Town with three kings – By Ekemode Seun
The ancient town of Igboho in Oke-Ogun, Oyo State for many years has been enmeshed in a tussle over who among the three kings – Onigboho, Alepata and Onibode – is the paramount ruler. Ekemode Seun, who visited the historic town, reports that there seems to be no end in sight to the supremacy battle.
With three prominent traditional rulers laying claim to being its paramount ruler, all seems not well for Igboho in Oke-Ogun, Oyo State.
Igboho occupies a key place in the history of the old Oyo Empire.
There are three prominent kings in the town, with each claiming to be the paramount ruler. More confusing is the fact that each of them gives different versions of history to back up his claims.
And the rivalry is so intense that an unsuspecting first time visitor to any of the three kings could get a hostile reception and his motive suspect, if he was found out to have visited one (king) before coming to the other. So, all a visitor needed to tell the king to avoid trouble was that he had not visited either of the two other kings before coming to his host.
And this was exactly what happened when The Nation visited the palace of the Alepata of Igboho, Dr. Johnson Olayide Oyeyiola Igbaroola 111. The first question thrown at the correspondent by one of the palace secretaries who looked at him straight in the eyes was whether he had been to any other place before coming to the palace of Alepata?
When the response was negative, he managed a dry smile and asked for the mission of The Nation. He dashed into the inner chamber of the palace to inform the king that a reporter from Lagos was waiting for him.
Oba Igbaroola did not waste any time as he went straight into history after he was well seated on his royal stool; how his forefathers came all the way from Ilesha to found Igboho in the 16th century.
“The origin of Igboho started from our forefathers who migrated from Ilesha. There was a chieftaincy tussle then, they installed the younger brother as the king instead of the senior one, which was the custom after the death of the king.
The (aggrieved elder) brother left the kingdom to give peace a chance. That senior brother that left the palace of Owa was called Gbage Olabinukuro; he founded his own village called Ebiti. All his supporters, including hunters, followed him to this new abode. That is why if they want to refer to our history till today, it has origin in Ilesha.
According to him, there was Fulani invasion of old Oyo Empire. Alaafin and his people were forced to vacate their home. “When he got to Ebiti, he met our forefathers, Gbage, who came from Ilesha, today we can also contest the royal stool of Owa Obokun of Ijeshaland. Alaafin Ofinran saw that Gbage was a powerful man who had a lot of charms and was very formidable in the act of warfare and hunting. Alaafin Ofinran was so amazed that the settlement was so peaceful. So, he inquired who was the head, usually called Baale and Gbage was sent for.
“Alaafin was very powerful in Yoruba kingdom. He was welcomed by Gbage. Alaafin Ofinran told Gbage that he was looking for where to settle down with all his people and entourage. Gbage, who knew the terrain because of his hunting expeditions during which he had killed various dangerous and carnivorous animals, promised that he was going to help him. They embarked on a search for a place to settle the Alaafin people.”
Oba Igbaroola explained that when they got to a river (Sanya) after Kishi, one of the wives of Alaafin gave birth to a baby boy named Tella Abisipa, that is, a child that was born on the path.
“When they got to the middle of Igbo-Oba which is still named so till today, the oracle told them that was the place they were going to stay. As the herbalist was making divination, two birds were fighting on a tree under which they all sat, the two birds fell in front of the herbalist, one was Igbo bird (Eye Igbo), the other one Oyo bird (Eye Oyo). The two birds were killed and their blood used as a sacrifice to Ifa.
“From these two birds Igbo and Oyo, the name Igboyo was formed and it later became Igboho. If anybody is telling any other story that person is telling lies. It was at that place that Alaafin Ofinran was buried,” he said.
He went further that after about four Alaafin died; Tella Abisipa that was born at the bank of River Sanya (who had become the Alaafin) said he wanted to return the seat of governance of Oyo Empire back to Oyo-Ile. But the Oyo-mesi did not want him to go back, therefore, they took some of the deformed/disabled persons in the palace to Oyo-Ile and when Alaafin’s emissary got there, they (the disabled) chased them away pretending to be spirits with a warning that ‘this place is not your home go back’, until Alaafin sent Alepata and his hunter-like, Akasa, Okere, Emo and Iloko to go and unravel the mystery of the spirits.
He explained that the arrival of Alepata (back to Igboho) with all those so called spirits made the Alaafin to change his name from Gbage to Alepata and ever since then, they referred to Alaafin Abisipa as the king that arrest spirits ( Oba-Amoro)
“Alaafin Abisipa eventually left for Oyo-Ile with all his entourage while Alepata and his hunters accompanied him. They were in Oyo-Ile for about three years when crisis erupted in Igboho, Alaafin now told Alepata to go back to Igboho to become their leader and ever since then our fore fathers have become the head of the village till today,” Oba Igbaroola said.
However, speaking to The Nation on the account of his own historical antecedent, the Onigboho of Igboho, Oba John Bolarinwa Oyetola, Olubiyi 11, who dismissed what Alepata said, argued that “It sounds most ridiculous, untenable and fallacious that on fleeing from his headquarter, Oyo-Ile, the Alaafin will have nowhere to go but into a wilderness to found and establish a new settlement at a sport chosen by two birds fighting on a tree and falling few minutes later at the feet of the herbalist in front of Alaafin. That was a cock and bull story better told to the marine.”
Oba Oyetola insisted that his great grandfather who founded Igboho came from Eruwa. According to him, the truth about founding Igboho is that one Tondi, a prince from Eruwa was supposed to have been crowned as the king after the death of their father, but because he was a formidable hunter and spent most of his time hunting for carnivorous animals like lion, leopard and python, the people of Eruwa preferred his younger brother who was a successful farmer, who was more homely and friendly.
