When bulldozers deployed on the orders of the Oyo State Government descended on Music House owned by popular gospel musician, Yinka Ayefele, on Sunday, they left frustration and untold anguish in their wake. The Music House, which has become one of the most popular buildings in the ancient city of Ibadan since it was erected around the Challenge bypass 10 years ago, is home to Fresh FM, arguably the most followed radio station in Ibadan.
Reacting to the demolition of a large part of the building moments after on the same day, Ayefele lamented the move by the Oyo State Government, writing: “Oyo state government did at last…my pain my sweat…so help me God” as he shared a picture of the demolished building on Instagram.
The decision of the Governor Abiola Ajimobi administration to move into the location with bulldozers and officials as early as 4:30am on Sunday August 19, was the culmination of months of threats by the government which insists the building contravened the state’s planning laws. This became clear when on Monday, August 13, a three-day demolition notice was delivered at the Music House.
Sensing politics above anything else, Ayefele approached an Oyo State High Court sitting in Ibadan seeking to stop the planned demolition, with his counsel, Olayinka Bolanle, in an exparte motion filed before the court, seeking an order restraining the state government from demolishing the property pending the determination of the suit.
According to Bolanle, due process was followed in the construction of the structure while relevant approvals were obtained from the state’s departments and agencies associated with land and housing. Ruling, Justice I Yerima ordered the claimant to ensure service of the court process on the respondent while ad-journing the case till Monday for the hearing of the exparte motion. By the dawn of that Monday, Music House was no longer as it used to be with a large part of it already destroyed 24 hours earlier.
Apart from the three-day demolition notice which analysts including lawyers, real estate experts and human rights activists have described as untenable, the management of Fresh FM said members of staff were inside the building when the demolition began in the early hours of Sunday.
According to sources who spoke to Saturday Telegraph, Governor Ajimobi and top officials of Oyo State Government set their minds on teaching Ayefele a lesson after he reportedly said he couldn’t be begging God and also begging a man. According to Ayefele, Chairman/ CEO of Fresh FM, the demolition of his building boils down to an issue Governor Ajimobi and by extension, Commissioner for Information, Culture and Tourism in Oyo State, Toye Arulogun, has with Fresh FM.
That view was corroborated by sources at the Oyo State Government secretariat who said the commissioner orchestrated the demolition and the governor only granted the approval for the demolition to be carried out. However, the commissioner, who drove the bus of the Ministry of Information, Culture & Tourism himself to Channels TV for an early morning appearance on Wednesday, said many letters were written to the Music House but they didn’t get appropriate feedback.
He said he was surprised that Ayefele could put the blame on him when the action was as a result of a decision taken by the Oyo State Executive Council. Arulogun said several companies and government-owned entities such as University of Ibadan, Kola Daisi University, University College Hospital, banks and 26 other radio stations were asked to provide approved plans.
“The state government observed that property owners in the state are deviating from the originally approved building plans without seeking physical planning approvals from the Oyo State Bureau of Physical Planning and Development Control,” Arulogun said of the action which almost sparked a riot in the ancient city.
Offering the view of Fresh FM/Music House was Samson Akindele, the Head of News at Fresh FM, who debunked charges that they refused to engage government officials after they got letters or notices informing the management of Music House about certain infractions to the originally approved plan of the building.
Akindele said the letter urged them to come forward with documents and they did just that, so going ahead to demolish in the early hours of a Sunday is as clear a proof as there can be that the action was unjustified, in bad taste and based on vendetta.
Akindele said a letter purportedly signed by a member of staff of the radio station is invalid as it carries a date of acknowledgement that was a day before the date of issue while the signature of the person on it is unknown to all those who work at Fresh FM.
Akindele further said many people who have gone to town to paint a picture that a radio station on the premises was an afterthought had forgotten that Ayefele started out as a broadcaster although he made his name as a musician after the accident that confined him to the wheelchair many years ago.
So stunned were the people of Ibadan as many of them are still struggling to get over the demolition of Music House, which by virtue of ownership and activities going on there, stand along with most famous buildings like Mapo Hall, Cocoa House, Agodi Gate among others in Ibadan. From those walking past who are forced to wait for a few minutes just to get ample view of the demolished building to those who actually park their cars to take a few pictures and those just walking past, the shock remains visible on their faces.
Many, including those watching for hours even on the other side of the road going in the opposite direction as well as motorcycle riders, are also not far away from it all. So moved with the destructive sight before her was one woman passing by on Wednesday that she stood rooted to the same spot for about five minutes as she rained curses on all those who initiated the demolition. Moved to tears upon actually sighting the demolition, another middle aged woman apparently heading out for an event and passing by along the route with three others, said:
“This governor is behaving as if he doesn’t know that whatever goes round comes around.” In a speech rendered in Yoruba along with a few English words, another beside her said anyone who is happy destroying the livelihood of another must be ready for its consequences.
“With what he has done here, destroying what took Ayefele his lifetime to build, Governor Ajimobi has incurred the wrath of God and must suffer the consequences in diverse ways,” she said. During the only press conference held so far in the aftermath of the demolition, Ayefele, who is in the process of kicking off Fresh FM 107.9 FM Abeokuta, underscored the importance of responding to some points raised during a media parley put together by the state government.
