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OTA BRIDGE 'COMMOTION': AN EYE WITNESS ACCOUNT

By NBF News

In the morning of Thursday July 10, a from the Next newspaper called to ask if I was aware of the proposed commissioning of the fly over bridge at Sango Ota, Ogun state. I told him that I was not. He informed me that the opening of the bridge was slated for that day.

Promptly, I told him that I would like to go with him, having been documenting the works there for quite some time. I took delight in seeing the commissioning of the project which has been prolonged, but the event turned out to be a 'COMMOTION' courtesy of Ogun State Governor Otunba Gbenga Daniel and minister of workds .

According to my colleague, the commissioning was slated for 2pm. So we decided to be there at 1pm in order to witness some side attractions.

As we were about to set out, another colleague from The Guardian also called to indicate interest in joining us. So we waited a while before proceeding to the event. As we approached Abule Egba, another colleague from The News/PM News also asked us to wait for him, so we stopped at a filling station there to refuel. Twenty minutes later he joined us and we got to Sango.

As we approached the Lagos end of the bridge, we drove to the Police station where we parked our vehicle. The officer on duty was very friendly. We explained our mission and he allowed us to park while we went to the event. From the foot of the bridge on the Lagos end we started taking pictures at various angles till we got to the other end on Abeokuta road, where there were canopies erected for the event.

As a journalist, I have developed the ability to sense trouble anywhere I go for assignment before they occurred. With my observations when I got to the venue of the event that day, I tried to analyze the situation and concluded that there was trouble lurking around. So, I informed my colleagues that there would be trouble there.

On a closer look at the seating arrangement, with the tags on them, I discovered that Mr. Speaker's seat was not reserved! There was one reserved for the Governor covered with Tarpaulin. Before long, 'area boys' started moving around in different groups displaying and smoking away some hard stuff with impunity. Some broke bottles and threw the remnants into the waiting crowd of people!

Although, women and other politicians were drumming away their agony of waiting endlessly in the scorching sun. All of a sudden, a man whom I later learnt is an aspirant to the House of Reps. emerged surrounded by thugs. A colleague from Ogun State was quick to inform us that we have not seen anything yet, ' this is a tip off the iceberg of what we encounter on a daily basis in Ogun state' he said.

At about 4.20 pm, we noticed people surging forward while others ran away from the venue in different directions in fear. This was followed by the deafening wailing of a siren signaling the arrival of the Ogun state Governor Otunba Gbenga Daniel to the event. As he danced to the seat with his trade mark smiles and songs from the crowd, he also joined in the disparaging songs against the Speaker.

He finally settled down at 4.24 p.m. flanked on the left by the Minister, Senator Sanusi Mohamed Daggash. After the Minister addressed the gathering, it was followed immediately by the Governor who also used the opportunity to throw more salvos of slithering words on the person of the Speaker, while praising the erstwhile President for the role played in the construction of the bridge.

By 4.54 p.m, there was a huge crowd coming from the top of the bridge and this time one did not need to ask, as shouts of BANKOLE rented the air. The governor cut short his speech and moved down to commission the bridge with the Minister, even when Bankole was already at the venue. Even after the commissioning or 'COMMOTIONING', the governor did not acknowledge the speaker. He and the minister moved to the Coaster Bus that brought the duo from Abeokuta.

This I suspect irked the Honourable Speaker and he could smell mischief so he asked his aides to call on the Minister who surprisingly rebuffed him! So Bankole moved into the bus himself, we saw him in the front dashboard of the bus, that's what we could see from outside. By this time the atmosphere was charged with fear of attacks from both parties! So other dignitaries including the Oba Olota of Ota and others towed the line of the antelope and fled!

When Bankole alighted from the bus, there was relief.

Confident of his good relationship with the people, Bankole took time to drive round the bridge with the teeming crowd of admirers till 5.31 pm . But my pertinent questions are these: Who was supposed to commission the bridge when the speaker was present? In nomenclature of authority, who is the Minister responsible to, the Governor who is number one in his state or the speaker who is number four Citizen of Nigeria? If the speaker had no specific function to perform at the commissioning, why waste his time by inviting him to come? Even if he was to be a special guest of honour, why not accord him that respect?

Ashamu is a photo journalist based in Lagos