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Ilorin was founded by the Yoruba, one of the three largest ethnic groups in Nigeria, in 1450. It became a provincial military headquarters of the ancient Oyo Empire, it later become a Northern Nigeria protectorate when the Shehu Alimi, a descendant of Shehu Usman Dan-Fodio, took control of the city through the spread of Islamic religion. The capital was occupied by the Royal Niger Company in 1897 and its lands incorporated into the British colony of Northern Nigeria in 1900, although the emirate continued to perform ceremonial functions. Although the city retains a strong Islamic influence from the northern incursions, Christianity is now widely practiced by significant portions of other Nigerians originating from other states. Ilorin is the largest city and the official capital of Kwara State.
City of Lawyers
The legal profession is strong in Ilorin. The first lawyer to take silk in the whole of Nigeria's North is from the city: Alhaji A.G.F. Abdulrazaq (SAN). He has at least two lawyers in his family. A respected judicial officer in the Court of Appeal, Justice Mustapha Akanbi, who once headed the Independent Corrupt Practices Commission (ICPC), is also from Ilorin. His son is also a lawyer. The Belgore family has made notable contributions to the profession, especially with Justice Alfa Belgore (4 of his five children are lawyers), former Chief Justice of the Federation and Justice M.B. Belgore, retired Chief Judge of the Federal High Court, whose two children are also lawyers, including M.D. Belgore, SAN.
Ilorin's Emir, Alhaji Ibrahim Kolapo Sulu Gambari, is a retired Justice of the Court of Appeal. Justice Saidu Kawu, retired Justice of the Supreme Court and Alhaji Aliyu Alarape Salma (SAN) are also from Ilorin. A one time Attorney-General of the Federation, Bayo-Ojo, though not from Ilorin but practised in Ilorin. Other prominent lawyers in Ilorin include Yusuf Olaolu Ali (SAN)], Wole Olanipekun (SAN), Chief P.O.A. Olorunnisola (SAN), Hon Justice Lambo Akanbi of Fed.high court,PH. The U.N Under-Secretary General for Political Affairs, Prof. Ibrahim Agboola Gambari is from Ilorin.
Ilorin has a 20,000-capacity stadium and two Premier League professional football teams, the Kwara United Football Club and Abubakar Bukola Saraki Football Club.
The city of Ilorin accommodates the only standard baseball court in west Africa. It has also hosted several national handball competitions.
Television and radio stations in Ilorin include NTA Ilorin, Kwara Television, Radio Kwara, Unilorin FM, Cruise FM (www.cruisefmng.net), Royal FM and an office of the News Agency of Nigeria Ilorin.
The political economy of Kwara State can be traced to 1967 when it was created. Since then the state has undergone various developmental efforts, mostly initiated by the federal government given the nature of the Nigerian state, a centralized federal system where all development policies and programmes originate from the center.
Despite its strategic location as the gateway between the southern and northern parts of the country, there are few industries in Kwara State. The state has a good network of roads, rail and air transportation facilities linking it with Nigeria's other industrial and commercial centers.
Nature has also endowed the state with adequate vast and rich agricultural land for both road and exportable cash crops.
Similarly, the limestone and dolomite of Oreke, Idofian Kaolin and clay near Ilorin and other parts of the state, pure gold at Kaiama and Patigi area, and the highly exportable rich tantalite deposit of Iporin, make Kwara State rich in primary resources.
Despite these favourable conditions, Kwara State has only one or two viable industries, notably Global Soap and Detergent Industries Nigeria Limited and the International Tobacco Company.
Successive administrations have attempted to attract industrialists to the state. Several meetings were held with Kwarans both in Lagos and Kaduna, among others, but with little response. However, in spite of the paucity of funds, Governor Bukola Saraki has made progress in his efforts to improve the quality of lives of the people of the state.
This is demonstrated by successes achieved in the fields of finance, education, health, water and rural development, agriculture, and industrial development.
With such efforts, Ilorin has become the hub for Cashew processing in Nigeria and Olam (a leading MNC in Agro Commodities) has set up Africa's biggest cashew processing plant. The plant boasts to process 100 MT of cashew everyday and provides employment to over 2000 workers.
