It is a tale of two cities, and a tale of mis-perceptions. One city is rich and well off and healthy, while the other city is dirt poor, with residents dying from the food, poor services, and even the water that they drink. Some say the tale of two cities is deliberate, if not intentional.
Some visitors and passersby have over the past few months, commended, even marveled at what they saw. What they saw more often than not, is what many refer to as the “new face” of Ogun state. The state appears to be ‘booming’ economically, and that perception is fueled in large part by the massive road construction by the present state administration.
The new sprawling six-lane 'highways,' and walkways, the constant ‘flyovers’ of jets and airplanes from nearby airports, coupled with the N250 million pedestrian crossing walkways, all make the vision of a state leading the way into the future. It is also a major reason for what some are calling a ‘new-found love for Ogun, also known as the Gateway State. As impressive and sprawling as they are, the huge construction sites, part of a big move on infrastructure, which Ogun State officials are pushing, is two-fold. Good for the outside world to see, bragging rights for locally elected officials, yet it also triggers some yet-to-be-answered questions. .
There are two camps when it comes to this question. There are those who fall into the category of, 'Ogun State Is Working.' They incessantly praise the current state government of Ogun, and they are not to blame for their perceptions. They only recite what their eyes see. However, the salient fact remains that they have only seen what they have been programmed to see.
Ogun state Governor, Senator Ibikunle Amosun, has tactically ensured that all projects, or would-be state projects, are situated where unsuspecting visitors to the ‘Gateway state’ could easily see them at first glance. That is, where most public works projects are located tend to be very close to the highway. This is one of the main reasons why the proposed model schools are conspicuously located, right beside major roadways for 'all to see.' Odd some would say. Rather than locating these new schools within the targeted communities, they become part of a ‘showcase.’ Critics and renowned education experts say locating primary schools near super highways, while good for government ‘window dressing,’ is dangerous and even unhealthy for the students once these eventually open.
The second camp is cynical, and very critical of this new vision of Ogun State. The tale of two cities is a contrast of Nigerians living closely, yet very differently in style of life, access to health, education and basic services.
Another tale of the two cities is the proposed state housing project. Arguably, residential areas are believed to be serene and quiet. That is, free from the ‘hustle and bustle’ of the cities. It is therefore shocking that the dual residential estate project being pushed by the state government in Abeokuta and Sagamu, share the same fence with the busiest of highways in Nigeria.
Some have tagged the roads project of the state government as mere ‘playing to the gallery.’ While others have proposed ‘village renewal,’ against the much advertised ‘urban renewal,’ but these are topics for another day.
The real story today is that of the Imagbon community.
Like other communities in the state where hardship and struggle for survival remain unsung, even amidst the unending government borrowing, juggling of bonds, and bank loans, people of the communities wallow in abject poverty. Residents of towns and villages are populated by jobless youth, who have themselves taken to advance fee fraud just to make ends meet.
The Chinese and other foreigner counterparts, meanwhile, are being awarded road contracts with the indigenes, who are only being employed as labourers, themselves. The Imagbon community is a story of outright neglect, lost hope, and a sadness which has continued to rock the boat of Ogun state.
Why Imagbon you may ask? One of the most intriguing revelations about this community is that it shares the same boundary lines with the state's seat of power, located at Oke Mosan.
The people of Imagbon see, and watch the governor’s convoy drive by their community to his tastefully furnished office everyday. It is therefore unfortunate that with being so near in proximity to the seat of the government in power, the community of Imagbon in Abeokuta, South local government of Ogun state, is light years behind civilization!
A recent visit to the community shows absolute contrast with the way people live outside of it. While the seat of power was glowing with constant electricity, and potable water, the residents of Imagbon live in a kind of hell.
When we made demands and asked why the community has failed to table their grievances before the state governor, or any of the agencies and ministries, a community leader who wishes to remain anonymous revealed a telling portrait of those in power. He said that on several occasions community leaders had approached the ministry of local government affairs, but all in vain. While having been referred to their local government council to lay their grievances, there was a sense that community people were given the ‘run around.’ The community chief was in tears as he revealed how he lost a son to cholera just three months ago. It was as the result of the dirty water, which is the only source of water for the community.
A staff member the only school within the community, and who also spoke on the condition of anonymity said, ‘We have tried all we could, you know this community is a border town. Anytime we go to the Abeokuta South Local government, they will say they are not responsible for our predicaments. They say that we should go to Obafemi Owode but, it is the same story, there. They only come to visit us, when it is time for elections.
Investigations reveal that few months ago an aide to the state government, who happens to also be the daughter of the late Chief M.K.O Abiola, Hafsat Abiola-Costello, was in the community with a team from CNN. She and this CNN crew were parading around the community as one of the few areas her NGO is offering humanitarian aid to. This we had learned was how she got her exclusive international interview on the Cable Network News (CNN).
When asked what happened to the intervention provided by the governor’s aide, a member of the community said, ‘After all the white men came with cameras and took pictures of us, and the school, nobody ever came back. What the tall lady (referring to Costello) only gave us was 500 naira!
The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of SaharaReporters