This is an exclusive interview with Chief (Dr) Christian Francis Ipoola Olaniyan
Land Investment interview with Chief (Dr) Olaniyan…Born to parents who were teachers, he also ended up an educationist after having the best education available back in the 40’s.The founder of Victory Schools, Ikeja and other various establishments, he was one time Hon. Commissioner for Establishment and Training, old Oyo State and has held various laudable public offices and social positions. He has also won over fifty Honours Awards from different organizations, both civil and religious between 1978-2010.
In this exclusive interview with Nigeria Real Estate Hub on , Chief (Dr) Christian Francis Ipoola Olaniyan (JP) reveals to us what land acquisition was like in the 70s and the various challenges that came with it.
NREH: How did this vision start? What inspired your action to start a school?
A:In Ibadan, I was the founder principal between 1960 and 1964 so I had to leave to do politics and as a result, immediately I got to Olowo College, I made up my mind to establish a school which would be like Tai Solarin because that was the example I had in mind. That way, I could be the headmaster and at the same time if I wanted to play politics, I could because it was a voluntary agency primary school. You are allowed to take part in politics.
The goal was to have an investment in school so I told a friend of mine who is a land surveyor that he should try to get me a place in Ikeja. I made a survey and knew that schools in Ikeja were very few in those days; secondary schools.
NREH: This was about what year?
A: This was about 1967… 1968
NREH: And at that time, Ikeja was not the capital of anything?
A: No…No…No…. The whole of this place was just bush. In fact, the place where you have the primary school now (Bola Memorial Primary School) was bush. The church(Bola Memorial Anglican Church) was a small church and the school then was a small building just near it; not this one. This one and all these other buildings that you see there was built in 1979 when Obasanjo was about to become the President.
When we first came, I got 10acres on Omobolaji Johnson road for investment, which was the airport road. Later on I found out it is in Federal Government Acquisition Area and that is where the Police College is now.
NREH: So you first of all got 10 acres?!
A: Yes but when I went to check it up at the Town Planning office, they said Government had acquired the place
A: Because of that, I had to leave and came down to this place. The Iya-ade family of Ikeja sold the land to me for investment originally but later the Onigbongborugu challenged us. The Egba Refugees who had a small village here at that time also laid claim to it. However, when I told them I was going to start an investment in a school, the Egba Refugees understood and liked the idea. They said, “Well, if you’re going to build the school, we’ll cooperate with you but the land is theirs.” They have settled there as far back as 1868…1867 but the Onigbongborugu came from Onigbongbo and said their land extended to this place and that Egba Refugees were just customary tenants. Apparently they’ve been on the case since 1867, fighting for the land.
NREH: Whew! (Laughs)So were you trying to get another land for investment just in case you lost this one?
A: Actually, the case went to court and Justice Adetokunbo Ademola who was the first indigenous justice of Nigeria was about to retire; you must have heard of him. He is an Egba man and his father was Ladapo Ademola, the Alake of Egbaland. He said, “There’s no need for you to be quarrelling about this thing. Why don’t you meet together, settle and equally divide the land among yourselves.” They agreed to that idea and settled out of court and the land that I had acquired for investment fell within the Onigbagbo side; Abule Onigbagbo side, the Egba Refugees. The other side fell to the Onigbongbo where you have Sheraton Hotel & Towers now
NREH: When you settled the issue of the land, what was your next move? Did building commence immediately?
A: No! I had to submit my plan for the school and when I did, Town Planner Fadahunsi, I don’t know whether you know him, he’s an elderly man, must be above 90years old now, he was the Chief Executive of LDB,Lagos Executive Development Authority at one time and then Ikeja Development Authority. He advised that I should get more than 10 acresand I actually agreed with him. He said that immediately I start the school, people will come around and I will not be able to get more land for investment again. I did that but because of financial constraints, I couldn’t make a fence around and people encroached here and there and that is why we are left with about half of the original land
NREH: Wow! From 10 acres investment?
A: No, 23acres! That was what we had originally.
NREH: 23 acres for investment?!
A:Yes! He said that will be enough for me for a long time considering I wanted to build schools but unfortunately we ended up with half.
NREH: Since you talked about financial constraints, how were you able to pay for the land?
A: At that time, my agreement with land owners on my investment was to pay in instalments. In fact, that was what I did and eh…land was not a serious thing like that in the 60s; 66, 67, 68 up to 69. In 1969, the school actually started and we moved in in 1970 to this site
NREH: But I saw founded in 1990
A: This is the Grammar School. The Victory High School is actually down there and is about 10 acres of land. It was when they took over Victory High School in 1976 that the idea of starting another Grammar school came. I had about 2 acres of land for investment here so that is what I used for the Grammar School but originally the High School has been there as far back as 1969, 1970 and then government took it over. You heard of takeoverof schools in 1976?
A: In 1976, several Grammar Schools, Igbobi College and a lot were taken over; 33 of them at that time, but in year 2001, Governor Bolaji Tinubu returned the schools.
NREH: So Victory High came back to you?
