Ilu Aje is a relatively large agrarian community with vast lands located between Ilora and Jobele towns in the Afijio Local Government Area of Oyo State. Semantically, “Ilu Aje” is literally a town of prosperity in sales or business transaction. However, history bequeathed it with a weird homophonic nomenclature of “Ilu Aje” (Town of Witches) following the intervention of a herbalist (Ifa diviner) from the town, who cast a divination for the late Alaafin Ladigbolu of Oyo regarding a Prince of his who was missing.
The divination came true with precision unlike others who had tried in vain. The herbalist who had divined it in the presence of the then Alaafin that his missing son would be found in exactly seven days; lo and behold!, the son who had been missing for a long while, surfaced on the exact day that the herbalist had divined.
The surprised Alaafin therefore christened the herbalist “Adifase bii Aje” (One who divines or foretells with precision like a witch). Subsequently, some people started making jest of the natives of the town, adulterated the name and dubbed it town of witches (Ilu Aje).
To some people, it has been opined that because of the eerie feeling associated with the town as a result of the name, many, including government officials (who felt that witches would kill them if they agreed to work in the town), have since been keeping the town at bay in terms of relationship.
In order to remove the stigma, a one-time Head of the town later christened it “Ilu Ooye”, (Land where natural resources are deposited with people living in sound health). The socio-political implication of the popular name (Land of Witches) had nevertheless stuck on the town, thereby getting investors and even philanthropists scared of having anything to do with the town.
The two- and- a- half- kilometre journey from Ilora town to Ilu Aje (both under the consenting authority of the Alaafin of Oyo, His Imperial Majesty Oba Lamidi Olayiwola Adeyemi 111), is a tortuous one because the road is in a deplorable state. Some sections of the stretch of the untarred road where some streams traverse it are always damaged by erosion during raining, in spite of occasional repair done by the residents. Vehicular movement is therefore a very slow one as a result of the bumpy and gully parts that dot the surface of the road, thereby discouraging access to the community by many.
The Head of the community (Baale) was late, but the Otun Kabiyesi, Chief Oyebamiji Adeyemo, is overseeing the communal affairs of the town with other lieutenants like Chief Oyebamiji Fatorisa, the Odofin of Ilu Aje.
The town is peaceful and the atmosphere is serene with the inhabitants harmoniously living with many Fulani people that settled there, carrying on their cattle rearing business, as well as, farming. However, many social and infrastructural facilities are lacking in the town. It is one of the communities suffering from the common social amenities like pipe borne water, electricity, educational facilities, as well as, medical facilities, among others.
A visit to the town last week by New Telegraph, exposed a deluge of tale of woes from some of its residents, who said that electricity poles were facilitated and erected from Ilora to the town during the time of late Governor Lamidi Adesina, but its eventual experience was unpalatable to many of them.
According to Otun Adeyemo, they had a laudable gift from a member of the House of Representatives, representing Oyo Federal Constituency, Hon. Segun Taiwo, who facilitated electricity poles that were erected to the town during his tenure between 1999 and 2003. “The electrification project was contracted to some people who had erected the poles and laid wires on them. Shortly before the inauguration, while transformer was being expected to be brought to the community, some robbers started invading the road in the dead of the night, removing the wires from the poles. They started carting away the wires. We then organised our men into vigilante groups mounting nocturnal surveillance to get the bandits apprehended. We spent about N420,000 fortifying ourselves to ensure that we got the thieves arrested. We even invested in jazz (juju) in order to track down the bandits.
“When later they were coming with guns, shooting at us indiscriminately in the night, many of us then ran for our dear lives. The contractors could no longer continue with the project. But to our surprise, policemen came and rounded many of us up and whisked us to Iyaganku Police Division in Ibadan, alleging that we were the thieves who connived with the robbers to steal the wires. Some of us spent between two to three months in detention for a sin we did not commit. The police did not help the situation at all then.
