Ilupeju: The Indian village in Lagos By Paul Ukpabio - Paul Ukpabio's Blog

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Saturday, 10 April 2021

Ilupeju: The Indian village in Lagos By Paul Ukpabio

Nowhere in Lagos, seems to have the presence of an Indian like Ilupeju area. Right from the stretch that is popularly known as Palmgrove estate, right down to Coker in the heart of Ilupeju and the Industrial estate itself, the presence of an Indian has been a way of life for decades on end in Ilupeju. 


Even the present day Indian residents in Ilupeju, are not sure exactly when their settlement in the area began. For instance, Yadavendra Singh Yadav an Indian engineer resident of ilupeju says, "I cannot tell exactly when we Indians began to settle in this area, but what i can tell is that, there are so many indians who are staying in Ilupeju from almost two generations right now. There are also others that may be more." 


But the President of the Indian Cultural Association, Chief Sanjay Jain who is also a Lagos Chief, put the history a little clearer: 


"Initially, the two industrial areas that is, Isolo Industrial estate and Ilupeju Industrial estate housed many big industries which were in close vicinity of ilupeju. These industries gave employment to lots of Nigerians but few experts, such as for production of specific items, researchers, textile technocrats and the like, came from oversees. It was because of nearness to these industrial estates, where they were working, that the area known as Ilupeju became attractive as they also started staying in ilupeju for the ease of commuting. The ilupeju estate was conducive as it had good houses with amenities. The neighbourhood was excellent. The Nigerian community also welcomed Indians with great warmth."


Chief Sanjay Jain


Chief Jain who himself has lived a stone-through distance to the residence of the Late Chief Lateef Jakande, the first civilian governor of Lagos state, in Ilupeju, accepts that though it is not the major reason that attracted him to live in Ilupeju, "ilupeju is a relatively peaceful area.  There are many other locations in Lagos which are equally peaceful. The credit for ilupeju remaining peaceful must go to all the resident Nigerians, Indians and others living there. But one thing I must mention here that, our Nigerian brethren have accepted Indians as well as other people in Ilupeju with open arms and great warmth. And we are grateful for that," said Chief Jain.


According to Engineer Toyin Aloba a Yoruba and Nigerian resident of Ilupeju, the Indians prefer to live in Ilupeju because it's well laid out and organised. "I grew up in Ilupeju, the Indians have always been a common regular sight here. And that could also be because of the factories that are here. And a lot of them work in these factories too."


Engineer Toyin Aloba


Asked if he thinks that Ilupeju has remained neat over the years because of the large population of the Indians in that area, Aloba replied, "I would rather say that the Indians met it neat and that I guess was also an attraction for them to settle here. Ilupeju enjoys relative security, good network of roads and presence of aristocratic families."


However, another Nigerian resident, Monsuru Odemuyiwa, a printer, replied, "yes the mix Indian, Nigerian culture has made the Ilupeju society more friendly, people have overtime become more sober, neat and maintain cleaniness."


Sabir Ali

Sabir Ali, an Indian resident in Ilupeju who works as a manager in a shipping company, told us more: "We believe in inclusiveness and service to the community we live in, by nature we are highly environment caring, perhaps that is why ilupeju has an appeal. 


Ordinarily, in those days, in the late 70s and the 80s," said Alhaji Adedayo Amore who told us he is a landlord in Ilupeju, more and more people in the upper class and middle class, settled in Ilupeju after the construction of popular Ikorodu road by the the military governments and people spilled into the area more from the palmgrove end which continued to extend further to the Oshodi end.

But another elderly resident of Ilupeju,  Mrs Olawunmi Adepoju who spoke in Yoruba language, said her family moved from Mushin to palmgrove end of ilupeju in the mid 80s. She said that the area had always been there, for as long as she had known it, but sparsely populated and had links with Mushin from the surulere end of Moshalasi, right down to what today is now known as Matori Isolo, that the railway actually separated and distinguished ilupeju area differently.  


To Mary Ikwe, a tutor, and a Nigerian resident, the reason that she thinks the Indians prefer to live in ilupeju is because of the peaceful and cool  environment. And as far as she is concerned the Indians form a larger part of the population. And Ilupeju enjoys the presence of most things that makes easier lifestyle because there are shopping malls and market place close to residents. There are also eateries, banks and necessary things that a community easily needs like hospitals. 


