Why Osun left Igede Ekiti and settled in Osogbo —Oba Aladesuru
Osun grove, in Osogbo, Osun State, is rich in history but little is known of its links with Igede Ekiti, Ekiti State. In this interview by AKIN ADEWAKUN, commemorating the 60th coronation anniversary ceremony of the Onigede of Igede-Ekiti, Oba James Aladesuru, the traditional ruler speaks on the history of the grove and the relevance of the ancient town to Yoruba culture and religion.
You were 26 when you ascended the throne as the Onigede of Igede Ekiti, now you are 86. Looking back, how would you describe the six decades journey?
The journey means a lot to me. But one thing is certain, God has been involved all through, that is why I will always give glory to Him as the giver of post, good health and longevity. I have been greatly favoured by God and I will continue to appreciate Him. Between then and now, Igede has transformed from a rather rustic community to a modern town. That is why this 60th anniversary means so much to me. It means fulfillment, accomplishment and development.
Kabiyesi, what signs preceded your ascension?
Much as I cannot categorically state that there were signs that pointed to the fact that I would be king, some things happened that I couldn’t interpret, perhaps they had to do with what later happened. For instance, my mother once told me the story of how I found an unusual bead when I followed them to farm. According to the story, I ran to her and showed her what I found while playing with the sand but she simply collected it and dismissed the topic. Besides, there was a time I had a dream and saw a big moon in the sky. I think that was in February 1957 and this was also symbolic, though it meant nothing to me then. In Ijagbo-Offa too, people were calling me oba, which prompted the headmaster of the school to ask questions about my person and they told him I was a prince. They had started calling me oba before I ascended the throne. They went further to tell him that male children in our family are called oba while females are called oja. So, one day, two persons staying with the headmaster had a misunderstanding. The man called me, gave me his cow horn and asked the two to state their cases before me so that I would adjudicate. Each of them stated their cases and I gave my verdict. I didn’t know if I was right in my judgment but all I remember was that the case ended there. Interestingly, I never read any meaning to it that I was being prepared for a higher responsibility.
But can we know the process that led to your becoming oba?
I was in Ilora where I had settled down when the unexpected happened. One of my brothers, Simon Aladesuru, now late, came visiting and I was elated that at least someone had come to look after my wellbeing. I was wrong. The coming of the visitor signaled the end of my staying at my cherished working career. The date was June 8, 1959 and the message was clear; Igede people wanted me to ascend the throne of my forefathers. Though a prince, I didn’t expect that I would ascend the throne that early. I cried from Ilora to Igede but I was intermittently reminded by my brother that God who had ordained me would endow me with the wisdom to rule the kingdom. It was first like magic but the reality dawned on me when I got home. I discovered that Igede community had indeed concluded to make me the king. I was installed on June 28, 1959. It was a rancour-free process as family heads sat together and chose me among other princes who were shortlisted. Besides, my candidature was a unanimous agreement among the ruling houses. There are three ruling houses – Onaowuro, Oborolada and Okiribiti and all of them have rights to the throne, one after the other. I knew my father was a king. He passed on when I was eight years old and two kings reigned after him before I was installed in 1959.
Can you shed light on the history of Igede?
Perhaps what defines us today is our age-long relationship with Christianity, especially the Baptist Movement in Nigeria and the Anglican.
Prior to the era of Christianity, Igede Ekiti had been the ancestral home of the legendary Osun, Elemi pond and other historical spots that are relevant to the origin of the community. According to oral literature passed from one generation to another, the popular Osun Osogbo actually left Igede as a result of disagreement with her siblings in Igede and settled in Osogbo, in the current Osun State. In fact, Igede deserves a special place on Nigeria’s tourism map, if our potential is well harnessed. When Igede people left Ile-Ife, they were consulting the oracle as they were coming to the ideal place to settle until their oracle identified Oke Esu as their home. They settled there and were living in peace until their father and king Ake died. After the demise of Ake, his offspring, who were sixteen in number, couldn’t agree on who would succeed their father. The disagreement led to commotion and things fell apart. At the end of the day, they turned to different things, including rivers and ponds. Ibaja entered the ground, while Orunro, Elemi, Ogbese and Osun turned into water.
If Osun was originally from Igede, how come it has now become god in Osogbo with little reference to Igede?
I just mentioned the fact that the sixteen children of Ake, including Osun fought and things fell apart as Chinua Achebe would say. Osun found her way to Osogbo after leaving Sango, her husband in Oyo. At Osogbo, she ran into a troubled community, who sought her help. Her intervention paid off as the calamity in the land subsided. Of course, the people begged her to stay and she obliged. That is why till date, prayers are being answered at the Osun Osogbo grove. At her source in Igede, prayers are also being answered till date. A recent example was the case of a female professor from the University of Ibadan. The woman came to Igede wailing that she wanted to pray at Osun Igede spot for child and we introduced her to Iya Osun and the Aworo of the river. She came back a year later for appreciation with her baby that the prayer had been answered. Another surprise that happened few years ago was when it rained during the dry season on some journalists from the old Ondo State, who visited the place for research. It was at the peak of the dry season and it rained cat and dog. We thought what happened signaled the beginning of the rainy season but it did not.
Do the people of Osogbo know about this or is there anything that reminds adherents of Osun that it has its source in Igede?
The core custodians of Osun Osogbo and the traditional institution in the city know because, till date, Osun Osogbo is being eulogised as Onibu Ola Ere Igede. Don’t forget, we still have Elemi and others here. Elemi flows north and eastward towards Ogbese on Ikare Road while Osun flows ward. It will surprise you too that the rivers in Igede are not from anywhere but have their sources from the community. Again, till date, a stone in the mode of an armchair is still seated at Osun Igede spot. We also have Aworo Osun and Iya Osun in the person of Mrs. Victoria Ajiyegbe Ayodele. It will also interest you that core custodians of Osun Osogbo annually pay a visit to the source in Igede before the annual Osun Osogbo festival.
Sixty years after, how has your reign impacted Igede community?
It has transformed from an agrarian community to a modern town. I give kudos to prominent Igede sons and daughters for supporting me in lifting the town. Among them are former military governor of Rivers State, Air Marshal Ernest Adeleye, the late Architect Okebiorun who designed the Onigede palace, High Chief P.A.O. Adeleye, the Adara of Igede, who was also a former Surveyor General of the old Ondo State and of course other prominent Igede sons and daughters who have used their positions, in private and public sectors, to change the face of our noble town.
Igede sons and daughters have always been committed to developing their town. Today, with their influence and the support of government we now have many schools, hospitals, federal institutions and good road network. Before the ascension of the throne by Oba Aladesuru, only one tiny road passed through Igede from Aramoko to Ado Ekiti. But through self-effort, we opened up Awo road and Ilawe road. Many township roads have since been tarred by government. When we were constructing the Igede Ekiti-Awo Ekiti Road, the people of Awo-Ekiti were afraid. But we completed the road. All these roads were done during my tenure. When I mounted the throne, we had just seven primary schools here, but we have over 17 now. There was only one secondary school then; we were making contributions annually to assist those going to higher institutions. We lent money to them so that they would pay back later. Today, we have two public and three private secondary schools. There are also degree-awarding Baptist Seminary School and diploma-awarding women centre. We also built the structure that presently houses the Union Bank, the post office and many parastatals.
What role should traditional rulers play in modern governance?
My position is simple and I have always stood by it. There is need for restructuring and there is the need for government to go back to history and assign bigger roles to traditional rulers in governance. Kings are the ordained representatives of God on earth, their place cannot be overemphasised. They know their people and where the shoe pinches, it is high time government realised this and accord them their right positions.