Neglect of Ogun Communities: Time to Call out Council Chairmen

Bamidele Johnson

A neighbour, to whom I was close in an Ogun State community I lived, called me one Saturday morning, saying he wanted me to meet a council chairmanship aspirant. I was not thrilled because the incumbent at the time and previous chairmen of Ifo Local Government Area in Ogun State, under which my neighbourhood is, had treated us with utter indifference, if not disdain and naked malevolence.

It was not just Lambe, where I lived, that had been so treated, but the whole of the vast area on the Lagos-Ogun boundary, stretching from Alagbole through Akute, Giwa, Oke-Aro, Agbado, Adiyan, Ope-Ilu to Ijoko as well as communities in Obafemi-Owode Local Government Area. He sensed how tepid my reaction was, especially when I said I was no politician and could not do anything to boost his chances. He was misguided enough to take me as an influential figure in the locality, most likely because I regularly flapped my gums at Community Development Association meetings. That I was a media professional, I suspect, must have aroused his belief that I could be of help.

“He is a friend and a young man,” he said, half-hoping that I would see him as an apostle of new thinking as council administration was concerned. Reluctantly, I signed up. He said the aspirant was due to come into the neighbourhood at 4pm. I expected his call a few minutes before the time or at, the very worst, at 4pm. None came until one and a half hours later when he said the man was in his house. I was already cheesed by the visitor’s failure to keep to time. None the less, I went to meet him. The guy looked young. My neighbour introduced him as the aspirant. We shook hands.

The aspirant gave his name as Ogundele. I do not remember his first name, but the cordiality evaporated immediately he said his father, Zikirullahi Ogundele had also served as council chairman. I never met his dad, but I thought his tenure as chairman was absolutely dire. I knew the dad’s house on Olusegun Osoba Way, which leads to Agbado Crossing. In front of it was a roundabout-sized crater that he did nothing about till he left office, which I immediately told the son about. I also told him that his dad’s administration did nothing (NOTHING) in the localities aside from a half-hearted attempt to build a shopping plaza in Akute. The meeting was not progressing well, as I was actually getting tetchy.

I told him that his father had no deposit of goodwill among residents of the localities mentioned and I would be unwilling to talk to anybody about him because they would find the dad-to-lad thing unappealing. I also reminded him that despite the father’s poor performance, he sought to run for governorship in Ogun State, which I suspected was the inspiration for his own ambition. I expected him to be angry, but he was not. “Egbon, thank you very much,” he said, adding that he needed to explain a few things. “Where do I start from?” he asked. “From the beginning,” I shot back.

His dad, he said, did his best and if I went to Ifo, he was regarded as the best ever chairman of the council; the GOAT. His response got me angrier. I said while I would not dispute his assessment of his dad, I was of the view that the tallest pygmy in the tribe is no giant and if his dad was the best ever, it meant that the council had had massive ill-luck. My verdict, I added, was the same he would get from 99.9 per cent of the people in the neglected areas where schools were (still are) no better than cow sheds, health institutions were (still are) like dumps and roads-the ones under council jurisdiction-had (and still have) not a square inch of asphalt. I asked how he found his journey to our place and other places he must have been trying to sell himself to the people. He admitted that it was on ordeal. “Part of your dad’s legacy,” I told him.

He was not touching the soft drink the host gave to him. I was drinking the wine and eating the fried meat in front of me. He argued, correctly, that his dad could not do everything we wanted, to which I responded that he did nothing. He similarly attempted to hide under canopy of governors starving councils of funds, which he said was a reason the dad could not do as much as he would have liked. I asked why he wanted to be chairman, given that his dad was hamstrung by the fact that the governor starved his dad’s council and others of funds.

“Egbon, inu bi yin gaan (you’re very angry),” he said. I nodded, as I gurgled more wine. We reached no agreement and I do not remember if he got his party’s ticket or not. What I remember is that he did not become the chairman. The next chairman was as ineffective as his dad. So were those before and after him. I also met one, named Wole Enilolobo, whose sole footprint in the area was SSY, a drinking den established at Giwa.

I doubt if there is a single resident of those areas that would describe all the chairmen as anything other than as useless as the “k” in knife or the “s” in island. Sadly, the attention of the residents hardly ever goes in the direction of council chairmen, who happily use the governors as sandbags. Every bullet is fired at the governors who, without doubt, are not exactly blameless.

There are roads that are the responsibility of the state government. There are those that belong to the council. Not one of those has been touched in the above listed areas by any of the charlatans elected all through the years.

By next year, the residents of those communities, as other Nigerians, would have spent 25 years under allegedly representative democracy.  You have to wonder what the representatives of the people of the communities have done to improve the lives of those they claim to represent. The people have had a stream of councillors, House of Assembly members, House of Representatives members and senators representing them. Yet, they live no better than they would have without anybody representing them. I dare say they would not fare worse if they had nobody representing them. One of those who allegedly representating the people in the House of Assembly is the current Ogun State Commissioner for Culture and Tourism.

While seeking to return to House, she started building an ICT Centre in Lambe. Unfortunately for the people, she lost the bid to return and that was the end of that initiative. There were claims that she ordered the removal of equipment already installed after her bid went tits up, something I cannot confirm. What I can confirm was that the centre never operated for one day.

That, for me, is an uncomplicated indication that there is zero care about “my dear people of…”   

 *Benson is a Lagos based journalist

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