Sometime in 2014 in the city of Ibadan, Oyo state – just a year after Scout Camp modern market was officially declared opened by the administration of Late Abiola Ajimobi- there was a fatal accident which no resident in the city would ever pray to witness again. The accident occured precisely beneath Molete flyover and no fewer than 15 persons were roasted beyond recognition. This happened when a fully loaded petrol tanker fell and exploded while trying to negotiate a bend.
Again in January 2019 under the same Molete flyover, an articulated vehicle lost control; rammed 2 persons to death, and left many injured. In these two accidents, most of the casualties were people, who defiled the order of the then governor, Ajimobi, to stop selling wares by the roadside.
On many occasions, many of these accidents mostly occur in major roads that are being turned to places of transactions by roadside traders. Perhaps the reason many wonder why these traders are always willing to put themselves at risk even during the time that there are options available to them to sell their wares at safe and convenient places
The late governor, Ajimobi, thought of what could be done to discourage street trading to dissuade traders from engaging in the practice that normally cause avoidable deaths on our roads. Then he thought the only option was to evacuate them, the traders, from roads, and this was the reason he embarked on the project of building many modern markets at strategic locations across Oyo state. The late governor did this to reduce or stop the huge number of casualties that were being involved in road traffic accidents.
Scout Camp market, for example, is one of the modern markets that were built by the past administration under the leadership of Late Ajimobi. It’s a market that is equipped with modern facilities with spacious parking space. Among the reasons the late governor cited before the projects commenced were: decongestion of roads across the state to pave the way for free flow of traffic; depletion of loss of lives by removing traders out of the heart of traffic, and discouragement of street trading to save both the traders and the clientele from any unfortunate incident.
Has the main purpose of spending huge amount of money to build these modern markets been fulfilled? What really is the reason traders are still plying their trades by the roadsides? Why has it taken Gov Makinde eternity to evacuate the traders from roadsides?
Ajimobi’s decision to remove the street-vendors from the roads across the state and officially prohibited street trading was not only born out of making the state look attractive, but the resolution also came up to save traders from getting themselves involved in accidents that were normally caused via reckless driving or unforseen circumstance.
The late governor saw the need to build these markets for the benefit of traders and those who had made it a norm to buy goods by the roadsides, but it’s unfortunate to see the purpose of spending that huge amount of money on the projects being jettisoned by the present administration.
These modern markets around Oyo state today can best be described as markets that sleep during the time that traders awake. What really is the reason the traders in Oyo state are adamant to vacate the roadsides? Why do they continue to engage in street trading? Why do they refuse to have their business activities done in the markets where convenience and comfort are already being provided for them?
Many believe that being a governor isn’t enough to influence people to drop their age-long , stiff-necked habits, but having the willpower to take them to where they ought to be is most important. Sometime during the first tenure of Gov Makinde, the governor said in one of the interviews he granted that he was not in a hurry to send traders packing. He said that they, the traders needed time to prepare before the government evacuated them. Mr governor said this during the time that those modern markets lay fallow and remained unused across the city. What could have made the governor to think that this was the best way to treat the traders?
Many thought the governor was afraid to relocate the traders thinking this could turn to hunt him later. Remember when Late Ajimobi started his war against street trading, the move was totally condemned by the traders for they believed that an attack on the norm and tradition of hawking on roadsides was an attack on thier welfares. They didn’t want to withdraw from the illegal places of transaction for the reason best known to them. Did Ajimobi not paid dearly for it?
Of course Late Ajimobi paid dearly for this move in the 2015 gubernatorial election when he narrowly escaped to win the election that return him to office for second term. But he wasn’t lucky in the 2019 elections when his candidate, Bayo Adelabu, lost the year’s gubernatorial election. As if this was not enough, Late Ajimobi also lost his own senatorial election of the same year owing to what many believed was caused by the late governor’s progressive ideology of changing the face of Oyo state at a fast pace or like a bat out of hell.
Many attributed this monumental loss to Ajimobi’s adamant and insistence to drive traders out of the road. But can we say that the late governor would have allowed the traders to have their ways so as to have his own way? Isn’t it wrong to frown at Makinde just because he indulges or pampers traders to engage in street trading? Or can we say that Gov Makinde is wiser for putting the lives of traders in Oyo state and that of those who patronize them in danger for political gain?
Under Molete flyover, before Ajimobi came to power, were hundreds of traders selling without fear of any unforseen occurrence. If Ajimobi had not taken the courage to send these people parking, the January 2019’s accident at Molete would have been more deadlier than we saw. Today, the culture of selling by the roadside has returned and it seems it’s here to stay. Gov Makinde is still contemplating on whether these traders should vacate the roads or they should continue to have their way since this is the only way their loyalty to Mr governor can be guaranteed.
Scout Camp market was opened in 2013 to put a stop to street trading at both Challenge and Molete roundabout, but it’s a surprise that the present administration of Gov Makinde, for almost five year in government, has not found the courage to take the bull by the horns by putting these traders where they belong. What really is the governor still afraid of? After all, he had succeeded in securing another term of four years.
In a decent society, it’s unacceptable to allow people to engage in street trading irrespective of what any government expects to gain from it. Prevention is better than cure, they say. What’s the essence of having modern markets while the traders still trade by the roadsides? It’s wrong for any administration to encourage or take the issue of street trading lightheartedly for the lives of people are more precious and important than the gain that accompanies the overindulgence.
There are so many modern markets across Oyo state today. Why are these markets being abandoned is another question people should care to seek an answer to. At Academy in Iwo-road, traders prefer selling by the roadside to going to a modern markets at Amuda- Ojere along Ojoo – Iwo Road expressway. Anyone can visit the market and see what the structure has turned to. Even in animal kingdom, there’re at times regulations to follow. Why do this administration allow this unruliness and disobedience to persevere? When is Makinde going to take the street traders to where they belong? A governor who is a true leader finds means to preserve the lives of his citizens even if they, the citizens, choose the opposite.
It’s on this note that I urge Gov Makinde to act fast by making an arrangement to evacuate these traders from the roads. The effect of dualisation of our major roads may not be felt if these traders are still allowed to keep the existence of street trading alive. At this age, street trading should be a thing of the past. Mr governor should remember that new Gbaji market, now Bola Ige International market, at Alakia today wouldn’t have been if the governor of that period, who shifted the market from its former base, had no courage or boldness to decongest old Gbagi at Dugbe that very time. Although traders at old Gbagi felt reluctant to shift, the administration of that period insisted they moved. Now, new Gbagi market is today a place where any trader prefers to sell.
We do not pray to witness any unfortunate incident in Oyo state again, but at the same time, Gov Makinde needs to do the needful before it’s too late.
Ademola ‘Bablow’ Babalola