By Ajiboye Oluwadamilare
The coronavirus pandemic might have halted academic activities in the University of Ibadan, but infrastructure development has, in no way, been affected. Students familiar with the environs of the Nnamdi Azikwe Hall would recall the different stories they have heard about the popular “Zik River” or as the situation demands for some, experienced in their sojourn through the route.
For those not familiar, the “Zik River” got its name from the drainage system behind the Nnamdi Azikwe Hall. The wide drainage system which is uncovered and has some planks placed over it to create a passageway for students is almost always flooded when there’s a downpour, hence the suffix “river”. The route provides a quick and easy access for students from the Independence hall, Queen Idia hall, Obafemi Awolowo Hall and many other private hostels to the university busy areas and many faculties.
For years, the willingness of students to use the route has varied. Before now, as funds and energy permitted, different makeshift bridges were constructed by past political administrations of Nnamdi Azikwe Hall. So risky had been some makeshift bridges that students had once had to learn the art of patient foot-dragging with both arms spread out to ensure stability when crossing the bridge when once, just a few timbers were placed across the “river” to provide a passageway for students.
At a point in 2017, a weak-looking wooden plywood was placed over the “river”, and passers-by had to run over to cross to the other side. While many have found it dangerous to pass through the route for one reason or the other and would rather sacrifice their time for safety, others have maintained stubborn commitment to the route and been unbothered by the state of the planks and the bushes flanking both sides of the wooden bridge.
Although there is no confirmed story of any student falling over despite the dangerous state of the makeshift bridge, there have been news of dangerous animals like small bush snakes and alligators sighted occasionally along the route. These state of things obviously did not sit well with many students who have been periodically crying out for a permanent renovation of the bridge as far back as 2016. Luckily, in 2020, the university management heard the students’ cry.
In what seemed like a surprise to the student community, the university management embarked on the construction of a concrete bridge with iron barricades to enable easy access for students’ influx and outflux through Nnamdi Azikwe Hall. The construction appears to have eradicated the fear of falling over or being bitten by wild bush animals.
Describing the construction, the Hall Chairperson of Nnamdi Azikwe Hall, Christian Aqua (Otuoke), stated that the idea of a conducive bridge had always been paramount for every administration of the hall, but was not fulfilled due to funds. He however thanked the university management for doing a commendable job.
“I appreciate the management for putting all the cries into consideration and constructing that bridge…the administration of prof. Idowu Olayinka has done a very great job, and that is very commendable.”
The hall chairperson did not fail to remind the school community that the new bridge has been added to the many heritage of the hall. He said: “It (the bridge) is like a landmark in Zik Hall… It is something most of our former leaders have been fighting for… people can now pass freely without the fear of being bitten by any wild animal.”
When the opinions of frequent users of the route was sought, they commended the management for a job well done. For Opeyemi, a 300 level student from the department of Library, Archival and Information Studies (LARIS), she lamented the insecurity of the route at night.
“Yes the place is not secured at night. Most time you get ambushed around that same river if you walk alone at night, and rumor has it that Alligator stays inside the river. The fear of passing that river alone at night is enough for you to think of not being safe. You cannot pass there without being extremely careful so that you won’t slip inside the river.”
She however believes the new bridge will enhance security.
“Since the bridge is now constructed no more fear of slipping inside the river and then, it creates a fast route to walking straight to KDL and other faculties in school or anywhere inside the school.”
On the part of Daniel, a 200 level student who identified himself as a resident of Nnamdi Azikwe hall, “The new bridge is a great development because the bridge serves as a safer route to most of the students not only in Zik but also a faster means of getting to lectures for students in Idia hall, Indy hall and Awo also. Though the Zik river used to be dangerous at night, but now that a change has occurred, there will be maximum safety and protection for passerby during the day and night. The development is not only for Zikites, but for every student. I think it is safer now that the bridge has been rebuilt.”
The new bridge which is to serve the entire university community is one of the many developmental projects of the Prof. Idowu Olayinka’s administration as the university prepares for a change in leadership.