President Buhari’s Festac In Governor Ambode’s Lagos

By Adeola Aderounmu

(Images By Abiodun Popoola)

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402 Road by 4th Avenue, Festac Town. 

In the month of June 2016, I visited Nigeria. One of the most disgusting views in Lagos where l was resident was in Festac Town, the estate that everyone acknowledged had lost his glory.

In general l was appalled by the state of infrastructure in Festac Town.

It is hard to believe that Festac Town is home to the headquarters of  Amuwo Odofin Local Government. It is hard to believe that there are politicians in Festac Town. It is hard to believe that there is a state governor in Lagos State.

A lot of things are rotting away and Festac Town that used to be the pride of Nigeria and Africa is now a desolate, rotten town.

In truth l dedicated a page on my blog to the lost glory of Festac Town. The original glory of Festac Town may never be regained. Still it does not mean that the things that could still be fixed should be left undone.

 

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402 Road, Festac Town

Recently l wrote an article about the problem of sewage in Festac Town and the significance of the problem as a form of biological weapon against the people of Festac Town.

The article titled Governor Akinwunmi Ambode, Please Clear This Biological Weapon!  was published on July 25, 2016 both on the Nigeria Village Square and on my blog.

To ensure that the problem gains the attention it needed, l wrote the same article in the National Mirror Newspaper. It appeared on the back page on August 16 2016 under the banner Addressing Festac Town’s sewage menace.

Despite all the awareness that has been brought to the matter, it appears that the government (local, state and federal) did not get the message. A friend of mine visited Festac Town this November and the images that he brought back shows that no effort has been made to solve the problem.

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4th Avenue, By 402 Road

Let me restate that we will continue to highlight this problem for as long as it exists. In as much as we all agree that Festac Town is a federal government estate, we must also never forget that it is situated in Lagos State and there is a governor and there is a local government chairman.

Invariably, the sewage system is bad in many areas in Festac Town. The worst hit area is 402 Road. The residents are flushing their toilets directly to the streets because there are permanent blockages to the original paths created for the flow to flow away.

The residents of 402 Road in Festac Town are breathing unsafe air, they are walking on sewage water/mud to get into their various apartments. The health impacts are huge and children are vulnerable.

The governor of Lagos State is responsible for the welfare of the residents anywhere in Lagos. That insinuation and argument that Festac Town is a federal estate does not hold water. The governor needs to initiate the contact with the appropriate authority and call them out to action.

 

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402 Road, Market Place and Residential Area

Governor Ambode and the people running Lagos must know that Lagos is not Victoria Island and Ikoyi only. They need to look at other places and stop paying lip-service and eye-service to issues concerning maintenance and development.

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402 Road, Festac Town

Photograph/Images By Abiodun Popoola.

 

Footnotes

Again, l repeat that it is possible for the governor of Lagos State to look at this problem and instruct the appropriate authority (federal, state or local) to act.

As it sems right now, the people of Festac are in a dilemma. FHA is not going to come down to make their environment germ free. The Governor does not care if they die of diseases.

As l have stated before, l will continue to write about this particular problem for as long as it exists. I pray for the grace to keep reminding the rulers and conquerors of Nigeria of their negligences and lack of committment to the people and country.

This problem is a struggle and we will keep reminding the conquerors of Lagos/Nigeria that they must serve the people.

 

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Governor Akinwunmi Ambode, Please Clear This Biological Weapon!

The challenge before President Buhari and Governor Ambode is to order the immediate demolition of the illegally built houses and structures that have been used to block the underground sewage channels in Festac Town. That is the only and final solution.

We are citizens of Nigeria and they owe us this responsibility-to clean our environment. The government should stop killing us with biological weapons!

Governor  Akinwunmi Ambode, Please Clear This Biological Weapon!

By Adeola Aderounmu (Sweden)

One of the most disgusting views in Lagos State is embedded in my local government area. On 4th Avenue, 402 Road in Festac Town is a deep river of sewage flowing like the River Nile.

The sewage accumulating and flowing on the streets is a source of death and therefore represents a biological warfare against the people of 402 Road in Festac Town. Is the Lagos state government or the federal government of Nigeria at war with the people?

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There are a number of theories on why faeces that are flushed from the toilets in this area of Festac now flows directly to the streets on which the people live.

No one can doubt that the plans for Festac Town were destroyed by the Federal Housing Authority when lands reserved for recreations and natural conservation were sold to some useless Nigerian millionaires by some useless government workers on behalf of the federal government of Nigeria.

The consequences and results of the deviation from the original, functional plans of Festac are what we are facing today. There are rivers of sewage scattered around in the estate. In addition, the estate is now over-congested and bastardly disorganised.

Once the pride of Africa, Festac town is now an area filled with shame and filth.

