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Remembering Olaleye, the slum that produced Odiye, Okoku, different sport stars | The Guardian Nigeria Information

Godwin Odiye

• The key pains of former residents
• How the group produced three Tremendous Eagles gamers in 5 years, nationwide, African champion in desk tennis
• Abass Akande ‘Obesere’ acquired his groove in Olaleye

June in Olaleye Village was often flooded. It was often a month of cloudy skies and heavy tropical downpours, with youngsters enjoying soccer within the rain. The deafening thunderclaps and lightning by no means disturbed the children.

One raining morning, August 14, 2008, raging bulldozers, guided by a troop of well-armed and fight prepared males, patiently tore down the constructions in the neighborhood. From Church Avenue to Igbehin Adun and Adeleye, Igbajo to Aliu, Sadiku to Buraimoh streets, Shomade Lane to Railway Line, each home was introduced down.

Twelve years after the village grew to become rubble, a brand new group has sprung as a substitute, with recollections of the outdated fading to historical past.

Fidelis Lemchi Owoamanam had attended his Alma Mata, Jibril Martin Memorial Grammar Faculty’s get collectively at Iponri when he determined to see what had grow to be of Olaleye on December 12, 2020.

In every single place was abandoned. Apart from a number of folks, who nonetheless had their property across the rail crossing that led to Abule Nla Street, the place regarded unusual.

He paused for a second. He was shocked in every single place had modified. Olaleye Neighborhood Corridor was now the gate of a brand new group.

“I couldn’t imagine what I noticed,” he mumbled, biting down on his backside lip. Owoamanam was strolling round what had grow to be his misplaced heritage, when he noticed this younger woman dishing meals to her prospects. She had briefly grow to be the cook dinner for everyone taking refuge on the rail line. He knew her approach again in Olaleye.

A bunch of younger boys — 4 of them — encircled this younger woman who was the village belle in outdated Olaleye. The boys steeled themselves with swigs of native gin. One in every of them was the preferred. He was referred to as Presido — His loose-fitting shirt gaping open to disclose his chest. The left leg of his trousers was rolled as much as the knee and his proper shirt was additionally rolled as much as the elbow.

“Give your boys one thing,” certainly one of them advised Owoamanam. Olaleye was the place he had his adolescence. He lived there between 1975 and 1995.

“My 20 years reminiscence of Olaleye had pale like tiny echoes,” Owoamanam, a College of Lagos-trained sociologist and former Managing Director on the defunct Nationwide Mirror Newspapers, advised The Guardian.

For 20 years, he and 7 different relations shared a small, dingy room. “As soon as it rained, we’d crouch spherical a small area, looking for shelter, because the mirthless sky cracked its whip,” Owoamanam recalled.

As he turned his again to stroll away, the distinction that life might make simply got here flooding. Owoamanam’s thoughts went again 11 years. He had acquired a misery name from his aunty, Mrs. Ogoke that Olaleye had been destroyed.

Owoamanam threw a look at them and out of shock introduced out cash from his pocket and gave them some. When he got here from his village Ezike, Isiala Mbano, Imo State, in 1975, Olaleye was an entire rural space. It was referred to as Abule Baba Egun. There was no storey constructing, and zinc homes dotted in every single place. Kids performed round bare and bucket latrine was the usual. The neighbourhood was smelly and disgusting. Public urination wasn’t frowned upon there. It was fairly frequent to see each women and men defecating within the open or wherever they discovered handy by the canal.

SITUATED in Lagos Mainland Council, Olaleye Village was a creation of circumstance and it quickly grew to become a haven for low and no earnings earners.

The slum was positioned off Western Avenue, a serious artery that hyperlinks the mainland at Ebute Metta to the island. It was positioned very near Nigeria Breweries PLC. headquarters in Iganmu. The group was additionally intently linked to 2 main bridges that linked Island and Mainland Lagos — Carter and Eko Bridges.

In 1988, the Lagos State authorities reported 20,000 folks whereas a examine on the group printed in 2006, 22 years later, by a non-public planning marketing consultant reported 20,090 folks. Nevertheless, bearing in mind the inhabitants, land space and inhabitants density of the respective native authorities space, there have been estimated 46,814 folks in the neighborhood, primarily based on the annual development price of three.2 per cent.

Olaleye-Iponri was about 0.35316 km2 with a density of 132,558 individuals/km2. The 2 have been regularly merged through the years for administrative and political functions. They have been based about 191 and 143 years in the past (Olaleye Village round 1830, Iponri round 1878). The entire land space was initially owned by the Oloto Chieftaincy Household, which gave it as grants to a couple settlers who farmed and fished on it.

