From MAGNUS EZE, Abuja
It might not be out of place to say that there is paradise inside Life Camp; one part of Abuja with the highest concentration of the expatriate community. After all, there is actually an upcoming estate called The Paradise Abuja.
But the recent emergence of Rabby Recreation Park; an expansive natural park on the landscape of Life Camp has no doubt added some excitement to the idea of a paradise there.
Sitting on a 20,000sqm uninterrupted natural habitat with exquisite landscape, lush green area adorned with magnificent fountain; in the same neighbourhood with Brains & Hammers, Godab and Paradise Hills, Rabby Recreation Park holds the key to unlimited sporting, relaxation and entertainment in the Federal Capital Territory.
Its proprietor and promoter, Brig. Gen Samuel Olugbenga Ladipo (retd), who conducted guests round the park August 20, when the doors of the park were officially opened for business, said he envisioned a complete facility that would have something for everybody.
True to his vision; he eventually transformed the hitherto virgin land into an uncommon spectacle to behold. Aside the ambience and serenity of the facility, it boasts of fully equipped events points, golf pitching and putting; five-aside football pitch, tennis court, basketball court, children play area, food court, bar and lounge as well as stand-alone gazebos for cocktails, meetings; among other facilities. Another interesting feature of the sprawling lush park is the zoological section with exotic creatures like peacocks, ostriches, antelopes and parrots.
The roll-call of who-is-who in the Nigerian military; serving and retired spiced with other notables from various sectors of the economy was held spellbound by the creative use of the space by the Oladipos.
Minister of Defence, Brig. Gen. Mansur Ali (retd), who cut the tape at the inauguration, commended the Oladipos for their foresight in putting together the tourist centre. Represented by Maj. Gen. Junaid Bindawa (retd), the minister urged visitors to maximize what the park offers for their leisure and relaxation.
A longstanding friend and colleague of Oladipo, who has seen it all with him, Maj. Gen. Charley Okoro (retd), also extolled the former’s vision, hard-work, discipline and never-say-die spirit which led to the realisation of the dream.
It took the Oladipos three years to get Rabby Park to its present state.
From barrack to Garden
The ceremony was two-pronged; unveiling of the park and thanksgiving reception of Oladipo’s retirement rolled into one. Ladipo retired in 2013 after 30 years of meritorious service in the Nigerian Army.
But why did it take three years for Oladipos to host this thanksgiving reception? Gen. Oladipo said that the delay was part of the story of his life; the manifestation of God’s plan for him: “It took me three years after retirement to hold this thanksgiving because I was waiting for the manifestation of today.”
Oladipo in telling the story of his life gave God the glory for where he is today; and lavished encomiums on his lovely wife, Oyeyemi, whom he said has remained a mother, wife, and everything rolled into one to him.
He said his long travels across the world exposed him to the essence of a natural centre where people could have fun; relaxation and at the same time create jobs. This spurred his interest in tourism and hospitality. So, it was not surprising that on retirement from service even on a day he had expected to be promoted to the next rank; Gen. Oladipo decided to move on without any fuse:
“The day I left service, I was expecting promotion. I had prayed and fasted for it; I knew that if I didn’t get promoted, then I was going. So, when it happened, I said I don’t want to work for anyone again. So, I said I would rather provide service, create employment for others.”
Peace keeping experience
On his service years, Oladipo said he has every cause to be grateful to God. Recalling his two years peace-keeping experience in the ECOMOG team to Sierra Leon, the retired general said he witnessed God’s mercy even though the period took toll on his family as he did not talk to them for one year, and only managed to set eyes on them once in those two years:
“When I was leaving for Sierra Leon, I told my wife that I will call you when I get to Freetown. But for one year, I didn’t even see Freetown; so I didn’t talk to my wife for one year. I was told my wife was hospitalized, in fact, it was my friend, Maj. Gen. Okoro who was in Freetown that established contact and told me that there was nothing wrong with her, that all she needed was to hear my voice:
“That was how I then went to Freetown and spoke with my wife on phone.”
Ladipo said that the park project, named after his late mother, Mama Rabby Gbemisola Ladipo, who passed on when he was about five, has reinforced his belief in God. He disclosed that the remaining years of his life would be devoted to God in greater dimension; his wife, Oyeyemi, and mentoring and coaching their three sons, Oluwagbimiga, Oladimeji and Omogbolahan.
The Ogbomoso-born retired general added that playing golf, watching and analysing football matches, reading and travels and tours would also keep him busy.