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Adeyemi Olajide » SHORT HISTORY OF EKITI

SHORT HISTORY OF EKITI
The word “Ekiti” as we know it today denotes a “mound.” and is derived from the rugged mountainous features of the State. It is an extensive State originally divided into 16 districts. Each district has its own “Owa” or King of which four are supreme.
1. The Oore of Otun
2. The Ajero of Ijero
3. The Ewi of Ado
4. The Elekole of Ikole
5. Alara of Ara
6. Alaaye of Eron-Alaye
7. Olomuo of Omuo
8. Ologotin of Ogotun
9. Olojudo of Ido
10. Ata of Aiyede
11. Oloja Oke of Imesi
12. Oloye of Oye
13. Ajanpanda of Akure (Deji)
14. Onire of Ire
15. Arinjale of Ise
16. Onitaji of Itaji
According to oral and contemporary written sources of Yoruba history, the Ekitis are among the earliest settlers of Yorubaland. The Yoruba [Oyo Yoruba] are said to have sprung from Lamurudu, one of the kings of Mecca whose offspring were Oduduwa (Crown Prince), the kings of Gogobiri (Gogir in Hausaland) and Kukawa (Bornu).
Oduduwa, the ancestor of the Yoruba traveled to Ife [Ife Ooyelagbo] where he met people who were already settled there. Among the elders he met in the town were Agbonniregun [Stetillu], Obatala, Orelure, Obameri, Elesije, Obamirin, Obalejugbe just to mention a few. It is known that descendants of Agbonniregun [Baba Ifa] settled in Ekiti, examples being the Alara and Ajero who are sons of Ifa. Orunmila [Agbonniregun] himself spent a greater part of his life at Ado. Due to this, we have the saying ‘Ado ni ile Ifa’ [Ado is the home of Ifa]. The Ekiti have ever since settled in their present location.
Nobody can give accurate dates to these events due to the lack of written sources, but people have lived in Ekiti for centuries. It is on record that Ekiti Obas had prosperous reign in the 13th century. An example was the reign of Ewi Ata od Ado in the 1400s. The Ekiti are intelligent and have a deep love of home. Respect for age and superiors, ingrained politeness is part and parcel of their nature.
Before Nigeria was amalgamated, the Ekiti tribe was under the British Protectorate with the other Yoruba tribes. Ekiti became part of the defunct Western Region of Nigeria which was divided to give the Ekitis their own state.
There has been no large scale migration of Ekiti peoples to neighbouring countries, but Ekitis are in other parts of Yorubaland mostly in Ondo, Oshun and Kwara states. The present Ekiti state is smaller than the old Ekiti one due to inter-tribal wars and subsequent redivisions. By virtue of Ekiti’s intelligence, there are more Ekiti graduates today than in most states of Nigeria. It is rather by heritage than by accident that the motto of the present Ekiti state is “Fountain of Knowledge,” since Agbonniregun whose descendants are all over Ekitiland is praised as Akere-finu sogbon [the small man with a mind full of wisdom].
The remarkable simplicity, though tough but unwarlike attribute of the Ekitis led the Oyos to wage war on them in the mid-1800. The Ekitis formed an alliance which they termed Ekiti Parapo (i.e. Ekiti Confederation). They raised a formidable army and were determined not only to liberate themselves but also to overrun the Oyos right to Ibadan farms at the River Oba. Prince Fabunmi of Oke Imesi headed the confederates with able warlords such as Fabaro of Ido, Famakinwa of Erin, Odole- Oloyombere, Oluborode of Ikogosi just to mention a few. They were later joined by Ogedemgbe- Agbogun Gboror who later became the Commander-in-Chief of the Confederates.
