The Rise and Fall of Festac Town-Part 2

By Adeola Aderounmu.

After the mid 80s, the dwindling glory of Festac Town continued to take a turn for the worse. By the end of 1989, a lot of things have happened that revealed the recklessness of our administrators in Nigeria. The one that shook us most till today is how we lost our forest and all our playgrounds to construction of more houses in what became known as the fabricated and inglorious FHA plan B of Festac Town.

On W close of 5th Avenue, the popular FHA football field (where I spent my school breaks in primary school, watched glorious football tournaments and later played in competitions in my early teens) was sold to the first set of invasive millionaires that have just discovered Festac. We thought that was the worst that could happen. Wait! The expanse of playground on 23 Road, opposite D and E closes where virtually all schools in Festac Town usually host their annual Inter-House sports competitions was sold! Houses have since been built on them.

In Festac Town today, only one major field remains and this is the one adjacent to the former Inter-House sports ground. This one field that is now serving all the young football talents in Festac Town is the remnant of our several beloved playgrounds and parks. The small sand field on 322 Road where Victor Okechukwu Agali budded is a rare survival despite all the structures and shops that have grown around it.

In 1990 Festac, most parts of the Canal had been reclaimed and houses have been built on them. The forest that surrounded Festac before is now history. Today, all the grasshoppers and butterflies are gone while the monkeys and other wild animals suffered violent extinction. There are no more swings in the park-the park themselves have given away to a vicious plan B. The Federal Housing Authority (FHA) sold all our recreational centres. 

Even solid surfaces where Lawn Tennis was played around the neighborhood were not spared! Houses were built everywhere, on electric cables, on top of underground tubes for passage of human waste (sewage suck-away), in parking areas and any kind of space that you can imagine. There was a day a man’s house had to be pulled down partially to retrieve NEPA’s electric cable that ran under his house!

Overhead electric cables had to be constructed where houses cannot be pulled down or when the underground cables suddenly disappear from traceable paths. Even the infamous NEPA edifice at the end of 512 Road was built on a concrete-surface lawn tennis court! It was used as one of the two famous grounds for stone-field football before NEPA acquired the land. The only stone-field (previously a lawn tennis court as well) standing today is at 5th Avenue H1 Close or 23 Road X Close depending on your approaching point. This is the only place I have to play football whenever I am in Festac.

So, it happened that Festac in the late 80s and early 90s became a hot spot not only for Nigeria’s invasive millionaires but also for our corrupt politicians to flaunt their ill-gotten wealth. If you go to the popular Cocaine Avenue in Festac (also known as extension), the early settlers there are mainly popular but corrupt Nigerian politicians and some people whom we came to know later as 419 kingpins.

There are hardworking people as well who decided to join this invasion and of course the churches and mosques got their own share of the playgrounds. The giant mosque on 72 Road was built on one of the most famous football pitches in Festac Town! Many churches also built their worship centres on playgrounds. It was as a result of the rapidity with which houses sprung up on 4th Avenue extension that this area lost its original name and became known as Naira Burial Ground or Cocaine Avenue.

Today, this unnecessary overgrowth in Festac continues with the emergence of high class hotels, suites with swimming pools, several banking halls, fast food outlets, more petrol stations and explosion of the human population beyond the initial sustenance capacity of the festac village of 1977 to 1980.

The impacts of this negative growth and extreme carelessness of FHA is still revealing a sad situation in present day Festac. Crime became entrenched for obvious reasons. The corrupt politicians, the 419 kingpins and the subsequent emergence of high class hotels and suites may have influenced the making of the yahoo-yahoo boys in Festac Town. Festac Town acquired an international status for this advanced fee fraud crime thereby overshadowing the importance of the Black Art Festival of 1977.

There is no stretch of road in Festac Town that is not without its dangerous areas and pot holes. It was in Festac Town that I saw for the first time that cement can be used to substitute tar to repair roads. That reveals the extent of neglect that Festac is suffering in the hands of the federal government-the original owner of the estate, the state government-who don’t care so much about the estate and the local government with headquarters on 41 Road-whose sole interest is to collect tenement rate without regards to the mortgage agreements that many occupiers signed far back in 1977.

