Shola Fakorede, President Festac Town Residents Association, in this chat with TOPE MUSOWO, speaks on the idea and achievements of FESTAC, among other issues
On Festac at 40, assessment
Well, so far so good, it is a combination of the good, the bad, the ugly, there are very good aspects of Festac and also the bad aspect which we are trying to correct and maybe some of the ugly aspect too, some of which we have seen in the media so far, especially security, the crime and all that but gradually it’s being tackled and gradually dealt with by the law enforcement in collaboration with the residents.
Concept of Festac how sustainable is it, are there some deviations sighted?
If you talk of the celebration proper, the festival of art and culture, it’s not being sustained at all, it’s a baby of the Federal government but so far so good, even the estate that came about as a result of the celebration 40 years ago, is neglected, its infrastructures have decayed, so many things are being left unkempt, the maintenance culture is very very poor. If not for the intervention of the residents and maybe, sometimes the collaboration with both local and the state governments, it would have been worse than what it is now.
What informs the disconnect from the initial conceptual ideology of Festac?
Lack of maintenance and worse off when the Federal Housing Authority FHA which is the agency in charge of Festac Town, its infrastructure and everything when they relocated to Abuja it became worse, so many things were neglected; in terms of development control, in terms of infrastructure, in terms of putting a stop to some of the challenges of illegal structures springing up here and there, it is really, really bad.
As a stakeholder, what roles have you played to ensure the sustenance of the concept of Festac?
In fact if not for the association it would have been worse, there are times when some of the recreational facilities, the parks for relaxation most of them have been sold, in fact the major one left at 206 road which is called Victory Park, it was named victory park because it was also sold and somebody was trying to put up an hotel there, but the residents resisted it vehemently, we had serious arguments and fights, in fact it almost resulted into physical battle until the then Minister of Housing and Urban Development Olusegun Mimiko intervened, we went to Abuja on the issue, he came down, listened to our plights and they revoked the sale of that park to a woman who it was sold for before, in fact, development has started then, they have brought blocks, cements, they’ve even covered the place with metal zinc but as they were doing it, the residents were also putting it down, it was like an eye for an eye, and that is what happened at the most of the parks that they sold, it is due to the resistance by residents, there so many places that have been sold, open space and parks which are not supposed to be but the resistance by residence have made government to rescind these decisions, there are some that we were also in courts on, we have won some in court where they sold some open spaces meant for the general public but sold to an individual, there are some still pending in court on one or two of these, so if the residents had not come to fight for this it would have been terrible, there would not be any place to relax, just like where we are sitting here, so we had to try and put them in use try and see what can be done there.
The Festac concept is about cultural renaissance for Africa, what import has Festac on Africa?
Apart from the fact that yes they say it is the biggest estate in West Africa and arguably Africa the neglect by government has not really made Festac to have any significance, apart from the fact that people are now occupying the Estate but government would have continuously maintained the estate, continuously taken care of the infrastructure and by then, before now Festac use to be like a tourist site, people come to look at the facilities and infrastructure here at the time it was newly built, people come as far as Mushin, Oshodi, Ikeja and the rest to come and see, you drive down all the street lights are on by 7pm till 7am in the morning, there are sweeper vehicles that sweep the streets everywhere, adjoining streets you see where the road network, very good but now most of them are in deplorable state and the sewage is not helping matters, the sewage system is completely blocked, it is bad and except it is resuscitated and it has made people to channel sewage to drainage line, which is very detrimental.
What are the urgent steps to reclaiming Festac’s lost glory?
First of all immediate stoppage of illegal structures, there was a time when containers were springing up and after our hues and cry, the Federal Housing Authority decided to remove containers from Festac, the containers where so much, in fact you will see messed up the whole place, but in place of containers, people are now bringing in canopies and other make shift wooden shops, which is still making the environment very untidy, well there is the need to expand this infrastructure or facility, government need to look into it, more of this mini shops or this porter cabin shops can be built to replace the canopies and government will make more revenue on that in fact it is one of the proposals we are giving to the Federal Housing Authority, to look into the shops, plazas and the rest of them, you can get private bodies to do that, they do that and pay some money while people pay rents to make use of it.
If you go by the event that brought about Festac, art and culture, yes it is good to show our art, our culture, culture is a way of live, unlike this insinuation, where people say when they came in there were some of these voodoo, juju in local parlance, that were brought from several countries and they buried them here and there, so we say okay we are celebrating Festac at 40 we are inviting the clergy men from the Christian and Moslem angle to do a general prayer, call it a national prayer sanitizing the environment and we have spoken with the Chief Imam General, with the Chairman of Christian Association of Nigeria, Festac /Amuwo Odofin chapter, they are having a joint prayer session to sanctify the land, so to say if truly like some people alleged they buried this and that culture is not all about voodoo, but a way of live if our way of live is what you believe in, you have to showcase it to the world instead of imbibing what people from the outside world think is their own, you can’t replace our culture with the western culture, they have culture as well but they are trying to impose their culture on ours which is not supposed to be, so Festac at 40 would be celebrated amidst pump and pageantry, we have programmes lined up; cultural display, prayer session, gala/award night, it would be rounded up by a thanksgiving in the church.
We did Festac at 30, then General Gowon, Mobolaji Johnson and other dignitaries were there.