• A place where residents don’t own cars, tricycles, motorcycles or bicycles but only wheelbarrows
Shogaolu, an Ibadan community totally submerged by erosion, is, by whatever standard you use to measure it, the worst place, not just in Nigeria but also probably on earth. The Oyo State town located in Ibadan Southwest Local Government Area, surrounded by hills, with a river at the rear, exists only at the mercy of the rains. In fact, the residents spend 365 or 366 days of the year praying against downpour. When they sing, “count your blessings, name them one by one”, rain is not one of them, for the people of this community.
It is a community where landlords and residents don’t dream of owning automobiles: tricycles or motorcycles. It is a place where visitors are asked to park their cars far away in summer, for fear of finding themselves and their cars inside a yawning gully. Of course, in rainy season they dare not dream of bringing them in at all.
Residents bemoan desolation of the community
If you are standing on Onajide Road, which is one of the entrances to the community, the first building, a yellow painted block owned by a man fondly called Baba Oke looked very solid from the front. But a walk down through the length of the one-plot building reveals the foundations already exposed. The bricks are falling apart. You soon discovered the source: the stone cemented foundation is filled with cracks. Part of the rear of the building is falling apart. You do not find it strange therefore when the occupants tell you that they had been warned not to move towards the sides of the building.
One of them, a lady who identified herself as Ope Adams, a former occupant/tenant of the building, said they had to pack out when the cracks started widening. “Our dad urged us to move out when he noticed that spilled water does not flow in the right direction,” she reported. “The used bathroom water also flowed towards the rear of the building instead of through the appropriate channels: we had to use broom to sweep much of it out every time anybody had a bath. But my father finally took the decision to pack out when one day while he was sitting outside and having a drink with his friends he spilt some on the ground. But the direction the flow took, anticlockwise, shocked him. Though he joked about it with his friends, when he came inside the house, he told us to be ready to pack out soon. We later did.”
As narrated by Adams, the foundation of the building has sunk in such a way as to cause the structure to tilt dangerously towards the erosion pathway from Jeifous Link Road (the most notorious erosion pathway), as if it would tip over the edge any moment soon. Its rear formed an unwanted dangerous drainage for the erosion pathway from the link road (another entrance to the community). If the building is in such a bad shape, the house on the other side of the divide, No. 11, is a no-go-area. The wall of the building has totally collapsed. The cracks in the main building are so wide that they could be seen from a distance away. The fear is that the one-storey building might fall even before the end of this month (October).
One of the residents of the house, Michael Adevo, a Benue State indigene who claimed to have lived in the community for 30 years confirmed that the place is a no-go-area for any other means of transportation, except wheelbarrow. “The erosion brings refuse from other places to deposit in this place which is not palatable for the residents,” he explained. The man who lives in the death-trap of a building because of his present condition added that he moved into the building in 2011. “This year makes it nine,” he told you. “I have a motorcycle but I dare not ride it down this place because some people had tried it and lost their limbs in the process: in a worst-case scenario, I push the motorcycle down here. There is a man living opposite my building. When he was sick, he was pushed in a wheelbarrow up to the nearest car because nobody could carry him. The community has talked to the government but it declined noting that the money that will be used to repair the area is too much. To worsen matters, it does not have a federal road and there is not much revenue generated from the area.”
Francis Okoli, an Anambra indigene who resides in Odo-Ona, gave similar narration of woebegone. He narrated an incident in which he had to park his car at Onajide Street, some metres away from the community, and trekked down to attend to his ailing sister. “My sister was sick and I was contacted by her husband to help take her to hospital. Do you know that I had to carry her on my back before we could get to the car? I felt so bad. But there was nothing I could do. I have been praying to God to provide for me so that I can rent a room for them in another place. The house they live in is also in bad shape. The erosion has submerged the better part of it. I swear, this place is not habitable for any human being. That day, while I was on my way down here, I kept stopping because of stress. Now, think of how I could have felt as I carried my sister to ascend this place to the point where I parked my car.”
