© 2019 - International Centre for Investigative Reporting
Apete-Awotan road: a menace Ajimobi abandoned for 7 years because residents voted opposition candidate
... and one Alao-Akala constructed shoddily during his tenure
ALL things being equal, the distance between Apete and Akufo — roughly 12 kilometres — ought to be covered within fifteen minutes. Things have however not been equal for the people of these towns and those sandwiched between them. So, what is meant to be a fifteen-minute drive now takes a minimum of one hour as a result of poor road conditions.
The last time the Oyo State government paid any attention to the road was during the administration of Christopher Adebayo Alao-Akala between 2007 and 2011, but the substandard tarring done at the time has failed to stand the test of time. While deep potholes are at various sections of the road, other areas are without asphalt — despite its closeness to the Polytechnic Ibadan and location in an urban environment.
Many attribute the condition of the road to neglect from the state governor who, they say, is punishing them for voting other parties during past governorship elections. As a result, the people of Apete have stopped expecting intervention from the government. They contribute money to buy materials to fill the holes on the road, and other times they simply dump pyramids of refuse in the middle, hoping this will provide temporary relief.
The road is as big a problem for taxi drivers as it is for other road users. Commercial vehicles drivers and motorcyclists are hardly seen at the Akufo end of the stretch. Therefore, residents are often left to wait in the open for several hours before they get a means of transportation out of or further inside the town. Most times, they beckon at private vehicle owners for an opportunity to hitchhike.
Expanding crevasses by the roadside are also reported to have led to the death of road users on multiple occasions, especially during the rainy seasons.
During visits paid by The ICIR, most of the persons interviewed were afraid to speak freely and started by questioning our reporter’s identity. They sought to know, before providing answers, if our reporter worked for a private or government-owned organisation and whether he belonged to a political party.
In response to why the road has been abandoned for years, Akinibi, an elderly woman in her seventies, simply observed that Ajimobi “said they didn’t vote for him.” She said he has equally claimed the route to be a federal road. A few metres from Akinibi’s shop stands another retail shop where two middle-aged women were seen chatting. According to them, the bad road stretches further to Akufo, and it is terrible all the way to the federal railway construction site. They also blamed Alao-Akala for not doing an excellent job when he first constructed the road years ago.
The ICIR reporter met a young painter, who was in the company of five friends in front of a boutique and declined to be identified. He confirmed that the governor refused to repair the road because the residents supported the opposition. He said the state governor openly made this declaration during a live broadcast on the Broadcasting Corporation of Oyo State (BCOS).
“What you just said you heard is exactly what happened,” he started, “because for the past seven and a half years that Ajimobi has been in power, that is the excuse he’s given.”
It all started in 2011 with a flooding disaster during Ajimobi’s first term, he narrated. The flood swept across town on August 26, and had led to the loss of over 120 lives, triggering a visit from then president Goodluck Jonathan.
According to the young man, what Ajimobi said when he paid a condolence visit to Apete was that the bridge wasn’t executed swiftly because people there did not vote for him. However, after some time when people cried out, he hurriedly completed the project towards the end of his tenure when he was campaigning for a second term.
After a second flooding incident that led to the bridge cracking and another chorus of disapproval, the governor promised to fix the faults. He eventually tarred the road, in early 2018, up till where the Apete Police Station is situated.
The young painter told The ICIR that Apete community is a strong base for opposition parties. Asked why this is so, he said a key factor was how those parties reacted after the flooding disaster of 2011.
“When the flooding first took place,” he related, “there were two parties who formed rescue teams — Accord Party and either of the Social Democratic Party (SDP) or People’s Democratic Party (PDP).”
The parties, he said, brought vehicles with which people travelled through an alternate route after the bridge collapsed. Apart from that, they also erected streetlights, he added, pointing to a collapsed streetlight across this road as one of the many erected.
“This was why the residents loved them so much, and this reflected in the election results. They got majority votes in Apete. That is why Ajimobi abandoned the road. People have appealed and appealed. Still, he has not budged.”
Road prone to accidents
For a road this bad, located in a community especially prone to flooding, it is not surprising that many casualties have been recorded. Tomiwa Japhet, who has lived in Awotan for close to eight years, confirmed this to The ICIR.
“Lives have been lost due to the condition of the road,” he revealed. “I’ve heard of cases where bikes fell into the gutters. People in the area have witnessed accidents many times just because the road is bad.”
He said just two weeks following constructions done by the Akala-led government, potholes had started appearing on the road. Under Ajimobi, the road was excellently repaired starting from Ijokodo junction up to Apete/Awotan alongside the collapsed bridge. The project was kicked off since the flood happened, but was completed this year because of frequent abandonment, he said. He added that the governor reportedly refused to extend the road construction beyond that point “because people there voted for Ladoja”.
