Once again, I have returned with my interesting facts about the states I have visited and know too well. I started out with Delta and then Akwa Ibom. Today, I'll pitch my tent in Kwara State.
Kwara State is one state I hold dear for a lot of things. For one, I served in Kwara State during my NYSC days and for a short while after, I was resident there. I travelled relatively far and wide and covered the major areas in the state. I made a lot of Kwaran friends with whom I still communicate with. While in Kwara, I lectured at the State College of Education and this allowed me access to know Kwarans and study the various people deeply. All these, and so much more, make the state dear to me. So, without further ado, I'll reel out the top 10 interesting facts that I've found out about Kwara State.
1. Kwara State is one of the oldest states in Nigeria! It was among the initial states created by Yakubu Gowon in 1967 when Nigeria changed from the regional structure at the aftermath of the civil war. Initially, the state covered parts of Kogi State and Niger State especially the Kabba division of Kogi and Borgu LGA of Niger State. In essence, KWARA IS A VERY OLD STATE!
2. The original name for Kwara State was West Central State but it was eventually changed to Kwara State. The name "Kwara" is derived from the Nupe word for the river Niger. The river Niger flows through Jebba, Edu and Patigi LGAs of the state from Niger State to Kogi State.
3. There are 4 major ethnic groups in Kwara State:
a. Yoruba: The Yoruba that occupy Kwara are mainly of the Igbomina stock. They can be found mainly in Kwara South. They have affinities with their South Western brothers in everything and most even regard themselves as South Westerners. The Yoruba language is the main lingua franca of Ilorin city even though the Ilorin people are a mixed population as we shall soon see. Ilorin Yoruba is reputed to have the discourse particle, "fa", in its spoken form which is not found in other Yoruba dialects. The pure Igbomina Yoruba is deeper than Ilorin Yoruba and the people see themselves as more Yoruboid than Ilorin people. Core Igbomina-Yoruba towns in Kwara include; Omu-Aran, Oro, Ajasse, Illofa, Oke-Onigbin, Offa, etc. Some adjoining communities and towns close to Osun State such as those in Oyun LGA speak a type of Osogbo dialect. There is also an LGA called Ekiti in which the Ekiti dialect of Yoruba is spoken. Yorubas in Kwara contribute much to the general Yoruba culture. For instance, the traditional Ijomu-Oro drummers are one of the best talking-drum drummers in all of Yorubaland.
b. Fulani: This constitutes the ethnicity of many of the Ilorin people. While it is true that almost all of them speak Yoruba and not Fulfulde, we cannot deny their Fulani ethnicity. This is not to say all the indigenous people of Ilorin are Fulanis but that most of them are ethnically of Fulani descent. There are also some (of the Afonja stock) that are of Oyo-Yoruba descent. Other than this, there are true Fulanis who can speak Fulani that are present in Ilorin. They occupy Kwara Central alongside ethnic Yorubas.
c. Nupe: The Nupes occupy parts of Kwara North. Their LGAs include Patigi, Edu, and parts of Ifelodun, Moro and Kaiama LGAs. They are ruled by the Etsu Nupe whose palace is at Bida, Niger State. The Nupes are generally quiet people that can easily be confused for the Hausa/Fulani due to their largely Islamic culture. However, they are peaceful, warm and pastoral in nature. Theirs is a simple and agrarian life by the countryside. They are not after material things and live according to natural codes. Their main means of transportation is the donkey. Their main towns include Tsaragi, Lafiaji and Patigi.
d. Bariba: These are a minority group that occupy Kwara North. The group can mainly be found in Benin Republic. In Kwara State, they occupy Baruten and Kaiama LGAs. They have a largely calm disposition. They are also mainly Muslims and can easily be mistaken for Hausa/Fulani or Nupes. Not much is known about them due to their extreme reclusiveness and penchant to associate more with Benin Republic where they are better recognised.
4. Kwara is largely a one city state and most areas are largely rural. Apart from Ilorin, most towns in the state lack good roads, drainages and modern infrastructure. Even Ilorin itself has some areas that are undisputably rural and lack modern infrastructure. e.g. Oke Oyi.
Ilorin doubles as the administrative capital and commercial city of the state. However, Ilorin is quite large and covers about 5 LGAs. The name "Ilorin" is derived from the Okuta Ilo Irin in which Ojo Isekuse, one of the fathers of the city, used to sharpen metal tools. The history of the emirate in Ilorin can be traced to the time of Shehu Alimi, one of the sons of Uthman Dan Fodio, who struck a treaty of protection with Afonja, an Oyo warlord who largely discovered Ilorin. Shehu Alimi set up the emirate and since then, his descendents have been emirs of Ilorin. Ilorin occupies Ilorin South, Ilorin East, Ilorin West, Asa and parts of Moro LGAs. Collectively, these LGAs are part of the Ilorin Emirate. Major areas in Ilorin are Tanke, Challenge(city center and commercial base), Idi-Ape, Okelele, Oja Oba, Fufu, Mogaji, GRA, Offa Garage Area, etc. Taiwo road houses most of the businesses and the stadium. Some parts of Ifelodun LGA such as Ganmo has been integrated into the cosmopolitan Ilorin city. Ilorin houses an airport, several companies such as Tuyil, law firms, a stadium, a shopping mall (shoprite), and tertiary institutions such as University of Ilorin; Kwara State College of Education; Kwara Polytechnic; Al-Hikmah University, among others.