There are other vices and problems that typify the great fall of the once celebrated Festac Town. Sewage disposal is a major concern as houses have been built on the original channels that took the liquid waste to its terminal. Overflowing sewages are common sights nowadays and the tenants have to contribute money to private firms to clear the mess. Not doing that would have encouraged an epidemic.

The maintenance in Festac Town was neglected by FHA and all the houses especially the blocks of 16 and 32 flats now look very ugly. Some people contribute money and paint their buildings at some intervals depending on how soon the paints are washed away. The Primary Health Care Centre which we had in the beginning was very effective but the situation today is a sad one.

The availability of water in Festac is a dead issue. First, the taps went dried for inexplicable reasons. Then at a time, the water corporation was giving us water darker than Lipton tea. We were supposed to drink this reddish brown water coming from rusted pipes. Allow this water to settle and you’ll see your obituary staring at you in the face!

Ironically, Festac Town probably has the largest water reservoir in Lagos State. This structure lies today as a monumental waste on 22 Road, not far from TEXACO petrol station. It is impossible to re-count all the things that wasted away in Festac Town, from the shopping complexes that were misused and converted to religious centers to the stationary generators that were gradually torn apart by petty thieves and eventually removed by new land owners thus allowing them to build on electrical installations! 

 In 2007, 30 years after it was first inhabited, Festac is a far cry from the dreams of the founders. If the foreigners who were part of the construction of Festac Town houses and environment should visit the same Festac Town today, they will surely burst into uncontrollable tears (of sadness). The houses that Jack built 30 years ago now resemble 10th century attempts to modernize ancient Golgotha. 

No one used the bicycle tracks or perhaps we didn’t even realise that the tracks beside the main roads were meant for bicycles. Did anyone own a bicycle for the purpose of commuting? Make shift akara and dundun markets have taken over all these tracks. The damage in Festac seems irreparable. Many occupiers who arrived in 1977 have left the place more out of anger or frustration than the necessity to relocate to their personal houses or to rented places outside Festac.

If Festac had remained the paradise it was in 1977, perhaps the story would have been told differently. Sadly, Festac Town has come to symbolized one of the several places in Nigeria where children are growing up not realizing that their childhood had been stolen from them before they were born. Imagine the contrast between the wonderful atmosphere under which the early settlers in Festac brought up their children and the criminally inclined environment of the 90s that pervades in Festac to this day. This ugly scenario would have been prevented through proper planning.

Rather than invade Festac thereby accelerating the destruction of its original Master plan as they did in the 80s and 90s, the greedy politicians and other overnight funny millionaires should have solicited for the establishment of more estates similar to Festac Town across Nigeria. If they must live in Lagos, they could have demanded for the creation of Festac Town 2 and even Festac Town 3 in the suburbs.

For now, as the unfortunate residents of this extremely over-populated town, a micro-representation of the failure of the Nigeria nation, we are seriously faced with the hassles of crime, rage of violence, complete absence of drinkable water, disorganized transportation, bad roads, perpetual blackout, dilapidating schools and houses, scattered markets, stagnant drainage system, complete absence of recreational centers and youth delinquency.

Additionally, the emergence and activities of road-side estate agents and those who sold their flats or houses in Festac Town have made a complete mess of the purpose of the housing system. Festac Town is a Federal Government project that was grossly mismanaged and eventually left to rot away, if it must be salvaged in any way at all, the responsibilities rest squarely on the shoulders of the Federal Housing Authority. They should not have introduced the disaster called Plan B and they should not have reneged on their parts of the housing contracts.

That’s how we got to this point! (concluded). 

Nigeria, wherewithal thy Glory? 

