Otun-Ekiti

Geography and Historical Background

Otun Ekiti is the Headquarter of Moba Local Government Area in Ekiti State. It is located to the North of Ekiti State. It is a nodal town which shares boundary with Kwara State to the North and Osun State to the West.

Tradition has it that the Oore emerged from the Okun Moba (Moba Sea) in the present coastal area of Lagos with a Calabash containing water in his hand, beads around his neck and a beaded crown on his head. It is also a fact of history that the people of Otun under the leadership of Oore have settled in different places at different times, including Moba near Mushin in Lagos and passing through Ile-Ife before they finally settled at their present location.

Some of the places they passed through after Ile-Ife included Akure, Oke Olodun, and Ipole before moving to the present site over 400 years ago. The movement from Ipole (about six kilometers away) to settle at the present site was due to scarcity of water. Water supply was so problematic at Ipole to the extent that newly born children were dying for lack of water. This was during the time of Oore Owafonran. He then consulted the Ifa Oracle and was asked to move to the present site where water is in constant supply and very reliable. As a result of the importance which the then Oore attached to commerce, the first thing that was done after locating to the present site was to determined. All these were done through consultation with the Ifa Oracle, for which Oore was very popular.

It should be noted that the migration of Oore and his people from one location to the other as stated above were not due to conquest at war or threat to internal security of his people. In fact, Otun under Oore was never conquered by any community or subjugated under any kingdom of old. Otun was neither under the old Oyo Empire nor under Benin Kingdom. It was never under the control of Ibadan warrior who dominated most of the areas the present South West of Nigeria.

Relationship With Oduduwa

Since time immemorial, Oore has enjoined a pride of place and position of prominence among the Yoruba Obas. Oore at one time or the other was at Ile-Ife and had a very strong relationship with Oduduwa, the father of the Yorubas. All authorities, both oral tradition and written sources confirm this relationship. In fact, the relationship between them was a special one, transcending that of father and son relationship. History has it that at a time during his stay at Ile-Ife, Oduduwa mysteriously went blind and all efforts to restore his sight proved abortive. It was Oore who took out of the water brought from Okun Moba to wash the eyes of Oduduwa before his sight was restored.

This feat performed by Oore endeared him to Oduduwa to the extent that he called him “Oloore mi” (meaning my benefactor). After restoring the sight of Oduduwa, Oore decided to leave Ile Ife in continuation of his journey to establish his own kingdom. This was against the wish of Oduduwa who wanted Oore to remain at Ile Ife.

Long after Oore left Ile Ife, Oduduwa died and a message was sent to Oore to inform him about the demise of Oduduwa. Oore, on receiving the message went back to Ile Ife to perform all necessary rituals for the burial of Oduduwa. He also played leading role in the enthronement of a successor to Oduduwa, thereby ensuring a smooth transition in the house of Oduduwa before he left Ile Ife for his settlement. That special relationship has subsisted between Oore and Ooni up to the present day. For instance, whenever the Ooni passes on(dies), it is a fact of tradition that the first Oba in Yoruba land to whom the information must be passed is the Oore who in turn announces the demise of the Ooni to the other Yoruba Obas.

Furthermore, before a new Ooni can be installed, Oore has a special role to play. He is one of four ancient traditional rulers in Yorubaland whose spirit must be invoked. Apart from this, Oore also pays annual visit to the Alaafin of Oyo to demonstrate the historical affinity between the two of them. During such visits, Oore will carry traditional presents along with him which include Obi abata (Kola nuts) and Omi Owuro (Water) from Eleti spring in Otun Ekiti. This water the Alaafin must first spill on the ground as a libation before performing any ceremony. In return, the Alaafin gives valuable items to Oore as a reciprocation of Oore’s kind gesture.

Relevant Issue

The pre-eminence of Oore among Yoruba Obas was demonstrated by the old Oyo Empire and Benin Kingdom. This was as a result of peace treaty, which the Oba of Benin entered into with the Alaafin of Oyo.

During this period, most of the present day Ondo, Ekiti and Lagos States came under Benin Kingdom while the old Oyo Empire had control over most of the Northern and Western Yorubaland as well as part of the non-Yoruba speaking neighbours like Nupe, Ibariba and Aja in Dahomey. Throughout this period, neither Benin nor Oyo empire ever conquered Otun. This was as a result of the status of Oore and Otun came to be regarded as a neutral ground where people from both sides settled amicably. As a result of this, Otun became a burstling center of commercial activities which drew people from both kingdoms and from many other parts of the present-day Nigeria and beyond. Her market which up till today is held every five days became second to none in the present day Ekiti, Ondo and Osun States. People came from all over Yoruba land to attend the market. In fact, non-Yoruba tribes like the Nupes and Ibaribas came to transact business in the town and many of them in the process settled permanently in Otun.

