By Ademola Babalola in Ibadan
Twenty-four hours after he hosted ace musician and CEO of Fresh FM Ibadan, Oyo State, Mr. Yinka Ayefele, at the Government House, the state Governor, Senator Abiola Ajimobi’s men in the early hours of yesterday moved in bulldozers and pulled down a section of the station to the chagrin of the owner and unsuspecting members of the public.
THISDAY authoritatively gathered that Ayefele had met Ajimobi last Saturday morning to plead for the understanding as threats by officials to reduce the multimillion naira station to rubble festers.
The musician was said to have left the meeting fulfilled as the governor reportedly said what profit would he gain from pulling down the structure, but with a caveat that the station owner stop programmes capable of undermining his government and in return, get more government’s patronage to earn better resources to run the station better.
According to a source, “A visibly happy Ayefele felt relieved and assured the governor of better working rapport with the state government. Ayefele was said to have told close aides that Ajimobi meant well but was grossly misunderstood by many.”
The other assurance Ayefele secured from Ajimobi was when the latter featured on a live programme in the station and made startling revelations that some people had been tagging Ayefele as anti-government and wanted him to demolish Fresh FM.
Ajimobi did not only assure Ayefele of bearing no animosity against him, he went ahead to describe the station as the best, comparable to the ones in Lagos State, and prayed for the prosperity of Fresh FM.”
But yesterday, like a thief in the night, officials of the state government made real the threat of the government to demolish the radio station for allegedly contravening town planning law.
Notwithstanding the order of the state High Court in the matter filed by Ayefele against the government, restraining it from such demolition and coupled with the spirited appeals made to the governor by a cross section of eminent Nigerians, the state officials, backed by armed security agents, in a commando-like operation, defied the pleas and went ahead to carry out the partial demolition of the edifice which left the station off the air for about four hours.
Reports revealed that the men arrived at the station around 6a.m. and fired several gunshots into the air to scare workers and passersby from disturbing their operation which lasted for just few minutes.
According to the reports, moments after the station went off the air, photos of the demolished structure went viral on the social media and the people trooped out to protest against the development.
By 7:30a.m., the road from Challenge and the toll gate bridge that connects Lagos to Challenge in Ibadan became impassable as the surging crowd filled the expressway and chanted unprinted songs to condemn the action of the government.
Many left their church services to sympathise with Ayefele, a popular gospel singer. The station is situated at Lagos-Ibadan by-pass at Challenge.
The state government had last week issued a three-day ultimatum to the radio station and threatened to demolish it. But the station owner had since approached the court. The case comes up today.
Vehicles heading towards Lagos and coming into the city of Ibadan were held up in the traffic that lasted for over eight-hours yesterday while many going to their respective places of worship made u-turn.
Many youths seized the opportunity to destroy some posters and bill boards belonging to some gubernatorial aspirants of the All Progressives Congress (APC) to register their displeasure against the demolition of the station.
The Director of Ayefele Nigeria Limited, David Ajiboye, who told journalists that the station has all the documents obtained from the state government for the establishment of the radio station on the plot it was built on, regretted that the station had lost a new equipment worth N28million to the demolition.
Other areas affected, according to him, are the roof, reception, Ayefele’s main office, a section of the studio, canteen, spiral staircase, parking space, and office equipment like computers among others.
Ajiboye said the Challenge-Lagos-Ibadan axis was approved by the state government as a business premises but was surprised that the government could say it was not meant for radio station.
He said the government in its claims said the canteen and spiral staircase in the building were not in the building plan.
The director of the station further identified a commissioner in the state government as being behind the crisis, saying he had approached the station to stop certain programmes on the FM.
He noted that the station had to reply him that it was only National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) that has the power to sanction a radio programme on air or close the station in totality.
Ajiboye believed that the station was fair to all the political parties in the state as against the claim that the station was working for a certain political party in the state.
When THISDAY arrived at the station around 7:30a.m. yesterday, the protesters were raining curses on the people behind the demolition, while many sympathisers were wailing.
Some side-talk showed that many of the protesters traveled from neighbouring states to witness the action taken by the state government.
One of the protesters, who doubled as a resident of the area, Akeem Jabaru, told THISDAY that the state government proved that it has no respect for the rule of law.
He noted that the demolition was inhuman because he knew that over 200 widows are on pay roll of the FM station while 150 workers are receiving salaries from Ayefele monthly.
Another sympathiser, Mr. Lanre Babatunde, said going by his profession as a surveyor, he had observed that there are plots of land that was supposed to be demolished without getting to the radio station.
Some politicians in the state also used the opportunity to vent their grievances against the state government as they all condemn the development.
A gubernatorial hopeful of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Mr. Seyi Makinde; stalwarts of the African Democratic Congress (ADC), Senator Femi Lanlehin, Chief Sarafadeen Alli; serving House of Representatives member, Dapo Lam-Adesina; state lawmaker, Segun Olaleye; former Deputy Governor, Alhaji Taofeek Arapaja, and others were the earlier callers at the radio station to sympathise with the owner.