OPINION: From Grace To Grass: A Chronicle Of How Saraki, Ahmed Turned Our Amusement Park Into An Amusing Park. By Abdullah Abdulganiy
The Ilorin Amusement Park situated along the Unity-Taiwo axis used to be a rendezvous for all manner of merriments, enjoyments and entertainments. Established in the 80's/90's, it was unarguably a heritage Ilorin, and by extension, Kwara State could always boast of come rain come shine. Saying this institution received a huge patronage which means an increase in the state's revenue is needless as it was an open secret.
Usually, my festive period, just like that of many other kiddies, was incomplete without a visit to this park. Indeed, it was a place to behold. I can recall vividly that whenever I went for Ileya in my hometown, Kwara, I always aspired to visit the park. The gate fee then used to be around N50. It was in this park my trajectory of learning how to ride a bicycle started as they were always in multitude for whoever wished to rent. The playground also used to receive me in audience as I found many kiddies like me catching fun therein. In fact, after gaining entrance into the park, I wouldn't come out until we were coerced to do. This is to show how interesting the amusement park used to be.
Were the late Lawal, Adisa, Idiagbon, Saraki and many others to wake up from their resting points, the sorry state of the park would make them jolted and ululate like a baby relieved of his lollipop. In fact, what will make them wail the loudest is how the amusement park had been turned into a parking lots, toilet and dumpsite of sorts. How a tourist and recreation centre they left functioning well and fine had transmogrified into a deserted area and forest so soon will amaze these men of yore. In fact, were they to wake up today, they will express doubt in the reality of that place being used as a park hitherto as it has now turned out to be a bush.
A spot that used to attract people from within and without the shores of the state had been left to erode, corrode and dilapidate under the very nose of Dr Saraki alongside his co-traveler Mr Ahmed. This speaks a lot to the managerial ability of 'Sai leader' and his 'homeboy'. So, I walked past this park at the tail of last week and found out that it had become a graveyard. Silent. Dilapidated. Bushy. And whatnot. I therefore shook my head and asked if these people had not put the labour of our heroes past in vain.
Indeed, if there is any "bebe" Megida has done in Kwara as a jingle is wont to show, it is the continuation of the ugly trend of looking the other way - ably spearheaded by Saraki - whenever his attention was called to the state of quagmire of our state-owned structures. If he likes at times, he makes empty promises through his "Minister of Propaganda", Dr Femi Akorede. When in 2012, Ilorin.info, a renowned blog in the city of Ilorin, published an editorial titled (Revamping The Ilorin Metro Park), Akorede said that the state government was considering turning the amusement park into a 'shopping arcade' and 'modern amusement park'. Indeed, the park had not only become what he said, but it had also become a 'small London' so to speak. You can judge yourself after paying a visit to the park what kind of integrity this man and his principal parade.
Barely a month, Ahmed Yaqub raised a serious concern on how Kwara State is wrestling with structural-infrastructural deficiencies using KWEPA as a case study. Verily, the moribund state of the amusement park is also a testament to his claim. Nothing is seemingly cheery about the state-owned structures in Kwara. From our schools, to our hospitals, to our courts, to our ministries, to our commissions, down to our agencies and many more, all are simply begging for a complete overhaul. You may disagree. All you need to do is to go to our Fire Service.
The pathetic thing, however, is that our governor-general and governor had been looking the other way. The more they are reminded of the decaying state of our structures, the quicker they are to make comparison with Lagos, a state that had left Kwara behind in terms of infrastructural development and overall development though created in the same year. Pray, what have we done to be meted with this? Since Ahmed had raised this concern, the Kwara State Government had not reacted – either to compliment or debunk – to his expose. This is what is expected of a serious government that is worth its salt.
Abdullah is a Lagos-based social analyst. Reach him via 08090637356.