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21 thoughts on “The Rise and Fall of Festac Town-Part 2

  1. I read both part 1 and 2, very captivating read. I like the insight you provide.

    Although I’m am a few years younger than you, I grew up in 1004 from the early ’80s to late ’90s and very similar things happened there. Over the years maintenance dropped to almost zero and the place went to hell.

    In about 1996 a little girl fell to her death from the 7th floor in Crescent C (remember each floor was 2 stories, so she fell 13 stories) to the parking lot below. All because somehow the maintenance office did not come fix the broken railings. After that accident they rushed to fix it the next day. What was the point after that? That was only eye-service.

    1004 was a dream when it first opened (in the late ’70s if I remember correctly), now I heard they have shut it down and chased everyone out. I wonder what they will do with it now. In the 30 years it has been open, there has been no significant renovation done.

  2. hi Alan,

    I visited a friend a couple of time at 1004 Housing Estate in the 90s. Should be 92/93. It was not funny going on 7th Floor without elevators.

    Is anything maintained in Nigeria? Yes, only corruption. Corruption is the only thing that is maintained and organized in Nigeria.

  3. Pingback: Nigeria, FESTAC Town: 30 Years Later - AfricanLoft

  4. Hey don’t I know you? It’s me Tokunbo from Festac Grammar school. You once taught there for a couple of years alongside late Mr. Ebinmaro, may his soul rest in peace, and Mr. Omole to mention a few. How’ve you been? I was surfing the web looking for pictures of Festac Town when I stumbled onto your picture and I was like no way. Wow, I hope you’ll remember me thou. It’s good to see you again and hopefully you’ll get this. I’ve been in the States now for 3 years schooling and working to pay my bills. man, it ain’t that easy but anyhow sha God dey. Alright my man. Stay blessed.

    By the way nice article about Festac. I read through it and it’s just incredible.

  5. Thank you so much for your story on Festac. I left Nigeria in 1979 but worked in Festac Village during the construction and foreign settle era of his guest’s that came to Nigeria. Again, It’s very sad to hear. but I beg you keep us inform and we will keep you guys in our daily prayer.
    Peace

  6. Hi Alan
    I actually grew up in Festac.
    I attended Subuola Nursery infant academy
    The sad story about my one time love makes me cry,Festac was the talk of the world in its days and GLORY times.All we can ask and pray for is for God to help intervene in the Story of this country so as to give us the maintaining spirit and power.Thanks

  7. Deola,

    Reading this piece of article brought a tear to my eye. I remember back in ’77/’78 when our family friend invited me to spend my summer vacation in festac. God, it was so quiet and peaceful. I’ll never forget the noise of the wind/breeze that would be slamming doors gboa! gboa! along 111 Road and you would hear these doors slamming a mile away. You could even hear the voices of Danfo conductors calling for fare from Mile Two. When my family moved into festac in ’78 I would say we were the “new breed” because we moved into those just built block of flats along 322 Road. I am also proud to be part of the first batch of students of the first secondary school in festac – Festo Prog High school. Back then when I told people I lived in festac, they were even more envious of me than Ikoyi dwellers. I moved out of Festac in the late ’80s and now the cool steady breeze is replaced with still hot air that allows mosquitos to devoir you. The noise of door slams have been usurped by the deafening growling of mobile/stationary electric generators!!!

    You wrote: “The small sand field on 322 Road where Victor Okechukwu Agali budded is a rare survival despite all the structures and shops that have grown around it.”

    – Well, I tapped leather on that field! My block is right next to this 8-plot land. I once asked my dad who still lives there why this field survived. His reply was that the FHA goons had actually sold the land multiple times but if not for the relentless efforts of the 322 Rd residents, the land would have had about four structures erected on it now. Once the residents noticed any construction activity on the land, they would sneak onto the land at night and fill back up the dug foundation and remove building materials from the site. When they did this several times FHA finally gave up selling the land!!! (LOL)

  8. Adeola, my classmate and friend.

    I was surfing the net preparing a sales strategy for my company and I decided to use Festac Town as a case study since that was were I spent my early days that I stumbled on this great article of yours.