The settlements’ preliminary development started with the development of the varied phases of the railway line, significantly the extension to Apapa round Forties and Nineteen Fifties. This introduced the primary wave of migrants, who served as development employees, laborers and workers of the railways and the petty merchants got here from completely different a part of the town to commerce.

As on the time of demolition, the vast majority of the residents, 84 per cent, in the neighborhood have been renters whereas solely 12 per cent have been land house owners.

There was no clear baseline info on what existed in the neighborhood earlier than the primary stage of regeneration in 1984. Nevertheless, a transparent indicator of the standing of the group earlier than regeneration was that it was one of many 42 slums recognized in Lagos in 1983.

The classification of the group as slum in 1983 and the outline of the identical as shanties by the Lagos State authorities in 1988 interprets to a group with gross lack of primary infrastructure akin to well being, water, sanitation, power and transport. Supporting group amenities akin to a group centre, public area and inexperienced areas have been fully absent whereas there was extreme housing scarcity each in high quality and amount. The severity of bodily deterioration in the neighborhood remained one of many publicly declared justifications for presidency intervention in the neighborhood within the pre-regeneration period.

Earlier than the second part of regeneration which spans from 2000 to 2008 (8 years), the group witnessed the development of about two kilometres of street, a contemporary market constructed, two refuse homes and one kilometre of water mains. Nevertheless, housing, public area, sanitation, power and well being amenities remained farfetched in the neighborhood. Wanting again to the final 10-15 years, the group members ranked the next as most vital change in the neighborhood (consult with desk 1.26 under).

The slum, like Otumara Village, which is by the foot of Eko Bridge by Costain bustop, additionally referred to as Ilaje, was filthy and stinking. And all of this filth exacerbated public well being disaster. The waste was not flushed away; as an alternative it fell right into a pail or container beneath. It remained there till ‘evening soil males’, agbepo, as they have been referred to as, collected it.

Entry to scrub water and sufficient sanitation was equally a problem. As a result of this problem, inhabitants have been threatened with the unfold of illnesses akin to, diarrhoea and cholera.

Within the early days, residents typically hid within the cloak of the evening to observe evening soil males use rudimentary long-handled dippers or buckets to scoop waste right into a ready cart, crammed to the brims with uncooked human waste.

The early settlers, largely railway employees, have been, the truth is, in search of makeshift locations to relaxation after the day’s work, particularly since most of them couldn’t safe lodging in Railway Compound.

Many, like Owoamanam, idealised Olaleye Village. The Guardian investigations revealed that the persistent housing shortages within the Lagos metropolitan space, within the mid-80s, necessitated a radical departure from the time worn technique of whole slum clearance and resettlement of displaced individuals.

With its haphazard structure and insalubrious surroundings, Olaleye, like different slums throughout the Lagos metropolitan space, was a part of the implementation of the second part of the grasp plan for city renewal.

The Guardian gathered {that a} technique of whole city renewal for the Olaleye-Iponri space would nearly actually have resulted within the evacuation of current residents who couldn’t be anticipated to afford the value of newly laid out plots or first rate housing of the type public authorities and personal builders would select to construct.

Christian Siwobi, a former resident, stated, “this finally made approach for growth in the neighborhood, which was already turning into congested.”

The group’s panorama, particularly its nightlife, modified and the realm, which was often called the place the place folks ended their evening on mats exterior, was changed with transformed buildings. Zinc and wood homes have been changed and a few storey buildings sprang up in Aliyu, Buraimoh and Church streets.

Remigius Onyemaechi Eyeh, popularly referred to as ‘Professor’, a College of Calabar-trained political scientist and now a pastor in one of many Pentecostal church buildings in Apapa Street, Lagos Mainland Council, stated, “Olaleye’s inhabitants started to blow up within the Seventies when many low-income earners and people repatriated from Ghana started to settle there. Additionally, there have been those that moved in from Iponri after it was demolished to offer approach for Eko Bridge.”

Eyeh stated, “those that couldn’t afford to stay within the metropolis’s luxurious high-rises and even the numerous rundown housing developments wound up in Olaleye.”

Paul Okoku, ex-Tremendous Eagles participant, advised The Guardian, “I had the most effective expertise and a childhood enjoyable rising up in Olaleye. It supplied me with the platform to reach all of my endeavours. After all, this was true of my adolescent life to my maturity.”

In line with Rachael Ebru Yamala, an ex-Tremendous Falcon participant, who was within the feminine nationwide staff to 1991 Ladies World Cup, “in Olaleye Village, we cherished each other, cared for each other and regarded out for each other. We shared issues in frequent and we celebrated as one household. Throughout Christmas and New Yr intervals, you’ll hear music enjoying in nearly each road, as folks danced, merried and laughed collectively.”

