By Tonnie Iredia
In Nigeria’s glorious days of true federalism premised on viable regions, the pace setter was the Western Region with its seat of government in Ibadan, a city which was famous for several things. What happened was that while other regions pursued the imperialist’ sermon of bogus political peace at the risk of progress, the best brains were assembled in Ibadan to propel the West to modernity and class. Hence, free education was conceived there; the place had the first ultra-modern Liberty Stadium; it was also the location of the first television station in Africa; people visited from everywhere to take a glimpse of the then tallest building-Cocoa House. Ibadan had the best of schools at all levels, it was indeed home to Nigeria’s premier university. Those who schooled in the town, including this writer never imagined the possibility of a bleak future featuring callous and uninspiring political leaders in Ibadan of all places. So, each inexplicable phenomenon which challenges Ibadan’s old-time excellence in governance, leaves us to mourn the diminishing fame of a hitherto legendary city.
Only last week, the government of the day in Ibadan, hurriedly in the dark of night, demolished a radio station run by Yinka Ayefele, a man of solid personal achievements. Though physically challenged, he did not follow the footsteps of most of our ‘deformed’ citizens who beg for alms at road junctions. Rather, Ayefele, opted to teach others the lesson of ability in disability by setting up a booming radio business, not only as an employment framework but also as a citadel of effective public enlightenment. As we monitored last week’s event and called all those we still knew in Ibadan to get firsthand information of what may have happened, two other developments propped up in our sub-consciousness to make one raise many posers. The first has to do with what remains of Ibadan’s admirable royalty.
What I often remember about the only known major traditional ruler of the city-the Olubadan, is how as students of the prestigious Loyola College Ibadan, we went on forced vacation twice. On both occasions, we were asked to stay off lectures to mourn, in quick succession, the passing-on of the reigning Olubadan. On enquiry from our indigene-colleagues, why the holders of the revered title joined their ancestors with such speed, we were informed that because a new Olubadan was usually the oldest surviving prince of a ruling house, they get to the throne in old age. So, when not long ago there were reports that Governor Abiola Ajumobi had installed an Olubadan in virtually every street, I wondered aloud if the story had anything to do with the same Oba whose demise was big enough for schools in the town to close in honour of a great ruler. With the development, schools may have to close daily for the countless government created Obas.
The second notable event concerns the trend of irregular salaries of government workers. During a season in which many states were unable to pay their workers, civil servants in Oyo state went on strike. For daring to show dissent over the failure of government to let them have their means of livelihood, ‘someone’ mobilized 50,000 artisans, traders, tailors, hairdressers, technicians, shoe makers, butchers, commercial drivers, students and a host of other ‘admirers’ of the governor to organize a solidarity rally in support of the inability of Ajimobi to pay workers their due salary. So, when the news of the demolition of Ayefele’s radio house filtered out and there was a suggestion that no one knew who carried out the callous act, i imagined that it may have been the same admirers of the governor who had come in again to give him a helping hand. If so, what is the issue at stake? It is a clumsy story.
Ayefele’s radio house was said to have partially contravened some planning regulations which the management feared could be exploited to punish the station for some of its programmes the government was uncomfortable about. Consequently, Ayefele quickly went to court to stop any untoward act while he was working to correct the observed ‘errors’ pointed out by government. In breach of court ruling, the station was demolished 24hours before the time fixed for determination of the case by an Ibadan High Court presided over by Justice Iyabo Yerima. When asked why that happened Yomi Alliyu, the government counsel explained that his clients were also shocked to hear about the demolition and was about to set up a panel to investigate the matter. Later, Waheed Gbadamosi the Special adviser to the Governor on Physical Planning and Development Control said government demolished the building because the owner failed to “regularize the structural planning document for the building.” On why the demolition was done when the subject was before a court, the lawyer argued that his clients were not served prompting the Judge to show him evidence of actual service on the respondents.
Although the government claimed to have warned the station earlier adding that that it even complained to the broadcast regulator, the National Broadcasting Commission NBC, the Director General of the Commission, Ishaq Moddibo Kawu was fast at describing the demolition as worrisome. The nation’s professional broadcasting body, the Broadcasting Organizations of Nigeria also condemned the development. On its part, the Ibadan branch of the Nigerian Bar Association felt the demolition was ill advisable because of the “cardinal principle of law that once an application of injunction is served, the parties should wait for the outcome of the application so as not to foist a fait accompli on the court.” A former Oyo state governor, Rashid Ladoja was not convinced that the radio’s alleged infraction deserved demolition. To him, a fine would have been sufficient.
That the demolition was carried out on a Sunday and before dawn appears to confirm the public feeling that the Oyo State government was into political vendetta, having failed severally to coerce Ayefele to sing its praises. Those of us who have run broadcast stations in Nigeria are quite aware of the hobby of ALL Nigerian politicians to muzzle the media. Painfully, Ibadan where the first indigenous effort was made well before independence to institutionalize balance and objectivity in media coverage and which all should look up to for professional guidance is the exact place where the infamy of media partisanship is being encouraged. Luckily, it is not only that Ayefele’s radio didn’t succumb, its management showed more maturity than the government by publicly admonishing its angry fans not to retaliate by vandalizing public property. Bravo, Yinka Ayefele.