-By: Chidera ANUSHIEM
In March, 2018, numerous reports — which were then-rumours — emanating from social media which indicated that there was going to be an over-200% increase in the accommodation fee of undergraduates were confirmed by the Vice-Chancellor, Professor A.I. Olayinka. However, after over 70 and 40 days of receipt of this fee from freshmen and returning students respectively, some halls of residence remain in their utter state of disrepair, if not worse in other halls. With the aid of a guide and a few testimonies here and there, here is the assessment of the situation in Obafemi Awolowo Hall.
OVERVIEW OF THE HALL
Obafemi Awolowo Hall is a hall that is notable for its vicissitudinous nature when it comes to the sex of occupants. At some point, it was a male hall of residence; at some other point, it was open to people of all sexes, and now, it is exclusively reserved for the female folks. Also notable is the fact that the hall houses both undergraduate and postgraduate female students of the University of Ibadan – the only hall that does so. However, most notable is the fact that the hall towers high like the Tower of Babel when compared to other Halls of residence, and as such, it has consistently been dubbed “The biggest hall of residence in Sub-Saharan Africa”.
The hall is divided into nine blocks: Blocks A-I. Blocks A and I are reserved for the Post-graduate students while B and C blocks houses the finalist undergraduate students. Every other block is reserved for non-finalist undergraduate students. At the time of visit, Awoites, as residents of the hall are called, are seen going about their normal businesses. The greater majority seem to be happy with life despite the condition of their immediate environment.
BLOCKS A, B, C AND I: RELATIVE SANITY; A LOT TO CHEER
For residents of blocks A, B, and C, there is still a lot to cheer about. Facilities in these blocks are still manageable, compared to others, and the locks of most rooms are still intact. The nets of most rooms are still in good shape and occupants of these rooms enjoy manageable bathrooms and toilets. For residents of block I, the situation is much better.
Block I, a block for post-graduate students, recently refurbished, is the only block that represents what a hall of residence should be. Near-perfect neatness, good condition of facilities and the glitter of new paint characterizes the block. The block, which was fixed last semester and commissioned by the Vice-Chancellor in June 2018, is the only flashpoint of sanity in Awo Hall. In other blocks, the story is different.
AFTER PAYMENT OF THIRTY THOUSAND, STUDENTS REPLACE BAD FACILITIES WITH THEIR MONEY
When students heard of the increment in accommodation fee, most of them had envisaged that all their problems were over. Little did they know they were in for a rude shock! On the course of inquiries about the state of the facilities from residents, Christabel, a fellow journalist, erroneously thought that the fixing of the faulty locks was done by the University. However, upon quizzing other Awoites, it was discovered that this erroneous belief was a half-truth. Halimat, a resident of block G, informed this reporter that she had gone to the Hall Porters severally to complain about the poor state of her room’s locks but all her pleas were met with deaf ears. Eventually, she contracted a carpenter—which is against the University regulations—to help fix the lock. The carpenter in his own benevolence decided to take up the case. He personally visited the porters and upon request, the lock was given to him and Halimat did not have to pay a single kobo.
However, for Samantha and Tolani, the narrative was different. According to their very similar testaments, “after we visited the porters to give us the locks, they just gave us and asked us to go and fix them on our own. And so the only reasonable thing was for us to hire a carpenter which we paid to help us fix it”. Despite paying accommodation fees, these ones and many other unheard people still had to pay for their own security. If their problems ended there, it would have been better. But no!
ROOM NETS, KITCHENETTE NETS, TOILETS AND BATHROOM NETS YANKED OFF BY FORCES IN THE WILDERNESS
While the locks bleed from the wounds of eternal neglect, the nets are torn wide-open, left to sing dirges that the gods may save them. The most disheartening nets were discovered in Blocks D, F, G and H.
For Awoites in block G and H, particularly the first floor, the bathroom window is conveniently the easiest way to commit suicide. The nets are almost entirely off, they seem to have been off for a long period of time, and they look like they would be off for even a longer time. So when one feels tired of life, one could easily dial their ancestors through these nets and they can rest assured that their calls will be promptly taken.
In Block D, the situation is quite similar. Of all five bathroom nets, only two seem to be in good shape: the net covering the first floor is covered by all sorts of vegetation; that of the second floor has mild bruises; that of the third floor has the greater part of its net in the hands of kidnappers with plants taking the place of nets. Those of the ground and top-most floors still maintain a relatively high level of sanity.
