“Ilorin o gò” and “the 1949 verdict”

By Abubakar Imam

If you do not blow your trumpet no one will blow it for you. It is for no reason other than the fact that they are busy blowing theirs”.*

-SIR AHMADU BELLO(1909-1966)

The message of the title of this piece can be literally translated as *”the people of Ilorin are not ignoramuses, unwise or primitive”* as some unrepentant critics of Ilorin often stereotyped the people of the home of Sheikh Alimi.It could be seen as a response to the poser shot at the Ilorin Emirate community by a mere observer of the confounding dynamics and the enduring philosophy of leaving everything for Allah.

Over the years, residents have always found a way of playing with words to describe the places of their abode. Many would say “Eko o gba gbere”meaning that “Lagos could be inclement to those who are not smart enough”while some others would say “Ibadan lo mon oman Laipo”that is to say “your knowledge of the geography of Ibadan is somehow deficient”.

Ilorin, just like other human settlements, has always been seen from different perspectives, particularly amongst indigenes of other places who have found a home in it or have one business or the other with Ilorin. While one of such “settlers”  named himself “Ilorin-Gbemi” in appreciation of the priceless progress he recorded in every aspect of his life while sojourning in the southernmost Emirate, “Ilorin go” (Ilorin people are deadwood ) was the perception of another settler on the characters and characteristics of his hosts.

Before I proceed, let me first explain that the introductory quotation cited earlier is a justification for my consistent consistence in focussing my writings on Ilorin; the land of my ancestors and the only home I have ever-known through my existence as a member of the human family. I believe that the community and her proud people have witnessed so much and have so many things to be written on, if for no other reason, but to be convinced that we were and can never be inferior to any of our close and distant neighbours.

Despite the fact that the history of Ilorin, as a strong and united Emirate, is relatively shorter, the kind of spectacular achievements recorded by Ilorin can only be secured at the pleasure of Allah Who has blessed the community far beyond the imaginations of its founding fathers . According to one of the Emirate’s most accomplished heroes, the late Sheikh Adam Abdullahi Al-Ilory(1917-1992), the strides and achievements of Ilorin are astounding and mysterious to so many historians and members of other communities whose histories run into millennia before achieving that much!

Yes, I cherish the genre because the more  involved I am, the more equipped I become as far as issues having to do with my homestead is concerned.

I also know that doing so will continue to expose both indigenes and interested residents and other groups of people the privilege of knowing more about the geography, history, culture, people and what there is to know about Ilorin Emirate.

One other reason is the need to “compel” other more privileged compatriots who know more but are too busy to find time to raise their voices or put their pen on paper in order to benefit the rest of us with the reservoir of knowledge deposited in them. I have achieved this many a times. Many have called to grant me wider and richer perspectives on issues and personalities. In fact, each of my articles attracted the calls or invitations of distinguished elders who consequently afforded me more information and facts about Ilorin.

The story I am about to share with you today was heard from an interaction spurred by one of those previous articles by yours sincerely.

It was narrated to me by the 91 year old Alhaji Shafi’i Adebayo Yusuf, the Magaji Olodo family of Oke-Aare area of Ilorin. I had visited him at his Warrah residence courtesy of an appointment facilitated by a venerable compatriot, who is also a one-time President of a respected assemblage of eminent professionals of Ilorin Emirate origin and an ex-National President of the IEDPU. I beg not to reveal their identities.

Because it is often said that the quality and authenticity of a message is dependent on the personality and credibility of the messenger, I need to provide some enabling information before going into the story proper. Who is this Alhaji Safi’i Yusuf, my source? And where is Oke-Aare situated in Ilorin? I am sure a lot of people of my age would like to know.

Alhaji Usuf ,known among his contemporaries as Safi Pakata, is qualified to be described as one of the surviving leaders and elders of Ilorin Emirate.The man, who is now “physically bent” as an effect of old age but remains mentally alert and intellectually vibrant, was among those who graduated from “The Middle School,Ilorin,in 1950 along with the likes of Ambassador Abubakar Garba Gobir(1934-1996), Alhaji Sanni Adebayo Lawal(1933-2011), Alhaji Saka Alesinloye(1933-2008) and Ahmad Ambali Abdulsalam a.k.a Ambali Pakata (1933-1983) as well as Alhaji Aremu Sidiq Manna and Alhaji Hamidu Erubu, CON, (b. 1931), to mention a few. His set at G. S. S was preceeded by those of the incumbent Balogun Alanamu of Ilorin, Alhaji Abubakar Akanbi-Jos; Alhaji Yakubu Amori Gobir(1931-2011), Alhaji Yusuf Amuda Gobir(1934-1975), Alhaji Amuda Ahmed Gobir(1930-1980), Alhaji Akanbi Mahmud Oniyangi(1932-2006) and Alhaji Usman Mustapha(b.1930), the present Wali of Ilorin,while the set,which followed theirs was dominated by Justice Saka Yusuf Oloru(d.2018), who was the Head Boy, and Justice Abdulkadir Orire(b.1934). Alhaji Usuf is also the only surviving member of the Ilorin Progressive Union(IPU) established in Kaduna in 1957,which metamorphosed into what IEDPU is today.

