Clement Adeyi, Osogbo
Ila-Orangun is a town in Ila Local Government Area of Osun State. The town is synonymous with the local alcoholic beverage called palm wine. It is also the hometown of Chief Bisi Akande, former governor and erstwhile national chairman of the All Progressives Congress (APC).
In Ila-Orangun, palm wine and the community are like two sides of the same coin. It is known to be the major and most popular local drink. Palm wine tapping is a very lucrative business of the natives. And it dates back ages.
Its own brand of palm wine is created from the sap of the palm tree. It contains the antioxidant, Vitamin C, which helps in maintaining good health.
It is one of the most popular African drinks that people enjoy at social events such as weddings, burials, housewarming and birthdays. Reports have shown that palm wine can be used to boost male and female fertility.
In Ila-Orangun, men, women, old and young engage in the palm wine business. However, Daily Sun found that the palm wine business has dipped in the community because of civilisation, marked by different brands of alcohol and white-collar jobs taken up by the youth.
The most amazing aspect of the value of palm wine to the community is its numerous health benefits. It is used as an elixir to assist women who are overdue in pregnancy to be delivered of their babies.
Kamoru Oyeniyi from the Opeyakata Compound, basking in the euphoria of the blessings of palm wine to womanhood, said: “If a woman is unable to deliver a baby after the normal duration of nine months, palm wine with ‘ewedu’ (leaves) would be recommended as a therapy.
“When a quantity of ‘ewedu’ is boiled, it would be added to some quantity of palm wine for the embattled woman to drink. A few hours after drinking the mixture, she would deliver the baby without any hitches. That is the power of palm wine.
“Palm wine gives more than pleasure for those who drink it. Every indigene of Ila believes in the medicinal value of palm wine and they drink it. In those days, palm wine was used to cure various and serious ailments.”
Isiaka Abiona, fondly called Okun Poti, is the secretary of Okada Riders Association in Ila-Orangun. He hails from Agbondan’s Compound in Oke Ede. He said: “Emu l’ogun Ila.” (palm wine is medicine to the people of Ila).
“I drink it like water. It does not only quench my thirst, it also relaxes my nerves, especially when I am in pains. I work under scorching sun and get tired all the time. But palm wine is my pain reliever, my soothing balm.”
While lamenting the decline in the production and marketing of palm wine, Chief Samuel Areajo, from Akeke’s Compound, said: “Education and civilisation have robbed the town of its reputation for palm wine production and business. The youths no longer consider the business as fashionable.
“I tapped palm wine for many years before I retired two years ago. It is a pity that our youths have failed to take over from people like us.
“The youths of nowadays prefer white-collar jobs and we parents too have failed to encourage them. They feel that the business cannot put food on the table, unlike when we did the business.
“We were able to build houses, train our children in school and provide for our families. But the social life in this generation has gone beyond what palm wine business can cater for.”
Sulaimon Falowo, a popular palm wine tapper and marketer in the town, has his joint at Araromi in the Oke-Jigbo area of the town.
He said: “Though very few people still do the palm wine business, it is the only business that my wife, Risikatu, and I do. I tap and sell palm wine.
“She assists me in the shop to sell. She also prepares delicious bush meat and fish pepper soups for our customers who usually come to our Maje drinking joint after the day’s work to catch fun.”
Lamidi Olajide from Awo Temileke’s Compound and domestic staffer of the Orangun of Ila, Oba Wahab Adedotun, reminisced on the health benefits of palm wine: “Although I stopped drinking any kind of alcoholic drink about three years ago for religious reasons, I still take palm wine to cure some diseases that I suffer from.”
Segun Kolawole from Elekan’s Compound, an ardent drinker, said: “Once in a while, I use palm wine to kill pain and headache.”
There are indications that palm wine would continue to remain the popular drink that Ila-Orangun is known for, as conventional drinks have struggled in vain to displace it.
It remains one of the commonest drinks served at ceremonies in the community.
The elite who travel from far and near to celebrate festivals and attend different kinds of events and gatherings go for palm wine, instead of modern wines, lager beer and other brands of alcohol.
A retired soldier and palm wine tapper, Adeniyi Oyewole, from Olumobi’s Compound, said: “No amount of modernity and civilisation can take palm wine away from Ila-Orangun. It is the drink of our forefathers. We shall continue to drink it.
“Many of the palm wine dealers at their joints have added sale of beer to increase their sales. They have phased out use of local items like gourds, traditional cups and others to serve customers. They now use glass and plastic cups.
“They also use plastic chairs instead of wooden benches under tents where the drinks are enjoyed. But there can be nothing as good as natural to serve palm wine.”