Ilorin in the 21st Century – Prospects and Challenges
By Yusuf Lawal, Phd
In the name of Allah, the Most Beneficent, the Most Merciful.
Let me start by congratulating our father, His Royal Highness, the Eleventh Emir of Ilorin, Alhaji (Dr) Ibrahim Sulu Gambari, CFR on the occasion and commemoration of his Silver Jubilee (25th) Coronation Anniversary coming up on Wednesday 11th in this Eleventh month of 2020. Allah ya ja zamani Sarkin Ilorin. May our ancient city continue to prosper in peace, tranquillity, progress and development.
I thank the organiser offirst Public Lecture of Ilorin Anchor Men and Women Initiative for finding me worthy of being the Keynote Speaker and the In-House Speaker at the auspicious and unique occasion. As a financial and active member of the Forum, I cannot be a guest in my house. I therefore see myself more as an In-house Speaker, rather than being a Guest Speaker. Nevertheless, I see this opportunity to share my thought and opinion in-house and by extension, to the outside world, as a privilege which I am not taking for granted. I appreciate the Chairman, Secretary and all members of the Ilorin Anchor Men and Women Initiative for this wonderful opportunity. I pray that the Group continues to grow in strength, number and bounds.
I have been requested to speak on “Ilorin in the 21st Century – Prospects and Obstacles” which I have slightly amended to “Ilorin in the 21st Century – Prospects and Challenges” because challenges are not insurmountable. In view of the short period of time within which I have been advised to restrict myself, I will crave your indulgence to limit this talk to the basics only.
Ilorin might have existed before 1800, possibly not as a well defined and delineated town, but clearly as a sparsely populated and pocket of settlements. However, according to our father, the erudite LAK Jimoh in his master piece “Ilorin The Journey So Far”, the Fulani hegemony was initiated in Ilorin about 1807. In 1824 under Emir Abdulsalami, as the first Emir with clear leadership and hierarchy of authority, our city began to emerge as a collection of people from different background but under the umbrella of Islam, which has unarguably remained our compass for direction.
During this period, there were other major towns in the Northern and Southern parts of present day Nigeria that had also emerged clearly as defined and delineated. There were series of war of expansion of territories which led to the sacking or relocation of some towns. Ilorin was also engaged in a number of these wars, and our forbearers expanded our territory exponentially, particularly towards the South, Ilorin was never conquered by anyone. Rather, Ilorin gained from the spoils of war which naturally led to prosperity, especially amongst the families of the “army generals”.
Also according to LAK Jimoh in the book under reference, Ilorin also mid-wifed the establishment of Fulani hegemony in Nupeland and by aiding the founding of Lafiagi, Shonga, Agaie and Bida Emirates between 1808 and 1810.
The Ilorin Military was engaged the fiercest battles in the South and our Army became a super military power until the British Colonial Government in Lagos, using the British Colonial troops with sophisticated weapons stopped the imperial Ilorin’s expansion in 1897.
The gains and spoils of these battles increased the standing and prospects of Ilorin immensely. Trade and business boomed and many rich people had started to emerged in the town. This could possibly be the reason why many compounds in Ilorin were named with the major booming trades of the period.
Examples are Ile Alawo (hide and skin), Ile Alawo (ceramics), Ile Aladire (dye), Ile Aladie (chicken), Ile Eleere (beans), Ile Onisu (yam), Ile Eleko, Ile Onisona, Ile Onilu. My great grandfather, my grandfather, my uncle and my cousin were policemen, so our compound was named Ile Olopa. My forbearers were in the forefront of ensuring the maintenance of law and order in the city. (There was no #ENDSARS then).
The standing and reputation of each town before colonialism, during colonial period and after independence contributed to the status and ranking of traditional rulers. The Northern Region Government in 1965, under the authority of the Premier’s Office issued a Guide to Procedure which categorised sixteen (16) traditional rulers as first class and also put them in a table of precedence as follows:
1. Sultan of Sokoto
2. Shehu of Borno
3. Emir of Gwandu
4. Emir of Kano
5. Emir of Bauchi
6. Lamido of Adamawa
7. Emir of Katsina
8. Emir of Zaria
9. Etsu Nupe
10. Emir of Ilorin
11. Emir of Kontagora
12. Emir of Dikwa
13. Emir of Argungu
14. Emir of Gombe
15. Tor Tiv
16. Attah of Igala
There were thirty (30) second class Emirs/Chiefs listed in the same guide. These represent the big and major cities and towns that existed alongside Ilorin during the period. In the South the old towns of the same age with Ilorin are Ile-Ife, Oyo, Ibadan, Abeokuta, Lagos, Ede, Osogbo, Ikiru, Ogbomoso, Ilesha, Ikoyi, Ekiti, Akoko, Igbiraland, Benin etc.
