Awo-Ekiti

History

The original inhabitants of Awo were believed to have come from Ifè Oòdáyé. They were part of the waves of Yorùbá who migrated from Ile-Ife to found settlements in the present South-Western Nigeria. The foundation of Awo in its present site was as a result of amalgamation of some villages which agreed to cooperate for defensive reasons, as a result of common threats from stronger – chiefdoms. This was about 1350 A.D.

The community which later became Awo had its nucleus in a small settlement at Ijoru. The small settlement in later time became part of Oke-Uba Quarter under Osukoti of Awo Ekiti. At Ijoru was a market called Olujoda which was held every nine other days by such nearby settlements at Uju and Ile-Ona. The great importance of the market of Odo settlement who engaged Ijoru, Uju, Ile-Ona and other surrounding hamlets in warfare. The incessant attacks from Odo people forced the settlements to move close. Their united efforts helped them to put a permanent stop to Odo attacks. This early was referred to as Ogun Owuro.

Some years after the amalgation of the settlements that jointly fought Odo war, Olujoda market was abandoned and a more central market called ‘ATOWOSE’ was created. The great strength of the new settlement as well as its flourishing trade in kolanuts attracted the fancy of Odo people. The negotiated peace with the people of the new settlement and then many of the people from Odo moved in to settle with them. It was at this time an Ife Prince arrived at the settlement. The Ifew Prince was Akinadesanmi (but simply called Akinsanmi). He later became the first paramount ruler of the settlement with the title – Alawo of Awo.

Akinsanmi was one of the grand princes of Ile-Ife who with their followers left Ile-Ife some hundreds of years before the Yoruba inter-tribal wars. The group was led by a senior brother of Akinsanmi by name Okiribiti nicknamed Obadudu. He was fearless and popular. He later founded the settlement now called Emure Ijaloke and thus became the first Elemure of Emure Ijaloke. Olosi who later founded Osi-Ekiti (in Ido/Osi Local Government) also a brother to Akinsanmi was in the group. They left Ife with many beaded crowns and beads. The group arrived at Igbo Owa near River Ose where a powerful kingdom was established. Rivalry among Akinsanmi and his brother princes as well as attacks from Oba of Ado Ibini led to the fall of Igbo Owa Kingdom. The group then split and migrated in smaller groups settling in places one after the other.

Akinsanmi led a group which settled at Oba-Ile near Akure and later at Ise before he arrived to settle finally at the settlement within Atowose market environment which later became known known as Awo. On his way from Ise he fed mainly on baobab tree fruit. Ejisun, Erinwa, Edemo, Oluaro Aroro and Edemorun accompanied him as his followers on arrival.

Akinsanmi was a great hunter and a powerful medicine man. He was also very handsome and could change his body skin into different colours like a chameleon. He killed many animals and therefore dresed in different animals skins which were varied in colour. The often changing body skin and his garments of varied animal skins made people to popularly refer to him as ‘Alawo ewu arabara’. From this, the name Alawo is coined and the settlement became known as ‘Ilu Awo’. He often displayed his medicine charms hung on ‘Igba – (the type of coined ropes used for climbing palm tree). He used it as a necklace (Igbajo) in addition to beaded necklace. This, he believed gave him magical power against his enemies, and made his medicine handy for use during any emergency. So, for magical power against enemies ‘Igbajo’ was traditionally given to every newly installed Alawo as part of his regalia. It was however used last at the installation of Oba Filani Adesiyan in 1930.

People feared Akinsanmi (Alias Alawo ewu arabara) and was highly respected. With time he became recognised as the leader and paramount chief of the settlement (Awo). His fame extended to some far places and some people left their villages to settle at Awo. People from Ikole. Oba-Ile among others came to settle. Among such people were Elesi and Elese from the royal lineage of Osi-Ikole and Ilese respectively. The two men left their villages when they were not made paramount chiefs there. Both of them knew the traditional coronation rites as practised in their villages. They were then given the honour to perform the installation of Akinsanmi as the first Alawo of Awo. The two became recognised chiefs as Elesi and Elese. The official traditional duties of the Elesi and Elese up till this day is to install new Alawo.

