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Ire-Ekiti: Mystery Still Envelops Spot Where Ogun 'Disappeared'.

Ire-Ekiti is geographically located on a hilly terrain in Oye Local Government of Ekiti State and surrounded by tropical forest. Whether it is rainy or dry season, the inhabitants of Ire-Ekiti relish cool breeze which oozes out of mountains and mass of plants, providing all-year healthy living for them.

Beyond these alluring features, however, Ire-Ekiti has a distinct history which no other Yoruba town shares with it. Culture enthusiasts and scholars insist that panegyrics of Ogun will be incomplete without a mention of Ire-Ekiti as the home town of the dreaded god which made his fame among other deities through his many exploits in warfare.

Though, Ogun was not born in Ire, he migrated from Ile-Ife, the cradle of Yoruba race, the ancient Ekiti town remains his resting place. How he ended his life journey in Ire followed the pattern of Yoruba great personalities in history. He was said to have disappeared into the earth after an incident which provoked him to lose his temper and killed Ire people.

After leaving Ile-Ife with his insistent son, Ogundahunsi, he settled the son in Ire and directed him to hold forth for him. That was in 1192 AD. Ogun, thereafter, returned to the battle field and spent a long time shuttling from one theatre to another and recording success. His people back in Ire had thought he would not return home after a long time away.

Surprisingly, Ogun caught them unawares and returned home. But he met a transformed environment and specifically some chiefs holding meeting. None of the chiefs could recognize him. After their meeting, they treated themselves to some gourds of palm wine, Ogun's favourite drink. They did not extend the drink to him. Coupled with their indifference to his greetings, Ogun was enraged and killed them.

The lucky ones who escaped later explained and disclosed their identities as his grandsons. Shocked and devastated, Ogun regrettably turned back and vowed never to set his eyes on his son again. On his way, he ran into an aged man who engaged him and eventually appealed to him to calm down. The man who would later be known as Elepe, provided Ogun with palm wine and roasted yam, the delicacy which Ogun ate after which he returned to the town but disappeared into the earth.

Just before he disappeared, he gave a directive to Elepe that whenever the people found themselves in war or any crisis, they should go to that spot of his exit, pull a chain he left behind and call him. He made a promise to always reappear and fight on their behalf.

It was gathered that the people doubted him and abused the privilege after a particular drink session. Influenced by the drink, they were said to have risen and gone to the spot to test Ogun's claim. They pulled the chain, Ogun promptly rose and beheaded them all. When he discovered that the deceased were not enemies but his people, he told them that he would never appear to them again. However, he said he would still assist them in another way if they call him.

The Onire of Ire-Ekiti, Oba Victor Bobade explained that for the significant role Elepe played in appeasing Ogun to regain his cool during his moment of anger, Elepe has since then been in charge of the shrine, performing rites during annual Ogun festival and also coordinating any rite relating to Ogun.

'No other family contests that position with the Elepe lineage. It is their responsibility right from the time Ogun met with him and entered into the earth. And the family has been performing Ogun rite. The current Elepe, Ojo Faruku, is in his 30s. You can now see that history of Ire is history of Ogun. That is why we don't joke with his rites times like dog, yam, palm wine, snail, colanut and vegetable,' he said.

From the palace of the Onire of Ire-Ekiti, the historic spot where Ogun, the acclaimed god of iron, disappeared into the earth is about five kilometres. It is in the heart of a tropical forest occupying appreciable square metres. When a visitor is about few metres to the spot known as Ogun Shrine, he is hit by fresh air of fear of the solitary ambience.

Silence envelopes everywhere with only birds and other little animals intermittently whistling from one tree to another. Both sides of the road to the shrine wear all-green colour of fresh plants. The spot only record human traffic during Ogun festival, which holds in August of each year. That is the occasion which brings indigenes of Ire and their friends to the town to celebrate the history of the ancient town.

While concerned indigenes of Ire-Ekiti, it was learnt, had been clamouring for the upgrade of the shrine to international monument to be visited by foreign tourists like the famous Osun Osogbo grove, Ekiti State Government is said to have shown interest in Ogun Festival.

It was gathered that the incumbent Governor Kayode Fayemi, during his first term between 2010 and 2014, had taken a step to give the shrine a new face as an important tourists' destination, to complement the Ikogosi Warm Spring Resort and other similar historic sites with which Ekiti State is blessed. This much was confirmed by Oba Babade who recalled the visit paid the town by the wife of the governor, Erelu Bisi Fayemi and her expressive enthusiasm shown to developing the shrine.

'Government officials from the Ministry of Arts and Culture came. There is a plan to secure and fence about one mile radius to prevent the shrine from encroachment. I can say that the journey to make the shrine a tourist attraction has begun, especially with the return of Governor Fayemi. What we have seen so far through the activities of the Council for Arts and Culture under a new leadership, is assuring,' he noted.

Director-General of Ekiti State Council of Arts and Culture, Wale Ojo-Lanre, is equally assuring as regards government's deliberate policy to showcase the state's many cultural products to the world. In an interview, Ojo-Lanre affirmed that the state is so blessed so much that the cultural resources in the state can be equivalent to crude oil in terms of economic value.

'These are what Governor Fayemi, being a researcher, has seen. I am assuring you that in a few years, Ekiti is going to take a lead among states which promote and develop culture. Already, we are preparing to for Ogun Festival in Ire-Ekiti, and it is going to be another crowd-pulling festival in our culture calendar. This administration is not going to allow these money-earning potentials to rot away in the forest. It is no more a question of when again, we are on course to rejuvenate our historic sites to bring foreigners to Ekiti,' he said.

Given the fear which a segment of Ogun Festival used to instill in the public, Oba Bobade has declared that never will the youths of the town engage in exhibition of cane contest that was practised in the past. The Onire argued that culture, like other facets of life, should be dynamic to accept some attractive moderations.

'We cannot continue to do same thing in same way. If we do same thing in same way, we won't get different result. The world is moving at a fast rate, so we also need to move with the tide. Ogun Festival should not be seen to promote violence in any guise. I have made this clear, and my people have promised to abide by it. People should come and catch fun and return to their different places with good memories of the festival,' he assured.
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Publication:Nigerian Tribune (Oyo State, Nigeria)
Geographic Code:6NIGR
Date:Jul 16, 2019
Words:1366
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