By Kayode Oyeniran
The ancient city of Ibadan is no doubt a city of many firsts: the first university, the University of Ibadan; the first television station, Western Nigerian Government Broadcasting Corporation (WNTV); the first sports stadium, Liberty Stadium (now Obafemi Awolowo Stadium); the first general hospital, Adeoyo General Hospital; the first skyscraper, Cocoa House; the first teaching hospital, University College Hospital, et al.
Ibadan also has a history of being the centre of administration of the old western region since the days of British colonial rule. Ibadan fondly called Ile Oluyole is the third most populous city in Nigeria behind Lagos and Kano with a population of over three million people. It is, however, sad to note that the city has not lived up to its potentials—as a number of the firsts of infrastructures in the city are now shadows of themselves.
Borrowing from the words of Robert Kirkman in “The Ethics of Metropolitan Growth”, Ibadan can be described as a “sprawling city like a drunkard on the sidewalk, and is spreading inexorably outwards, obviously to the surrounding countryside”. However, a deep exploration of the Ibadan metropolis will reveal the ancientness of a city with great infrastructural heritage, having prospects for development and numerous potentials to evolve into a mega city. A city founded on seven hills, drained by four major rivers and having relatively constant temperatures throughout the course of the year with culturally tolerant people is today only being eulogized for the splendor of its rust and gold while it continues to rot and fold. Needless to say, there is an ongoing monumental wastage in the city.
Agbowo shopping complex, strategically located opposite the University of Ibadan main gate was constructed in the early eighties. Report has it that it was the biggest shopping mall as well as the first shopping mall with central air conditioner and a cinema house. The complex has over a hundred shops with a fire fighting office within the complex that serves the complex, Agbowo community and environs. However, the complex has continued to experience monumental decay and rot, with shrubs occupying most of the areas of the complex. Also, it has not only become a hideout for hoodlums, it is now a place where beggars and mentally deranged individuals alike are domicile. Sadly, a monument that ought to compel economic activities in the Agbowo community is now in shambles.
One of the occupants of the mall, Sunday Afolayan in his article entitled, “Agbowo Shopping Complex Ibadan and the Government of Oyo state” published in the dawn of the first term of Governor Abiola Ajimobi’s led administration on his blog—sundayfolayan.name.ng pointed out the economic potentials of the mall. While expressing his fears on the imminent abandonment of the mall and also emphasising the need for government to carry along occupants of the mall in the planned renovation exercise, he noted that the complex generated over five thousand direct jobs. He also revealed that the complex had the highest concentration of internet presence in the state and that with proper intervention and purposeful grooming, the complex can become the Oyo state silicon valley. However, a potential tech hub of the Ibadan metropolis has not only been technologically disadvantaged but economically paralysed.
The Nigerian Tribune of October 12, 2016 reported that Oyo state Government entered a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with Agbowo Mall Infrastructure Development Company Limited. The MOU was meant to see the commission of about N8billion to the renovation of the complex. However, 30 months after the signing of the MOU, the mall is not only without a trace of renovation, sadly, it is also yet to experience a new lease of life. Government has not only failed the occupants of this mall—who feared an abandonment of the mall if they were evicted from the mall to give room for renovation, but Government has also displayed an height of irresponsibility and lack of commitment to the economic sustainability of the city. No doubt the fears of the occupants were not out of place as a few of them still manage to trade in the mall despite Government’s failed promises.
According to a paper delivered by Prof. Olarewaju Olaniyan of the department of Economics, University of Ibadan at the first year anniversary of His Royal Majesty, the Olubadan of Ibadan, Oba Saliu Akanmu Olasupo Adetunji, Aje Ogunguniso 1, which held on the 2nd of March 2017, entitled “Sustainable Development of Ibadan: Past, Present and Future”. He emphasised on the need for sustainable development noting that there are three pillars that give rise to sustainable development namely: economic, social and environmental protection. He explained that the success of any institution or city is in its sustainability, which according to him must include the three sustainability pillars under the sustainable development paradigm.
In his paper, Prof. Olaniyan acknowledged that there have been feasible wastages of resources and many of the infrastructures and assets that could enhance the economic sustainability of the city are not currently being put to full use. Some of the infrastructures he pointed out include: the Agbowo Shopping Complex, Liberty Stadium, Cocoa House, Oyo state Cultural Centre and the Alesinloye Market. According to him, “the city can generate more decent jobs and associated economic activities if these assets are properly employed and adequately utilised.” Similarly, Kayode Oyeniran revealed in his article entitled, “Ibadan lomo o mo Layipo: the tale of my birthday tour” published on tell.ng.com how a historical monument on Oke-Are—the Bower’s tower that ought to drive an economy hinged on entertainment and tourism in the city is now a testament of government’s negligence and ineptitude.
It is popular knowledge that cities are engines of economic growth; it is therefore high time Ibadan not only evolved from its ancientness into modernity, but also benefits from the economic dividends inherent in the historical monuments and infrastructures domicile in the city.
By now, the Oyo state Governor, Engineer Seyi Makinde should have a roadmap detailing his blueprint to transform the city into an economically self-sufficient city. Indeed, the economic, social and environmental sustainability of Ibadan hinges upon how well we are able to harness the legacies of the past to build a new Ibadan.
Kayode Oyeniran is a student of the department of Sociology, University of Ibadan. He is passionate about learning and he loves to report his experiences in writings.