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Ibadan before lights-out!

Just that lights-out in Ibadan is 10pm. That is even being generous to some parts of the sprawling megalopolis once considered the largest and most populous city

Ibadan before lights-out! 29e5Tunde Fagbenle

Just that lights-out in Ibadan is 10pm. That is even being generous to some parts of the sprawling megalopolis once considered the largest and most populous city in Black Africa and, in all of Africa second then only to Cairo, Egypt. There is a common saying in Yoruba that compares Ibadan people with chickens for who nighttime is anathema — roosting as soon as sun sets. To be fair, in a few other parts, that limit may stretch to 11pm beyond which one was out at the risk of sleeping out.

It has not always been like that. Way back in pre-independence time right up till the early 70s, second only to Lagos, Ibadan was where it was happening. Indeed, it was not only the hub of political and administrative development in Western Nigeria, nay all of Nigeria, Ibadan dictated the pace in education, music and culture for Nigeria. Folks in Lagos left for Ibadan to take in the best of highlife and grooving in places like Easy Life Hotel of Bola Johnson; Paradise Hotel where Eddie Okonta and co played; Independence Hotel and Central Hotel where Orlando Julius and Roy Chicago respectively played before shifting base to Lagos; etc.

Importantly, at the same time Ibadan was in a state of unprecedented and unmatched literary ferment, with Wole Soyinka, Chinua Achebe, Chris Okigbo, J.P. Clark, etc. ruling the roost.

Then Ibadan declined. The decline has been put down to the devastating effect of the 1967-70 civil war that saw to the exodus of many that gave Ibadan its cosmopolitanism in the first place; and then the total collapse of moral values in the country that came with the onset of “free oil money” in the 70s; subsequent economic hardship (SAP) of the 80s; and concomitant to all these, the rampant armed robbery and loss of sense of security everywhere.

As a result, it became imperative for every home to be walled in like prisons, and every street to be gated in self-help efforts, as governments after governments appeared helpless in guaranteeing basic security of life and property to the citizenry. Nightlife slowly waned almost to non-existence as street barriers were up in most places as early as 10pm and the barring of vehicular traffic rigidly enforced against all, residents and visitors alike.

Ibadan was abandoned by successive governments to its own devices: filth overgrew every street and corner; roads were strewn with potholes; vehicular traffic was problematic as the roads narrowed with pedestrians, motorcycles, and trucks jostling with cars and buses for way. The societal and environmental decay was palpable. Nothing could be seen by way of private or public investment in infrastructure, or in significant business structures. The days were drab; the nights were dead.

Then in the last three or so years Ibadan began to wear a different look — for the better. There is a smile on the face of the town. Many of the inner city roads have been widened into double-lanes, some with medians and pedestrian walkways and general environmental beautification has taken place in a frenzy of urban renewal. There are now a number of overhead bridges and vehicular flyovers. The mountains of garbage are no longer pervasive or present for days before being cleared. Many have wondered if they are in the same Ibadan of old, not believing it were possible.

Naturally businesses have begun to be attracted to the new, improved, city of Ibadan. And that is the cheerful part. I am thrilled, partly because (ostensibly) I now live in Ibadan and partly because Ibadan holds too many fond memories and meanings for the Yoruba and for too many Nigerians.

Foremost amongst the new businesses that are transforming the city is the popular supermarket chain, Shoprite and Shopping Mall. A relatively small one first appeared at the precincts of the famed Cocoa House a few years ago and is now followed by a sprawling one along the Ring Road.

The first time I went into this shop with my family I was overwhelmed by a feeling of joy, seeing the magic of serious investment. One would not think one was in Nigeria let alone Ibadan. The expanse, the cleanliness, the friendliness and smartness of the trained shop attendants, the range and quality of products, etc was refreshing. It introduced a whole new shopping experience and business culture reminiscent of the Kingsway Stores of the 50s and 60s. What added to my excitement is the economic chain effect as I observed a whole generation of made-in-Nigeria products manufactured and packaged to high standards to meet the requirement of the stores and compete favorably with their imported competitors on the shelves.

Other stores and businesses that have brought freshness and satisfaction to the city include the quality fast foods businesses like Mr. Biggs, Tantalizer, etc, and the international franchise KFC which opened up in Lagos with fanfare last year and have now opened in Ibadan.

Then, only a few days ago my family and I saw to our astonishment the international Domino Pizza franchise in all its glimmering freshness along Awolowo Road, Bodija, a road that is fast looking like Lagos’ Allen Avenue of Ikeja, or Awolowo Road, Ikoyi in the number, range and quality of stores, clubs, and businesses dotting it. We could not resist the pull to go in, and what a joy to see that in everyway — environment, quality of service and food —it is no different from what obtains abroad.

Talking of the wonderful transformation of the City of Ibadan, one must necessarily mention the Agodi Parks and Gardens that opened just before Xmas 2014. In concept, it is a cross between London’s Hyde Park, Kew Gardens, and London Zoo. Covering an approximate land area of 30 acres in the highbrow precincts of Parliament Buildings and Secretariat, it does credit to the imagination and resourcefulness of the present government. All through the Xmas and New Year period, the place was a Mecca of sort, with hundreds of cars spilling out from the sizeable car park and double-lining both sides of the long, wide, road. The season’s neon lightings and glittering décor provided added glory, like a thousand stars, bedazzling the thousands of revelers that thronged the place all through the period.

New things are great, but in a country without appreciable maintenance culture it worries the mind for how long a public-owned place like the Agodi Parks would last before it goes the way of others (like the Amusement Park near the University of Ibadan) that have come before it and are now in pitiable state? If it has not yet done so, the government must necessarily turn it over to some capable and experienced private business for efficient and creative management for long-term sustainability.

As elections are due in another month to choose who becomes the governor of Oyo State, one cannot but wonder what those things are that would determine the choice of the voting public.

Ibadan and environs alone command almost 60% of the voter density of the state. Hence whom majority of Ibadan voters choose almost invariably wins. The common notion is that Ibadan people are averse to re-electing the same governor for a second term. The transformations narrated above have not been without their own pains and sacrifices that may be held against a government that dared. But without continuity like Lagos State has been lucky to enjoy, through re-electing governors Bola Tinubu and Tunde Fashola successively for their outstanding performances, Ibadan and Oyo State cannot expect to outgrow the debilitating provinciality associated with it.

As I write, Ibadan has not been able to shake off its scare of old. The city still goes to sleep by 9pm. Most streets are still gated with barriers mounted against vehicular movement past the hour of 10 or 11 at night. It is a bane to progress. No city ever develops into modernity without a vibrant nightlife with its associated economy. The government must find a way to legitimise against this anachronism and force their removal whilst doubling efforts to keep the city safe day and night. Fashola of Lagos has worked that wonder; Ajimobi must have to a borrow leaf from him once (and if) he gets his desired second term.

And that’s saying it the way it is!

By Edos News

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