In order to maintain its pre-eminent commercial position, Otun had to develop its military capabilities to be able to ward off any external aggression. Backed up by his traditional importance among Yoruba Obas, the pre-eminent position of his town in commercial activities, coupled with the military capabilities of his kingdom, Oore assumed the leadership of the Ekiti Obas in the 18th and 19th centuries. At that time, Ekitiland included the present day Ekiti State, Akure and Akoko lands in the present Ondo State and all the Ekiti towns and villages in the present day Kwara State.

Oore is always found in the fore front in all matters connecting the Yoruba Obas. This was clearly evident during the meeting of all Yoruba Obas that was held with Governor Sir Mcgregor on 31st May, 1939 at Rex Cinema in Ibadan. After the meeting, the Governor together with all the Yoruba Obas took a group photograph in which 12 of the Obas sat in the front row. On the right hand side of the Governor was the Ooni of Ife, Oba of Benin and Ewi of Ado. The Oore Otun, H. R. H. Oba Oyinloye Olubin sat fourth to the immediate right of the Governor. This picture was reproduced in the center spread of the Nigerian Tribune of April 5th 1987. In the same vein, a columnist in the Nigerian Tribune captioned “Aiyekooto” wrote in his article of April 6th 1987 “It is not my list. It is the list given in 1903. I have another list of the Obas in order of seniority among which Oore was number five after the Ooni of Ife, Alaafin of Oyo, Follow of Owu and the Oba of Benin.

Relationship With Other Ekiti Obas

Oore also had a wonderful historical and cultural affinity with other Ekiti Obas who saw and accepted him as their leader. Rev. Samuel Johnson in “The History of the Yorubas” pg.23 stated that “The Ekiti Country is divided into 16 districts, each with his own Owa or King of which four are supreme. They are: The Owore of Otun, The Ajero of Ijero, The Elewi of Ado and The Elekole of Ikole”.

The role of Oore among the Ekiti Obas throughout the 18th and 19th centuries was that of constructive and effective leadership.This period can conveniently be classified as the period before, during and after the Kiriji wars. The immediate cause of the Kiriji wars was the scuffle between the Ibadan Ajele and his men on one hand and Fabunmi of Imesi Igboodo and his men on the other hand, which resulted in the killing of the Ajele and some of his men at Imesi Igbodo.

This led Fabunmi to seek the support of prominent Obas and notable men of Ijesha, Ekiti, Akoko and the Igbomina countries to fight the impending war. Following this request, all the Ekiti Obas had to meet at Otun under the leadership of Oore to plan their strategies for the war. The final movement to the battlefront took off from Otun Ekiti after series of meetings and consultations which spanned many days at Otun. During the war, Oore provided men and materials towards the war efforts. Oore himself and most of his chiefs were always at the war front to encourage other Obas and to ensure that their subjects were not carried into bondage.

Throughout the wars, Oore’s leadership was never in question. He was the recognised spokesman for all Ekiti Obas. One of the lessons learnt during the Kiriji wars by Ekiti Obas was that the military might of Ibadan was a function of their numerical superiority in the battlefield. This they discovered was as a result of the fact that different people from different parts of Yoruba land came to settle at Ibadan. It was therefore suggested that all Ekiti towns and villages should transplant into a single new megalopolis, but that they should still retain their old locations as farms. This idea was accepted by all the 16 Ekiti Obas(Alade merindinlogun), and Otun, which was the domain of Oore, was naturally chosen as the site for the Ekiti parapo town. The settlement was expected to extend from Otun to Aiyede. In fact, many of the prominent obas and chiefs in Ekiti had come to Otun to identify the specific areas where their towns would be located. However, later development resulted in dropping the idea.

Other historical facts which can attest to the leadership of Oore among Ekiti Obas are as stated below:

