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The Untold Story of An Ancient Yoruba Town, Oba-Ile (Part 4 of 4)

By: Dr. Stephen Fagbemi
 Published January 12th, 2011

In the previous three sections on the ancient town of Oba-Ile, we have shown that Oba-Ile is an ancient Yoruba town that predates even Akure, the Ondo State capital. Its role in the founding of some other towns and villages around, such as Ugoba, as a satellite town, and Uso in present day Owo Local Government has been highlighted. The last section shows the role of the Oloba and the Oba-Ile community in stabilising the throne of the Deji of Akure when the Oloba of Oba sent his son, Obagbeyi to become the Deji of Akure. The ensuing traditions and links include among others the celebration of Aeregbe festival and Esibi dance in Akure both of which have continued to-date.

The final section is intended to dwell on the traditional governance and administration of Oba-Ile, with special attention to the role of its monarch, the Oloba Oodaye of Oba-Ile. From time immemorial, since the establishment of the Oba-Ile by Akaiyedo the Oloba had been ruling with the authority of a paramount traditional ruler with prescribed authority over its land up to as far as Ugoba, where Odofin Otalogun first stayed. It is as a result of modernity that the title of the head of Ugoba community changed from Otalogun to Obalogun. He was one of Oloba’s kingmakers and had a seat in Oloba-in-Council. I have stated that in our own time, I witnessed that the Obalogun of Ugoba attended the meeting of Oloba’s chiefs just before Aeregbe festival.

There are two ruling houses in Oba-Ile, namely the Akaiyedo and Elegbeogbo ruling houses and since the establishment of the second ruling house, the two ruling houses have been taking turns in producing candidates for the throne of the Oloba of Oba-Ile. As would be seen later the creation of Elegbejeogbo ruling house is a relatively new development that started towards the end of the 18th century. The present Oloba Agunbiade Otutubiosun III is from the Akaiyedo ruling house, his grand father being Oloba Olaluwoye Otutubiosun I who reigned in the 19th century before Oloba Orioge I.

The Oloba of Oba-Ile has been a paramount traditional ruler from the beginning but has sadly not been accorded his rightful place among modern Yoruba Obas, especially in Ondo State. He is by all account, history and tradition a first class Oba in his own right and deserves the status of a first class monarch. I recall once making a comparison between the process that brought the present Oloba to the throne and the process that led to the enthronement of the new Deji of Akure and one of the responses made by someone on the forum exhibited much ignorance when he argued that it was wrong to compare the Deji, a First Class Oba to Oloba who was not a First Class Oba. I was quite amused by this reaction, as I believe that the person did not quite understand much about traditional institution especially in relation to the Oloba of Oba-Ile. The Oloba has been a ruler of significance from time immemorial, a beaded crown Oba, who has never been subservient to any Oba in Yorubaland.

Ironically the Olubadan of Ibadan who had no traditional right to wear beaded crown and was not granted the right to wear beaded crown until 1976 is now a first class ruler in Oyo State, a position that has been enhanced by the status of Ibadan as a capital city. Yet the Oloba of Oba-Ile is not often perceived in that light. In fact, when the late Princess Aderosoye, the regent of Oloba Omodara visited the Governor of the old Western Region in Ibadan in 1967, accompanied by my late father among others, she went in the full regalia and beaded crown of a paramount traditional ruler, the paraphernalia of office used by her late father, Kabiyesi Oloba Omodara and his predecessors. As of then no Olubadan had such a right.

It is on record that until recent times, it was only the Oloba of Oba-Ile and the Deji of Akure who had the right to wear beaded crown in the whole of what is now Akure North and Akure South Local Governments. In fact the circumstances in which the Oloba of Oba was not classified as a Grade I Oba in 1977 is better forgotten than remembered by the Oba-Ile community. As it is said, the enemy was right within rather than from without. Just as Oba-Ile has had an independent autonomous history so has the Oloba of Oba-Ile, unlike many obas in the old Akure Division. For instance, no Deji of Akure or any Yoruba Oba has ever claimed to have a prescribed authority over the Oloba or to have collected “isakole” or tributes from the Oloba. This could not be said of other neighbouring Baales and Obas. The Deji could not have asked for such given the history that I have enumerated both in part I and part II of this series, not least when Oba-Ile itself is older than Akure and also because the Oloba is not on the Deji’s or Akureland. In fact, there is a version of Akure history that attests to the fact that Asodeboyede begged the Oloba of Oba-Ile to allow him settle on Oloba’s land. So as the Yorubas rightly say eni a ba laba ni baba (the one who first got to settle in the hut is the father). Hence in his own testimony at the Morgan Commission of Inquiry into Chieftaincy matters on 8th june1977, the then Deji of Akure, Oba Adelegan Adesida III confirmed that no one had any prescribed authority over the Oloba of Oba and that from time immemorial, he had been a beaded crown oba who had authority over his own land. This gave rise to the description given the Oloba of Oba-Ile in the report as a paramount traditional ruler without a consenting or prescribed authority over him (see Morgan Report, pp.34-35).