“I would like to clear the air on the erroneous belief that this building is not approved for a radio station. In the approved plan of the Music House, we requested an approval for a business complex complete with proposed two studios which was approved. This building is more than 10 years old. Are you now saying that Radio license which costs several millions to obtain is not a business venture?
“They also alleged that we contravened the town planning law. How? We waited for the government to finish their road expansion before erecting the metal fence. They have concluded the road, finished the erosion control gully before we decided to fence it around. We know this is beyond a l l these cooked-up stories, it is political and we are not seeking political solution to it. We believe we will get justice at the court as the last bastion of hope for the masses,” Ayefele said.
He further submitted that “Around 5.30am on Sunday, 19th August, 2018, government bulldozer came in with fully armed security agents and demolished a part of the building. They did not only demolish the building, our recently- acquired broadcast equipment worth N28million was equally damaged, air conditioners, computers, furniture sets and several others on which we are still putting the cost together.”
In his home town of Ipoti Ekiti, many miles away from Ibadan, saying the people hold Yinka Ayefele in high esteem is an understatement. He is simply their most illustrious son and while they may not boast a large crowd like the one that besieged Music House on the day of the demolition, they are no less angry about the treatment of the man who led dignitaries there just last year while celebrating the grace of God on his life 20 years after the accident that confined him to the wheelchair.
The people of Ipoti Ekiti, one of the towns around the more prominent Ijero Ekiti like Ijurin Ekiti, Ikoro Ekiti, Iroko Ekiti, Ayegunle Ekiti, Iloro Ekiti, Temidire Ekiti, Ilukuno Ekiti among others in the northwest part of Ekiti State and which is the headquarters of Ijero Local Government since 1976, are of the view that instead of being protected by the government of the state of his sojourn, their kinsman is being victimised. For a business man from the town, Tunde Ayeni, who is based in Lagos, the Oyo State Government cannot be right on the demolition of that building no matter the propaganda machinery unleashed for that purpose.
“Talking about his condition or the fact that he is not from Oyo State even if he has seemingly spent his entire adult year around there would be reducing the argument on how terrible what they have done to him is?” Another man from the town based in Ado Ekiti, who gave his name as Adekunle Aina, said: “Perhaps Governor Ajimobi would have been less harsh if the Music House worth as much as N800miillion belonged to an Ibadan man.
It might took somehow that we are bringing that in but that is the case. Meanwhile, who are the people employed there but people from and leaving in Ibadan?” Abiodun Ogunsakin, who said he lives around Our Saviours Anglican Primary School, the same school Ayefele attended as a primary school pupil, described the development as unfortunate. “Are the people in Oyo State Government happy now, with reports that Ayefele is having to visit hospitals now and again?
But I won’t lie to you, the most surprising part of it is that there has been nothing on the matter from our own state governor. Why won’t they treat him like that when our own state government behaves as if it doesn’t really care about one of the people that have brought glory and honour to our state?”
The National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) has also condemned the Governor Abiola Ajimobi led Oyo State Government over the demolition of the structure housing Fresh FM. Director- General of NBC, Ishaq Midibbo-Kawu, while speaking to the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in Ilorin, said the demolition was worrisome.
“The development is worrisome because for all it is worth, the broadcast outfits are playing a big role in reducing unemployment, especially in this situation where many young Nigerians are idle. “They also play social, informational, educational and entertaining roles in the society. Such development does not speak well of the government and has a negative effect on the nation, especially at a point when more broadcasting outfits are influencing the social space in the country.
“In this case particularly, there are so many issues that can be weaved up negatively by people. We hope that as we move forward, we will be able to find a solution to the situation,” Modibbo- Kawu said. Four days after the demolition and many attempts to justify by Governor Ajiombi and officials of the state government, a meeting was part of efforts to reach a kind of resolution over the demolition of the building.
The meeting, which was reportedly facilitated by one of the gubernatorial aspirants of APC in the state, saw the arrival of Ayefele aong with the Director of Corporate Affairs and Promotions of Fresh FM, David Ajiboye; one of the station’s presenters, Isaac Brown and a few others from the Ayefele Company Limited.
After the demolition on Sunday morning and the gale of condemnations trailing the action, Governor Ajimobi said he had pardoned Ayefele, “not because he is physically challenged, but because of his appeals” in a viral video in which the governor literally compared the notable musician to criminals who also employ people apart from casting aspersion of his condition.
Though journalists were not briefed after the meeting which commence at about 3:55 pm and lasted for 55 minutes, after which the governor left and handed Ayefele over to a team of government officials that continued the meeting for another two and half hours, it was gathered that Ayefele narrated how he obtained approval for the structure and how he responded to the correspondences from the government.
He was said to have stated that he contacted prominent Nigerians when he received demolition notice from the government to help him appeal to the governor and that he regretted not coming to see the governor personally instead of sending emissaries to him.
The governor therefore set up a committee comprising the Commissioner for Information, Culture and Tourism, Mr. Toye Arulogun; Special Adviser on Communication and Strategy to Governor Ajimobi, Mr. Bolaji Tunji; Special Adviser to the governor on Community Relations, Alhaji Abidemi Siyabade; Director General, Bureau of Physical Planning and Urban Development Control, Alhaji Waheed Gbadamosi; and Special Adviser on Efficiency to the Governor, Dr. Isaac Ayandele to resolve the impasse.
The meeting of the committee and Ayefele, ended around 7p.m, without either side briefing journalists of its outcome.