Instead of tendering their submission as Are Latosisa thought, the Oyo army found the Ekiti-Parapos became the first to introduce long flintlock guns with large muzzles to war in Yorubaland. These guns when fully loaded and fired, gave a report which reverberated from hill to hill all around. It sounded like KI-RI-JI, KI-RI-JI, from which this war was named the Kiriji campaign. The war lasted until 1886 around when the Oyos pleaded for British intervention in the war. The British intervention led to a peace treaty between the Oyos and Ekitis. never to wage war against each other and so with Oyo and other Yoruba nations, thus making the Kiriji war the last major war of the Yorubas.
EKITI YESTERDAY, TODAY AND TOMORROW
THE EKITI PARAPO WAR-an overview
It is gratifying to note that the Ekiti Parapo war has been well documented for posterity. In addition, there is a plethora of oral history of the war as narrated by our forefathers who physically took part in the hostilities. This account of the war was recorded by the late Revered Samuel Johnson in his book. Our role as elders is to constantly remind our people of their history to enable them appreciate their past, their present and plan for their future. The Ekiti Parapo War was fought principally on the philosophy of Omode gbon, agba gbon ni a fid a Ile ife and the slogan, Agbajo owo la nfi soya (unity is strength) it was this Ekiti Parapo sentiment that enabled them to defeat the better equipped and battle tested Ibadans. Fortunately this is one lesson that is not lost on Ekiti people even today.
Rev Johnson also confirmed in his book that the cause of the Ekiti Parapo War was “a programmed attempt to liberate the Ekitis, the Ijesas and the Efons from the yoke of Ibadan stressing that “instead of tendering their submission to the Are (of Ibadan) the Ijesa, the Ekitis, the Efons and other tribes formed an alliance which they termed EKITI PARAPO (i.e. Ekiti Confederation). They raised a formidable army and were determined not only to liberate themselves but also to overrun the Oyo tribes right on the Ibadan farms at the river Oba.
It must be noted here that right from the beginning, Ekiti people widely known for their pride never allowed the master-servant relationship between them and the Are to go unchallenged. Their problem however was how to “parapo” (unite) because individual towns and villages wanted to confront this slavery but were handicapped because they were mere farmers who were not used to fighting wars. They were now being forced to face a formidable band of armed gangs.
Indeed, one school of thought admitted that the Ekitis because of their simple way of life would have allowed the Ibadans to continue to rule them only if they were allowed to go about their normal business without molestation. Unfortunately, this was not to be but fortunately, this molestation marked the beginning of the Ekiti Parapo War and the eventual liberation of our people from the Ibadan hegemony.
THE EKITI PERSONALITY
Who is an Ekiti? According to another account by one of the prominent Ekiti historians, Msgr. Anthony Oguntuyi in his book, History of Ekiti, the Ekitis being farmers had a reputation for being peaceful and progressive. “Their ambition was only to be allowed to farm in peace.” Indeed, after the introduction of British rule, there was for a long time only one native court functioning in the entire Ekiti “country” as very few cases were recorded. “A typical Ekiti man did not indulge himself in the intrigues and strife for power and was not fond of litigation. He had respect for his Oba and in the case of any quarrel, the decision of Oba was final.”
Incidentally, this peace-loving picture painted by Msgr. Oguntuyi is still true today.
Ekiti people are not fanatics except when fanaticism is imposed on them from outside. The typical Ekiti man or woman has a culture of minding his or her own business and this trait perhaps often portrays them as “officious” particularly those in the government services. This picture was also vividly captured in a memorandum written by Ekiti members in the National and State Assemblies in the 1980 to the Chairman, Senate Committee on the Creation of States. This document, dated 9th May 1980 and delivered by a delegation led by High Chief J.E Babatola the Olora of Ado-Ekiti who incidentally is today the Patron of the Ekiti Council of Elders read in part. “The Ekitis are historically homogenous, culturally identical, geographically homogenous and religiously similar”.
