FEATURE ARTICLE

Saturday, April 6, 2019
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OGUNPA AND THE MONEY BARONS

n the beginning… Actually, in the late 1960s, the University of Ibadan leased land in Bodija and parceled it out for purchase by faculty and staff. The intellectuals planned their new land, submitted blueprints to the Housing Corporation for approval, and upon approval, built grand houses with beautiful gardens and decorative fences. They avoided Ogunpa river's tributaries and springs. Both the new homeowners and the river co-existed peacefully. Then the intellectuals died and passed on their houses to their children.

Now, in the real beginning, there was Ogunpa, one of the rivers traversing the mighty hills of Ibadan. According to geologists, Ogunpa's source is in Ashi/Bodija; from there, it winds through the city. As wont deity, Ogunpa flows where it will, calmly in the dry season and boundless in the rains.

Once upon a time, it received the worship it deserved but modernization brought a disregard and utilitarian jaundice. With no sanitary or environmentally-friendly alternatives, the river became a refuse dump, car wash, sludge disposal, and public toilet. As the city's population grew denser, so did the atrocities against Ogunpa.

Enter the money barons. They bought from the kids, the houses the intellectuals carefully planned and built. Some tore them down to erect banks, supermarkets, and other commercial ventures. Others constructed mansions flaunting their new-found wealth - the politician, the customs officer, and the business man who struck gold skimming off federal contracts. They filled Ogunpa's springs with cement and dammed the tributaries.

"This area is not zoned for commercial buildings," the remnant of the intellectuals complained, "you're violating the code." They reported the miscreants to the housing authorities. When the parched housing inspector came around, the money barons fed him. They gave him transportation funds, so he could flee the scorching sun roasting the bricklayers constructing their edifices to avarice.

Now, in the dry season, Ogunpa appears no bigger than a stream at Ashi, Tewogbade, Salami Estates, and environs. But come the rains, se, se, se on the rooftops, and Ogunpa roars into abundance. Joined by its tributaries and springs, the river floods. Trackers tell us Ogunpa flooded its banks in 1960, 1963, 1977, 1978, 1980, 2011, and 2012.

After ten hours of rain which caused tremendous flooding in 1999, the Oyo State government embarked on the Channelization project. Its aim was to demarcate the river's banks and to channel its meandering. The project, split by several kilometers, was awarded to different companies. Some executed the project, others absconded with the award.

When the rains begin, as in yesteryears, the money barons like other Ibadan indigenes and the business man who struck gold skimming off federal contracts, flock to their houses of worship to pray Ogunpa would not flood.

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