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Ajowa: We came together

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A week or so ago, a book was launched at Ajowa – Akoko in Ondo State. The book is the first history telling the story of how, out of some seven or eight surrounding villages, Ajowa town came into existence in 1955. The book is entitled AJOWA 1955: An Amalgam Founded by God written by the Oba Oludotun of Ajowa Kayode Olusa.

Soviet Russia and Communist China made collectivisation a deadly word blamed for millions of death in both countries. In these countries, populations were forced to come together in order to enjoy infrastructures that benefit from population maximisation. People rebelled against such forced coming together and did everything to undermine the scheme, no matter how beneficial it could be. The fact that the Soviet system collapsed and Communist China is today managing a capitalist production and distribution process says that forced coming together is not good.

The wonder of Ajowa is that under the leadership of the oba’s father, Honourable R.A. Olusa, a number of villages decided to come together and form a new habitation. They wrote to the then government of Western Region for help to make their dream a reality. Western Region, like the other two regions making up Nigeria, was self-governing, under the Action Group government of Chief Obafemi Awolowo (1909 – 1987). Honourable R.A. Olusa was a member of the Action Group and a member of the Western House of Assembly. He was a graduate of the famous St. Andrew’s College, Oyo, the highest education institution in the country until 1948 when the University College was set up in Ibadan.

This book details every move in the process. It also documents opposition to the coming together! There were genuine fears by smaller communities being swallowed up by larger ones. There were larger communities that wanted the smaller ones to join them. The solution was that everybody would move to a new site. Everybody would bring their chiefs with them as well as their particular cultures and habits. At the same time everybody would still have access to the land they left behind. There was also the fear that they were going to occupy other people’s land. What if the owners of the new land came back to take back their land?

Once there was an agreement among the collectivising villages, a letter was written to the Western Region government based in far away Ibadan.

“On the 22nd of October 1954, a formal letter of request dated 2nd October 1954 was received at the office of the District Officer in Owo, in Owo Division, signed by one Chief Adegbola, the Balogun of Ibaram, the Secretary, (proposed) Ajowa Local Council. It’s contents were as follows:

Dear Sir,
For some time past, we of the villages of the proposed Ajowa Local Council and others had been considering settling together in a place but the plan has each time fallen through. We are now decided to exclude the others like Ikaram, Ikakumo, and Aura who have not agreed with us to come together.

We have chosen the site at the junction of Omuo – Lokoja road at the entrance of Daja town. We would acquire a site there sufficient to settle all of us who form Ajowa Local Council (proposed). We trust that the District Officer would give all possible assistance to us. The fact we have not been constituted a local council has prevented our inviting you to our midst to discuss the project. We forward the enclosed application through you to the Ministry of Land and trust that you would do your best to see that our request is granted at no distant date.

We have the honour to be

Sir,
Your obedient servants
Signed by Adegbola Balogun
Pro-ten Secretary.”

‘The “enclosed application” referred to above was addressed to The Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Lands, Western Regional Secretariat, Ibadan, Through the District Officer, Owoọ Division, by eleven royal fathers of the listed towns of Gedegede, Ojo, Ora, Efifa, Esuku, Ibaram, Akunnu, Uro, Oso, Igasi, and Daja. Four of the kings, the Olojo of Ojo (Oshamo), Olubaram of Ibaram (Dairo), the Oluwade of Akunnu (Obadofin), and the Oludaja of Daja (Ayodele) who could write, signed their names, while the remaining seven, who could not, affixed their thumbprints on the document.

The request was a joint one “to plan out a new settlement for our joint settlement and therefore request the government’s assistance in planning out the settlement in the next few weeks to enable those who are ready to erect houses to begin to do so” (Pages 9 to 12).

In January 1955 there was a positive reply from the Commissioner of Lands. The Principal Town Planning Officer of the time, Mr. Onafowokan, and his assistant visited.

Today, the town bears the mark of being planned, unlike many towns and villages before and after it along the Omuo – Lokoja road. The houses are built well away from the road thus avoiding the usual crowding of the side road by pedestrians, bicycle and motor cycle riders. The roads from the main road are straight and tarred. The town is kept clean.

During the launch of the book, the Chief Launcher, Chief Solomon Oladunni, the Asiwaju of Oke-Agbe, indicated that Oke-Agbe was a product of a similar process that brought Ajowa into existence, as far back as 1922. It was pointed out that nobody has yet written the story of Oke-Agbe, so the claim of seniority is a mere “unwritten but verbal verbose and oral history” with apologies to Mr. Royals of One man, one wife by T.M. Aluko.

You look in vain today for histories of Yoruba towns, of Nigerian towns. The example of Oba Kayode Olusa is instructive and ought to be followed by other Obas, emirs and obis throughout the country.

There are serious problems with getting books launched around the country. No matter Chimamanda’s anger at her French interviewer, the book industry is comatose in Nigeria. There are few publishers and their are even fewer bookshops. Books get launched and vanish into the hands of the few people who were there.

Finally, maybe if Nigeria had come together the way Ajowa came together, with all proposed country participants discussing their dreams and their fears, there would be no reason today to call for the restructuring of the country. Instead, Nigeria would be celebrating sixty-something anniversary of living together in peace and harmony as Ajowa is doing today. And the head writing a triumphant story of that coming together.


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