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IMEKO: Oguns’ forgotten town of great history

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IMEKO, a town housed by Imeko Afon Local Government Area in the West of Ogun State, Nigeria bordering the Republic of Benin, the pilgrimage city of the Celestial Church of Christ (CCC).

Despite its intimidating and enviable profile during the Colonial era and even, some decades in the post-colonial era and nearness to Abeokuta, the seat of power, Imeko-Afon appears to have been forgotten, as the once great town and its people languish in relative obscurity.

The road leading to the town from Abeokuta is snake-like, hilly and dusty. It is disfigured with steep inclines that cause serious headache to those plying the route. Rainy season is always a period of pain and agony for them.

Colonial Era till Date

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 respectively. 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. This is the medium Meko District as described in the Executive Council Orders numbers 27 of 1908 and 2 of 1909, Colony of Southern Nigeria Order in Council, made under The Supreme Court Orsinance (Statute Laws Revision Ordinance, 1908, Schedule 1, Chapter III (3):

“The following lines and natural features constitute the boundaries taken in their respective order, commencing at the junction of the ‘Oke-Ile’-Wasimi Road with the River Okpara. The said road as far as its intersection with the Oyan River. The Oyan River to its junction with the Egba boundary. The Egba boundary westerly to an iron Pin on Aro-Meko Road on the vicinity of Ewon (Idi-Emi), today known as Ago-Owo quarter in Ayetoro, bearing 248ⁿ 30′ and distant 12.7 links from a tree marked M.A. The Egba boundary southerly to its junction with the boundary of the Badagry District. The Badagry district’s boundary to its intersection with the boundary of the French Colony of Dahomey.”

There was another restructuting in 1914: the amalgamation that formed Nigeria, thereby having Southern and Northern Protectorates merged. 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 Districts as: Abeokuta, Ijebu Ode, Ondo, Oyo and Ibadan provinces with Lagos as the capital of the just created Nigerian territory.

Divisions were thereby created and placed over Districts while certain district headquarters were elevated to the status of divisional headquarters in cases like Abeokuta, Ijebu-Ode and others, while Meko district was rank-shifted under the newly created Ilaro Division. Whereas the then district headquarters of Abeokuta, Ijebu Ode, Ondo, Oyo, Ibadan that ranked with Meko in the old Western Province of the Southern Colony in 1906 became Provincial Headquarters. Others like Epe, Ikorodu, Ilesha and Badagry became divisional headquarters. Osogbo that was a sub-district headquarters became provincial headquarters and today Osogbo is a state capital in the modern day Nigeria alongside Abeokuta, Ibadan, Lagos, Ondo. Even, Ekiti that was not on the list as one of the early districts’ headquarters of the Western Province of the Colony of the Southern Nigeria is today a state capital.

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Others mentioned above are today cities of great importance in the South Western part of Nigeria. They are paramount seats with substantial landmark educational institutions.

Where is the place of Imeko (Meko, Mekkaw, Mekko) today? Neglected, abandoned but not deserted by her children!

A town that was the administrative headquarters of the then Western District of Lagos Colony (1891-1906) stretched from Badagry to Oke-Ile/Ijio and Idi-Emi (Ewon) to Wasinmi, Jabata and River Okpara the boundary with Shane in Dahomey now Republic of Benine. When the Colony or Protectorate of Southern Nigeria created in 1906 and divided into Western Province, Central Province and Eastern Province. The Western Province (1906-1914) divided into the following districts: Lagos District; Epe; Ikorodu; Ijebu Ode; Badagry; Meko; Egba; Ondo; Ilesha; Oyo; Ibadan, and Oshogbo subdistrict.

Abeokuta Province created were the merger of Egba district, Meko district and the remaining part of Badagry distict. Badagry and some towns had formed Badagry Division under the new capital town of the old Lagos District while the remaining part of Badagry District from Ado-Odo, Igbesa, Ipokia Idiroko to Ilaro, Igbogila and the new settlement of 11 war destroyed communities of Ayetoro founded in 1904 and others merged with Meko and Egba distrct respectively to come up with Abeokuta Province which was divided into two divisions, Egba and Ilaro divisions, with divisional headquarters at both Abeokuta and Ilaro respectively, beside the provincial headquarters at Abeokuta.

