By Olasukanmi Akoni
Before now, it was always hell for regular travellers trying to get out of Lagos from the old Toll-Gate to Berger end of the road due to heavy and chaotic traffic as a result of inadequate road network on that axis.
It all began when the capital of Lagos was moved to Ikeja and from then began a massive transformation of this part of the Lagos Mainland, which hitherto used to form part of the Western Region of Nigeria.
Many businesses responded to the development and relocated their head offices or opened new offices in Ikeja.Â Since then Lagos has witnessed simultaneous expansion of businesses both on the Island and the Mainland which have kept her economy growing, providing millions of jobs and making her the countryâ€™s pre-eminent Gross Domestic Product (GDP) contributor in the non-oil sector.
However, relief recently came the way of embattled motorists in the state when Governor Babatunde Fashola along with his immediate predecessor, Sen Bola Tinubu, commissioned the 1.5 kilometres long newly upgraded three-lane dual carriage way, which was formerly known as Hycinth Enuwa Road, later renamed Nurudeen Olowopopo Avenue.
The surprise renaming of the road to Olowopopo Avenue came courtesy of Senator Tinubu who passionately appealed toÂ Â Governor Fashola to do that in honour of the memory of the late Dr Nurudeen Olowopopo.
Before now the area surrounding the newly rehabilitated road used to habour miscreants of various kinds as well as artisans such as block moulders, vulcanizers, car wash operators, amongst others.
Tinubu in his speech at the commissioning said his request was informed by the need to immortalize the late Dr. Olowopopo for his immense contributions to human development in the state and the country at large.
Olowopopo was the Chairman, Governing Board of the Lagos State University Teaching
Hospital (LASUTH) before he died mysteriously in the swimming pool in his residence on March 14, 2010 at the age of 66 years.
He practised Medicine in the United States of America (USA) for about 40 years before he relocated to Nigeria and Lagos State in particular on the request of the then Governor Tinubu to anchor a free medical mission which gave birth to many medical missions such as â€œJigi Bolaâ€, cleft lip surgery, amongst others.
Gov. Fashola had initially renamed the avenue,Â Bola TinubuÂ Avenue, while delivering his speech as part of activities marking Tinubuâ€™s 58th birthday anniversary. However, Tinubu in his acceptance speech requested Fashola to do him the honour of renaming the avenue after Olowopopo whom he described as a great supporter of his administration between 1999 and 2007 and a humanist to the core.
His words: â€œOlowopopo was one of the strong pillars of our administration when we took over in 1999 and he specifically supervised the implementation of our blue print in the healthcare programmes to a successful completion.
â€œHe was living abroad and I had to invite him home to be part of our administration which he consented to and contributed immensely. But today he is dead but his contributions live on. Based on this, I request that this road be renamed after him in his fond memoryâ€™â€™.
Gov. Fashola immediately obliged him this request. The Governor had earlier stated the objectives for the rehabilitation of the road which he said symbolised the renaissance and business readiness of the Ikeja Central Business District (CBD) through the provision of a critical transportation infrastructure to ease the cost and time of doing business in Ikeja, to attract further private investment and to improve the efficiency of transacting business with government in Alausa.
Earlier, the Special Adviser to the Governor on Works and Infrastructure, Engr. Ganiu Johnson explained that traffic on the road had grown tremendously since the closure of the old toll gate and creation of link roads to and from the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway.
The three carriage-way stretching from the frontage of the Ministry of Environment to Otunba Jobi Fele Way junction was originally constructed with other adjoining roads like IPM Road, Akim Balogun Road, M.K.O Abiola Road, among others, in the mid-eighties to create functional network of roads to service the fast growing Alausa CBD complex and residential M.K.O Abiola Gardens.
The growth in traffic volume and axle loads had caused distress and depression on most section of the 1.5 Kilometres road. The existing conduit drain parallel to Lagos-Ibadan Expressway had been blocked and rendered in effective resulting in flooding of the roadway whenever it rained. All these necessitated the urgent need for the rehabilitation and upgrading of the road.