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Imeko: A Neglected Ancient Town With Rich History.

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IN 1891, what is known as Yewaland in Ogun State today cut across every section where Yewa river starts, into the lagoon: that is, from Imeko District down to Idogo in Ilaro area, and from Idogo to Ado to Badagry into the lagoon. From Badagry down to Imeko and up to Oke Ile, Ijio, Oyo State was called the Western District of Lagos Colony or Meko District: that is the macro Meko District with Meko as the administrative headquarters, between 1891 and 1905.

In 1906, the first amalgamation of the Southern part of Nigeria came up: the colony of Lagos; the Western District of Lagos Colony;  the Western Protectorate (that’s the remaining part of the Yorubaland); the Niger Delta Protectorate and the Eastern Protectorate were merged together to form the Southern Colony of Nigeria, which later became the Southern Protectorate of Nigeria.

This was divided into three provinces: Western, Central and Eastern. The Western Province which was the whole Yorubaland was divided into 11 and a half: Lagos, Epe, Ikorodu, Badagry, Ijebu Ode, Meko, Egba, Ilesa, Ondo, Oyo, Ibadan and Osogbo Sub-District. That is the ordinance and the gazzet. This is the medium Meko District.

There was another restructuting in 1914: the amalgamation to form Nigeria, thereby having Southern and Northern Protectorate. The new restructuring came with the issue of division, and the early provinces were re-divided, thereby having the Western Province which was earlier divided into 11 and a half as:  Abeokuta, Ijebu Ode, Ondo, Oyo and Ibadan, with Lagos as the capital. Divisions were thereafter created.

In Abeokuta Province, Meko (that had been the headquarters of a district), Egba and Badagry districts (which was removed from the old Badagry District with some other towns there to join Lagos) and the remaining part of Badagry District (Ado Odo, Ilaro, Ipokia and Ayetoro) were merged and called Meko Division.

At a point, the Colonial Masters had a meeting at Joga to restructure and develop the divisions. At the meeting, because the Onimeko’s stool was highly revered and powerful, it was expected that after the European leaders had spoken, the Onimeko should make his submissions, however, the then Onimeko, One Durodolu Oyesusi (Akanku I), had joined his ansestors, hence a vacuum. Meanwhile, the Imeko people had told the Europeans that they had chosen one of the children of Oba Oyesusi as the monarch, but he was absent at the meeting. As a result, the Olu Ilaro at that time, then spoke on behalf of the Obas in the land.

The Olu Ilaro in his speech then asked for all the landmark institutions that were peculiar to Imeko around the area, apart from Badagry, such as district court; police quarters; prison yard; custom (the custom headquarters now at Idi Iroko was moved from Imeko in 1909); telegraph (Ijebu Ode, Shagamu, Abeokuta and Imeko were the only towns that had telegraph then), and the British Cotton Growers Association headquarters (because the soil of Imeko was said to be second to none in the world in growing cotton). When division was created in 1914, the headquarters was moved from Imeko to Ilaro.

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The division was again divided into 11 district, which still maintained Meko as a district (which became the micro Meko). The district included: Meko, Ajilete, Ajilete Oke-Odan, Igbesa, Ilaro, Ayetoro, Ipokia and Ado Odo district, among others.

And that marked the beginning of neglect regression of the once great Imeko! The town, which was well reckoned with by the great Britain (as the Onimeko and his chiefs were being updated by any development in the Great Britain, as such, when the King of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Irelandand of Hanover, George Augustus Frederick, George IV, died June 26th 1830 and when George Frederick Ernest Albert, George V, was to be installed June 22nd, 1911, the Onimeko and his chiefs were informed respectively), could be said to now live in the shadow of itself!

The regression was further propelled by the Onimeko, Oba Adegbola, who succeeded Oba Oyesusi. Oba Adegbola wasn’t friendly with the Europeans. It took the involvement of Seriki Abass from Badagry to successfully dethron Oba Adegbola.

In the 1940s, the first secondary school was to be established in Imeko, because there had been a primary school, Westliern Mission Infantry Class and Primary Class, in the town since 1900, it was diverted to Ogbe in Abeokuta.

