Having completed on Thursday my mandatory one year national assignment as corps member in the new world, Jigawa State, the reality of being at home after 27hrs on the rail was dawned on me early this morning when I woke up for Subhi prayer. I became conscious immediately that I was no more in Jigawa where I used to take ablution with tap running water. I realised that I am no more in Gumel where I used to fetch my warm bathing water especially during this cold weather from running tap. I then called myself back from deep thought that Bolaji, welcome home! Welcome to Ilorin!! Welcome to Kwara!!!
As early as 5:30am, people young and old in both genders were seen on the road with different size of containers, on head, bicycles, motorcycles, tricycles, and cars going to far away new settlements like Adewole, Oke Foma, Oloje Housing Estate and others to look out for water. And I became dejected more than before with this rhetoric “So, scarcity of water still in persistence in Ilorin?”
Not that I am oblivious of this fact before now, I know quite alright that one of our major problems in Kwara, Ilorin to be precise has been lack of drinkable and potable water in abundance especially during the dry season like this.
I grew up with my mum around Eletu compound, and far back as early 90’s I grew up to fetch water from tap. This water used to be available in excess that no countainer in the house would be left unfilled to brim. In fact, my maternal grand mother would have water available fetched in kettles for toilet (Age Ẹnkule). I grew up to rinse my Garri of dust with water running from tap, so also was washing clothes. I grew up to see running tap water in every households. I grew up to perform ablution at mosque from tap source (not borehole fixed type), I grew up to draw water with fellow young kids using mouths to draw water from tap and got elder’s admonition that worm may enter our mouths from such adventure (Ekolo o wọ ẹnu yin). Fast forward to mid 90’s or let say millenium, this enjoyment eroded with time and the song changed to melancholy for growing up teenagers like us.
Then, we began to learn how to fetch water from well with emphases from our senior ones not to fill our fetcher (Igba Kanga) to brim so that its weight wouldn’t draw us inside well. I could also recalled that the first time I fetched water from hand pump borehole was around 1997 at the permanent site of my primary school Shaykh Ibrahim Nursery and primary school, Abayawo which was situated at Madinah, Gaa Osibi. The place was still then a village and yet to be inhabited area, so, such water source was needed compare to metropolis where we were leaving. So ironical today that the source of water meant then for local areas later gained urban acceptance due to the extinction of our pipe-borned water.
Still on the retrogressive transition of our localities from source of water predominant when we were young i.e pipe-born, by the time I clocked age nine, I have been exposed to waking up in the early morning to fetch well water from nearby compounds because our own house didn’t have one that time. Then, my maternal home at long but trekkable distance in ile Agọ around Akodudu was our resort. My grandma would have water in excess which we can turned. On occasion when my cousins and other relatives have overtook me, or when I deciced not to go there, the neighbourhood wells of Alfa Alabidun Mosque and compound, Ile Olobi, Ile Maalubi, Ile Babaọyẹ, Ile Ogidi, Adimọdẹ, Ile Eletu especially the one inside the compound of the erstewhile Nigerian Custom Service Comptroller Alhaji Yinusa Saka Eletu would save my ass. Any occasion when any of these well could not rescue us, I and other young kids and some senior ones would go as far as Agbarẹrẹ, Popo Igbọnnna, Alanamu, Oke Okuta, Agaka to fetch water, this culminated to reasons why many of us usually got late to school then. What a sweet but bitter memories!
I remember a scenario when due to tiredness, I broke my mum new plastic countainer (Bafu) while coming from Emir’s road side to fetch water. I got one of the beatings of my life that day!
I cannot forget also the days of my apprenticeship under Ten Ten Publicity at Adangba in early year 2000, during dry season like this, no distance is too long to find water to fetch for our boss’s wife. We would go as far as Kongbari, Alagbado, Ondoko, Akerebiata, Kuntu, Ọmọda, Okekere, you have no excuse then not to get water. I remember few occasions when I used my money to buy water from a seller at one area called Abegunde along Kongbari junction in order to fulfill this obligation. I am going down the memory lane for my readers to reminisce about their own experiences of water scarcity also.
Meanwhile, different measures had been put in place by successive government to make water available for the populace as it remains one of the basic amenities which must be made for them by any serious government, from Lawal to Saraki and now Maigida. I mentioned these three administrations because the scarcity became acute during their times and they are the ones which I can lay claim to have witnessed their leadership without being told.
Without taking it away from late Gov. Muhammad Lawal, he did his best to address the situation and it remained obviously known till date that his intervention in arear of water provision is one of the best. Lawal govt constructed motorized borehole with large reservoirs inscribed with ‘UP LAWAL UP KWARA’ across all the metropolis and we reaped the benefits so much during his time. So unfortunate that out of political enmity and lack of foresightedness, Lawal successor decided to abandon the water project like many other and began to lay from the scratches his own legacies.
It was on record that Bukola Saraki eight years witnessed huge investment into water sector with close to if not more than ₦2bn was earnmarked for such purpose from loans and bonds secured during his administration. Despite this huge investment, water scarcity demon could not be tamed across the State.
His Successor Gov. Maigida who is also in his second tenure despite legacy continues slogan could not change the tune of music as Kwarans continue to dance Shoki to lyrics of water scarcity upon all the funds he is also exepending to fight the demon to still. Only few Kwarans who are bouyant enough could dig boreholes in their houses and paradoxically, the more boreholes dug in an area, the more drier the wells in that area become. Therefore, well water as source is not becoming a viable option anymore since increase in the numbers of motorized boreholes dug in each localities. and these boreholes could not served to satisfaction the demands of water by the citizenry.
It was also observed that more than half of the boreholes and wells we presently have in Ilorin were dug by individuals, religions and other non-governmental organisations for charity purpose. It then becomes a thing to ponder on that, where are the results of money earmaked in the budget yearly by the State government on water provision via the Ministry of Water Resources?
My appeal therefore to the State government is to do everything necessary before he completed his second tenure to make available drinkable viz potable water for us. If Jigawa State can provide water, if her citizens didn’t need to trek long distances before accessing it, it becomes onus on Kwara State to make sure it brings end to this monumental suffering because water is life.
Bolaji Aladie Nasrudeen writes from the ancient city of Ilorin.