Patience pays in pace with Ambode’s passion By Kehinde Bamigbetan

Patience pays in pace with Ambode’s passion  By  Kehinde Bamigbetan
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Patience pays (Surulere) has lived up to its name by waiting for development to return to its streets. This is the first impression of a returnee to this neighbourhood when he visited the stadium recently. Below the dual carriage flyover that takes you over the roundabout that distributes traffic into the main streets of Surulere such as Adeniran Ogunsanya, Ogunlana Drive works of art and landscaping are being put in place at a frenetic pace.

It was the drawing of Segun Odegbami, a national soccer hero which first drew his attention. He saw the forehead from afar, the cheek and the jaw covered by the wooden structures mounted to protect the construction site. But curiosity would not let him be, so he sneaked into the arena and tip-toed past the guy watering the flowers which populate the landscape. He wanted to take a selfie with it, but unsure how far he could be there unnoticed by the two police officers sitting close to the entrance, decided a snappy picture would be okay.

Now back on the pavement, he could see that the painting was not alone. It was part of a series of artworks depicting sporting activities across the corridor, from the point where the bridge ascends just after Barracks bus stop to its final point of descent before Alaka bus stop. A fresh coat of grey paint was taking over the off-white cement visage that the bridge had worn since inception. Strolling towards the opposite stadium, named in honour of another soccer legend who preceded Odegbami -Teslim Balogun – he encountered the sculptural depiction of soccer in session. What he saw seemed an action frozen in motion, giving the impression that another click would re-start the motion picture. This is another art project initiated by the Lagos State Government to enhance the aesthetic value of 19 spots across the city

This unravelling kaleidoscope is an artistic gift from the vision of a man with a mind permanently outside the box of routine, Akinwumi Ambode, who sits at the Lagos House, the official residence of the Governor of Lagos State – where he injects value into the lives of the citizenry.

Ambode was worried not only by the way brick and mortar have been allowed to take over Lagos but particularly by the abuse of public spaces. The spaces, which could have been deployed to humanize the material existence, have been taken over by merchants of commodities and transport services whose combined activities have turned them into gaping eyesores. Uncontrolled disposal of waste and the sale of illicit drugs go unchecked as blaring horns herald the onset of yet another brawl among street urchins.

At an executive session devoted to the subject, the governor was in pains as he wondered how we, the human actors, lost our public spaces to commerce, as if quality life is determined only by the rat race. He vowed to reclaim them and turn them into arenas for calming nerves, relaxation and contemplation, an indirect therapy against the worrisome decline in the mental resilience of the residents.

Eleven projects were identified: Empire, Ojuelegba and Stadium in Surulere; Ikeja roundabout and LASUTH roundabout in Ikeja; Falomo roundabout in Ikoyi; Iyana Ipaja roundabout; Obalende roundabout; Apongbon; and Anthony Village. No fewer than 11 consultants, including XLRS, Salta, Indepth Arts, Daraja, Buzzworks, Benbat Concepts, Ripples Media, Hush and Hush, Inner Space Media and Western Grounds pitched for the jobs.

From local communities came artistes who were ready to give local colour and interpretation to the murals. The government focused the messages on entertainment, sports, politics and governance, health, arts and culture; and the economy. It believes the artistic project will boost sports tourism and provide a serene welcome to the gateway of one of Lagos’ middle class neighbourhoods.

As the stadium projects is nearing completion, the Ojuelegba project, to be handled by Lemi Gariokwu, waits in the queue. Gariokwu is no stranger to the roundabout that now revolves round the ancient spot of a local deity, Elegbara. As the album designer and art consultant to the legendary Afrobeat music hero, Fela Anikulapo–Kuti, as well as a Lagosian in his own right, he can’t wait to bring his print to the walls under the Ojuelegba bridge, where he hope to celebrate art and pass on messages.

The commitment to arts and humanities has not displaced the fervour for infrastructural development. With the rise in economic activities in Surulere, the clamour for roads is back on the front burner. This would surprise any reviewer of Surulere’s handsome fortunes in the past six years when its bumpy roads became smoother and wider. To placate the residents, the Ambode administration supported the Surulere Local Government to build Michael Ogun/Durojaiye and Ogunyinka streets. More roads will be rehabilitated this year.

The government is also investing in providing new homes in Surulere. This year, no fewer than 99 new flats will be made available at the new housing complex in Randle. Already, the construction has engaged 12 artisans, five sub-contractors and three suppliers. Total jobs created in this neighbourhood is estimated at 37.

Keeping the residents healthy is a major concern of the government. Recently, the Ministry of Health held its annual free health mission in Surulere, recording over 2,000 participants. To combat flooding, the Ministry of Environment reported that it recently built 694 meters of sewer network for 12 residential blocks and a school complex at Iponri Low-Cost Housing Estate.

With these developments, patience continues to be the magic wand for the residents of this lucky, middle-class suburb with its happy people.

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The author is Special Adviser on Communities and Communications with the Lagos State Government.

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