Other major towns in Kwara State are:
a. Offa: This is the headquarters of Offa LGA. Offa is fast growing and gradually getting a city status each day. It houses a Federal Polytechnic and some private tertiary institutions, including a university.
b. Omu-Aran: This is the headquarters of Irepodun LGA. Omu-aran is home to a Federal Government College and Landmark University (private). It is largely a town in need of better infrastructure and development. However, Omu-aran has one of the best electricity supply in the whole state. Omu-aran has at least 20 hours of light on a good day.
c. Share: This is the headquarters of Ifelodun LGA. It is home to the current governor, Abdulfatai Ahmed. It bothers Tsaragi, which is a Nupe town. Share has a mixed Nupe and Yoruba population.
d. Oro: This is a big town in Irepodun LGA and it houses a state college of education. It is home to Lai Mohammed, the current minister of Information; Tony Tetuila and other bigwigs. There is a national museum and zoo at nearby Esie.
5. Kwara State is a largely muslim state with a large pocket of Christians. There is no place in Kwara without a central mosque while there are some communities in the state without a single church. In all these, religion is a peaceful affair in the state. Kwara Muslims and Christians are tolerant of each other and respect each other's inclinations. Ilorin City has a largely Muslim outlook even though Christians abound there. Omu-Aran in Kwara South has a much more Christian outlook even though there are Muslims there. In general, Kwara North and Central are largely Islamic whereas Kwara South is largely Christian. The most common Christian denomination in Kwara is Living Faith (Winners) Church followed closely be Redeemed. Kwara muslims are mainly sunni with a few adherents to Sufism in the state. Most politicians and monarchs in Kwara State are also muslims. It has become a norm to be a Muslim in other to be successful in Kwara politics.
6. Kwara State is zoned to the North even though a larger part of the state has more to do with the South West. This zoning has largely been beneficial to Kwara politicians who hide under the tag of "Northerner" to avoid their Yoruba ethnicity. However, there is no difference between Kwara North and most Northern States in terms of Islamic culture. The core Kwara North and even the Ilorin central area have a Northern culture which shows in their way of dressing. The average Ilorin man will dress more like a Northerner than like a Yoruba man.
7. Sharia law is not enforced in Kwara State as is obtained in most of the Northern State. Albeit, there are some Sharia courts domiciled in Kwara North but they have no legal backup in the state. Because of this, things are typically "haram" in core Northern states are overlooked and ignored in Kwara State. In Kwara State, Islam is not strict/fundamentalist. Muslims here are more open minded and generally like Southern Muslims. Ilorin has a very active and vibrant social life which cannot be found in core Northern states. There has never been a large case of religious crisis in Ilorin.
8. Kwara State has a large divide between the poor and the rich in terms of quality of life. There is hardly an upper middle class in Kwara State. Most residents are either stupendously rich or unbelievably poor. Poverty is rife in the state and the state government has done nothing to improve the quality of life. Most Kwarans are civil service workers, drivers, bike/tricycle riders and small business owners while a few are company/firm workers (very few), lecturers, religious workers, health workers and business men. The political elites constitutes the upper class alone. Salaries are owed most times and even when things are normal, salaries are low compared to that of other states. The average civil service worker requires a mortgage of at least 10 years in other to own a house whereas the elites are building mansions everywhere and some elites even have the guts to share peanuts to indigent youths in the name of charity. Elites invest their wealth mainly in Lagos and build nothing but a cottage in their hometowns. One can enter a community with no good roads and see just a handful of empty mansions.
9. Kwara State has relatively bad road networks in Nigeria. Apart from the Ilorin area, most of the roads in the state are an eyesore. One of the most terrible roads in the state is the Ilorin-Kosubosu road which is an impasse. Travellers usually go through Oyo or Niger State to arrive at Kosubosu in Baruten LGA. Intra-city/town roads in Omu-Aran, Oro, Ajasse, Iloffa, Osi, Oke-Onigbin, Baruten, Patigi, Kaiama, etc are relatively inefficient and more are needed. Some of the roads need repair and information at my disposal shows that some repairs are being done across the state. Hopefully, things will get better.
10. Kwara State is a relatively peaceful state! Violence in the state arises mostly from cult clashes and activities. Other than that, Kwara is peaceful. Armed robbery and highway robbery is almost non-existent. Burglary exists in minor proportions. There is religious tolerance and freedom. Terrorism and fundamentalism have no place in Kwara State. In fact, the state keeps to its tag as the "State of Harmony".
Kwarans everywhere are beginning to be more conscious and active. The state has witnessed a surge of political activism of recent. Kwara State is getting better by each moment and in the nearest future, development will reach its peak. Good people abound in the state and their simplicity is worthy of respect. Kwara's religious tolerance should be a model for all Nigerians to follow!!! Kwarans should add more and keep this thread moving.