Posted by Timige, On 30 Oct, 2023 | Updated On 30 Oct, 2023 No Comments »
Months after the former Peoples Democratic Party’s National Chairman, Dr Iyorchia Ayu, voiced his concern about the darkness that pervaded Osogbo during the 2023 presidential campaign, BOLA BAMIGBOLA reports that Governor Ademola Adeleke’s administration has yet to rectify the city’s lack of functional streetlights
The immediate-past National Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party, Dr Iyorchia Ayu, was full of rage, addressing supporters of the Peoples Democratic Party that had turned up for the party’s presidential campaign ahead of the 2023 general elections that sunny afternoon of December 7, 2022, in Osogbo, Osun State.
The venue of the campaign held at the Nelson Mandela Freedom Park, Osogbo, was filled to the brim with ecstatic party loyalists, still relishing the return to power of the PDP after 12 years in cold life as an opposition party that would have to peep to know how the state was being administered.
After observing the darkness on the streets in Osogbo the previous night upon his arrival in the town, Ayu was displeased. He wondered why darkness was allowed to perfectly tuck Osun State capital in its belly due to the unavailability of stress lighting by the administration that left the government about 10 days earlier.
The Benue-born ex-federal parliamentarian felt the Osun State capital (Osogbo) deserved more than to be reduced to a hamlet now, more than three decades after it was made the seat of government by the then military Federal Government.
Ayu expectedly laid the blame for the absence of streetlights on major and inner roads in Osogbo on the exiting administration of Adegboyega Oyetola, who had left office about three weeks before the event where the PDP chief spoke.
He practically dashed Osogbo, the title of the darkest state capital, and assured his audience that the Adeleke administration that was just settling in would correct the anomaly and return lights to Osogbo streets. The governor’s nickname is ‘Imole,’ meaning light.
His words were, “We drove around this town (Osogbo); everywhere was darkness, and the town was very dirty because you do not have leaders. When they left the government), they removed even kitchen utensils, including furniture. Ademola Adeleke will have to buy a new bed. That government was an army of occupation.”
Between December 2022, and now, the situation has not improved as the street lighting has remained a luxury too expensive for the residents to have.
For first-time visitors arriving in Osogbo late in the evening, the tag of the darkest state capital affixed to it by Ayu would not be controverted. It is almost impossible to see up to two metres whenever darkness, in its majesty, descends on the land.
The situation, which is serving as an enabler of criminal activities in many parts of Osun State capital, with evildoers covering themselves with darkness to have a field day, has been further aggravated by the poor power supply to the residents by the power distribution company.
The darkness across the land has also effectively affected business activities, with many economic activities that should ordinarily be on till the early hours of the next day having to shut down in fear.
From the East to West bypass to the Gbongan/Osogbo/Ikirun/Kwara boundary Road down to the Osogbo/Iwo Road, residents have been silently lamenting the situation with no change in sight.
However, Mr Remi Omowaiye, who served in the Oyetola administration as the Commissioner for Works and Transportation, said the lights on the streets in Osogbo, especially, were partially functioning when the administration exited government.
Omowaiye, who advised the Adeleke administration to face the task before it by improving the infrastructure it inherited, further said, “We flag off the light-up Osun project, and the concept is to put street lights in on the major roads in Osun.
“Phase one was concentrated in Osogbo; we changed the streetlights from Abeere, Okefia, and Old Garage to Government House, which are solar-powered ones. We called it a hybrid because, for some, they are powered by electricity from a power distribution company, while for others, they are solar. From Okefia to the Old Garage and from Okefia to the Government House and Alekuwodo area, they are solar-powered.
“The concept of hybrid is because we knew it wouldn’t be easy to migrate from electricity to solar at once, but unfortunately, we couldn’t continue with the project because of the funding issue. We were regularly maintaining the street lights despite having challenges with vandals, who stole the cables occasionally.
“At the exit, we have a sizeable number of them that are still functioning. The solar ones need maintenance, and we normally do the maintenance every three to six months by cleaning the panel (solar surface) because once the cleaning is done, there is no way it will charge. Our successor should rise up to the challenge and improve upon what he inherited from those in government before he came.”