Recently established industries include Dangote Flour Mills, Tuyil Pharmaceutical company, KAMWIL, Golden Confectionate Food Industries, Chellaram Motor-Cycle Assembly plants, and Rajrab Pharmaceuticals.
To encourage both local and foreign investors, the state government provides various incentives, such as 100 per cent waiver on statutory payments on land, which was also made available to the Dangote Industries Limited for the flour mill complex.
Ilorin's central location makes it easily accessible to all parts of the country by air, road and rail.
Although the Ilorin International Airport has been re-designated and equipped as an International Cargo Airport, there are scheduled commercial flights to and from Ilorin by Over land and Capital Airlines. Current destinations include Lagos, Abuja and Jos.
Ilorin offers reliable road transport services to Lagos, Ogun, Osun, Ondo, Oyo Ekiti, Kogi, Niger, Kaduna and Plateau States. Similar services are available to and from Onitsha, Port Harcourt, Abuja, Aba and others.
The major roads in the city are generally good, with relatively well-developed intra-city public transportation. Other roads that need repairs are gradually receiving the attention of the Kwara State Government.
There are three modes of transiting from place to place in the city – the most popular being the conventional taxis. Car-hire services are available in major hotels.
There are the commercial motorbikes commonly called "Okada", and the more recent arrival on Ilorin's roads, "Keke NAPEP", imported commercial tricycles given on loan to beneficiaries in the National Poverty Eradication Programme (NAPEP/KEKE MARUWA) introduced by the government of President Olusegun Obasanjo.
Compared to other cities and state capitals in Nigeria, transport fares in Ilorin are cheap. While taxis charge range between N50 to N100 per drop, a ride on the okada ranges depending on the distance as the driver deem fit.
The city is a confluence of cultures, populated by Yoruba, Hausa, Fulani, Nupe, Baruba, other Nigerians and foreign nationals. There are very significant Christian and Islamic populations. Many ceremonial activities, mostly with religious aspects, take place in the city throughout the year.
Ilorin presents the visitors with friendly environment [generally called "Home of Peace"] hence host different religious practice and training institutions. Located on the city's GRA, the degree-awarding United Missionary Theological College (affiliated with the University of Ibadan) produces many church ministers, teachers and theologians of all denominations, the College of Arabic and Islamic Legal Studies in Adeta Area trains Muslims in various Islamic, Arabic and social science disciplines. Alfa Alimi's Mosque and residence is said to have been built in 1831. It was the first Juma'at Mosque in Ilorin.
The city also present a range of tourist attractions such as the imposing Sobi Hill, said to have offered protection to natives during inter-tribal wars in ancient times. The Okuta Ilorin is located in Asaju's compound, Idi-Ape Quarters. It is the stone on which Ojo Isekuse, one of the founders of the city, used to sharpen his metal tools. It was actually called "Okuta ilo irin" (meaning stone for sharpening metals), and Ilorin is said to have derived its name from there. The stone was a deified object of worship and sacrifice offerings in the past.
Pottery is big business in Ilorin. The city boasts the biggest traditional pottery workshops in Nigeria. They are located in Dada area of Okelele, Eletu in Oju Ekun, Okekura, Oloje, Abe Emi and Ita Merin.
Also thriving is the traditional textile industry. In various parts of the city, Aso-Oke, the wonderful textiles and hand-woven on simple looms are made in large quantities. Aso-Oke is patronized by traders and fashion designers from Kwara State, other parts of Nigeria and from abroad.
The cultural center houses the Kwara State Council for Arts and Culture, its performing troupe, and a gallery with artistic objects and antiquities. Souvenirs of cultural and historical values are also available.
Ilorin has a creation park formerly Amusement Park, now renamed Metropolitan Park is located on Unity Road, next to Guaranty Trust Bank. The Kwara State Stadium Complex has an Olympic-sized swimming pool with facility for diving among others. The only purpose-built baseball park in Nigeria is located in the Adewole area of the city.
The National Commission for Museum and Monuments has one of its centers in Ilorin, with interesting cultural and ethnographic objects from Nigeria's many cultures. The Esie Museum is of major note.
