Clement Adeyi, Osogbo
When Governor Rauf Aregbesola of Osun State commissioned the Hassan Olajoku Memorial Park four years ago amid fanfare, it was the talk of the town. On May 13, 2015, dignitaries including government officials, traditional rulers, politicians and academics poured into the bowels of the sleepy town of Gbongan in large numbers for the commissioning of the park in memory of the late politician.
The people of the community were excited at the development because the outfit was a part of social infrastructure development.
For travellers along the Ibadan-Ife and Ondo Expressway, the park was specially meant to serve them as a recreational centre. It was built to immortalise the slain politician, Hassan Olajoku, a strong supporter of Oranmiyan Group. He was gruesomely murdered by unknown gunmen 12 years ago. It had all the trappings of beauty, glamour, splendor, glitz and relatively suitable for relaxation, events and ceremonies. Your first visit to the park would give you an impression that you are in one of the exquisite tourist centres in Jerusalem on pilgrimage.
But just four years down the line, the park is not only in shambles, but it is also a shadow of its old self.
At inauguration of the facility, Aregbesola lamented the untimely exit of Olajoku. He said his government had succeeded in taking the sting out of his death with the completion, commissioning and Governor Abiola Ajimobi of Oyo State described Olajoku as an unforgettable politician. He stressed that his memories would continue to linger in the minds of his friends and families.
The widow, Fausat, appreciated Aregbesola for being supportive since the demise of her late husband. She lauded government’s kind gesture for immortalising her husband.
But a recent visit by Daily Sun to the N248 million facility located near the Federal Roads and Safety Commission (FRSC) office on the Ibadan-Ife-Ondo Expressway, revealed that it is now in shambles, gone moribund due to utter neglect.
The entire palatial premises and beautiful structures have been overgrown by thick bushes. In fact, the place has become a reptiles’ colony and a flashpoint for hoodlums.
The irony is that a dark spot where hoodlums perpetrated heinous crimes and killed a prominent politician, which later provoked government to transform it as recreational centre has again become a den for people of the underworld.
Worrisome too, the huge revenues that would have accrued to government’s coffers if the potentialities of the edifice were maximized, were being lost, while the N248 million used to build it has become a colossal waste.
It was also gathered that hoodlums had looted a great deal of some of the equipment and tools used to build the edifice, thus defeating the purpose, for its concept and construction.
Also, the intimidating elephant bust constructed to complement the aesthetics of the edifice has lost its shine. The car park, bar, restaurant, main event hall, toilets and other sections of the park are in ruins. Even, the zincs of the roofs of a particular structure within the park have almost been completely looted by unknown persons.
Mrs. Bosede Olapade, a fruits hawker, said: “The park would have been a big blessing to us here because people coming to the place would have increased the number of customers. My daily take home would have been much more than what I get from sales now if the park was to be in operation. We are begging government to come and renovate it and open it for public use.”
Ayobami Okeowo, a resident of the community, said: “Since the park was abandoned by government four years ago, it has become a threat to our people here. I can tell you that some bad boys and miscreants have turned it to a smoking joint. They always gather here to smoke Indian hemp. Sometimes, they even attack travellers during late hours. Some left over of cannabis often litter some compartments within the park. We want Aregbesola to come to our rescue by renovating and reopening the place before he leaves office.”
Daily Sun, however, observed that part of the landscape of the park has been taken over by the Bisi Akande interchange trumpet bridge that is still under construction as contractors handling the flyover were spotted working around Gbongan junction.
Another resident, Mr Aderemi Adepoju, said: “I think Osun State Government had a good intention for building this park. But we are surprised that it suddenly abandoned the project. Government should give it a second thought by bringing it back to life.”
Mr. Braimoh Adekoya, also a resident and transporter: “When the facility was being operated, the charge for the use of the main hall for social engagements was too expensive for people to afford. At a point, people resorted to using school fields and tents instead of the Olajokun Park which was too expensive for them.”
The Special Adviser to Governor Aregbesola on Tourism and Culture, Mrs. Taiwo Oluga, however, who disclosed that the moribund park would soon bounce back. She said the governor had set up a committee to come up with a blueprint on the renovation and reopening of the facility.
She said repositioning the park becomes imperative to complement the commissioning of the Bisi Akande interchange trumpet bridge, which shares the same environment with the park. The park would be reopened during the commissioning of the bridge scheduled for next month.
Investigations indicated that the park may have been leased out to a private firm, which would revitalize and operate it for five years before handling it over to the state government.
A Memorandum of Understanding (Mou) signed with the firm would see the government leasing the main hall, its extension, conference room, viewing centre and guest chalet for five years after which the agreement would be renewed for a fee.
It was also agreed that the period of lease for the property should not exceed 20 years after which government would regain full ownership of the facility.