Olanipekun and the photographic journey through Fashola years
The immediate past Minister of Power, Works and Housing, Mr. Babatunde Fashola, left office on Tuesday, May 28, 2019 with the end of President Muhammadu Buhari’s first term. But he would be satisfied with the achievement of the documentary photographer who has been with him for years:Lukman Olaonipekun.
As a personal photographer to the then Governor Fashola of Lagos State, Olanipekun, popularly known as Lukesh, published two photography books, BRF: A Story in Photographs and The Fashola Years about the Centre of Excellence and the efforts of his principal to improve it.
This time around, the seasoned photojournalist, Lukesh, has released a compendium of photographs taken in the last three years when he followed activities in the three vital sectors merged into one by the Buhari administration.
Titled,Infrastructural Renewal in Nigeria: A Photographic Journey Through the Power, Works and Housing Sector, Lukesh draws on visual images to document history. With his meticulous and on the spot photographs, he mines three years of Fashola’s sojourn as a ‘super’ minister. It is a passionate visual pervasiveness, which cements his reputation as unrivalled chronicler of Fashola’s adventure in government.
According to Emeritus Professor, E.J. Alagoa, photography is ‘art and also historical document.’ He further remarks, “it is a challenge to Nigerian historian to take active note of this wonderful historical resources,” and advises, “it is also a challenge to artists and photographers to take seriously their role as keepers of the historical record.”
Little wonder, Jonathan Adagogo Green and Solomon Osagie Alonge have been recognised as ‘dedicated visual record keepers’ in all spheres of important official, political and social activities within their communities and neighbouring areas.
Lukesh is a London School of Photography trained documentarist and this reflects highly in his art. They are technical and creative. His compositional skills and flair for catching captivating images are always brought to play in his photographic interrogation of history. He manages to get into the thick of action and picks commendable shots that document history.
Olaonipekun’s book is about the documentation of democracy dividends and it is also about celebrating the energy of the Nigerian people, which ordinarily, makes the compilation not about urban or infrastructural tourism — showing people, places and the richness of the cultural and geographical spread on Nigeria.
Published by Lukesh Photography, the 334-page book is presented in three major sections: Power, Works and Housing. Each of the sections presents a flurry of professionally taken photographs of the events in the industry, with some of them spread across two pages for depth.
The first section,‘Power Sector’ occupies pages 37 to 156, while Works is from pages 157 to 262 and ‘Housing’ is from pages 263 to 331. The first (power) splashes many photos, most of which were taken from various sites.
It, however, begins with one that will excite many Nigerians: an electricity officer installing a meter. This is one product that many Nigerians are yearning for, especially as they are tired of being cheated via estimated billing. Then another shot features workers — including engineers and artisans — at construction sites such as, the 330KV/132KV/33kV Turn-in-Turn-out Transmission Substation along Makurdi Road in Lafia, Nasarawa State. There are other ones in Abuja, Kowa, Gombe, Benin, Edo State, Ibusa, Delta State; Ajaokuta, Kogi State; and Miango, Plateau State.
Olaonipekun’s lens captures projects by the BRFadministration and the people executing them. In this wise, sites, workers and behind-the-scene moments dominate the publication. He, indeed, scores a good point by accommodating human angle moments he captures in the course of clicking across the sectors and in many parts of the country in the past 40 months or so. For instance, food vendors usually found at construction sites are edified by Olaonipekun’s Canon and Sony 7R cameras.
One of such inspiring image is one in which Fashola sits beside and chats with a food vendor, Mrs. Folake Emmanuel, during his inspection tours of the national housing project sites in the Akinyele Council of Oyo State on March 24, 2017. The image is on page 324. It is a historic scene that both Emmanuel and her fellow site workers sitting on the other side of the minister really valued, based on the expressions on their faces.Such other compelling images of Fashola and the masses can be seen in pages 320 and 322.
There are pictures showing Fashola and other officials inspecting sites or inaugurating projects, including the ones in Ikot Ekpene in Akwa Ibom State; Osogbo, Osun State; Orji River, Enugu State; and Kainji Dam, Niger State.
The photos in the ‘Works Sector’ are equally inspiring and they are built around sites and statistics. And this is one of the strengths of Olanipekun’s book: it accommodates some data that seemed to have influenced the direction of work in the ministry. For instance, it notes about the distribution of roads among the three tiers of government in Nigeria, “Statistically, of about 200,000 kilometres of Nigeria’s road network, state government own 18 per cent, local governments, 66 per cent; Federal Government, 16 per cent. This means the Federal Government is responsible for 36,000 kilometres of roads. However, the Federal Government roads carry an estimated 70 per cent of Nigeria’s road traffic because of their lengths, width and inter-state connectivity.”
Works Sector photos capture the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway, with those of Aba-Port Harcourt Road, Kaduna Eastern Bye-pass, Second Niger Bridge, Nnewi-duma-Uburu Road in Ebonyi andothers. A similar spread presented in the ‘Housing Sector’ part of the book.
In endorsing the work in the foreword, a former Head of State, General Yakubu Gowon, commends both Fashola and the photographer. He says although a lot still needs to be done, Fashola deployed zeal and commitment that brought favourable results.
He adds of the author: “Since seeing is believing in this highly sceptical world and Nigeria is no exception, this photo book attempts to capture the strides of Fashola in a professional manner that aptly reinforces the saying that a picture is better than several thousands of words.Like the minister, the brain behind the book, Olaonipekun, is a professional who embodies excellence.”
Gowon continues, “as has become characteristic of him, he has done his level best to achieve good results in the development of infrastructure in various areas, from road to bridges to housing and improved electricity generation and distribution across Nigeria. These results have justified the confidence reposed in him as a member of the Federal Executive by Mr. President, His Excellency Mohammadu Buhari. Yes, there is growing demand for more work to be done.”
According to Olaonipekun, “this book is for historical purposes, for proper documentation of the three sectors I covered. These are visual documents that will keep a permanent record of the ongoing projects in the bold move to effect change in the Power, Works and Housing sectors in Nigeria. I believe that, in the future, these images will form a major part of the canon for this period in the country’s history.”
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