Conversely, it was at the Morgan Commission of Inquiry in 1977 that the Okiti of Iju and the Elewe (now Ogbolu) of Itaogbolu appealed to the Deji to grant them the right to wear a crown. That is, until the last three decades, it was only the Oloba of Oba-Ile and the Deji of Akure that were entitled to wear beaded crowns in the whole of what is now known as Akure North and Akure South Local Governments. Although the Deji and Oloba were classified separately no other Oba, Olu or Baale shared the same class or status with either of them. That is, neither the Olojoda of Oda, the Ogbolu of Itaogbolu, the Okiti of Iju nor the Olu Ayede of Ogbese (previously Baale Ogbese) was in the same category with either the Deji or the Oloba. Ironically these are now beaded crown rulers who might probably wish to claim equal status with the Oloba of Oba. And while no Oba in a lower class could wear their crown before the Deji, the Oloba of Oba had no such inhibition. An example of this was in 1977 during the Morgan Commission of Inquiry at Akure, when the Alara of Ilaramokin came with a crown, the people of Akure objected seriously to this (Morgan Report, p.47). The same was the case during the presentation of the staff of office to Deji Adebobajo Atayese Adesida IV, when the late Oba Oluyede of Ayede Ogbese came to the ceremony with a crown he was challenged. The Oloba had been different, as he had from time immemorial being a king with the full status and regalia of a first class ruler with beads, decorative dress, and trumpet among other things. In fact, as a young boy I recall that the outing of the regent of Oloba, Princess Aderemi was always accompanied with trumpet. I also witnessed a lot of Bata drumming in the palace during the reign of the late ex-Oloba Orioge II.

As I have argued elsewhere it is awkward to describe the Oloba as subservient or junior to the Deji of Akure for any reason other than the fact that Oba-Ile is much smaller than Akure. According to Chief Oguntona, a prominent Oba-Ile son and community leader, Oba-Ile is an ancient town that refused to grow with its contemporaries. It is remarkable however that it has witnessed unprecedented development, growth and expansion in the last two decades. The status of the Oloba means that he could not have done what Kabiyesi the Okiti of Iju Oba Farukanmi did in 1993 at the Synod of the Anglican Diocese of Akure hosted at St Stephen’s Anglican Church, Iju at which I was present. The Okiti of Iju had welcomed the then Deji of Akure, Oba Adebobajo Adesida as his “father Oba” rather than his “brother Oba”. The change in this salutation obviously elicited much applause from the synod delegates.

A few years ago, in talking about the politics of Akure in relation to its neighbouring towns and villages, someone had reminded me that Oba-Ile is different from the others, implying that Oba-Ile occupies a special place in relation to Akure. Whether this is truly so is a matter of debate and depending on who in Akure is dealing with the issue. In fact some would like to say that the link between Akure and Oba-Ile is so strong that the two of them could be taken to be one and the same. Again, this would depend on who is saying it and what the motives are.

I am concerned that the development of all parts of Ondo State are taken seriously by its government, and every soul and community should matter in the way amenities and infrastructures are distributed to avoid any form of lopsidedness. It seems rather curious to me that in spite of the history and traditions of Oba-Ile and the status of the Oloba of Oba-Ile, it still has not occupied its appropriate place and given the right and due honour as a First Class Oba. For instance, of all the Obas who occupied the same class with the Oloba in the old Ondo State, such as the Zaki of Arigidi, the Onirun of Irun, the Rebuja of Oshoro etc, he is the only one who has not been upgraded to and accorded the formal rights and privileges of a Class I Oba. This seems to me a travesty of justice indeed. This would sometimes suggest that it is a matter of influence and whom you know. If every soul is important, it seems to me that the Oloba of Oba-Ile deserves his proper position among Yoruba Obas beginning in Ondo State.

The Oloba of Oba-Ile is supported by his chiefs in the administration of the town. The chiefs are led by the Odofin of Oba-Ile who presides over the gathering of the chiefs every 9 days in both morning and afternoon before they congregate in the palace in the evening (late afternoon) in the presence of the Oloba Oodaye. The chiefs are referred to broadly as the Iares but not all of them are the Iares. The traditional Oloba-in-Council is divided into six sub-groups. The Iares are led by High Chief Odofin, the Ejua Group led by High Chief Asamo, the Ikomo Group led by High Chief Sao, the Women’s Group led by Chief Ajero, the Elegbes led by Chief Agbakin, while the Egiris are led by Chief Elegiri. It is remarkable that of all the traditional chieftaincies in Oba-Ile, Olowere is the most junior serving within the Egiri group.

