The naming of a street in the Sagamu council area of Ogun State after a world boxing champion, Anthony Joshua, has elicited joys from the boxer’s family members and residents of the area.
Joshua, a Briton, born to a Nigerian mother, Yeta, and an Irish man of Nigerian descent, Robert Joshua, has undoubtedly become a global superstar.
Remarkably, he’s an overseas-based successful pugilist that has identified hugely with Nigeria and never hidden his love for her in his activities. AJ as fondly called is a holder of many titles such as WBA, IBF, WBO, and IBO.
Joshua’s Nigerian root is traceable to Sagamu, Ogun State, though born on October 15, 1989, in Watford, Hertfordshire. Sagamu is one of the 20 Local Government Areas of Ogun State.
It was said that he attended Ikenne, Ogun State-based Mayflower School founded by the late Dr. Tai Solarin, a Nigerian educator and civil rights activist.
He was said to have broken the 100 metres record at his school, Kings Langley Secondary School, Watford, when he returned at a time of 11.6 seconds.
His feats on the international scene as a celebrated boxer led to the renaming of the street after him in Sagamu. He was home last year to identify with his kinsmen. Coincidentally, his great-grandfather made some impacts within the road named after Joshua by siting some public buildings which included a cinema there. These efforts, according to historians, led to the naming of the place Cinema road which is now Anthony Joshua Way.
The former Cinema road is a popular road in Sagamu linking Oba Akarigbo road and the Olabisi Onabanjo University Teaching Hospital, Sagamu. It is on the outskirts of Sagamu area close to Ayegbami and Akarigbo area. It stretches towards the commercial area housing commercial banks.
Incidentally, many years after plans to rename the road due to the extinction of the cinema said to have been taken over by churches, Joshua’s popularity soared. Thus, with his remarkable feats and association with his kinsmen in Sagamu, it became necessary to rename the popular road after him.
Going down memory lane, Joshua’s relative, Ademola Joshua, residing on Akarigbo road in Offin, Sagamu, said the family had initially made attempts to rename the road.
Ademola, who is a brother to Joshua’s grandfather, both sons of Omooba Adebambo Joshua, the boxer’s great-grandfather, stated that the family established a primary school in the state and has lots of investments on that road.
He said “The boxer’s grandfather was my brother. The boxer is a great grandson. We have been trying to rename that road. There are many things on that road that my father did. The cinema was brought to Sagamu by my father in the 40s. The Joshua school, a private school in Ogun State, was established by my father in the 40s.
“The Anglican Church belongs to my father also. He brought many things to that road and we were trying to change the name to my father’s name. But the entire family said we should not force it because people said we needed to pay or lobby people so we left it like that since 1964 when he died. We noted it in the meeting. But God has done it for us without lobbying anybody.
‘‘Joshua School is already there, Joshua church and cinema are there. Three quarter of the houses on that road belong to my father yet nothing was named after him. We are extremely happy that all the people within the neighbourhood know that the road has been named after Joshua.”
Ademola said the family was told that the local government would rename the road after Anthony Joshua. He added that the boxer sent money which the family used to celebrate the renaming of the road.
He said “We got a letter from the local government chairman about the renaming of the road to Anthony Joshua Way.
“That day the local government chairman and others came to rejoice with us. We cooked food, bought drinks and had a good time till late hours. I must say that the boxer himself sent money for those things to be organised.
“We don’t have a direct link to the boxer. The man who gave us the money is the last born among the siblings of Anthony Joshua’s father. He is Wale Joshua. He is the one who brought the money to us to celebrate the renaming of the road after the boxer. The boxer got the message through Wale who was around during the road renaming. He was said to have sent money for the celebration’’
The septuagenarian said the road would soon host visitors from England, United Kingdom, adding that competent contractors had been contacted to rehabilitate some failed portions of the road.
The Chairman, Sagamu Local Government, Mr Gbenga Banjo, recently announced the renaming of the road, Anthony Joshua Way. He said the trunk C road brings developments to the local government.
He explained that the rationale behind the initiative was to encourage youths to aspire to go higher in their fields.
Asked what the council would gain from the renaming of the road, Banjo said it was to attract more attention of the international boxer to his root and to give him good reasons to give back to society.
He specifically urged Joshua to construct a sports complex in the area to encourage more youths to take to sports.
Banjo said “We renamed the road to encourage youths that they can go higher in their field. It is enough gain for us to have many youths from Sagamu at the international level. If Joshua can come home and do a sport club so that youths can showcase their talents and improve on them, it will be good.
“The road belongs to the local government. The local government has the power to name roads at local level. The highest decision-making body of the local government certified the renaming of the road. It’s like naming streets. Anybody can come to the local government and apply for a street name.”
