In Itokin, goat-rearing is forbidden

The memorial arcade

Nothing in the small, sleepy village of Itokin, in Ikosi Ejirin Local Council Development Area of Lagos State, betrays its rich history and those of its people. Though almost a ‘shouting distance’ from Ikorodu, linking Itokin from the neighbouring town could be likened to the biblical camel passing through the eye of the needle; very difficult. A journey that should have been undertaken in minutes lasts close to an hour.

The terrain, especially the road, linking the community with its neighbours, is in a deplorable state, thereby constituting a major disincentive for commercial drivers, eking their living on the Ikorodu-Epe route and potential investors.

“The road has constituted a major disincentive to us all here. What we do is to take a vehicle going to Epe and drop at Itokin. You know the community lies between Epe and Ikorodu. The road is bad, so any passenger that wants to access the community from Ikorodu would have to board a vehicle going to Epe, pay the same transport fare with Epe-bound passengers, despite the fact that it is shorter. You hardly get a direct vehicle from Ikorodu to this place,” explained Mr  Ayeni, a resident in the community, on enquiry by Nigerian Tribune, concerning how best to link this historically-rich  community.

Interestingly, for many, Itokin represents a microcosm of the bigger Nigerian state, owing to its rich investment potential. For instance, not a few are of the belief that with its hard-to-believe, but highly credible and rich history, the community should have been one of the major tourists’ attractions in the state, and a huge revenue earner for the government.

A first timer to Itokin would be shocked that, despite its residents’ love for goat-meat, nobody dared rear the domestic animal in the community. It is highly forbidden, and the community has its reasons for such law. Goats, here, are believed to have been ‘spiritually-compromised,’ hence the ban.

Over sixty years ago, a group of residents, said to be returning from a vigil, was stunned by an unusual spectacle of a goat, walking on its hind legs, a development they saw as very strange in the community.

The elders and traditional rulers in the community were contacted, and, after careful investigation, the decision to outlaw goat-rearing was taken.

Confirming the incident to Nigerian Tribune, Pa Isiaka Ogunsanya, an elder in the community, who was part of the group that witnessed the unusual spectacle, explained that before that ‘unusual’ incident, the people of Itokin never had any issue with goat-rearing. The domestic animal was just like any other in its category, then, in the community.

“This happened about sixty years ago. We were coming from a vigil and right in front of us was someone, from the opposite direction. On getting closer, we discovered it was not a human being, but a goat, walking on its hind feet, just like humans.

“Prior to this incident, we reared goats in the community. We hurriedly called the elders in the community and intimated them of the unusual spectacle.  It was there the decision to get rid of all the goats in the community was taken, because it was unheard of seeing a goat walk like human being. Though goat-rearing is never a taboo here, but it is just that it is forbidden, due to that experience,” explained Pa Ogunsanya, popularly known as Baba Gani in the community.

 

The Julius Berger connection

With the demise of the community leader, the Baale of Itokin, Baba Gani, who is the second eldest person, conversant with the history of the community, also took time to put paid to the age-long distortion of facts that the popular civil engineer, Julius Berger, died while appeasing the gods of a river, over a proposed construction of a bridge in that community.

Site where Julius Berger was buried

Pa Isiaka, who claimed to know Julius Berger at close quarters, noted that the late German engineer was an in-law to the people of the community. According to him, the day the man died, he had come to report his wife, a native of the community to her father, who lived in the same building with the elder Isiaka, the Baale of the community at the time, when he rammed his vehicle into a tree, on his way back from the Baale’s residence.

“We’ve heard different versions of the man’s death, but I can tell you that none of them could be described as true. If that is what people believe, I’m saying it is a lie,” argued Pa Isiaka, who said he was in his twenties when Berger died.

According to him, Berger, popularly called Oyinbo Self by residents, did not lay down his life for the construction of any bridge. He insisted that contrary to widely-held belief that the late German never had a marked grave, his remains were buried inside the market, very close to the tree where the accident occurred.

“What actually happened was that Berger married from this town. And on that fateful day, that he met his untimely death, he had come to report his wife to her father, who happened to live in the same building with my father. My father, at the time, was the head of the community. Berger had come to complain to his father-in-law that his daughter described him as childless, though an obvious fact.

“On his way back to his house, he rammed his vehicle into a big tree and died on the spot, and was buried beside the tree. When you go to the grave site, you will see the grave and the tree I’m talking about. This incident happened about sixty years ago; I was not told. I’m a living witness. His graveyard is still inside the market you saw on your way in. He didn’t lay down his life for the construction of any bridge,” Baba Gani stated.

 

The mysterious Aye river

While Pa Isiaka admitted that the water being referred to had mysterious properties, he said it was never, in any way, connected to Julius Berger’s death.

One of the mysteries of this water, popularly called Aye, in the community, he says, is the fact that as small as the area is, nobody had succeeded in throwing any stone across it.

Pa Isiaka

“Though, I don’t know for now, but in the past, if you threw stones across the water, it would always land in the middle of the water, no matter how hard you tried. When we were young, we used to try it. But we found out it was true. I don’t do it again and I also don’t advise anyone to try it. We call the river Aye. If you throw a whole community into it, it would swallow it without a trace. That is why it is called River Aye,” Pa Isiaka stated.

Besides the plane crash witnessed in the area, about twenty-one years ago, involving a crop of young military officers, an event that has not failed to evoke sad memories to the people of the community, another of the community’s major regrets is the fact that its residents, especially youths, had abandoned the community’s primary occupation of fishing, for greener pastures.

“Itokin people were known for fishing, but with the advent of education and civilisation, people have taken to different vocations and jobs. Those days, you could put your hand inside the water, you would definitely bring out fishes, but it is pathetic that those days are gone. There are no more fishes again in the river, because the river has been abandoned,” lamented Yusuf, another resident of the community.

With a huge and very rich historical background and a lot of tourism potential left unharnessed, Itokin community will, no doubt, remain a mystery that might take some time to unravel. Interestingly, the likes of Pa Isiaka would want those mysteries unravelled within the shortest possible time, so that the community can experience positive development.

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