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INTERVIEW: Why I Built Ikoyi Recreational Park –Ikoyi/Obalende LCDA Chairman, Fuad Atanda Lawal

INTERVIEW: Why I Built Ikoyi Recreational Park  –Ikoyi/Obalende LCDA Chairman,  Fuad Atanda Lawal

Honourable Fuad Atanda Lawal, Chairman Ikoyi-Obalende Local Council Development Area in Lagos State, in this interview with Completesports.com’s ADEBOYE AMOSU, speaks about the motive behind his decision to build a modern relaxation arena, Ikoyi Recreational Park located at Dolphin Estate Ikoyi, Lagos.  He also fields questions on the other milestones achieved so far as the LCDA Chairman.

Excerpts…

Ikoyi Recreational Park (iRep) is no doubt an impressive project, what are the motivating factors behind its establishment?

For me, it’s the desire to bring the people of the community together, and make sure we do the right things and in the right place for our people. Sports, as you know, is a unifying factor in Nigeria.

Whenever any of the national teams are in action, even if you are enemies, whenever a goal is scored, you shout and rejoice together.

In this community, we didn’t have a place we could come together to do sports, like a recreation center – a place where people could come in and have fun. There was nothing like that in the past.

The only thing we could have done was to put this place together, knowing fully well that we couldn’t afford any land. This place was a dump site for several years, there were mechanics here before. We felt We couldn’t turn a blind eye, there was a need to do something.

Now we have a place where the younger generation can come and play football. We are also not focusing only on football. There is also an outdoor gym here where people can exercise and keep fit.

Initially, the idea was to develop a space for people to relax in and also engage in sporting activities and it has worked. I am very happy that people within and outside the Ikoyi Obalende LCDA are also very excited about this. It is a government facility open to all

Every member of this community is free to use this facility. Obalende is perceived as a developing community and this endeavor seeks to change that narrative.

People now understand the need to have a local government chairman that understands the needs and wants of the people.

I’m not here to serve myself, I’m here to serve the people and posterity will judge if we have been able to do that or not.

The beauty of any government is the legacy you leave behind. I’m not going to be a Local Government chairman forever, but what are people going to say about me? Did I do well? It’s for the people to say.

The goal is to advance the LCDA and it is evident in the things that we have within the LCDA; from empowerment to job fairs to education and other projects we have carried out. We would like to provide our children a safe space for them to hone their talents.

We have changed the narratives, you are going to play on astroturf now. If it goes bad, we will fix it. I want to see people tell me,  ‘chairman, there is a talent here that we can support’. We will do our best to support the people.

From being a dump site to what we have now, that to me is satisfying. We have toilets and bathrooms here where people can take care of themselves, and probably t go work for example, after doing their exercise.

People want to see a working government, that wants to serve the people. This is a place where people can come and do a lot of things. Imagine the kids too, summer time they can come in here and play. This place is safe, our people are here to maintain law and order.

How tasking was it to put this beautiful edifice together?

We had mechanics that were here for 35 years and this place was deteriorating. This was done overriding the interest of the people who were here before. We needed a place, a recreational ground.

I couldn’t afford land. There was no way I could have afforded this land in Ikoyi. The cheapest land you can get in Ikoyi for this size is about N500m to N600m. We are talking about 500, 600 square meters of land here.

We can’t afford land here in Ikoyi, which was why we adopted this place. The first task was to take the people who were here out. Clearing this place was tasking. We had to stabilise the land, made sure it was okay for what we wanted to do.

Looking at what we have done here, I’m proud of my team. I have a strong team that is dedicated to the development of this local government which has helped us achieve a lot.

We have not even scratched the surface of what we wanted to do for the people. We are here to serve, this is a working government – a government that is more concerned about the people. This is a grassroots government.

The focus of the Local Government is people at the grassroots. You know the three tiers of government: the Federal, State, and Local Government.

If the Local Government is not doing what it ought to be doing, then there will be problems. Who should people run to?

As a citizen, you want to see the local government chairman. We can sit down and rub minds together, have a tete-a-tete. We talk about your challenges, and how we can help you. The things you want us to do for you.

We are here to listen, not impoverish the lives of our people. We are here to make life better for residents, commuters, and business owners.

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We are doing a lot for our people. This is just sports. We have done a lot on infrastructure, health care, road reconstruction, and other things.

We have a Primary Health Care Centre that was built by this same administration in 2019. We are still going to have a permanent ambulance here to take care of any emergency.

I love what we are doing.  I love what we have been able to do. Can we do better?  Yes, we can, with the right support. We can bring in stakeholders and partner with them on projects that will benefit the people. We can do more to support people, support businesses, and other things.

We want to produce talents that will be greater than Victor Osimhen, Jay Jay Okocha, and Rashidi Yekini.

It’s not about football alone, We have a basketball court too. We want to help people actualise their dreams and aspirations. We want to catch them young and nurture these talents. I’m very happy, I have a vibrant team. I couldn’t have done all these alone without them.

You spoke about bringing in stakeholders. So far, what kind of support has Ikoyi-Obelende LCDA, under your watch, received from the private sector?

You need to put something down, at times, to get the support. When we came in, people have to believe in our cause. That was very important. So, there was no point interacting with the private sector at that stage knowing fully well that you have nothing to show.

When we assumed office in 2017, the first thing was to show capacity and do one or two projects that we can talk about. We were able to do that and we will continue to do more.

For example, we planned to have streetlights in most of our areas. The big issue is how we power it to make it functional. We entered into a form of agreement with the people in the environment. Let’s provide the street lights, while you power them.

The things we put in our manifesto in 2017, have we been able to do them? You go to Obalende Road where we had the problem of open defecation, we have been able to put toilets there for both males and females.

So, when we talk about partnership it’s not for the company to come and contribute money or put money in the coffers of the government but rather do projects that will affect the lives of people positively.

In 2021, we renovated three or four primary schools. We have 11 primary schools in Ikoyi/Obalende LCDA. The contract for the renovation was signed in a day with our partners. Together we were able to renovate Ikoyi Primary School, Saint George Primary School, and Obalende Primary School.

With the right partners and the right vision, you can get things going. Here, we try to push ourselves. We never want to say we have done enough. We are planning to rebuild our Health Care Centre because we renovated it, we didn’t envision the kind of crowd we are seeing there today.

If you go there now, the crowd is always massive. We need to put things in place to take care of the crowd.

You seem so passionate about sports. Do you have a plan of hosting a football competition at the Ikoyi Recreational Park?

Definitely, we are going to host a five-a-side competition here. It’s a talent hunt for me, so we are not hosting for football’s sake. We want to discover talents and push those talents through our league. Remember the days when we have the likes of Stationery Stores, BCC Lions of Gboko, and the rest.

We need to find all these talents and then nurture them. We can organise novelty matches, but when we organise football competitions, it must be to discover and nurture talents. It is also important to watch them grow. That’s how it should be.

Are you contemplating floating a football club in the future?

(Laughs) We just never know. My love for football started in school. I started following football from school, I remember the USA’ 94 World Cup, the 1994 Nations Cup in Tunisia, the one we won. I remember Senegal 1992, I remember Italia 1990, I remember Roger Milla, I remember those days. My love for football has been there from way back.

I have always been a sports lover. I love athletics too. You know in those days when we have the likes of Innocent Egbunike, Chidi Imoh, and the rest.

We had all these guys then, what we are trying to say now is that, if we can trace our history, it will help us to know how things were done before. Can we go back to those days? Yes, it is possible.


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