By Funmi Branco
THERE’s something about great ideas in governance: they make life much easier and much more livable. That is the impression one gets driving around Ogun major towns and cities. For starters, travellers to the Gateway State will have noticed an imposing monument sitting at the Sagamu Interchange, the Ogun City Park. There is no hyperbole deployed in describing the edifice as the work of a master craftsman: it is breathtakingly beautiful, a symbolic representation of the Gateway State depicting peace and tranquility. Just like the state governor, Prince Dapo Abiodun envisaged, the Gateway City Gate is giving travellers and visitors alike a sight to see and a spot to relax in as they journey in and out of Abeokuta, the state capital. It is already the cynosure of all eyes. That, actually, is the point: the monument was conceived as a legacy structure, one that would evoke the nature of the landscape and people of Ogun, be strategically located, and welcome visitors into the state.
Almost inevitably, since its inauguration by President Muhammadu Buhari in January, it has become a tourist attraction. Tourists within and outside the state are flocking to the Interchange, basking in the sheer beauty of the iconic monument. The aesthetics of the structure indeed makes that environment conducive for relaxation, picnics and, you guessed right, filmmaking. Many people are now visiting the monument to take photographs. People go with their families to take a pause from the hustle and bustle of daily life, and who can blame them? Hear President Buhari talking about the park: “It is not just a park beautification project: it depicts that something new is happening in Ogun State, a welcoming entrance into the state capital at the centre point of the state.”
According to GYB Consults Ltd, a firm of architects headed by Gbenga Onabanjo, a former Commissioner in the state, the monument located at the centre of a 210m-diameter roundabout providing access to vehicles coming and going to Sagamu, Abeokuta and Sango Otta, stretches to a height of about 30m, with each foot of the base a footprint of about 4m × 6m. It tapers to a height of 27m and is reduced at the tip to 1.2m × 1.2m. The outstretched arms are connected together by the crest of the state, which stands suspended in the middle with cable strings at a height of about 15m. It is a two-faced logo of about 3m in diameter. Standing at the centre of a raised podium that is 32m in diameter, the monument has a podium with series of concentric steps on the East-West axis allowing visitors to enjoy the platform which is adorned with a 24-nozzle dry fountain that could later turn into a musical fountain. The North-South edges of the platform are slanted towards the base. There is a VIP car park on either side of the monument: the general car park is on the other side of the roundabout towards the Sagamu end. If things like this are replicated across the states of the country, the country’s cities will come alive in more ways than we can imagine at the moment.
If the Gateway City Park is beautiful, so is the 42-Kilometre Sagamu Interchange-Abeokuta road also commissioned by President Buhari in January. Motorists now have no problem travelling on that corridor at night because of the illumination created through traffic lights. Said a motorist: “What I now enjoy travelling the Sagamu-Abeokuta road is that it is just like driving during the day. The experience is truly delightful. There are street lights, yes, but they actually work! I’ve been around the country and I know that street lights are just for decoration in many places. This one surely looks good to see.” And another: “The fear one used to have about hoodlums lurking around flashpoints on this road has been reduced a great deal or eroded completely. You can see up to 500-600 meters ahead of you. The electrification is well done: the illumination covers either side of the road brilliantly well. Don’t get me wrong; security threats are always a possibility anywhere in this country. But my point is that this illumination that you see from Sagamu to Abeokuta makes tracking any crime attempt very easy. These are the kinds of things you see driving in Europe.”
But a beautiful drive at night isn’t the only thing remarkable about the new road. As can be easily seen when you get to Siun and Kobape areas, night life and night markets have sprung up in beautiful, uncanny ways. Along the corridor, people now come out at night to spread their ways, taking advantage of the electrification. Said a food vendor: “In the past, the money I made in a day was never more than N2,000 but now that I have added night business to my routine, I go home with at least N5,000 per day. The night business has increased my profit margin. We thank Dapo Abiodun.”
As President Buhari noted while inaugurating the road and other projects in January, it could not have materialised without Governor Abiodun’s huge investment and commitment to security of lives and property, which had made Ogun State one of the safest and most peaceful states in the country and investors’ destination of choice. The president said: ‘‘Just across the road is the 42-kilometer Sagamu-Interchange-Abeokuta Road which the state government has reconstructed and equipped with street lights. That road enjoys direct linkage with the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway that the Federal Government is rebuilding. I am particularly impressed by the quality and standard of your road projects, and the creative way you have deployed resources to reconstruct and rehabilitate them…These roads also fit well into our rail transportation masterplan that connects Lagos, Nigeria’s economic capital to Kano, with Ogun State having more rail stations along the Lagos-Ibadan rail corridor. When state governments deliver impactful projects, in consultations with stakeholders, like we have witnessed in Ogun State, the trajectory of our national development will be enhanced.’’
The president is right on the money. Governor Abiodun should keep the flag flying for the good of all.
Branco sent this piece through firstname.lastname@example.org