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The sad reality is that it is not only in Festac Town that the citizens of Nigeria sleep and wake up surrounded by sewage. But l’m staying with the Festac problem as that is my constituency.

 

The end of festac

[To watch the video, visit my Youtube channel-Adeola Aderounmu, or my facebook https://www.facebook.com/adeola ]

 

The most obvious danger ahead of the people of 402 Road is that an epidemic is imminent. That is if one is not already in progress because the people have been surrounded by this flowing sewage for several years.

I wish a student from a Department Medical Parasitology of the University of Lagos can understake a medical research project on 402 Road/4th Avenue area of Festac Town. The results will be useful in understanding the statuses of the health of the people in the area.

The probability that the inhabitants of this area are suffering from ill-health and infections like typhoid as a result of this crime committed by government, is high.

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One cannot rule out deaths related to this polluted and heavily stinking environment. Children and the elderly would have been particularlty susceptible.

If the useless government workers who sold land to the useless Nigerian millionaires had not sold the land area adjacent to, and surrounding the 402 Road area, the flow of sewage would not have been disrupted.

The greatest fear is that this river of sewage could be an accumulation of all the faeces flowing from the entire Festac Town estate. My hypothesis is based on my knowledge of the area.

There is a playground nearby which also houses the facility for recyling sewage waste from the estate.

It is the only place in Festac where l have seen the facility. When we played football those days, our football used to fall inside the facility. So we had some catchers whose job was to save the ball from falling into the sewage recycle facility.

I have not fully investigated if the recycling center is functional now but l saw that the area was inaccessible. Why would anyone make a fence around the center? Has someone bought and refilled the sewage recycle facility?

Faecal wastes and sewage are not flowing away from residential areas because the federal government of Nigeria sold the areas/lands where the sewage systems have been chanelled underground.

The foolish people and the useless millionaires who bought the land sealed off the sewage channels.

The challenge before President Buhari and Governor Ambode is to order the immediate demolition of the houses that have been built and used to block the underground sewage channel in Festac Town. That is the only and final solution.

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4th Avenue by 402 Road, Festac Town                  

There are a lot of messes in Festac Town that are now irreversible. But this particular one is reversible no matter how long the houses have stood. They are illegal structures. If those who sold the land on behalf of the federal government can be found alive, they should be rounded up and prosecuted.

There is a report that one colonel in the Nigerian army actually contributed to this problem. Like many people living on the sewage system and blocking the channels, he is alleged to have applied ”cement” on his side of the channels. That was his own permanent solution to the problem. The implication is that for all he cares ”all the people on 402 road can die of diseases”.

On this matter it is very important that the Lagos state government and the federal government do not apply the Nigerian solution. That would be the sucking away of the river of sewage with the full knowledge that the river will overflow again. We don’t want that!

Nigerians are in love with temporary solutions. They love cosmetic solutions. This is because they want the problem to persist so that someone or a contractor can always make money from the contracts of temporary solutions.

Have you ever wondered why Nigerian roads for example are never going to be of international standard? Go figure now.

Anyway, as for this river of sewage in Festac Town, no one should expect that this is the last time they will be reading about this especially if the state and federal government continue to pretend as if this problem does not exist.

This is now one of my struggles.

My intention is to inform the governor of Lagos State and in fact Mr. Buhari the president of Nigeria, about this danger and for them to act without any delay. There is no need for more paper work or talking on this matter. They should get up from their comfort zones and clear this nonsense.

We are citizens of Nigeria and they owe us this responsibility-to clean our environment. The government should stop killing us with biological weapons!

The people living in this area of Festac Town and people visiting them are exposed to diseases that could end their lives prematurely. They can all die of diseases because of the river of sewage. Invariably the government has been at a biological warfare with the people.

Again, if nothing is done soon, l will be reminding governor Akinwunmi Ambode of this problem. If the tenures of Mr. Akinwunmi Ambode as Lagos state governor and Mr. Buhari as the president of Nigeria do not succeed in demolishing the houses that are blocking the flow of sewage out of Festac, we will carry the struggle to their respective successors.

Our people must not be left to die of diseases because of the carelessness of goverment workers-those who sold lands that are meant to be reserved and preserved.

It is obvious that the residents have done their best and got tired of writing letters of appeals to the local and state government. I can imagine hundreds of letters to the local government. I can just imagine thousands of letters to the Federal Housing Authority. I can imagine some whispers into the ears of former Governor Fashola about this problem.

My columns and my blog pages will not rest until this matter is solved.  We will remind the state and the federal  government about their wickedness and heartlessness.

How can any government allow her people to live under this condition for even 1 day out of life?

It is unacceptable and as a matter of fact, those who knew about this problem before now and refused to act have committed crimes against humanity.

