OLUWASEUN LONIMI BABATUNDE
As the general elections of 2019 is approaching, political activities are increasing by the day, and needless to say, governance has pushed further down the priorities list at both federal and state level. The desperation of politicians for power is at an all time high, not even the relatively unhealthy 75 years old man is hiding his desperation to retain his seat in 2019, despite that many think (considering his government's disappointing performance) that it would serve both him and the country better if he steps down after 29th May, 2019. This is not the purpose of writing this piece, but it is not unhelpful for proper understanding of it.
The now famous music house which is owned by popular musician Yinka Ayefele which houses the much loved Freshfm 105.9 at challenge in Ibadan became the biggest subject in the media (print, electronic and social) last week when news had it that the oyo state government, led by senator Abiola Ajimobi, had issued a demolition notice to the (music house) management. Naturally, it became a hit in the news, especially on social media, with views divided into at least three groups. A group has people who think it is wrong and wicked for the government to demolish the structure(with reasons like, the owner is a disabled who defied the odds and succeeded even where able bodied men have not, the jobs he has created with the various businesses he runs in the building etc), a second group has those on the side of the government who think it was right for the government to demolish the structure, and a last group of people who are on the fence and think the necessary things should be done according to the dictate of the law of the land. This last group is not exactly for or against the proposed demolition, bearing in mind the various issues involved. It was reported that the management of the music house had approached the court to intervene since it had (so the management claims) the necessary approvals from government on the structure. One cannot help wondering why any government would give such approvals for a building in such location. Legally, the demolition should have waited till the court of law hears and rules on the case, but in the early hours of Sunday, 19th August 2018, the government's bulldozer had arrived and demolished a part of the structure before it was dawn, obviously to avoid crisis which could have happened if the demolition was done in daylight while people watched.
The management of the music house had claimed that the demolition was done simply because it's radio station, Freshfm, has refused to do the government's bidding of not broadcasting things relatively dimming the image of the government, it does not matter whether the broadcast is factual or not. The management claims that the government has on several occasions appealed, lobbied, and warned the radio station to desist from such unfavorable broadcast, but since it became evident that the station would not dance to the government's tune it became, rather unwisely, necessary to prove that the government could do as it wills and intimidate/punish anyone who is seen as threat to the government's image. According to the music house management, Mr Toye Arulogun state commissioner for information, is the main man behind the government's action. The management of the music house had reported that it was given a three day notice to vacate the building or have their equipment destroyed with the building, a very unrealistic and mean notice bearing in mind the kinds, size and volume of such equipments, especially with the businesses housed in the building, among which include a recording studio, event management outfit, radio station etc. At least a week or more could have been given to properly vacate the building.
On the order hand, the government claims to have invited the management of the music house to come forth with relevant documents to prove that the building was a legal one, but the invitation was never honoured, and that this has been on since mid 2017, with reminders sent over time before the final notice of demolition. The government also said that it had received several petitions from members of the public on the building, petitions claiming that lots of accidents had happened in that area and that the music house was a major cause of such accidents because of its location in the middle of the road. It is however interesting that few or no of such accident has been reported including the about ten years that the building has been there. Has it also been reported that any vehicle ever ran into the building, despite its critical location? It should be recalled that about three years ago, the same government of senator Abiola Ajimobi had proposed to demolish the structure for the same reasons given now, but stopped it after much deliberation and intervention from people. After that, the governor had gone for an interview in the building and said it in the radio station that he was happy his government did not go ahead with the demolition and also acknowledged and applauded the management for having "the best radio station studio he had seen as at then". He had also encouraged them to keep up the good work they were doing. One now wonders why the governor and his government took the current decision of demolishing the structure.
Now, it is important to note that the demolition was going to happen someday, considering the location of the building right in the middle of a major road. If the current government did not do it, another government would do it in the future, there is no disputing that. Having decided against demolition three years ago, it would have been wise for the senator Abiola Ajimobi government to leave the building and let another government do the demolishing. The right thing to do three years ago after the compromise was to have given the building management an ultimatum of some 3,4 or 5 years to vacate the building, with both parties signing an agreement to that effect, failure of which should have resulted in the inevitable demolition. The government did not do that. Also, the music house management should have thought about relocating after the events of three years ago, and begin the process immediately. It would have been an easier, properly planned and executed project and which would have averted the current unpleasant situation.
The governor was later reported, in a viral video by BBC Yoruba, saying that people were shouting that his government acted badly with the action, obviously displeased and uneasy with the criticism that followed the demolition. He was seen in the video saying that Yinka Ayefele did not obey the law with the building, asking if being disabled was a license to act against the law., and also rubbishing the talk of the jobs created by the owner of the building, comparing him to armed robbers, who also employ workers.
The radio station is back on air after a short break on that Sunday of the demolition, definitely from another location. But, it cannot be overemphasized that that building cannot stay there and it would be legally, economically and common-sensically(if there is any word like that) wrong to try renovate and reoccupy it. The management would do well by getting another structure in a noncontroversial location. If the management truly has the necessary approvals from government, then it should approach the courts and press for damages.
The government has said it demolished only a part of the structure, the extension, whatever that means and for what reasons. It would certainly be wrong if the whole building is not pulled down as this would only affirm the claim of the music house management, that it was only an act aimed at intimidating Freshfm and sending signal to other media houses to not dare the government in future. This is going to be a wrong precedence because press freedom is an essential part of a democracy, and it is one of the reasons for the freedom of information act passed by the national assembly. Aside the many troubles facing the governor and his party APC in oyo state, this is one huge mistake by the senator Abiola Ajimobi led APC government that should have been avoided in the run up to the 2019 general elections.
The recently just concluded peace meeting held yesterday has been described by many as a failed attempt at damage control, following the backlash the demolition generated for the government. Many have even described the issue as the last nail on the coffin of APC in oyo state.
Will governor Ajimobi and the Oyo APC survive and surmount this grave mistake and retain tenancy in the Agodi government house come 2019? Only time will tell.
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