  • At the end of Kiriji wars, Oore led the team of other Ekiti Obas including Ajero of Ijero and the Olojudo of Ido in signing the peace treaty that signified the end of hostility on 3rd July 1886. He again led the same team on behalf of the 16 Ekiti Obas to sign the treaty abolishing slave trade and human sacrifice with Lagos Government on September 29th, 1886. These accorded the Oore the honour of being the first signatory to these treaties. Samuel Rowe the then Governor of Gold Coast Colony documented some useful hints concerning the pre-eminence of Oore of Otun on May 29th, 1883. He said, “Ekiti Parapo is a name given to the confederation of Efon tribes There are said to be 132 kings among them. The principal of these kings is one Oray (Oore)”.
  • During the Kiriji war Oore’s recognition as the leader of Ekiti obas was affirmed by Reverend Charles Philip, the messenger to C. A. Moloney, the governor of Lagos by what he wrote in a note on 4th May 1886 about his visit to Okemesi during the war. He said “we first call on Oray (Oore), king of Otun who is regarded as the senior of Ekiti kings. I read the Governor’s letter to him”.
  • In 1899, Major Reeve Tucker was appointed by the Colonial Secretary to take charge of the administration of Ekitiland inclusive of Ijesha. After his extensive tour of this unit between October 1899 and February 1900, he established the Ekiti council of Obas and Oore was made the president. It is on record that he presided over the first two meetings of the council held at Ilesha in June 1900. Subsequently, Otun was made the administrative headquarters of Ekitiland and the third and only meeting of the council which took place in Ekitiland was held at Otun in August 1900.
  • The controversy between the Northern Government and the administration of Major Tucker led to the carving away of Otun, Obo, Ishan, Aiyede and Ikole and their merger with the Northern Nigeria. Following the readjustment of Ekiti-Kabba boundary in 1909, Ishan, Aiyede and Ikole returned to Ekiti division. During the period of Oore’s absence in Ekiti land, the idea of Ekiti council of Obas became moribund. As a matter of fact, no meeting of the council was held throughout the period of Oore’s absence due to lack of acceptable leadership.
  • Following the return of Otun to Ekiti Division in 1936, the Ekiti Council of Obas was swiftly reconstituted in form of “Pelupelu” and Oore was again made the president.
  • When the Ekiti Superior Native Authority was amended in 1946 and established in 1947 the president was to be rotated among the 17 Ekiti Obas, Oore was made the first president.
  • Oore was the first Oba in Ekiti land to be presented with a certificate of honour by His Majesty King George VI in 1947. This was in addition to the certificate of honour he received in 1886 and 1900. The next Oba that got the certificate did so two years after Oore.
  • In the biography of H.R.H Oba Aladesanmi, the Ewi of Ado Ekiti, he said “I am in the third position in Ekiti Division Council of Traditional Rulers which has Ajero of Ijero as the second. The senior one, Oore of Otun has his district transfered to Ilorin Emirate Council which was later returned to Ekiti division of Ondo province after much agitation from the people to the government”.

Festivals

There are many festivals being celebrated by the people annually. Each of the twenty-two compounds in the town has a festival that is being celebrated one after the other. This starts from the first week of February and terminates with the celebration of the new yam festival (Odun Ijesu) which is a national festival celebrated in August. For each of these festivals there is a peculiar food that must be prepared by the celebrants. The importance of the festivals could be more felt in the area of the entertainment they give to people.

For brevity four national festivals shall be discussed and they are:

  • Orogbo Festival – The Orogbo Festival is celebrated in July every year. It is the grand finale of Irere, the festival of the Omo Owas that is those who are qualified to be made the Oore. The Orogbo affords the Chiefs to visit Oore in His Majesty, pay a special homage to him each prostrating before him saying:” Ogbokuluami, Ogboku-jalorun, Wo a je irun Odo, Wo a je igba olo, Wo a ro tike, Wo a je juba re lo o, ara o ni mo ya o o, O mo ku oro, O mo ku Odun o”. The people in attendance say amen while the Oore with his horse tail waves to show his appreciation. He blesses the people and announces the date of the new yam festival.
  • New Yam Festival – The New Yam festival marks the beginning of a year in Otun. The festival is usually celebrated eighteen days after the Orogbo festival. It is made up of series of event lasting three days. The first day is the aye day which affords everybody the opportunity to display the new yam publicly for the first time in the year. Before this day, it is a taboo for the Oore to see the new yam. On that day the Oore will give the yearly blessing to people of various religious beliefs to practice their faith according to their beliefs (Adimula a ta epo si aro). People will rise very early, go to their various farms and bring new yams in large quantity. They give some to their loved ones, especially female adults who have helped them in one way or the other in the year that ran out. He also gives to his inlaws as sign of appreciation and love. In the afternoon, each household prepares pounded yam and eat to their satisfaction. It is a taboo for anybody to eat outside his house for the three days. It is also a taboo for anybody to complain of hunger.

    The second day after the new yam festival is the Awo or Aguntan je Oja. It is a day in which everybody young and old, male and female go to buy and sell in a special market located in a special place different from the location of the regular market. The commercial activity of that day is usually unprecedented in the year. All the goods brought to the market must be sold and those ones left unsold are confiscated by the Eyemotika (the custodian of the market affairs). People leave the market to go home, cook and eat to their satisfaction from that period; people are free to carry the new yam all about as they like.

