Former Golden Eaglet, Babatunde Joseph, has put a clarion call to President Muhammadu Buhari and Ondo State Governor Rotimi Akeredolu to wade into the street name dispute between him and residents of Araromi Street, Akure.
As a member of the victorious Golden Eaglets team that won the maiden U-16 FIFA Kodak World Cup in China, 1985, the government, under the then Maj.-Gen. Buhari, had directed that streets be named after every member of the team in their state capitals.
Speaking to The Guardian during the week from United States, Joseph expressed discontent over a new name on the street that was originally named after him.
“In 2016 that I came to Nigeria, I brought some sports kits, which I donated to the state’s sport ministry and they were meant for the state’s club and their supporters. After the event, I headed back to look at my street and to my surprise; I saw another name, Araromi Street rather than mine, Joseph Babatunde Street, on the signpost!
“I was shocked because none of my teammates ever complained about this. And because I did not want to get into trouble with anyone, I simply left and I returned to my base in the U.S. I could not believe what I saw after an honour bestowed on me suddenly became a mockery.
“On the day of the street naming event, I was celebrated and well received by both old and young residents of the community, who congratulated me for a job well done. So, why would the same people turnaround and remove the signpost bearing my name with the old name? I suspect foul play.
“The street naming was not by me but an order from the government of Buhari for the Golden Eaglets for the winning the U-16 World Cup. Even the Deji of Akure then promised to give me a plot of land. I did not get it before I travelled out for study. Even many of the promises by the government were not fulfilled,” he stated.
When The Guardian put a call through to a senior official of the Akure South Local Government on the complaint, the official, who pleaded anonymity, said that the new signpost now bearing the old name, “Araromi Street – courtesy of one Olatunji Ojo” must have been done in error.
“I am aware that a street was named after one of the Golden Eaglets from Ondo State for the glory brought to Nigeria. And if there is a new name on the street’s signpost, there is no way we can know except someone brings it to our notice. And we shall deal with it
“A similar situation occurred in the case of a Nigerian athlete, Seun Ogunkoya, who is also an indigene of Ondo State. His name was removed and replaced with the former name.
“The case became so fierce that Ogunkoya got some youths of the community who did not like the new name of the street arrested until sanity was restored. Today, no one has gone there to tamper with Mr. Seun Ogunkoya’s signpost anymore as they now know the implication and because nobody can fight the government and win.
“That is what we were able to do in the case of Mr. Ogunkoya and I will advise Mr. Joseph to do likewise so that we can get to the root of the matter and justice will eventually prevail. Even if he is not in the country, any of his relations can also stand for him so that we can resolve it amicably,” he stated.