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Makinde: Reliving Awo’s vision

By Bola BOLAWOLE turnppot@gmail.com

On the evening of Tuesday, 16 January, 2024, an explosion rocked Ibadan, the capital of Oyo state. The location of the explosion was later identified as Aderinola Street, Adeyi Avenue, Old Bodija Estate. The explosion was of such magnitude that people in the vicinity thought the world had come to an end!

Close to 100 houses were seriously damaged or totally reduced to ground zero while not less than seven lives were immediately lost to the blast. Other losses owing to collateral damage caused by the blast followed. Hundreds of people suffered various degrees of injuries while property valued at billions of Naira were lost.

According to the Oyo state governor, Seyi Makinde, preliminary security findings indicated that the explosion was caused by illegal miners who had stored Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) in the house they lived in, in the area, thereby causing the blast. Makinde vowed that those responsible would be “brought to book” and that the victims would get the back of the government.

A statement posted on the governor’s verified Facebook page read as follows: “I have directed that the medical bills of all victims be covered by the government. We will also be providing temporary accommodation for those whose houses were affected and ensuring that they are supported to rebuild their lives” That was six months ago.

On Tuesday, 6 February, 2024, Gov. Makinde received an official report of the incident. A news medium reported the event thus: “Oyo State Governor, Seyi Makinde, on Tuesday received an official report of the January 16, 2024 explosion at Adeyi Avenue, Old Bodija in Ibadan, the state capital.

“The report, however, said three ‘persons of interest’ have been identified in connection with the cause of the unfortunate incident, adding that they will face the full wrath of the law based on the investigation carried out.

“It will be recalled that five persons died, 77 others sustained injury and 55 houses were damaged during the explosion that rocked Aderinola Street, Adeyi Avenue, Old Bodija, Ibadan.

The report, which comprises findings of the Medical, Security and Engineering teams, was submitted to Makinde, on Tuesday, at the Executive Chamber, Governor’s Office, Secretariat, Agodi, Ibadan.

” Addressing newsmen shortly after the presentation of the report, the Special Adviser on Security to the Governor, Fatai Owoseni (retd. CP), said, “Three persons of interest have been identified in connection with the cause of the unfortunate incident, and they will face prosecution based on the investigation carried out.”

He explained that a Closed Circuit Television in one of the affected houses gave footage of how the incident happened, insisting that the state government would bring the perpetrators to book.

“The character of the explosive is known as ‘Water Gel Type Based Explosive’ and the explosion was triggered by an electric spark. The government will check on the immigration status of all the people of interest since a majority of them are from Mali. The street where the incident happened was Aderinola Street and not Dejo Oyelese Street, as earlier reported. The epicentre of the tragedy is No. 8A and No. 8B…

“The EOC has so far collated information, data of things that happened there and some of the data collated include census of the respective houses and the fatalities that were affected, including the extent of losses suffered. As of 6 p.m. on Friday, February 3, which was the 18th day of the incident, a total of 335 affected persons had registered at the emergency centre, including 16 companies or business operators, churches, mosques, three schools and the University College Hospital also approached the centre to report on their losses.

“The losses reported also include fatality, injuries of various degrees, damages ranging from total collapse and submerging of houses, houses that suffered collateral damage and the ones that suffered minimal damage…

The Head of the Emergency Operation Centre, Temitope Alonge, said 80 victims in total were managed across various hospitals following the incident but that only five patients were on admission as of the time of the press conference. He explained that four of the patients are being treated at the University College Hospital and are at various levels of recovery, while one patient is at the Redeemers Hospital being managed for spinal cord injury”.

As with everything Nigerian, the explosion attracted attention from far and near. The Minister of Mines, Dele Alake, vowed a diligent investigation to get to the roots of the matter. He also pledged that explosives storage rules would be reviewed. Despite official investigations and statements, all manner of conspiracy theories were still flown like kites. And the victims of the blast also accused the government of neglecting them. All is quiet now on the Ibadan front. Everyone is back to their daily chores. Statements made in the heat of the explosion now belong to the archives while the victims are left to lick their wounds.

