Joseph Awogbemi, Two Years On
By Onyedika Agbedo BORN on September 7, 1932, at Odo-Oro Ekiti, Ekiti State, the late Joseph Awogbemi was a renowned Town Planner. His parents were Emily Omopariola Fabunmi Awogbemi (mother) and Emmanuel Adeniyi Awogbemi (father), both of blessed memory.
They lived and died in Ikire where his father worked as a carpenter. Following his father’s death, Awogbeni’s education was jeopardised. But one of his uncles vowed to ensure that he was educated.
When he was nine years old, the said uncle took him to Odo-Egbira (now Aiyedun Ekiti) and enrolled him at the then Odo-Egbira Methodist School.
While the late Awogbemi was in school, his younger brother, Kayode, assisted his uncle in the farm all in a bid to raise money for his school fees. It was such a difficult period in their lives that at a point, Awogbemi had to stay off school for a whole year as a result of poor harvest from his uncle’s farm.
But he never relented and soldiered on. In school, the late Awogbemi was quite brilliant and regularly maintained the first position in examinations, which led his classmates to nickname him Aje-Iwe.
He completed this level of his education in December 1950 with excellent scores, which ensured that he was retained as a pupil teacher in the same school. In 1953, he wrote entrance examinations into Wesley College, Ibadan, and was among the few that were successful.
He was in Wesley College from January 1953 to December 1956. After Wesley, he was posted as a teacher to Igbogila High School in Egbado now called Yewa. In 1958, he was successful in two ‘A’ Level subjects as well.
Based on his good performance, he was transferred to Egbeoba High School in Ikole Ekiti as a Grade 2 teacher. At Egbeoba, he became a Councillor in Ikole District Council serving from 1959 to 1961. He was granted Federal Government Scholarship in 1961.
This enabled him to travel to the United Kingdom (UK) to study Town and Country Planning in the University of Manchester England. On the completion of the course, he came back to Nigeria and was employed as a Town Planner at Ikeja Area Planning Authority in 1967.
Ikeja Area Planning Authority was later dissolved and he was transferred to the newly inaugurated Lagos State Ministry of Works and Planning as a Town Planner in 1972. He was promoted to the position of Chief Town Planning Officer in July 1976.
In April 1980, he was further promoted to the position of Director, Town Planning, Lagos State. Awogbemi was a highly talented Town Planner.
He carried out a lot of research works in urban planning and urban development matters. He headed the UN-Nigeria team that produced the Lagos Metropolitan Master Plan and the Lagos State Regional Plan 1980 – 2000 as the Project Director.
The plan was successfully drawn and commissioned by then Governor of Lagos State, Alhaji Lateef Jakande in 1982.
These two documents gave guidelines to the physical development in Lagos State till it expired in year 2000.
Some of the highlights of the plan were Ikeja Central Business District (CBD), the LASU-Iba Highway linking Agege to Badagry Expressway, the Lekki Peninsula Schemes I & II, the Lekki Expressway to Epe, Alimosho and Ikorodu, Epe and Badagry environs as major growth centres, among others. The designs and projects were undertaken to slow down the pressure on Lagos metropolis.
He voluntarily bowed out of service in 1983 at the age of 51 to go into Consultancy under the name of LAFMOW ASSOCIATES.
Awogbemi loved diligence, humility, honesty, industry, facing challenges and thoroughness, and encouraged others to imbibe those virtues.
It is on record that he was the first Town Planner in Nigeria to hold the post of a State Director of Town Planning Services. He was the pioneer Chairman of the Nigerian Institute of Town Planners (Lagos State Chapter).
He was the National Secretary of the Nigerian Institute of Town Planners (NITP) from 1976 to 1978.
Between 1982 and 1983, he served as the Secretary of the Master Plan Committee where the Governor of Lagos State, His Excellency Alhaji Lateef Jakande, was the Chairman.
The committee was set up to monitor the implementation of the Lagos Metropolitan Master Plan and the Lagos State Regional Plan (1980-2000).
Two years after his death, the Awogbemis remember the love and care he showered on them and thousands of others while alive, with special thanks to all those who stood by them before, during and after his burial.
His wife, Mrs. Wunmi Awogbemi, appreciates in a very special way the support of the Executive Governor of Lagos State, Governor Raji Fashola; the paramount ruler of Egbe Oba Kingdom, Ikole Ekiti; the Nigeria Institute of Town Planners most especially Lagos State Chapter under the Chairmanship of Ayo Adediran; and the Commissioner for Urban and Physical Planning, among others.
“We also want to use this opportunity to thank the Reverends at Methodist Church Opebi, family association, children church from abroad-jubilee, church in Manchester and open Heaven in Scotland and family members from Aiyedun Ekiti and Ikole Ekiti and the NITP Lagos Chapter for building “Joseph Awogbemi House” after the late Awogbemi,” Mrs. Awogbemi said. The late Awogbemi is survived by Mrs. Wunmi Awogbemi, children and grandchildren.