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Oke-Ola: Where Residents Are Abandoned To Fate
All efforts must be exerted to bail most Nigerians out of the type of life that can most be described as animalistic. This informs this week’s conclusion of Enviroment Watch’s expedition to Yewa-Ilaro in Ogun State with this report on Oke Ola, a surburb of Ilaro where the people, like Mowe residents in Ibafo Local Government of Ogun State, survive by sheer self-help of social amenities, despite taxes paid by the neglected people.
Nigerians can be said to be one of the most unlucky citizens in the world. Reason: they provide virtually everything for themselves despite paying their taxes. Ranging from potable water, to electricity, roads, security, education, jobs, health services, sanitary services and what have you. It is an irony of a ridiculous and ludicrous sort in a country that is blessed with every imaginable human and natural resources.
The case of Oke Ola, an emerging dusty surburb in Ilaro, headquarters of Yewaland in Yewa South Local Government Area of Ogun State, corroborates the saying that ‘every man to himself, God for us all.’ This is because residents of the area are urgently in need of subsidisation of their standard of living from the government of Ogun State.
Since inception of the area in the late 80s, about a decade after the establishment of the Federal Polytechnic, Ilaro, the people have been responsible for virtually everything, part of which the government should provide for them. While the town planners take pleasure in halting land owners from constructing their houses until they obtain government’s approval, the survival of residents in terms of sinking borholes, building motorable roads, providing security, electrification, building of health centres and maternities, among others, are far-fetched in the area.
Oke-Ola has many communities under it. There are about 10 of them, according to Pastor Segun Coker, resident and founder of Best Love Bible Church, located in the area. The communities include Imole Ayo, Endurance, Irewole, Peaceland, Ifelodun, Ifesowapo, Oke Odo, Boluwaduro among others. Pastor Coker, who is also the chairman of Imole Ayo community, told EW that lack of pipeborn water, bad untarred roads, epileptic power supply, lack of a police post among others are the lot of the people whose population, according to Coker, is estimated at about 300,000.
Residents, according to the Egba cleric, include peasants farmers, petty traders, students and civil servants among who are teaching and non-teaching staff of the Federal Polytechnic, Ilaro. The wooden electric poles used to step down power into the area were erected through the help of Senator Iyabo Anisulowo and communal effort.
“Electricity was brought through our effort, though PHCN now bring bills for power that we never consumed. We bought and mounted the cables and everything you see concerning the poor electricity supply here. There is no single presence of government here. They only come during elections,” Pastor Coker lamented.
The ‘candle light’ electricity that was available when EW visited the area was better imagined. The roads leading to all the streets were constructedby residents, hence, the poor planning of the environment. Refuse are dumped beside roads and anywhere bushy, no matter how close to homes. There are no primary health centres, while women due for delivery are ferried, if the bad roads will allow, across the dangerous Ilaro-Oja-Odan road to private hospitals in the main town or the only General Hospital that is near comatose because of lack of facilities.
From a distance, only one public primary school. LGA Primary School, could be sighted, yet children are churned out every month in the area. As a result, private schools are fast springing up.
Meanwhile, as the area is bereft of social amenities that should make life meaningful for them, worship centres litter almost every nook and cranny. The presence of a mosque and other religious denominations like Christ Apostolic Church, Foursquare gospel Church, the Redeemed Christian Church of God and several individually-owned ministries are evident with accompanying noise pollution blaring from speakers of different sizes and shapes when EW visited.
Depicting a typical rural setting in what is supposed to be an urban area, some residents of the area take delight in rearing domestic animals such as goats, sheep, fowls and the like, which destroy farmlands and gardens of the elite living in the area.
On security, thieves, according to an early settler, Apostle Emmanuel Ayilagbe, pay them a visit once in a while and their targets were always cell phones, money, electronics and sometimes, kidnap of little children.
The fact that there is only one police post in the whole of Ilaro, despite past and present subtle activities of cultists and robbers in a town that has produced great men and women such as former military administrator of Oyo State, General Adetunji Olurin, Iyabo Anisulowo, a non-serving senator, was Minister of State for Education; Senator Iyabo Apampa, mother of Lagos lawyer, Festus Keyamo and the like, was unacceptable.
A Community Development Association chairman, Mr Taiwo Odutola, who is a civil servant in Ifo Local Government Area, said the underdevelopment being witnessed in the area, nay the entire Ilaro and Yewaland, was as a result of lack of cooperation among the people, as displayed during the last April election when internal rancour robbed the area of the governorhip slot in the state.
“You can see that since three years ago when we lost our oba, the Olu of Ilaro, up till now, another Olu is yet to emerge, all because of lack of one voice on issues concerning Yewaland,” the youthful community leader stated.
To survive at Oke Ola, you either dig a well through the help of Northerners, or trek some distance to a few Shylock borehole owners to buy water. Alternatively, others that are financially handicapped resort to some brooks and streams few kilometres away, to fetch water for domestic use. The people, especially children are greatly exposed to water-borne diseases such as schistosomiasis, typhoid and cholera, among others.
One of the children, Jemilatu Oyeniran, who spoke with EW at one of the brooks, said the residents had no choice than to cart their clothes to the brook to wash, saying it would be unaffordable to buy water that would be enough for their washing.
“We thank God for this natural provision, else, where will we go for water? Despite the long distance, we come here to wash clothes and fetch some water home for domestic use. Or are you here to bathe, so we can excuse you?” the primary six pupil asked EW.
On a stroll to a particular portion of the stream, much devastation and rape of nature were seen going on non-stop. For instance, young palm trees were cruelly uprooted and forced to ooz out palm wine for hungry tappers’ appetites. Economic tree forest near the stream were being hewn down for faggots and electric poles. In no distant future, all economic trees in the area would have gone extinct at the detriment of the soil.
While what may be referred to as modern houses are commonplace, shanties and mud houses, where people live, dot the environment. Inhabitants survive via cassava meal and what the wearing soil can offer them from farms that are miles far away from home.
One of the major roads leading to the expansive community revealed much neglect and insensitivity of the government which should primarily be responsible for the fixing of such roads. During rainy season, the attendant erosion is usually of great magnitude. Red sand takes over the entire roads during the dry season. Hence, there is only one means of commercial transportation to and from the area– motorcycles. The individual car owners meander roughly through the rugged roads on a daily basis. No drainages, no bridges, the roads have never been lucky to taste tar.
EW was told that houses in Oke Ola are indiscriminately built and acquired by people. “It’s only after people have started erecting their structure that town planners at the Yewa South Local Government come over to mark and harass the builders and when they are ‘settled’ it ends there,” a resident who won’t wants mentioned stated.
However, some aborigines otherwise called Omo Oniles of the area were said to be warming up to become Baale as well as secretly planning to make residents pay fresh money for the lands they acquired and built on.
“They want to collect fresh money from us because land has become expensive here. They are probably regretting selling off the plots of land at the rate they were worth then,” Alhaji Musubau Alegi, one of the leaders in the community, stated.
Today, ”we need a transformer, because only one serves the whole area at present, we need health centres, cement electric poles, public boreholes, a police post, tarred roads and other good things of life,” Apostle Ayilagbe stated.
In this era of the cry for urban re-engineering, the various levels of governments in Ogun State have a challenge to make life meaningful to the ordinary man in the streets of rural towns and villages in the state. With a single police station and dysfunctioning General Hospital to service the whole of Ilaro, where students litter every street, the local government nay the state government may be said not to be doing enough for the people who obviously deserve a better treatment.
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