From Wole Balogun, Ado-Ekiti
in 1925, a historic incident, akin to that of the tragic sack of the Benin Kingdom, courtesy of the 1897 invasion by racist and power thirsty “whitemen”, occurred in a sleepy town now in Ekiti West Local Government Area of Ekiti state, Ilawe-Ekiti.
Oba Afinbiokin Ademileka, then monarch of the town, had cause to resist the white men’s excessive quest to foist absolute and parasitic rulership on the people of the community. The monarch’s resistance to save his subjects from becoming slaves in their own land was met with superior power leading to the eventual subjugation and defeat.
According to the incumbent Alawe, Oba Adebanji Ajibade, Oba Afinbiokin was sent on compulsory exile by the colonial warlords that year and he remained there till his death four years later. That tragedy was Oba Afinbiokin’s legacy as a freedom fighter for Ilawe and a sterling contribution to the emancipation/liberation struggle for the people.
This explained the rationale behind Oba Ajibade’s remembrance of the efforts of his predecessors such as Oba Afinbiokin, Oba Adefolalu and others, to liberate Ilawe-Ekiti. A retired diplomat, Oba Ajibade ascended the throne five years ago effortlessly. He recalled a sad incident that preceded his enthronement. It was the burning of his house in Ilawe-Ekiti by people suspected to be angry by his choice:
“It happened in April 28, 1995, and was unfortunate. I just returned from Cameron where I was serving on foreign mission then. It was my first big money and my wife I had planned to use the money to build a nice house on Igede-Ilawe Road instead of squandering the money on some frivolity.
“There is always this phobia for royalty, we wanted to be removed from such acrimony. In fact, I refused to use any land belonging to our royal family. I was not even around from the beginning of the construction till its completion. I only came around when the house was fully completed, but the house had become the talk of the town. It was a small but classic structure.
“Three months after its completion, some people came calling and razed the building down. The incident gave my family serious trauma and was a major setback. My family and I had to relocate to Abuja when it happened. I had all my things in that house when it was razed.
“A lot of investigations went into the incident. It was discovered that it had much to do with what I would become later in the future. Some people had found out through Ifa that the owner of the house would one day sit on the throne of the Alawe and were angry with that.”
Speaking about what distinguishes Ilawe from other communities, Oba Ajibade said apart from the town’s rich cultivation of huge and nutritious bananas, there are traditional festivals that have great significance for the survival of the people of the town.
Of the several festivals celebrated in the town, Ajagbo, Orinlase and Olofin are most significant. Ajagbo festival according to Oba Ajibade, reveals secrets of people who have perpetrated evil deeds and thus helps the community to checkmate activities of such bad people.
With Orinlase, a deity that protects, no armed robber or thief that intrudes into Ilawe would escape from the town without being caught, especially if he kills a native of the community:
“Olosin is the most unifying festival of the town. It is the Oba’s festival, celebrated every June, July and August of the year, according to what time it falls in the calendar. The Oba during the festival is expected to come out into the public, dance round certain, culturally significant spots in the town, changing his regalia.
“In the past, it used to be for seven times, now we have reduced this to three times. It is such an elaborate ceremony that many people are invited and masquerades display in various ways.”
Custodians and priests of these deities featured prominently during the ceremony, which marked the 5th anniversary coronation of the monarch, held at the Corpus Christi College premises. They showcased the community’s rich cultural heritage in dance, music and costumes.
Oba Ajibade told his audience: “We have recorded several physical and human achievements in the last five years. We are getting more united as we have been navigating through disputes, some of which predated my ascension to the throne, and we are settling them. Several of our sons and daughters have excelled in their careers. We are proud of them.
“In terms of physical developments, we can see the construction of modern and beautiful edifices and structures springing up in every nook and cranny of the town. Some of these include the Lake-View Resort, provincial headquarters of the Redeemed Christian Church of God and the Federal Government College.
“We now have internet facilities courtesy of my efforts on ascension to the throne, and our Youth Empowerment Fund which I instituted has seen some of our indigent young scholars through their education.
“We equally have better school facilities as done by the administration of former governor Fayemi. Governor Fayose is doing for us dualization of our township roads. We have also given the palace a new, more befitting modern outlook by rebuilding it to taste. We wish to appeal to Fayose not to forget the promise to construct the Ilawe-Ikere Road, which is very dear to us.
The monarch honoured some natives of the town with chieftaincy titles. They include Prof. Idowu Odeyemi, Atuluse; his wife, Olusola, Yeye Atunluse; Mr. Ifedayo Adedipe (SAN), Otunba Gbaweluyi; Mr. Akin Abereowo, Otunbobasua; Mr. Jacob Adeyemo Ajao, Fiwagboye; Mrs. Aduke Asaolu, Iyalaje and Ndubusi Okemini as Kajewolu.
Governor Ayodele Fayose, Ooni of Ife, Oba Enitan Adeyeye Ogunwusi, Minister of Steel and Minerals Development, Kayode Fayemi, his wife, Bisi, Mr. Femi Falana (SAN) and former Chief of Staff, Mr. Yemi Adaramodu, were present at the event.