“Let there be light: and there was light.”
The Holy books credited God the Almighty with those words at creation. And that depicted His preference for light to shine above darkness. Ever since the earth came into existence, human beings, God’s prime creature, have always merry in the superiority of light over darkness.
On Monday June 5, the realistic colouration of the words ‘let there be light’ manifested to the people of Olorunda-Ogunsola as well as Idi-Obi, Kure, Jigan and environs, when Governor Seyi Makinde of Oyo State, commissioned the electrification projects embarked upon in the communities by the highly regarded philanthropist, and Chief Executive Officer of Ilaji Hotels and Sports Resort, Engineer Dotun Sanusi. As electricity came alive when the governor switched on the transformers, the people burst into uncontrollable celebration.
Local drummers let loose their acts and the different talking drums released deafening sounds in effusive panegyrics of the man they popularly call Ilaji, but who originally is the Mogaji (family head) of Ile Olugbade in Ibadan, who also doubles as the Apesinola of Ibadanland. To signpost their happiness, residents of the affected communities trooped to the venue in numbers and in colourful attire of the day-an Ankara aso ebi. They danced and wined as they marvel at what one of them called the unrivaled generousity of the Ilaji owner.
Their merriment went far into the night and that is understandable; many of the communities were seeing electricity for the first time in over 200 years of their existence. So for them, it was welcome to modern world.
Chief Abiola Adewale, the Akeweje of Akanran, a retired school Principal, who supervised the power projects on behalf of Engineer Sanusi said that the people of Akanran local government cannot but be grateful to Baba Ilaji (Sanusi) because he has always come to their aid.
He said: “In 2018, the entire Akanran community was thrown into darkness when electricity equipment was vandalised at Olorunsogo. Darkness enveloped the few Akanran that had electricity at the time, extending to Olorunsogo in Ibadan. We had met a contractor who gave a bill of N70 million and when we met with Engineer Sanusi, he asked whether we wanted money or the power project. We told him we wanted electricity restored. The following day, he bought 189 electricity poles and other materials and within a short while light was restored.”
That project, according to Chief Adewale covers Alagbaa; Akanran village; Lanlehin; Oluku; Owanran; Alatise and Okugbaja villages.
Apparently impressed by the swiftness with which Engineer Sanusi handled the Akanran-Ibadan power problem, the community again, through Chief Adewale approached him with a list of communities, many of which have never seen electricity in over 200 years. Two projects were immediately agreed upon, leading to the execution of the Olorunda-Ogunsola and the Idi-Obi, Kure, Jigan and environs’ power projects with the electrification of two 300 KVA transformers installed by Engineer Sanusi.
Adewale listed the communities that would benefit from the Olorunda-Ogunsola power project to include Aare Alaasa village; Oniyangi; Ori Okiti; Ogunniran; Elesu; Daleko and Olubokun. The second 300 KVA transformer fixed for Idi-Obi, Jigan and Kure communities also covers Alaago; Maye; Akuukutan; Adeitan; Isokan; Seriku; Ashipa;Ekerin and Idi Ogun villages. “Many of these communities have never seen electricity since their existence,” Chief Adewale affirmed.
According to him, the twin electricity projects have potentially turned around the fortunes of the Ona-Ara local government socially, economically and politically.
“More markets will open; more event centres and more businesses will spring up. It will increase the tax collectable by the local government and Oyo State. And to land owners, this is a period of economic boom. The value of land has already increased from N200 to N600, 000 per plot, unlike before when we used to sell an acre for N150, 000. A lot of people prefer to come here and stay rather than stay in town and we also know that the power projects will reduce security threats,” the community leader said.
He said that upon the completion of the twin projects, Engineer Sanusi has also kick started efforts to electrify more villages located within Ona-Ara and Ido Local Governments Areas of Ibadanland. The communities according to him include Bioku Alaadun; Tai village; Modina; Thy Will (Alaafia loju); Ifetola; Gbeleyi; Alagbaa-Mayo; Ojugbode; Laduntan and Ifedapo in Ona Ara, while Lasokun-Apata in Ido local government has also been listed. “In all, we are targeting 15 transformers for these communities,” he said.
