Wole Balogun, Ado Ekiti
A retelling of the political intrigues that eventually led to the founding of Efon Alaaye in Ekiti State has opened up yet another deception in history. It is the widespread belief that many historic personalities deified, as gods in Yoruba cosmology because of extraordinary feats they performed in their lifetime, did not die but transformed into objects being worshipped as idols.
In many instances of Yoruba history, there are stories of powerful individuals such as Ogun, Osun, Oya, Obalufon and Sango, believed to have possessed some extraordinary powers with which they carried out great exploits that convinced people of their time that they were super humans capable of doing supernatural things.
For example, Ogun was believed to have disappeared in Ire-Ekiti, now southern part of Ekiti State. Osun was believed to have turned into a river, after losing her temper. Her husband, Sango also allegedly disappeared into some heavenly kingdom through the earth and leaving his insignia, known as Ose, in Yoruba, at the spot of his supposed disappearance for his followers to use as point of contact.
The story of the marital crisis among Osun, Oya and Sango revealed Oya and Osun as powerful goddesses who married the thunder king, Sango; one who emits fire from his mouth whenever he was angry. This was also captured through the famous Ikogosi Warm Spring where both hot and cold water meet in Ekiti West Local Government.
However, a historian, Prince Adelegan Adegbola, from a royal family in Efon Alaaye, dispelled such belief that some of these extraordinary humans didn’t die but turned into eternal objects of traditional worship. He spoke on this elaborately in his book: “Ooni Obalufon Alayemore, The Founder of Efon Alaaye Kingdom.”
He argued that many great and popular Yoruba kings and distinguished personalities now deified as idols, had merely succeeded in deceiving the people of their time that they didn’t die but turned into objects of religious worship. He explained how Efon-Alaaye was founded by Ooni of Ife:
“The first installation of authority and power of the head of government of Yoruba people as the Ooni of Ife, after the demise of the progenitor, Oduduwa, was the Ooni Obalufon Ogbogbodirin. According to traditional history, he reigned and ruled for a long period of time. Some people believed he did not die, instead, he transformed into a stone. Many ancient Ifes as a people were privileged to live to a very great age, and by this privilege, they made many people believe that they never died at all.
“Ooni Ogbogbodirin himself was one of the typical example. In order, therefore, that they might be able to bring their tendentious purposes into actual operation, they used to make some carved stones in their own effigies and kept them in some secret places which would be known to only a few of their trusted people under them.
“Any important aged person who has done this would tell his most trusted, few people why he would like his corpse to be secretly buried, and where his cenotaph would be placed to show to the world how powerful he was in life. This practice is called ‘didota’ meaning becoming a stone. At that time, people who could so deceive others in this way were highly esteemed as men of great honour and respect. The honour and respect so accorded them consequently induced many other people to follow their way of life.”
The Alaaye of Efon, Oba Emmanuel Adesanya Aladejare Agunsoye 11, told Daily Sun at his 25th year coronation ceremony: “This town was founded by Obalufon, who was one of the royal sons of Oduduwa, progenitor of Yoruba race. According to our history as documented by many historians of Yoruba people, Obalufon occupies a premier position among the sons of Oduduwa, he was the latest surviving son of Oduduwa.
“He succeeded the throne of Ife after the demise of their father, Oduduwa. As a successor to the throne, the Ooni represents the ‘tree’ while other princes who went away and founded new kingdoms such as Oyo, Benin, Owu, Aramoko, and Ijero represent the branches.
“Obalufon Ogbogbodirin succeeded his father, Oduduwa, after the latter’s death. When he, Obalufon, died, his own son, Obalufon Alayemore, succeeded him, while Oranmiyan, Oduduwa’s youngest son, was on a sojourn in Oyo.
“When Oranmiyan heard that his elder, Obalufon Ogbogbodirin, had passed on, and his son, Obalufon Alayemore, had been installed as third Ooni of Ife, he quickly returned home in Ile-Ife, from Oyo, a kingdom he had founded, and over which he was a paramount ruler.
“On Oranmiyan’s return to Ile-Ife, the elders, chiefs and kingmakers persuaded Obalufon Alayemore, to vacate the throne for his uncle, Oranmiyan, in accordance with the Yoruba tradition that the elderly reigns first before his younger.
“This was why Obalufon Alayemore left the Ife throne for Oranmiyan, and came down to found Efon Alaaye in Ekiti. I am a great-great descendant of Oba Obalufon Alayemore. That is why all of us in that royal family who becomes a monarch in Efon Alaaye carries the title Obalufon Alayemore.”