Wole Balogun, Ado-Ekiti
Recently, Okemesi-Ekiti in Ekiti West Local Government Area of Ekiti State, reverberated in joyous celebration of the historic event recorded over 133 years ago. It was an incident that freed the people from what they described as the oppressive rule of the then Ibadan warlords, headed by the Alaafin’s Aare-Onakakanfo (generalissimo), Aare Latoosa.
It is known in history as the Ekiti Parapo War. It lasted from 1877 to 1886 when the Yoruba Peace treaty, was signed by the warring parties and sealed by the then British colonialists.
An army of local warriors, over 50,000 of them, were produced through a coalition of forces by monarchs of Ekiti, including Imesi Oloja Oke, now Okemesi-Ekiti, Ido-Ekiti, Ilupeju, Aisegba, ljesa and llorin Afonja. They were to fight the legendary Ibadan warriors reputed to be very strong.
The Owa Ooye of Okemesi, Oba Micheal Gbadebo Obalolade Adedeji, told Daily Sun that the Ekiti Parapo troops were led by a brave man from Okemesi, identified as Prince Fabunmi Oraralada:
“The events that really led to the war happened in Okemesi when Prince Fabunmi revolted against the high handedness of the Ajeles, who were colonial tax masters from Ibadan. The threat of war from Ibadan led to the meeting of Ekiti Obas who decided to mobilise against the rampaging Ibadan warriors.”
At the war, the Ekiti Parapo emerged victorious and gained their freedom from Ibadan after fighting for about nine years. One hundred and thirty three years after signing the peace treaty, Oba Adedeji said: “Where Ekiti warriors first assembled before going for the Ekiti Parapo war in 1877 is Ita Balogun in Okemesi. Now, we have chosen the place as a spot for remembering and celebrating those legendary heroes.
“If there is one festival that can bring all Ekiti people together at any time, I think it is the Ekiti parapo festival. Almost all the then Obas supplied men and materials and led their army to the battlefield.
“They took off from where we are congregating now in Okemesi and marched to the camp at Imesi Ipole, now Imesi Ile in Osun State, where they were ordered into the battlefield. So as we then united to fight a common enemy, we can also unite to fight a common enemy plaguing our state and country today.
“The Ekiti Parapo festival can also be turned into a forum for creation of a Dubai kind of a market which can eventually lead to an entrepreneurial revolution. When Ekiti gather in a particular place to buy and sell, just as they gathered in a particular town, Okemesi, to battle their enemy, the world will come to us to buy. Then our land or country home will no longer be a dumping ground for foreign goods.
“The Ekiti Parapo festival can lend more weight to our recognition at the national level. A reliable source has just hinted that the Federal Government is romancing with us to recognise Ekiti Parapo festival as a national festival or something like that.
“This can eventually lead to an establishment of a national monument right here in Ekiti. At home here, we can complement such federal project with the building of Ekiti State War Museum right here where the Ekiti Parapo army launched out in 1877.
“A yearly celebration of this festival will serve as an annual reminder to whoever it may concern that there should be a limit to the abuse of human dignity. That a ‘big brother’ should not always see his status as an opportunity to deprive his fellow brother of his freedom.”
The Alawe of Ilawe-Ekiti and chairman, Ekiti State Obas Council, Oba Alabi Adebanji said: “Our people in Okemesi are now heroes of Ekiti with what you are doing now. The Owa Ooye was chairman of Obas’ council when I ascended the throne. He was exemplary when he was there.
“With patriotic feats of the late Balogun Fabunmi and other great Ekiti warriors in the Ekiti parapo war, I can conveniently say that the state was created in 1886. If that war had not happened, Ekiti would have been a conquered territory of Ibadan today. We are proud of our warriors who led and won that war.
“Lessons of the war are many but most profound is the unity. It would have been Herculean task if Ekiti had not fought the war in unity. Our unity is paramount and we must see and treat ourselves as one. There should be no rancour. We will work towards supporting the Ekiti Parapo festival next year so that it would be more colourful.”
Ita Balogun has been turned into a tourist resort centre. The festival was organised by Okemesi Cultural Heritage and Tourism Committee, Federation of Okemesi Improvement Unions (FOIU) in conjunction with the Ekiti State Council for Arts and Culture.
A community leader, Mr Raphael Adeyanju, said: “The remote cause of the war was the highhandedness of the Ibadan Ajeles posted to oversee the administration of Ekiti land and other people under Ibadan tyrannical hegemony. These Ajeles were always very rude to the natives. They did not only extort farm produce, they subjected them to force labour and rape their women.
“However, the immediate cause of the war was the desecrating of a traditional festival called Erinle in Okemesi-Ekiti by the unruly Ajeles. In anger, Fabunmi beheaded one of the Ajeles. When Aare Latoosa, the then Ibadan monarch got the news, he demanded the head of Fabunmi through some messengers he sent. But Fabunmi also killed Latoosa’s messengers and instigated all Ekiti communities to do the same.”
The Ekiti Parapo festival 2019, with the theme: “Remembering Our Past, Celebrating Our Unity,” featured cultural songs presentation, dances, lectures, gun shots in memory of the heroes of the war as well as display of the historical artefacts of the war.