The other day I went to the village of my birth, Ilado-Oja in Okitipupa Local government area of Ondo State. The village is situated close to the border between Ondo and Ogun State. This village is not on the map of Nigeria and I know this is the first time people are reading about it in the newspaper. We are part of the Ikale tribe. Our forebears have over 600 years of history migrating westwards from Bini through Ikoya. Returning to this village after almost three decades left me bewildered. The village has become a shadow of itself. Although the ambiance still looks good with plenty of plantain around the village, the coconuts trees and of course palm trees. All the first generation of elders have all died. All the mud houses are dilapidated. Seeing Ilado Oja and what it used to be, I broke down and wept profusely. What happened to Ilado-0ja? While we were growing up, there are about twenty houses. My father was then the eldest and the head of the village.
When he asked me in the evenings to go and call the elders for a meeting, we could gather as many as fifteen elders. As for us children, I remember we will gather in the evening in my step mother’s house and she will tell us moonlight stories and taught us songs to sing. The moonlight stories and songs teach hard work, chastity, honesty, and respect for the elders. When my mother went to Igbotako to sell cassava and bought a three colored underwear for us, we will hang the rope on our neck and wear it around the village for everyone to know that we’ve got new underwear. It will take another two years before another underwear will be purchase for us. But Ilado-Oja today is an eye saw of the old era. All the houses are dilapidated and the people leaving there are emaciated.
Curiously, one thing that caught my attention in this village was the posters of politicians pasted on the mud walls of the houses. These are posters of the last presidential and governorship elections. I was told the politicians never came to the village but sent their goons who came to paste the posters and explain the process of the election to the villagers. Nigerian politicians are clever fellows. When the election is drawing near, they sent their people to go and paste posters in the village with their larger than life pictures beaming with smiles. The posters also show the place the people should place their finger on the ballot papers. They know the people cannot read and write but pictures speak louder than words. But after the election, the village and the people are completely abandoned and forgotten. Politicians, have you seen your life?
Well, after weeping enough I began reflecting on what I saw in our village after my visit, I said to myself that the government and politicians are really doing well for the people living in the towns and cities like Abuja, Lagos, Kaduna, Port Harcourt, Ibadan, etc. When foreign dignitaries come to meet our political leaders they take them around the cities. They never bring them to see the villages. People living in towns and cities in Nigeria are really enjoying it. I’m surprised that they are still complaining that the government is not doing enough for them. For example, you have your road tarred with tax payer’s money. You have the television to watch every day. You can access the internet and listen to the radio. You have access to pipe-borne water. You have banks to save your money and take loans. You can go to the movies and have air-conditioned houses, offices, and churches. The government put culverts in your gutter, they provide hospitals for you, and sometimes you get electricity supplies. You have airports, seaports and many other facilities in the towns and cities. What’s more, the private sectors establish businesses and rent offices and put signboards, you have access to telephones, you have shopping malls where you go and buy your stuff. What else do you people want and still complaining? But it is not like that in villages like Ilado-Oja.
In Nigeria, the village people live in a different world. They are completely cut off from civilization. The politicians and government don’t care a hoot about them. The people live in the world of their own abstractions. In the villages in Nigeria, there is no sign of development whatsoever. In Ilado-Oja the only sign that the government ever exist was the Local Authority Primary School that Chief Obafemi Awolowo established there in 1955. That was the primary school we all attended before we left the village. In our day, we have at least 20 students in each class from primary one to six. When I went there recently, the whole school have five students all crammed into one classroom. I was told that during market days, no student comes to school because they have to go to the market in a bigger town to sell for their mothers. That is the only way the village people could get any contact with money.
Honestly, those of you living in the towns and cities in Nigeria, you are really lucky. You see nice things every day, you go through traffic jams, you hear car horns, and you can go to the restaurant and buy whatever food you want to eat. It is not like that in the village at all. The government makes budgets to take care of towns and city people. No budget is made for the people in the villages. Politicians don’t visit the villages except during electioneering campaign. And once they get the votes of the village people, they abandon them till the next election. Votes are the only thing politicians need from village people. Nothing more, nothing less. That is Nigerian politicians for you.
In the olden days, my father and the elders in our village went to cut the iroko tree with the ax in the forest and put it in the river that leads to Ilado-Oja. It is through that ‘bridge’ people pass through our village to the other villages beyond Ilado-Oja. I remember one time my father and elders in Ilado-Oja gathered all the biggest yams, cocoyam, plantain and the choicest of all kola nut and took them for display at the agriculture fair in Okitipupa. All of these items were never brought back to the village. The Western Region government officials took them away. No money was paid. When I asked my father why they didn’t bring back the items and no money, he said the government officials commended them and collected the items from them that they are taking them to the governor in Ibadan. Using this opportunity to ask the government officials to either return my father’s yam, plantain and kola nuts or else I will bring an embarrassing lawsuit against the governments of the former Western Region.
Here is my humble suggestions to the Buhari-Osibanjo administration; if they want to leave a lasting legacy of their regime they should focus on building infrastructure in the villages especially in Ilado-oja. Go and build good schools, hospitals, good roads, provide electricity and water for the village people. People living in the cities and towns have got enough. The state government should also do the same. When you do that you will see how the village people will pray for you and then we will have urban-rural migration.
The angels are still in the whirlwinds. Thank you for allowing me to share this candid thought with you. You are not born to suffer. There is a seed of greatness within you. Only you can make your life a masterpiece. You have an option. You can lie down and sleep all day and night and curse your star that life and Nigeria have not been fair to you. Or you can design a workable plan and lead a worthy life intentionally. The choice is yours. God bless you. God bless Nigeria.
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