A community that has historical relics which ought to have been recognised by governments at all levels in Ekiti state but neglected is crying out. RAPHAEL ADEYANJU reports.
Okemesi Ekiti town in Ekiti West local government area of the state has a proud history that not been celebrated. The ancient town is the first camp of the popular Ekiti Parapo Liberation Army which was an alliance between Ekiti, Ijesha and llorin Emirates against Ibadan domination of the entire Yoruba land.
Oba Michael Gbadebo Adedeji, the Owa Ooye of Okemesi Ekiti told Blueprint that the war, also called Kiriji war, was the longest and last civil war in Yoruba land. “The war lasted for 11 years and heralded colonial rule in Nigeria because the British government that brokered the truce among the warring tribes ended up taking over the administration of the entire Yoruba land,” he said.
According to the monarch, the war was started by an intrepid young man by the name Ishola Fabunmi, a prince of Okemesi Ekiti who resisted the excesses of residents posed by the Ibadan warlords against Ekiti land.
The Okemesi prince instigated a rebellion against the oppressive rule of the all- powerful Ibadan war lords.
Oba Adedeji, while chatting with Blueprint however, lamented that while many societies honour and immortalise their heroes, little have been done to give Fabunmi his deserved honour.
The monarch is also not happy that the community which produced the hero has not enjoyed enough government attention.
The historical relics
In his lamentation he said, “Despite its glorious past, Okemesi Ekiti has not attracted necessary attention from both the state and the federal governments in terms of socio economic development. The site of Ekiti Liberation Army war camp suffers serious neglect as the brave attempt by the community to turn the war camp into a museum has not enjoyed any assistance from the government at all levels.”
Ekiti indigenes corroborate
This same sentiment was also expressed by the founder of Afe Babalola University in Ado Ekiti, (ABUAD) Aare Afe Babalola, during a recent visit to the camp.
Babalola expressed deep regret that the war camp has not attracted the attention of every successive Ekiti state governments.
The legal luminary made this statement in Okemesi Ekiti during the unveiling of a statue and garden built in his honour by a group of beneficiaries for his philanthropy.
While promising to help in grading the museum at Okemesi Ekiti, Babalola urged the state government to take it as a challenge and turn it into a tourist centre. This, he said, is enough to transform the economy of the state, if well harnessed.
He added that, “It is shameful that these heroes who fought for the unity and amalgamation of Ekiti are not being celebrated. The tourism potentials in this town alone, I mean those relics we gathered from the war-front, can turn the economy of this state around,” he noted.
“It is shameful that these heroes who fought for the unity and amalgamation of Ekiti are not being celebrated. The tourism potentials in this town alone, I mean those relics we gathered from the war-front can turn the economy of this state around.”
He observed that tourism as a sub-sector of the economy still remains an untapped gold- mine that is capable of solving the problem of unemployment in Nigeria especially in Ekiti.
“Today, the only thriving industry in Ekiti in particular is politics while other sectors are neglected. The government must invest in this sector and turn around the economy of our dear state in line with the dream of the founding fathers of the state,” he said.
A prominent son of the town, Chief Samuel Bolarinde, the former chairman of Vital Foams plc, has also promised to contribute towards the upgrading of the museum. Bolarinde, who is the Asiwaju of Okemesi Ekiti, noted that most developmental projects embarked upon by the community have always been through self-help. He therefore urged both the state and the federal governments to compliment the efforts of the community.
The national president of Federation of Okemesi Improvement Union (FOIU), Alhaji Bayo Ajijola, has expressed the determination of the community to turn the fortune of the camp around. According to him, the Owa-Ooye-in-Council and FOIU have set up a cultural
heritage and tourism committee for that purpose.
He explained that, “The committee headed by one of the community leaders, Engineer Kayode Oni, has been mandated to work towards showcasing and projecting the cultural endowment potentials for tourist attraction and for socio-economic advancement of the town.”
Speaking with Blueprint, the secretary of the committee, Abraham Adeleye, said that most of the development projects in Okemesi Ekiti are executed through communal efforts.
While calling on well-meaning Nigerians to assist the community, Olaleye said,” We are soliciting their financial support for execution of some of our projects which include renovation and completion of Ekiti Parapo Resort Centre/War Museum site, Ita Balogun, Okemesi, projection of all culture and tourism- related attractions in Okemesi and the celebration of Okemesi Heritage Festival 2019.
He stated further that the community also plans the celebration of Ekiti Parapo Remembrance Day and establishment of Amusement Park at the historic Ekiti Parapo war site.
Adeleye explained that the annual Egungun Festival has been turned to cultural and heritage month.
Blueprint gathered that traditionally, the community celebrates Egungun masquerade festival annually but the chief masquerade called Oladunwo comes out once in two years.
“This Oladunwo festival is the most important festivals in Okemesi Ekiti. The Oladunwo comes out in a pair of male and female. They are a very beautiful set of masquerades that are regarded as emissaries of the ancestors who come to bless the people.
“The Oladunwo Festival is a ritual drama re-enacting the visit of the ancestors. Even small Egungun in Okemesi is respected as a father by the eldest member of the community.
“The male comes to the palace square with a beautiful attire. He has another attire beneath; he will later come to the Kabiyesi and address him as Baale and not as Kabiyesi. He would declare that he wants to reveal himself three times before the king.
“At the third time, the Oba will say he should go ahead. Once he does this, he would be protected by a sea of cane holders who would prevent him from being mobbed by the crowd of participants who usually come from far and near.
“These cane wielding protectors will lead male Oladunwo towards his wife and the two will head to the grove for final rites of cleansing. Our people believed that Oladunwo at a time in history protected our town from external aggression,” he explained.