By international standard, allowing people to die unjustly in the absence/presence of war is a criminal offence and that angle will also be pursued in due time.

I am sure that with time, we will find out those who knew about this problem and did nothing.

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                       402 Road, A Close, Festac Town                            

We are talking about the living conditions of humans here.

I am actually surprise that the people of 402 Road have not made a decision to close down the local govenrment through massive protests. They are faced with a biological warfare and in ignorance have chosen to die because they got tired of writing letters of appeal.

I hope they will find the courage one day to lock down the Amuwo Odofin Local Government so that the sole administrator or the chairman can report to the governor who should tackle the problem head-on or call on the Federal Minsitry of Works and Housing to remove all obstructions in the way of sewage flow in Festac.

We must combine all our efforts and unite in order to rescue ourselves from maladministration.

The people everywhere must move away from the era of writing letters of appeal to actually carrying out demonstrations that will shut down their local councils or even the state government if necessary.

The problems and challenges facing Nigeria are many but we must tarry and remain united in the fight for the good of all.

Evil will continue to rise in the land when all the good people remain silent

Mr. Akinwunmi Ambode, please go and clear Festac Town of the lingering biological warfare.

Mr. Mohammadu Buhari, please go and clear the messes left by the federal workers who planted biological warfare in Festac Town.

I stand with the people of 402 Road.

#Istandwith402road

 

aderounmu@gmail.com

 

 

[Story and All Images by Adeola Aderounmu]

Reflections

When l was 8 years old, my class teacher Mrs. Nwaoha taught me the importance of merit in attaining positions whilst handing me my first experience of taking responsibilities outside my home. Her approach continues to influence my thinking to this day.

Reflections

By Adeola Aderounmu

Aadeola_March 2016

Usually l write my random reflections annually on July 12 to mark my birthday. In recent weeks l have written sporadically in this column (View from Scandinavian in the Nigeria Village Square).

I have not been able to keep to the schedule of publishing every Sunday.

There are explanations for this.

One is that sometimes one feels the urge to just take it easy during the weekend when the week days have been intensive and tiring.

Second is that sometimes l listen to the news from Nigeria or I read the newspaper and then l found out that what my friend told me is true: the more things change in Nigeria, the more they stay the same.

As a columnist it is becoming more demanding to write about Nigeria in order to keep the content fresh or valid. It is hard to do this.

The problems that Nigerian columnists wrote about in 1980 are still the same problems that we are writing about today.

Nigeria has failed to develop or evolve.

We have not been able to change or raised the standard of our discussions to issues that challenge our growth or development because Nigeria is not growing or developing in comparison to several countries with high standard of living and high life expectation.

We are stagnated on economic issues as the value of the Naira remains a disgrace to the country and the people.

In far away places including America, Nigerians have been placed in strategic positions to help the country remain progressive in various ramifications.

However in Nigeria, for more than 50 years, we convert our economic gurus and scientists to fellow political criminals as soon as they arrive on the political stage.

We don’t move forward.

In politics, at a time that the world is discussing migration politics and politics of job creation, we in Nigeria are still struggling with counting of ballot papers.

Nigeria is a disgrace to Africa when it comes to conducting elections.

Recently it was in Kogi State and last week it was in Rivers State where people in this century and age went about killing fellow human beings just because they were asked to cast their votes.

In 1980 whilst I was in primary 3 my class teacher thought it was time to appoint class representatives who would be good ambassadors of her class. She adopted the merit system.

She based her arguments on performances during classwork and related activities.

It was a peaceful exercise. l emerged as the class captain and Foluso Agboola emerged as the assistant class captain.

It probably wasn’t a democratic process but it is an integral part of democracy, that merit would be considered a factor in producing candidates.

We were rewarded with positions because we deserved it.

Before that process I had seen boys since l was 6 years old or less fighting for place and supremacy and l have no idea how or why they thought they had to fight to claim authority when they have not shown that they are responsible.

Mrs. Nwaoha cleared things in my head forever. Merit first.

In 2016 the Federal Republic of Nigeria cannot conduct elections that involve ordinary counting of votes.

The people of Rivers cannot conduct themselves orderly. They went about committing murders and arsons rather then fishing out men of character and integrity like civilised people.

I weep.

In several essays l have written of the times l wept for Nigeria in my private moment and it is not a joke or make believe. Sometimes l had cleaned tear drops from my laptops.

If an x-ray can reveal a bleeding heart, the beam light should come to my chest.

Nigeria makes me sad.

Stories like those associated with the beheading of politicians and the massacres of citizens in River States are devastating to my health status.

I think about where civilisation has brought mankind and what Nigerians are doing to themselves. I’ll been insensitive and inhuman to hold back my tears.

