Osun Osogbo grove: Blend of history, culture, religion

August 20, 2019
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Igede-Ekiti has been the ancestral home of the widely celebrated sacred Osun Osogbo grove in Osun State. RASAQ IBRAHIM traces the historical lineage of the river goddess and the significance of the ancient town to the growth of Christianity.

The sacred Osun grove in Osogbo, the Osun State capital has, over the years, remained an international attraction for thousands of tourists across the globe.

For many years, the Yoruba, within and outside Nigeria, travel down to the grove for the annual Osun Osogbo Festival.

The festival began as an annual sacrifice to a river goddess but later became an international celebration of cultural events which is attended by people from all over the world.

The Osun Osogbo Festival is no longer a cultural event of the Osogbo or Yoruba people; it has become a global event with people attending from Cuba, Brazil, Trinidad and Tobago, Jamaica, Spain, Canada and the United States. But little is known about its source in Igede Ekiti.

From prehistoric era, Igede Ekiti, headquarters of Irepodun/Ifelodun Local Government Area of Ekiti State has been the ancestral home of the legendary Osun, Elemi pond and other historical spots that are relevant to the origin of the community.

It was said that the popular Osun Osogbo, in point of fact, left the community as a result of a disagreement with her siblings in Igede and settled in Osogbo, the current Osun State capital.

Speaking on the historical relevance of Igede, Agbaoye Tunde Olaolorun, a lawyer and immediate past National President of Igede Progressive Association, told Southwest Report that Igede deserves a special place in the country’s tourism map, if her potential are well harnessed.

He also spoke authoritatively on how the popular Osun Osogbo grove took its roots from the ancient town.

“When Igede people left Ile-Ife, they were consulting the oracle as they were coming on the ideal place to settle until their oracle identified Oke Esu as their home.

“They settled there and were living in peace until their father and king, Ake, died. After the demise of Ake, his 16 offspring couldn’t agree on who would succeed their father.

“The disagreement led to a commotion and things fell apart. At the end, they transformed to different things, including rivers and ponds. Ibaja entered the ground, while Orunro, Elemi, Ogbese and Osun transmuted to water,” Olaolorun said.

He further stated that Osun found its way to Osogbo after leaving Sango, her husband in Oyo.

“At Osogbo, she ran into a troubled community, who sought her help. Her intervention paid off as the calamity in the land subsided. Of course, the people begged her to stay and she obliged. That is why till date, prayers are being answered at the Osun Osogbo grove.

At her source in Igede, people with afflictions besieged the goddess for help and prayers are being answered,” he said.

Continuing, Olaolorun said. “A recent example was the case of a female Professor from the University of Ibadan. The woman came to Igede, wailing that she wanted to pray at Osun Igede spot for a child and we introduced her to Iya Osun and the Aworo of the river. She came back a year later for appreciation with her baby that the prayer had been answered.

“Another surprising thing that happened few years ago was when rain fell during dry season on some journalists from the old Ondo State, who visited the place for research. It was at the peak of dry season and it rained cats and dogs. We thought what happened signaled the beginning of the rainy season, but it did not.”

In a chat with Southwest Report, Onigede of Igede-Ekiti, Oba James Aladesuru argued that the source of Osun in the town represents so much for the Yoruba race.

While supporting the position of Oba Aladesuru, who pointed out that till date Osun Osogbo worshippers still eulogise the river as Onibu Ola ere Igede, Olaolorun pointed out that Elemi flows North and East towards Ogbese on Ikare Road, Osun flows West ward.

“All the rivers in Igede are not from anywhere but have their sources from Igede,” he said.

The Iya Osun Igede, Mrs. Victoria Ajiyegbe Ayodele, who took our correspondent round the place and explained the history behind the relics of Osun, including her legendary seat, a stone in the mode of armchair, revealed that the custodians of Osun Osogbo pay annual visits to the source in Igede before the annual Osun Osogbo Festival commences.

Oba Aladesuru called on the government to explore the cultural potential of the town, saying placing premium attention on promotion of arts and culture will improve economic and moral values of the state.

He said apart from revenue generation, the moral regeneration in culture will reshape the minds of the people.

Besides cultural heritage, if there is anything that easily registers Igede-Ekiti in the minds of Nigerians, it is, perhaps, the community’s age-old relationship with Christianity, especially the Baptist Movement in Nigeria.

Although Anglican Church was the first modern religion that found its way to Igede in 1893, its growth was punctuated by the introduction of Baptist Church by one late Rev. Charles Jemiriye (an Igede Ekiti-trained Anglican priest) from Fourah Bay College, Sierra Leone in 1901.

Like a game changer, Jemiriye turned the table and attracted high authority in the Baptist Movement to Igede, which later led to how the community got Ekiti Baptist Boys’ High School which was its first secondary school that was later harmonised to a mixed school to take care of the education of the girl child.

On how Igede has transformed from an agrarian community to a modern town, High Chief P.A.O. Adeleye, the Adara of Igede, who is also a former Surveyor-General of the old Ondo State, praised prominent Igede sons and daughters, including former Military Governor of Rivers State, Air Marshall Ernest Adeleye and others who designed the Onigede’s palace.

“Igede sons and daughters have always been committed to developing their town. At present, with their influence and support of government, we have many schools, hospitals, federal institutions and good road network.

“When Oba Aladesuru ascended the throne, only one tiny road traversed Igede from Aramoko to Ado-Ekiti. But through self-help efforts, we opened up Awo Road, Ilawe Road and many township roads that have since been asphalted by government. When we were constructing the Igede-Ekiti-Awo-Ekiti Road, the people of Awo-Ekiti were afraid, thinking we were out to take their wives.

“But we completed the road. All these roads were done during the tenure of Oba Aladesuru. When the Oba mounted the throne, we had just seven primary schools here, but we have over 17 such schools now.

“There was only one secondary school then. We were making contributions annually to assist those going to higher institutions. We lent money to them so that they would pay back later. Currently, we have two public secondary and three private secondary schools. There are also degree-awarding Baptist Seminary School and Diploma-awarding Women Centre. We also constructed the building that houses the Union Bank, the post office and many parastatals,” he said.

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