The Baale of Olorunda-Ogunsola community with 147 villages under his control, Chief Oluranti Aremu, said that the communities will ever remain thankful to Engineer Sanusi, whom he called Baba Ilaji, for turning around the living standards in his area.
He said: “What we can say is that Baba Ilaji has renewed our lives. Ona Ara to d’otun (Ona Ara has been turned around). Before now, Ona-Ara people were seen as non-indigenes and only as farmland. We never had industries here, but with the coming of Ilaji, everything has changed. We used to only cultivate cassava, maize and pepper. Now we have different lifestyles here. There is no difference between Ona-Ara and the main city.”
He said that Engineer Sanusi has also touched the lives of the people in different ways including maintaining the only access road to the area. “There was a time when the Olorunsogo-Akanran road was only accessible by motorcycles and bicycles. Baba Ilaji came to our rescue and stabilised the road. He spent several millions of Naira doing that for years. We are thankful to him,” he said.
Speaking further on the impact of the electricity projects, Chief Aremu said: “The electrification projects made us happy. We have been waiting for years. Our artisans including rewires, welders, and others have all become Okada riders. But now they have started repairing their shops and now businesses like cold room can even spring up.”
A representative of Ori-Okiti community in Olorunda, Mr. Mutiu Jimoh also thanked Baba Ilaji. “Ona-Ara ti d’otun niyen, we thank God,” he said in a mix of Yoruba and English languages adding, however, that the electricity projects were not the only way Engineer Sanusi has touched the lives of the people.
He added: Engineer Sanusi has remained the lone star around here with unequalled philanthropy. He always carried out repair works on the Olorunsogo-Amuloko-Akanran road before the state government recently awarded the road contract.”
But what drives the man who is already becoming popular as today’s Idameji Ibadan ti won n pe lenikan (One man equal to half of Ibadanland)? The late Ilorin born Mohammodu Odolaye Aremu popularised the “idameji Ibadan” concept in his music when he eulogized the late strongman of Ibadan Politics, Alhaji Lamidi Adedibu. According to Odolaye Aremu, in recent history, only two Ibadan sons have held Ibadan city (state) spellbound, with their control of politics, power and money. The duo of Adedibu and Alhaji Abdulazeez Arisekola-Alao were so recognized by the man I will call a poet, spoken word exponent and musician. He, however, declared that Adedibu was the “Idameji Ibadan ti won n pe lenikan.” (One man who is equal to half of Ibadanland.)
Today, not a few who are knowledgeable about the goings on in Ibadanland (and by extension) Oyo State), would agree that the pedigree of the Ilaji owner is fast equaling the status of that heraldic emblem as modeled by Odolaye Aremu. Above all, his trade name is Ilaji (half). His touch is visible in every aspect of Ibadan (Oyo State) life. His Ilaji Resort is always a beehive of activities hosting the high, the mighty and the not so high. It is also a tourist location of choice and a sports complex nurturing youths for all kinds of sports. He is a business man, educationist and an engineer who is a top player in the oil industry. He is a Mogaji, a high ranking Chief of Olubadan; he is home with the traditional institution, Muslims, Christians and traditionalists. He says he has not joined politics but politicians won’t leave him alone.
In the build up to the 2023 general elections, he was the beautiful bride of all key contenders especially, the All Progressives Congress (APC), Accord Party and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). Though he did not join any political party, he felt the urge to back the election of President Bola Ahmed Tinubu and reeled out jingles and campaign materials in that respect. He equally built a formidable Pan-Oyo coalition which became a behemoth any politician in the state would only ignore at his peril. That coalition, called the Rescue Team was eventually deployed to work for the re-election of Governor Seyi Makinde on March 18, 2023.
The need to help people live a good life, he says, is the driving force behind his numerous activities, as he adds that what is today known as Ilaji was originally Oloyo Village in Akanran.
“Ilaji is the trade name of my mum who hails from Ile Ilaji in Idi Arere area of Ibadan,” he said. Yes, he agreed, his philanthropy has cost him a fortune. Electrifying over 62 communities, maintaining access roads and such efforts have cost him over N500 million, between 2017 and now. That notwithstanding, nothing, he said, will deter him from doing more for the people.
Adisa contributed this piece from Ibadan, Oyo State.