Stories from the north are not news. The traumas of my childhood just became incurable as l wrote in a previous essay.

I don’t think that Boko Haram or terrorists (individuals or government) anywhere in the world represent the true species of humans. I long for a new biological classification of the animal kingdom. The world needs a new Carl Linnaeus.

The fuel scarcity in Nigeria is still unbelievable. Nigeria is naturally endowed with this resource. I have no words to flog the curse of the black oil. Huge disappointment for the black race is an understatement.

Power supply does not trip off in many countries around the world. Nigerians are undoubtedly among the smartest and most creative people under the sun.

Hence, it is hard to find an answer to the question: why do Nigerians have almost no electricity at all in the country?

Femi, my smart friend in Stockholm, gave an insight, it may be an answer.

He said that even if Nigeria decides to provide electricity on 100% supply mode, the infrastructures are not there to sustain it. O dear!

If that be the case, what about spending the next 2-3 years putting the infrastructure in place and constant power supply for ever more? Is that rocket science too?

I called this essay reflection and my intention was to make it short.

One can be hard on self if the issues and problems with Nigerians are taken too hard/harsh.

Whatever, it will always make me sad to see all the possibilities for growth, for development and for making Nigeria a paradise yet that the useless political class and the thieving ruling class have decided that the status quo shall be sustained.

I could definitely go on to reflect or complain. They want us to be tired of doing this. If we get tired, things might even get worse for the voiceless and the downtrodden in Nigeria.

I wish that good roads, good schools, good hospitals and modern infrastructures will be developed in every local government and every state in Nigeria.

I wish that as many people as possible will know and experience quality life style before they bid the world goodbye.

It is sad to see people who have lived all of their lives in extreme poverty whilst the country Nigeria has the potential to be the best place in the world.

The people paid severely for bad governance and mismanagement.

They are still paying and when restructuring the political system and realigning the country regionally or on true federalism are not even mentioned as probable solutions, there is little hope that we will change the lines of discussions soonest.

aderounmu@gmail.com

 

The Things We Took For Granted (Part 2)

Let’s love one another in Africa and appreciate the things and people around us always. Maybe if we start with our friends and families, one day the love may go round the world and our lives will be happy and free.

The Things We Took For Granted (Part 2)

By Adeola Aderounmu

Often we forget to show how much we care for our families and friends. Sometimes it is very difficult to express in words or actions how much our friends and families mean to us.

Me and A friend-Onero and his wife

Me and A friend-Onero and his wife

Absence makes the mind to grow fonder. This is so true that we (then) begin to appreciate friends and families when they are separated from us.

Sometimes the separation is irreparable or permanent because death came calling unexpectedly. This can result to extreme sadness or even depression.

Sometimes during this summer I saw my eldest brother again. He came to visit me in Sweden. The last time we saw each other before this visit was also in Stockholm in the spring of 2005. Though l have travelled to Nigeria two times after that we did not meet.

No one will believe that l have never travelled to Abuja or anywhere in the North of Nigeria. It does not even look like it will happen soon. I am that small boy from Western Nigeria.

As l was driving to the airport to pick up my brother l was moved to tears. Suddenly it struck me that a lot has happened since the last time we met. There have been a lot of good things. However since we are getting older we have had our own share of family tragedies which as a matter of principle l never share on the social media. But l made an obituary for my mother in the village square.

Distance apart means that we have not been able to share our emotions regarding these tragedies. Though my eyes were swollen, I could not shut them tight long enough to enable the free flow of tears. I needed to keep my focus behind the wheels.

But in private, I’d wept many times. It’s human nature. In some of my stories I’d written that the men who commit suicide are those who refused to cry. They sealed their emotions and punish their souls giving them up to untimely death.

When people cry on behalves of those who commit suicide, they (the mourners) find the strength to move on because their tears become sacrifices to the gods.

For about 30 minutes which was approximately how long it took to drive to the airport l also reminisced on many of the good times we had together especially in Festac Town where we grew up.

Sometimes l don’t know where to place my memories about Lagos Mainland. Are they real or are they mere fantasies? Why do I always think that my version of the aftermath of the assassination of Murtala Mohammed in February 1976 was the correct version? Why does all the pandemonium in Surulere play back and forth in my head as if they happened yesterday?

At home, when we were boys, I remember the fights and the unnecessary contests for power and supremacy. You cannot avoid these things if you have many boys growing up together in a flat or in a house. I don’t want to remember my violent tendencies because sometimes the repercussions were terrible.

I always remember the football days so much that l wrote the article The Boys From Festac. A follow up to that article is necessary. If someone had told me that l can live without playing football on Saturday mornings and Sunday evenings, l would have responded: don’t go there!

