Well over a million people live in the Toluwalase community of Oyo State, according to the residents. But the 2006 census, which forms the baseline for population estimates in Nigeria, did not capture this sprawling community. The people were however less worried about this markdown until it started manifesting bigger problems.
The ICIR’s Kunle Adebajo, who on Saturday, August 25 was shown around this neglected community, reports about the anguish, grievances, and prayers of the residents.
S.O. Fasina wears the look of frustration as he narrates the story of his people. He calls them the Bakassi, a reference to the famous peninsula whose inhabitants’ nationality was a subject of debate between Nigeria and Cameroon. The difference here is his people are not on the border between two countries; they are instead on the border between two local governments — and neither is fighting for them or willing to let them go. They are a forgotten people.
Fasina is the chairman of the landlords and landladies association of Toluwase, a sprawling community of houses, and thousands of inhabitants, but no government. He has told the same story of government negligence over and over in the past, using different platforms. But as no steps have been taken by administrations, past and present, he is excited about the opportunity to tell it again, hoping it triggers changes.
Toluwalase community is flanked by Ido and Akinyele Local Government areas in Oyo State, but neither belongs to nor has benefited from either. It has four regions (Believers’ Quarters, Osajin, Lakoto, and Masoke) all made up of thirteen zones.
Sitting in the company of peers along the Apete-Awotan road, the septuagenarian, Fasina, explains that the community has been abandoned for years by the local and state governments. During the census of 2006, he recalls, enumerators he brought from Apete and Ajibode told him his community is not on the map given to them and so could not be counted. As a result, they have been deprived of the benefits from the government.
The roads are mostly untarred, the houses are without addresses and the community is without a healthcare centre. There are no public primary and secondary schools. No government-funded transformers or electric poles. No public infrastructure. No polling stations, and no voter registration centres. Residents are forced to register in neighbouring towns such as Akufo, while their votes are often counted under ward 7 of Akinyele Local Government. Toluewalase is a community without any trace of existence in the government record.
For over an hour, Fasina takes this reporter around various parts of Toluwalase in his cream, old-model Volkswagen wagon. “If the road isn’t in this condition, will our cars get damaged easily?” he asks rhetorically as he diverts away from the Apete road towards Idi-Oro. “Can we even say asphalt has been applied here?”
Five minutes later, we arrive at Transformer junction which leads to the University of Ibadan. Passing through the junction is a road, recently funded and reconstructed under the World Bank’s Ibadan Urban Flood Management Programme.
According to the Landlords Association Chairman, the contractors initially assured him that Saasa River was covered under the project’s second phase, as confirmed by the contract signpost. However, now that that phase has started, he says, they say it is no longer the case.
“They said we should write to the state government. We have done so, but they have not responded till this time,” he says.
We repair roads, create gutters by ourselves
Shortly after picking up other members of the association along the way, including a former chairman, Paul Oladeji, Fasina remarks that people of the community make their roads motorable by improvising with wood etc. They also dig all their gutters by themselves, with the quality depending on how much each house owner is able to afford.
Members of Ore-Ofe zone once had to raise N150,000 to create rainwater channels on the road in order to prevent erosion, one of the middle-aged arrivals say. Soon, we arrive at on ongoing repair site along an untarred road. That section of the road, residents say, was completely washed away by the river.
Cars were grounded at the spot for several months and could not proceed to their destinations. But earlier in 2018, money was raised to buy four truckloads of stones among other materials used in filling up the gap.
“That car that passed spent close to two months here before we started repairing,” says Fasina, pointing towards a red Toyota Camry that just zoomed past the group.
“It parked when it could no longer move. The people of this community, in fact, had to employ the services of a hunter exclusively to secure vehicles parked, so that thieves won’t remove valuable spare parts from them.”
Even without natural disasters, unavoidable vehicle parking is a common sight in this neighbourhood. People who live in more remote areas often park closer to the outskirts and then board commercial motorcycles to get to their homes.
Cement blocks are piled at various parts of a road. According to Fasina, they are placed there temporarily to allow for the route to become drier and more drivable, after which they will be collected for further conveyance. He also reveals that electric wires and poles skirting the road were all bought by the people of the community. “We bought that transformer too,” he adds, pointing ahead.
After minutes of driving through Ifokanbale, one of the inner zones in Toluwalase Community, the car has to turn back due to a lack of passable road networks. Countless structures can still be seen stretching far into the horizon.
The association chairman could not help lamenting: “How are we supposed to know a government exists when it is not doing what it is supposed to do? And they say it is government by the people, for the people… It is a blatant lie. In a country where there are so many material resources, the people should be comfortable; but the reverse is the case. What they share among the people is affliction.”
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