Since it was rehabilitated in 2008, Mapo Hall, which was built in 1929, has suddenly become the choice place for political rallies in Oyo State. In the last few months alone, the ancient administrative centre has played host to not less than four major political campaigns. OLAOLU BILAU examines the factors that have made the hilly former colonial administrative centre, located in the heartland of Ibadan the place to go for political campaigns and what really makes Mapo Hall tick…
Jonathan, Buhari, Folarin, Makinde, Ajimobi, Ladoja Campaigned at Mapo
In recent times, the Accord Party of Senator Rashidi Ladoja was the first to occupy Mapo Hall to welcome into its fold, defectors from other parties, including Senator Olufemi Lanlehin formerly of the All Progressives Congress, now in Accord Party.
The Oyo State APC was not left out in the rush to Mapo as it had a rally on top of the hill shortly after the merger of the foundation parties that came together to form the progressive party.
As the campaign for 2015 poll heats up, the PDP, APC and the Social Democratic Party (SDP) have in recent time held campaign rallies at the ancient hall.
In 2011, President Goodluck Jonathan was at Mapo Hall to seek for the votes of people of the State and in 2015, the PDP presidential candidate returned to the same place to do the same.
The presidential candidate of the APC, General Muhammadu Buhari was also recently hosted there too same with the governorship flagbearer of the SDP, Engineer Seyi Makinde.
So, the question now is why is Mapo Hall the choice venue for political rallies?
Anyone would have expected organizers of these kinds of events that draw large crowds to have opted for one of the two football stadia in the state, which can accommodate a larger number of people. Moreover, the rallies at Mapo are held right in the middle of the road.
Mapo is in the Heart of Ibadan
WESTERN POST investigation revealed that besides its symbolic significance as a centre of unity for Ibadan people, the strategic location of the hall is a major attraction for politicians.
First, Mapo Hall is situated on top of a hill in the heart of old Ibadan metropolis and is surrounded by communities and residents that are mostly natives of the city.
In the adjoining areas such as Oje, Bere, Labiran, Ode Aje, Oja Oba, Idi Arere, Oopo Yeosa, Orita Merin are family compounds which are homes of the early settlers in the town, where descendants of the indigenous Ibadan people lived.
Since experience has shown that the largest chunk of the electorate that actually participate in voting are the average local, grass root voter, it is therefore common sense for political parties to take their campaigns to the heart of the areas where the largest concentration of such likely voters live and by its location, Mapo Hall is such a place in Ibadan.
Mapo Hall is Surrounded by Markets Like Oja-Oba, Orita Merin, Bode, Oopo Yeosa and Oje Markets.
Convening a political rally around these markets is therefore a very wise decision for a political party it is the same as going into the marketplace to make an announcement. The markets that are spread around the area, brings together large numbers of people and provides a captive audience during campaigns.
During the campaigns, a size-able number of the traders may also close shop temporarily, preferring to be at the venue of the rally and avoid hoodlums, who may take advantage of the situation to cause mayhem and loot.
Though the traffic jams that usually experienced anytime Mapo Hall plays host to a political rally often leads to heavy traffic build up around town as well as hardships for motorists and commuters, politicians usually overlook this for political gains.
Fuji Music is the Icing on the Cake
A great number of indigenous Ibadan people are known to be ardent lovers of Fuji music and organizers of political rallies have been using this as a bait to lure multitudes to campaign venues, especially to venues like Mapo Hall.
In the last few weeks, not less than three notable Fuji music artistes have performed at various rallies held in the area. Award-winning Fuji artiste, Saheed Osupa was there to perform for the SDP, Abass Akande Obesere for PDP and King Wasiu Ayinde was on the band stand when APC held its rally.
These factors and perhaps many more were likely to have made Mapo Hall the choice place for campaigns.
However, this also comes with very serious security implications.
Though, security personnel are often drafted to the area during such rallies, their presence has not really prevented violent clashes among the many criminal gangs that had over the years made the surrounding slums and ghettos their territory.
But despite this obvious shortcoming, the street of Mapo Hall remains the go-to place for political campaigns in Oyo State.