Sometimes l don’t worry to tell people who never saw me play football how good l was because they won’t understand and it is of no use now.

Sometimes too l remember how some people find it difficult to believe my brilliance at school because of my small size and extremely playful attitude. I still wonder too!

If you live your adult life very far away from the closest people you grew up with, the tendency is that when you look back, you’d wish you could turn back the hands of clock.

There are so many things you wish you could do again. There are so many people you long for but whom you took for granted when they were at arm’s length to you. What about the things you took for granted too?

Life will continue to go on and nothing will last, not forever anyway. Life itself will remain transient and temporal.

Recently l heard a story from one of our elders here in Stockholm. Obviously it is one of those stories you heard whilst growing up in Nigeria. But when you are reminded of such a story after a long time, it helps. Mr. Salimonu Kadiri, a respected elder in Sweden spoke about the argument between death and money. It was a case that was taken to the king.

Money argued that nothing can be done without him and death reminded the king that he (death) would have the last say on everyone including the king.

This folklore from Yorubaland has a lot of implications.

People should think about their pursuits of wealth and the opportunity costs.

Perhaps if we sit back a bit and reflect on life holistically….just maybe…we will live our lives differently, spread some love and warmth everyday. Who knows? We may end up living closer to our families and spend more time with the people we love.

We definitely need to appreciate more the people around us including our friends and our families.  If we do, our regrets and disappointments will be minimal if we eventually are (unavoidably) separated from one another temporarily or permanently.

The other day l came home from Finland and made an unscheduled visit to a friend in another part of Sweden the same day. It was 467 km away. I left home late and arrived at his front door at about 10pm. His reaction was priceless. Shock will be an understatement when he opened his door to welcome me and my family. We even ate dinner before we left!

In Nigeria this would have been a normal thing. But in Sweden it is almost a taboo to visit someone without notifying them. It’s rare. On top of that we arrived at night like thieves. I don’t why people look too far and find it difficult to connect the individualistic traits of the western world with the high rate of depression.

When we grew up in Nigeria our lives were mainly communal in nature. We meet people everyday. We share with people everyday and we celebrate everyday. We took these things for granted because we thought we will always have them.

Since we do not have the same powers as the gods, we did not see the future. We were taught the 20 children cannot play together for 20 years. It wasn’t made so clear that the 20 children will have extreme difficulties to re-unite or re-group again once they have said goodbyes.

I see the struggle to re-unite or re-group in alumni or old students’ associations. It’s like a mission impossible though manageable from one event to another when different people show up.

I see the struggle to re-unite with friends. We have all received our fair shares of desperate mails from people on the social media asking if we are the right persons.

Even l have seen the struggle to re-unite families.

We struggle now because we took people and things for granted when we had them right in front of our faces. Some of our struggles are psychological because we are torn between two or three countries and wonder if we will ever make it back to settle in Nigeria. We miss home and the warmth of our friends and families especially.

It is now golden for us in the western world to meet our friends, families and even the people we knew first in this part of the world. Unfortunately, here, most friendships don’t last because individualism and western world syndrome gradually eat into our souls. We are in trouble. Where are our real friends? Where are our true families?

When Mr. Kadiri spoke, it was at a memorial for a man whom many people spoke well of. I’m not sure he heard so much of these good things from his friends and families when he was alive. The people who knew him or who were close to him may have taken things for granted.

How wonderful life would be if people start to say all these positive things to one another whilst they still can!

How can one preach that people should just shun bitterness and hatred towards one another?

I know. It is like a mirage to hope that the human race should place love and care above hatred and war.

Let’s love one another in Africa and appreciate the things and people around us always. Maybe if we start with our friends and families, one day the love may go round the world and our lives will be happy and free.

aderounmu@gmail.com

50 Yards Of Death

By Adeola Aderounmu

My beloved Festac was thrown into mourning on Tuesday night. My passion and love for Festac Town meant that I have written about the glory and the fall of Festac Town, even here in the village square. If you lived in Festac Town from inception in 1977 or thereabout and get to see the decay and rot that has become of the city, you’ll weep if you are such a human with a caring heart.

A boat mishap claimed the lives of at least 13 people on the 12th of March 2014. Six people were reported missing and 5 survived the (avoidable) catastrophe. I felt an obligation to analyse the circumstances that may have led to the accident. I will suggest the possible ways forward and my ultimate goal will be to send a letter to the chairman of the Amuwo Odofin Local Government (AOLG) with head office at 41 Road in Festac Town. That much I owe my beloved city, Festac Town Island.

