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Okeho… Celebrating 100 years of return from old to present settlement

Olu of Ilaro, Oba Kehinde Gbadewole Olugbenle (Asade Agunloye IV); Onjo of Okeho, Oba Rafiu Osuolale Mustapha (Adeitan II) and his Olori Taibat

Most revolts or uprisings in Nigeria during the colonial era have, until recently, been dismissed as anti-tax riots by some writers on native administration. Hence, the Iseyin-Okeiho Rising of 1916, the Adubi Rising of 1918 and the Aba Riots of 1929 are regarded as being caused by opposition to taxation in these communities.

Okeiho, now called Okeho, one of the major towns in Oke-Ogun, a prominent district in Oyo State, recently celebrated 100 years of return to its current settlement from Okeho Ahoro, where the inhabitants had taken refuge due to incessant raids by slave merchants from Dahomey (now Republic of Benin) and attacks by the Fulani warriors.

In a chat with The Guardian at his palace, the traditional ruler, Onjo of Okeho, His Royal Majesty, Oba Rafiu Osuolale Mustapha, Adeitan II, stated that the town, referred to as ‘the food basket of Oyo’ was founded around 1650 by two individuals – Olofin, a skilled hunter and Ojo Oronna, a Prince from Ilaro, who, in about 1680 A.D., had suffered disappointment and humiliation after he was passed over as the new Olu of Ilaro.

He said, “History has it that Ojo Oronna left Ilaro in the company of his family and one of his loyalists, Onipẹde, and travelled northwards until they arrived at Omogudu, where the party found suitable for their initial settlement. They farmed and hunted animals for food at Isogun forest and caught fish in Amurugudu River.

“However, it turned out that they were not alone in their new domain, as Omogudu was close to Oke Ọlọfin, the abode of another powerful settler named Ọlọfin, who frequented the Isogun forest for game. It was during one of his adventures that he met Ojo Oronna and they became good friends.”

According to the monarch, with time, their relationship blossomed and the friendship led to Ọlọfin’s invitation to Ojo Oronna to move his family and subjects closer to Oke Ọlọfin at a location called Ijo, which Oronna accepted and moved from Omogudu to Ijo.

He explained that with determination to turn his disappointment to good fortune and excel beyond the imagination of their kith and kin back in Ilaro, Oronna naturally assumed the headship of the new settlement, with Onipẹde, as his right-hand man. Their adventurous and enterprising spirit, as well as good working relationship helped them sustain focus on the future of their new domain.

“From the first Ijo, near Oke Ọlọfin, Ojo Oronna moved to a second Ijo near Oke Oleyo,” Mustapha said. “From Oke Ọlẹyọ, they moved again to Ijomu near what became the Rest House. Again from there, they moved to a fourth Ijo at Okeho Ahoro.

“Ojo Oronna soon died and there was a period of interregnum led by his friend and loyalist, Onipẹde. Soon, the children were old enough to rule and the rule of primogeniture was adopted for succession to the throne. It was Olujumu that succeeded Ojo Oronna. When Olujumu died, his son, Afolabi, succeeded him, and upon his death, his son, Folarin ascended the throne of Ijo.

“Because he was light-complexioned, he was nicknamed Ọbapupa or Babapupa. During his reign, Ijo moved twice — first to Ijomu, the present location of the Rest House, and then, to Ijo at Oke Yaba (Yaba Hill). Also, it was during his reign as king that the Oro Festival was introduced to Okeho.

“Folarin lived long on the throne and his reign was also memorable. Rather than die, he disappeared with a chain, the trace of which is said to be visible at Okeho Ahoro (the deserted Okeho) till today. As such a reigning Onjo is required to perform rituals at the sacred site during the annual Oro festival.”
Arilesire succeeded Folarin Ọbapupa as the new Onjo of Ijo around 1800, more than 100 years after Ojo Oronna first settled in Omogudu. By this time, Ijo had relocated to Okeho Ahoro and it was there Arileṣire made the historic move of inviting the 10 villages around Ijo to join Ijo and they became amalgamated as one entity. The towns are Alubo, Bode, Igboje, Ijo, Imoba, Isia, Isemi, Oke-Ogun, Ogan, Olele and Pamo.

Asiwaju of Okeho, Segun Gbadegesin, a retired professor of Philosophy, Howard University, U.S., in his book, Okeho in History, noted that in the beginning, Okeho did not exist as one entity. Instead, there were eleven villages separated by hills and valleys, each living in solitude and in fear of aggression from greedy land grabbers and heartless enslavers.

