IMEKO, a town in Imeko Afon Local Government Area in the west of Ogun State, Nigeria bordering the Republic of Benin, could be said be only be 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 a 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 cut 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.
In 1906, the first amalgamation of the Southern part of Nigeria came up: the colony of Lagos; the Western District of Lagos Colony; the Western Protectorate (that’s the remaining part of the Yorubaland); the Niger Delta Protectorate and the Eastern Protectorate were merged together to form the Southern Colony of Nigeria, which later became the Southern Protectorate of Nigeria. This was divided into three provinces: Western, Central and Eastern respectively. The Western Province which was the whole Yorubaland was divided into 11 and a half: Lagos, Epe, Ikorodu, Badagry, Ijebu Ode, Meko, Egba, Ilesa, Ondo, Oyo, Ibadan and Osogbo Sub-District. This is the medium Meko District as described in the Executive Council Orders numbers 27 of 1908 and 2 of 1909, Colony of Southern Nigeria Order in Council, made under The Supreme Court Ordinance (Statute Laws Revision Ordinance, 1908, Schedule 1, Chapter III (3):
“The following lines and natural features constitute the boundaries taken in their respective order, commencing at the junction of the ‘Oke-Ile’-Wasimi Road with the River Okpara. The said road as far as its intersection with the Oyan River. The Oyan River to its junction with the Egba boundary. The Egba boundary westerly to an iron Pin on Aro-Meko Road on the vicinity of Ewon (Idi-Emi), today is known as Ago-Owo quarter in Ayetoro, bearing 248ⁿ 30′ and distant 12.7 links from a tree marked M.A. The Egba boundary southerly to its junction with the boundary of the Badagry District. The Badagry district’s boundary to its intersection with the boundary of the French Colony of Dahomey.”
There was another restructuring in 1914: the amalgamation that formed Nigeria, thereby having Southern and Northern Protectorates merged. The new restructuring came with the issue of division, and the early provinces were re-divided, thereby having the Western Province which was earlier divided into 11 and a half Districts as Abeokuta, Ijebu Ode, Ondo, Oyo and Ibadan provinces with Lagos as the capital of the just created Nigerian territory.
Divisions were thereby created and placed over Districts while certain district headquarters were elevated to the status of divisional headquarters in cases like Abeokuta, Ijebu-Ode and others, while Meko district was rank-shifted under the newly created Ilaro Division. Whereas the then district headquarters of Abeokuta, Ijebu Ode, Ondo, Oyo, Ibadan that ranked with Meko in the old Western Province of the Southern Colony in 1906 became Provincial Headquarters. Others like Epe, Ikorodu, Ilesha and Badagry became divisional headquarters. Oshogbo that was a sub-district headquarters became provincial headquarters and today Oshogbo is a state capital in the modern day Nigeria alongside Abeokuta, Ibadan, Lagos, Ondo. Even, Ekiti that was not on the list as one of the early districts’ headquarters of the Western Province of the Colony of Southern Nigeria is today a state capital.
Others mentioned above are today cities of great importance in the South Western part of Nigeria. They are paramount seats with substantial landmark educational institutions.
Where is the place of Imeko (Meko, Mekkaw, Mekko) today? Neglected, abandoned but not deserted by her children!
A town that was the administrative headquarters of the then Western District of Lagos Colony (1891-1906) stretched from Badagry to Oke-Ile/Ijio and Idi-Emi (Ewon) to Wasinmi, Jabata and River Okpara the boundary with Shane in Dahomey now the Republic of Benin. When the Colony or Protectorate of Southern Nigeria created in 1906 and divided into Western Province, Central Province and Eastern Province. The Western Province (1906-1914) divided into the following districts: Lagos District; Epe; Ikorodu; Ijebu Ode; Badagry; Meko; Egba; Ondo; Ilesha; Oyo; Ibadan, and Oshogbo subdistrict.
Abeokuta Province created were the merger of Egba district, Meko district and the remaining part of Badagry district. Badagry and some towns had formed Badagry Division under the new capital town of the old Lagos District while the remaining part of Badagry District from Ado-Odo, Igbesa, Ipokia Idiroko to Ilaro, Igbogila and the new settlement of 11 war destroyed communities of Ayetoro founded in 1904 and others merged with Meko and Egba district respectively to come up with Abeokuta Province which was divided into two divisions, Egba and Ilaro divisions, with divisional headquarters at both Abeokuta and Ilaro respectively, beside the provincial headquarters at Abeokuta.
