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OPINION: A Sorry Tale of the South West of Nigeria



Akintokunbo A Adejumo, akinadejum@aol.com 

(AFRICAN EXAMINER) – The Western Region was a subdivision of the Federation of Nigeria until 1967 and its capital was at Ibadan. It was established in 1939 under British rule as a subdivision of the Southern Nigeria colony. Upon independence of Nigeria in 1960, it became one of the members of the Federation, along with the Eastern Region and the Northern Region. In 1963, two provinces: Benin and Delta were split from the region to form the new Mid-Western Region. 

In 1967 the regions were abolished and the area was subdivided into Lagos and Western states, which would also later be subdivided.

In 1956, when the Queen Elizabeth, the 2nd of England came to Nigeria, perhaps her most prominent colony in Africa, she visited the Eruwa Pineapple Plantation (now in Oyo State). My grandfather (a shortened Biography below) was the Plantation Assistant Manager then, under the Western Nigeria Development Corporation (WNDC).

The farm used to supply the pineapple to the Lafia Canning factory in Ibadan, owned by WNDC, at the time. The citrus canned by the Lafia factory was also supplied from the Apoje Farm Settlement, near Ijebu Igbo (now in Ogun State)

According to my older cousin, Adeniyi Babalola and my uncles, Mr Akinyemi Adebiyi and late Babatunde Adebiyi, who were old enough then, and who used to stay with our grandfather at Eruwa, (and other WNDC-owned farms across the Western and Midwest Regions where my grandfather was usually transferred) the unique thing about the Eruwa farm was that it had 2 large windmills and turbines, which were used to generate electricity and run water for the settlements and for irrigation throughout the farm settlement at Eruwa.

That was in Western Nigeria in 1956 – Windmills to generate electricity!!!

The Eruwa farm is now a cashew-nut plantation (and another 500 acre cashew nut farm near Iwo, in Osun State and 200 acres of Cashew nut farm in Upper Ogun, near Iseyin, Oyo State) which have been and are being badly managed by successive Oyo State Governments, while the over 5500 hectares Apoje Oil Palm and Citrus Plantation, was sold by the Gbenga Daniel administration of Ogun State to a private “investor” for N30 million. That was in 2009 or so, but I don’t know the current state of the farm as it stands with the Ogun State Government today; suffice it to say that it is a sad state of affairs that over 5500 hectares of palm trees, bananas and plantains, citrus fruits, fish ponds, clear rivers and streams will be sold for such a parlous sum to a privileged “investor” (by the way, the “investor” is now deceased)

For historical purpose, I will quote Marklene Chinatu Ugbogu, “The grandiose objective for the use of public-private partnerships involving foreign capitalists, indigenous entrepreneurs and the government of the Western Nigeria was the insatiable quest of the latter for development to create a society in which ‘life more abundant’ was realized. Corollary to that factor were the inadequacy of managerial, technical and skilled African manpower vis a-vis the pool of monetary reserves built by the rescinding colonial British administration from overseas sale of cash crops. The government of the Western Region of Nigeria set up the Western Nigeria Development Corporation (WNDC), which operated with relatively extensive autonomy under the oversight of the Ministry of Trade and Industry. Over fourteen partnerships were formed through a network of efforts involving Ministry of Trade and Industry, the Ministry of Economic Planning, Economic Missions, Industrial Promotion Commission and the WNDC”. (Abstract from ‘Western Nigeria Development Board: Modified Colonial Agency for Public-Private Partnerships’, Marklene Chinatu Ugbogu, Global Journal of Social Sciences Vol 14, 2015: 67-74)

Along with my several siblings, uncles and cousins, we used to spend our long summer holidays with my maternal grandfather, mostly on the farms where he was working. The two farms I vividly remember spending much time in are the Apoje Farm Settlement, Ijebu Igbo, and the Aroromi Obu Palm and Rubber Plantations, now in Ondo State. It was fun and learning in those days in Sixties.

I recollect in Apoje, in the 60’s, when the farm was visited by several “oyinbos” and were shown around the farm by my grandfather, who was the farm manager then, along with his assistant, one Mr Jarret, a Sierra Leonian and other WNDC staff who came from Ibadan, the Western Region capital. We, as children, were following them around in tractors and trailers, enjoying ourselves, and to the huge oil processing mill located on the farm. It wasn’t until several years later that I realised those “oyinbos” were the Malaysians who came to learn the cultivation of Oil palm from Nigeria (they also went to other farms, including the one in Benin, NIFOR). Malaysia, of course, as we know, is now the undisputed largest producer of palm oil in the world. At the time they came to learn and collect in Nigeria, Nigeria was the undisputed largest producer of palm oil in the world. Maybe at present, Nigeria has now crawled its way back to the 7th largest, after not even reckoned with in the Eighties and Nineties.

