In the early hours of this morning, agents of the Oyo state government under Governor Ajimobi stormed the premises of Fresh FM owned by Yinka Ayefele. According to reports, the demolition has been a subject of a restraining court order. The government went ahead with the demolition anyway.
Amidst the furore this action generated, it emerged that the governor had spoken about this in a radio interview at Fresh FM many years ago. In that interview, Ajimobi said some of his supporters pressured him years ago to demolish the property. The reasons they gave, as stated by the governor himself, had nothing to do with planning regulations. His supporters pressured him to demolish the building because Ayefele “ko se ti wa”- that is, Ayefele was not a supporter of the Ajimobi electoral campaign. Ajimobi’s next comment was telling: he said he told his supporters that he would not demolish the property because “someone who is not our supporter today can be our supporter tomorrow”. In all of this there was not the slightest indication that the matter was anything to do with planning laws and regulations. Significantly, Ajimobi readily gave himself away there as the all powerful executive who decides what happens. The position of the law is, in effect, an afterthought.
There have been several commentaries about the legal aspects of the case. I invite you to leave that, just for a moment. There is a bigger, overarching conversation to be had about the instrumentality of the law in a modern society- about what purposes the law serves in the final analysis.
Less than a century ago, some adult Americans were by law forbidden to vote and be voted for, simply on account of the colour of their skins. In other words, to attempt to vote is to break the law. Not only that, they are also forbidden to seat in the front rows of public buses. It bears repeating that all these were by provisions of the law. In these cases the law was effectively an instrument of oppression, and it was well entrenched in the establishment. The law is not inherently an objective good, and should be subject to continuing scrutiny and refinement, through the active agency of citizens.
The real point of this is first to expose the false narratives being promoted by Ajimobi’s spins masters, who have been singing non-stop the refrain about law and regulations, never mind the fact that their patron was clearly not motivated by any interest or concern for law and order. It’s all about vendetta of crudest form. And make no mistake, Yinka Ayefele is not the only casualty. In fact, he is but footnote in what is really a story of our dysfunctional institutions and political structure that is clearly arcane and not fit for purpose.
What possible good purpose can it serve to destroy a facility that has created hundreds of jobs, and contributed significantly to economic and cultural development in the state? All of that in a nation that is especially difficult for entrepreneurs, where unemployment is rife, and poverty is endemic? And who else will execute such demolition but a thoroughgoing philistine and chronic narcissist? What is the compelling argument, in terms of public good for this action, other than tedious pretensions about planning laws? And where now do citizens go from here? Common sense was demolished, and must now be reclaimed.