As if Imeko had not suffered retrogradion  enough, the advent of politics later made Imeko’s oblivion became deeper with the Action Group and National Council of Nigeria and the Cameroons (NCNC), as the town was in the opposition party. As a result, the Action Group made all the heads of the villages (Baales) under Imeko substantial kings. And due to the low level of western education literacy of the then Onimeko, the Baale-made-kings could claims some of the belongings of Imeko, which thus created series of issues for the present Onimeko, His Royal Majesty, Oba Benjamin Oyeditan Olanite (Akanku IV).

It is of note that the Akanku I and his chiefs left three forest reserves in August 25th, 1908 which were recorded in the gazzet: Meko one forest reserve, called Omododosi; Meko two forest reserve, Abafon; Meko three forest reserve, Oha. While the son of Oba Durodolu, Oba Okunade Durosinmi Oyekan (Akanku II) became king in 1926 and also left a forest reserve, Forest Reserve Extension.

In 1938 all the heads of the villages under Imeko who have been crowned kings were mandated to pay tributary tax to the Onimeko being their heads.

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Even during the creation of local government issues in the 1930s, whereby the old Egbado North and South were created, Meko was not considered as a local government, until 1996 when Imeko/Afon local government was created. It is of note that Afon was a village under Imeko then.

According to the population results, released by the Europeans in 1909, Imeko was 5,000; Idofa 600; Ijohun 400 and Ijale-Ketu was 300, while results considered all others towns as “ordinary villages.”

Oba Olanite whle in a chat with journalists in his house in Imeko, recently said: “There were lots of anomalies against Imeko. For instance, due to lack of records, when states were being created, yet another land that belong to Imeko,  Waasimi, was claimed for Oyo State. Not quit long when the Alake of Egba, Oba Adedotun Aremu (Gbadebo III) saw the gazzet with me, he was surprised and exclaimed: ‘How come the then mighty Imeko now this backward!'”

The monarch expressed concerns that “all the villages that was made town because we were in the opposition now have four wards, two wards respectively, while Imeko has just one ward. Imeko did have four political wards according to the quarters of the town: Imeko Oke-Ola, Imeko Isale; Imeko Batugbo and Imeko Mayehun.”

Tourism attractions:

According to the Oba Olanite, the landscape of the historical Imeko town is dotted with enviable tourism assets, explaining that the town itself is a tourist attraction, being a town that enjoyed huge European patronage, with great history, and its special soil which is second to none in cotton plantation, among others.

Other tourist sites in the town include: Oke Amule, where people hide during the Franco-Dahomean War between 1892 and January 1894; the tomb of the founder of Celestial Church of Christ (CCC), Rev. Samuel Biléhou Joseph Oshoffa; tomb of a foreign Traveling Commissioner, Captain Vere De Creghiton, who died of maleria in 1899 (where Nigerian Armies always pay him homage every year); Osuru Streem Water (was a water fall before the rock collapsed); Osunle, which the state government promised to develop since 20 years ago; Ogunndoko; Ogbun Aseere; Iyabe Jerry Turnel, which has layers and steps into a path that leads to Igbaleaye in Benin Republics; Erinfu Waters; and Aroketu, just to mention a few.

“The Meko forest reserves were to be made game reserves, but they have become criminals haven due to government’s neglect. People from Republic of Benin are just freely entering the forest reserves now and destroying things.

“Imeko is the pilgrimage centre for members of the Celestial Church of Christ (CCC). The church holds two major events in the town every year, yet the road that leads to Imeko is so narrow and a large part of it is bad.

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“Being a boarder community, all the federal security agencies are present here and the Customs make good revenue for the government herein, yet we have been so neglected as though we are not part of the country.

“As a boarder community, closer to Benin Republic, but without any security headquarters, the town has become a sure escape route for miscreants,” Oba Olanite disclosed.

The Onimeko while decrying the neglect of government, both at the state and the federal levels, among the 11 and a half headquarters the Europeans formed far prior independence, said the town was at par with Ijebu, Egba and Abeokuta.

Imeko, according to Oba Olanite, described  the towns where federal high court should be located enjoined the state and the federal government to come to the aid of the community. We don’t have tertiary institutions, neither do we have technical education institutions.

“Imeko has great potentials of being the pride of Nigeria if well attended, even if just at the pace of development with the towns it used to rank with.