I have given these details to allow us compare and contrast the progress and prospects that we have made as a town if we juxtapose the level of development that have been made in the above mentioned towns with the efforts that we have made in Ilorin.
Apart from the traditional trade derived from agriculture, slave trading, pottery, hunting and others, colonialism brought with it other forms of employment which also contributed to the development and prospects of different towns. White Collar jobs were opened up as western education brought new class of elites who had become teachers, lawyers, doctors, engineers, administrators and entrepreneurs.
From the standing of our Emir in the first team, it can be safely concluded that we made giant strides in the 19th Century between 1801 and 1900. If we compare the development and progress achieved in Ilorin town with those of the sixteen (16) towns represented by the first class Emirs mentioned above and in the towns mentioned in the South objectively, in my personal opinion, I would say that, apart from Kano in the North, and Lagos and Ibadan in the South, Ilorin was relatively peaceful, prosperous and developed in the 19th Century.
Following the military takeover of Government in Nigeria in 1966 and consequent upon the creation of states in 1967, Ilorin emerged as a State Capital. Between 1967 and 1976, the contemporaries of Ilorin as States Capital were:
S/N NORTH SOUTH
1 Ilorin Benin
2 Jos Calabar
3 Kaduna Enugu
4 Kano Ibadan
5 Maiduguri Lagos
6 Sokoto Port-Harcourt
The parameters and indices for the measurement of development may vary depending on what we individually consider as development. However, the key and major things to look out for, in a developing world like Nigeria, are usually the following:
1. Peace, Law and Order
2. Infrastructure like Road, Water, Electricity, etc
3. Educational Development
4. Business Growth
6. Expansion of Town
7. Sports and Youth Development
8. Quality of Public Service
Based on the basics mentioned above and comparing Ilorin with other State Capitals of 1967, in my personal opinion, Ilorin made steady progress relative to the overall development in Nigeria. Apart from Kano and Kaduna in the North, and aside Lagos, Ibadan and Port-Harcourt in the South, that can be said to be ahead of us for obvious reasons, Ilorin would follow closely or may breast the tape with Enugu and Benin.
Between 1976 and date, new State Capitals have emerged as follows:
S/N NORTH SOUTH
1 Bauchi Abakaliki
2 Birnin Kebbi Abeokuta
3 Damaturu Ado Ekiti
4 Dutse Akure
5 Gombe Asaba
6 Gusau Awka
7 Ilorin Benin
8 Jalingo Calabar
9 Jos Enugu
10 Kaduna Ibadan
11 Kano Lagos
12 Katsina Osogbo
13 Lafia Owerri
14 Lokoja Port-Harcourt
15 Maiduguri Umuahia
16 Makurdi Uyo
17 Minna Yenagoa
Using the same parameters and expanding the horizon to cover all the present day state capitals, in my personal opinion, the status of Ilorin in 3rd position out of nineteen (19) Northern States Capital will not change, while I will acknowledge the progress made in the last few years in Uyo, Benin and Enugu and also applauding the untiring efforts being made in Ilorin too, I will safely say that Ilorin can conveniently breast the tape in the 4th position with Enugu, Benin and Uyo using the list of the Southern States Capitals.
Taking into consideration the progress made and achievement recorded between 1901 and 2000, all relative to the overall development in Nigeria, Ilorin was prosperous in the 20th Century.
In the twenty (20) years of the 21st Century, the horizon has been greatly expanded in Ilorin, particularly in the area of education development. I do not readily have the statistics, but I can safely say that the number of our out-of-school children would be insignificant in Ilorin. Everyone appreciates the value of western education now, just as all of us in Ilorin put high premium on Quran education and Islamic value.
The National Bureau of Statistics acknowledges Kwara States as one of the states with the highest Internally Generated Revenue in 2018 and 2019. We all know that over ninety percent (90%) of the revenue would likely come from Ilorin. The business environment in Ilorin is one of the most conducive for any type of business, be it multi-mega, big, medium, micro and small scale, as all the ingredients of ease of doing business are prevalent in the town.
The business environment in Ilorin provides a level play ground for any serious minded person or company to thrive. Let us take a glimpse at the different businesses in Ilorin and the major players.
Manufacturing – South West/South East
Trading – South West/South East/Kwara (Ilorin)
Agriculture – North/South West/Kwara (Ilorin)
Mining – Foreigner (Chinese)/Kwara (Ilorin)/South West
Entrepreneurship – South East/South West/Kwara (Ilorin)
Banking – Kwara (Ilorin)/South West
Stock Trading/Insurance – South West/Kwara (Ilorin)
Information Technology – South West/Kwara (Ilorin)
Legal Practice – Kwara (Ilorin)/South West
Medical – Kwara (Ilorin)/South West
Security – Kwara/North/South
Public Service – Kwara (Ilorin)
Human Capital – Kwara (Ilorin)
Teaching – Kwara (Ilorin)
Artisans – Kwara (Ilorin)/South West/Foreigners (Togolese,
The above analyses are not based on any empirical study, rather they are viewed from cursory looks and interpersonal relationship with the various practitioners in the business.