Stone field at 23 Road X close by 5th avenue H1 Close

Stone field at 23 Road X close by 5th avenue H1 Close

The distance (short-cut will be more appropriate in our language) between 4th Avenue and 6th Avenue on water according to newspaper reports is about 50 yards. This should be approximately 46 meters. What has not been reported is the depth of the water but since people have drowned in it, it may be close to 6 feet. It may also be deeper. The water may be swampy. We called this water body “canal” when I was a little boy. It flows around the town. I’m almost sure I have been in or about that water body several times as a teenager without the full knowledge of water safety.

We know that there was a wooden bridge that connected the two avenues. The bridge may have been constructed through the efforts of a church situated nearby but it does not exist anymore. Some people have complained about the negligence of the local government in building a more permanent bridge to connect these two areas over water. Many people are of the opinion that it is a waste of time to use another bridge that is about 2km away when their destination is just about 50 m ahead of them.

Apparently, unless the councillors and the leadership of the AOLG debate and agree on a pedestrian or a dual-purpose bridge, there is yet no binding obligation for the local council to build a bridge or walkways. People are frustrated because these same politicians must have voted several times on how to “steal” public funds and share loots. However, residents and pressure groups can make demands for the improvement of the infrastructure in their vicinity and environs. Who is listening?

This may sound like medicine after death but those of us who thought the extended area of Festac Town were gross anomalies can also add that while people are quick to buy land and build houses in the extension areas, there has not been a corresponding development of infrastructure in the area. We must not forget that the extension area of Festac was that zone where natural reserves (wildlife and beautiful aquatic existence) were wiped away and replaced with houses.

Mainstream Festac was itself never maintained. It seemed that the Federal Government through the Federal Housing Authority found pleasure in quickly converting mainstream Festac from a paradise to a slump in one swoop. The History of the destructive “deconstruction” of Festac Town has been well established. Nigeria has a rich history of maladministration and extremely bad management. Public administration in Nigeria is mostly a source of misery.

As I was saying, on this black Tuesday in Festac Town, it took 3 hours 20 minutes before a distress call reached the National Emergency Management Agency-NEMA according to the reports in Premium Times online news. Is there any record of how long it took to reach the Lagos State Emergency Management Agency (LASEMA)? Reaching these agencies should not have taken more than 5 to 10 minutes especially as it appeared that the operators of the canoe services are “locals” as we call them.

They are people “hustling” and trying to make ends meet. Were they ignorant of what to do in cases of emergencies? Access to emergency services for them ought to be quicker. Was the telephone network busy for more than 3 hours? Were the roads from NEMA to the canal so bad that at first, one may think that NEMA is located in another country? 3hours and 20 minutes after! Do LASEMA / NEMA have offices in Festac Town or a place in AOLG area?

I can actually ask one thousand questions regarding this single unfortunate incident. Does Festac Town lack accidents and emergency units within its locality in the year 2014? Why is the boat carrying 24 passengers instead of 13 or 14 passengers? Was the champions’ league game so crucial that the canoe operator had to ignore safety procedures or was it the passengers who bent the rules and headed to death on a 50 yard stretch of water?

If the reports in the Premium Times are anything to go by, then it appeared that the passengers ignored the warning of a young girl who raised an alarm about a possible drowning scenario and that she would swim to safety. She did and numbered among the survivors! One survivor also narrated how he had to do away with his heavy bag of tools so he could reach the shore safely. The fact that they “pushed” the canoe to start the journey was definitely an adequate warning that all the passengers ignored!

I think all adult humans at one point or the other have experienced the sadness that come with bereavement. We can sympathise with the families of the deceased. We can cry and we can be worried about many things connected to this tragedy including the trauma of the survivors. Some young people burnt the canoe. That’s how best they could reason, in their state of anger.

What will be more important is the way forward. It’s always important to take the lessons from every situation and try to avoid repetitions of tragedies along the same line/pattern. In so many ways and with uncountable examples, one can illustrate how tragedies have repeated themselves in Nigeria with precision, and the same hypocritical reactions.

The Festac tragedy should not be allowed to repeat itself.

The little girl swam to safety. What are our attitudes towards acquiring life skills? I’m not stating with pride that I still need more swimming lessons to be sure about my survival in water. In Nigeria, many of our parents discouraged us from swimming when we were growing up. Lagos is lined by the Atlantic Ocean and there are lagoons and rivers around us. We never referred to Festac Town as Festac Town Island whereas it is in every sense.

Why was it not a compulsory part of our education to learn how to swim? I can’t remember any physical education lesson that was dedicated to swimming. The Amuwo Odofin Local Government should make haste to construct swimming pools where children and adults will be taught how to swim. It’s a life skill. The boats capsized somewhere between 2 locations that are 46 meters apart. My skill in mathematics tells me the tragedy occurred at a point less than 24 meters to land. The probability that the boat capsized at a distance 10-15 meters to land also exists. This tragedy was avoidable, even if the morning rain increased the volume of the canal and the canal is swampy in nature.