    As I read further, I said to my wife that this writer must be my friend and classmate (because I didn’t check the name of the writer), I told her that this person had captured my thoughts, I almost cried because I knew what Festac was; while we were growing up from 1977, I remember our primary School (School 9) straight to Festac Grammar School. My brother festac don spoil finish.

    Adeola, it was a good article, I had to call our mates to read this article…..ok, lets keep gisting on facebook….where is Anthony Olawoye?

  9. FINISHED READING THE SECIND PART.ITS A MASTERPIECE WRITE UP.MOVED INTO FESTAC IN 1980.LIVED AT 7TH AVENUE,F CLOSE.IF THERE IS ANYONE OUT THERE THAT REMEMBERS THE NAME,MOMENTS,PLEASE SEND A MESSAGE.”TO THE GLORY OF OLD DAYS FESTAC”.

  10. i remember early 1980 when we were kids as i reside in 401 road and went to school at st judes and later subuola, we do go fishing and lady bird hunting at the forest at 4th avenue . from the canal at 1st avenue to 7th avenue we got chased by snakes and monkeys and my best part of the canal was where i will sit for hours just looking at the crabs sunbathing and with any noise they run into holes

  11. first, i will want to say great gramarian. festac grammer school happened to be the best in festac town and ranked among federal government schools back then my fgs old student if you are talking of festac town festac grammer school is worse than even a rotten egg. imagine the student sit on various type of tyre, from trailer to jeep to bicycles, no be small thing when i saw it i almost colapsed. am not surprised about festac because i still leave in it. the sale of play field is the major problem of festac. but for sometime now i have been organising football even for 401 road youths and its getting better by the day, we also have put up church sponsored sporting events by brothers wetin my eye they see my mouth no fit finish am. only God Can help us. pls if u can help grammer school develop, register on facebook in the festac grammer school group. thank you all and God bless.

  12. what i deep deep fall, when i was in festac i use to stroll from house to agboju market play ground (opp. communion chapel) but all of a sudden the place was abandoned for hemp smokers, touts and all what nots to ravage. i lived at 3rd avenue f closa house 3. went to nazareth primary school and festac grammar school.what a mess GOD HELP US.

  13. Dear Adeola Aderounmu,

    Very interesting write up about Festac 77. I moved into Festac if i remember correctly almost 11 years ago and up until three weeks ago. Indeed, the most fondest of your memories lay way back when Festac used to be its ideal model. I didn’t get the opportunity to go out much so I wont contend with you about the structures. I eventually got the opportunities to move around and about and I hold my pride as a resident of Festac till today and in high esteem.

    I think your write up on Festac should be updated especially with the

    ………….Crime became entrenched for obvious reasons. The corrupt politicians, the 419 kingpins and the subsequent emergence of high class hotels and suites may have influenced the making of the yahoo-yahoo boys in Festac Town.

    I remember very clearly that barely three weeks from the news report, every cybercafe and every business center was investigated by the a Special Force and cybercafe/business centers were shut down permanently, those found carrying out these crimes.

    These crimes did happen but from 2007, not anymore. A couple of things have changed,

    ……complete absence of drinkable water, disorganized transportation, bad roads, perpetual blackout, dilapidating schools and houses, scattered markets, stagnant drainage system,…………

    haven’t been thoroughly dealt with but they have being taken care off. It important you have an update on some write ups as not the leave any of your readers in a distorted image of Festac since you saw it since 2007.

    A few months back, i sighted the Local Government Chairman as an example of poor leadership. As he has progressed< i have kept my facebook friends abreast of revisited issues and outstanding issue.

    A friend of mind drew my attention to wikipedia's write up on Festac 77 which is very similar to yours. Infact, i was looking for a more recent writeup with better facts on Festac when i stumbled into your blog.
    Im wondering how many people still have a distorted image of Festac?

    I intend to write amicable to the writer of that write up and also if without response, raise 2,000 people to debunk the 419 statement on facebook.