Early this month – Friday, 7 June to Sunday, 9 June, 2024 to be precise, I was in Oyo state, together with other top Nigerian journalists, on a facility tour of some of the legacy projects of the governor. We visited a plethora of projects. I took advantage to ask Makinde questions on the explosion. Yes, he made promises to the victims and is ready to fulfill them but the Federal Government is tardy with coming clean on its own promises. Makinde has written letters, paid visits and made efforts – all to no avail. In the event that the FG continues to drag its feet on the matter, Makinde said he would go ahead and give what he has to the victims and close the chapter. That will be sad!

I also asked the governor questions on the Strabag precious stones (gems) international market located at the Ojoo area of Ibadan where foreigners, their local godfathers and fellow felons strip the state of precious gems, with nothing beneficial accruing to the state. Is Makinde aware? My first report on that saga was in April 2021 and a special adviser to the governor at the time got in touch with me to say they were aware and were doing something about it. Makinde confirmed they were aware but Federal policies that tied the hands of State governments on the issue of mining made them impotent on the matter. Now that the Bola Ahmed Tinubu administration, mercifully, has reviewed the law, States can now acquire mining licences and tap into their God-endowed natural resources. Has Oyo state began to reap in this regard? Not yet, said Makinde, but efforts were in the pipeline.

This is one area where Labour leaders and our egg-heads in the Ivory Tower should focus attention instead of fighting over the peanuts they call minimum wage. I heard one Labour aristocrat complain that some state governments were yet to pay the old minimum wage of N30,000 per month and now you want them to pay N250,000 or whatever! Sit on the neck of state governors to begin to take advantage of the new policy by Tinubu to tap into the mineral resources of their respective states and create wealth for their people, instead of the present system where Malians and other foreigners are those making hay with our gems and precious stones.

Why are the states not getting licences to mine gold, gems, etc? I have it on good authority that rather than apply for licences in the name of their state governments, many governors are doing so in their private capacity as individuals! Traditional rulers and top politicians are also involved in illegal mining all over the country. These are real issues that Labour leaders should concern themselves with.

The Ibadan trip opened my eyes to the quality of leaders that the Western Region had in the First Republic. At the Government Secretariat, we saw the Independent Power Project (IPP) that the Action Group government of Chief Obafemi Awolowo conceived and was constructing as far back as at that time. The structures stood solid after decades, despite wear and tear and the forays of the elements. At Fashola farms in the Oke-Ogun area of the state, we saw relics of Awo’s farm settlements (including cattle ranches) of yore, with the structures still standing solid, weathering the storm and neglect of decades.

Makinde echoed Chinua Achebe repeatedly: There was once a country! “With the vision of the leaders then, there was a country!”, he said. His government was expanding the scope of the IPP and would restore and preserve other Awo-era structures at Fashola, including files and documents recovered from them. “The buildings are still standing after decades. It shows the integrity of the buildings and of the leaders of that time. We will restore and preserve them so that people will know that there were men and women of vision in this country. There were men and women of diligence and integrity”, he added.

The first military coup of January 15, 1966 and successive military coups and governments truncated the only leaders with vision that this country ever produced. Military incursion into politics is the greatest havoc visited upon this country. Unfortunately, present-day politicians give no one cause for cheers. To whom, then, do we turn?

* Former Editor of PUNCH newspapers, Chairman of its Editorial Board and Deputy Editor-in-chief, BOLAWOLE was also the Managing Director/ Editor-in-chief of THE WESTERNER newsmagazine. He writes the ON THE LORD’S DAY column in the Sunday Tribune and TREASURES column in New Telegraph newspaper on Wednesdays. He is also a public affairs analyst on radio and television.

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