Christianity in Ilorin
The city has a host of ancient and modern Churches and very large congregations such as the holy order of Cherubim and Seraphim churches, Anglican, Methodist, Celestial Church of Christ, The Holy Trinity Gospel Church International, Evangelical Church Winning All (ECWA), Catholic, Seventh day Adventist and Protestant populations of the Christian faith. Most Christian Churches in the state started schools and most of the innovative and positive ideas introduced through the church schools were readily adopted by the Muslim schools, once they saw the advantages that were to be derived from them.
The first Ilorin central mosque was founded in 1820 at Agbarere popularly known as "Ile-elewa", under the leadership of Sheik Imam Munab'bau. This was followed in 1835 when another central mosque was built at Idi-Ape during the reign of the first Emir of Ilorin, Abdul Salam. However, more than a century later, this central mosque could no longer cope with the phenomenal growth in the population of the Muslim Ummah of the city. For this reason, in 1974, the 9th Emir of Ilorin, Alhaji (Dr) Zulkarnaini Gambari invited Grand Mufti Alhaji Mohammed Kamal-u-deen and the present Wazirin Ngeri of Ilorin, Dr. Abubakar Sola Saraki to co-ordinate the fund-raising and the construction of a new central mosque befitting of the status of Ilorin as a city of Islam.
The present Ilorin Central Mosque
On April 30, 1977, the foundation was laid for the new mosque by the Emir of Gwandu on behalf of the Sarki Musulmi, Sultan Abubabar III. At the time the new Ilorin Central Mosque was completed and officially opened in 1981 by the former president Alhaji Shehu Shagari.
Today the mosque is generally dilapidated with visible structural defects like cracks showing on some of the columns, the concrete walls and the domes, causing profuse leakages in a number of locations. The glass mosaic finishes on the walls and marble floors are cracked or chipped off making the mosque look generally rough and unsightly. Similarly, all the auxiliary structures like the toilet building and the steel stanchions are either dysfunctional or completely bad.
The "New" Ilorin Central Mosque
This project, the rehabilitation, refurbishment and redecoration of the Central Mosque is an effort to restore this important cultural icon. The planning work had started in 2007 when Alhaji (Dr) Ibrahim Zulu Gambari, CFR, the Eleventh Emir of Ilorin, with great assistance from Dr. Abubakar Bukola Saraki, the Turaki of Ilorin, and the Executive Governor of Kwara State, set up a technical committee headed by Alhaji Shehu Abdulgafar, on the rehabilitation and enhancement of the central mosque. The committee has worked actively and had invited expertise from specialists in mosque construction from around the World, especially from Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Nigeria.
In addition to the general restoration of enhancement of the mosque, it will now have a total of 99 domes of different diameters, 75 feet above the floor. The large dome will be of gold finish while the four big domes around it will be coated in green and reflective illumination. The mosque form is enveloped within a pyramid shape of square base and 45 inclinations for the faces. It has four accessible minarets each standing at the height of 150 feet. Moreover all the dilapidated domes and minarets with mosaic finishing will be restored and the finished with cut-to-size marble. The exterior and interior will also be covered by special marble while the expanded courtyard will be constructed with heat-absorbing granite (marble) finish. The doors and windows will be replaced with specially designed ones befitting the new mosque concept.
Added facilities include:
- 3 Modern Ablution centers with toilets facilities, each able to hold 100 worshipers at a time.
- A well equipped multi-purpose hall.
- An Islamic library with modern facilities.
- A car park.
- Modern lighting equipment, air-conditioners and long-range speakers for salat calls among others
It is home to Four of Nigeria's universities, the University of Ilorin University of ilorin, and the Al-Hikmah University, Ilorin, Kwara State University. It is also home for the following educational institutions:
- Kwara State Polytechnic, Ilorin
- Federal Government College Ilorin
- Kwara State College of Education, Ilorin 
- Muhyideen College of Education, Ilorin
- College of Arabic and Islamic Legal Studies
- United Missionary Theological Seminary.
- School of Nursing and Midwifery
- National Centre for Agricultural Mechanization
- Agriculture and Rural Management Training Institute
- Michael Imoudu Institute for Labour Studies
- Kwara state University
- Federal Training Center
- Government Secondary School, Ilorin Founded in 1914
- Ansarul Islam Secondary School, Ilorin
- Mount Carmel College, Ilorin
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