Just like a set of twins, FESTAC Town in Amuwo-Odofin Local Government Area of Lagos State, situated off the Lagos-Badagry Expressway, and the Gowon Estate in Mosan-Okunola Local Council Development Area, are children of the same parents.
They were founded by the government of the war time Head of State, General Yakubu Gowon, in preparation for the World Festival of Arts and Culture, FESTAC held in 1977.
Houses in the two estates were allocated to Nigerians on owner-occupier basis after the festival, otherwise known as FESTAC 77, through a popular and transparent ballot system. However, the two identical estates, masterpieces and models in terms of infrastructure that met international standards, have today become very different in terms of maintenance. Easily, the Federal Government could be held responsible for their maintenance as that was the essence of establishing the Federal Housing Authority that built the estates.
Both estates as at now can be said to be in need of more attention from the parent – the Federal Housing Authority. FESTAC Town is in a more presentable state than Gowon Estate, though Gowon Estate has largely become a potential grave, with collapsed infrastructure – failed roads, failed sewages, dilapidated buildings and a degraded environment.
If the FESTAC Town is much better in maintenance than the latter, it’s because of the extra efforts of the Amuwo-Odofin Local Government Chairman, Comrade Ayodele Adewale, who, since he assumed office three years ago, has made ‘Operation Rescue the Estate’ his watchword. This was attested to by the President of the Festac Town Residents Association, Comrade Jola Ogunlusi, at a town hall meeting recently.
In his words: “FESTAC Town would have become a wonder estate today if previous administrations of Amuwo-Odofin Local Government had done a quarter of what Comrade Ayodele Adewale has done since he came to office three years ago.”
He said the pro-activeness of the chairman had saved the estate from flooding. Comrade Ogunlusi, former Secretary-General of the Nigerian Union of Journalists (NUJ), also told the visiting Minister of Housing, Mrs. Amma Pepple, in August 2012, the “tireless efforts of the Comrade Ayodele Adewale-led administration, in infrastructural rehabilitation of Festac Town.”
A survey of infrastructure in FESTAC Town by this writer confirmed a road rehabilitation work that has been going on in the town through the direct labour unit of the local government. For instance, the failed portions along 2nd Avenue by Agboju Market and Third Gate have recently been rehabilitated with interlocks.
If there is any area where Comrade Ayodele Adewale has excelled, it is in the area of environmental development. Speaking at the town hall meeting, the chairman appealed for the cooperation of residents and visitors to the town in sustaining its environmental development. Comrade Adewale said that “the council has taken proactive measures, including de-silting of drainage, weekly and monthly environmental sanitation exercise, effective waste management, intensive sensitization and engaging street managers to ensure a clean, green and healthy environment.”
It is therefore not a surprise that Comrade Ayodele Adewale was a guest speaker at the swearing-in ceremony of Ogun State Local Government chairmen, in Abeokuta in August 2012.
In his lecture, he said that the feat recorded by his administration on environmental sustainability was through advocacy and enforcement. He explained that since the inception of his administration, “several efforts have been put in place to improve the state of environment, all geared towards ensuring a viable environment that would promote good livelihood for the people, attract investors and boost economic activities in the community.”
In acknowledgement of his dynamism, Comrade Ayodele has been receiving awards of excellence from various organizations. For instance, he carted away three awards recently as the Outstanding Local Government Chairman in primary health care, environment and empowerment at an award ceremony, Grassroots Achievers Awards, organized by Celebrity International Magazine, in Ikeja. He also received The Most Environmental Friendly Local Government Chairman award given by the Lagos State Correspondents Association. Indeed, with the development in Festac Town, it is obvious that there is much all the 774 local governments can do to help their own people before expecting the manna from the federal and state governments.
In Amuwo-Odofin Local Government, there is a 24-hour medical service at primary health centres together with free drugs for those between ages 0 and 16 and those above 60. Schools are being rehabilitated together with provision of basic infrastructure, just as free books are given to pupils. Headmaster, Central Primary School, Festac, Town, Rev. Mrs. Tinu Ogundiyi, affirmed this at the town hall meeting. It is not enough to argue that local government allocation always end up, in some states, in a joint account, with the state government as its sole signatory.
The question is what did those complaining of such achieve with the little they receive monthly? On the other hand, it is no longer news that all some local governments do, is to convene once a month, to execute the only item on the agenda, sharing of money it is allocated through the joint account.
There is no doubt that the federal government is responsible for the maintenance of its estates across the country which is why the Minister of Housing visits there regularly. While in Festac Town, she observed that the sewage and water plants needed urgent rehabilitation just as she commended the efforts of the local government and the Federal Housing Authority in the infrastructural development of the estate.
A journalist residing in Gowon Estate in Mosan-Okunola Local Council Development Area, who wouldn’t want his name in print, noted: “ It is a delight to watch on television, the recent working visit by Governor Isiaq Abiola Ajimobi of Oyo State to his Rivers’ State counterpart, Governor Chibuike Rotimi Amechi, in the spirit of peer review mechanism, the hallmark of today’s celebrated achievements by the first republic premiers of the former three regions- North, East and West.
“The time therefore, has come for peer review mechanism at the grassroots whereby local governments’ chairmen could be exchanging visits to learn from each other. It is in this wise that one commends the humility demonstrated by the Ogun State government in inviting the Amuwo-Odofin Local Government Chairman to give a lecture on environmental sustainability, at the swearing-in ceremony of the State’s Local Government Chairmen last August.
Under the peer review mechanism, the chairman of Mosan-Okunola Local Council Development Area, under whose jurisdiction Gowon Estate falls for instance, could learn a lesson or two from Amuwo-Odofin that may help to improve on the deplorable state of the estate as published by a weekly recently, instead of looking up to the heavens for the manna. Equally, the peer review mechanism may extend to exchange of visits by chairmen, residents ’association of the two estates as regards the rights and obligations of residents. No resident should expect the government to mend an individual’s broken down sewages or paint dirty blocks of residence.”
By GBOYEGA AMOBOYE