Residents of Iboro, a town in Ogun State, desire a new king after eight years of steady decline linked to the vacant stool, writes BOSEDE OLUSOLA-OBASA
Iboro, a city in Ogun State, prides itself as one of the oldest towns in Yewa/Egbadoland. With its history dating back to the 17th century, it was famous for being a pacesetter in the area. It was one of the first places to be developed and equipped with modern amenities.
The town boasted the first pre-colonial police station in Yewaland; the first pre-colonial magistrateâ€™s court, the first public waterworks, the first public library in the region and post office, to mention a few.
Also, it has produced some notable Nigerians, including the current Vice Chancellor of the University of Lagos, Akoka, Prof. Rahamon Bello; a former VC of the Olabisi Onabanjo University, Ago-Iwoye, Prof. Titus Bamkole; and a member of the National Assembly in the Second Republic, the late Senator Jonathan Odebiyi.
Unfortunately, when Saturday PUNCH visited the town recently, it had become a shadow of its glorious past. It cut quite a pitiable sight. None of the founding fathers would have imagined that Iboro would decline rapidly and lose its pride of place in Yewaland.
The residents of Iboro are worried that it is heading towards a total social and economic ruin. The situation appears to have severely affected the town and lowered its stature beside the likes of Ilaro, Ajilete, Oke-Odan, Owode, Ibese, Oja Odan, Papa lanto and Imasayi communities.
At present, virtually all the facilities previously enjoyed by residents of the town are no longer functional. Some of them have been relocated to other towns in the area, while Iboro is littered with uncompleted and abandoned public facilities.
The public library, a facility that used to be the pride of the community, now lies disused and virtually abandoned to goats.
The story is not different at the magistrateâ€™s court, which now serves as classrooms for a kindergarten school.
Similarly, the first secondary school in the town, Eyinni Secondary School, is in a state of disrepair. The school lacks chairs and desks, and some parts of the roof over the classroom blocks have been blown off by the wind.
A resident, who identified himself simply as Adeola, said that during lessons many of the students were forced to sit on the windows for want of chairs and desks. Even the building that once served as the first dispensary/public health centre has been abandoned, while the first police station building is now dilapidated and serving as a makeshift habitation for some residents.
Perhaps, the only things that still give joy to the residents of the town are the central mosque and Anglican Church, as well as kokoro, a ring-shaped local snack made from maize.
Adeola, noted that many private business initiatives that once thrived and created employment for the youths had become moribund, while the youths of the town now migrate to other states in search of jobs.
He said the development had halted the progress of the town for the past eight years, noting that not even the body of elders constituted for the purpose of advancing the cause of the town at the local government and state levels had been unable to help.
Another resident, Muniru Akanbi, told Saturday PUNCH that Iboro people reserved the secret recipe for producing the delicacy, which is sold by almost every household in the town.
But Akanbi laments that an unresolved stalemate in the kingship of the town has resulted in a significant loss of revenue from the production of kokoro for some time.
An investigation by Saturday PUNCH showed that, indeed, the townâ€™s fortunes assumed a steady decline about eight years ago. Since that period, the town has been without a king.
Founded by Aboro, the eldest of four brothers from Ile-Ife, Iboro had its first king, Oba Adeleye (Eyinni), in 1650.
Akanbi said that since its foundation, about 10 kings had ruled the town on a rotational basis among four royal families: the Aro, Olakokan, Agunloye and Oko-Aje houses.
He said that the town was enjoying steady developmental growth until the death of the last king, Oba Samuel Bakare. Since then, all efforts to crown another king have failed, especially as the next ruling house, the Agunloye family, failed to choose a candidate.
â€œSince the death of the last king, the town has remained without a king due to a tussle within the Agunloye family. It is however heartwarming that they have been able to put their differences away. The town is in dire need of a king. We have suffered a lot without a leader to lead to town to its place in history0 these past years,â€ he says.
However, a member of the council of traditional chiefs, the Odoboro of Iboro, acknowledged that the people, having decided to sheath their swords, were ready to elect a new king.
Chief Phillip A. Majagbe said everyone in the town yearned for the coronation of an oba with a vow to support whoever emerged as king.
He called on the Ogun State governor, Ibikunle Amosun, to assent to the process of electing a king without delay, as the procedure demanded. He called on all the sons and daughters of the town to revive their hopes in the town as it recuperates from years of stagnation and makes its way back to prominence again.
â€œThe Agunloye ruling house has picked three candidates out of which one is expected to emerge as king in an election. We have all suffered for the periods that the infighting lasted. So many of the things that our forefathers achieved have been lost in the process, we need to revive Iboro town and it is my prayer that it would happen soon, in my life time.
â€œWe know that as soon as we have a king, there will be a positive turn in the scheme of things in the land. It has been hard to get even things that are our entitlements from the government because of this trouble. That is our heart cry and earnest plea to the state government,â€ he says.