Since its history Oba-Ile has had the following Olobas: 1. Akaiyedo 2. Oladeye, the founder of Umogun 3. Osalade 4. Aderosale 5. Oluwalade 6. Aladeparioye 7. Oyinlade 8. Adegbuji 9. Atanlaye 10. Adesoro 11. Segi 12. Aladegboye 13. Olasosin 14. Iyun 15. Adegbute 16. Akikomugbeseyan 17. Ogogo 18. Agunmayao 19. Adesola 20. Adepoju 21. Adewumi 22. Olagbuyi 23. Aladewetan 24. Adelana 25. Olakaye 26. Adewekun 27. Adelala 28. Oyigi 29. Awogbamila 30. Awotunberu 31. Obalaye 32. Adedipe 33. Erinmuja 34. Adelakun 35. Adelani 36. Adegboro 37. Aladegbola 38. Aladegbokun 39. Ogungbadero 40. Akintoye 41. Gbadegun 42. Oyintoke 43. Ajidiogbo 44. Obaleyakin 45. Elegbejeogbo 46. Olagboba 47. Olaluwoye Otutubiosun I 48. Orioge I (1886-1924) whose reign witnessed the advent of Christianity in Oba-Ile, in 1909 and he protected the Christians from extreme persecution. 49. Aladesaye (1930-1944).

50. Amos Omodara (Sept 14, 1947 to 1966). His reign witnessed many developments. He was the one who moved out of the palace at Umogun to his own building, a more modern structure by the standard of the time, and nearer the main trunk B Road. He was a very revered monarch and peace-loving person. He was so well-respected that he was appointed a Justice of Peace and president of a customary court at Akure the Divisional headquarters of the time. His daughter, late Princess Aderosoye became regent following his demise.

51. Samuel Omoniyi Otutubiosun II (1967). He was a police officer and a very ambitious ruler who had great vision for the development of his town and the building of a modern palace. He was very firm and disciplined as a police officer. He reigned with firmness, vision and unparalleled charisma. He aimed to raise the profile of the community and the throne of the Oloba. Unfortunately his was short-lived as his reign lasted only 60 days. Yet he recorded great achievements within the short period. Great dreams short-lived! Princess Aderemi Fabilola became the regent after him. It was during the regency of Princess Aderemi that the Oba-Ile community donated the expanse of land to the government free of charge for the construction of Western Nigeria Broadcasting Station (WNBS). During her regency the WNTV was commissioned.

52. Gabriel Ilesanmi Orioge II (1975-May 1980). Was a soldier, of female lineage, with a very promising future. He ascended the throne as a young man who was very much loved and respected by all his subjects. Unfortunately he lacked the decorum and ability to carry his office with dignity and respect. Although he was a very charismatic monarch the incessant crisis into which he plunged the community finally led to his deposition in 1980 only five years after his coronation. During his reign The Ondo State Broadcasting Corporation was officially commission by Wing Commander Ita David Ikpeme. I happened to attend the event.

53. The reigning Oloba Joseph Agunbiade Otutubiosun III, was enthroned in September 1987. His grandfather was Oloba Olaluwoye Otutubiosun I. His reign has witnessed tremendous growth and developments in the town. Above all, his reign has brought about the much needed peace and tranquility.

The history of Oba-Ile is a long one with so many interesting twists. But suffice it to say that it has an original and primal place in the history of the Yoruba race even if it is not often acknowledged. It has produced many great people and has served many neighbouring communities, yet it has suffered from a lack of commensurate growth with its history and age. It was full of darkness like many Yoruba communities but the advent of Christianity in 1909 brought the light of the gospel into the town and this has had so much impact on it. Oba-Ile now has many of its indigenes in various positions of responsibilities both within and outside Nigeria; one of them is Hon. Omoniyi Omodara, a Commissioner in the present government of Dr Olusegun Mimiko. It now has many schools and establishments but is still in need of further growth and development, which can be made possible only by interested people and indigenes of the community. It is very open and friendly to outsiders even sometimes at the expense of its own people.

Oba-Ile has played a vital role in the development of Ondo State not least through its hosting of the Ondo State Radiovision Corporation at its inception. It continues to host the NTA Akure and the Housing Estate among others. Here is an appeal to all Oba-Ile indigenes and friends to contribute to its further development, and especially to the alumni of Ejioba High School for greater involvement in the life of the school. There is a lot more to write but I wish to finish this piece here by greeting both the Kabiyesi, the Oloba Oodaye of Oba-Ile, Alayeluwa, Alase EkejiOrisa, ojo yere abi ojo bare, okirikisi omo atorunro saye, omo iyebi, omo ibabi, alugbogbo moja, omo asoro mu moriwo agbon gba, omo asoro mokunrin obitun. K’ade pe lori, ki bata pe lese. And to greet all Oba-Ile indigenes at home and abroad with the following familiar expression, Ejioba omo olale, omo ajigbagba urin, omo apano soro; omo amokunkunyugbo ebo m’osupa ji erebo; omo asoro m’osaka soro; omo asoro mu moriwo agbon gba; omo asoro mokunrin obitun; omo a soro mu gbegidi ori tani ore; Omo ajosibi peyin udi da, omo ajosibi mikaka roro.


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