Ara: Intriguing Osun community where dogs are forbidden.
Dogs, a type of four-legged animal whether local, foreign or a cross breed are ubiquitous creatures sighted in almost every part of the global community, with different features, which often add to their aesthetics and general outlook. In a traditional rural African community, it is not unusual to find dogs, being reared as pets or used by local hunters for games in the forest.
But in a popular historical community, Ara located in Osun State, an average visitor would be shocked about absence of dogs among other animals, such as goats, sheep, cats and ducks. The ancient community in Egbedore Local Government Area of Osun is sited on a plateau circled by rivers with fascinating scenery, particularly when you approach it, off the deplorable Osogbo-Iwo-highway.
Ara, which is sandwiched between Ede and Ejigbo towns, with a growing population of over 300,000 people is inhabited predominantly by farmers, hunters and sizable number of artisans, struggling to eke a living through their socio-economic struggles, amidst visible traits of excruciating poverty.
Though, there are divergent historical records of what make dog rearing a taboo in Ara, findings by the Nigerian Tribune indicated that seeming ingratitude of a past king, that reigned in the community to his dog actually culminated in the banning of dog rearing as a pet in the community.
Expectation of getting first hand information from the king in Ara was dashed as the community had been without a king for nine years but the Ekeerin (fourth In-Command) of Ara community, Chief Moses Adeoye said, 'we heard the story from our forefathers that rearing of dogs are forbidden in Ara and we have taken it as taboo, which we have been observing for centuries. But, some elders in this community may not want to tell you the reason why dogs are not allowed in Ara. But, some unscrupulous people are attempting to flout the law'.
Speaking in Yoruba Language, he explained that 'we as chiefs and members of the royal families are not happy with this development. We are planning to take some steps because whatever they say that nobody should not do in any community, residents and natives of such town, village or amulet should desist from doing. The Police are aware about the taboo and they have been cooperating with us to maintain the status quo or ensuring adherence to our taboo of no dog rearing in Ara'.
'There are dire consequences for anybody that dares it here. Many people, including all our community leaders and all stakeholders know that nobody is allowed to rare dogs or bring dogs in here. There is place called Mobo, where a fleeing dog of past monarch disappeared. The dog of that king talked like a human being. That was what our forefathers told us. That was the genesis of the taboo. That is what I can tell you for now. We have all agreed that we would not rear dogs in our town. We know that it is a taboo', Adeoye explained.
On the punishment that would be meted out to any erring member of the public that ignores the taboo, he stated 'what I am saying is clear, anybody that rears dog here is courting a calamity of great proportion. Anything can happen to him, I can assure you because such a person would definitely incur the wrath of our ancestors. The DPO of Egbedore is aware about what we are saying here and they approve of it that it is a taboo to rear dogs. They said anybody caught rearing dogs would be arrested'.
When prodded to further shed lights on the taboo, Adeoye, who is above 70 years posited that 'I have been in Cote D'Ivoire for many years, but I came home when my father died to be installed as Ekeerin of Araland. I spent 34 years in Abidjan. My father didn't tell me much. I cannot tell you more than this. We lack so many basic amenities in our town. We don't have a king here for the past nine years. If we have a king, he would have been in the best position to give you more details. Please, this is all I can tell you for now'.
However, the Public Relations Officer (PRO) of Ara Development Council (ADC), Dr Remi Ademola Adedokun, a retired Head, Department of Theatre Arts, University of Ibadan (UI), Ibadan, who resides in the community gave a graphic and historical account of what led to the taboo against dogs in his country home, saying 'the issue of dog rearing in Ada had assumed some kind of divergent approaches because some people are not very knowledgeable about the occurrence and as such you can have diversified opinions'.
According to him, 'an elder told me a version recently as against the one we presented in 1992. The issue was that Ara was a big city in those days and Alaafin Sango was on the throne and he was a friend to Alara of Ara, Oba Oyelami the one that sank into the ground. And whenever there was any crisis in Oyo, Alaafin Sango would invite Alara to settle it and it was when Sango's problem became unsolvable and the Oyomesi refused him and asked him to abdicate. Then, Alara could not stomach it because he was the counselor or trusted friend to Alaafin Sango.'