Recently, I had the opportunity to organise a web-based business talk shop and we focused on fish business in Ilorin. The Resource Person at the talk shop was my brother, Mr. Babatunde Salami and from his submission, it is apparent that there are ample opportunities in the business that can be tapped. The Governor of Kwara State, AbdulRahman AbdulRazaq has also undertaken a tour of the fish farm at Odore, Ilorin where Mr. Babatunde Salami briefed His Excellency, the Governor of Kwara State on the various opportunities that can throw up many entrepreneurs if investors are attracted to the business. I am happy that the Ilorin Anchor Men and Women Initiatives have shown more than a passing interest in the business. I am aware that this Group has organised and sponsored a training for many youths in the business. If well managed and encouraged, these youths would soon discover their potentials and would be playing big in the business. I wish that many other Groups would also emulate the Ilorin Anchor Men and Women Initiatives and embrace the opportunity to redirect the compass of Ilorin economy towards entrepreneurship which is the way to go in the current world economy. It is a game change in employment opportunities and it is a chance to determine one’s destiny by oneself.
It is also clear that the same prospects are available in other business ventures listed above.
As we continue the journey in the 21st Century, there are more areas of business engagement that would attract more prospects to Ilorin. These include Agro-business (Not Agriculture), Information and Communication Technology (ICT), Creative and Art, Power and Energy, Rail related Business, Housing, Sports, Tourism and Recreation, Food, Clothing and Make-up and many others.
Recently, the Federal Government has awarded the re-tracking of the rail lines from Ibadan to Kano through Ilorin. This is a huge financial investment that would attract many businesses to the terminus in and around Ilorin. We must brace up and take vantage position in the businesses that the investment would attract.
Challenges in the 21st Century
Mindset of the Youths
Many of our youths still have the mindset that White Collar jobs are still the only for employment that can offer them their meal tickets and means of livelihood. So, they are still developing and dropping their curriculum vitae in offices and hoping to be called for employments that are no more there. Many have waited for between one (1) and seven (7) years still searching for jobs, instead of taking new trades immediately on completion of studies or National Youth Service Corp (NYSC) scheme.
We require a change of this mindset in order to make progress in this country.
Perception of People about some Jobs
Some persons have a wrong or negative perception of some job or vocation. For example, some of us still think farming is a menial job and work for the downtrodden. Whereas, Agro-business is a major income earner anywhere in the world today. Mechanised agric-business has displaced and replaced the traditional farming.
We must embrace Agric-business and be engaged in large scale farming. It has become an elites business.
Attitude to Work
Some people have lackadaisical attitudes that are not productive. The attitude of a typical white collar salary earner which suggests that salary is a right whether one is hardworking or not, whether profit is being made or not by the business or organisation.
We must cultivate productive attitude that would drive the 21st Century business environment.
Dishonesty and Indolence
Some persons are just typically dishonest and naturally indolent. The recent looting, theft and burgling of shops and warehouses, especially those of private businesses are signs that many people are just waiting to reap from where they have not sown. This is not an attitude of a typical Ilorin persons of yesteryears.
We must shun all forms of vices and be good ambassador of our family and home anywhere we find ourselves.
Some persons are now professional petition writers. In the past, we in Ilorin detested and frown against other people writing petitions against Ilorin persons in high offices. We used to collectively fight such persons who write petitions against our people. Unfortunately, we now have from amongst us busy body pretenders under the guise of being human right activism writing petition against our high office holders. In many instances, these petitions are frivolous, worthless and baseless. While one is not encouraging impunity, the fundamental question is, what objective do such people wish to achieve by bringing down their brothers and sisters from the same home town?
We must continue to collectively condemn anyone, whether amongst us and from outside, who indulge in bringing down people.
I once again thank the Anchor Men and Women Initiative for giving me this opportunity to share my opinion with this audience. I congratulate the new executive members of the Group and wish everyone well in our various endeavour. I am fascinated at the adoption of electronic voting which was used to usher in our new President, Dr. Musa Abdullahi and other members of the executive committee. I wish that Nigeria will achieve the same feat sooner than later.
*Dr Yusuf Lawal, Phd, FNIM and a former President of Third-Estate delivered this paper at the First Annual General Meeting and Public Lecture of Ilorin Anchor Men and Women Initiative on Saturday, November 7, 2020 at Kwara Hotel Ilorin