“Iyana Ipaja is every driver’s nightmare.”
These words, spoken by a resident of Iyana Ipaja, Olakunle, reflect one of the greatest concerns of the residents of the densely populated community.
Sitting almost on the outskirts of Lagos, not too far from the Lagos-Abeokuta expressway, Iyana Ipaja is notorious for its ever busy traffic. Most residents of this community would agree that besides being a good distance from the centre of town, the traffic is the most discouraging thing about this community.
“The traffic is unbelievable!” Olakunle, quoted earlier, continued rather exasperated; with his wife, Love, adding, “Driving at the Iyana Ipaja round-about is horrific.”
The Name Iyana Ipaja
The community, which adopted its name Iyana Ipaja after the construction of the Lagos-Abeokuta expressway, when translated from Yoruba, means a road or branch off to Ipaja. According to some, Ipaja is a town on its own and the name Iyana Ipaja only refers to the road that leads to it.
“As Baale Mosaku will tell you, there was nothing like Iyana Ipaja,” Nkasiobi Oluikpe, a correspondent with Sunday Independent revealed in his article Iyana Ipaja: Lagos Community that’s home to all. “There is Ipaja town, which used to be a quiet town on the far fringes of the mainland, and you have a road that leads to it. But, after the construction of the Lagos-Abeokuta expressway, Iyana Ipaja became a household name in Lagos State.”
Describing the history of the settlement now known as Iyana Ipaja, Oluikpe said, “The popular Iyana Ipaja, as Lagos residents presently know it to be, was hitherto, a community settlement with the Mosakus and the Alaagbas facing each other at the centre of the bus stop. There are also the Okis and the Alaguntans, also in Iyana Ipaja. Initially, Mosaku and Alaagba were under the same local government council. But, with time, the Mosakus remained with Alimosho LGA, the largest local government area in Lagos State, while the Alaagbas found themselves in Orile Agege council.”
The community has long since been occupied by settlers other than the Mosakus and the Alaagbas. As is typical of a number of neighbourhoods in Lagos, Iyana Ipaja is filled with diverse ethnic groups and languages from Igbo to the Yoruba. This particular community where I have lived for over a year now, however, has more than its fair share of ethnic groups in a space too small for them. The streets of Iyana Ipaja are constantly busy with too many people so much so that manoeuvring my way through sweaty bodies almost feels like a herculean task. Pushing and rubbing against bodies, literally stepping on toes, and unable to find your feet on the ground at all hours of the day – and oftentimes at night too – have become the norm in Iyana Ipaja.
High Population Density, Touts, and Area Boys
“The population density is out of this world,” Olakunle, who is still adjusting to the environment even after four years of living there, complained bitterly.
Sharing Olakunle’s sentiments, Benson, a 36-year-old businessman, said, “Iyana Ipaja is abule (village) Lagos. The express roads are okay but the residential, connecting roads are an eyesore … It is densely populated … They have only a few banks here and the queues at the ATMs are always long.”
To contend with, too, is the problem of touts, area boys, or what they call ‘agberos’, as well as rough, unruly conductors who grab you by the arm or any part of your body they can reach and constantly harass you to board their buses to destinations you have no interest in. Also disturbing is the high percentage of roadside hawkers and traders who add to the number of jostling bodies on a daily basis, the noise population, and rowdiness in this community.
The Good in Iyana Ipaja
However, if you look beyond all of this, you might find one or two interesting things worthy of note in Iyana Ipaja.
“Petty crime here is almost zero. There are a lot of vigilantes in this neighbourhood. Violent crime is also almost non-existent,” Olakunle pointed out happily.
Also particularly worthy of note in this community is the existence of more than one major market as well as smaller ones, which are easily accessible. The link roads from Iyana Ipaja to other major roads like Ikeja and Maryland that road users enjoy are applaudable of this community.
Peaceful co-existence among the various ethnic groups in the community also says a lot about the good nature of people in Iyana Ipaja. Funmilayo, a housewife who moved into the neighbourhood last year, said, “I have an Igbo neighbour and a Calabar neighbour in this compound and we all get along just fine.”
But the most interesting thing about living in Iyana Ipaja and perhaps the reason for the high population density can be easily summed up in the resident’s next words, “Accommodation is affordable. The environment encourages businesses to thrive. There are a lot of hospitals around Iyana Ipaja, Idimu, Akowonjo, Egbeda …”
Still, there is room for growth. The damaged roads, for instance, need repairs, and having a large mall that houses a cinema and a mega supermarket in Iyana Ipaja wouldn’t be such a bad idea.
“There are no large malls to hang out in and pass out time. We have to go all the way to Ikeja to watch movies,” Funmilayo said.