Road construction work in Festac 2014

Road construction work in Festac 2014

Nigerians need to know that there are reasons for rules and that safety procedures should never be relegated at the altar of profit or unwarranted compassions. If the canoe operator had not allowed the boat to be overloaded, or if the passengers did not beg to be squeezed on board, they would probably have travelled safely. Tuesday the 12th would have ended on a different note and the N150 motorcycle ride on bad roads would have been probably one of the cheapest costs of saving life in the history of man.

Were there life jackets on board the ill-fated canoe? It was possible that no one thought that life jackets are needed on a 50 yards “death” stretch. Non-swimmers go on this trip without any guarantee! The cost of a life jacket may also take the profits off the “locals”. Water transport business is not a joke or a trial and error endeavour. If this mode of transportation must persist along this canal, then the local government should either take over the business with state of the art ferry system or award the contract to a reliable water transport company. It is not enough to deploy council guards after the accident. It is definitely not enough to lock off an access road to the river.

Road construction work in Festac 2014

Road construction work in Festac 2014

A certified transport company would have stations on both sides of the canal. In an ideal situation there would be departure times and arrival times. When it is dark or getting late, it would be inappropriate to run the canoe because of the level of underdevelopment or bad state of infrastructure in several parts of Nigeria. It would probably have been easier to report a mishap had the operations being under licensed authorities. How well do we care about lives in Nigeria? What value do we place on our existences?

When shall we get there in Nigeria? Why were we taught that what is worth doing at all is worth doing well? This tenet and other moral guiding principles were handed to us early in life. What went wrong? How did we get to the situation where our senses of purpose and direction are malformed or dysfunctional? If the transport system over water will not be safe, then it should be totally abolished.

Road constructions, repairs and maintenance are not favours from the councils. These are parts of their obligations. The road network in Festac needs to be improved so that transportation within the estate can be safe and cheap. It’s good to hear and see some efforts in that direction.

Our bicycle tracks in Festac Town should be reinstated and new ones built. People should be encouraged to ride bicycles. This is common in all developed countries. Bicycles are the commonest means of transportation when people want to go from one place to another around their vicinity or local areas. What makes us different species in Nigeria? Isn’t it time to make such an environmental friendly mode of transportation readily available, acceptable and popular? People need to own bicycles without being subjected to ridicule and laughter.

Road construction work in Festac 2014

Road construction work in Festac 2014

When the reports about the tragedy on 50 yards of water in Festac Town went to press on Wednesday it was still impossible to reach the chairman of Amuwo Odofin Local Government for his comments/reactions. That is the common attitude of Nigerian politicians; they are arrogant and lack simple and common sense that governs public administration. People have died and the chief security officer of the council made no appearance and no comment. That is also a tragedy on its own.

When he does show his face, someone should remind the chairman Mr. Ayodele Adewale that these deaths on a 50 yard stretch is a big time wake up call at his domain. He can’t pretend that nothing happened. Mr. Ayodele must make haste to conduct an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) on the possibility of sustaining or eradicating boat services between 4th Avenue and 6th Avenue

Burning canoes or boats is not the way to forget the dead. Meanwhile if you ever forget them, they have died in vain. The residents of Festac Town owe it to their community not to allow this sad event to be swept under the carpets. Though sad, this is one of those moments in history that is opportunistic. Demands should be made for more bridges and good roads, for standard and safe ferry services. Why not for world class bicycle and pedestrian paths?

Nigerians deserve the good things of life too. Any of these proposed projects can be dedicated to the memories of the departed. May they find peace in transit.

Acknowledgement: Thanks to Comrade Oluwafisayo Ogunjimi (Pheesayor@hotmail.com) for useful information about the boat services in Festac Town and some useful ideas that went into this article.

Images by Adeola Aderounmu (Thy Glory O’Nigeria) and Comrade Oluwafisayo Ogunjimi (Watching Lagos, http://www.watchinglagos.com)

My Nigerianness Has Expired

By Adeola Aderounmu

One day in December 2006, I sat in my car for more than 4 hours at a gas station in Festac Town, Lagos. We had queued up for petrol because the commodity had been scarce for some time. That morning when I arrived at the gas station at about 6 a.m, I thought I was going to be one of the first people at the station but to my chagrin surprise it appeared that some people slept over at the gas station.

Adeola Aderounmu 2008_2

As I waited and drove at snail speed to the nozzle where all the attention was, I saw how people struggled and fought to procure a commodity that is flowing freely right underneath their feet. For the first time in my life, I cried out loud, profusely with lots of tears flowing from my eyes. I was alone. There was no chance of consolation and my emotions burst without any hindrance. I had returned 2 weeks earlier from a place where I just drive to an unmanned gas station, fill my tank and drive away in no time. MyNigerianness had expired.