Recalling her days in the neighborhood, she stated, “rising up there was pleasing. I bear in mind enjoying across the neighbourhood with my associates, who all occurred to be boys.”

The ex-international stated, “there was one factor I cherished: The bond all of us shared. Although the folks weren’t wealthy, bodily, they have been, of their hearts.”

In line with Yamala, “our mother and father by no means bothered to search for us as a result of they believed we have been secure on the market. We performed soccer, card video games (Whot), Ludo and advised tales whereas sitting on mats at evening.”

Wale Alade, a psychological well being nurse at Springsfield College Hospital, Southwest, London, stated, “the compound we lived in was made from face-to-face rooms resulting in an expanse of area referred to as the yard. Within the yard, all of the tenants had their very own customary spot in a communal kitchen. Within the large expanse of area sat a effectively that equipped water to tenants all yr spherical. The effectively was all the time below lock and key, a system designed to stop exterior neighbours coming in to poach water meant just for tenant’s use. To the proper of the effectively have been areas utilized by tenants for his or her laundry and the place cooking utensils have been washed.”

Alade stated, “At weekends, there have been typically jostle for areas to place out washed laundry on communal traces. Those that awakened early have been typically the fortunate ones. These jostles for area, as a rule, led to open quarrel and animosity. Nevertheless, by night, everybody would have left the yard for the entrance yard.”

He added, “on the entrance of the home, folks would sit on wood chairs; whereas many others could be loitering about. The pleasant, extra convivial family-like environment relaxed folks, a carnival like feeling then unfold round. From the older folks to younger ones, and even little youngsters, interactions have been on a stage by no means skilled anyplace.”

In line with him, “everybody mingled like they’re from the identical household. In the course of the night conferences, values have been taught, tales shared and experiences narrated in an open, sincere and frank method. Kids learnt from the older folks, and the older folks handed useful, life altering tales to the youthful ones.”

The psychological well being nurse stated he had no recollection whether or not anyone was denied something due to the place she or he got here from. “We lived and interacted with each other on the identical stage, virtually like brothers and sisters. That was the Olaleye Village I grew up in, the one that might later form my character and outlook on life.”

Christopher Nwabuzor, who performed skilled soccer in Morocco, additionally mirrored on the bond and the values the folks lived by saying, “Olaleye Village was a spot the place the group raised a baby.”

He added, “additionally, you will have a way of household with no organic relation. There may be all the time an everyday gathering collectively not solely in instances of celebrations and despair, however in help of each other… Simply merely understanding that somebody was there for you in moments of want, whether or not or not it’s to lend a serving to hand or simply merely reminding you of how a lot greatness you have got inside you.”

A former resident, Ayodele Ayeni, stated, “if I needed to stay my life once more, I’d select Abule, however will change some issues. We have been about 13, comprising my father, his two wives and 10 youngsters, dwelling in a single room. How we managed to outlive continues to be a thriller to me.”

Ayeni, a desk tennis participant in his days, stated, it was “a spot the place one other father requested you to convey your report card and have you ever disciplined with out you crying to your mother and father. The surroundings actually made me what I’m at present. I’m very comfy with any human being whether or not you’re good or unhealthy. I understand how to cope with folks I come throughout.”

Nwabuzor, who was in Casablanca, Morocco, when Olaleye was demolished, stated, “It was like part of me left. I don’t want to ever have that feeling ever once more.”

Siwobi advised The Guardian, “We knew then, like different demolished slums, the place could be changed into personal estates and properties.”

LIKE Ajegunle, Olaleye was famed for producing nice sportsmen. In the whole Lagos Mainland, it was reputed to have produced extra sportsmen.

In a spate of 5 years, Olaleye churned out three well-known stars for the Tremendous Eagles: Godwin Odiye, Paul Okoku and Christopher Anigala. In 1991, Tremendous Falcons had Rachael Yamala as a pioneer member.

Odiye was a neighborhood icon. Even whereas on Yusuff Avenue, he was quiet and unassuming, considerably an introvert, straight speaking particular person. The one place you discovered his ardour was on the sector.

Odiye made a number of appearances for the senior nationwide soccer staff, together with FIFA World Cup qualifying matches, and performed on the 1976 and 1980 African Cup of Nations finals. He’s well-known for scoring an personal purpose in a 1978 FIFA World Cup qualifying match towards Tunisia.

The US-based Okoku, popularly referred to as Fortunate, who lived on Railway Line, was within the Flying Eagles staff — the primary Nigerian staff to take part in any FIFA World Cup in Mexico, 1983. He was additionally within the Tremendous Eagles staff to the African Cup of Nations in Cote d’Ivoire, the place Nigeria positioned second behind the Indomitable Lions of Cameroun.