Awo people have no common oriki like some other towns. For example: Osi-Ekiti has ‘Asise’ as its oriki, Ifaki as Orinkinran, Iyin is Egirioke and Akure is Oyemekun. The reason for this is simply that the original inhabitants of Awo came from different angle. Its royal family has its oriki which originated in the person of Oba Akinsanmi the first Alawo. Because of his boldness, his garments of varied colours, his feeding on baobab tree fruits and his arrival at Awo after his brief stay at Ise, members of the royal family at Awo have their oriki thus: Omo Akin, Omo Aláwò èwù àràbarà, Omo olòsè (baobab) Omo irà lílá ònà Ìsè e.t.c.

When Alawo arrived at Awo, the settlement of Eyinke was not far from Awo and a man called Ogbese was its paramount ruler. He was a hunter as well as great warrior. He was also a powerful medicine man. As Alawo was in history but it was faced in its early days with incessant harassments of invaders. For this reason the Alawo palace was removed from its original site at Oke -Uba which was very prone to attack to Erewa which appeared a more secured place. The construction of the first palace at Erewa had not been completed when the incoming Alawo left the palace at Oke-Uba. He had to stay for three months in a compound close to the new palace site at Erewa before he moved in after the completion. He gave the name Ile Aro to the compound where he stayed and the head of the compound was given the title ‘Aro’. For years it was customary for newly installed Alawo to stay in chief Aro’s house for three months before moving to the palace. The period was used to make necessary repairs to the grass thatched roof of the palace. Now that the palace is roofed with corrugated iron sheets there is no need for any new Alawo to stay for three months. From the time of Oba J. D. Aladejuyigbe III in 1968 the stay has been for three days only.

Early in its history, Awo evolved a stable political system. Alawo was and still the paramount ruler and he ruled with the assistance of his chiefs. There was the traditional council of state. It was made up of:

  • numo Chiefs consisting of three Iare, three Iro and three Emo.
  • Elegbe consisting of three Agba Elegbe, three Agba Akin and three Oisa Ijokun from each of the three wards or quarters.
  • Egiri consisting of three Olorigbo, three Elegiri and three Elerukuku.
  • Women Chiefs consisting of Eyedofin, Eyegun and Eyesemore.
  • There was also the Ward Council which was made up of precinct Chiefs (Olori Ebi).

The institution of age-grade system was an important aspect of the political organisation.The lowest grade was Otun Erukuku, followed by Agba Erukuku. These two age-grades took charge of public works like road, market and palace repairs and construction. After seven years, Otun Erukuku moved to Agba Erukuku. From here they moved to Origbo. The Orighos moved to Egiri and Erigi moved to Oye Elegbe and Agba Elegbe. The Elegbes were responsible for the maintenance of peace, they caught and punished criminals like witches, and they made sacrifices to appease the gods of the town. They were also the warriors. The ablest member was made the leader with the little Sajowa.

Among the early traditional festivals was the Oodun or Oro Olofin festival. This was and still is a traditional festival that is performed or celebrated by any direct Ife prince ruling a community. The traditional beaded crown is worn during the festival others were Ogun festival, Egungun festival and the worshipping of Orisa Oja, Orisa Iko otherwise called Orisa Ojuna (god of fire) bought by the family that came from Ikole, Orisa Odo brought by Odo people and Oyi the popular god of Oke-Uba ward.