The kitchenettes are also not left out by the wicked forces. In block F, kitchenettes’ nets have gone to sleep. Instead of being the membrane that guides what goes out and comes in, it is a free passage hole for what actually WANTS to come in or go out in a room where the foods that people eat are being prepared. For almost all floors in this block, at least one net of every kitchenette is down to muscle tear, and they can only look on and see from whence their help shall come.
If one asked a child what the function of room window nets were for, the child would most likely argue in the direction of protection. But in Awo hall, reverse is the case. For occupants of block H, there exists a prefect ecosystem: plants are found lurking around their windows, animals have gotten an entry visa from their nets to gourmandize with them, and humans are the hosts to these visitors. Well, should there be a need to change these nets when humans, animals and plants relate well? Maybe not!
GO IN TO TAKE YOUR BATH, COME OUT DIRTIER THAN YOU WENT IN
Except for block I, all the bathrooms in the hall are simply nothing to write home about. To put it simply, these bathrooms are unbefitting for human use in the 21st century. Sights like the bathrooms serving blocks D, F, G and H are probably what pushed Kunle Adebajo to describe our Halls of Residence as ‘decrepit vestiges of colonialism’. These bathrooms are not in the best shape, have leaking rooftops, and do not resemble where humans go in to have their body parts cleaned up.
When it is not the case of bad bathrooms, it is that loos and bathrooms are designed with exquisitely beautiful architecture that thinks it wise to build bathrooms directly opposite rooms. Students constantly live with the consciousness that the odour of faeces — which can sometimes be too offensive to bear — can pervade the air or disturb their reading, or, more painfully, destroy the quality of their food. One would hardly imagine that these are people who paid as high as 30,000 naira to secure accommodation. Make no mistake about this: the preceding statement does not indicate the end of their long list of woes.
ALL IS NOT WELL EVEN IN THE WELL … AND SUNDRY GORY SIGHTS
One of the wells serving residents of this hall has not experienced any level of wellness over time. It is the constant party house from organisms of various species — bacteria, fungi, rodents, plants, and others. The only criterion to be able to attend these parties is an ability to get into the well. You’re able to fit yourself in, you’re in. No lid, no covering. Nothing. According to the account of an Awoite, “these are wells we draw water from when there is no water in the hall. And the sad thing is that the well has no covering whatsoever”. When someone, after having paid the compulsory sum of 30,000 naira, is expected to have her bath with water drawn from an unwell well, the sanity of such society should be questioned.
Existing just ahead of the well is a mini-gutter, close to students’ source of water. The arrangement is clear: the gutter invites the rodents, cockroaches, mosquitoes and others to the party that goes on in the well, after the party, Awoites consume the left-overs with the water. Beautiful organization!
In addition, sundry gory sights were observed, especially with the kitchenettes and the walls. These walls had sagged from a consistent shower of water in its various forms — foamy, clean, dirty, and muddy. The kitchenettes were not left out too. Extremely rusty hot plates were found littering the kitchenettes; bad sockets were the norm and spoilt food was obvious in their numbers.
It cannot be gainsaid that the best way to tackle any problem is by first addressing its origin. And the origin here, if we must be sincere, is the heavy pressure placed on infrastructure in the hall, without adequate maintenance measures put in place to address the effect of this pressure on the facilities. And so as a matter of urgency, the onus is on the University management to wheel Obafemi Awolowo Hall into the operating theatre and perform the cosmetic surgery required in returning Awo Hall to its true status as one of the giants in Sub-Saharan Africa.
TO ROUND OFF…
It is often said that it is only God that keeps flies away from the body of a tailless cow. When money cannot fix the problems facing a people (which represents the tail of the proverbial cow), they have only two ways to go: their God or their herbalist. And in this case, it is up to Awoites to choose where they intend to seek the solution to the decay of infrastructure in Obafemi Awolowo Hall.
Nota bene: Names used in this story have been falsified on the demand of the testifiers.
Chidera ANUSHIEM is a sophomore of the faculty of Pharmacy, University of Ibadan. He serves on the Editorial board of the Union of Campus Journalists as the Politics Editor. His works have been published on such media as: The Nigerian Tribune, The Cable Newspapers, EduCeleb, The Nigerian Voice, Opinions.ng, amongst many others. You can reach him via his email: firstname.lastname@example.org or 07087135115.