By OBINNA EZUGWU
Denro-Ishashi, a suburban community on the fringe of Ogun State, has continued to welcome newcomers. Like most Ogun communities bordering Nigeria’s largest commercial city, Lagos, it is witnessing increasing influx of people, lured by more affordable housing. This, as cost of decent accommodation in Lagos continue to rise beyond the reach of average income households.
The community is inhabited mostly by professionals and artisans who ply their trades in Lagos. It is roughly a kilometer to Ojodu-Berger, Lagos. The road’s entire stretch from Kosoko to Akute is just about two kilometers, or a little more. But making this short journey is a tortuous undertaking. The road is steep, rough and slopy – a death sentence to vehicles.
During the dry season, dust constitutes a torment to the people of the community, and indeed the adjoining Akute. But with the rains come their real nightmare. Erosion has since redesigned the road, and ponds adorn its entire stretch. A situation only made worse by the opening of Abeokuta dam. A canal at the Odo portion of the road is overgrown by elephant grass, and what was to be a bridge – or more appropriately a culvert – over this canal has collapsed below its level. Heavy rains create a small river, but the dam turns it into an ‘ocean’ as is presently the case.
Crossing this ‘ocean’ requires climbing on the back of one of the handful of young men who do the crossing for a N100 fee, a really awkward practice that requires men – old and young – and women, to climb the backs of these young men to be carried like little babies. But even this is dangerous. The water level is well above the knee and the path is stony and rough. A little stumble and both the ‘backer’ and the ‘backed’ could find themselves bottom of the dirty ‘ocean.’
“I fell into the water on Sunday,” a resident, Mr. Taiwo Idris narrates. “I was going for a party, the bike man carrying me decided to pass through it. We fell inside. The white clothe I wore was ruined. I have since thrown it away.”
The alternative is boarding a canoe at the cost of N50, but this requires that one walks a few steps into the ‘ocean’, for like ships in high seas, the canoes don’t dock on shallow water. This situation persists well into the dry season.
Life is a daily struggle in Denro-Ishashi on account of neglect by successive governments in Abeokuta. And the people are more pained by the fact that they know it will take little to fix the short road.
“They should allow Lagos State to take over this place so that we can feel the presence of government for once. If you really look at it, this place should be Lagos State,” says Mr. Olatumbosun Daranijo, another resident.
“It is unfair that officials of Ogun State only remember us when it’s time to collect revenue, but not projects. We provide our own water, we do our own roads, we do everything by ourselves, yet we have a government.”
Once in a while, news that the government in Abeokuta will soon intervene brings momentary hope. But the hope soon fades into the distance. The coming on board of the new government of Prince Dapo Abiodun brought with it yet another hope. Some swore they were certain Abiodun would soon intervene. It’s perhaps too early to dismiss such hopes. But those who have lived there long enough know it’s a routine.
In the past, government intervention has come only in the form of narrow, wooden bridge constructed by the local authorities for which the people pay N50 to cross. It’s an opportunity to make quick money.
“We are a neglected people,” Idris says. “But we can only appeal and hope that the new governor remember us. We are begging him to come and do this road because we are suffering.”
It’s perhaps not just about Denro-Ishashi. On almost every part, besides the areas that empty into the Atlantic, Lagos is surrounded by Ogun. And with much larger landmass, it is well primed to take advantage of Lagos’ increasing congestion to emerge as the next commercial centre of Nigeria.
Indeed, despite the absence of policy effort in this regard, Ogun now houses the bulk of new industries that produce for the Lagos market. And increasingly, more people who work in Lagos are moving there. Denro-Ishashi, as well as neighbouring Akute, Alagbole, Ajuwon and other communities in Ifo Local Government, are hot spots in this regard.
But one thing that immediately strikes a first time visitor to Ogun is the poor state of infrastructure – particularly the roads – in most of the areas surrounding Lagos. Of course, Lagos does not boast much of good roads, too. For the most part, the intrastate roads are derelict. But Ogun is on an entirely different level in this regard.
The immediate past administration of Senator Ibikunle Amosun has been praised for the number of road projects it executed in Abeokuta and the surrounding areas. But for the residents of these border towns, Abeokuta is a far country.
Generally, vision is not an attribute of governance in Nigeria. Indeed, if there is any trait that has defined governance in the country more than anything else, it is the lack of it. This, mostly because in Nigeria, leaders understand their jobs in terms of distribution of proceeds from oil, not as vehicles for creation of wealth and capacity from within.
Ogun is no exception. As the closest state to Lagos with its ports, huge market and invariably, growing congestion, Ogun, with little planning stands to take the shine off Lagos to emerge as the country’s next industrial hub. At the basic, all that is required is to build good road networks such that movement from Lagos into the state would be seamless. Unfortunately, successive governments of the state have favoured the exact opposite. Nearly every road that leads to Ogun from Lagos is in bad shape.
Whether it is through Ikorodu, Ojodu-Berger or Lagos-Ibadan Expressway, it is easy to tell when you are in Ogun by the state of roads.
The stretch from Ojodu-Berger to Opic in Isheri North, through Mowe/Ibafo to Shagamu, houses growing number of industries, institutions of higher learning, religious centres and residential estates. But once you leave the expressway and move into the interiors, it is a sorry sight.
The road to Ogun through interior Ojodu-Berger divides into two: one leads to Alagbole, Akute and so on, the other to Denro-Ishashi. The former has gotten the attention of the state government which did a much needed bridge on it. But still, large portions remain untarred. The latter, however, continues to beg for attention.
Ogun and Lagos are natural partners. It is just common sense that both states work together. Regrettably, however, this has not been the case. As opposed to working in synergy, both governments appear to antagonise each other – or better put, see the relationship with each other in terms of competition.
This in part, perhaps, because Amosun as governor, was not particularly a friend of Bola Ahmed Tinubu, the big man of Lagos’ politics. Now that there is new governor in Abeodun who is more of Tinubu man, one hopes that things will turn out better. He has the stage. It is in his hands to exit it in fame or in infamy.