October 2, 2022
7 mins read

At a recent workshop on Good Governance and Sustainable Human Development, held in Ilorin, I had cause to make an observation, as a counter point to the persistent demand by Mr. J. 0. Ogunlowo, a former Secretary to the Kwara State Government for the excision of Kwara State away from the North Central Geo-political Zone, for a merger with the South West Zone. The substance of my observation then, was that the persistent demand by a minority of Yoruba elements in Kwara, who have their sponsors in political circles in the South West, and whose mentors control the press of the Lagos/Ibadan axis, often pretend they speak for the majority of Kwarans; this is because those who know the reality never bother to join issues with them, as we shall discover presently. Their calls assume that there is no history behind the unique place that Kwara State occupies in the Nigerian political firmament. In their attempt to obscure history, they hope to convince the unsuspecting public that they are merely attempting to right a long – standing injustice. The platform they deploy is to appeal on behalf of a so called 85% of Kwarans, which they claim to be Yoruba. But the facts of the situation are a stubborn lot indeed. We must recollect that from the beginning of modern Nigerian history, with the Amalgamation of 1914, what is today called Kwara State was NEVER ruled by the British as part of Western Nigeria. Ilorin Emirate was conquered by the British in February, 1897 and was subsequently organised as one of the Emirates of Northern Nigeria. That was what the British met on the ground. For those who care to know, Ilorin Emirate was one of the most important political and military powers in the mid- 19th century. Ilorin at the height of its power had been able to subdue most of the present day Yoruba speaking parts of Kwara State. It had sacked old Oyo and could only be checked by a combined force of Yoruba armies, under the leadership of Ibadan at the battle of Osogbo in 1861. Nevertheless, Ilorin remained a formidable foe of the Yoruba armies and their missionary allies, up to the eve of the British conquest of 1897. The standard of battle for the Ilorin armies was the rallying cry of the Jihad and Islam. It was for that reason that Ilorin armies were composed of Fulani, Hausa, Yoruba, Gobir, Nupe, Kanuri, Baruba and Gwari peoples. These different peoples were able to forge themselves into an all-conquering power, which dominated diplomacy, trade, commerce and warfare, as a result of Islam and the organizational impetus of the Jihad. It is this factor of fidelity to Islam, as opposed to the chauvinistic appeals to ethnicity, which distinguishes the Ilorin people, up till today. What would Ilorin be, without the Fulani, Yoruba, Hausa, Gwari, Kanuri, Gobir, etc.? All of these wear the badges of their origins very proudly, but together hold aloft the banner of Islam. This is the unique factor in Ilorin history, which the crusaders for a merger with the South West always miss. Their agitation did not succeed in the past to mobilise Ilorin around the crude banner of Yoruba ethnicity, it is not likely to do so now, when people in Ilorin are more conscious of their historical antecedents than hitherto. History is a living force in Ilorin, the frontier The Writings of a Media Life. Emirate of Northern Nigeria. The old slogan of the 1950s is still relevant: “AA LO WESI – WE SHALL NEVER JOIN THE WEST!!” What then is the source of the persistent attempt to re-write history and achieve a merger with the South West? The most vocal elements in this agitation have always been the rump Action Group/IJPN/Afenifere clan rooted in the lgbomina, Offa and Ekiti areas of Kwara State. The standard bearers have been a political minority in Kwara State, and are represented by such individuals as Chief J. S. Olawoyrn of Offa, Steven Wole Oke of Shao, a village of not more than 10,000 people near Ilorin and of recent, a certain Olola Kasum apparently the life President of an Afonja Descendants’ Union which exists more on the pages of the Lagos/Ibadan papers, than in reality, plus their allies in the bureaucracy, tertiary institutions and in the media. The truth is that they are Yoruba and share Oduduwa ancestry with the South West. They are Northerners today, because their different sub- ethnic communities – lgbomina. Ekiti, Ibolo. Etc. had been under the political control of Ilorin, even before the British conquest of 1897. Their clamour represents a “revanchist” desire to unmake history. At the base of that effort is their undisguised hatred for Ilorin, its historical eminence in Kwara State coupled with its refusal to join their clamour for a merger with the South West. From the platform of democracy, may we also agree that it is their right to canvas their position accordingly? However, they have no right to pretend that they have the mandate of the majority of the people of our state to speak on our behalf. As the Sardauna used to say, those who did not conquer us will not rule us. This is the bottom line, even today. The basic truth about Kwara State is that the majority of its people are not those who claim to be Yoruba and must therefore be merged with the South West. The issue is far more complex. Kwara State has a population of 1,566,469people according to the 1991 census. As it is, only 6 of the The Writings of a Media Life.16 local government areas of Kwara State – Oke-Ero, Oyun, Offa, Ekiti, Ifelodun, Irepodun and Isin, can be classified as Yoruba. But even some of these, such as Ifelodun have sizeable Nupe and Fulani minorities. According to the 1991 Census, these 7 LGAs have a total population of 513,547 people. The largest population block in Kwara State today, belongs to the Emirate of Ilorin with its five LGAs of Asa, Ilorin East, Ilorin South, Ilorin West and Moro. The people of these LGAs are Yoruba, Fulani, Hausa, Kanuri, Baruba, Kamberi, Gwari, Gobir and even Malian by origin. The 1991 Census gives us a population of 742,090. The remainder of Kwara State is made up of the Batonbu, Bokobaru, Nupe and Fulani people of the Baruten, Edu, Kaima and Pategi LGAs who together have a population of 292,476 and have always been unambiguous in their rejection of the demand for the merger of our State with the South West – People we have NEVER shared the same political history with, whatever anybody might say to the contrary. One of the reasons for the demand by the vocal minority for a merger with the South West is the allegation that Kwara has nothing to show for being part of the North. This spurious argument is for those gullible enough not to know the truths of history or are determined to consciously misinterpreted its facts. The Sardauna of Sokoto, as the Premier of the Northern Region operated the policy of ONE NORTH, ONE PEOPLE. In that context, people from the old Ilorin province, played prominent roles in the North, enjoyed plum positions, earned scholarship awards and were not discriminated against in any way. It is on record that Alhaji AGF AbdulRazaq from Ilorin, was the first Lawyer from Northern Nigeria. He played prominent political roles in the North. The brothers Yusuf and Garba Gobir were Secretaries to the Sardauna; the same went for Alhaji Saka Alesinloye, the current Baba Isale of Ilorin, and The Writings of a Media Life.of Afonja descent. In the same group was Alhaji Saadu Alanamu, late Waziri and Balogun Alanamu of Ilorin, of Yoruba stock who was Agent – General of Northern Nigeria (the equivalent of Ambassador) in London; while Chief J. 0. Aderibigbe a Yoruba from Erin-Ile was District Officer (equivalent of the modern Governor of a State) in the Sokoto Province. Chief Adu of Obbo was in charge of Survey in the whole of the North! Alhaji Ahman, Galadiman Pategi was party secretary of the NPC – the ruling party of the region. The list is endless. Politically, it must be remembered that the Northern Regional Government also took cognisance of the ethnic peculiarities of the Ilorin Province; it instituted a democratically elected local government as an experiment in that province, at a time when nothing like it existed in other provinces of the North. A lot of those who take the most virulently anti-North postures today had in point of fact, benefited a lot from the programmes of the Sardauna and the Government of Northern Nigeria of old. These are facts which the majority of our people in Ilorin Emirate, Baruten, Edu, Kaima and Pategi remember very well and have always steadfastly defended. It is also interesting to note that in their desperacy to achieve a LEBENSRAUM for their Oduduwa Empire, the various clandestine maps in circulation even include all of the land belonging to the different peoples of our state, up to the River Niger. What the people who inhabit these areas – Nupe, Bokobaru, Fulani, Kamberi, Batonbu feel is not reckoned with. We obviously would be the vassals in their dream Empire. It is therefore very preposterous and mischievous, for a pan-Yoruba Conference in Ibadan to issue resolutions about Kwara State. If push comes to shove and a referendum is conducted, there is no gainsaying the fact that the idea of merger with the South West will be rubbished totally in 9 of The Writings of a Media Life.16 LGAs of Kwara. They are not even sure of a majority in the remaining 7 – the so called Yoruba, LGAs. The call for merger with the West is so persistent, only because the minority that wants it is under the wings of the political forces that control the Lagos/Ibadan press. They give copious pages to their vassals in Kwara, and as is their wont, believe they can intimidate or abuse the majority of the people to submission. By the way, what is so attractive about their South West? The thuggery that was unleashed on the supporters of the Kwara United Football Club recently, during a League match against the 11CC team at Ibadan, is enough lesson for those who dream of a merger with the South West and is a marker for what would be in stock for them in their dream west, if they ever get to go there, in the first place! Instead of dissipating energy on a campaign that can NEVER yield fruit, efforts should be concentrated to develop Kwara State. As a first generation state, it has been unable to deliver upon its latent potential. The reason is precisely because it has been dominated by the same ethnic/political/bureaucratic forces that have spent most of their years of dominance in conspiracies to tear the state away from the North, rather than work for its progress. Thirty one years after its creation, it can not be a surprise to the perceptive observer, that Kwara State resembles a retarded child, rather than a vigorous adult, able to chart a course of action that would lead to the achievement of sustainable development of its people.


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