One fine day recently, Joju Aladegbohungbe and Ade Jinadu went on a date. Unlike a typical Lagos couple who would have bonded over a plate of over-priced creamy spaghetti in an Instagram-able restaurant, the duo chose to spend time at the Ndubuisi Kanu public park in Ikeja.
They sat on a mat and sketched on drawing pads while laughing and talking to each other.
The couple told The Record that they chose the park because of its serene atmosphere, away from the usual stress of Lagos life.
Ade and Joju are not alone. Thousands of people visit parks across Ikeja every month chasing the idyllic comfort of nature. But in a city that has been identified for its lack of urban green spaces, what do these parks have to offer?
There are three main parks in Ikeja metropolis: the Ndubuisi Kanu park, the Johnson Jakande Tinubu (JJT) park and the Dr Oluyomi Abayomi Finnih recreational park.
These parks are managed by the Lagos State Parks and Garden Agency and are used by residents for individual leisure time, group meetings and public events.
“For me, coming here is to come and relax,” one user of the park who described himself as Mr Fidelis, told The Record. “Then to think, and avoid distractions from both at home, and office.
The Ndubuisi Kanu park
This park is located in Alausa, opposite the Lagos State House of Assembly. It also shares proximity with JJT park.
Commissioned by Governor Babatunde Fashola in 2014, it was named after Rear Admiral Ndubuisi Kanu, a former military governor of Lagos State.
This park is dotted by trees which provide shade for picnic lovers on the lawn. If you visit during the park’s peak days, which are Fridays till Sundays, you will spot a lone visitor or friends on the concrete lounge seats at different areas in the park.
Despite its relatively small size, several groups can gather on the grass at the same time and enjoy their space and privacy.
When The Record visited recently, there was a group composed of teenagers and young women on the grass. From their identical, colourful outfits, it could be deduced that they were holding a rainbow picnic.
A few metres away from the rainbow picnic group, two women sat on the grass, watching their children play at the playground section. Opposite them was an event planner setting up for a bridal shower picnic.
While the park is only free if you are coming alone or with a few friends, you will have to pay a sum of N500 each If your company has more than ten persons.
A staff member who spoke to The Record but declined to say her name said the roof shed and patio in the park are strictly rented spaces.
The zinc roof shed can accommodate 100 people and it costs N150,000 for a day, the staff member said. The brick patio, which is at the centre of the park, costs N40,000 and can accommodate 30 people, she added.
A rainbow picnic is a new trend of wearing a colour that rhymes with the snacks or food that you will be bringing to the picnic. For rainbow picnics with more than 10 people gathering at the park, they charge N1000 per person.
Agape-Love Nkanta, a first-timer at the park expressed her displeasure about the entry fee for the rainbow picnic. According to her, the park management is trying to extort more money from visitors by riding on the social media trend of rainbow picnics.
She came with a group of friends from church for a sisterhood picnic and was charged extra for the entry fee even though they made enquiries before the picnic date.
She said, “Before I got here we were supposed to pay a particular amount but when we got here, we were told that we have to top up the amount we paid earlier because of what we were going to do.”
Eight years after its opening, all that is left at the mini-zoo of the Ndubuisi Kanu park is an abandoned peacock, three ducks and two lean turkeys wallowing in an erosion-dilapidated cage. The basketball court, when The Record visited, was also closed. One of the park’s staff members said the court is currently undergoing renovations.
This park is also perfect for a bicycle ride because of the tracks. However, you have to bring your own bike. The children’s playground is also in a good condition. There is a miniature pirate ship structure, a swing set and a see-saw set to engage the little ones.
There is a food court where you can get soft drinks, snacks and cooked meals, but people are also allowed to bring their own snacks and drinks. There is a suya spot where you can get grilled gizzard and beef for as low as N200.
You can rent a mat as low as N500. The largest mat costs about N1000, and the medium size goes for between N700 and N800.
The park is neat and well-maintained by the park agency; there are recycle bins around the park to avoid litter.
The Johnson Jakande Tinubu park
The JJT park is also located in Alausa and was commissioned in December 2017.
The abbreviation is formed from Johnson, Jakande, and Tinubu, which are the last names of three former Lagos governors.
Right in the middle of the park is a remarkable sculpture that captures the faces of the former governors. This structure is a popular spot for visitors, as many people like to take beautiful pictures in front of the elevated art.
A huge statue of Eyo masquerade at the entrance of the park is also a side attraction. There is a bridge that leads to the massive statue. A water fountain used to surround the statue, but it wasn’t switched on when The Record visited.
Another fountain located at the centre of the park was also non-functioning. It used to be a lyrical fountain with the water rising and falling to the rhythm of the song being played.
A staff member of the park was unable to tell The Record why the fountains were no longer running.
One unique spot for photo lovers at JJT park is a circle of 54 flags representing all African countries.
Instead of a mini zoo like the Ndubuisi Kanu park, JJT park has a cage filled with exotic birds which are still well taken care of. Other side attractions in this park include a chess board and a children’s playground.
Just like Ndubuisi Kanu park, they charge the same amount if your company is more than 10. They have just two thatched roof sheds left for rent; the remaining sheds around the park had collapsed and were in a bad state when The Record visited.
The Dr Oluyomi Abayomi Finnih recreational park
This park is located along the Opebi link road. It was named after a former Consultant Obstetrician and Gynaecologist of the Lagos State Ministry of Health, and elder statesman, Dr Abayomi Oluyomi Finnih.
Abayomi park was commissioned by Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu on August 31, 2019.
When The Record visited, albeit on a weekday, the park was quiet and deserted. The park manager, Mrs Okiki Esan, said peak days are usually during the weekend.
The park has a botanical garden, nicknamed the ‘silent garden’. It consists of many beautiful flowers and short trees.
There is also a gazebo in the garden where you can take beautiful pictures.
However, this park doesn’t have enough tall trees in the garden area to provide shade from the sun. If you are visiting for a picnic, you might want to go in the evening or early morning when the sun is not fully out.
The park is also great for cycling because of its bicycle tracks. There is a mini zoo which houses a couple of ducks and turkeys.
Meanwhile, The Record observed that the facilities in the park are not furnished and functional. There is a library with no books, only empty chairs, tables and shelves. The photo studio doesn’t have a stand-by photographer to take pictures of interested visitors and is used as a changing room.
The park manager explained that visitors are allowed to bring in their photographer if they want to make use of the park for a video or photo shoot but this costs N2,500 per hour.
Since this park is also under the management of LASPARK, it operates the same entrance fee policy for persons above ten.
Mrs Okiki said, “From 10-20 is N10,000, 20-30 (people) is N20,000. But if it is a rainbow picnic for 10 people or for any number of persons, it is N1000 per person.”
Other side attractions of this park include a dry fountain, lounge, and restaurant.
Work to be done
The gates of these three parks are open between 10am and 6pm.
Overall, a trip to any of these parks is a wholesome experience. The green environment, the cool breeze, and the musical sound of birds chirping on the trees and flowers is an atmosphere not to be taken for granted.
But LASPARK should work to improve the conditions of many of the park facilities, including the fountains and mini zoos to provide more value to park visitors.
While the Ndubuisi Kanu and Dr Abayomi parks have spacious parking lots for car owners, drivers scramble for space at JJT park and line the roadside, which is not safe.