About the identical time as Okoku was Anigala, the Tremendous Eagles left winger, who got here in as a alternative for Humphrey Edobor after the late Commander Anthony Ikhazobor-led Nigeria Soccer Affiliation (NFA) banned six gamers of the Inexperienced Eagles for reporting late to camp. Anigala died in 2000 from undisclosed ailment after his go to residence.

FOR each Godwin Odiye that made the nationwide staff in soccer, there have been many others, who didn’t make the Eagles staff however have been equally gifted. Martin Onwuhai of the New Nigerian Financial institution, Benin Metropolis, was in Nigeria Soccer Affiliation chosen staff that performed towards the visiting Flamengo Soccer Membership of Brazil in 1980; Eugene Odiye was a rock of Gibraltar within the then Nigerian Airways staff, the Skypower. Eugene performed alongside Edward Ansar within the membership. The late Matthew Akeiti performed for First Financial institution Soccer Membership. He performed alongside Fatai Amoo, popularly often called ‘Arsenal’ and Pinner Abode, whereas Nwabuzor ended his skilled profession on the Sporting Membership Chabab de Mohammedia (SCCM) of Morocco.

Fredrick Yamala was an undisputed academical with the Yaba School of Expertise. He went on to grow to be the sports activities director of Yabatech. The late Monday Irabor performed skilled soccer with ACB.

Moreover soccer, the group additionally produced nationwide, Africa and commonwealth champion in desk tennis, Sunday Eboh. Eboh was a shocking and well-known sportster within the village. His exploits in desk tennis drove many into the sport. “All people used to go to Isale-Abule the place a younger man named Taju owned and operated a pay-to-play desk tennis outfit simply exterior his residence. Many younger boys honed their desk tennis abilities enjoying towards each other and sometimes engaged in betting rackets,” stated Alade.

There was Bridget Yamala, who represented Nigeria in handball on the Barcelona Olympics in 1992. In athletics, there was Ngozi Ohaechesi, who was a nationwide champion in 1,500 and three,000 metres between 1984 and 1988.

Edith Okere was the nationwide champion of Nigerian Railways Video games within the 80s for a few years. You’ll wonder if the slum had a longtime grassroots system, which inspired sports activities growth.

Yamala stated, “there was no particular subject the place athletes have been groomed. The folks of Olaleye cherished to participate in sporting actions. We had this ardour for sport, be it soccer, desk tennis, dash, basketball, we have been all the time there and did effectively in these sport video games. The folks have been obsessed with every little thing and have been pushed to reach no matter they did.”

Yamala advised The Guardian, “Olaleye Village was a spot the place stars have been born and made at tender age, all we did was simply play soccer on the road, and at a sure age, some tried to get golf equipment to affix and kick begin their careers from there.”

Alade added, “Sports activities and sporting occasions have been like glue that held the material of the group collectively.” He stated, “so far as I might inform, there was no explicit sports activities centre at Olaleye Village. The open areas obtainable between buildings, sufficiently big for a five-a-side have been used. Soccer occasions held at common intervals and it was frequent to see the show of uncooked and pure abilities. I imagine many notable sportsmen and ladies who grew out of Olaleye Village used these retailers as coaching venues the place their abilities and talents blossom. Afterward, they participated in semi-professional competitions in Fagbayimu and Fashina in Brickfield, Rowe Park Sports activities Centre at Yaba, Railway Compound (AP subject), Love Backyard Surulere and Campos Sq. in Lagos Island.”

ASIDE from sports activities, the group additionally had a praise of artists just like the late Enebeli Elebuwa, the Ishie Brothers, Steve James, the dance knowledgeable and former President of Dance Guild of Nigeria, Salome Eketunde of the Tremendous Story fame, Iyabo Alake, Fatimo Ajoke Cinderella, Abass Akande, popularly often called Obesere, was all the time shuttling between Otumara and Olaleye for his weekend jumps.

The Nigeria Media Advantage Award profitable journalist, Tony Okuyeme, additionally remembered the few years he spent in the neighborhood, he noticed expertise blossomed in these years. “I bear in mind I did loads of theatrical productions and was an everyday function in Tales By Moonlight, One Huge Household and Winds of Future.”

Like when a fisherman dies at sea and the loss of life remaining unexplained, with the physique by no means discovered and life quickly forgotten by the general public, Olaleye’s demolition has virtually grow to be as skid mark on the ocean.

“My silent remorse is that there isn’t any place I can take my youngsters to as the place I grew up,” stated Owoamanam.

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