“We have land. We once gave 4,000 acres of land given to the then Western Region government, now taken over by Oodua Group of Company. We have had series of meetings with the Group Managing Director, and he promised to come and do something about it, but the promise has remained rhetorical.

“Our land is the best for cotton, tomatoes and maize plantation, while our people, who are predominantly farmers, are willing to explore these, if only they would be encouraged and mobilised by the government. And this, has a huge potential of turning around the economy of not only Ogun State, but Nigeria at large.

“It was during the late General Sani Abacha government, with President Muhammadu Buhari as the Chairman, Petroleum Trust Fund (PTF) that the two federal roads, which are the only good roads we have, was done.

“Ogun State still has another 232 acres of land, which the government earmarked for Leadership Development Institutions since late 1970s, nothing has been done on it. The state still has land for housing corporation since 1976, yet, nothing is done with the land,” Oba Olanite submitted.

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The untold story of legendary Obadoke Aare Latoosa | By Arowolo-Are Jubril

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Like many other Ibadan war lords and rulers, Mohammad Obadoke Aare Latoosa  was a native of Ilora, near Oyo. His father was Ore Orisa Oyatoosa while the mother bored Oyatooki. Both were river goddess worshippers. 

Being young and adventurous, Obadoke left his parents’ Bantu house of Okutuoje compound at Ilora for Ibadan in search of greener pastures.

Although, an altercation with a prominent Oyo ruler was said to have prompted this move.

On his arrival in Ibadan, Obadoke settled at a place around Oniyanrin-Nalende axis ( in the present Ibadan North Local Government), where he engaged in palm wine selling.

Obadoke was reputed to be versed in the knowledge of palm tree planting that he could tell the harvest period and profits with faultless precision!

Then, his palm wine selling exploits connected him with Beyioku Akere one of the promising warriors in Ibadan land. Akere later introduced him to Ogunmola who held the title of Bada under Iba Oluyole during the period.

During their meeting, Obadoke Oyatoosa’s bravery, confidence and war situation exploits impressed Ogunmola and he drafted Oyatoosa into his private army for which he later became the captain.

In the bid to have Obadoke Oyatoosa closer to him, Ogunmola settled him at a hill top which was then a dreaded forest that harbored a dangerous human eating lion! The choice of the hill top (now Oke Aare) was not particularly the making of Ogunmola who thought Obadoke could not survive the deadly animal. But Oyatoosa opted to settle in, regardless of any kind of threats!

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However, within the next few days, Obadoke caught the lion alive and took it on his shoulder to Ogunmola who was dazed with Oyatoosa’s bravery.

It’s interesting to know that Obadoke cut off the lion’s head and adopted it as one of his symbols of authority!

Having settled well at Oke Aare, he got married to Osubunmi, Ibeji and Moriola in succession but the unions were fruitless until after about 16 years when he had Sanusi as the first child. This happened after reverted to Islam and he believed that the change in religion influenced the birth of his son. There after, Obadoke adopted the name ‘Mohammad’ (Momodu in Yoruba pronunciation), with the aid of the then Emir of Ilorin, Abdul Salam who had earlier conquered Katunga, the capital of Old Oyo Empire with the fall of Afonja.

Since then, Mohammad Obadoke Oyatoosa never looked back. He was fully involved in many territorial conquests as the captain of Ogunmola’s private army from where he rose through the ranks until he got the ultimate title: Aare Onakakanfo of Yoruba land.

He started on the leadership line with the title of Are-Ago Balogun during the reign of Baale Oyesile Olugbode, (1851-1864), Otun Seriki during the time of Bashorun Ogunmola, (1865-1867) and Otun Balogun during the short reigns of Balogun Beyioku Akere (1867-1870), and Baale Orowusi Awarun Ososo (1870-1871). Akere as the Balogun during the reign of Bashorun Ogunmola was to assume the Baale position after Ogunmola’s demise but he, (Akere) deferred it until after he must have won Oke Ogun war. Although, Akere won but he died after his victorious return and few days to his installation.

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To be continued…

 

Arowolo-Are Jubril,  journalist and media consultant, sent this piece from Ibadan, Oyo state.

