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stories and histories BRIEF HISTORY OF OKEHO PEOPLE

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Adeyemi Olajide » BRIEF HISTORY OF OKEHO PEOPLE

BRIEF HISTORY OF OKEHO PEOPLE

“In the beginning, Okeho did not exist as one entity. Instead there were eleven villages separated by hills and valleys, each living in solitude and in fear of aggression from greedy land grabbers and heartless enslavers.

“However, around 1800, more than one hundred years after Ojo Oronna, legendary founder of Okeho, first settled in Omogudu, the new Onjo, Arilesòire, made the historic move of inviting the ten villages around Ijo to amalgamate as one village.

“Onjo Arilesire was motivated by an enlightened self-interest. It was a time of uncertainties for big towns such as Oòyoò Alaafin. The Fulani had constituted themselves as a present danger to the lives and properties of Yoruba people in their towns and villages….They had the advantage of cavalry raids across the grassy vegetation of Oòyoò North. The Dahomey forces were also a threat from the West. It was therefore in the interest of small villages to combine their strength to wade off the attacks. This was the reason for Arilesòire’s invitation to the neighboring villages, which included Isia, Olele, Isemi, Imoba, Gboònjeò, Oke-Ogun, Ogan, Bode, Pamo, Alubo, and Ijo.

“Arilesire had a good strategic reason for his invitation to Ijo’s neighbors. Apart from the combination of forces, the geographical location of Ijo offered a great security advantage and this played a role in his thinking. The heads of the various hamlets and villages must have been persuaded that it was in their security interests as well. For they agreed to move and become wards and quarters in their new location.

“Okeho was inaugurated as a new village and Arilesire was the first head of the new village with the title Onjo of Okeho. In their native wisdom, without any exposure to Western ideas of governance, the leaders of the eleven villages started a confederal arrangement which has since morphed into a solid community of patriots. In Okeho, the many voluntarily became one.

“It is important to note the significance of the effort at merger and of what inspired it. From the early 1500s until the time of the Yoruba civil wars of the 19th century, Oyo was a great exporter of slaves. From the year that Ojo Oronna moved to Omogudu, to around 1750, about 60,000 Africans were captured in slave raids and exported to the New World. Chiefs and aristocrats across the land were enablers of this sordid practice as they supplied captured war prisoners to the slave raiders in exchange for firearms and other goods. It was reported that during this period, King Tegbesu of Dahomey had an income of £250,000 a year from the export of slaves to Britain and other parts of the world. That would make him a multibillionaire of his time.

“Consider the fact that Dahomey was next door to Okeho and you will begin to imagine the horror that our ancestors experienced. There was no moment of peace and they had to constantly watch their back. The physical and emotional trauma was unimaginable.

“Meanwhile, on the other side of the fear of the loss of sons and daughters to the foreign enslavers and their local collaborators was the achievement of progress and development in Britain and the New World. Africans were forced to work under inhuman conditions to develop Britain which launched its Industrial Revolution in 1750.

“The merger of the villages was thus a matter of self-interest for the villagers. However, with that experiment in voluntary merger and preservation of the heritage of each of the constituents, Okeho also taught us a great lesson in the management of diversity. This should not be misconstrued. They did not pull it off easily. They went through trials and tribulations. They were sometimes unsure whether they would survive. But they persisted.

“What should be noted is that the Okeho experiment was doing very well before the colonial invasion. There was no history of internal violence prior to the introduction of a new governance structure that eclipsed the original arrangement and rendered the heads of the confederating units powerless. It was the reaction of the people to this foreign-inspired arrangement that led to violence against Obas and representatives of the colonial government.
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Author: adex3g 9 months
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