Many Alawos has reigned since the demise of Akinsanmi. They included the following. (Their names are not all listed in chronological order) Oba Agodogbo bi ila a fi nsuru, Oba Aropupayoko, Oba Orun ku bi ojo, Oba Amolese, Oba Osodogbadamu, Oba Asowinon who broke the traditional law and was waylaid by the Elegbe and killed with their metal rod i.e. Ogbo Elegbe, Oba Ona Owuro who later abdicated his throne and left for Era where he became Elera of Era (now Araromi Ijero) Oba Adubienimu, who reigned at about 1650, Oba Ifamosaya 1860 – 1875, Oba Oyiyo Okeruku 1876, Oba Adesiyan I 1880 – 1900, Oba Aladejuyigbe I 1910 – 1925, Oba S. O. Aladejuyigbe II 1927 – 1930 who was the first enlightened Oba. The people found his reign too tyrannical and he was dethroned on 27th of March 1930. He left Awo for Igede. He was allowed to come back in 1941 but not as a king. People in later years judged him a good king but were too fast for his people. He lived in Awo till 1972 when he died, Oba Filani Adesiyan II 1930 – 1962 and Oba J. D. Alade 1966 – 1977 who was the last of the past Alawos.

Geography

Awo-Ekiti is a small town in the newly created Irepodun/Ifelodun Local Government area of Ondo State. Before the creation of the new Local Government, the town was within the defunct Ekiti Central Local Government. It is about six kilometers from Igede-Ekiti, the Irepodun/Ifelodun Local Government headquarters, and about twenty two kilometers from Ado-Ekiti through Igede/Iyin road. The town is situated within longitude 15½0E of the Greenwich and Latitude 6¾0 North of the Equator.

Awo-Ekiti is a centrally located town in Ekitiland. It is within the heartland of Ekitiland. The central location of the town has not been appreciated simply because of the poor roads which pass through the town.Travellers prefer long but good roads to poor but short roads. It is when the six roads that converge on the town are developed that the modality of the town within Ekitiland would come into focus. The central location of the town makes it form the shortest route to all corners and major towns in Ekitiland. For example, Ido-Ekiti via Osi through Awo/Igede-Ilawe to Igbara Odo is only forty kilometers. Ado-Ekiti via old Iyin settlement through Awo/Ara to Ijero Ekiti is just 22km. Ifaki via Esure/Eyio through Awo to Aramoko in Ekiti West is only 28km. The major towns at the periphery of Ekitiland such as Otun, Efon Alaye, Ikere, Ikole are nearly equidistant to Awo Ekiti. With the development of the roads, the strategic location of the town would be a potent factor in its growth and development.

The town is situated on a high elevation of about 1,800 in above the sea level. It is on one of the high plains of Western Nigeria. The altitude gives the town some unique weather conditions. Throughout the year, the weather is moderately cool and its water are usually cold most especially during the dry season. When a lot of people in the town prefer the naturally cold water to fridged water. The land too is well drained no water lodging and flooding.

The Plateau on which the town situates forms a watershed for tributaries which flow into River Ogbese in the South and River Osun in West. It is interesting to note that these two important rivers in Western Nigeria takes their sourcs just a few kilometers apart at the outskirt of the town. The two rivers are important as they are being worshipped by a large community of people in Western Nigeria.

Very spectacular in the topography of the town in the Igori Rock which is just only one and a half kilometres east of the town. This hill an outcrop of granite, is reminisent of the beautiful rocky landscape of Idanre. This massive, rock but smooth feature presents a fascinating tourist attraction which ought to be developed by the state government. The top of the hill is an ideal place to build challets to boost the tourist industry in the state. Standing on this hill one has a panoramic view of a rolling countryside whose distant hills and horizon merge with the blue sky.

Religion

Among the most conspicuous of the great changes were the introduction and expansion of Christianity and Islam. Christian missions especially of the CMS, Roman Catholic, Baptist, African Church and Methodist, later the Cherubum and Seraphim and Apostolic Church took root and expanded during the 20th century. Each of these Christian communities established numerous churches such that by 1970, the CMS (Anglican) and the Roman Catholic had grown so fast that they had become dioceses with their headquarters and seats of bishops in Ado-Ekiti. The two missions had three grammar schools, the number increased to five in 1990. The growth of Christian communities was very rapid between 1970 and 2000; new missions and denominations Pentecostal, Charismatic, Evangelical and Episcopal arose, swelling up existing communions. Altogether over one hundred churches were recorded in the city in the year 2000.

