamented the frustration of having to transit along the same stretch of road in a sharply contrasting pace.
A commercial tricycle operator, Fatiu Ramon, said that the terrible conditions of the roads in most border communities of Ogun State is a major source of headache to road users.
“While going from Ayobo to Itele, you move smoothly from Ayobo until you get to Odo (the boundary between Lagos and Ogun), but the moment you cross the bridge into Itele, you have to move at a very slow pace because of the bad condition of the roads. This is really affecting our operations. Apart from slowing us down while plying the roads, it also causes a lot of damage to our tricycles and vehicles. No responsible government abandons its people because they live on the outskirts,” Ramon said.
The terrible state of roads in some of these border communities was a key issue during the #EndSARS protests in the state in October. Protesting youths in Ota area of Ado-Odo Ota LGA, on October 16, barricaded the Sango-Ota end of the Lagos-Abeokuta Expressway to demand the rehabilitation of the roads in the area. They complained about the deplorable state of the roads in the state particularly those in Ota axis and demanded that the state government fix the roads to ease their suffering.
Speaking on the perceived poor disposition of successive administrations in Ogun State to the poor infrastructure in most border communities in Ogun State, a real estate expert and resident of Akute, one of the affected communities, Mr Fuhad Saheed, blamed the poor treatments being meted out to the people in these communities on the erroneous assumption that the residents of communities which border Lagos are not economically relevant to Ogun State.
His words: “I think there is a feeling that people residing at these border communities don’t really contribute meaningfully to the economy of the state. The government sees them to be more economically relevant to Lagos State than Ogun State. In that case the government will rather fix the infrastructure in Abeokuta, the state capital, than fix those in border communities. Talking about hospitals, the only general hospital available to the people in Akute, Ajuwon, Ope-Ilu, Matogun and their environs, is the one at Ifo. Even what is the state of that general hospital? And in terms of population, Ifo LGA is one of the largest local government areas, if not the largest. So, how do you expect the people who live around Ajuwon, Ope-Ilu, Akute, Giwa Oke Aro and their environs to benefit from such hospital? Mind you, these are highly populated communities.”
Fuhad also pointed out that the abandoned bridge started by former Governor Ibikunle Amosu at Ijoko, which was conceived to connect Sango Ota to Berger, would have been a major infrastructure to ease the pains of road users to connect Lagos and Ogun via Berger.
“Had the bridge been completed by the current administration in the state, it would have been a huge infrastructure to the people who live in this axis, but I think the governor has just decided not to complete the project because of the feud between him and Amosu. Now, it’s the people that are paying for this,” he said.
But reacting to an inquiry by Sunday Sun on the plans of the current administration to the plights of residents of border communities in Ogun State, the Chief Press Secretary to the State Governor, Mr Kunle Somorin, said that Governor Dapo Abiodun is determined to make the critical difference in infrastructural development of the state.
He noted that since the governor assumed office in the state, he had made infrastructure a cardinal objective of his government.
“The provision of infrastructure, under which the rehabilitation and construction of roads across the state fall, has been in the front burner for 18 months. The roads bordering Lagos under construction include the 4.65km Akute-Denro-Ishasi road bordering Lagos State.
“The government is also reconstructing the 2.3km Olusegun-Osoba-Twiney Street in Ifo Local Government Area. That’s another border road. The first roads to be constructed by the Dapo Abiodun’s government were the Osi-Navy School- Ray power on the one hand and the Osi-Ikola road on the other – both in the industrial centre of Ado Odo/Ota local government bordering Lagos.
“The reason for this is glaring enough, even to the uninitiated. Strategically located with proximity to Lagos, Nigeria’s and West Africa’s largest industrial hub, Ogun ought to be an investment and industrial catchment area.This was done to reverse deplorable infrastructure deficit inherited, especially road network, over the years,” Somorin stated.
Apart from internal roads in major cities and towns, the CPS said that many dwellers in border communities linking the state with Lagos had endured nightmarish and unpleasant experiences commuting between the two states, adding that the governor quite clearly understood that investing in good road network was crucial to harnessing socio-economic opportunities available to the state.
On abandoned projects, Somorin said that the governor has consistently maintained that his administration would continue to give priority attention to roads, hospitals and other projects abandoned by his predecessors because, according to him, they were initially funded with tax-payers money.
He quoted the governor to have said that no part of the state would be neglected in the distribution of infrastructure as the governor had decided to make the people the centrepiece of his administration.