Meko herself is the second largest Ketu Kingdom community that falls into British side since the era of European scramble for Africa. It becomes autonomous from Ketu traditionally since the time of Alaketu, Adiro Olumaja (1858-1867) sought asylum in Imeko in 1867 during Onimeko Oyefi Akanku Koledoye (Akanku 1), Meko-Egba War, Egba-Ewon war of 1868 and 1868 respectively. By and large, Imeko emerged as the leading Ketu Community in Nigeria with the following at the resettlement of it in 1890 after Dahomey war that sacked the town in 1882: the first to have Police Quarter in what is known to be Yewaland today; the first to have district Commissioner’s Compound; the first to have infantry and Elementary Education; the first to have District Court; the first to have Prison; the first to have Psychiatric Hospital Annex; the first to have forestry reserve; the first to have West Africa Frontier Force; the first to have Custom OCPS; the only town with telegraph; the first with government road, Meko-Aro Road; and the first to have health facility

Unfortunately, today, all these landmark institutions and the firsts have been relocated! Imeko at present live in the past glory!! The once great town is now nothing, but the shadow of herself!!!

And the song on the lips of the people of the town has since been: “Federal Government, come to our aid;

State Government, where is our portion of development?”

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

And that marked the beginning of neglect and 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, Great Britain and Ireland,  His Majesty, King Edward VII died June 26th 1830 and when George Frederick Ernest Albert, George V, was to be inatalled June 22nd, 1911, the Onimeko and his chiefs were informed respectively), could be said to now live in the shadow of itself and glory of her past.

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The retrogression was further propelled by the dethronement of the Onimeko, Oba Adegbola, who succeeded Oba Durodolu (Akanku II).

In the 1940s, the first secondary school was to be established in Imeko, because there had been a primary school, Wesleyan Mission Infantry and Primary Classes. The proposed Secondary was relocated to Ogbe in Abeokuta.

As if Imeko had not suffered retrogression 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.

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

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.

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 other towns as “ordinary villages.”

Onimeko of Imeko, Oba Benjamin Oyeditan Olanite (Akanku IV)

The present Onimeko of Imeko, Oba Benjamin Oyeditan Olanite (Akanku IV) while 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 belongs to Imeko, Asunnara and Waasimi, were claimed for Oyo State.”

The monarch expressed concerns that Imeko, a community of such great historical importance should not be left undeveloped by the Nigerian government at all levels.

Tourism attractions:

According to Oba Olanite, the landscape of the historical Imeko town is dotted with enviable tourism assets. He explained 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: Amule Rock, where people hide during the Franco-Dahomean War between 1882 and January 1894; Ikanun mountain; Iyanka rock; Ijagure cave and mount; Igbogbo Rocks Abeba mount; 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 (which was a water fall before the rock collapsed); Osunle, which the Ogun 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.

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“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.

“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 lamented.

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 and Egba in those days.

Oba Olanite, who described Imeko as a town where federal high court should be located, enjoined the state and the federal government to come to the aid of the community, saying “We don’t have tertiary institutions, neither do we have technical educational institutions.

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

“We have land. We once gave 4,000 actres of land 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 of the company and he promised to come and do something about it, but the promise has remained rhetorical.

“Our land is the best for cotton in Africa that was why the British Cotton Grower Association (BCGA) made Meko the headquarter town of the association. Our land is also superb for 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 only federal road (Imeko-Aro road) of 1900 (Now Abeokuta-Imeko Road) rehabilitated and reconstructed.

Today, the road is an eyesour, totally abandoned in such worse condition. Other roads include: Imeko-Ebute-Igboro-Idi-Iroko-Badagry Road of 1918 (Now Ilara/Ijoun/Ilase Road), Ayetoro-Imeko that was constructed in 1952, Imeko-Oke-Ile/Ijio Road of 1952, Imeko-Gangan Road of 1952, and Imeko-Idofa/Ilara Road of 1953/1954.

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

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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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