A landlord reminiscences on the past, rues the present
Okoli and Adevos’ stories agree with that of Prophet Julius Oluwadamilola Morakinyo, fondly called Alagba, a resident and landlord who has spent more than 25 years in the community. He started his narration by recalling the good times when the roads were golden and streets were peaceful, when children had a feel of the street by running about and playing around the area in moonlight. But at the end of his story, he lamented how the erosion has created opportunities for thieves and hoodlums to operate without qualms, in the area.
Details of his account: “Formerly, the community was one of the shortest routes to the town and it was convenient for most of us. It was one of the best playgrounds for children because it had a good and less busy road. But the road started spoiling about 20 years ago. At first, we tried to manage it. But in the past 10 years, it has gone beyond repairs. The wooden bridge had spoilt many times. The one currently placed there is the sixth one. The erosion is causing major damage on the houses even as some argued that the houses are quite old. The erosion has weakened most of the houses there. It has injured and threatened to wash off children. Most of the times when it rains heavily, we organise some of our men to position themselves at strategic points to rescue passersby. We also had to construct a gate for the same reason; we close it when there is heavy rain. We have spent almost N400, 000 trying to manage the situation the best way we can.
“There was a time the community was a hideout for notorious rapists, kidnappers and thieves. They became a problem to the point that people didn’t come out until daylight and didn’t pass through that area after 5 pm. There was hardly a week that passed that there was no report of rape in the community. We had to organise community vigilance before we could catch some of them and hand over to the police.”
Discordant voices on the cause of the problem
But Saturday Sun learnt that some of the problem was somehow self-inflicted. It was said to be compounded when the community’s former leaders, allegedly owing to personal gains, committed some tactical errors of battling one of the past governments to a standstill over its attempt to “tamper” with the road.
This was all about the point you could glean from the narration of Samson Taiwo Ogundipe, popularly called Baba Biodun. Pointing to a dilapidated house standing some distance away from us, he said: “I inherited that house from my mother. I have been living in it since 1976. The community was formerly favourable before we started having erosion problems. The first time they (government people) wanted to repair it, they met some resistance. There was a man who died some years ago. He built a manual borehole in front of his house. As a result of that, he frustrated the government from working on the road. He accused them of trying to ‘tamper’ with the road. Another man also brought out his chair and sat outside until the construction workers brought by the government left with their tools. This incident I am talking about happened about 20 years ago and those people have long passed away. But government has never returned since then.”
But Mr. Ojo Ayomide, Financial Secretary of the community counters that by saying that government is generally underperforming in the area. “I feel that government has not taken cognizance of the area because of its general under performance,” he said, “And, coupled with the fact that the area does not seem to be one of the revenue-generating sources.”
Lamentation by resident, denial of neglect by politician
Lamenting the situation, Baba Biodun said: “The most painful part is that different politicians would come here to canvass for our votes. They would leave their cars over there and come here on foot and still after that they don’t seem to see any reason to help us. Some of them who came here recently include Hon. Segun Ajanaku, member, House of Representatives and Hon. Femi Fowokanmi, member of the State Assembly but all to no avail.”
True. There is no local, state or federal government presence in the area. The only semblance of human alleviation venture is the presence of a single blue GP tank standing somewhere in the community and on which is an inscription of Rotary Club.
Contacted, Fowokanmi refuted the allegation of nonchalance and neglect leveled against him. “My office is open to all,” he said. “I have never received any letter from that community. My constituency is the largest in Ibadan and I make efforts to touch everywhere. I will surely attend to them whenever they reach out.”
Asked what other efforts they had made to solve the problem apart from the one already described, Alagba said: “We have found out that the bush and the empty land belongs to a cooperative group that has turned the place into a refuse ground but we are yet to hear from them. We have even offered to clear the bush to allow the water flow normally.”