The Muslim community did not lag behind, the faith spread. The central mosque was built about 1930 and thereafter, a number of mosques were built in Idemo, Umayo, Isato (Irona), Ogbonado, Okesa, Oke-Ila etc. The Ansar-Ud-Deen emerged in the early 1940s. As a matter of fact, the number of mosques and the number of Muslims who have performed the Hajj can readily come to hand as indices of expansion. The number of mosques increased substantially with the growing number of well-to-do muslim who build mosques as annexes to their private homes; by the year 2000, more than forty mosques could be counted in the city. By 1960, only Alhaji Akorede had performed the Hajj but the number of Alhajs increased in the 1970s and steadily increased in the 1980s and 1990s.

Climate

The climate is tropical. There are two distinct seasons – The rainy season and the dry season. The rainy season starts at about April and ends in October while the dry season is from November to March. The town enjoys very heavy rainfall during the rainy season. Rainfall up to about 1,850 millimetres may be recorded in a year. The heavy rainfall is responsible for a luxuriant vegetation which in the past resulted into high forest. With lumbering and constant tillage now-a-days the former impenetrable forests have given way to an open country side.

The People and their Occupations

The present projected population of the town is about 32,000. The people are about 50% Christians and 50% Muslims with very negligible trationalists, if any. Because of the climate and the fertile soil, the main occupation by the people is farming. Tree crop planting and arable farming are done intensively. Kolanut and cocoa are the major tree crops. Indeed, the town ranks among the major kolanut producing towns in Ekitiland. The town has a very large kolanut market which is visited every five days by the Ibos, Ijebus, Hausa etc. The two types of Kolanut are common – ‘Obi abata’ and ‘goro’ or ‘gbanja’. The cultivation of rice is very significant and it is on the increase. The production of this crop on a large scale is drawing a lot of people from various parts of the country into the town. Closely attached to rice cultivation is the rice milling industry. The future of rice production in the town is very bright as many migrant farmers settle down for its cultivation. Other crops of importance grown include maize, yam, cassava etc.

Another important occupation of the people is trading. Many of the inhabitants of the town travel out to buy and sell various commodities.

River Ogbese as a Powerful Deity in Awo-Ekiti

Ogbese was a popular man in the olden days. He was a great warriors, a hunter and a powerful medicine man. People used to sing praise of him in these words “E e sode (he was a hunter), e e sawo (he was a medicine man or an herbalist), omo amurugbon wole peran (he could kill animals in a prostrating position with his beard brushing the ground) Apamudanule (he killed his enemies during wars in hundreds so much that his blood drenched sword was used to be cleaned on the ground).

Ogbese was a prince of Ado. When his father died, there was a tussle between him and his junior brothers over who would rule Ado after their father. The two brothers set for Ado-Ibini to get the staff of office to rule, from the Oba of Ado-Ibini who was one of the seven sons of Okanbi. Before Ogbese got to Ado-Ibini, his junior brother had received the staff of office, a crown and some beads. This situation made Ogbese to grow annoyed and to hate his brother. To avoid serious clash between Ogbese and his brother, the Oba of Ado-Ibini gave Ogbese another crown and some beads. He advised him to go and found a new place of settlement. The hatred between the two made them decided not to visit each other any more and Ogbese ordered his children never to prostrate or kneel down before any person from his brother’s family.

Ogbese went northwestward and founded a new town called Eyinke. He was followed by members of his family and the few people who were loyal to him.

Some years after he founded Eyinke, a war broke out between Ado (where his brother was the paramount ruler) and an enemy group from somewhere. The fighting was too much for Ado people that they sought the help of Ogbese to assist them in the battle. Not minding the quarrel he had with his brother, he went and fought and won the battle for Ado.

