Home News Oyo: The Imperative Of ‘People Infrastructure’ | Gbenga Oloniniran 

Oyo: The Imperative Of ‘People Infrastructure’ | Gbenga Oloniniran 

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In just about a week after the media trended the rising traffic in Ibadan, the MRS filling station at Challenge roundabout has been demolished. The roundabout structure itself has been levelled, awaiting new development. The MRS station had been a popular landmark at that junction for decades, it is the last bus stop at Challenge. For me, and for as many that are familiar with that route, that such major landmark would vanish into thin air was almost a shock. But change being a constant factor, it is not unexpected.

This new development seems like a public-pressured response to the traffic around there, considering billboards erected for this project over many months without the actual work commencing.  The project that was seen to be taken seriously was the construction of a bus terminal at the old Efunsetan roundabout, now Lam Adesina way. Perhaps the buses to be purchased and the accompanying business that come with that made it a higher priority for government than other projects that closely affect the people.

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Road expansion is actually welcome around here, and would be commendable. I have heard people speculate the possibility of an overhead bridge to be constructed there; but if you asked me, the threshold activities for such development are rarely in place. There is already a very close overhead bridge at Molete, which is less than a three-minute drive from Challenge. I do not believe the state is in competition for bridges to prove which administration is the best. Resources can be deployed to the immediate needs of the people. There is public housing challenge, and that of education that is in a moribund state. Other than the condition of the roads, there should be attention to affordable public housing. We are not talking about market forces-governed houses provided by real estate companies, but about affordable housing for the public. For those who may want to argue that our governor is pursuing a vision for the future, I come to you in peace; but we can only agree if we assume that future governments are going to be blind to future needs when they arise. Visions are beautiful, but the practicability and priority are more important. Even vision 2020 no longer sees itself.

In 2011, the late former Governor Abiola Ajimobi contested on a manifesto to bring ‘New York City’ into Oyo State in terms of Infrastructural plans. There were posters showcasing pictures of foreign cities often placed side by side with the brown roofs of Ibadan. The graphic representation told us how the brown roofs would suddenly transform into beautiful skyscrapers. Modern Oyo State! That was the slogan. The dream was so big like Ben Carson’s that, till today, we are still dreaming it. I was in a government secondary school then which had not many teaching staff. Our science laboratory was rather a museum of non-functional, rusted and abandoned materials – they were not equipment, please! Today, we see how the government then, like other administrations, foiled the dreams of those who finished from the school, and other such schools in the state and in Nigeria as a whole. Products of such schools who may be reading this could testify to the rotten state of public schools and how the future of less privileged children were on ‘mortgage,’ long before they realized it. Fast-forward to today: public schools in the state are far worse in standards; in fact, some are practically desolate. Speaking up now is what we owe the coming generation, because products of such dilapidated schools are those governments across board label as ‘hoodlums.’ Like Burna Boy sang, ‘We are the monsters you made!’

Oyo state is reported to be leading by allocating 21 percent of its budget to education in the recent 2021 budget proposal presented to the house of assembly. The governor has been commended in the social media for that. This is still below the 26 percent budgetary allocation to education prescribed by UNESCO for developing countries; but as we know, in the land of the blind, the one-eye man is king. Unfortunately, some top officials in the Ministry of Education once said the popular UNESCO recommendation is a myth. If it were ever a myth, it is shameful for a country with moribund public education to ever try to downplay it.

For Oyo State, we can only hope that this budgetary allocation is effectively utilized and not left as a media (i.e. sensationalized) hype. Historically, people have lamented paltry sums allocated to major sectors, especially education. Worse is that such allocations are often mismanaged by the authorities of those institutions. Hence, effective policing of public funds should be a priority at the state and federal levels. An institution like the Ladoke Akintola University of Technology (LAU TECH), having suffered years of truncated academic calendar in the hands former joint-proprietors, namely Oyo and Osun states, due to poor funding, should not be further subjected to neglect now that it is has been taken over by the Oyo State government.

Insecurity is gradually becoming a specter haunting Oyo State. The former Ajimobi-led administration could claim to having tackled the challenge with iron hand, but I doubt we can say same today. This is because the root causes of insecurity have always been left unattended to: these are unemployment and poor education amongst others.

People infrastructure is as important as physical infrastructure, because a society cannot rise above the consciousness of its people.

  • Gbenga Oloniniran is based in Ibadan and writes via gbengaoloniniran@gmail.com
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