Mary Ikwe


But while Mary Ikwe thinks that the social life is poor, Engineer Toyin Aloba had this to say, "in the past, public open spaces allowed kids and teenagers to mingle and socialize, but not so much these days."


A view that Monsuru also shares: "social life is most often only at Shodex Garden, Indian Temple  and then the get together that the Indians have in each other's houses. So I think that for the Indians, their big plus is having a big temple for all the indian tribes under one roof in Palmgrove."


On socials, Mary Ikwe may actually have a point because her view is also supported by the Indian, Singh, as his view confirmed that social life may not be that hot, "Ilupeju is surrounded by not only indian population but others as well, and mainly in Ilupeju, more people who are residents are more of the working class, and live with their families and people generally do not have time for other things." 


Monsuru Odemuyiwa, the printer, hits the nail on the head "Indian school is a  big reason why all Indians would prefer to stay in Ilupeju. The Indian schools made the population of the Indians to grow in ilupeju. Later seeing the population of Indians, business people wanted to establish super markets in and around ilupeju - Bazaar, Shop  Perfect, Taj, Shop N Smile, Spar and so on. All these can be found here. In addition, Indian restaurants Like, AAA, Pondichery, Gypsy , Taj and so on, have with time also opened shop here."


Monsuru Odemuyiwa


From our reports, most of the Indians in Ilupeju are hardworking and a larger percentage of them are in senior management positions in some of the factories there and in other parts of Lagos. Some even work on the Island, Ikeja and Other places. A few work at other parts of Lagos, some in far away Sango and Otta in Ogun state. And they could be found in professions like engineering, teaching, IT, medical and so on.   

   

Yadavendra Singh Yadav another Indian resident who works as an engineer in a petroleum company confirmed this, "not all Indians that stay in Ilupeju have their work place in Ilupeju. Some of us stay in Ilupeju and work in Victoria Island, Lekki, Sango, Ikeja and so on."


But what has the lifestyle of the Indians been over the years in Ilupeju and what has kept them together? 


Chief Jain tells us. "India is a diverse country. We have people who follow religion of their choice. We have people who go to Church, Mosque and Temple. Yes, since people work on weekdays, it is very prevalent for Indians also to go to their places of choice on Saturdays and Sundays. 


So, more importantly, religion is a unifying factor for the Indians. There is freedom of choice of religion but more Indians can be found at their temple in the palmgrove area which equally has a centre where the Indians holds most of their activities sometimes weekly, sometimes monthly and sometimes annually for festival celebrations.   


"Indian temple is unique to us and it serves the average Indians the need of their faith. The Temple is open for all and anybody can visit there and pray to achieve their peace of mind. Apart from it, the Temple management is doing lots of charitable works for the needy Nigerians also," said Chief Jain. 


"The temple is not limited to Indians who live in Ilupeju. "Our Indian brothers and sisters from other parts of Lagos and even outside Lagos, visit us in Ilupeju. All Indians freely move from one area and location to other areas and locations to meet their friends. This is quite normal and it happens like that particularly on weekends, when the traffic is also less, this kind of activities take place freely," added Chief Jain. 


From the various comments, it seems most obvious that the Indian social life is better known with their festivals. And Mary Ikwe confirms that she has seen quite a number of their celebrations. "Yes I have witnessed some of their celebrations like Diwali and Eid it was very colorful." 


And Engineer Toyin Aloba also had this to say: "Their celebrations are usually colourful with sounds and music.


And same with Monsuru, the printer, "in any of their festive seasons like - Eid, Bakrid, Diwali, Ganpati, Durga Pooja, Dandia and so on, the whole of Ilupeju looks fabulous, more charming and more mixed up within."


Chief Sanjay Jain told us more. "Indian festivals are now famous worldwide. They are extremely colourful and spreads joy not only amongst Indians but all the tribes and all humans. Like Diwali, which is a festival of lights, another festival, Holi, which is a festival of colours, yet another festival, Navratri, which is a festival where we please our goddess by presenting a particular form of dance (GARBA) and so on, are few amongst many others throughout the year. All these festivals are extremely interesting, colourful and pleases everyone. 


