The report, “Apete-Awotan road: a menace Ajimobi abandoned for 7 years because residents voted opposition candidate,” was done by the International Centre For Investigative Reporting and reported by Kunle Adebajo.
ALL things being equal, the distance between Apete and Akufo — roughly 12 kilometres — ought to be covered within fifteen minutes. Things have however not been equal for the people of these towns and those sandwiched between them. So, what is meant to be a fifteen-minute drive now takes a minimum of one hour as a result of poor road conditions.
The last time the Oyo State government paid any attention to the road was during the administration of Christopher Adebayo Alao-Akala between 2007 and 2011, but the substandard tarring done at the time has failed to stand the test of time. While deep potholes are at various sections of the road, other areas are without asphalt — despite its closeness to the Polytechnic Ibadan and location in an urban environment.
Many attribute the condition of the road to neglect from the state governor who, they say, is punishing them for voting other parties during past governorship elections. As a result, the people of Apete have stopped expecting intervention from the government. They contribute money to buy materials to fill the holes on the road, and other times they simply dump pyramids of refuse in the middle, hoping this will provide temporary relief.
The road is as big a problem for taxi drivers as it is for other road users. Commercial vehicles drivers and motorcyclists are hardly seen at the Akufo end of the stretch. Therefore, residents are often left to wait in the open for several hours before they get a means of transportation out of or further inside the town. Most times, they beckon at private vehicle owners for an opportunity to hitchhike.
Expanding crevasses by the roadside are also reported to have led to the death of road users on multiple occasions, especially during the rainy seasons.
During visits paid by The ICIR, most of the persons interviewed were afraid to speak freely and started by questioning our reporter’s identity. They sought to know, before providing answers, if our reporter worked for a private or government-owned organisation and whether he belonged to a political party.
In response to why the road has been abandoned for years, Akinibi, an elderly woman in her seventies, simply observed that Ajimobi “said they didn’t vote for him.” She said he has equally claimed the route to be a federal road. A few metres from Akinibi’s shop stands another retail shop where two middle-aged women were seen chatting. According to them, the bad road stretches further to Akufo, and it is terrible all the way to the federal railway construction site. They also blamed Alao-Akala for not doing an excellent job when he first constructed the road years ago.
The ICIR reporter met a young painter, who was in the company of five friends in front of a boutique and declined to be identified. He confirmed that the governor refused to repair the road because the residents supported the opposition. He said the state governor openly made this declaration during a live broadcast on the Broadcasting Corporation of Oyo State (BCOS).
“What you just said you heard is exactly what happened,” he started, “because for the past seven and a half years that Ajimobi has been in power, that is the excuse he’s given.”
It all started in 2011 with a flooding disaster during Ajimobi’s first term, he narrated. The flood swept across town on August 26, and had led to the loss of over 120 lives, triggering a visit from then president Goodluck Jonathan.
According to the young man, what Ajimobi said when he paid a condolence visit to Apete was that the bridge wasn’t executed swiftly because people there did not vote for him. However, after some time when people cried out, he hurriedly completed the project towards the end of his tenure when he was campaigning for a second term.
After a second flooding incident that led to the bridge cracking and another chorus of disapproval, the governor promised to fix the faults. He eventually tarred the road, in early 2018, up till where the Apete Police Station is situated.
The young painter told The ICIR that Apete community is a strong base for opposition parties. Asked why this is so, he said a key factor was how those parties reacted after the flooding disaster of 2011.
“When the flooding first took place,” he related, “there were two parties who formed rescue teams — Accord Party and either of the Social Democratic Party (SDP) or People’s Democratic Party (PDP).”
The parties, he said, brought vehicles with which people travelled through an alternate route after the bridge collapsed. Apart from that, they also erected streetlights, he added, pointing to a collapsed streetlight across this road as one of the many erected.
“This was why the residents loved them so much, and this reflected in the election results. They got majority votes in Apete. That is why Ajimobi abandoned the road. People have appealed and appealed. Still, he has not budged.”