“Against this backdrop, Tondi and his families, an Ifa priest and all his admirers who felt that the people were unfair to him left Eruwa and settled at a place in the wilderness which they later called Igboho. The wilderness was later called and referred to as ‘Iju Sanya’ because of Tondi’s wife who was childless and got pregnant on getting into the wilderness and delivered a male child, who was named Sanya, so also the wilderness was named after Sanya, meaning Iju-Sanya and the river from which they were fetching water to drink and cook.”
He explained further that the wilderness contained big rock with large holes inside them in which animals and snakes used to habitate. “Therefore, all the passers-by used to refer to the wilderness as Igbo-Oniho, from which the name of the town as ‘Igboho’ was later coined out.”
He emphasised that “when the Alaafin and his entourage were escorted out of Shaki by some powerful hunters and personal body guards who included Alepata, on arrival at Igboho the Alaafin was received and was accorded a royal welcome by the Onigboho, Oba Otugbede who was the 7th Onigboho to reign at Igboho before the arrival of Alaafin.”
Oba Oyetola noted that the era of politics has relegated the stool of Onigboho, adding that history is very clear. In the first republic, my people did not belong to the party that was the rave of the moment in the Western Region; Action Group (AG). They joined Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe’s party (NCNC); that was the beginning of our predicament. It is the current Alaafin of Oyo, HRH Oba Olayiwola Lamidi Adeyemi who knows the authentic history and keeps quiet on the issue for political reason. The history is on my side,” he said.
Yet another history
The Onibode of Igboho, Oba Rasheed Jayeola Adetoyese, said that all the historical linkages of the founder of Igboho to Eruwa or Ilesha are mere beer parlour tales that cannot withstand the test of time.
The Oba who referred The Nation to a book written by Prof. Atanda, ’the History of Eruwa’ noted that Igboho had been founded before Eruwa, therefore, the people of Igboho could not come from Eruwa.” Those people who claimed that they came from Ilesha, they are telling lies. There was an enquiry in 1982, they are from Ibaruba, all the lies they said are mere fabrications which cannot be backed up by any evidence.
The traditional ruler who agreed that the theory of two bird fighting where Igboho derived its name was absolutely correct, but emphasised that “all the names of those that have passed in Igboho have no relation with Ijesha. Igboho came to being through the story of two birds fighting and fell in front of the herbalist. There was no trick and fake history when Rev. Samuel Johnson published his book on the Yoruba in 1921.
“The problem with them is that l have a child in government and other ones that are rich who give me backings, that is why they are envious. I am recognised anywhere I go, that is why the envy continues,” he said.
However, Rev. Johnson in his book, “The History of Yoruba” published in 1921 affirmed on page 161, the theory of two birds that were fighting and eventually fell at the feet of the herbalist as the origin of Igboho. “The city was built there and named Oyo-Igboho after the two birds, Igbo and Oyo. There he (Alaafin Egungun-Oju) buried the remains of his father, Alaafin Ofinran.”
Johnson emphasised that when Alaafin Abisipa who was otherwise known as Oba M’oro (Ghost catcher) wanted to return the capital of Oyo back to Oyo-Ile, he sent six formidable hunters to dislodge the mystery ghost that had prevented his emissary from entering his father’s home (Oyo-Ile). Among them are Boni, Igi-Isubu, Alepata, Loko, Gbaadan and Olomo.
According to the book, after Alaafin Abisipa returned home, all those people who went with him stayed for three years.
“When they were about to return home, the king in order to honour them, sent a special messenger with them as his representative and lest this servant of his should not be a burden on them, he was allowed the privilege of receiving tolls for his livelihood. He became really the new Governor of the town with the title of Onibode (receiver of custom). Hence, that title is bestowed of the chief ruler of Igboho to this day. The remaining act of this king was consolidation of his kingdom. He buried charms in several places in the city that it might never be destroyed by war,” Johnson submitted.
Despite all claims by the concerned kings and the account of Rev. Johnson, it was obvious that there are a lot of questions begging for answers. For example, when Alaafin Abisipa left Igboho, definitely somebody must have been left behind as the leader of the people, but this was not mentioned either by Johnson or any of the kings except Onigboho, who insisted that there was order to the throne before the coming of Alaafin and after his exit.
Another area needing clarification is whether prior to the arrival of Alaafin Egungun-oju, the people of Igboho had no king or any leader as claimed by Alepata and Onibode? Whereas Onigboho claimed that the 7th Onigboho was on the throne when the Alaafin and his people arrived.
From the account of Oba Igbaroola, the Alepata of Igboho, after the return of the seat of Oyo Empire to Oyo-Ile by Alaafin Abisipa, he sent Alepata back to Igboho to become their leader. Whereas Johnson claimed that it was Onibode that was sent. Definitely at this juncture someone is economical with the truth.
A history teacher in one of the secondary schools in Igboho who spoke to The Nation on condition of anonymity said that in the 16th Century when the first white man entered Igboho with all his emissaries with guns, all the villagers fled because they had never seen any white man before. Later, Alepata who was a brave hunter was asked to go and face them war for war and action for action.
According to him, when they saw Alepata, the interpreter told him that they came for peace and that the white man would like to end all the inter-tribal wars in the kingdom. “It was Alepata that later became the intermediary between the Igboho people and the white man, therefore when the chips were down, they considered him as the leader of the people and that was why it was gazetted that he was the paramount ruler till today.
The Topnews Media investigation revealed that with the number of cases pertaining to this issue that are scattered in various High Courts and even Supreme Court in the country, it is obvious that the last has not been heard concerning who actually is the authentic Oba of Igboho town in Oyo State.