In the circumstances of war and general upheaval that prevailed in the region now known as south-western Nigeria in the early nineteenth century (c.1820), the settling of Ibadan by refugees fleeing the ravages of the Hausa-Fulani wars in the open Guinea savanna proceeded haphazardly. As the refugees arrived in waves, the idea of a master plan for the city was never considered as the first settlements were merely refugee squatter camps.
The development of the urban nucleus of the city, therefore, reflects the desperate circumstances of the early nineteenth century Oyo war refugees and their allies the Ife and the Ijebu, who, led by foot soldiers fleeing the onslaught of the Hausa-Fulani backed Ilorin horsemen, retreated from the Guinea savanna into the forest belt, where the tactics and strategies of cavalry warfare that depend on open savanna space were rendered ineffective as demonstrated in the celebrated battle of Jalumi
. In the course of history, the tide of the conflict would turn in the favor of the hardened Ibadan foot soldiers, who mastered the techniques of combat engagement at close quarters in the forest.
No other part of Ibadan exemplifies the lack of thought about urban planing in the early growth of the city in pre-colonial times than the indigenous section centered around Mapo
Gege, it seems, was formerly an outlying suburb of Oja-Oba
where squatter hovels were erected haphazardly in the valley between the Ijebu section of the city Oke Ado, and Mapo Hill, in the present Ibadan South-West Local Government.
Being a valley located between the densely populated Oke-Ado and Mapo areas, sewage from the areas of higher elevation, including Agbeni and Oja Oba, flow into Gege where it collects and putrefies in the absence of efficient public waste disposal service.
The infamous epithet "Gege Olorun"
(i.e "filthy Gege") arose from this circumstance. It is likely that in pre-colonial times, Gege was the the quarters of the poorer settlers. Folklore suggests that private soldiers and their families, some of whom were followers of the war chief Eboolobi
("white men don' grow kolanuts"), settled in the area.
says that Eboolobi was a roving warrior who came from Ede with a diviner (Ifa Priest) who consulted for the Basorun Ogunmola (then commander of the Ibadan Army).
quotes an indigene of Gege, Mukaila Fakorede , who says that the name "Gege" comes from the expression "ogun ti lo, gbo gbo e ti gun gege,"
translated roughly, "the upheaval [of war] is over, now there is calm(i.e Gege)."
In modern times, Gege consolidated its notoriety as "oloorun" (the filthy) from a particularly gruesome aspect of the lifestyle of the people that follows from total absence of sanitary and sewer facilities. According to Environment Watch
"Gege has a canal, [which collects sewage from Oke Ado and Map] that plays host to bowel-pressed individuals, both young and old, who, at the wee hours of the day, file out like ants surging to conquer a territory, besieging the canal to empty their bowels. With palms cupping their noses, the competition of who gets the best spot to ‘offload’ his or her bowels begins in earnest.
“'You should have come over early in the morning to see the 21st century wonder!' Mr. Moshood Adepoju, who drove EW crew to the area, enthused. 'You would see a sea of heads, bent over knees, emptying their bowels of amala and ewedu; do you blame them? I have lived here for over 15 years, there is no house that has a single toilet, same for the house where I rented a room, so I have to relocate later.'"
"...young men and women of marriageable age were seen squatting and taking their turns to defecate unperturbed. However, an inspection of the area revealed that from time immemorial, it is a tradition not to have a toilet. The people do not count it as a crime, inasmuch as the canal continues to exist.
One of the major obstacles in rehabilitating old settlements like Gege is the attachment of the indigenous people to their ancestral hearth. Anyone who has seen some of the buildings in Gege, in spite of their present condition would sense the fact of their former splendor at a time society enjoyed some prosperity . According to the Tribune
, there once flourished a tinker industry in Gege, working aluminium and metal to produce lanterns, Kerosene stoves and similar domestic implements.
But the tinker Industry in Gege is now history. The residents are now mostly impoverished. Their homes are literally collapsing over their heads but they continue living in them because they are too poor to move elsewhere.
reports that the Director of Environment Sanitation and Sewage of the Ministry of Environment and Water Resources in Oyo State, said the local government of the area was responsible for the people. He said: “Defecating in the stream is worrisome. They hardly have private or public toilets there. The responsibility lies on the local government. The health department of the local government should enforce the existing sanitary laws."
But the problem with Gege is not about enforcing "existing laws." It is about rehabilitating and modernizing the entire old indigenous section of city.