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I Sold My 3 Houses In US To Rebuild The Old Kairo Market -Babaloja Of Oshodi

-Alh Abdulrasak Sanni Speaks On His Biz & Passion For Oshodi
Alhaji Abdul Rasak Kolawole Sanni, who many refer to as Provida is a builder with verse knowledge in building and construction with experience in Los Angeles, Malaysia and other parts of the world. He also doubles as the Babaloja of Abibat Mogaji shopping complex and Babaloja of Oshodi. He was the one who built the new Abibat Mogaji market in Oshodi (formerly Kairo market), the first urban market structure to be constructed in Lagos. Despite holding this pivotal position, he is on the reserved side, blunt and very outspoken. Few days back, after so much pressure for a very long time, the stylish lanky man let us in his world, his may projects, his role as the Babaloja and his love for the popular community, Oshodi. He also revealed how he returned from the United States to invest in the beautification and modernisation of Oshodi, his birthplace.
What were you doing before you became the Babaloja?
Everyone knows me as a developer. I was born and bred in Oshodi. I spend most of my time in Los Angels, Carlifonia in the US. I once worked with Local 22 as a carpenter because I am a builder. Anytime I travel to London, Malaysia and other parts and I see how beautiful the cities are, I have always vowed to ensure I am part of the development in Oshodi. Usually when I travel abroad and I introduce myself to my fellow Nigerians there that am from Oshodi, I don’t like the expression I get from them. Their believe is that Oshodi is a home for touts and hoodlums. And I wonder and tell myself how do I correct the perception of these people. In 1996, I traveled to Malaysia for a one year building course, when I got there, I saw that what I left back home was nothing to write home about,let me say for example Mushin Olosha,within that one year it was transformed. At that stage I knew Nigeria can also be better. In 2004, when I came home, I wrote to my local government that I wanted to talk to them about beautification of Oshodi and I went with my lawyer. When I got there, we had a meeting with the executives on how to beautify Oshodi but they all turned me down. So, I went back to the United States of America. When I came back again, someone gave me a hint that they wanted to rebuild Cairo Market (Kairo market is popular market in Oshodi).Babalojabof Oshodi1So, I said to myself that this is an opportunity for to make my intentions known. I give Kudos to their former Chairman of Oshodi Local Goverment, Azeez Ipesa and also to K1 De Ultimate, the were supportive. They were the ones who encouraged the local government to give me the project that with the passion I have, it would yield a good result. So, I met the Late Iyaloja General, Alhaja Abibat Mogaji, you know before you can build any market in Lagos, you have to meet with the Iyaloja who happened to be the head. She told me how several people have come to meet her on the project, that my passion is second to none. She prayed for me and told me to embark on project.
How were you able achieve that project?
After she told me to go ahead on the project,i went back to the drawing board and design what the market will look like. I went back to the United States to sell 3 of my houses and then real estate was booming. I used two of my houses here in Nigeria to get a loan in First Bank Nigeria and started the project. When I started the project, some people when to state government to say all sorts, which made the then commissioners to visit the place. Although it was locked up for a month, but it was re opened. They were surprised that I am the only one doing the project. After it was opened a week later, like 9 commissioners came to inspect the project and I took them round. 3 days after their visit, I got a call that Governor Fashola was coming to pay me a visit, i was surprised. When he came he was surprised and was also happy. He said thank you for supporting my government, and I said your excellency, thank you for giving me the opportunity. So, I took him to the 2nd market which is the Pakodowo market (plank market). He saw the state of things there and said this place is bad,can we also rebuild here? He said is it not better to demolish the whole area and give them money? I told him,
Oshodi is tough o! Instead of us to do that let us rebuild the plank market alone. He asked for my business card, i told him I don’t have any. He told his aides to get my number. Then Oshodi was in a mess, the tarmac and all. That was the time he took a good look of Oshodi. When I saw him to his car, he said we have to do something to this area. Few days later, he called me and said this is the Governor, can you please try and see me in my office? I went there and he asked me where do you get money to build this market? I narrated my story to him. He told me to give him the quotation of the plank market, a week after, I did. I gave him the direct labour quotation and he approved it. It was the only job that they approved from the chief of staff’s office. Some people were not happy that I gave him a direct quotation but my main aim was to ensure we have a beautiful Oshodi. That was how I started. The saboteurs and killers came they poured chemicals on the construction, including the plank market people that were ejected. Two buildings collapsed out of 11 buildings and the place was locked up for like 5months. After that happened, they did the material test and I was give 61 percent.
How were you installed as the Babaloja of Oshodi?
Along the line that all these happened, the then Babaloja died at the age of 100. Everybody was fighting to become the Babaloja and I wondered why. Since I became the Babaloja I have never collected a dime as salary.
Cuts in,Even from the local government?