    I take pride in my community and in my country. We are far from perfect but we are making some kind of progress.

    Thanks.

    • Atinuke, I have been to Festac at the end of 2010, I am not changing anything. Festac is not getting better. My car got damaged on 21 Road inside the deep gully in front of Emem Hospital.

      24 ROAD is bad, 72 road is not just bad but a disaster….and so on. Festac Roads, like Lagos roads are among the worst roads in the world.

      I wonder if there is a Local council Chairman….

      I can’t shout please.

  14. What’s with the statement ‘I can’t shout’?

    This discussion is NOT supposed to provoke any negative emotions what so ever.

    I have not asked you to change your write up, I have simply asked you to UPDATE.

    If you read carefully again, I wrote and I quote: A few months back, i sighted the Local Government Chairman as an example of poor leadership. As he has progressed< i have kept my facebook friends abreast of revisited issues and outstanding issue.'

    I decided to write to you only because after Wikipedia, your blog comes up right after on Festac.

    If you would not upgrade, does not add one kobo to my bank account. (See what you've caused).

    Happy New Calendar Year, Sir!
    Let's go, 2011!

  15. Yes, This is the story of Nigeria’s decaying and her inability to sustained and developed properly. which was due to corruption and the illitercy of mindset of our faked-politicians and unpatriotic public administrators . I too was living in Festac between 1976 to 1979, actually we were one of those early resident to occupied our new home on 5th Avenue, S close. before Festac was officially declared opened, my uncle now live there ( Mr Toyin Ajayi).
    As a youngstar who’s origin is from Lagos Island and who was born and partly lived in London , England i was so fascinated and finally believed that Nigeria has finally awaken and will progress further. The very first time that i’m seeing a road with a proper pavements and a drainage systems, no open sewage anywhere, beautiful roads, different homes in most of the avavues,closes etc. no overhead wiring posts and poles. LSTC buses and reliable taxis services, lots of playing fields. the nearest to something beautiful to Festac was Satelite Town, even that was 90 percent not as good as Festac. i thought this new model was going to be repeated across the nation ofcourse with proper hospital, fire services, police station etc.
    last time i visited Festac was in 1994 during my holiday in Lagos i saw Danfos, Molue and almost all the infractures was falling apart, need i say more.
    Tunde Igbo Forest

  16. I grew up in Festac Town. I happen to be one of earliest settlers in Festac Town. I am also one of the very first set of graduates of Festac Town Community High School (now Festac college) on 23/24 road. The school started as an even secondary school at 3rd Avenue primary close to the Fire Service Office until when Lateef Jakande became Governor of Lagos State and took over the school. The problem of Festac started from the very day Shehu Shagari removed Fortune Ibie and appointed Dosumu as Manager. Dosumu came in as Manager and started issuing building contracts to his girl friends which led to the construction and collapse many buildings especially in 21 road, close to NEPA office

  17. We lived in Festac between 1980 and 1997 (711 road, d close)- the deterioration happened before my very eyes. It used to be that the streetlights worked. all electrical cables were underground. it was a safe community – i remember walking all the way from 711 (at seven years old) to alakija via 209 road to get newspapers for my dad. how we loved the “Garth” cartoon in Daily Times, i think it was. we kids had to wear thick sweaters knitted by Mrs. Jagun in house 8 to keep warm from the harmattan cold that began as early as september. The forest along 7th avenue made sure of that. But in the space of just a few years the forest was eroded. the playgrounds at each end of our close got downgraded to mansions while the shopping complex just beside the Gbajumos’ house became a creche in the morning and a haven for cultists at night. I visited a friend at the same place a few years ago and was pleasantly surprised to see that the place has managed to retain some of its old appeal, compared to other parts of festac like 22 road.

    • We moved to Festac (721 Road – E Close) from Shell Club Surulere in 1981 right after I graduated High school and I loathed it for a while until we met some really cool dudes.

      I was remembered when Mike Ahigbe built a home on a playground off 22Road …. I was livid ….

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