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Ora Igbomina: One community, two kings

The ancient town of Ora-Igbomina in Ifedayo Local Government Area of Osun State is a rustic community which alongside Oke-Ila Orangun, constitutes the two major towns in the local government area. OLUWOLE IGE reports that the hilly town which provides a vantage position for the aerial view of other communities around is being managed by two traditional heads without rancour.

 

Ora Igbomina is a boundary town that links Osun, Ekiti and Kwara States and is noted in history to be the first town to accept Christianity and Western education in Igbomina Land in 1896 by the C.M.S. missionaries. Also, the Ìgbómìnà people are renowned for long distance trading which accounts for their wide spread across Yoruba land. They are also known for crafts; woodcarving, leather art as well as agricultural and hunting.

Though filled with many farmers, the access road, leading to Ora Igbomina is in a deplorable condition, thus inhibiting the farmers’ efforts in moving their produce to urban centers. But one peculiarity that characterizes the town founded in 1330 AD is the existence of two beaded monarchs in the town; the Asaoni of Ora Igbomina and the Akesin of Ora Igbomina, whose palaces are located few meters from each other.

Though, there are conflicting historical facts on why the town has two monarchs, it has in no way affected the relative peace of the community except for the violence experienced in December, 2004. Then, the Asaoni of Ora-Igbomina, Oba Jacob Adeyeye Olayemi was chased out of the palace by hoodlums a few hours after he was presented with the staff of office by the former governor of Osun State, Prince Olagunsoye Oyinlola.

During the violence, many people including the elder brother of the then Asaoni, Prince James Olayemi were killed and several other people received various degrees of injuries just as many houses were razed. A development also forced many to flee the town as a result of a supremacy battle the between Akesin and Asaoni of Ora Igbomina.

Entrance of the Akesin’s palace

The 2014 crisis caused a setback for the community and stunted its socio-economic growth by discouraging many indigenes as well as outsiders from being involved in the commerce and social sectors of the community. For a first time visitor to Ora Igbomina, the first impression is that of a community yearning for development and infrastructural facilities, reflected by the town’s social fabric and archaic physical structures.

To unravel the mystery behind the existence of two reigning monarchs in the Ora Igbomina, Nigerian Tribune visited the community, where the present Asaoni of Ora Igbomina, Oba Joshua Tinuoye Atolagbe, Ilufemiloye Atobatele Oduminrinkale 11 and his counterpart, Akesin of Ora Igbomina, Oba Samuel Oladoye Idowu, gave divergent accounts on who are the first settlers in the town.

 

Asaoni of Ora Igbomina, Oba Joshua Tinuoye Atolagbe’s version

Baring his mind on the historical events leading to the existence of two monarchs in the community, the Asaoni of Ora Igbomina, Oba Atolagbe said “this is a traditional and prominent town, even in the old Western Region. The Opesin Oloja, who settled here was a prince of Ile-Ife who migrated to this place around 1711. He is from Owodo compound in Ile-Ife”.

“Opesin Oloja founded Ora before the immigrants, including Akesin came. Akesin came here around 1859, so he met us here. Akesin was not a king. He was an idol worshipper but he had some chiefs that accompanied him. Asaoni was magnanimous and he allowed him to stay and carry on with his own activities.

“Things were going on smoothly, with Akesin paying homage to Asaoni until the advent of Christianity in 1896. Akesin’s traditional festival was so popular then. But, Asaoni accepted Christianity and many people were converted to Christianity. That was the beginning of the crisis between Asaoni and Akesin. The first Asaoni, who accepted Christianity, was Oba Orolotimoye and he reigned between 1860 and 1901. The Christianity also brought education into Ora Igbomina”.

“Because of the acceptance of Christianity by Asaoni, the recognition given to Akesin’s traditional festival was reduced and that led to misunderstanding between them. The next Asaoni, Oba Okandunmoye Olayemi also embraced Christianity and people were sending their children to school. So, the crisis between Asaoni and Akesin deepened, with the later querying the acceptance of Christianity by the former”.

“That situation continued until there was a dispute between Orangun of Ila and Asaoni on boundary issue and that lasted for a long period of time. Even though, Orangun had been looking for ways to reduce the influence and power of Asaoni and now saw the land dispute as an opportunity to deal with him. So, he liaised with Akesin to testify against Asaoni, with a promise to make him a king with beaded crown.