Yes, the local government has not being friendly to me and I have never gone there to collect any salary. I don’t know if they give others. I have been the Babaloja for the past 5 years and I can say it categorically that I never collect any salary. Some politicians and people in Oshodi don’t like me, they believe I am the one who brought the Lagos State Government to come interfere in the affairs of Oshodi. As far as am concerned, those are the people who only came to suck from the milk and success of Oshodi, they don’t want the success of this great market. And it’s because all the racket money they were making couldn’t be achieved again. All the area boys are not happy. They believe I brought in the government who demolished so many places where they make money from. They were making the money yet they are not putting it toward the success of the place.
How did you now got the title?
The Late Abibat Mogaji called me and also told others that there is this son of mine who did a good work in Oshodi, I want him to become the Babaloja of Oshodi. I said no ma, I don’t want such title. I am a builder. So, I was forced to go see her. When I got there she said my son, I heard you want to turn down the offer of the title many people want. So I prostrated and said, I want it ma.
How challenging has the work been,since most politicians there don’t like you?
There is nothing in this world that will yield a success that is not challenging. But all thanks to God, we conquered most challenges and here we are today.
You seem to be very close to the Iyaloja General, Folashade Tinubu Ojo, would you say the relationship goes beyond the title?
It was when I went to meet the late Iyaloja on the issue of title that I met the present Iyaloja General, Folashade Tinubu Ojo. She was the deputy to mama then. So, I asked her about it, she said there is no big deal in the title, that it was given to me because of what I have done there. Nigerians say what they like. She is my boss and I adore her a lot in this job. Anytime there is crisis, she is always there for the market women. She is smart, intelligent and outspoken. I am where ever she wants  me and our relationship is nothing but official.
What has kept you going despite all these battles?
God, Allah. I am still fighting the battle.When Governor Ambode came, some people went to him to say all sorts about me that I am the enemy of the government. When I finished building the plank market, ex Gov.Fashola said since I am the one managing the then Cairo, now Abibat Mogaji shopping complex, that I should manage the plank market too. When he came into power, he canceled it.He called me to the executive meeting and said that he was taking it from me. I was shocked and I told him no problems your excellency, as long as Oshodi it is still beautiful, no problems. He said, he likes my courage, anything you spend on that place, I will pay it back, although have not heard from them. When I read online that the government will be doing some new projects to beautify Oshodi, I was so happy. I said this is a dream come true. And I pray for the Governor everyday.
Even when your own money fund has not be refunded?
I don’t care, my prayers goes with him everyday and I pray God will help him achieve his aims. I mean this and I said any day I will support the his government. I already wrote to them and till today I have not heard from them.
What is your role as the Babaloja, do you act as a link between the government and the market people?
Yes, all the time and that is why the past administration didn’t like me. I don’t see him as someone who loves the people of this community.
This  your passion for Oshodi, does it come with any political ambition?
No, not at all. Not today, not tomorrow, not forever. May be my children can do politics. I don’t have any political ambition, but I have a   political post which is the Babaloja of Oshodi In General.
Were you born here in Oshodi?
Yes, I was born and bred here in Oshodi. I traveled in 1985.Babalojabof Oshodi2I went to the Institute of Building Technology from 1974 to 1977. I was a young supervisor in Festac 77 and I practiced in Kaduna, Yola until 1985 that I relocated to United States of America to study more on building. I have been building since 1977.
Apart from the plank market,what other buildings have you developed?
Quiet a lot of them. I was the one who started the high rise design in Oshodi.
What are your plans and projections now?
My plan now is to go outside Oshodi. The Governor has helped realized my dream so I can go outside Oshodi.
So how do you unwind?
I rarely do. Even when resting, so many things are going through my mind on how to make my enviroment beautiful. That is why am planning to do a book called beautify your corner. I am not really a party person. From my house to the office and visit the market to ensure everything goes on smoothly.To settle disputes and meet with the other Iyaloja.
Can you please tell us your age?
Laughs. I am in late 50s. And my first son is in his late 30s. My second daughter is doing transportation engineering in Sacramento, Carlifonia. She is one of the good engineers there.
How was the life in Oshodi then compared to now?
Then we used to know each other, most of contemporaries are not here in Nigeria. That is why they wondered and tried to convince me when I said I wanted to invest in Oshodi. They said how come I was not investing in Lekki, Ajah, Victoria Island and all. I said those places are for the foreigners.
Even if you are not directly interested in politics, are you into sponsorship of candidates?
My mentor is Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, his philantropic lifestyle is second to none. I love the APC agenda and I can never go to any party as long as APC is fully on ground. I will keep supporting them.
What is your relationship with the present Oshodi Local Governemt chairman?
The new one, Dawodu Olajobi is just 3 days old and he is a continuation of the past administration. We don’t have anything in common. Even Azeez Ipesa, the former chairman, we are just like brothers, we don’t have anything in common, the way he thinks is different from mine over infacstructure.
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