The saying that the city of Rome was not built in a day is apt and applicable to the evolution and success story of Kabba Central Market in Kabba, headquarters of Kabba/Bunu local government area of Kogi State narrated centenarian Pa Ijogbon Ogobule. He spoke to LEADERSHIP Sunday on the hidden secrets of the popular trading centre. SAM EGWU (Lokoja) reports.
At inception, the Kabba market was located behind the huge mountains that surround the community. This market, according to Pa Ijogbon Ogobule, was where the fore fathers of Kabba people and spirit beings bought and sold items of use.
Pa Ijogbon who is about 100 years or more said oral history informed that as of that time, market activities went deep into the night, Kabba people stayed late than the spirit beings. It was said that a trader who was jealous of the spirit beings trading prowess put an ant on the stony stool used for sitting.
The ants stung them and a quarrel ensued. That dispute between the spirit beings and Kabba people however, brought the market to an end and a new location was found on the spot where the Post Office is located, after the extinction of the previous market. The new market was known as Araromi market which was at its peak during the reign of Obaro Atobatele.
There was a court where offenders were tried and a prison that housed prisoners located around Araromi Market, according to Pa Ijogbon. The market, though not a modern one, also had a toilet for people’s use. The toilet was beside a gutter.
But Araromi Market became too small for Kabba people and its environs to trade ; the space was no longer convenient for trading activities; there were more crowds that engaged in market activities and the reigning which informed the reigning Obaro, Oba Daniel Gbadebo Aka who decreed the movement of the market to a new site.
The new site is where the Central Market is located today, according to Pa Ijogbon. He informed that the spot used to be an arena where masquerades used to display to the delight of the public. The place before it became a market was called Igbo Egun.
The date of its establishment cannot be ascertained for now but the market played significant roles in the lives of Owe people. Oral source said the old market used to be a place where newly installed Obaro (king) first had audience with his subjects.
Besides its political role mentioned above, the market also played religious roles. During a major traditional festival known as Oro Oka, the market is closed a day before the festival and remained closed on the D-day and a day after the festival.
The market was then closed for three days.The closure of the market, it was believed, gave (Ebora) the gods’ unhindered access to the mountains without unnecessary prying eyes. The market was shut to all and sundry. As of then, there was an iroko tree at the centre of the old market, where all cults or traditional worshipers, like Ofosi, ngmole and aruta sacrificed to the gods.
However, due to expansion of the community, agitation to develop entrepreneurship, trading and commerce in major towns as well as the need to ensure the impacts of government at the grassroots, the old Kwara State government under the military administration of Group Capt Salawudeen Olatinwo decreed that a few communities be selected for the building of modern markets.
Few of the communities chosen were Offa, Omu-Aran, Kabba and Okene. This decision led to the building or establishment of the Zanogo Market, Odolu in Kabba. It was the expectation of the then government that Kabba people and its environs would patronise the Zango market but the reverse was the case.
It turned out that the policy was an unpopular one amongst the people. The lock-up shops in the market despite being rented remained locked. The shops environment were desserted and could only be likened to a house where the bread winner is dead.
All efforts made by the military government to ensure that the market was patronised even at intervals of five days each yielded no fruit. As a military government, the old market was demolished so that the people would have no option than to patronise the Zango market.
The people did not just refuse to make use of the Zango market, they had reasons for maintaining their stance towards the use of the Zango market which as of then was at the outskirts of the town. It was far and at a distant that the people would not cherish to walk daily. There were no commercial transportation for the people to use. It was a hide- out for criminals.
Then, a few individuals decided to use parts of their houses as shops while those without such luxuries came together and gradually evolved the Korede market. The people who could not afford the use of their residence as shops gathered again at the stretch of the land between the Mosque and Lewu Junction to sell and buy.
The Korede Market gradually evolved and it developed overtime. For the people, the Korede Market location was central, convenient and at a distant which they could walk to and fro their houses daily. It connects so many important places within the town, which includes one of the foremost schools in the community, St Augustine’s College Kabba, the Bata Shop and the Roman Catholic Church.
Despite the fact that the Korede market was without a perimeter fence and lock up shops as well as being almost on the road, the people were pleased with trading there.
The deux machinina however came when a knight in the Catholic Church, Sir James Oloruntoba, now deceased, came to the rescue of the people. He was popularly known as Oscar James. Each time he came to town and passed through the market to the church from his mother’s house, he had compassion for the traders and buyers who engaged in businesses in a not too conducive environment.
He was not comfortable seeing market women trade under old, dirty, frayed and torn umbrellas. One day, Oloruntoba stopped at the market and expressed his concern for the people. He thought of a way to assist the people and concluded that he would single handedly build a new market for them.
He made this decision which had no political undertone. He was a philanthropist of repute. Within 1986 to 1987, preliminary works for building the market started. Within two years, the philanthropist and industrialist completed and commissioned the market in 1989.
About N3.7 million was expended in building the market. Facilities such as toilets were made available in the market. He also built a hall meant for reception purposes. There was also an area earmarked for cow vaccination in the market. Sir Oloruntoba who later built a nail manufacturing industry in Kabba, embarked on the market project since there was no decent or functional market in town.