"The Indian Cultural Association, which is the apex body of Indians in Nigeria, celebrates many such festivals in Nigeria too. We also invite our Nigerian brothers and sisters to come and enjoy these festivals. 


"Holi is the Festival of colours in India. On this day, at our centre in Ilupeju, community people gather and play with colours. People come and meet and greet each other. Indian Cultural Association organizes food for all the participants. Apart from that colours, snacks, soft drinks, award for the most colourful person and so on, are also organized to increase the vibrancy of the event. This normally falls in the month of March. We also invite our Nigerian brothers and sisters, and Nigerian artists also perform at this festival.

"Also, 15th August is our Independence day. On that day community people gather and witness the Flag Hoisting ceremony at our centre. India got independence on 15th of August, 1947 and the day is celebrated every year as Independence Day. The program is followed with some snacks to augment the celebrations," Jain added.


Yadavendra Singh Yadav


Yadavendra Singh Yadav sums it up, "staying in ilupeju has so many attractions, first Ilupeju is called an Indian Village, and that is because in Ilupeju needed things for Indian families are easily available. We have the Temple and there are the Indian schools which are there too, Indian supermarkets are here, Indian restaurants are here and all indian communities are here. As an Indian, you can stay with families and easily find friends here. Indian culture is same like Nigerian culture. As others, especially Nigerians do, same way with us Indians.


But the Indians in Ilupeju do not just settle in Ilupeju which is called the Indian village, they have over the years worked out a give-back to the society activities which also encourage a good intterraction with their host community.

In this regard, Sabir Ali, the Indian, throws more light, "we intentionally take up service projects in the Ilupeju community, as a way of giving back to the society. A more recent one is that which we did last year. During the peak of the covid-19 lockdown, we provided sanitation kits and face masks for the police. 


"When we celebrated Indian Festival 'Raksha Bandhan' we tied a thread of friendship to all police men and spent a day with them with yoga and a motivational session on stress management. We also supplied sufficient food items to our Police friends in Ilupeju police station. 


"The sanitation kit and food packets were also distributed among the frontline LAWMA workforce. Indians from Ilupeju also contributed to the patrolling vehicle repair for Ilu Peju Police station. 


"Currently we have two major projects in progress. First we gave our contribution to the renovation of Ilupeju police station. We have a letter of collaboration already received from the police station and we are motivated to support the cause of renovation. We are also on to the children's park development with play equipment in Olatunda Ashimowu Park, here in Ilupeju" he added.


The Indian ilupeju residents also do have one or two things to say about the government and what they would like the government to do to give the residents a cosy lifestyle.


"The government is doing great here and we feel satisfied with their work. But as they say, there is scope of improvement everywhere. Our support for the government is always there for their good works," said Chief Jain.


"Ilupeju can do better with more good hospitals and internals roads especially around the palmgrove end." added Sabir Ali.


And the Nigerian Mary Ikwe said she would like the government to improve on security. "The government can help ilupeju to be better by removing some bad influences around the area  and provide more security."


And Engineer Toyin Aloba, "the government can help Ilupeju by enforcing environmental regulations such as parking, sanitation, building limits and so on. The Indians are peaceful and seldom cause trouble. Having Indian shopping stores is also an advantage. 


"Ilupeju can better be secured, more lights and there could be bigger playground," said Monsuru.


And how do the Nigerian residents feel about having the Indians in the neighbourhood? Mary Ikwe had this to say: "It's very nice and helpful to have Indians as neighbors, they are humanitarian in nature, and it is not surprising that they are found in service organizations like the Rotary club and the Lions club."


"We don't have a problem with them,"said Mrs Olawunmi Adepoju, "they mind their business. They can be very colourful during their programmes but ofcourse too, they make the rent in the neighnourhood high. Some landlords prefer the Indians to be the one to rent their houses. They are neat people."


And Monsuru Odemuyiwa added his own opinion, "they are very supportive, that's because I have worked with some of them, they are usually ready to help and support any time. And my interractions with them, have given me an opportunity to know Indian culture and tradition."


* As first published by Daily Trust Newspaper


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