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‘In Iragbiji, we guard our cultural heritage jealously’

After 12 years on the throne as Aragbiji of Iragbiji, Oba Abdulrasheed Ayotunde Olabomi Odundun IV has many good stories to tell about transforming the…

After 12 years on the throne as Aragbiji of Iragbiji, Oba Abdulrasheed Ayotunde Olabomi Odundun IV has many good stories to tell about transforming the cultural landscape of the quiet and peaceful community and reviving its rich history, but he still has a very strong conviction that he has barely started to actualize his vision for the community.

He is however unrelenting in his determination and tenacity of purpose in protecting the throne of his great grandfather.

The aura of the palace was inviting as Mr. Jimoh Olorede, the media aide to the monarch, led our correspondent to the foremost traditional ruler who went down memory lane on the history of the community as well as his efforts to protect the sanctity of the culture and traditions of the founding fathers.

Oba Olabomi who retired as the Director of Personnel Management (DPM) at the Oyo State Local Government Service Commission in 2008 upon his appointment as the Aragbiji of Iragbiji, recalled that he ascended the throne accidentally because he was not interested but found himself on the throne by dint of fate.

Highest rock in Iragbiji

“My being on the throne was not only God-ordained, it was the wish of my people because I was not interested but they insisted, hence I am here; no wonder they cooperate with me in all areas possible. I, however, thank God that today it has been a wonderful experience.”

Iragbiji has 194 villages clustered into 22 districts with each of them having Baale and each Baale has chiefs.

Going down memory lane, he talks about the history of Iragbiji and how the fastest growing community which is the headquarters of Boripe Local Government got its sobriquet.

“History puts the date at about 600 years. But our father Sunkungbade from Ejio compound, in Moore Ile Ife, had been predestined to found a town at his adulthood. As a child, whenever our forebearer Sunkungbade, whose other name was Obebe, cried ceaselessly, the oracle was consulted and it said for this child to stop crying, they should make a small crown and put on his head. Once it was done, he would stop crying. That was the origin of the name Sunkungbade (Sunkun is crying and Ade is crown).

“Another version of the Ifa oracle was that when the boy attains adulthood, he would request to be allowed to leave home and found his own kingdom, that the parents should not prevent him. History has it that he journeyed East through some communities in Ijesha land until he got to a place known as Otan Ile where he settled. We don’t know the number of days, months and years he spent because there was no record to that effect.

“Along the line, the Ifa (oracle) said he should move again towards the West. He moved towards the West and passed through a town known as Ibokun where he got a new wife, making his wives two. He faced the West until he got to this present site. He settled at the foot of one Iroko tree where we have the first building in Iragbiji which we call Ile Iroko (the foot of Iroko tree).”

He added, “Along the line, something happened. On a particular day, he discovered smoke somewhere. And in those days, smoke was a sign of life because there were no matches, no lighter like we have today.

So, they (Sunkungbade and his family) put on their fighting garment. They met a young man there who said his name was Kasaun, and that he was from Ola – a town near the present day Ejigbo and that he was on a hunting expedition.

“Sunkungbade and Kasaun met at the base of an Ira tree. At the time they met there, the Ira tree had started providing shade. So, whenever they wanted to describe the location, they would say that they were going to the foot of Ira tree that has shade. Ira is a tree and Iji is shade, meaning Ira to gba Iji which gradually became Iragbiji. That was how the name Iragbiji came into existence.”


Historical monuments

The monarch talked about some historical monuments in the community which he said were being developed into “profitable tourist sites.”

“We have made efforts by inviting government presence to those sites. We are also trying to attract private investors. These sites include Ori Oke which is recognized through the annual Ori Oke festival, the biggest cultural event in Iragbiji often celebrated in the month of July every year which is also used to herald the eating of the new yam.”

The Ori Oke is located on the highest rock in Iragbiji. According to the monarch, “History has it that our great grandfather, Sunkungbade, after arriving here as a hunter, hunted an antelope on top of the hill and miraculously the antelope entered a hole on top of the hill. Sunkungbade entered the hole in pursuit of the antelope and the two of them came out in front of the palace here. Since then, we have always been celebrating the founding of Iragbiji through the site and we do it in July every year when the traditionalists would follow the Aragbiji to the top of the hills.”

According to him, despite the advent of Islam and Christianity, the cultural events have been sustained as a way of protecting the heritage of the founding fathers of the community.

He added, “We also have a stream called Ayeye. The stream, in those days, was believed to have medicinal curative power. Anybody who was afflicted with either chicken pox or small pox, herbalists fetch water from the Ayeye stream to cure the ailment. Besides that, people make pledges and requests from the stream whenever Ori Oke festival is celebrated.


Okanyilulu site

“We have the Okanyilulu site which we celebrate because of its historical relevance. Around that place, we have the Igbodu (forest of Odu) which has to do with Odu Ifa. Whoever was graduating after undergoing training as an Ifa priest is usually celebrated there. There, we have a very big cave. We also have Alagaso stream.

“That cave was used as our armoury during the Yoruba inter-tribal war era. We used to keep very powerful charms that cannot be brought into the town, as well as powerful war instruments. We have two big caves there; one at Alagaso stream and another one at Oke Moore.”


Palace museum

“I established the palace museum in 2009. We have the Ile Ona Museum, a private museum owned by Chief Muraina Oyelami, the Eesa of Iragbiji land.

“We have the Okuta Odo, the mortal hills, we have Ile Osun, Ile nla, the old palace, the first iron roofed building in Iragbiji which is about 150 years old. This palace is also a monument. It was completed in 1959 and we have since then been maintaining it as an edifice.

“Our plan is that if we see private investors who are interested in collaborating with the community, we are ready to release any of these sites to be developed and to get revenue from it,” the monarch added.


12 years on the throne

He said, “I give glory to Almighty Allah that the 12 years have been very inspiring and wonderful. The reason why I am saying so is that I was Secretary to the community for four years, Assistant Secretary to the Community for eight years. In those years, I had my own vision, the kind of image that I wanted Iragbiji to have and as fate would have it, I saw myself at the driver’s seat. It was a huge challenge.

“When we were vying for the position, about 16 princes came up and all the kingmakers voted for me alone. I saw it as a challenge to do my utmost best.

“On my installation on the 22nd of May 2008. I came up with some cardinal programmes. The first was Peace, Cooperation and Unity. I thank God that since I got here, there has been peace, stability and cooperation. It has been development. The second thing that came out of my programme was education. Without education, there is no way we can have the kind of development that I envisioned. We have a standing committee called Iragbiji Education Committee. They organize training programme for public school teachers, we have our own office where people come for counselling.

In the area of political development, he said his preoccupation was to engage in political education to prevent the kind of crisis experience in 1983 where many houses were burnt and people killed.

“What we have never had in the history of this community, we are having them now. We have had a Senator, House of Representatives member, Commissioner, Special Adviser, Chief of Staff to the Governor and now we have produced a governor, which means we will soon produce a president,” Oba Abdulrasheed explained.

In the area of cultural renaissance, he said, “People knew that I am a Muslim and they saw me as somebody who would promote Islam alone at the expense of traditional religion and possibly Christianity. There were a lot of hues and cries.

“But today, rather than discouraging our traditional religionists who are promoting our culture, we are encouraging our people to wear our cloths, to speak our language, to see those things that are very noble and novel in our culture, in our language, in our way of life, and to try and promote them.


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