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The Untold Story of an Ancient Yoruba Town, Oba-Ile (Part I)

Dr Stephen Ayo Fagbemi
Published November 10th, 2010

The need to contribute this article initially arose partly following an introduction that somebody did about me sometime ago. This was in Akure the Ondo State capital. I was introduced to the gentleman, as an indigene of Oba-Ile, but he immediately exhibited a bewildering surprise as, according to him, it was the first time ever that he would hear of anyone claiming to be an indigene of Oba-Ile. Yet he claimed to have lived in Akure for more than a decade. Apparently he had been misled into believing that Oba-Ile was an extension of Akure the capital city of Ondo State, or that it was created by people who left Akure to settle there. I have also heard this before; but both of these are wrong. Until the creation of Akure North Local Government in the mid-1990s, Oba-Ile was in Akure Local Government of Ondo State.

The probable truth is that this gentleman had met several Oba-Ile indigenes who had been too shy or too liberal to admit that they come from Oba-Ile, which is a much smaller town to Akure the capital city, and previously the headquarters of Akure Division and local administration. Akure has for many decades been a centre of commercial activities and local government. For many people, therefore, it may be very convenient to claim to be indigenes of Akure. In fact, the reality is that most of the original residents of the Isolo area in Akure would have one link or the other with Oba-Ile, if they were not entirely of Oba-Ile origin. I happened to attend the funeral of the father of Kabiyesi, the Osolo of Isolo, Pa Oluwatuyi (a.k.a Sibesibe), which had a large contingent of people from Oba-Ile. The first line of his traditional praise (or cognomen-oriki) was Ejioba omo olale, omo ajigbagba urin. I also know that some of the present chiefs of the Osolo are themselves closely related to Oba-Ile. Among them are the second in rank to the Osolo, the Lisa of Isolo, Chief Joshua Omotayo (a.k.a 1313) who is a cousin of ours and who continues to attend the Osolo-Asamo family meeting at Oba-Ile till date. He is the owner of Ejioba Motel, Akure. Chief H.A. Babatunde, the Olisunla of Isolo is himself an indigene of Oba-Ile, his father was Chief Oloro of Oba-Ile. Chief Babatunde continues to chair the family meeting for the Osolo-Asamo family in Oba-Ile to this day.
 
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In so many other areas Oba-Ile indigenes abound in Akure and continue to contribute to its development. Interestingly, the late Baba Ijo of St David’s Anglican Cathedral, Ijomu, Chief S. F. Adeniran hailed from Oba-Ile. He was a prince and direct son of the Oloba of Oba-Ile. In fact, he was once approached in his lifetime to consider contesting for the throne of the Oloba but was reluctant given his already well-known position as the Baba Ijo of St David’s Church. The current Iya Ijo of St Thomas’ Anglican Church, Isinkan, Akure, Chief Mrs Akingbade is a daughter of an erstwhile Sao of Oba-Ile while the current Iya Ijo of St Luke’s Church Idiaagba Titun, Akure, Chief Mrs Kolawole (nee Fagbemi), is a proud Oba-Ile daughter, hailing from the Asamo family of Umogun Quarters, while her late mother, Chief Mrs Olojuola Fagbemi, the Iya Ewe of St John’s Church, Oba-Ile was from Odo-Uro Quarters. The famous Faloye family of Akure are originally from Oba-Ile. Their father was an erstwhile Sao of Oba-Ile. I believe that their relation to Akure is through their mother who happened to be a princess of the Akure royal lineage. I recall that in 1986, at the lunching of appeal funds for the completion of the building of St John’s Church, Oba-Ile, Lawyer Jaiye Faloye was the Chairman and there, the late High Chief Odofin Fabilola (Oloba’s most senior chief) reminded him that the Sao chieftaincy was vacant, if he would like to contest for it. Also the name of the Venerable Sola Faloye, retired Archdeacon in Akure Diocese, has continued to appear on the list of Oba-Ile sons ordained in the Anglican ministry. The same goes for Mr S.B Komolafe a staunch member of St David’s Cathedral, Akure, whose father was the Elejoka of Oba-Ile. Until his death, Chief Joseph Kokumo Komolafe was a resident of Ayedun Quarters, Akure. Prince Adeola Omodara, a direct son of Oloba Omodara remained a prominent resident at Oke-Ijebu, Akure until his untimely death. Chief M.A. Alade is a famous businessman at Ijomu junction on Oba Adesida Road, Akure. If these are not persuasive enough, the history of the Deji of Akure as Oloba’s son is another case in point to which we shall return later.

I wish to pay tribute to a prominent Akure and Oba-Ile son, Prof. W.O. Aderounmu who has in 1994 published a history of Oba-Ile, which I believe has not been accorded the much-deserved publicity and fun fare. Hence, people like the gentleman to whom I was introduced had not been aware of this or of the history of the ancient town of Oba-Ile. Whilst benefitting from Professor Aderounmu’s publication, I shall here attempt to illustrate them from my personal experience and research, filling the some gaps as appropriate. I will as well be reflecting on some of what I had read and heard from my own father, until his death in 2002 a community leader and ayapin, Oberuko sayo, Olopon ude the Asamo of Oba-Ile, High Chief H. Omo. Fagbemi. I was privileged to read some of his documents and position papers on this subject in his lifetime. I shall also corroborate this with other sources as appropriate.

The history of any community in Yorubaland and in most of the ancient world is mixed with facts and myth. While it is not always easy to separate them, the truths that they convey are also sacrosanct. Whatever the size or position of any town in our land every community should matter and also receive attention from government, as in attending to them, government also cares for its citizenry.