Then, what about Oke-Aare? Where is it located? Oke-Aare is the ancestral name of a significant segment of the place now called Adeta in Ilorin. It refers to all the areas covering Apaokagi, Onimajesin, Alagbede and Ketu Compounds and all the places bodering Oke-Ikoyi, from where the first Ilorin-born Professor, Saka Nuru(b.1935), hails from , to Aromaradu, which is now called Alfa Yahaya Area, all in the vicinity people of the greater Ilorin give the generic name of Pakata but located within the precinct of the present- day Adewole Ward of Ilorin West Local Government Area of Kwara State.

I have kept the story the old man told me to pmyself for so many reasons. One, it is not palatable. Another reason is that it is not verifiable as most of those from whom I could establish its veracity have since passed on.And three, to avoid likely polemics from those who don’t read between the lines .But on listening to the same man on the inaugural edition of “Our Heritage”on Sobi 101.9 FM on Sunday March 1, 2020, as he repeated many of what he had earlier told me with “perfect exactitude”,a year after our encounter convinced me that the story must be nothing but the truth.This is because I was taught and I believe I have learnt that “replicability is an essential ingredient of empiricism” not just in sciences but also in the liberal studies.

The fact that the old man is also marking his 91st birthday on Wednesday April 1,2020, compelled me to put this together so that we can all learn from it while also joining him in thanking Allah for the rare blessing of longeivity of life in a clime where life expectancy, even before this Coronavirus pandemic, has been pegged at averagely 55 years of age.

Now to the real matter. The year of the incident was 1949.The scene was Erigun Nda, around the Emir’s palace.The incidence was between an Ijesha settler and a group of Ilorin-born energetic and patriotic youths who were students of “The Middle School, Ilorin” now known as Government Secondary School, Ilorin.

The students were heading home from the only post-primary school in Ilorin of those days at the end of a term. A young man who was obviously over-fed and had just bought a bicycle to mark his arrival among those destined to rock the socio-economic parlance of the Ilorin of that period felt that the prayers of “wa ko ere oko de ile” (may you return to your ancestral home with good and goodies) did not matter to him. He had foolishly written “Ilorin go” or “Ilorin people are foolish” on his bicycle and decided to take his luck that far.

As he saw those boys approaching and knowing that all of them were from Ilorin, he decided to stylishly show them the contemptuous junk he wrote on his ill-fated bicycle while trying to hide under acrobatic displays with his “keke”.

Alhaji Usuf said that, among his colleagues numbering about 20, he was the only one who first saw what was inscribed on the bicycle. He explained that the inscription infuriated him as he was able to decode its import almost immediately. He added that he wasted no time in bringing the “offensive boaster” to “crude justice” by bringing him off his bicycle with serious beatings. Other students who were in the convoy were initially taken aback but after he explained to them what he saw,which they also confirmed, thereafter, they joined him in not only beating the hell out of the offender but also destroying the bicycle, which allowed an offensive message to be written on it!

Soon the Police arrived. The law enforcement agents were initially angered that the students could take laws into their hands but as soon as they saw what infuriated the students, the “Alalubosa boys” were allowed to go while the rider and his bicycle were arrested for instigating public disturbance.

Seventy years after, Alhaji Usuf insisted that the Ijesha man did what he did deliberately. He said that as at that time, the number of llorin people who were lettered in western education and culture were few and far in between. It must have been the erroneous belief of the offender that those students were also learning nothing from school and so he could “ride them” as he was riding his bicycle.

The elder statesman, however, said that each time he recalled the episode, he always felt that the young man was partially right for stating the obvious. He added that so many things that have happened over the years did not convince him that the community was taking the right path.

He was of the belief that for too long, we neglected what is good for the preferred. We abandoned the best amongst us for the charlatan. We worshipped money instead of ideas. We cherished fame and disregarded reasoning.

Are we not always happy in the downfall of our compatriots? Are our clerics behaving as those who have access to the words of God? What do our clerics gain from running down one another as Musicians often do? Do the young have respect for the elderly ones any more and the elderly, any sense of reciprocation for the few youths who show humility to them?

Are we not behaving as if we would not give accounts of our deeds before man and Allah?

Don’t we pursue the same business as our neighbours? Why are more than twenty of our compatriots always show interest in just a position at the same time, which often give their opponents the privilege of carrying the day to our collective detriment? Are we not educated enough to know that a group divided among or against itself cannot stand?

Don’t we abandon our wives and children for side-chicks only to come home dried and sick? Are our women not always after the next party instead of the future of their children and stability of their families? Haven’t we polarised most of our Ratibi Mosques as a result of infighting for Imamship and other forms of local politics as if we don’t know that such a tendency is bad?

To Alhaji Usuf, nothing justifies the level of relative backwardness or unpardonable stagnation we have found ourselves. He couldn’t fathom why men who made as much contributions to the progress and development of the community as Alhaji Yusuf Amuda Gobir and Alhaji A. A. Jimoh Oloje, among others, could not have, at least,a school renamed after each of them to remind younger people of what they stood for while a non-indigene who only made a day “Naira show” has a very strategic road renamed after him.

To him, those who watched us from far and near would continue to see us as unserious, backward and ignoramuses until we are united to fight for our community interests.

If Alhaji Usuf and his friends had not delivered the “verdict 1949” to the arrogant rider and taught him the lesson of his life nothing would have convinced the rider and those who think like him that “Ilorin o go oju lanti fun rawa”.

*Imam is the National Publicity Secretary, Ilorin Emirate Descendants Progressive Union.

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