Meko herself is the second largest Ketu Kingdom community that falls into the British side since the era of European scramble for Africa. It becomes autonomous from Ketu traditionally since the time of Alaketu, Adiro Olumaja (1858-1867) sought asylum in Imeko in 1867 during Onimeko Oyefi Akanku Koledoye (Akanku 1), Meko-Egba War, Egba-Ewon war of 1868 and 1868 respectively. By and large, Imeko emerged as the leading Ketu Community in Nigeria with the following at the resettlement of it in 1890 after Dahomey war that sacked the town in 1882: the first to have Police Quarter in what is known to be Yewaland today; the first to have district Commissioner’s Compound; the first to have infantry and Elementary Education; the first to have District Court; the first to have Prison; the first to have Psychiatric Hospital Annex; the first to have forestry reserve; the first to have West Africa Frontier Force; the first to have Custom OCPS; the only town with telegraph; the first with government road, Meko-Aro Road; and the first to have health facility
But today, all these landmark institutions and the firsts have been relocated! Imeko at present lives in the past glory!! The once great town is now nothing, but the shadow of herself!!!
And the song on the lips of the people of the town has since been: “Federal Government, come to our aid; State Government, where is our portion of development?”
The division, Ilaro, was again divided into 11 districts, which still maintained Meko as a district (which became the micro Meko District). The districts included: Meko, Eggua Ajilete, Oke-Odan, Igbesa, Ilaro, Ayetoro, Ipokia and Ado Odo district, among others.
And that marked the beginning of neglect and regression of the once great Imeko! The town, which was well reckoned with by the Great Britain (as the Onimeko and his chiefs were being updated by any development in the Great Britain, as such, when the King of the United Kingdom, Great Britain and Ireland and His Majesty, King Edward VII died June 26th 1830 and when George Frederick Ernest Albert, George V, was to be installed June 22nd, 1911, the Onimeko and his chiefs were informed respectively), could be said to now live in the shadow of itself and glory of her past.
The retrogression was further propelled by the dethronement of the Onimeko, Oba Adegbola, who succeeded Oba Durodolu (Akanku II).
In the 1940s, the first secondary school was to be established in Imeko, because there had been a primary school, Wesleyan Mission Infantry and Primary Classes. The proposed Secondary was relocated to Ogbe in Abeokuta.
As if Imeko had not suffered retrogression enough, the advent of politics later made Imeko’s oblivion became deeper with the Action Group and National Council of Nigeria and the Cameroons (NCNC), as the town was in the opposition party. As a result, the Action Group made all the heads of the villages (Baales) under Imeko substantial kings, and due to the low level of western education literacy of the then Onimeko.
It is of note that Akanku I and his chiefs left three forest reserves in August 25th, 1908 which were recorded in the gazzet: Meko Forest Reserve called Omodoidose, Abafon; Oha. While the son of Oba Durodolu, Oba Okunade Durosinmi Oyekan (Akanku II) became king in 1926 and also left a forest reserve, Meko Extension at Jabata.
In 1938 all the heads of the villages under Imeko who have been crowned kings were mandated to pay tributary tax to the Onimeko being their heads.
Even during the creation of local government issues in the 1930s, whereby the old Egbado North and South were created, Meko was not considered as a local government, until 1996 when Imeko/Afon Local Government was created. It is of note that Afon was a village under Imeko then.
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 present Onimeko of Imeko, Oba Benjamin Oyeditan Olanite (Akanku IV) while 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 belongs to Imeko, Asunnara and Waasimi, was 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.
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), Rev. Samuel Biléhou Joseph Oshoffa; tomb of a foreign Traveling Commissioner, Captain Vere De Creighton, who died of malaria in 1899 (where Nigerian Armies always pay him homage every year); Osuru Stream Water (which was a waterfall before the rock collapsed); Osunle, which the Ogun State government promised to develop since 20 years ago; Ogunndoko; Ogbun Aseere; Iyabe Jerry Tunnel, 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 the 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 border 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 the 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 a 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 a 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 much 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 the 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.