In those days, I could recollect at least 3 farm settlements in Apoje and several too, in Araromi-Obu. Each settlement was self-sufficient. They had their own primary schools, fully equipped health centres or Dispensaries, community halls, churches and mosques, mini-supermarkets, and nearby markets. Entertainment is provided in the form of mobile cinema and travelling musicians. The workers, incidentally, were mostly from Calabar and what is now the Cross River and Akwa Ibom States, and they were the best and expert in oil palm cultivation, maintenance and harvesting. They, and/or their descendants, are still on the Apoje farm till today. The huge Processing Mill was always at work with its vast furnace and heavy machinery, heavy fumes and palm oil and palm kernel oil smell in the air, with hundreds of tractors and trailers bringing in harvested palm bunches to be crushed, extracted and processed, and then packed. For the citrus, these were also harvested and sent straight to Lafia Canning factory in Ibadan to be canned.

Araromi Obu had two farms, the several hundred hectares of Rubber trees, and several hectares of Oil Palm trees. We always wake up in the morning to see the workers collecting the raw sap from the cup attached overnight to each rubber tree. The rows are maintained from weed and tractors moving in between for the workers to pour the collected saps and straight to the processing factories. I guess Dunlop Tyres in Ikeja was where the processed sap will end up to be made into vehicle tyres and other by-products. Araromi-Obu also had several self-sustaining living settlements.

Where are we now? In the pits and struggling to get out. While I have titled this as “A Sorry Tale of the South West of Nigeria”, be mindful that this is just one of hundreds of sorry tales and missed opportunities of that region that I am just unqualified to go into.

However, there seems to be a sudden surge of desire from the rulers and leaders of this region, comprising of the six states of Lagos, Oyo, Ogun, Osun, Ondo and Ekiti to reverse the descent into the abyss that had befallen us since 1966. Organisations such as Dawn (Development Agenda for Western Nigeria) Commission is on the move to harness all resources of the region together and work with a seemingly revamped and re-focused Oodua Group (another very sad narration) and set the region on the path of self-sufficiency, hope, progress and development again.

I sincerely want DAWN Commission, the Oodua Group and the Governments of the Western states to succeed and hence wish ALL (both the Western part and the whole of Nigeria) of us the best. We need it!

ANNEX: Brief Biography of Chief Gilbert Aderibigbe Adebiyi (1907 – 1996)

  • Born 27 September 1907. 
  • October 1925 – Left Ibadan Grammar School
  • December 3, 1925 to March 3-1926 Nigeria Railway Traffic Training School. (worked at Zaria, Gogwada Stations, Iddo, Tabu, Lalupon, Ebutte Metta, Wushishi, Olomu, Ifo Junction, Jebba (1925 to 1931)
  • June 1931- RETRENCHED due to World-Wide trade depression.
  • Sept 1933 to July 1951- joined Agric. Dept.1933, and served at OWO Cocoa Division and then at the following: Oka Akoko; Cotton market at Iwo; Cocoa Extension at Ake Agbe, Akoko; Cotton market at Moniya and Fiditi; .Oshogbo Ginnery; School of Agriculture, More Plantation IBADAN, MAMU SOUTH AREA; Extension worker at Ogbomoso; Tafo, Gold Coast (now Ghana) Cocoa Diseases Survey Training Course (Classed as Best of the West African Candidates.) that enhanced instantaneous elevation of grade level. 
  • 1st Aug 1951 to 31st March 1952-Seconded to Western Regional Production Development Board (W.R.P.D.B.). UPPER OGUN, ISEYIN. 
  • April 1952 to 31st Oct 1957-Service under W.R.P.D.B. later changed to W.N.D.C. (Western Nigeria Development Corporation). Served in various stations, West & Midwest Nigeria:  viz.
      • UPPER OGUN ESTATE-1-6-51 to 20-4-53. 
      • OSUN VALLEY SCHEME 20-4-53 to 28-5-54. 
      • APOJE (I.F.P.) IJEBU FARM PROJECT. – 28-5-54 to 10-10-1956, 25-3-58 to 25-4-59 & 8-01-66 to 19-07-1966. 
      • AKWOKWU-IGBO-3-5-59 to 30-8-59. 
      • UBULUKU-30-8-59 to 01-04-1960. 
      • ARAROMI OIL PALM ESTATE- 30-6-60 to 22-01-61. 
      • AGBOR OFFICE- 13-2-61 to 16-10-61. 
      • APOJE- 13-3-62 to 31-8-66. 
      • ARAROMI/ LOMIRO OIL PALM- 4-01-64 to 8-01-66. Conferred with a Chieftaincy Title as Bajulaiye of Araromi-Obu-1965. 
      • ODA-AKURE COCOA PLANTATION-19th July 1966 to 30th Sept 1967 when left on one month leave preparatory to retirement at the age of 60 
      • W.E.F. 01-11-1967. Retired as Principal Plantation Manager (WNDC)
  • Death on 30th May 1996.

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