As a compassionate man, he was moved to alleviate his people’s poverty and through the new market created means for the community as well as the local government to generate revenue. By and large, he wanted to fill the gap that Zango market could not fill and helped Kabba measure up among her contemporaries.
A cobbler in the market, Sunday Ahmed, popularly known as Wonder, who spoke to our correspondent, commended Sir Oloruntoba for building the Central Market and equipping it with necessary facilities just as he also appreciated the representative of Kabba/Bunu/Ijumu federal constituency, Hon. Tajudeen Ayo Yusuf, who facilitated the construction of an overhead water tank of world class standard which has been of immense benefits to traders and buyers in the market.
The shoe cobbler however lamented that the market lacks maintenance. According to him, the first paints on the shops and on the perimeter fence have worn off and are yet to be repainted.
Besides, he pointed out that electric wirings in the market are haphazardly done and not properly coordinated. He particularly pointed to clusters of electric cables on a pole beside one of the gates, noting that it could lead to power upsurge.
He expressed sadness that the drainages and flooring of some parts of the market have spoilt and the renovation works carried out were shabby and not done to specification. This, he said, had severally led to floods, just as elderly people are not favourably disposed to walking on such parts while in the market.
“The most painful of this is that revenue is generated through the market but not used to maintain it. The market is dirty. We carry out sanitation work on our own. The local government has equally abandoned the issue of security to the marketers. We source funds on our own to pay security personnel.” he said.
On toilet issue, Wonder said one was built by Sir Oloruntoba but it has spoilt and a new one has been built by the market committee. Despite the availability of toilet, a lot of lock up shop owners locked up their shops and used them as toilet facilities and other unimaginable things.
The shops are locked up due to the emergence of Friday market. The Friday market is a market outside the Central Market which operates on Fridays.
For Hajia Isah, one time secretary and at another time treasurer of the Market Committee Executive, her song was not all that different from Wonder’s song. Hajia who said she has been trading in the market in the last 21 years told LEADERSHIP Sunday that there are about 200 lock up shops and 100 attachment shops built by Sir Oloruntoba in the market and all were being used before the birth of Friday market.
She hinted that part of the facilities built by Oloruntoba at inception include an administrative office which was later converted to a community bank when the marketers cried for a banking facility.
There was also a cow vaccination centre, according to her. She disclosed that when traders who own the lock up shops realised that more sales are made when they stay outside the market on Fridays, they made selling outside the market a daily occurrence.
This, according to her, has led to permanent selling of goods, including meat outside the market. Most lock up shops became permanently locked. Advice from the late Obaro Olobayo and the local government authorities in the past that the traders should return into the market fell on deaf ears, according to Hajia.
Sometime later, Obaro Olobayo made another effort and instructed traders to return to their lock up shops. This time around, according to Hajia, the meat sellers obeyed the royal appeal and returned to the designated section for meat traders inside the market.
Hajia Isah observed that locking up shops permanently is not of any benefit to a modern market, pointing out that most of the locked shops are being used for toilet and other nefarious things. She also told LEADERSHIP Sunday that the cow vaccination centre in the market was abandoned and refuse dumped on the spot.
However, the market committee led by Chief Obamueyiowu Popoola initiated the clearing of the dirt and thereafter allocated the site to tomato sellers.
Despite the lapses, Hajia said the market has witnessed added infrastructural developments which include the installation of an overhead water tank by Admiral Ajayi (Rtd) at the motor pack in the market while Hon. TJ Yusuf installed another inside the market.
LEADERSHIP Sunday check revealed that sanitation exercise which used to be supervised by the council, no longer take place making some parts of the market an eyesore. It was also gathered that securing the market against theft in the night is no longer the concern of the local government but rather the owners of lock up shops have to source for money to pay the vigilantes contracted to secure the market.
There is seemingly, as it is, no benefit from the local government authorities accruing to the traders or to the market. This is a wide departure from what it used to be. A stakeholder who craved to be anonymous said part of the revenue generated from the market should be made available to maintain it but the reverse is the case.
A staff of the Revenue Department in Kabba/Bunu LGA secretariat who spoke to LEADERSHIP Sunday on condition of anonymity attributed the noticed lapses in the market welfare to the ineptitude of the officers in charge. According to the staff, there were times in the past when money was earmarked for maintaining the market but now, the song has changed.
The staff said rather than allow experienced people who rose on the job to handle the market issue, the authorities concerned prefer to give it to people who do not know the right thing to do. ‘They have rather messed things up even at a time that more revenues are generated from the market” the officer said.
Opinion molders said the Zango Market should not be abandoned now. According to them, it should be reopened and put in care of a committee who will allocate shops to traders who engage in whole sales. They opined that until it is revisited, it is an economic waste.
As it is, there are many upcoming traders who are in need of shops and the shops should be allocated to them. Revenues can be generated through the market to cater for the needs of the local government.
More people have even suggested that the Friday market be relocated to the Zango Market or another day of the week like Tuesday be chosen for its operation. When this is done, it would go a long way to contribute to the development of Kabba structurally and economically.
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