Old Oshodi reincarnating in Sango-Ota
Gradually, the metropolitan city of Sango-Ota in Ado-Odo Ota Local Council, Ogun State is wearing the toga of the old Oshodi, adjudged Lagos second largest market after Idumota.
Until January 2009, when the administration of Babajide Raji Fashola took the sledgehammer approach, Oshodi was a poster city for both environmental and traffic disorderliness. Pedestrians and motorists found it impossible to move freely in the market due to the invasion of the sprawling area shops and shop-less purveyors of goods.
Old Oshodi reflected the complexity of the city, showcasing the ingenuity of the people of Lagos in their use of the informal market in eking a living.
It was a centre for the good, the bad and the worse as pickpocketing, robbery and other acts of criminalities held sway ceaselessly. It wasn’t only a den for criminals, it was considered as the home of delinquents and criminals where large caches of arms were kept.
However, when the nightmare, rowdiness, lawlessness and disorderliness that had reigned for decades were abruptly brought to an end, the message was loud and clear that it wasn’t going to be business as usual any longer. Besides, it showed that the task of giving Lagos a new lease of life was on course.
Now, it seems the demons in the Old Oshodi have relocated to Sango-Ota. According to reports, the displaced traders who could not afford the high cost of shops and bear the offensiveness of the Fashola’s administration, relocated to Sango, majorly due to its proximity to Lagos.
From the old tollgate through the Sango market to Joju junction, Sango under bridge to Oju-Ore, Ijoko road and beyond, the residents, traders and commuter buses have thrown caution to the wind.
Undoubtedly, one of the more endearing attributes of Sango is the market and its strategic location, as it shares boundary with the commercial city of Lagos. It also serves as a central transit point for commuters within the country and neighbouring West African countries.
The chaotic nature of the old tollgate, despite the siting of the Federal Road Safety Corps (FRSC) unit office, has defied all possible solutions with the ever-present traffic jam mostly caused by uncouth commercial buses drivers.
While the buses struggle with the commercial motorcycle riders, popularly called Okada and hawkers for available space on one hand, pedestrians and other purveyors of goods battle traders who have encroached the right of way and touts to escape from the rowdy area.
The officers of the FRSC, Ogun State Traffic Compliance and Enforcement Corps (TRACE) and the police, stationed at the spot are always helpless to restore sanity. Several accidents have been recorded at the scene, which have claimed many innocent lives, especially the recalcitrant traders and passersby. On weekly basis, at least one fatal accident is always recorded at the scene with records of fatalities.
The Sango main market which extends to under bridge is the worst hit. Both sides of the road have been taken over by traders, displaying different types of wares from clothing, household utensils, meat, fruits and accessories to foodstuffs.
While the right side of the road inward Sango from Lagos has been heavily encroached, right from the front of the market through the gate of the Polaris bank, traders, beggars and commuter bus drivers always scramble for space on the road that leads to the under bridge.
All the available spaces under the bridge and some parts of the road without blemish have been taken over by traders and Okada riders, while motorists making a detour struggle to manage through.
It is the same experience on the Ijoko road, obviously abandoned by government. The chaotic nature of the road right from under the bridge is worrisome. Despite the presence of traffic officers and the police stationed at the junction, orderliness has perpetually taken a flight from the junction.
The Guardian observed that beggars, Okada riders, traders and commuter bus drivers always have a field day, especially during the peak hours, thereby obstructing free flow of traffic.
The situation is the same on the Owode-Idiroko road. Compared to the routes mentioned earlier, this axis linking Nigeria to other West Africa countries is always chaotic.
Aside the fact that a makeshift bus stop has evolved along the ever-busy road, activities of the garage touts and impatient motorists contributed immensely to the chaos. Motorists can be at the same spot for 15 minutes without moving, while traffic officers sometimes look the other way, while extorting motorists. This extends from the section to Oju-Ore, Iyana Iyesi through to the Canaan land section.
One ‘special’ attribute that distinguishes the town from other cities of its status both within and outside Ogun State, is the state of the roads. The dilemma of the bad roads has added to the complexity of the city.
The residents are not only pissed off, they are currently worried and angry that the horrible roads are turning from bad to worst on daily basis, despite the status of the city as host to large fraction of industries in the state, coupled with its proximity to Lagos.
One horrible sight that is common to the entire metropolis is indiscriminate dumping of refuse at strategic places. The practice is not only an eyesore in a city of Sango’s status as it oozes offensive odours; it also signals invitation to diseases, especially now that cases of cholera are becoming a common place.
At a forum about 15 years ago, an America-based Nigerian described Ota as the dirtiest place of residence she had ever seen. Alas! Nothing could be said to have changed since then.
In terms of security, crime rate in the area has also escalated in the last two years, based on reports from the state police command. Cases of robbery, ritual killings, rape, cultism, civil disturbances and unrest have become part of the metropolis.
A resident of Temidire area of the town, Ayo Abraham, said Sango Ota Township is now in the shadows of its old glory. “It is a pity that all we have today is a story of dilapidation due to neglect. Life has become so difficult for dwellers in this sprawling community as almost all the township roads are filled with large portions of potholes and totally failed sections.
“Riding on the roads as commuters or car owners is now a nightmare. Dwellers in the inner parts of the town have to leave home as early as 4.00am now to get to work in Lagos to avoid lateness. The town cannot boast of good street roads. Whenever it rains, the dwellers are subjected to apprehension because of traffic jams due to flooding on the bad roads. Ogun State government needs to map out a redevelopment plan for this city.
“Someone has jokingly said that Lagos State should be allowed to take over this neighbouring town as that will assure of rapid infrastructural development and the harnessing of the huge industrial establishments in this ancient town. That is a sad commentary on the performance of Ogun State government.”
Another resident, Abiodun Osho, who linked the problem to influx of people from the ‘squeezed Lagos, said any attempt to pay less attention to Ota or not to give it the prominence it deserves because of political reasons will certainly amount to punishing innocent Nigerians of all tribes, young and old.
“You can fool some people sometimes but can’t fool all people all the times. In view of the aforementioned, something has to be done fast and urgently too. Any attempt to defer kangaroo palliative till when election is approaching will certainly be catastrophic and in fact constitute a bitter pill to swallow for Ota community.
When contacted, the council officials said plan is on to enforce the encroachment of road in Oju Ore area.
Aleshinloye, who spoke on behalf of the council’s Information Officer, said a multi-task stakeholders committee, comprising public and private sector, royal fathers and civil servants, headed by one of the dignitaries in the council is in place to tackle the challenges.
“Revenue collectors are allowed to join hands with the committee. From time to time, the council in conjunction with the police usually goes to the market and the parks to stop encroachment by the traders. We also bring them here for sensitisation. I must tell you that we are tackling the problem, we are proactive on it.”
He added that a task force has been put in place to ensure regular refuse disposal to ensure that the entire metropolis in clean.