He said, “The towns came together for security reasons; this is due to the incessant raids by the slave traders from Dahomey (now Republic of Benin) and attacks by the Fulani warriors. The inhabitants of the land could not afford to stay still; they had to move with the times, especially as they struggled to evade the external forces of Dahomey.

“Inhabitants of these towns, with the exception of Ijo, which played host to the others, deserted their former settlements, first for fear of the Fulani forces based in Ilorin and later for fear of possible attack on them by Dahomey. Ijo became the host-town largely because its site was provided with natural defence, being in a valley surrounded by high hills and caves. It was, as it were, a fortress town. Each guest-town settled as a separate quarter in the enlarged town, which was named Okeiho.”

According to Gbadegesin, as a miniature ‘confederation’ or ‘federation,’ each guest-town retained its own machinery of government, but with an overall head. “At the time of their coming together, what mattered most to them was security,” he said. “It was, therefore, not considered necessary or expedient to argue about the precedence of the head chiefs of the former towns in the government of the new town.

“Each guest-town recognised the head chief of the host-town, the Onjo of Ijo, as the head of the ‘confederating or federal’ town. However, while the Onjo was recognised as the first among equals in the administration of the new town, the former heads of the other 10 villages, who now became chiefs or Baale of the new quarters, along the line, became resentful of the newly acquired authority of the Onjo over them.”

The Guardian gathered that from the founding of Ijo by Ojo Oronna around 1680 A.D. through the reigns of Olújùmú, Afolabi, Folarin, Arilesire, Ajibola Olalegan, and Adeniyi Egunjobi, there was no major crisis. But with the colonial invasion during the reign of Etihanlu, Labiyi, Adeola, Adeitan Olupe, and Owolabi Olukitibi, Okeho experienced internal kingship crisis until 1916, when Onjo Owolabi Olukitibi was gruesomely murdered.

The incident was a revolt against forced labour, strange customs and conventions introduced by the colonial administration. The Colonial Administrator, Captain Ross ordered the people of Okeho, a confederation in Oyo North Senatorial District, to move to the old site, Okeho Ile that they left during the fear of the Fulani and Diahomey invasions for Okeho Ahoro.

Onjo Olayiwola Obatumo led the community back to its original site in 1917 and he reigned peacefully till 1941. Toriola, his son, succeeded him in 1941 and reigned till 1946. Onjo Bello Ladokun ascended the throne in 1946 and reined till 1974. Onjo Ereola Adedeji succeeded Bello Ladokun in 1975 and reigned till 1983, when Onjo Yakubu O. Sunmonu succeeded him in 1997 and reigned till 1999. The current Onjo, HRM Oba Rafiu Osuolale Mustapha, Adeitan II, ascended the throne on May 25, 2003.

While speaking on the centenary celebration of the exodus, Chairman Publicity Committee, Lekan Salaudeen, said, “The time was auspicious; our forefathers were compelled by Captain Ross, to relocate to the original settlement. This was after a bloody civil disorder on October 19, 1916.

“After the riot was quelled, the people of Okeho started returning to the present location (the original settlement) and by early 1917, they had fully resettled. As a community, we believe the occasion calls for celebration because we have lived together for 100 years at the present location without threat from internal or external sources.”

The celebration, which spanned nine days, held from October 20 – 28 with various activities, including visit to the old site, cultural display, people’s parliament, football match, lecture, symposium, merit awards and conferment of chieftaincy tittles. The highpoint of the celebration was the launch of a book, Okeho in History by the All Progressives Congress (APC) leader Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, authored by Gbadegesin.

According to him, “The celebration is not just about entertainment; it is a platform to project the image of Okeho in the consciousness of the people within and outside the community and to rekindle the bond of friendship and communality that has always existed among our people.”

Surrounded by mountains and hills, including Eti-Igun, Oke-Olofin, Akasube, Biayin, Okofori, Meseole and Obaapa, all which can be transformed to economic value in terms of tourism, Okeho is inhabited by settlers from Ilaro, Oyo, Tapa, Ondo and Ife.

The Okeho Dam, which was developed under the Oyo North Agric Development Project (ONADEP) and constructed by the Oyo State Agric Development Project (OYSADEP), with a capacity of 0.818 m cm was conceived to meet the water needs of the eight communities in the Oke-Ogun district. However, the dam has been overtaken by bush.



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