One day I wrote to a friend discussing about my paternal leave in 2007. He was shocked as I explained the process to him and that the plan was to be at home with my daughter who was one at the time. In 2011 I repeated the process taking care of our second child. In this piece titled- An argument for parental Leave,http://www.nigeriavillagesquare.com/articles/adeola-aderounmu/an-argument-for-parental-leave-13.html, published here in the village square and in the Nigerian Guardian Newspaper I shared the experiences and the benefits of parental leave. But I know how far Nigeria and Nigerians are from such idealism. I know that my Nigeriannesss had expired.

When I’d talked to some people at home and abroad about picking up my children from school and making them dinner, I know the type of scorn and other types of reactions that people show (or sometimes fail to show). But if you grew up with my mother of blessed memory, it was imperative that you could cook. It was our next line of training after high school to take over the kitchen tasks while waiting for admission to the University.

During our younger years, we were required to be at home when the food was made so that we can participate in the consumption. If you were away, your reasons must be genuine and understandable. Unfortunately this family value given to boys and the ability to use it at home in the presence of the female members of the family is not generalised in Nigeria. Things fell apart many years ago and some misunderstanding of cultural values tangled with ego and ignorance.

There was one man I’d met regularly in Stockholm in the early 2000s. He was always late to our meetings and there was always one reason or the other while he came late. My replies were blunt; I always told him that I didn’t believe him. His problem was that he did not know how to shed the African time syndrome. I don’t meet this man again. He had since found his way back to Ibadan.

There are other things that remind me of the African time syndrome. One day I was invited to an event that was slated to start at 5pm. By 7pm, they had not even finished preparing the venue, so I left and when I got home I was able to see one of the football games for the evening. About a week later I heard from other people at another event that the New Yam Festival event went on to start around midnight! I was glad for the call I made-to return home before the evening burnt out. My Nigerianness had expired!

Last summer (2013) I started using my bicycle more often. I biked to the train station and then join the communal transport. When I arrived at work, I would have been on the bicycle, the train and the bus. I thought it would be over by the end of summer. No, it didn’t! I went on to bike to the train station over the autumn and then winter. Around 2008, I’d found the idea of people changing the tyres of their bicycle to winter tyres ridiculous but that was just what I did in December 2013 as winter sets in. My Nigerianness is over!

If someone had shown me this vision in 2001 or even in 2005, I would have laughed. Now I know that myNigerianness had totally expired. I no longer see the egoistic statuses that we went about dissipating when I was living in Nigeria. I know I’m never going to be able to give up that Nigerian sense of fashion and beauty. But for cars, they don’t mean the same thing to me as they did in 2001.

In another essay from July 2007 I’d asked a question: Who Planned Our Lives In Nigeria? Life can be easy or easier if we judge it by the simple things that have self-fulfilling effects.  Life can be more meaningful if we don’t live above our incomes and if we stop setting standards just to meet other people’s expectations or their fantasies.

Life is more worth living if we live gracefully. My hope for Nigeria is that the time will come when the majority of the people will stop struggling just to survive but rather that they are presented with the fair opportunities to let them reach their potentials and accomplish happiness built on contentment and selflessness. That time will be freedom time, a freedom that will be fought for.

I’m feeling that my hopes mean that the possibility of reviving my Nigerianness may have been lost forever.

aderounmu@gmail.com

Lagos Facebook Murder

By Adeola Aderounmu

It’s very sad to know and read about the story of Cynthia Udoka Osokogu.
She was lured by murderers who posed as friends on her facebook list of friends.

Ezekiel Nnechuwu Olisa Eloka,23 and Echezona Nwabufor, 33 robbed and killed Cynthia in a Lagos Hotel. Pretending to be good friends and potential business associates, these wicked men raped, robbed and took the life of a woman who taught she was making good contacts for her business opportunities.

Apparently these guys are career murderers and one begins to wonder how many career murderers are posing on facebook as friends.

A lesson has been taught in the hardest and saddest way possible- don’t be friends to absolute strangers on facebook. If you do, never meet them! If you do, let it be a public or open meeting and never in hotels or private homes. Don’t go to places with strangers. They could be murderer like Ezekiel and Echezona.

There is a slight consolation in the rapid response of the police and law enforcement agencies. It is remarkable that the Nigerian Police could track phone numbers and make use of CCTV cameras leading to the arrest of the perpetrators.

The next line of hope is the prosecution and eventual sentencing of the offenders.

One can only imagine the sadness and sorrow of the families and friends of the beautiful woman that was murdered. Cynthia was a businesswoman and a graduate student resident in Abuja. She was murdered in Lagos. She did not deserve that sort of treatment. May her soul find peace.