No spare time for Ibadan spare parts dealers


Visiting the automobile and metal scraps market at Agodi Gate in Ibadan brought back fond memories I’ve had in the past in the ever-busy market. I saw men of all ages – old and young – create masterpieces from scraps.

I was in awe when I saw how a young man (around 16 years old) held an obviously heavy hammer; he repeatedly hit a badly damaged door of a SUV car with it and his face lit up with smiles when the door got well shaped and ready for “spraying”.
Beside him, one of the veterans in the market was doing something that he described as more technical; he was trying to delicately remove parts of a “written-off” Toyota car he said were very scarce in the market.
“You can never see the original type of these parts in the market and they are very expensive which is why they are some of the things we will first remove before we allow anyone to lay hands on the car,” he said.
He said he has been in the market for about 25 years and nothing much has changed in terms of operations, administration and governance.
“This place is not just a market, it is a community,” he said.”Unlike elsewhere that the appointed leaders are just representative, the leaders here are very powerful and influential which is why you cannot really be in this market without being obedient and do as they say.”
State and market politics
Prior to the last general elections, I visited the market on another assignment but I couldn’t help but notice the numerous posters and paraphernalia of Governor Adebayo Alao-Akala. It was more intriguing to note that the posters of other contestants were not seen in the market. Furthermore, Akala’s administration did some road construction in the market and in return, I guess he enjoyed the support of the market leaders thus marking the market Akala territory.
For the incumbent administration however, there are no strong supporters of the governor in the market – at least those that could paste posters everywhere – and interactions with the members of the market community revealed that he has not done much to gain their unalloyed support.
Like several other uneducated respondents I’ve interacted with in the past on their assessment of the governor, a cross-section of them said unlike his predecessor, Gov Abiola Ajimobi is not “spraying” money.
“The governor is not spraying more for us like Akala. He has never been here and we have come to accept that he does not want to have anything to do with us. He will meet us there in 2015,” man who called himself Taju said.
According to him, when Akala was in power, he visited the market severally and donated large sums of money that gotten to a lot of people in the market; he however added that money was not the main issue they have against the governor.
“He has totally abandoned us and he is doing as if he doesn’t really need us. Even if you won’t give us everything or anything, at least come around and let people know you care. His house is just across the road and he uses sirens when he drives by, yet he is too busy to visit us,” Taju told me.
Government’s presence
Even though many of the market men and women said the market has been abandoned by the government which they said continues to collect revenues, Ibadan North East Local Government under Hon. Lukman Alatise last year (2013) constructed a reinforced concrete pedestrian bridge at CAC Omitade-Onipasan area that leads to the market. Apart from this bridge, nothing else was seen in the market that could be attributed to the state government.
I spoke to Dapo Lam Adesina, Oyo state commissioner for industry, science and technology on what his ministry has done, is doing and/or plans to do for the market he said his ministry has nothing to do with – hence for – the market.
“It is not under the ministry; it is directly under the ministry for trade and investment,” he said.
With this information I got in touch with the state commissioner for trade and investment. But at the time of filing this report, the commissioner (or rep) was yet to respond.
No information and explanation from the government on the fate of the market under the incumbent administration is an eye-opener that puts the fate of those working in the market in sharp perspective considering the numerous challenges that the market is battling with.
Things that are wrong
The market in its entirety is an environmental travesty – the structures are dilapidated and the roads are bad, oil and greasy – simply not conducive for motorists. The market’s level of sanitation is abysmally low while the hygiene condition in the market is awful.
Most of those working there said they urinate and defecate in the flowing river which joins a major river that provides water for several human activities and an aquatic niche that includes fishes. The roads are untidy, dirty and ‘unkempt’ – there were broken glasses everywhere – which made me ask whether environmental officers and sanitary inspectors had ever visited the market before, especially the riverside.
I also saw many people working right in the center of the road. Right there I understood one of
the reasons why the road didn’t last long – I also understood what Folusho Philips, Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer of Philips Consulting meant when he urged Oyo state government to look inward to what the state has instead of joining the come-and-invest-here bandwagon that Nigerian banks, governments and states are doing on CNN.
Potentials of the market
Even though the state government through the science and technology is considering Oyo state’s own Computer Village, Oyo state cannot set one up that would be bigger and more popular than the one in Lagos – at least not in the short term. What is possible – and feasible – is the transformation of the spare parts market into West Africa’s hub for automobile parts, both locally made and the imported ones.
Even though Lagos has Ladipo Market, the scrap market in Ibadan will be a more effective magnet to the various foreign automobile companies will readily set up megastores where automobile users could procure original spare parts. This is even much needed now that the federal government has lured several car manufacturing companies to Nigeria!
If the governor wants to embark on a project that would create more jobs – and make more people enjoy the largesse of his administration, rejuvenation of the market and similar communities across the city.
Most of the people in the market are those that could be said to belong to the popular economic class called ‘the masses’ in the city – from the man selling plugs very close to the mosque to the woman selling koko under the tree at the riverside. The projects they would appreciate are not the ones such as Agodi Gardens and Fourpoint Hotel that would make them spend more; it is those projects that would put more money in their pockets.
Akala understood them clearly – even though he didn’t do much to bring the world to the scraps market – a place that is a potential goldmine for the state and the city, he gave the people in the market a sense of belonging and worked with the leaders.
Gov Ajimobi can surpass this if he wants to – but the question is can he – or will he reach out to help save the market and win over some of the people that stand between him and his second term ambition? These people are Ibadan’s neglected (and angry) ones who patiently await the opportunity to shatter the governor’s hopes for victory at the polling booth.


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