IMEKO, a town in Imeko Afon Local Government Area in the west of Ogun State, Nigeria bordering the Republic of Benin, could be said to be only known, at present, as the pilgrimage city of the Celestial Church of Christ (CCC).
Despite its intimidating and enviable profile during the colonial era and even some decades in the post-colonial era and nearness to Abeokuta, the seat of power, Imeko-Afon appears to have been forgotten, as the once great town and its people languish in relative obscurity.
The road leading to the town from Abeokuta is snake-like, hilly and dusty. It is disfigured with steep inclines that cause serious headache to those plying the route. Rainy season is always a period of pain and agony for them.
Colonial Era till Date
IN 1891, what is known as Yewaland in Ogun State today cuts across every section where Yewa river starts, into the lagoon: that is, from Imeko District down to Idogo in Ilaro area, and from Idogo to Ado, to Badagry, into the lagoon. From Badagry down to Imeko and up to Oke Ile, Ijio, Oyo State was called the Western District of Lagos Colony or Meko District: that is the macro Meko District, with Meko as the administrative headquarters, between 1891 and 1905.
Where is the place of Imeko (Meko, Mekkaw, Mekko) today? Neglected, abandoned but not deserted by her children!
But today, all these landmark institutions and the firsts have been relocated! Imeko at present live in the past glory!! The once great town is now nothing, but the shadow of herself!!!
According to the population results, released by the Europeans in 1909, Imeko was 5,000; Idofa 600; Ijohun 400 and Ijale-Ketu was 300, while results considered all others towns as “ordinary villages.”
The incumbent Onimeko of Imeko, Oba Benjamin Oyeditan Olanite (Akanku IV) in a chat with journalists in his house in Imeko, recently said: “There were lots of anomalies against Imeko. For instance, due to lack of records, when states were being created, yet another land that belong to Imeko, Asunnara and Waasimi, were claimed for Oyo State.”
The monarch expressed concerns that Imeko, a community of such great historical importance should not be left undeveloped by the Nigerian government at all levels.
According to Oba Olanite, the landscape of the historical Imeko town is dotted with enviable tourism assets. He explained that the town itself is a tourist attraction, being a town that enjoyed huge European patronage, with great history, and its special soil, which is second to none in cotton plantation, among others.
Other tourist sites in the town include: Amule Rock, where people hide during the Franco-Dahomean War between 1882 and January 1894; Ikanun mountain; Iyanka rock; Ijagure cave and mount; Igbogbo Rocks Abeba mount; the tomb of the founder of Celestial Church of Christ (CCC), Reverend Samuel Biléhou Joseph Oshoffa; tomb of a foreign traveling Commissioner, Captain Vere De Creghiton, who died of malaria in 1899 (where Nigerian armies always pay him homage every year); Osuru Stream Water (which was a water fall before the rock collapsed); Soule, which the Ogun State government promised to develop since 20 years ago; Ogunndoko; Ogbun Aseere; Iyabe Jerry Turnel, which has layers and steps into a path that leads to Igbaleaye in Benin Republics; Erinfu Waters; and Aroketu, just to mention a few.
“The Meko forest reserves were to be made game reserves, but they have become criminals’ haven due to government’s neglect. People from Republic of Benin are just freely entering the forest reserves now and destroying things.
“Imeko is the pilgrimage centre for members of the Celestial Church of Christ (CCC). The church holds two major events in the town every year, yet the road that leads to Imeko is so narrow and a large part of it is bad.
“Being a boarder community, all the federal security agencies are present here and the Customs make good revenue for the government herein, yet we have been so neglected as though we are not part of the country.
“As a border community, closer to Benin Republic, but without any security headquarters, the town has become a sure escape route for miscreants,” Oba Olanite disclosed.
The Onimeko, while decrying the neglect of government, both at the state and the federal levels, among the 11 and a half headquarters the Europeans formed far prior independence, said the town was at par with Ijebu and Egba in those days.
Oba Olanite, who described Imeko as a town where federal high court should be located, enjoined the state and the Federal Government to come to the aid of the community, saying “We don’t have tertiary institutions; neither do we have technical educational institutions.
“Imeko has great potentials of being the pride of Nigeria if well attended to, even if just at the pace of development with the towns it used to rank with.
“We have land. We once gave 4,000 acres of land to the then Western Region government, now taken over by Oodua Group of Company. We have had series of meetings with the Group Managing Director of the company and he promised to come and do something about it, but the promise has remained rhetorical.
“Our land is the best for cotton in Africa that was why the British Cotton Grower Association (BCGA) made Meko the headquarter town of the association. Our land is also superb for tomatoes and maize plantation, while our people, who are predominantly farmers, are willing to explore these, if only they would be encouraged and mobilised by the government. And this has a huge potential of turning around the economy of not only Ogun State, but Nigeria at large.
“It was during the late General Sani Abacha government, with President Muhammadu Buhari as the Chairman, Petroleum Trust Fund (PTF) that the only federal road (Imeko-Aro road) of 1900 (Now Abeokuta-Imeko Road) rehabilitated and reconstructed. Today, the road is an eyesore, totally abandoned in such worse condition. Other roads included Imeko-Ebute-Igboro-Idi-Iroko-Badagry Road of 1918 (Now Ilara/Ijoun/Ilase Road), Ayetoro-Imeko that was constructed in 1952, Imeko-Oke-Ile/Ijio Road of 1952, Imeko-Gangan Road of 1952, and Imeko-Idofa/Ilara Road of 1953/1954.
“Ogun State still has another 232 acres of land in Imeko, which the government earmarked for Leadership Development Institutions since late 1970s, but hitherto, nothing has been done on it. The state also has land for Housing Corporation since 1976, yet, nothing is done with the land,” Oba Olanite resorted.
Mimiola writes in from Abuja