From Bamigbola Gbolagunte, Akure
The rich history of Ondo, a town in Ondo State and the culture and tradition of the people may be similar to those of other Yoruba speaking towns and cities, but the core values of Ondo and its ancestral origin, make it unique and distinct.
The dialect of the people of Ondo, which is the capital of Ondo Kingdom consisting of various towns and villages spread across Ondo West, Ondo East and Odigbo local government areas is equally different from other Yoruba dialects. It may take time before the dialect could be clutched by non-indigenes of Ondo Kingdom who also live outside the territory of the kingdom.
The location of Ondo in a plain topography with durable atmosphere and the natural forest that surrounds the town adds to its glamour. Besides, its central location makes it accessible to other towns and villages in the state and other parts of the country.
The Osemawe of Ondo Kingdom, Oba Victor Kiladejo who ascended the throne in 2008 has equally used his connections both locally and internationally making it one of the well developed cities and towns in the state with the presence of many facilities provided by both the state and federal governments.
A prominent indigene of Ondo, Mr. Victor Olukayode traced the origin of the town to Oyo, saying its founder was one of the children of the Alafin of Oyo who migrated to the town.
He said the town was founded by Osemawe, a direct child of the Alafin, saying the Alafin sent her out of the palace few years after her mother gave birth to her.
According to him “history had it that one of the wives of the Alafin gave birth to a set of twins while the Alaafin was away. When he returned, he told them to move out of the palace.
“The Alaafin ordered that the twins and their mother be taken out of Oyo, he also gave instruction that one stroke of facial mark be cut on each cheek of the twin believing that the mark will cause agony for them on their journey. The single facial stroke mark became an established custom in Ondo town till today,” he said.
“The twins were accompanied by the Alaafin of Oyo warrior’s leader called Ija with their mother to a place called Epin in the then Fulani Kingdom. They later returned to Oyo after the death of Alaafin Oba Oluaso. However, the new Alaafin also ordered them out of Oyo with Alaafin warrior leader to the direction of Ile-Ife.
“They continue the journey until they reached a place called Ita Ijama. They continued with their journey until they arrived at Epe where Iyanghede of Epe received them with joy and splendor and they were given royal hospitality treatment.
“After a brief stay at Epe, they continued with their desire to look for a permanent settlement. They arrived at a place which is known today as Ile Oluji, where Alaafin’s wife slept for days and did not wake up. After another short stay, the twins left the town. They continued their journey until it ended at the foot of a hill known in Ondo till today as Oke Agunla.”
He added: “At the hill, they spotted a smoke rising from below and followed and traced it down the hill where they found a man who simply identified himself as Ekiri. Hw was neither a farmer nor hunter, but a lost warrior from Benin.
“Because he could not trace his journey back to his place of origin, he decided to stay back at that particular spot where he was located through a smoke rising into the air with no wife or children. He lived in a hut, which he eventually vacated for the royal princess as a mark of honour.
“The man (Ekiri) later led them to a particular ground known till today as ‘Oridi’ where they tried to stick their yam stake as instructed by an Ifa Oracle before they left Epe.
“They were all happy and exclaimed. Princess Olu, the female twins also known till today as Oba Pupupu finally became the first Osemawe.”
He asserted that the Ondo people still regard Epe, a relatively small town, seven miles from Ondo, on the Oke-lgbo road, as their original town, from where they migrated to their present location, addng that, “many Ondo festivals and rituals have Epe as their source. Pilgrimages are sometimes made to Epe for some of the festivals. Historical account also has it that at the demise of the Osemawe, his head was usually buried in Epe while the remaining part of his body was in Ondo.
Olukayode described the people of Ondo as hardworking.
Today, the people of Ondo are known to be traders, farmers and produce merchants. The result of their diligence is seen in the rapid development of the town with the establishment of a 50-year-old College of Education, which was recently upgraded to the status of a university.
The palace of the Osemawe which was built over a century ago, has also been renovated and the palace can now compete favourably with others in the country.
The popular traditional festivals in Ondo, according to Olukayode, include Oba, Ogun, Oramfe and Moko, which are all celebrated once in a year.
Also, Christianity and Islamic religions are well pronounced in Ondo and the churches and mosques in the town are countless. The town also prides itself as one that has produced many religious leaders including the founder of the Redeemed Christian Church of God (RCCG), the late Pastor Isiah Akindayomi. Many indigenes of the town also occupy various prominent positions both in government and in politics.
These include the former Governor Ondo state Governor, Dr Olusegun Mimiko, Prof. Bolaji Akinyemi, a former Minister of Foreign Affairs, Chief Fidelis Akinwolemiwa and the late human rights activist, Chief Gani Fawehinmi among many others.
The town is also blessed with many facilities including specialist hospitals and other health institutions, especially the newly established Mother and Child hospital located in the town, educational institutions, recreational centres and amusement parks