Meanwhile, traders in the town have been counting their losses caused by the reduction in hours available for them to operate before closing business and have demanded the quick return of street lighting to Osogbo.
A trader in Ogo-Oluwa Area, along Osogbo-Gbongan Road, Yemisi Olaoore, who deals in soft drinks, said twice in September that she had to close shop before 7 pm following an attack by some hoodlums who laid siege to some business premises in the area.
According to her, previously, when streetlights were working, criminal activities were not as recurring as they are now, and she blamed the situation on the darkness that was providing a shield for criminal elements to operate freely.
Olaoore further disclosed that before the streetlights stopped working, she usually closed for the day’s business by 9pm, “but now, I dare not remain in the building beyond 6.45pm. The situation is becoming unbearable, and it was not like this in the years gone by.
“Since last year, street lighting along the road (Osogbo/Gbongan Road) has not been functioning. At times, by 6.30pm, everywhere would be dark, and we would hurriedly start packing our goods back into the warehouse.
“We dread nightfall now. Before June, the situation was not this bad because many businesses and residential buildings along the corridor could afford to power their generating sets, limiting the effects of the absence of street-lighting.
“But now, only a few could afford the cost of petrol and diesel for generators. This reality has left us with the only option of early business closure to prevent untoward happenings. We are not happy about it, but we don’t have other options. We implore the government to look at the situation and restore the light on the roads in Osogbo.”
Speaking separately but in a similar vein, a food vendor inside Iwo motor park in Oke-Fia, Osogbo, Awawu Orelope, a pharmacy shop operator in Ayetoro Area, and a music promoter operating a shop in the Old Garage area of the town, Peter Ogundoyin, said limited business hours were affecting their income.
Ogundoyin, who said his kind of business enjoys better patronage in the evening when people must have closed in their various workplaces and are in a mood for relaxation, noted that only the presence of police operatives close to his shop could make him extend his operation hour to 7.30pm.
“Because of the kind of business I am doing, I usually stay till 10pm playing different music to attract customers. But since January this year, I have been closing early because by 7pm, it will be dark and you can hardly see beyond 20 feet from where you stand. Old Garage is like the heart of Osogbo because it is the last bus stop for passengers coming into the town.
“Before now, the street lighting was working, and everywhere would be lit up in the evening. The confidence to walk around would be high. The situation is not the same presently. By 7pm, everywhere is dark.
“There is always fear of attack in the area where there is darkness. I have been closing earlier than usual owing to this situation. But at times, whenever I observe that police operatives from Dugbe Police Division are on patrol, I will extend my operation hour to around 7.30pm,” Ogundoyin said.
Also commenting, a commercial mini-bus operator in Osogbo, Yemi Ajetumobi, said darkness in the town was also negatively affecting those in the transport business.
Ajetumobi said most evenings, unlike before, there would not be passengers on the road, as people would have returned home early, except for a handful that were arriving in town late.
He said, “Many of us have lived in many big cities before returning home to work here. Osogbo is too dark in the evening, and only the government can rescue us from the negative effects of this situation by restoring street lighting.
“Many cab drivers retire home early now because, by 7 pm, there will not be passengers on the road again. There may be other reasons for this, but darkness on the streets is a major contributor to this situation.”
Responding to a question on the effects of the absence of street lighting on policing in Osogbo, especially around evening time, the Command’s Public Relations Officer, Yemisi Opalola, said notwithstanding the absence of street lighting, operatives were usually stationed in areas considered hotbeds for crimes.
“With or without street lighting, we have been deploying operatives to all those areas where we know we should have a presence across the town. That has kept crime within the metropolis and across the state under check,” Opalola said.
Unveiling his over N100bn infrastructure plan for the state, Adeleke said he knew streets in the state, particularly Osogbo, were in darkness due to a non-functioning street-lighting system.
Adeleke, who disclosed plans to put lights on streets in all major towns in the state, said special attention would be given to Osogbo in the project.
He said, “We are to install streetlights in all major towns, especially Osogbo as the state capital. This is important to enhance security surveillance and boost the night economy.”
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