A street in Ora Igbomina

“In a nutshell, Orangun crowned Akesin in 1954 and Asaoni petitioned the Western House of Chiefs then and the Western House of Chiefs advised Orangun to withdraw the crown but he refused to do so. But, Akesin did not wear the crown. It was like that up till 1979 when the military administrator of Oyo State, Paul Tarfa was about to leave power. The then Orangun, Oba Ayeni used his influence and gave Akesin the crown and that happened during the last executive council meeting which Paul Tarfa held”.

“The crisis persisted until Late Bola Ige became the governor of the old Oyo State and he set up a commission of enquiry and the commission submitted a report that Akesin was not a royal blood, but a traditional priest and not entitled to wear a crown. Akesin challenged the report and case went as far as the Supreme Court, which gave judgment on the 1st of September 1995”.

“The kernel of the judgment is that Akesin is not a crown and beaded king. But, they said the crown given him had been gazetted by the Paul Tarfa government and that the government should take necessary step of invalidating the gazette. From there, Osun State was created and the government now started dragging foot on the matter until real politics came. Instead of the former government of Prince Olagunsoye Oyinlola to invalidate the gazette, the major players in Oyinlola’s administration influenced the governor and Akesin started wearing the crown again.

“That incident led to a crisis in 2004, in which many people were killed, houses burnt and a large number of people fled Ora Igbomina. Up till today, Akesin is still wearing the crown. But, we don’t know why a government would just turn a Supreme Court judgment into something else”, Oba Atolagbe remarked.

 

The Akesin of Ora Igbomina, Oba Samuel Oladoye Idowu’s version

However, the Akesin of Ora Igbomina, Oba Samuel Oladoye Idowu gave a different historical account on why the community has two traditional rulers. According to him, “historical facts show that my forefathers came from Oranfe, in Ilode quarters of Ile-Ife. From there, my ancestors migrated to Ora Orija. I am from a royal family. My forefather was Ooni Ogbogboderin 1. Ogbogboderin 1 gave birth to Ooni Alayemore. Ooni Abalufon Alayemore gave birth to Akesin Alapamere. So, I am from Alapamere. I am a pampered child; that is why they call me Akesin.

“After we left Ile-Ife for Ora Orija, we now came to Ora Igbomina, where we are today. We were at Ora Orija around 1300 and we got to this place in 1330. Asaoni was my neighbour. He was about five kilometres to us. Asaoni met me here. Asaoni left Ile-Ife around 1709”.

“When they got to this place, there was a war that ravaged all these areas up to Osogbo. They called it Jalumi war. The war sacked many towns in Osun then. After the war, when we came back, the Asaoni and his people cannot get to their place and they sought for our assistance and we accepted and they were with us around 1882 and we have been together since that time”.

Though they live together in peace now, the two kings are yet to agree that either one of them is not entitled to the throne. And regardless of the chronicle of these events, there has been relative peace in the community, as the people of the town lives happily, without any rancour or mutual suspicion.

Akesin of Ora Igbomina, Oba Samuel Idowu, left and Asaoni of Ora Igbomina, Oba Joshua Atolagbe

When asked on the kind of relationship that exists between him and Akesin, Oba Atolagbe stated, “my crown is hereditary and my major concern is how Ora Igbomina will develop and move forward. Incidentally, I and Akesin were in the same social club when we were in Lagos State. We relate very well. He (Akesin) has been to my palace once and when I have time, I too visited him. All I want is development and the progress of this town”.

For Oba Idowu, the matter is not enough to erode the peace of the community. “Though, there may be little differences, later we settled. There has been peace among us here. I and Asaoni were members of Ora Youths Social Club in Lagos. Before, that club was named Ora Jet Bombers, which was a football club. We grew together here and attended the same school in Ora Igbomina.

“Now, as God Almighty works, both of us are kings in Ora Igbomina today.  I ascended this throne about 14 years ago. Asaoni became king about two years ago. We relate well and there has been no crisis and we are not praying for any. We usually visit each other. And whenever I am traveling out of town, I visit him in his palace”.

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