This incident reveals the historical significance of the song “Ogbugbulomi, a mo ya ‘Gbese la o, A pamudanule oju re laa me io”. In standard yoruba it reads thus “Ogbugbulomi awa sadi Ogbese ni ilu Awo. Apamudanule Oju re la nwo”. This was song years later by Ado people in rememberance of the war fought for them by Ogbese.

To show their gratitudes to Ogbese the ruler of Ado sent a slave annually to Ogbese. It was the coming of the European to Nigeria that put a stop to this.

When Ogbese was about to die, he called his son Oloja and told him that he would die on unusual and miraculous death, which would make him a diety that they would continue to worship. He took a small pot with him and went to a nearby Iroko tree. He sat at the foot of the tree suddenly he disappeared into the ground. Just immediately, water started to spring out from the small pot he left lying close to the root of the Iroko tree. This became a source of River Ogbese as it is known today. The proof is here till today.

After Ogbese’s disappearance, his son Oloja became the paramount ruler of Eyinke and the name ‘Oloja’ consequently became the title of the paramount ruler of Eyinke. Oloja led his people to worship River Ogbese annally.

Eyinke under Oloja was engaged in a war with a group of people. Oloja and his people had to flee and settle in a nearby town later called Awo.

When Alawo arrived and united the various groups he met under his sovereignty, Oloja became a traditional compound head under Alawo.

Eyinke, the old settlement of Oloja became the farm land of Oloja and his people. The people continued to farm the land till today. As a mark of respect to Oloja, Ejisun the head chief of the quarter/ward to which Oloja compound belongs is installed till today in Oloja’s house.

Annually the people continued to worship the god of River Ogbese and Oloja established a priesthood of seven members. (Iworo meje) for the worship. He as Oloja headed the priesthood. Others were Oisa, Elero, Oisape, Osotun, Elesa and Odofin ere who was the chief errand man for the Oloja.

The annual festival for the worship of the god of Ogbese (until recent times) started with the wives and children of Oloja and some other priests going to the farm to bring new yams. On their arrival from the farm, they would dance round Ogbese and Atiba shrines seven times respectively. Early in the morning on the day of the festival, the youngest wives of Oloja would pound the yams nakedly under closed doors, with the senior wives guarding the compound gate to prevent people from entering. After the traditional eating of the pounded yam, the gate would be opened to visitors who came for the feast of the festival.

The traditional offering of sacrifice to the god by Oloja would follow the early morning feast. Up till the end of the last century, the sacrifice included ritual killing of a slave referred to as Oluo. The killing was always effected by the Oisa. The slave annually sent to Ogbese and his predecessors by the traditional head of Ado as a gift in appreciation of the war which Ogbese won for Ado people was after the death of Ogbese annually sacrificed as Oluwo to the god of Ogbese.

The last song sung by the last Oluwo was “eereunfeeo eereunfee oun mo wo ohun mo mu somo lale ke inreunfee.

In addition annually the traditional head of Ado used to bring kolanuts rapped with a leaf called “Omu” ferns to Oloja.

There is up till today a womanpriest Eyelogbese who plays prominent roles during the period the annual festival lasts. Every year, people with one problem or the other like those with no children come to her to be blessed and those people make pledges. The worshippers believes that with the annual prayers made by the priestess, the god always protect his people from sickness and troubles of war and also allows them to multiply till today anybody suffering from Guinea worm would be treated with the water from Ogbese river. Up till about 1958, anybody infected by small pod was admitted by Eyelogbese (Ogbese priest) and cured. A number of miracles were performed during the yearly celebrations during various acrobatic displays which include dancing and rolling on the ground with small pox (Oru) dressed and with life fern leaves stalked in the pot without falling off. We were robbed of this fanciful and attractive culture by adven of Western civilisation.