“Our Council Chairman, Tunji Akinbiyi also tried during the administration of ex-Governor Adebayo Alao-Akala. He procured a transformer for us, but because almost the entire stretch of the cable wires laid had been carted away, nothing practicable could be done. We have since continued to sleep in darkness.
“The major road that links this town with Ilora and villages like Aba Bello, Tayese, towards Fiditi, is in deplorable state. We are majorly agrarian here but many people do not want to come and buy our farm produce because of bad road network. The few vehicles that come to transport our farm produce to the urban centres do so at our detriment. We have markets but transporters fear plying the road. The commercial motorcycle operators charge us double the fare we should normally pay. And can we blame them?
“Finance is another hurdle. We need loans to boost our markets; establish shops for our wives to eke out a living, but all these are lacking. We have vast lands but industrialists are not accessing here because of the lack of social and infrastructural facilities.
“All the successive administrations that we voted for have not given us the deserved attention despite our cries and appeals. Engineer Seyi Makinde came here for campaign and we told him our predicaments, and we promised to vote for him if he would pull us out of the woods. He promised us and we thank God he has won and sworn in. We place our hope on him, believing that he will make good his promise to lift us out of this under-development situation we have been wallowing in for years,” the community leader said.
An old woman with her son was seen traditionally breaking shells of palm kernel on some big stones. It was her source of livelihood, according to her. She disclosed that apart from that, women like her in the community process extraction of palm oil from palm fruits “but the system could have been better if government could assist us with modern machines to do the processing. This is an area where we need soft loans, but nobody is ready to help us,’’ she said.
New Telegraph also assessed the medical situation of residents of the community and found out that two health care facilities had at certain times been provided by past governments. However, only one of the two was partially functioning. One was completely abandoned with the building already swallowed up by bushes. The functioning one has only one government- employed Nurse with some staff attending to patients there, but as soon as it was 5 p.m, people in the community said she would leave for the town.
Asked what became of them in the night in case there was any emergency like a pregnant woman in labour, about to be delivered of her baby, Chief Fatorisa said, “The staff in the Clinic don’t stay overnight here because of electricity problem. If we have any emergency, we rush our patients to the Ilora General Hospital for treatment. We are always in despair whenever we have such emergencies. Our plea to Governor Makinde is for him to assist us with electrification of this town so that living could be much better for us.”
In the area of education, facilities are also begging for attention in Ilu Aje. The Commercial Grammar School in the town is a three-classroom building with a Principal’s Office. Each of the classrooms is used for two classes. JSS 1 and 2 are in a classroom; JSS3 and SS1 are in another, while SS2 and SS3 are combined in the third classroom.
A peep into the JS3 and SS1 classroom showed two teachers’ benches and desks with eight benches for 16 students facing a black-painted wall, while six benches for 12 students back the other class, facing the opposite black-painted wall in the same room. Apparently, two teachers teach simultaneously in the same open classroom.
New Telegraph gathered from some residents of the town that some parents who could afford it did not allow their children to attend the Grammar School constructed through the Local Empowerment and Environmental Management Project (LEEMP), because they know that teaching could not be qualitative in such an environment. To them, the ex-Governor Abiola Ajimobi administration did not do anything to better their education condition for the eight years he spent in office.
Chief Fayorisa even said that many of the children of the Fulani people living among them were always being transported to Ilora on daily basis to attend their Quranic school because there was none in Ilu Aje. “If government can establish a Quranic school in this town, and post teachers with qualification in Islamic Education here, the Fulani children will not be going out every day. Their operation here would even boost commercial and social activities in the town. But the problem is that many of our politicians are highly deceptive. Whenever they need our votes, they would come, making promises upon promises. But once they get to office, you hardly see them again. We only hope that Engineer Seyi Makinde, our Omituntun Governor will change the tradition and attend to our request. We pray for his successful tenure,” the Chief said.
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