Ayodele Opiah writes on the transformation of a city once dubbed a ghetto and known for its notoriety
Like the biblical narrow road, which proverbially, is said to be hard to trudge, but in the end leads to a good destination, the road to Ajegunle was narrow, overwhelmed by odd choices, precipitating irredeemable disorder, and led to its own chaotic destination.
One hour of commuting in and out of the most famous slum of Lagos State in the past leaves one totally exhausted. As if schooled in the art, drivers, rickshaw riders as well as motorcyclists stop right in the middle of the road, with no hoot about the traffic gridlock caused by their antics.
Everyone seemed to be in tandem with the tension,which mirrored the absolute chaos in other spheres within the city. The environment was blighted by many anomalies including countless kiosks erected on every open space. The cacophony of untamed commerce, as well as the high decibel levels induced what feels like migraine.
Walking the streets of Ajegunle like many other parts of Lagos required some ability to dodge. The ubiquitous motorcyclist (Okada) speed from all directions; there were markets almost everywhere, and many people engaged in petty trading. Ajegunle was a place where the stench of open sewer, garbage and sweats from armpits of dwellers filled the twitching nostrils, where houses with rusty roof-sheets were crammed as close to each other as possible and as far as the eyes could catch them see; a place where quest for survival was at its peak, and the absence of trees or green parks made it impossible for one’s eyes to get some sorely needed relief from the bedlam created by the raw and constant struggle for survival.
That was describing Ajegunle of old. A city condemned by its own. But Ajegunle has transformed.
“We can now move freely in the community without fear of criminals either molesting or harassing us on the streets of Ajegungle. Those bad boys roaming about the area doing nothing for a living have dissapeared,” Said Udofia Akpan, a resident who has spent almost all his years in Ajegunle.
The Lagos State government under Governor Babatunde Fashola is changing Ajegunle’s story from one of stereotype to that of an interesting place with rich history behind it.
Udofia said, “Ajegunle has become a place where one needs to revisit, to breath in the spanking new air of development in the city. Things are getting better now with the kind of facilities that engage the youths in meaningful ways like the poverty alleviations program.”
A business consultant, Mr Peter Orkiv told THISDAY that Ajegunle has become the centre of Lagos. He said, “Whether the people like it or not it has become the centre of Lagos, standing at the middle of boundary market from your left and connecting to Badagry. When you look at your right hand, it takes you to Epe, while the other connects you to Apapa GRA suburb. Ajegunle has become the centre with the special intervention of this administration; the previous administration did not put more attention in the area despite the development of other area while Ajegunle is left out in all capital projects”.
He adds: “Take a look at Apapa now, there are two ways to go in and out of Apapa and that is the Tincan route with so many containers on the road and the Ijora route. Ajegunle is the third option to connect Marine road and that shows that Ajegunle can play a vital role in the new master plan of Lagos state.
Another resident, Mr. Okoye Emannuel said, “Living in Ajegunle, with my level of exposure, I realised that Ajegunle is a centre of Lagos where I can easily do my business, I traveled abroad to study and spend many years there, but I prefer to stay in Ajegunle than stay in any other place where I have accomodations. Governor Fashola has been the only State governor that came to the aid of people living in Ajegunle, he have built a health centre that have been commissioned, mortuary that is yet to be commissioned and a magistrate court that is yet to be completed. I believe putting this kind of structure in Ajegunle shows that it has a potential to contribute to the State than for it to suffer in neglect.”
In the same vein Mr. Moshood Bello a transporter in Irewole Ajegunle taxi park, who has been living in Ajegunle since 1969 said the city is the best place to live in, despite the area being known as a jungle city. I can tell you that the people are cooperating with the state government the achieve the mega city plan. The market people have move their stocks inside the market rather than for it to be on the road to cause traffic jam, the motorist in the suburb now make use of the motor parks provided with this development, it helps to keep the environment clean”
Ajegunle is a city that has survived attempts of being wiped out through negligence of those in position to direct its resources to its development. However, fortune seemed to have smiled on the city when it was mentioned as the headquarters of Ajeromi Ifelodun Local Government Area which was created in 1996. The Lagos State government may have finally beemed its searchlight on Ajegunle for its development.
In the past years, It has produced notable footballers and musicians, among whom are former coach of Nigeria’s Olympic team and later the Super Eagles, Samson Siasia, former Super Eagles ace defender Taribo West and former African Footballer of the Year, Emmanuel Amuneke.Ajegunle’s uniqueness lies in the fact that it is a concentration of all the many ethnic groups in Nigeria.