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Before Reincarnation of ‘Ile Arugbo’ at Gov. AbdulRazaq’s Doorstep, by Bolaji Aladie

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Before Reincarnation of ‘Ile Arugbo’ at Gov. AbdulRazaq’s Doorstep, by Bolaji Aladie

‘Ile Arugbo’ simply translatable to “Elders’ Home” until the earliest days of the year 2020 was a popular lexicon in Kwara political history. Its emergence was traceable to the time of the Late Dr. Abubakar Olusola Saraki of the blessed memory who floated the ‘home’ as a periodic meeting point for his political followers, most elderly women across all the nook and cranny of Kwara State.

The place located at the GRA axis of Ilorin was one of the supposed landed properties of the man called Oloye by his admirers, and it was at this place that social interventions of different kinds were extended to the patronizers, mostly, the have-not who had turned the place to a Mecca-of-sort anytime the man was around. The place during Baba Saraki’s lifetime used to be a beehive of activities as there was hardly a family house in the Emirate city of Ilorin that didn’t have at least one Ile Loke’s goer back in those years. There was also an extension of this social welfare abode at the Olorunsogo axis of Ilorin. The two were run by their convener to reach out to the needy.

After Baba Saraki’s death, his eldest son and former Kwara State Governor, Bukola Saraki took over the place amongst other legacies inherited, he continued the operations for some years until the reign of their dynasty came to an abrupt end all thanks to the Otogẹ revolution that dislodged the Saraki’s leadership from Kwara, and it was believed by those who participated in the struggle including this author that it was indeed a breath of new life and the birth of a new order.

Before the success of the Otoge struggle in 2019, several revolts have been waged against the dynasty to no avail. And, one of the complaints against the dynasty owners was how our women folk were subjected to enslavement and inhumane treatment through the operation of the so-called Ile Arugbo. It was advocated that it is undignifying of our elderly women to be subjected to a condition where they would have to be queuing for pittance and handouts that cannot last them beyond a day or two; it was further argued that it was an enslavement for our mothers to be leaving our homes in the hinterlands to far-away GRA before they could access basic needs such as food and clothing items. Enough is enough, so we said.

Fast forward to the year 2019 and the inauguration of the new government led by the incumbent, Abdulrahman Abdulrazaq, among the expectations of the people was that, one of the riddances that would go down the history lane with the Sarakis was their Ile Arugbo operation. And indeed, Abdulrahman walked the talk, and precisely in January 2020 after many weeks of what seemed to be a rumor and propaganda, Ile Arugbo was bulldozed down. The action was backed by a tenable argument that the shelter was built on government land not legally acquired. The decision was applauded by many people who believed the reign of impunity must come to an end. And the rest became history.

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However, before the demolition of the Saraki’s Ile Arugbo or possibly with Abdulrazaq’s emergence, a similar shelter had emerged, this time at the Surulere axis of Ilorin, and precisely at a property adjacent to the B Divisional Police Station. The property used to belong to the Late former Governor of the State, Muhammad Alabi Lawal who married the immediate younger sister of the incumbent Governor.

The arrangement that transferred the property ownership to the Abdulrazaq is not the focus of this piece but the fact that Abdulrahman long before he became the numero Uno of Kwara has been using the place for his political base under the management of his erstwhile lieutenant, Hon. Ajihun Iya Lamule. Thus, with Abdulrahman’s emergence, the attention of the womenfolk who wanted government patronage shifted to Surulere and the place became a rival to the Sarakis’ Ile Arugbo patronized by the PDP loyalists.

I once raised concern about the development and after a while, with Abdulrahman’s disposition, the place became deserted enhanced with the floating of a leg of the social intervention scheme tagged “Owo Arugbo” under the management of Kwara State Social Intervention Programs, an agency created by the new government. The arrangement was to redefine the support being given to the elderly people, mostly women, by ensuring they are receiving a monthly stipend of #3k payable as #6k every two months. The elderly women across the State were encouraged to enroll for capturing after which the token would be transferred as and when due into their bank account. This novel initiative was widely applauded for its humane face not minding the lapses begging for questioning such as the reliability of the data being used and sustainability of the token considering the daily increase in the need of people. That it would take our elderly women away from the street was enough of a win. And that remains the situation for a few years to this time.

Meanwhile, a saddening development that spurred this author to write was the re-emergence of what the conscientious Kwarans did Otogẹ for. For several months before, anytime I passed through the Government House axis, I usually noticed the convergence of several women sitting idly before a building that forms part of the Presidential Lodge where the incumbent Governor has made his office. I always wondered about the purpose of the convergence and had tried to raise it on public forums for discussion but events usually overtook the thought until last night, Sunday 18th Feb, 2024.

It happened that I had another reason to pass through the route again around the evening time and like before, I saw elderly women in their large number at the spot described above. Then, I interrogated the people who were familiar with the place what those women were doing, whom they were expecting, and for what purpose they usually converge. I found it incredibly absurd to hear that their convergence is always on a Sunday basis to collect pittance, the like which we condemned, hounded, and ‘Otoged’ the Sarakis for. I got to know that, they always arrive at the place from noon and may likely wait till odd hours before they leave for their home depending on when they were attended to by one of the aides of the present Governor — who demolished Ile Arugbo. Then, I took pictures of the women, parked my car not far from the place, and trekked to my destination.

I came back around 15 minutes after 21:00 to meet the women, some still sitting while some were leaving. Then, I saw one man dishing out some unconfirmed amount of money to them one after the other while a security man in Nigeria Police Force trousers was coordinating the crowd for decorum. I shimmered my car engine for a few minutes to reconfirm what my eyes were seeing and drove away as the security man in his hushed tone was trying to ask what I was waiting for. I made a U-turn before the Government House and drove slowly towards Post-Office while taking a video recording of the women trekking to their various homes having been disengaged with a handout at the new Ile-Arugbo being nurtured at Abdulrahman Abdulrazaq’s doorstep.

I begin to wonder how we are returning to that debasing level that we thought we had left behind. As I was driving along, I was enraged and fuming not in pity for the women who were subjected to the inhumane treatment which Otoge came to flush away, but the hypocrisy of my fellow co-sojourners in the Otoge revolution who today are blind and dumb to some of what we condemned the Sarakis for.

I knew I would mostly be pen-lashed and attacked by the hirelings of this government for daring to put this together, nevertheless, it won’t change the fact of my narration except if the government discontinues this ignoble act from next weekend onwards. I pray the government will do so by stopping these women from coming to converge like beggars at her doorsteps. Aside from the undignifying action it is, the environmental nuisance it is causing the GRA and Government House can lead to an avoidable disaster. God forbid a day when a passing vehicle will lose its control and would be left with no other option than to ram at these women where they are waiting for a pittance from their supposed benefactor.

Bolaji Aladie writes from Ilorin.

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