Indeed, the major reason for the agitation for the Ekiti State form the then Ondo State was the homogeneity of the Ekiti vis-à-vis the rest of Ondo state a situation that had, in all practical purposes, converted Ondo state, into two states. Ekiti people are industrious and honest though materially poor. Most of them are farmers but the cheering news is that today, their sons and daughters like you and me are educated and are well among the best brains within the Nigerian federation and spread across many fields of endeavor. One particular area is education which Ekiti people are noted for. For instance, Ekiti state today currently boasts of five Vice-Chancellors, and ten Deputy Vice-Chancellors (apart from deans and heads of departments) out of the nation’s fifty or so universities.
MARGINALISATION
Beginning with the invasion from Ibadan and the British Colonial rule, Ekiti people have often found themselves in one form of slavery or the other and the traumatic effect of all these various forms and periods of subjugation has continued to haunt our people till today despite deliberate attempts to shrug off this mentality. During the First Republic the Ekiti along with others, were being ruled from Ibadan which was the headquarters of the defunct Western region. Under the old West regional administration, then four Ekiti divisions were regarded as to remote to the seat of government in Ibadan and were virtually cut off economically, socially and politically. This ensured that they lagged behind others in the old Western region. This situation unfortunately marked the beginning of our near total marginalisation within the Yoruba nation and the larger Nigeria.
It was this feeling of marginalisation that led to the agitation for the creation of Ondo State from the old Ondo province of Western Nigeria. Again, this agitation was spearheaded and actually led by Ekiti indigenes who thought that this new state would terminate their long history of subjugation and marginalisation and at least give them a voice. How wrong they were!
It was an action they eventually regretted because they were not only hated, scorned and marginalized by the other sub-ethnic groups that made up the state i.e. the Akures, the Ondos, the Akokos, the Ilajes and the Owos, they were reduced from the majority 52% to an imaginary 48% in the scheme of things before they were finally rescued in the 1996 through the creation of the Ekiti state by the late General Sani Abacha (God Bless his soul). Ekiti people were not only dehumanized in the Ondo state, “they were marginalized almost beyond redemption” to use the exact words of the last Ondo state Military Administrator, late Navy Captain Anthony Onyearungbulem when he paid an official visit to Ekitiland shortly before the creation of Ekiti State.
Nevertheless, one good attribute of the Ekiti people is that despite their travails, they are resilient and remain determined to survive believing that one day, their problems would be over. Truly, the creation of the Ekiti state on October 1st 1996 happened and has provided the solution to this long history of slavery, subjugation and visible marginalisation. Indeed, the creation of Ekiti state still remains one miracle Ekiti people themselves thought was impossible yet it happened and today, Ekiti now have their own destiny in their hands. Despite whatever anybody would say of him, Ekiti people must continue to thank God and late General Sani Abacha (God Bless his soul once again) whom he used for what Ekiti people regard as the miracle of the 21st century.
Looking back in history, Ekiti people played prominent roles in both pre and post independent Nigeria and have enough cause to be proud of their contribution to the Federal Republic of Nigeria. Specific mention must be made of eminent Ekiti sons such as Chief J.A Babalola (Oye-Ekiti), High Chief J.E. Babatola (Ado-Ekiti), Chief G.B. Akinyede (Ode-Ekiti), Chief B.A. Ajayi (Igbara-odo), Chief J.O. Osuntokun (Oke-Imesi), Mr. Agunbiade Bamise (Ilupeju-Ekiti), Chief S.A. Akere (Ayede-Ekiti), Chief Ade Akomolafe and a host of others who were at the forefront of Nigeria’s struggle for independence.
However, the tragedy here is that unlike their fellow compatriots from the other sub-ethnic groups in Yorubaland, these Ekiti leaders failed to formulate any agenda for their people thereby exposing and making their people easy prey for manipulation in the hands of others. It was this tragic error that unconsciously laid the foundation of poverty, neglect, repression and marginalisation in which Ekiti people today find themselves. Under this terrible situation, it was very difficult for our people to “parapo” in the spirit of the Ekiti Parapo War because they lacked the political and financial power to compete with others. Hence, today Ekiti lacks federal presence, good roads, electricity, potable water and industrial infrastructure.
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Author: adex3g 10 months
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