Japhet also revealed that a recent World Bank water project has made the road worse. Holes bored at the road’s edges by contractors in order to fix the underground pipes were not filled up. As a result, there are deep gorges on the road which get even wider whenever it rains. This is unacceptable, he said, especially “on a narrow road”.
‘There are worse communities in Apete’
S.O. Fasina, Chairman of the Toluwalase Landlords and Landladies Association, informed The ICIR that worse roads exist inside Apete town. In those communities, people are unable to take their cars home. They have to park in their friends’ compounds or on streets distant from their residence. He also revealed that, with no help coming from the government, the people often resort to self-help by buying stones and granite used for filling up potholes on the roads.
“In 2011, there was heavy rainfall that led to the collapse of the bridge. So the Federal Government instructed Ajimobi to construct it and then contributed some money to assist. They just tarred it up to this point in 2018, before they abandoned it.
“That is how they punish the masses, but we know God will decide their fate,” he said.
Fasina lamented how residents now using painkillers after a bike ride on the road, and how cars have been seriously damaged and grounded due to wearout. He confirmed that Rashidi Ladoja, a former governor, constructed the road, stopping at Awotan. Akala, he said, continued up till Akufo “even though what he did was basically tar only for the waters to flow”.
Asked if truly the road was abandoned because the people of Apete did not vote for Ajimobi in mass, he replied that the governor said it publicly himself.
“He said they did not vote for him in Apete; but notwithstanding, God has destined him to win. Besides, a person does not win from a single source. Or are we not part of Oyo State?”
Lifeforte’s offer to help was rejected
According to a resident of the community who spoke to The ICIR, not only has the government abandoned the road, it has also prevented Lifeforte International School, located along the Awotan road, from putting the road in good shape.
According to a 2016 graduate of Lifeforte International School, the institution was instrumental to the repair of Apete bridge in 2014. The school has also sponsored minimal repair works on the road, she noted, “but not totally, because I’m not sure the government gave total permission to them”.
“I think this is because the government knows it’s an indictment on them that they weren’t able to fix it,” she added.
Members of the academic staff also confirmed that the school caused the road to be partly repaired in 2014, and a female lecturer, who spoke anonymously to The ICIR, said indeed the government had in the past refused the school’s offer to fix the road.
Solape Adesiyan, the High School’s Chief Operating Officer, did not answer calls. Texts and reminders sent to confirm the claims were also ignored. Likewise, Tunji Oduntan, an Executive Director and head of the Curriculum and Studies Department, did not respond to enquiries from our correspondent.
Kunle Sokoya, the Executive Director on Mentoring and Child Support, however, told The ICIR he is not aware of such rejection from the Oyo State government. “But that the school has made efforts to do the road is quite clear,” he said. “Not once, not twice.”
‘The people also have a share of the blame’
Speaking to The ICIR, Paul who sells fairly used electronic devices and has been in Apete for six years, said it is not only the government who is to blame, though “the leaders we have are not doing what they are supposed to do”.
“You can see the road is very bad,” he lamented. “Even me, I do things on my own here. I was the one that took the pains to fill the side of the road serving as the entrance to this place. This place was worse before we did some manual work. So the government is not doing anything, and we are suffering here.”
Asked if there is a connection between the condition of the road and previous elections, he replied that it is not the issue and said the governor has apparently outmatched his predecessors in terms of road construction.
“Almost everywhere in Ibadan is bad and we people are not helping ourselves. People are fond of building houses and there is no provision for the gutter. You are expecting the government to build gutter for you in your house. The government cannot do everything and we need to help ourselves. But we are only appealing to them to come and help us.”
“Assuming rain is falling, just take a look at that spot,” he added, pointing to a large pothole by the edge of the road, “you will even cry when you see what comes out from there. That is the problem we are having here. The people fixed it a bit recently, but the more the rain falls the worse it gets.”
‘He would never say that’
When The ICIR placed a call to Bolaji Tunji, the state governor’s Special Adviser on Communication and Strategy, he swore “it is not possible” for his boss to say what has been credited to him.
“The governor will not say that, because a people did not vote for him, he will not repair their road,” he stressed.
“He will never say that. There are a lot of infrastructural developments going on around the state. If there is any problem on that road, there is no way the governor will neglect the area. The governor will never say that. I can swear with anything I hold dear.”
He invited our reporter to his office when he was asked whether the government has any plans for the road. He was however unavailable at the agreed time of visit on Wednesday, August 29, 2018. Toye Arulogun and Oladimeji Dauda, the Commissioners for Information and Works, to whom he referred the reporter were also not in their offices.
Also, email enquiries sent to the official addresses of Arulogun, Dauda, as well as Ajimobi and Ismaila Alli, Secretary to the State Government, have since not been replied.