A: Yes! I got the school back exactly 25 years after the takeover. Anyway, I thank God.So then, my hope was that in case of a another takeover,they will not take over my personal building which is built on 2 acres of land.
NREH: Asides from the secondary schools, were there other schools; primary schools?
A:Yes! I had an investment in primary school in 1975 and was running it on the premises but later on, I relocated it to No 5, Toyin Street. Now, that place is a layout; there’s a place for primary school and a place for church where the Celestial people worship. It was a whole boarding school and the Primary School and the kitchen is there
NREH: Was that in 1974?
A: No! I moved there in 1975. The school was established in 1975 but I moved over to that site after the takeover of the secondary school in 1976 and I built that one in 1977, the year after the takeover of the schools
NREH: I’m sure at that time too it would have taken some foresight, though it was a boarding school?
A: Yes it was a boarding school
NREH: Most boarding schools are usually run out of town. So considering the way this place was then, did you have to make a road?
A: Yes! I had to make the road by Etiebet Place because this entire place was just bush. There was no road there before so we were passing through Bola Church to get to this place. Later when the headmistress of Bola at that time said we should not be passing through her own school again to ours, we constructed the road
NREH: Who is this Bola that the Anglican Church and School was named after. Did he donate the land to them or was he the founder of the Church/School?
A: No…No…No! Bola was the one who led them from Abeokuta; the leader of the Egba refugee.
NREH: Was it as a result of war in Abeokuta?
A:It was not a war but a religious problem; Muslims against Christians. They were Christians and I don’t know why they had to force them out of Abeokuta at that time. They had to leave in large numbers and Governor Glover was the Governor of Nigeria then so he settled them at Abule Egba in Ebutte Metta. He settled them there and said they should use this place as their farmland so they were using this place for farming and at the end of the day, go home to Ebutte Metta. This entire place was bush and used as a farmland (laughs)
NREH: That’s interesting! So how did you go about constructing?
A: When I came in 1972, there was a church down there. It was a very small church and it was being used by those who don’t go home on weekends. The head then, Baba Tubule, who started claiming the whole of Abule land was living here in a small house. He’s one of those who came from Abeokuta and he’s a very religious man so they built a small village church at that spot where he could worship on Sundays. After a while, they gave him a school – for investment, a primary school which was just eh…four classrooms or something like that but it was demolished when we were about to put up the hall (now called Onigbagbo House, used as offices and event venues by the church and a commercial basis) where you are now.
I was the Chairman of the building committee at the time so we demolished everything and extended the land because we know that the government could come up with any policy. After we extended it, we put up the Onigbagbo, building which is where you are now. If we had not, it would have been close to the church and school building. Besides, the two buildings were very old and small so we demolished it. However, a lot of prominent Egba people who are magistrates and judges now went to that school
NREH: Wow!Sodo most of them claim their root from here? Do they claim Lagos State?
A: Some! But the Egba Refugees are Egbas.
NREH: (Chuckles) Okay! Tell us sir, how was it like getting land back then?
A: I told you this entire place was bush all the way to Opebi and was used for farming. When I came in 1972, Opebi was plenty of forest and land was not a serious place for investment back then. In fact, if you wanted 50 acres, 40 acres, you would have gotten it then. It was all bush; farmland. Even this place was farmland; cassava plants, things like that (laughs)
NREH: At what point sir, did this express road (now known as Mobolaji Bank-Anthony Way, Ikeja) come in?
A: The road has been there for a long time. It was called Airport Road because it led to the airport but it was just one single lane; a very small narrow road. It used to be desolate and between 1968, 1969 when I used to come, you can walk from Ikeja to Maryland and hardly will you meet people because GRA was fenced round
NREH: So GRA has always been there?
A: Yes! GRA has always been there but they blocked it so people can’t just pass through. It was only recently that they opened it up and made all these roads that pass through GRA.Now people can drive in from everywhere.
NREH: When did Ikeja start becoming the town that we see today?
A:It was after the civil war ended in 1970 that Ikeja started expanding. Ibo people came in large numbers and Ikeja started booming and when Lagos State was created and Ikeja named as the Capital later, it brought so many activities. So land getting land for investment and other things became expensive
NREH: I understand that Cadbury and Nigerite were the first Companies to have their own land in this area
A:Well…they managed to be because even Ikeja Industrial Estate was just bush at that time. You see, Ikeja town is that OrileIkeja which is a very small village and there are not many people there. You have people in Mushin, Isolo area but not Ikeja here. People were so scanty but eh…in Awolowo’s time, it was part of Western region so they built what he called the Housing Estate(largely around Oba-Akran area towards Adeniyi Jones) and that opened this place up somehow.All those houses were constructed by the Western region
NREH: Which houses sir?
A: The Housing Estate. All those avenues, this ehn…what do you call it? Where you have the banks; First bank….on the road.
NREH: You mean Oba Akran?
A: Uh-huh! Down the road; the whole of this area is Western Region Housing Estate
NREH: As in this GRA?
A: No? GRA is residential made for Government workers but this Housing Estate are all those small buildings that are in down, down, Koleso. It’s Awolowo Government that developed all those places by Ikeja Club, down,down,