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Ibadan 125 room-Irefin Palace to rival London’s Buckingham Palace, Oyo govt. boasts

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Oyo State government has disclosed that the historical Irefin Palace in Ibadan has been positioned to rival the Buckingham Palace in the United Kingdom as the State has entered into agreement with private partners to promote notable tourist sites.

The State Commissioner for Information, Culture and Tourism, Dr. Wasiu Olatubosun stated this recently while playing host to the Irefin Royal Family of Ibadan at his office.

The family held an historical significance of being the descendants of Oba Onirefin who built the biggest palace of 125 rooms in the history of Yorubaland, during his reign between 1912 to 1914.

Late Oba Onirefin was noted for his philanthropic efforts, especially in promotion of education as he was said to be the highest donor to the establishment of the popular Ibadan Grammar School where he donated 100 pounds and the land upon which the school was built.

Olatubosun boasted that the Seyi Makinde led government has turned away from the old style of neglecting tourism as a means of generating internal revenue and has adopted the public-private-partnership model to develop and promote major tourist sites in the State.

“We want to work with the Irefin Royal Family to bring more attention to the tourism potential of the palace and the significance of it to humanity, the palace is not just a structure, it symbolizes love, it symbolizes philanthropy.

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“The late Oba Onirefin was a giver and lover of educational development, that is why the State government will support the family to promote the palace to be as famous as the Buckingham Palace in the United Kingdom, look at the number of people that troop to the U.K to see the palace among other sites, it will generate goodwill for the government and promote the tourism industry in the State.”

The leader of the family who doubled as the Coordinator of the Irefin Historical Palace Foundation, Prince Omokayode Ayinla Irefin said the family was happy with the stride of Oyo State government towards promoting the tourism sector in the State.

Omokayode said the Irefin Palace Heritage Tourism Development Foundation has entered into agreement with a foreign partner to train youths that are interested in tourism and send them abroad for the practical aspect of the job.

He, however called on other notable families in the State with historical potentials to emulate the Irefin Tourism foundation so as to diversify the State’s economy and gain more from foreign input into tourism.

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Oyo govt. expresses readiness to partner investors for tourist sites development

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Oyo State Commissioner for Information Culture and Tourism, Dr Wasiu Olatubosun has hinted that the state has tourism potentials that could yield enough income and also generate employment if private investors and corporate bodies could collaborate with the present administration to develop the tourism sites.

The commissioner who stated this during a courtesy visit by the Federation of Tourism Association of Nigeria (FTAN) to his office last last Monday, also added that the present government in the state was committed to partnering with groups, associations, corporate bodies and individuals who are into the development of culture and tourism potentials.

He said this was due to the fact that the state is blessed with diverse traditional elements and tourist sites which when utilised and harnessed, would attract investors, provide employment and increase the IGR of the state.

“It is no news that Oyo State possesses more traditional elements that always attract foreing and local interests as well as tourism sites that when, harnessed, will bring enough fund to the State and booster its IGR, countries like Israel, Kenya, Italy and others do not rely on petroleum to survive, they use tourism to drive revenue.

“We are replicating same in Oyo State and it shall be successful with conscious collaboration of corporate interests and organizational support for the government in the areas of revamping, redesigning and facelifting our major traditional programmes and tourist-attractive sites, Ado-Awaye suspended lake is one site that has no equal in Africa, even United Nations should show interest.

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“Governor Seyi Makinde has shown great interest in building the tourism industry to become a revenue-generating sector in the State, that is a quality of a leader that sees into the future and sees potentials for solutions where others are lamenting,” he said.

The Commissioner further assured the association of the state’s readiness to partner with the them in promoting the culture and tourist potentials around while also working together to promote the activities of the association through the Ministry’s various media platforms.

In his remarks, the Vice President Southwest Zone of FTAN, Otunba Ayo Olumoko, who spoke on behalf of the team expressed profound gratitude for the warm reception they got from the Ministry, saying that the association has been in existence in the past 23 years and has chapters of the association in all the 36 states of the federation.

Olumoko said the purpose of the visit was to acquaint the state government, through the Ministry, of their efforts at sanitizing the tourism industry in Nigeria and put in place a structured executive body in each state to oversee its activities in line with the mandate of the association.

He promised a robust relationship with Oyo State government through the Ministry so that activities in the tourism sector would not be hijacked by miscreants.

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