Banjo said the road was renamed in agreement with other executive members of the local government.
He added that he would encourage the state governor, Dapo Abiodun, to rename the Sagamu Stadium after Anthony Joshua.
He said “If the governor can rename the Sagamu Stadium after Anthony Joshua, we will be happy. We don’t know what the governor has in mind but I will encourage and appreciate him renaming the stadium after Joshua.”
Some residents in the area also expressed their views on the step taken by the local government. The President, Anthony Joshua Fans Club in Ogun State, Kayode Segun-Okeowo, described the honour as well-deserved for the reputable boxer.
He said, “It’s indeed a well-deserved honour for AJ who truly has identified with his root in Sagamu. The renaming of the former Cinema Road as Anthony Joshua Way is long expected though. I must commend the steps taken by the chairman of Sagamu local Government for doing the needful.
“It will definitely add significant values to the area considering that fact that AJ’s great-grandfather has many property/business concerns on that road. This to me may encourage the Joshuas to invest more there and definitely the people living in that area will be the first and direct beneficiaries. Even AJ himself will be highly motivated with the renaming and this may prompt him to do something about the road.”
On the impact of Joshua on youths in the area, Okeowo said, “I can boldly say without mincing words that AJ’s status is seriously boosting the morale of the youth. You can imagine a situation where thousands of youths are ready to stay awake in the midnight to watch Anthony Joshua fight to victory. People are now naming their newborn males Joshua. I can boldly tell you that some people are looking for boxing centres so that they can redefine their lives and become like AJ.”
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Okeowo called on the state and the Federal Government to confer honour on the British boxer. Some other residents who spoke with our correspondent welcomed the development but noted that the relevant authorities should fix the road.
A car dealer on the road, Abdulrahman Ibrahim, who lauded the move, urged the government to rehabilitate the road.
Ibrahim said, “They should fix the road, tar everywhere, because the person who is named after the road is not just an ordinary person. They should repair the road to be better than it was before. With this change of name, it will boost economic activities there.
A resident, Omooba Babatunde, said he was confident that the road would be repaired, adding that trading on the route would experience a boom if that was done.
Babatunde said, “Fixing the road will help those who have one business or the other there to get better patronage since it has become Anthony Joshua Way.’’
He also hoped that the development would bring life to the abandoned Cinema, urging the provision of street light and road fixing to further aid development.
Expressing her feelings about the renaming, a trader on the road, Ade Olusanya, said, “We are happy that he is our son and our pride. He fought and won. The move is to honour him as a good citizen that was why they changed the road’s name from Cinema Road to Anthony Joshua Way.”
Olusanya said that the people residing in the environment were suffering arising from the road’s state of disrepair.
She appealed for the fixing of the road while hoping for an increase in sales.
She said, “Let them help us fix the road to be more motorable so that Anthony Joshua will also be happy anytime he visits and we his people, as business owners, will also be happy.
“The change in the name of the street will help in boosting sales. Also, commercial motorcycle riders who usually park at the junction including me selling provisions will have more patronage.’’
Besides, a food seller, Toyin Ogunjimi, who expressed joy over the development also appealed to the government to fix the road.
She said, “We want them to help fix the road. The dust is too much. When there’s no dust, I can open the fried potatoes and akara for people to buy and get more customers.”
To Obasanya Idayat who trades on the street, her desire is for the cinema to be revived.
She said, “They should also help us repair the road, provide streetlight and water. We are joyous over the renaming because he’s our son. But we want government to fix the road.’’
Another food seller, Oluwakemi Onafowokan, also noted that repairing the road would make it more befitting of Anthony Joshua’s status.
She added, “We want them to help find a solution to the road and give us streetlight.’’
In his contribution, a bricklayer, Adedeji Sokoya, said perhaps the road was renamed Anthony Joshua Way because the cinema belongs to the boxer’s family. He, however, noted that the move was a right step in the right direction.
Sokoya stated, “We want them to work on the road and the gutter. The gutter is open and people keep falling into it. Is either they close it or help us put slab. The government should help provide solar streetlights to help when there’s an outage.’’
For Fatai Amosun, a driver and Jamiu Bello, a commercial motorcycle rider, their concern was for the road to be rehabilitated after its renaming.
Another resident in the area, Jimoh Aliu, said the local government should find a solution to the drainage problems on the road.
He said, “The slab has been uncovered for the past two months and nothing was done. About two people fell into the gutter recently and we were responsible for their hospital bills.
“The signboard indicating the renaming of the road was erected there and the person who it was done to honour is our son. We cannot ask them not to erect it there.
“But we want them to cover the gutter on the road. The road was renamed to honour Anthony Joshua as the cinema itself belongs to his great-grandfather. But without fixing the road and the gutter, whatever they do on the road will have no meaning.’’
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