'When Sango saw that the end had come, he decided to hang. But, the story of the dog had preceded this. Alaafin's son was very sick to the point of death and they were looking for a big rat to make a sacrifice so that he could be healed and it was Alara who made the big rat available. At that time, it was great jubilation at Oyo because the prince recovered. Also there was jubilation at Ara. In the process of jubilating, they forgot the dog that brought the rat and the dog rose out of the debris of local pap leaves and talked like a human being, saying Alara 'what is it that you have done? I have provided the animal that was used to save the prince at Oyo and you are eating, forgetting me', Adedokun remarked.
Continuing, he emphasised that 'the dog said you and your people are throwing trash on my head. When they heard the dog talking and lamenting the neglect it had suffered, they were surprised, shocked and alarmed that a dog could speak human language. So, they pursued it with the hope to capture it. We don't really know whether they wanted to capture it or kill it. While pursuing the dog, the dog was able to get to place where a farmer and his wife were coming with heavy load on the head and they begged the duo by saying 'help us cover the dog'. They promptly covered the dog with load. But instead of seeing the dog and the farm produce, they found a stone or something like a termitory, which is being regarded as a sacred point in Ara today'.
Adedokun, who is also the founder of Maranatha Tourist Centre, Ara disclosed that 'since then, they had made a decree that nobody should rear dogs. The law or taboo that they should not rear dogs has been controversial ever since. The dog did evil or good. In the modern thinking and concept, we felt the dog did a good thing and why or if they should not care for dogs in Ara is because of this steadfastness about the taboo or nobility for what it did for them. So, the dog doesn't deserve being killed'.
'But they cannot satisfy the dog for the magnanimity of the work he had done for them. So, they should rather love the dog, pitied the dog for the good job she did. Maybe out of this, the ancient people said we better keep away from the dog because it is a mysterious animal. They would not know whether or not they would offend it. This taboo has been kept over the years. The non-challant attitude of some members of the community have made them to attempting to rear dogs in the suburb', the former university retiree hinted.
Apparently corroborating the submission of Adedokun, another elderly native of Ara, identified as Pa Adeyemi Adejumobi Makinde, who was elected as councillor on a zero party level during the regime of former President Ibrahim Babangida said 'they used to rear dogs in this town before and Ara is one of the ancient towns under Alaafin of Oyo. The community of Awo and Ara were there before Ede. Timi of Ede came to take care of them. Timi was a hunter, who came to care for Alawo and Alara. When Alaafin heard that Alawo and Alara were being worried by some warriors, he asked the Timi, who was a powerful man to protect Ara and Awo. So he came to settle between Ara and Awo, under a tree called Ede'.
He asserted that 'when dry season came, he (Timi) left the place to search for water and pitched his camp near Osun River. If he had not done that Ara and Awo would have been part of Ede. On the dog issue, Alaafin was a powerful Oba in those days and all Obas were under him, but Alara committed an offence. But, we were not told the particular offence Alara committed. So, Alara had to go to Oyo, with a view to answering a case before Alaafin. On getting to Oyo, the place was very quiet and the heir to the throne of Alaafin was at the point of death'.
Pa Makinde, an octogenarian added that 'they consulted the oracle and the oracle said they would need the fresh meat of a big rat for sacrifice or else the prince would give up the ghost. When Alara got to Oyo, Alaafin told him that he had no time for him, saying my prince is at the point of death and he cannot answer him. Alara heard that they were looking for fresh meat of rat. Alara had a very powerful dog, that was entering the bush and coming out. So, the dog brought a big rat and Alara took it from him and put it in his bag. So, Alara informed Alaafin that 'I heard that you need meat of a big rat and my dog had killed one'.
'Therefore, Alara handed over the rat for sacrifice and the prince became hale had hearty. Alaafin was surprised and told Alara that you are forgiven and free to go home. So, Alara came home with dancing and jubilating. With the retinue of his people, Alara came rejoicing for about three days and they forgot to give the dog food. The dog came out in front of the house and made a clear statement like a human being. It said 'Alara, despite all I have done for you, why did you do this to me? The dog then ran away and they were calling on the dog that it should come back, assuring that they would give her plenty food to quench its hunger'.
'Coincidentally, somebody was coming from the farm, carrying a big basket with tubers of yam and they quickly begged him to cover the dog with basket. The man did and by the time he opened the basket of yam, they saw only one rock and the dog was no more there. So, they call that place 'Mobo Oosa Alara' till date. So, from that time, they said no one should rear dogs in Ara', Makinde submitted.