Oba-Ile’s history is shrouded in mystery and is also intricately linked to that of Ile-Ife, the cradle of the Yorubas. Many Yoruba books dealing with the history of the origins or myths of creation of the Yoruba race appropriately refer to the importance of Oba-Ile or Oba-Akure (to distinguish it from other Obas) as one of the earliest of Yoruba settlements. In some cases it is recognised as having a tradition independent of Ile-Ife, especially because of the link of Oloba with the creation of the earth. In fact, as Professor Bolaji Idowu has rightly explained in his ‘Olodumare, God in Yoruba Belief’, Oba-Ile claims to be the place from where the earth began to spread as has been directed by Olodumare. After Orisa nla had been asked to confirm the solidity of the earth, Oba-Ile was the place where he landed. Now this remains mysterious given that Yorubas believe this to be Ile-Ife. But what is often so clear is that either the first Oloba predates Oduduwa or was closely involved in the foundation of the earth in Ile-Ife. Subsequently his connection with the spread of the earth earns his Oloba Oodaye-the one who had landed at the very beginning while the name Oba depicts the place of landing on the earth. Professor Bolaji idowu described him as a priest-king from Ife who later settled at Oba-Ile. He was mysterious and had descended to the earth by chain from heaven which is why he is called okiribiti omo atorun ro saye; omo iye bi, omo iba bi. That is the one who landed on the earth and was not born either by a father or a mother.

On leaving Ile-Ife, he went along to see others who left with him settle before he chose to settle at Alegunranyin, in about 1100AD, which is why he was called A-kaiye-do, that is, the one who helped or brought the world to settle. There he planted a palm tree to mark his settlement. The mysterious palm tree grew and has 16 branches although bringing forth no fruit. This is what the Oba-Ile people sing about during Agbon festival when they talk of ope kekere ode-ile, mo ya soro (that is the small palm tree, it is time of festival). So Alegunranyin was the first place where Oba-Ile settled before moving to the present site. The others whom Akaiyedo helped to settle were the Oore of Otun Ekiti, the Oludanre (Owa) of Idanre, Ewi of Ado-Ekiti, Elekole of Ikole, Olojudo of Ido-Ekiti, Onitaji of Itaji-Ekiti, Owa-Akero of Ijero, Arinjale of Ise, among others. It was here that he went with Oranmiyan on expedition to Ado (Benin) and Oranmiyan was said to have stayed at Oba for about 2 years whilst returning from Benin.

As at the time Oloba Akaiyedo settled, there was no other town around except Idanre; it was Oba and Idanre who had common boundaries. Thus Oba-Ile is not only of the oldest Yoruba settlements but in fact the oldest of all the towns in present day Akure North and Akure South Local Governments, including Akure the state capital. That is, Oba-Ile is older than Akure, the capital city of Ondo State. The Oloba came with his beaded crowns out of which some of his children later took and went from Oba to found other settlements, nearly 100 years after Akaiyedo had settled at Alegunranyin.

It was one of Oloba’s children who went to found Uso in present day Owo Local Government. This is why the title of Uso’s monarch remains to this day the Oloba of Uso. He went to replicate to a large extent some of the traditions in Oba-Ile with some quarters bearing the same name as in Oba-Ile. Among them is Umogun Quarters. It is also evident today that most of those who live in Odo Uso speak the same dialect with those of Oba-Ile or Akure people. The chieftaincies in Uso manifest a lot of similarities with that of the Oloba of Oba’s chiefs, such as Elemo, Aro, Edemo, among others. In fact, the Elemo of Uso, like the Elemo of Oba-Ile is praised as ogbo eketa iare-the third in rank among the Iares. The Iares are the senior Oloba’s chiefs who help him in administering the town. This is true in Uso as it is at Oba-Ile. Interestingly too, most of those who live in Uso today, especially in Odo Uso are of Oba-Ile origins and some may have come from Akure too. There is also great intermarriage between Uso and Oba-Ile people. A lot of Uso traditions and cultures are very similar to that of Oba-Ile.

Among others who left Oba-Ile was Akinsanmi who later founded Awo-Ekiti, and Emure-Ekiti. Also out of Oba-Ile left other Oloba’s sons who went to found Oba-Akoko, Oba in Anambra State, another one went to settle near Abeokuta while the last to leave went to settle in present Osun State, near Osogbo.

It is believed that various disagreements between Oloba and his children were partly responsible for their leaving home and this has had negative impact on the growth of Oba-Ile, as each time they left, the population reduced drastically. Little wonder that until recent years, Oba-Ile’s growth has been relatively slow whilst it has lost out in many strategic decisions and planning that could have helped its growth. Although it also benefited from the citing of Western Nigeria Broadcasting Station (WNBS) which later became Ondo State Broadcasting (OSBC) before the modern Ondo Stated Radiovision Corporation that later relocated to Orita Obele in Akure. It has also been the site for the Nigerian Television Authority (NTA), among other government establishments and institutions. Also related is the fact that Oba-Ile indigenes are fond of moving out to settle elsewhere and making it the places of their abode, and this trend has not entirely ceased in this modern era. One of the obvious places to which they relocate is Akure, which is only about 6 miles to Oba-Ile. Commercial and other reasons account for this. A prominent Oba-Ile son, Chief Makinde Oguntona captures this very well when he describes Oba-Ile as an ancient town that refused to grow along with its contemporaries. So Oba-Ile is one of the oldest Yoruba towns. Even though this is not often acknowledged but Yoruba historians acknowledge it. It has been an independent town from the very beginning.



To be continued....



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