Tuesday, January 13, 2015 11:11 am
Stephen Olufemi Oni/Ilorin
The people of Jebba in Moro Local government area of Kwara State cry out over neglect of their ancient community by both the federal and state governments and appeal to the duo for urgent redress
The people of Jebba, a rustic town in Moro local government area of Kwara State, were in full cry over the apparent long-term neglect of their community by both the federal and the state governments. They were particularly irked by dearth of infrastructural development over the years in the ancient town that was once a colonial headquarters of the Northern Protectorate before it was moved to Lokoja. Their other grouse has to do with the non-recognition and what they describe as shabby treatment of their monarch by the state government.
Founded in 1703 by two brothers, Adebola Adebara and Odaso Adebara from Ajasse-Ipo in Irepodun local government area of the state, who were in search of greener pastures, Jebba town, a gateway to the Northern and Southern parts of the country, is bounded in the North by River Niger, in the West by Gata, in the East by River Osin/ Bacita and in the South by Alagbon. It is a distance of 107 kilometers from Ilorin, the state capital
Oral history has it that there was an iron deity called “Bababa” at Oke-Kesa, referred to as Juju Hill in Jebba, being worshipped by the people. To them, Juju hill is a hill with great spiritual powers of healing all sorts of ailments and provision of children for barren women. The hill, it is claimed, is daily thronged by people from near and far seeking solution’s to one problem or another. Canoe or speed boat is used to cross the river to where the hill is located. After worshipping, the people would say “Oje Bababa” to the deity, meaning good or nice father. Thus, it was from the appellation, “Oje Bababa”, that the name of Jebba was formed. Besides, Juju Hill is highly revered for its protective power of making Jebba town and its people invincible to all external aggressors.
Jebba town is unique in very many respects. Aside hosting the West African Frontier Force, the army established by the colonial masters to repel forces that stood against their rule in 1897, the community also played host to prominent people including the then Governor -General of the Northern Protectorate, Lord Frederick Lugard and the Protectorate’s pioneer Chief Justice, Justice Davidson Alastair. Aside formally serving as the first capital of the Northern Protectorate during the colonial era, it was in Jebba town that the Royal Niger Charter was signed over 200 years ago. Also, the community houses the tomb of one of the European explorers, Mungo Park, who was buried in a cemetery established by Lord Lugard while residing in the community.
The people bared their mind recently at a press briefing addressed by the community’s spokesman, Comrade Jaiye Omotosho in Jebba. Despite the fact that River Niger flows at the backyard of the community, Omotosho lamented that Jebba town still has no pipe-borne water. “The water project embarked upon by the former Governor Mohammed Shaaba Lafiagi’s administration between 1991 and 1992 was abandoned and has suffered total neglect by successive governments,” resulting in people trekking long distances to source potable water, Omotosho lamented,
To the chagrin of the people, the only federal road that runs through Jebba town, linking the northern and southern parts of the country, has become a death trap, claiming several lives. The terrible condition of the road has not only increased the rate of accidents, it has also increased the tempo of armed robbery activities, making many motorists to abandon the road and divert to the Ilorin-Lokoja-Abuja road. “The present condition of the road is causing a lot of havoc, untold hardship and inhibiting the movement of commercial vehicles and as such, vehicles have been diverted to Ilorin-Lokoja-Abuja road axis, thereby denying and robbing our people of their means of livelihood,” lamented Omotosho.
Also worrisome to the people is that the ancient town, in spite of certain qualities associated with it and its status, has not a single federal government establishment. To their dismay, the Nigeria Paper Mills Limited which was established by the late Premier of Northern Nigeria, Sir Ahmadu Bello, the Sardauna of Sokoto, has since been privatised. It is lamentable that the workers that had been laid off since 2004 are yet to be paid their emoluments and benefits, resulting in untimely death of many of the workers.
According to Omotosho, the greatest assault on the community and its people happened in 2004 when the state government was reported to have ordered the closure of the Palace of Oba of Jebba. This action of the government, he said, led to the arrest and remand of the town’s traditional ruler, Oba Abdulkadir Alabi Adebara, at the Ilorin prison for 19 days in 2006. He was later charged to court for illegally parading himself as the Oba of Jebba, despite being warned by government to desist from doing so. Incidentally, the case dragged for about eight years, but on 29 January 2014, reprieve came the way of Oba Adebara as he was subsequently discharged and acquitted by Justice H. Ajayi of an Ilorin High Court. While absolving the monarch of any wrong doing, the court also restored his 3rd class status.
Omotosho narrated further: “Recently, Jebba people woke up to receive another shock on the recent grading and upgrading of traditional rulers in the state by the present government in which Oba of Jebba was not included while his 3rd class status was also not restored. Lamentably too, the state government did not effect the payment of his outstand ing salary and emolument for 11 years as a 3rd class Oba several months after the court judgment.
All other traditional rulers in Kwara state whose grading were equally revoked alongside that of Oba of Jebba and Ohoro of Shao in 1984 have, as he put it, had theirs re-graded and up-graded. Examples are Olupako of Share, Elesa of Oke-Ode, Emir of Tsonga and Etsu Tsaragi. Even those not graded in 1983 like Elesie of Esie, Emirs of Okuta, Yashikira, Gwanara and Ilesha Baruba were graded to 3rd class status in 1991 during the reign of a Military Administrator, Col. Alwali Kazir, and they are now 2nd class chiefs. This situation depicts a high level of injustice in the tradition system of Kwara state.”
To the people, it was equally disturbing that there is no single graded chief in the entire Moro local government area, making it the only local government area in the state without any graded chief. By reason of an Ilorin High Court judgment on 22 October 1997 declaring that Moro local government area is not part of Ilorin Emirate, Omotosho reckoned that Moro local government area should have its own traditional council just like the other four local government areas in the Kwara North Senatorial District.
Omotosho, who said the community has remained peaceful and law abiding in spite of the alleged lapses and neglect, has therefore sent a passionate appeal to both the federal and state governments to help in ameliorating the community’s predicament “by according Jebba town and its environs our rights, privileges, freedom and dividends of democracy.”
Their demands include total reconstruction and dualization of the federal road from Jebba to Ilorin, establishment of a Federal College of Education in the town, establishment of Federal Medical Centre/ National Blood Transfusion Agency, dredging of the River Niger from Baro-Jebba-Patigi and provision of pipe borne water for the community.
Others are the establishment of Campus for Marine Engineering and Fisheries by the Kwara State University, Malete in the town, recognition and upgrading of the town’s monarch to 1st class status to meet up with his contemporaries in the state, provision of a befitting palace for their monarch, payment of all outstanding arrears of salary and emolument of the Oba and a stop to the harassment and humiliation suffered by the monarch.
Reacting on behalf of the state government, the Senior Special Assistant (Media), Dr. Muyideen Femi Akorede, said de-grading and up-grading of traditional stools in the state is an on-going process. He said: “Governor Abdulfatah Ahmed assures those communities that are yet to benefit that they will be considered in the next phase.”
On the issue of water supply, Akorede said the state government is implementing water and other sectorial projects in phases, pointing out that this year, 17 water works have been revamped and modernized. Jebba community, he said, is sure to benefit from the next phase of the project.
While the state government plans to unveil new road projects across the state in the New Year, Akorede enjoined the people of Jebba and indeed other communities affected by bad federal roads to call on the federal government to intervene on the affected roads due to the hardship they impose on the citizenry. He, therefore, sought the support and cooperation of the people with the administration of Governor Abdulfatah Ahmed in its bid to deliver more dividends of the democracy to the people of the state.