    The third day is the Atapo day. Where all Otun sons and daughters visit the Oore, dance with him and obtain his blessings for the New year. During the visit, the Oore without his chiefs in attendance offer the annual sacrifice of ram, water and kolanut to his predecessors. In the evening of that day the Oore has two special dances to display. One is the Atapo dance where the Oore will dance with the people carrying a life Horse. The second is the Ketekete dance where the Oba will dance only wrapper tied around his waist without any other dress but adorned with heavy beads. In all the events the Oba is accompanied with the Oloris to dance except the very old ones who will stay back in the palace.

    Eight days after the New yams harvest celebration, Otun chiefs of special rank assembled at the first and most spacious palace court called “Otun Kekun” to pay homage to Oore on the throne. Spectators were usually large, made up of various age groups. This is called “Otun n ki Oore”. The chiefs performed various rhythmic exercises before the king. After that they knelt down and praised the king. In response the king thanked the Chiefs for their services and support for the past year and called upon the whole populace for greater support in the current year: Then he offered his blessings upon the great assembly which thereafter dispersed with acclamations.

    On the ninth day, the yearly festivals were brought to an end by “Moba n ki Oore” which followed the same activities as performed during “Otun n ki Oore” and took place in the same “Otun kekun”. On this occasion, Oore’s address was usually more elaborate. His Royal Majesty called attention to the necessity for hard work, tolerance with good will toward all neighbours. The fact that all the original sixteen kings of Ekiti remained as his brothers was emphasised and offered prayers for them. He further thanks the people for all previous gifts brought to the palace, reminding them that no gift would be considered unimportant, in fact ordinary Palm kernels would be appreciated.

    Before the close of the address the losses and gains of the past year were also reviewed. Changes in traditional laws and conventions were also announced and more importantly new rates, tax and dowries due to fathers and mothers respectively were announced. Finally His Royal Majesty offered blessings upon the people who dispersed with the words- “Aseyi se amodun, asodun gbogbo”.

  • Egungun Festival – Another important festival in the lives of Otun people is “Egungun,” (a reunion with the dead resurrected). This celebration takes place every other year or twice in three years inclusively. The festival lasts for about fifteen days. During this period men and women made big feasts for their dead parents. The dead that came back to life were hosted in special enclosures located in secluded parts of living quarters. Uninitiated folks and all females must keep away from such enclosure. In those days it was a great offence to break any of the rules connected with “Egungun”, the glory of which is rapidly passing away.

    It must be stated here that each time of Egungun festival, Otun people remember to pay respect to Oore Abajadiewon by eulogizing him as “Abajadiewon a le eko a de leyi o” (meaning that was Abajadiewon who brought us to this region).

  • Ifa Festival – The Ifa is another festival that is being celebrated by the people. Ifa, the god of divination is highly referred by the people because Opele, whch is one of the paraphernalia of office of the Babalawo (Ifa priest) was brought by Oore from the sea. Not only that, history has it that Oore was a diviner who divined for Oduduwa when he had an eye problem. The Ifa festival afford the Oore and the people the opportunity to enquire from the divine how the new year would be. This will give them the opportunity to make appropriate sacrifices, pour libations and appeal to malignant spirits to allow peace to reign in the year ahead.

Landmark Events

  • Electricity – Electricity was commissioned in Otun in 1979
  • Water – Between 1979 – 1983 pipe water supplies was commissioned
  • School – A boarding primary school was opened by Anglican Church in 1905 the enrollment was about thirty and the pupils were all males who were donated mainly by Otun Chiefs. The Teacher who opened the school was THOMAS AIYEGBUSI from Efon-Ekiti. The site of the school was at Oke-Ogbansan near Imoro. The school was later abandoned. SDA opened school 1907 which got burnt in 1914. Thereafter the present SDA primary school started in 1924 at Oke-Ogba.
  • Secondary School – In 1955 a modern secondary school and a Grade III Teachers College were opened. Moba Grammar School was opened in 1965.
  • Otun Day – First Otun Day was inaugurated in 1988 by Hon. Justice Babalola.
  • Notable Personalities – Pa D. ATOLAGBE (late) was the first educated person in Otun-Ekiti. He became a teacher in 1936. He had a hand in the training of all educated people who came after him. Other personalities are Dr. N. F. AINA, a trained teacher in an erudite scholar and a politician of the highest esteem. Others are: Pa John Olatunde Freeman, Professor Adeyinka Folayan, Professor Bolarinde Obebe, Senator James Olagunju Kolawole,Elder Samuel A. Ajayi, Dr. D. O. Awoyemi, Prince J. P. Oyinloye (late) to mention a few.
  • Resources – Among many resources found in Otun are: Sugar cane, Cassava, Yam, Maize and Kolanut.
  • Tourist Attractions – Ancient Palace of Oore and Ero Dam.