By Brig-Gen David Bamigboye (Rtd)
A pall of darkness descended on the ancient city of Omu-Aran, headquarters of Irepodun Local Government Area of Kwara State on December 1, 2017 when the news of the demise of its 29th monarch, Oba Charles Oladele Akande Ibitoye, Adogbajale bi Ileke II, the Olomu of Omu-Aran, crept into its news wave.
So terrifying was the news which, was discussed in hushed tones until it was officially broken on December 3, 2017 by the Olomu-in-Council.
The town is yet to recover from the shock of the sudden exit of the monarch whose 24-year reign, brought phenomenal development to it.
Born on October 28, 1953 to the Ijawusi Ruling House of Ikoja compound, Olomu Ibitoye ascended the throne of his forefathers on February 19, 1993 after the demise of Oba Suleiman Akande Durotoye, Abegunde II, who reigned from 1945 to January 6, 1993.
The late Oba Ibitoye attended SIM/ECWA Primary School (Agamo), Omu-Aran from 1960 – 1967; Offa Grammar School (1968 – 1972) and School of Basic Studies, Kwara State College of Technology (1973 -1975).
Coming into office at a relatively young age of 39, Oba Ibitoye brought his high education (B.Sc. Business Administration, UNILAG, 1979) and his wealth of experience as a senior civil servant in the Kwara State Internal Revenue Directorate to bear on his royal responsibilities.
His experience as a former Secretary-General of the Omu-Aran Development Association (ODA) from 1985/86 and other virtues made his adjustment to his royal duties seamless.
Oba Ibitoye set necessary machinery in motion to consolidate the gains of his predecessors in all sectors of community development.
Under his royal watch, Omu-Aran grew in leaps and bounds educationally, politically and socio-economically.
From its single boarding Native Authority Primary School (Makaranta) which was established by colonial-era man J.D. Clarke in 1931, the town now boasts of more than 20 private and public colleges (four of which were founded by the community) and the world-rated Landmark University founded by iconic cleric Bishop David Oyedepo.
There is also the Moses Orimolade University, owned by the Cherubim and Seraphim Church, under construction in the town.
With his high network, Olomu Ibitoye attracted many federal institutions and agencies to the town. They included a Federal Government Girls College, Nigerian Prison Service Training School, Lower Niger River Basin Development Authority Area Office; Immigration Service, Federal Road Safety Corps, Nigerian Drug Law Enforcement Agency and National Civil Defence Corps centres.
At an advanced stage of construction in the town also is a half-a-billion Naira dam project of the Federal Ministry of Water Resources designed to boost potable water supply, irrigation and fish farming among the teaming population.
In the field of commerce, Omu-Aran is ranked third in Kwara State, coming only after state capital Ilorin and Offa. Indeed nothing underscores its cosmopolitan status more than the daily influx of non-indigenes in the town. This has brought about huge investments in real estate, quarries, commercial farming, livestock/poultry farms, feeds and other agro-allied and manufacturing industries.
This has made the town the commercial hub of the southern part of the state and “treasure island” for many towns and villages in neighbouring Ekiti and Osun states. With an array of international-standard hotels, Omu-Aran now serves as a hospitality and tourism destination for many local and foreign travellers and tourists.
Nestled in a girdle of hills in the Southern Senatorial District of the state, Omu-Aran has a population of 148,610 (2006 census) on a land area of 73.7 square kilometers.
A bridge-builder in the state’s traditional circle, Olomu ibitoye abhorred religious acrimony, hence the peaceful co-existence of people of different faiths in his domain. It is to his eternal credit that Omu-Aran, during his reign, recorded no history of religious crisis despite a preponderance of divergent religious organizations and institutions.
On inter-communal relationship, he ensured total harmony between Omu-Aran and all its neighbouring towns and villages.
An embodiment of visionary leadership, the late Olomu also deployed his administrative dexterity by galvanizing his community into modernity through numerous self-help initiatives – Omu-Aran Day and Odun Omu-Aran fund-raising series since the late 90s.
Among the gains of the initiatives were the rehabilitation and equipment of the towns’ four colleges, construction of a ring road to open up new lay-outs, the new City Hall complex and three additional police posts to enhance security.
The legendary achievements of Olomu Ibitoye will eternally engrave his name in Gold in the annals of history of Omu-Aran and Igbominaland. Unequivocally, I say that he left Omu-Aran better than he met it. His footprints will remain indelible on the sands of time.
I commiserate with the State Governor Abdulfatah Ahmed, the State Traditional Council, the Igbomina/Ekiti Traditional Council, Olomu-in-Council and all sons and daughters of Omu-Aran, home and in the diaspora, on this great loss of a dynamic and progressive Oba.
It is one death too many, coming on the heels of the passing of two of the three ward heads of Omu-Aran — the Eesa and Odofin Aran, Prof. Oyin Abogunrin and Chief Amos Bamigboye respectively.
After darkness comes a glorious dawn. Omu-Aran will gloriously overcome this debilitating blows, wax stronger and soar higher. This is a task and a collective resolve.
Adieu Oba Oladele Ibitoye, Adogbajale bi Ileke II. Good night.
Brig-Gen David Bamigboye (Rtd)
First Military Governor of Kwara State.
Esinkin Olomu of Omu-Aran