By Funmi Branco
In life, beauty comes in various shades, in the things that we think, the dreams that we have and the things that we see. The things that we see do not happen by chance, so resolutely does nature abhor a vacuum, says Wole Soyinka, the Bard of Isara, they are the product of conscious craft. These days, if going to Ogun, Nigeria’s Gateway State, and passing through Shagamu or coming from Lagos and passing through that land of rich lore, you will no doubt have noticed the Ogun City Park, the work of a master craftsman and a symbolic representation of the Gateway State, depicting peace and tranquility. The Gateway City Gate, an iconic monument, sits at the Shagamu Interchange, speaking of the new dawn that we crave. By the left, a road leads to places like Papalanto and Ofada; and by the right, to Abeokuta. On a visit to the sprawling site recently, Governor Dapo Abiodun, dreamer and initiator of the monument, posited that the Gateway City Gate would, when completed, give travellers and visitors a sight to see and a spot to relax in as they journey in and out of Abeokuta, the state capital. It will be the cynosure of the state. The city gate will help the state government to rebrand the state as it will attract multinational companies to the axis, Abiodun enthused. And that’s it: those who achieve landmarks, those who move forward, are quite simply those that dare to dream and to strive for gold.
But why a gate, of all things? Well, gates have been with us from time immemorial. But here is the deal: shortly after being sworn into office, the fifth democratically elected governor of the Gateway State harped on a landmark, a legacy structure that would evoke the nature of the landscape and people of Ogun, one that would be strategically located and welcome visitors into the Gateway State; hence, the choice of the interchange at Sagamu.
GYB Consults Ltd, a firm of architects headed by Arc. Gbenga Onabanjo, himself a former commissioner in the state, was tasked with giving flesh to the concept. Hear Onabanjo: “We went to town and came up with a welcoming concept, a monument that seeks to warmly welcome visitors to the state, with outstretched arms depicting the ethnic groups in the state.”
And so we have a monument stretching to a height of about 30m, with each foot of the base a footprint of about 4m by 6m. It tapers to a height of 27m and is reduced at the tip to 1.2m by 1.2m. The outstretched arms are connected together by the crest of the state, which stands suspended in the middle with cable strings at a height of about 15m. It is a two-faced logo of about 3m in diameter. The monument stands at the centre of a raised podium, which is 32m in diameter. The podium has series of concentric steps on the East-West axis allowing visitors to enjoy the platform, which is adorned with a 24-nozzle dry fountain that could later turn into a musical fountain. The north-south edges of the platform are slanted towards the base.
The monument is located at the centre of a 210m-diameter roundabout that provides access to vehicles coming and going to Sagamu, Abeokuta and Sango Otta. Quite strategically, access to the park is through the least travelled section of the roundabout via a dual carriageway. A VIP car park sits on either side of the monument, while the general car park is on the other side of the roundabout towards the Sagamu end.
The Federal Capital Territory has its welcoming gate, and Lagos has its Freedom Park. Why not a city gate in the Gateway State, a circle at the Shagamu Interchange that adds beauty to the environment, with a recreation park for tourists and fun lovers? The Sallah celebration is behind us now, but another will come. And, yeah! Christmas is well on its way. Fun lovers have in the Ogun City Gate a prime spot for relaxation. Family picnics will take place here, and cameras will click away, capturing the beauty of the interchange and of Ogun State, the land of the brave, the land of dreams, and a leader among leaders contributing immensely and in unparalleled forms to the history of Nigeria.
The park is unique in concept: it connotes unity among the nine federal constituencies and 20 local governments in Ogun. No one can ignore the centrality of that environment, now joined with good roads leading to the Ogun capital. Travelling from the city gate into the heart of Ogun State will now be a pleasure. These seemingly little things are some of the things we go to see abroad, a sign of development, and of a government that is thinking and wants the best for its people; an ingredient of urban renewal initiative. To achieve urban renewal, you must have iconic things that people can look at, things that speak to the past, present and future. In any case, when you look at history, whether from the prism of great women like Efunroye Tinubu, succourer of orphans; or through the odysseys of the Awolowos with their social engineering, the Ransome-Kutis with their activism, the Odusotes with their industrial complex, the Abiolas with their business empire and martyrdom for democracy, the Tai Solarins with their landmarks in education, or, even in recent times, the Adenugas with their revolutionary business, the Gateway land stands tall.
The City Gateway Park, an iconic structure that evokes the beauty to the Ogun environment and, by implication, the beauty of the Oduduwa family, is a welcome addition to our collective lore. As they journey into Abeokuta, traversing the roads being crafted by the Abiodun administration, tourists have great places like Olumo Rock to visit in Abeokuta. Apparently, Gov. Abiodun is using urban renewal initiatives to attract people and businesses to Ogun. Already, the corridor is becoming an industrial arrow, harnessing the gains of the Abiodun road revolution and the proximity to Lagos, Nigerias economic capital. Its a great sight to behold.
•Branco contributes this piece through [email protected]