Bamigbola Gbolagunte, Akure
Idanre Hill is a perfect display of nature. At a distance, a first time visitor could be deceived that the hill is easy to climb. But, getting closer would reveal its true landscape.
The hill is one of the ancient hills in the world and is listed as a World Heritage Site by the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). Year in year out, tourists from all over the world flood Idanre to have a fill of the wonder hill.
Located in a serene environment with adorable topography, Idanre Hill has both spiritual and tourist values. Both values made the hill to serve as a reliable source of Internally Generated Revenue (IGR) to Ondo State Government. A good sum of money is realized daily as tourists tourist pay before being allowed to enter into the groove.
As a result, government has preserved the hill and turned it to an adorable place attractive and interesting for tourists. Besides, its spiritual and mythological values make it a must visit even for traditionalists.
Idanre, a community in Ondo Central Senatorial District has become popular as a result of the hill. The hill is synonymous with the town as the name Idanre, may not be complete without adding the hill. The hill is located in the outskirt of the town.
A few kilometres to the centre of the town, one would marvel at the aesthetics, architecture and thoroughness employed by nature in the assemblage of hills of various shapes and sizes at Idanre. It is called “Oke Idanre” by the locals.
The natural splendor of the hill and its topographical position are such that make the hill increasingly glamorous. Likewise the myths and powers of the hill fascinate spiritualists and traditionalists to it almost on daily basis.
However, not only traditional religion worshipers visit the hill, Christian spiritualists, especially prophets visit the hill to receive guidance and to observe spiritual exercise needed for the growth of their ministries and work. A stream located on the hill known as “Arun Water” is the delight of the spiritualists who claim that the water has therapeutic effects allegedly curing all forms of ailments.
According to Mr. Oluwaseun Ayobami, a devotee of the Idanre Hill who explained its history: “The hill consists of high plain with spectacular valleys interspersed with height of about 3,000 feet above sea level.”
He said the hill is about 800 years old and reached by about 640 steps with five resting points on the way: “It is a breathtaking landscape that also provides a window to the town’s colorful history. The evergreen landscape surrounding the hills provides fellowship with nature’s best.
“The peacefulness that pervades the atmosphere, the blossoming civilization that existed on the hills, the rigors of climbing and a refreshing swim in Arun River, all make the Idanre Hill a wonderful place to visit.
“Arun River is crystal clear and one can see crabs and a few other aquatic animals inside it, while the more adventurous can also dare the Agboogun footprints, widely believed to enlarge or contract to accommodate every foot.”
On the Idanre hill are “Agboogun” footprints, which its devotees described as work of nature as they conveniently enlarge on contract to accommodate every foot. The footprints are as old as the hill itself and accommodate all forms of human feet of different sizes. The chief priest of the hill who claimed to be the head of the Ogboni fraternity in the state, Chief Oluawo, said the hill provided refuge for the people during wars: “Our people lived on the hill before they relocated to the present town.
“This was the place where the first set of settlers lived. It was a place where our forefathers lived before they relocated to the present Idanre. In this place we experienced peace. That is where you can still see some of the buildings our people lived while here.
“The corpse of Iya Aye, that is, the woman who was instrumental to the formation of Ogboni was buried in this place. That is why this hill is a sacred place for every traditionalist across the world. Many people come from within and outside the country to pay homage to the burial ground of the woman, while others come to acquire spiritual power through our mother because her spirit still works wonders.
“Top politicians have been here before, but I cannot mention their names. We gave them power and many of them are doing well. This is not an ordinary place but a place where people get power aside the fact that it is also a place to catch fun for tourists from all over the world.”
A devotee, Olowo Iyanda explained: “Oke Idanre consists of high plain with spectacular valleys. Its physical attributes include Owa’s Palace, shrines, old court, belfry and Agboogun footprints. It also has diverse and variegated eco-systems of flora and fauna. Oke Idanre contains very important biophysical and landform features whose interaction with the physical features created an enduring cultural landscape within the setting.
“Idanre Hill is one of the most awesome and beautiful natural landscapes in Ondo State and Nigeria. Added to its beauty, which fires human curiosity is the fact that the entire people of Idanre lived on these boulders for almost a millennium.
“Since emigration down hill in 1923, the topography, vegetation as well as the fauna and floral life have remained undistributed. There is the Ogun festival, which is partly celebrated on top of the hills during October and Ije festival, which spreads over seven days. Apart from the festivals, which make the site a living tradition, the flora and fauna of the hills are also unique.
“There is a special species of tailless animal called hyrax that live on the rocks. But because of hunting, they are becoming extinct. There are special monkeys sported near the hill. The hill also plays host to a group of scientists and field researchers. The site is home to a group of bats and the people hold a unique festival of bats every year. The hill is being used by filmmakers as location for many of their films.”
A tourist guide, Taiwo Adebayo, explained that the state government has contributed tremendously to the improvement of the hill. He said assisted in enlisting the hill as a World Heritage site: “The hill has some guiding principles for anyone prepared to get to its top. One of the principles is that those coming from the top must not meet those going up. There are certain places where tourists, especially those who are not indigenes of Idanre town should not talk.”
To avoid talking in forbidden places, the guide ensured that leaves are put on the mouths of tourists. To ensure that those coming from the top did not meet those going up, different routes were taken by tourists:
“The people of Idanre were living on the hill in the time immemorial. That was responsible for the various objects on the hill including grinding stones and household materials. They have, however, become antiquities.”
The palace the Onidanre of Idanre used while the people were living on the hill is still on the hill and tourists pay homage to the palace as a mark of respect for the custodian of the norms, values and culture of the people: “Certain rituals take place on the hill. This is done during the Ogun and some other traditional festivals. The hill is also worshiped during the festivals.”
An indigene of the town and former Commissioner for Information, Mr. Kayode Akinmade, said the administration of former Governor Olusegun Mimiko uplifted the status of the hill by committing huge resources to its development.
He said the administration of Mimiko facilitated the enlistment of the hill on the World Heritage Site by UNESCO, adding that the hill has brought a lot of recognition to the state and the country at large.
Also, Commissioner for Information and Orientation, Mr. Yemi Olowolabi, who is also an indigene expressed the readiness of the present administration to develop the hill to an international standard to serve as means of generating income. He said the Rotimi Akeredolu administration would develop all tourist centres: “Idanre Hill is our pride and our heritage in Ondo State. We shall therefore develop it to international standard and ensure its elevation.”