Fadahunsi, a retired Chief Executive Officer of the defunct Lagos Executive Development Board, LEDB, loves spaces; a fondness he developed as a kid in his native Ila, Ilesa (present day Osun State).
His education at the then Higher College, Yaba helped to nurture his first love and you could see his hand all over the plans and design of the LEDB when he was in charge. Now 91 years, Chief Fadahunsi is not pleased with the destruction of LEDB’s lofty proposals on reservation of private fronts in Lagos for public pangs and recreational walkways. He spoke to Bashir Adefeka.
On his growing up?
Really, I come from Ora, a few miles from Ila, Ijesha Land in Osun State. My father and mother were there trading. My father was also a tailor sewing all kinds of clothes and so on.
I was born in an environment where open space was treated as a necessity and so I have always been used to living in an open space environment all my life. In Lagos here where I built this house of mine, the space you see in front of the house is a luxury because, ordinarily some people would have preferred to build structures on a space like that.
Also in school, I schooled in a place that cherished open space. My school was situated on acres of land and the school structures only occupied a very small portion of the land. At the Government College, Ibadan that I attended, it was the same. At the Higher College, Yaba which is now called Yaba College of Technology at a time when Yaba was an outskirt of Lagos, it was also built on an open expanse of land.
So I have never been used to the kind of congestion that Lagos is now having. I don’t like congested environment at all. When I got to London and found myself living in terraced houses, I found it difficult to endure and so I only stayed there for a short period and left.
So, that was the sort of early life that I lived.
I started school at seven. That time I never had to cry when I was taken to school because I had already been partaking in the school’s activities being that the school was very close to our house. Going to that school became an attraction to me when I was eventually taken there.
I attended St. John’s School, Iloro in Ilesha and other schools for my primary education all between 1927 and 1936. I then moved to the prestigious Government College, Ibadan in 1937 and finished in 1942. I then moved to Yaba Higher College where I obtained a diploma in civil engineering in 1946 and went on to London University for my Bachelor’s degree in civil engineering which I got in 1951.
What was so special about your kind of secondary education?
One thing about the secondary education that I had at the Government College, Ibadan was that life there was what anybody would want to experience. It was based on the college system of England and as I said earlier, the school was on a very spacious land and you could wander around as you would want to. We were taught by teachers who were white and black.
We were trained to do things with our hands whereby you would wake up, pack your beds, go out to cut grasses in the compound, take your bath then come and make up your beds again for inspection, go for breakfast. And by 8 o’clock we were on the way to class. It was a boarding school. We finished two o’clock and after some rest go for prep to look over again what you were taught during the normal class.
I remember very well that you would have to jot points while teacher was teaching you in class. And after the class you formed those things you jotted into a note and submitted it to your teacher to check. You were awarded marks for the note you formed and those marks formed part of your continuous assessments. It was like that, obviously, to train us to stand the university education.
Because, in the university they just teach you and you have to find details for yourself. That was the sort of the secondary education that I had between 1937 and 1942.
How did you arrive at the decision to study engineering?
Well, by the grace of God I was good at most subjects but mathematics and sciences were my best. I don’t even think I was the one who wrote engineering for my higher studies. I had many good people, whose good professional examples would ordinarily have influenced my course of study but the school authorities chose it for me.
Why was it so?
Because they assessed areas of my best and discovered that I was good in subjects that could better position me for engineering studies and that was it. I loved to be a doctor but I wouldn’t want to do it because I didn’t like to see blood.
And what was your higher school experience like?
What is now called Yaba College of Technology was the Yaba Higher College. They trained doctors, they trained engineers just below the senior cadres. But it was so good that by the time I got to London University, most of the things they were teaching us, we had already been taught at the Yaba Higher College.
Another thing I want to tell you is that, it was the students of Yaba Higher College that former the nucleus of Ibadan university (University College, Ibadan now University of Ibadan). We were all taken there to join the courses in 1948.
Could you highlight some of your achievements as a career engineer?
They are in two parts. My achievements as career engineer in government and as engineering consultant to the government. In government I served in the Public Works Department, PWD, and then I was district engineer in Osogbo from where we had to build a lot of roads, maintain roads, build houses. All works by government were done by the PWD.
For example if the Minister of Agriculture wanted to build a house, it would be put in the budget and then the PWD would do it for them. If they wanted to build schools, like the Queen’s College in Ede, it would be done by PWD on behalf of the Ministry of Education and so on.
We also maintained earth roads on which you could be driving 60 miles an hour without hitches. They were not tarred but they were maintained and kept motorable. Unlike now that you have even tarred roads that are not useable. I moved from roads to the laboratory researching soil and eventually became chief water engineer when had to build a lot of dams: Ogbomoso,Oyo, Abeokuta.
Later on I came to Lagos Executive Development Board, LEDB, first as deputy chief executive officer and later, because of my discovered performance, became chief executive officer. And of course we were in charge of the Federal Territory that had Yaba, at that time, as its northern boundary. At LEDB we were planning and developing estates.
The Surulere Estate that you see is the work of the organisation that I headed for some times.
Unlike now when you are given land without roads and other facilities, we sold land or houses to you with roads all tarred, water supply all available, electricity all there. We were in charge of planning the Federal Capital Territory, Lagos, at that time and we were also controlling development in the place.
When Lagos State was eventually created in 1967, I remember being engaged in an argument with them that they should retain the LEDB because it was in a position to maintain the good plan of Lagos. But unfortunately they didn’t agree with me and the consequences of that are here with us now. LEDB is the LSDPC that you now see.
What are those consequences?
In the past we planned for and created a lot of open spaces in Lagos but those open spaces have now been used or allocated for building structures. You can see part of the consequences on Victoria Island, a place not originally designed for what is there now. Victoria Island was not designed for commercial activities. It was meant for living areas with open spaces.
In fact, from Ozumba Mbadiwe, the stretch of land between the creeks and the road was not to carry any building structure. It was to be left open with chairs, flowers and treated as a place people like you and I can go and relax.
In essence, in my days as chief executive officer of the Lagos Executive Development Board, we refused the allocation of plots along the water ways, reserving them to be used as Public Parks and Recreational Walkways. We even refused to allow storey buildings of more than four flights in Victoria Island, Ikoyi and environs.
Well, all that is history but its consequences we now face are the problem of congestion that appears difficult to resolve; the flooding; the traffic congestions here and there, everything!
Lagos was not planned for the population it now has. That is why there is congestion everywhere. And it is seriously speaking, unfortunate!