Bamigbola Gbolagunte, Akure
This is not Abeokuta (a city under the rock), Ogun State, known for its Olumo Rock. It is Akure, Ondo State capital, another city literally covered by rocks.
Not many visitors would notice the rocks that surround Akure as the rocks are in the outskirts of the city.
However, the beauty of Akure is not only in its aesthetics and location, its rich culture and tradition also made it a pride of the indigenes. It has been the administrative headquarters of Ondo State for close to 40 years.
The city is equally home to religious bodies. It houses the headquarters of religious organisations including the World Soul Winning Evangelical Mission (WOSEM), founded by the late Apostle Timothy Obadare and the Agape Ministries founded by Bishop Felix Adejumo.
For a long period, the headquarters of the League of Imams and Alfas in South West was in Akure, when an indigene, Late Sheik Yayi Akorede, was its president-general of the league. Other Islamic bodies such as the Nasirul Lai Fathi Society (NASFAT) and Quareeb also have their presence in the city.
Mr. Seun Babalola, an historian and indigene claimed that the rocks are dated back to the Mesolithic period. He said various kinds of animals live on the rocks. They also served as means of protection during wars.
He explained that Akure was founded by Omoremi Omoluabi, a grandson of Ododowa who was the progenitor of the Yoruba race: “Omoluabi who was an Ile-Ife Prince but left Ile-Ife, his grandfather’s principal kingdom, in search of a place to settle after passing a strict test administered by Oduduwa himself, and eventually founded the city of Akure.
“The Palace of the Deji of Akure located at the centre of the town, was built in 1150 AD. It has over 15 courtyards, with each with its unique purpose. For example, in the Ubura courtyard, oaths are taken, and the Ikomo yard is used for naming ceremonies. At present, a bigger and more modern palace is being built to the south of the old palace’s grounds.
“The present palace located close to Oja Oba is where the first Deji lived. The Deji is supported by six high chiefs known as Iwarefa in his or her domain. The totem of Akure is the Leopard and the father of Omoremi, Omoluabi was himself called Ekun.
“It is for this reason that every descendants of the Akure clan are addressed by outsiders as Omo Ekun during the recitation of his or her praise poetry alternatively, as ‘Omo Akure Oloyemekun’, since Omoremi was said to have stayed for a while at Igbo Ooye before coming to the Akure region.
“The most influential Deji in recent history was Oba Adesida I known as Afunbiowo. Many Dejis after him were his direct descendants. He fought for the people of Akure and he ensured that the grew in size and population during his lifetime. He was a quintessential traditional ruler of his time.
“Akure had regained independence by the early 19th century. But around 1818 it was recaptured by Benin forces and the Deji was executed. After 1854, Akure and Ekiti towns came under the rule of Ibadan. This lasted until a rebellion in 1876, followed by a prolonged war in the Yoruba states.
“Within the modern Akure Kingdom are two other constituent communities with their separate chiefs and traditions. The most prominent of the pair is Isikan the other is Isolo. The traditional ruler of Isikan is known as the Iralepo while that of Isolo is known as the Osolo. In the olden days, these were separate towns, but they were brought together under the nominal control of Akure as a result of a number of wars.” It is to the credit of the city, that none of the wars overcame.
One of the Iwarefas, the Elemo of Akure, Chief Sola Adedipe, said the rocks are used for various spiritual and traditional purposes up till date.
He noted that some traditionalists who believe in the metaphysical powers of the rocks worship some of them:
“Some spiritual organisations use the rocks as prayer centres. The Deji who is the custodian of tradition and culture, visits the rocks, especially during traditional festivals.
“Akure is a Yoruba city that is rich in culture and tradition. We believe in culture and we cherish our heritage. The Deji prays for the peace and progress of the town from time to time and some of these prayers are offered in the day and at night.
“The rocks are not just there, they serve many purposes for us. Some of them are tourist attractions that can be developed like the Olumo Rock in Abeokuta.”
The Deji, Oba Ogunlade Aladetoyinbo, disclosed that his palace is over 400 years old. He said his great desire is the development of the city, saying he had on several occasions offered prayers to God for the development of Akure, just as he recalled that he had appealed to corporate organisations and well-meaning individuals to develop the city.
The monarch remarked that the indigenes are deprived political appointments, especially at the federal level: “Aside Chief Olu Falae who was Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF) during the military era, no other indigene of the town has been given political appointment at the federal level.”
This, he said he personally informed President Muhammadu Buhari when he visited the state during his campaign tour. His greatest wish during his reign is to see his subjects holding political offices at both the federal and state levels.
Today, Akure has tertiary institutions including the Federal University of Technology (FUTA), Federal College of Agriculture, School of Nursing and Midwifery and School of Health Technology. It also has famous secondary schools like St. Thomas Aquinas College, Oyemekun Grammar School, St. Louis Grammar School, and the Federal Government Girls College.
Other nearby towns including Ilara, Igbaraoke, Iju, Itaogbolu, Idanre, Owo, Ikere and Ondo. The city is also bounded by Osun, Ekiti, Edo and Kogi states to its West, South, East and North respectively.
Akure has a stadium with a capacity to sit 15,000 spectators. The major problem of the city is power, as electricity is not always available.