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OKE-EMO: Sacred Mountain in Ekiti the king cannot visit

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*Deity forbids devotees from coming to shrine on Sundays

By Rotimi Ojomoyela

TO visitors, the various rocky mountains that dot the landscape of Ekiti State may be another natural aesthetics, nothing more. However, indigenes of the state would readily tell you that most of the mountains are not only sacred but also served as natural buffer and defence against enemy attacks in the days of their ancestors.

Members of the Nigerian Armed Forces Sniper Unit wearing ghillie suits take part in an exercise during the African Land Forces Summit (ALFS) military demonstration held at General Ao Azazi barracks in Gwagwalada on April 17, 2018.
The African Land Forces Summit (ALFS) is a weeklong seminar held in Nigeria, bringing together land forces from across Africa to discuss and develop cooperative solutions and improve transregional security and stability. / AFP PHOTO /

The Rocky Mountains neatly inter-twined by unseen giant hands, encircle most of Ekiti towns in such a way that would make the Great Wall of China a child’s play.

Most of the rocky mountains are sacred and they play significant roles in the life and history of those communities situated around them, such as Ilawe-Ekiti in Ekiti South-West Local Government Area.

In Ilawe-Ekiti, which is about 20 minutes drive from Ado-Ekiti, the Ekiti State capital, sits a sacred mountain, which the monarch of the town, Oba Adebanji Ajibade Alabi, the Alawe of Ilawe-Ekiti, cannot see or move close to till he joins his ancestors.

The mountain, popularly known in the community as Oke Emo, situated very close to the expansive palace of Alawe, was the spot where the monarch and his predecessors were installed as kings.

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Just like in Aramoko-Ekiti, an ancient town in Ekiti where the monarch, Oba Adegoke-Olu Adeyemi must never set his eyes on one of the kingmakers, the one who was instrumental to his enthronement, the Ilawe-Ekiti Monarch, Oba Ajibade, must never visit Oke Emo, the place where the most important rite, marking the completion of the final phase of his installation, was performed by a priest, leader of that quarter and fourth man in the traditional hierarchy of the town, the Elemo of Oke Emo, because tradition forbids it!.

A twist

Another twist to the tradition of Ilawe-Ekiti people was a deity known as Orinlase, who had once instructed people of the town, particularly its devotees, to desist from visiting its shrine on Sundays as “he would be off on such days to go to church and honour Jesus Christ!”

Vanguard gathered that the deity, Orinlase, was also said to be performing miracles and surprisingly, it has respect for Sundays, perhaps as a way of acknowledging that there is indeed a divine power behind such a day and that Jesus Christ does represent such power, and so on Sundays, according to the devotees of Orinlase deity, he would say: “ I too would have to go to church.”

High Chief Gbenga Borode, Elemo of Oke Emo and his colleague, the head of Ifa priests, whose duty it is to reveal the minds of the gods to the community, confirmed that Orinlase forbids any activities around it on Sundays.

Speaking with Vanguard, a former journalist and now leader of the Oke Emo quarter in the town, Chief Elemo, said: “I have become the Elemo of the town because my great grandfathers own the title. The Elemo came with the Alawe from Ile-Ife. In the hierarchy, l am the fourth after the Alawe. As the head of Oke Emo, which is one of the four quarters that founded Ilawe, I am the one who installs the Alawe. Many rites for installing the monarch are performed on several spots and quarters such as Oke lloye and others culminating in the final stage in Oke Emo where the Akoko leaf, a royal leaf signifying kingship authority, is placed on the Oba at installation. The major rites are performed in Oke Emo, once the Akoko leaf is placed on the head of the monarch, the tradition forbids that the Oba comes to Oke Emo again until he passes on.

“There is a place called ‘Owa Agbaludi’ where the main rites of installation are performed. The monarch to be installed usually has his clothes which he wore to that place removed for some rites and he will never set his eyes on those clothes again. And since the Owa Agbaludi is along the road in Oke Emo, the best thing for the Kabiyesi to do is to never ever come to the Oke Emo area again because there is no way you can pass through Oke Emo without seeing the sacred spot, Owa Agbaludi,” he clarified.

Speaking further, he said: “As the Elemo, l also have a role to perform during the burial of the monarch. As a matter of fact, the Elemo is first informed whenever the monarch passes on.”

Natural resources

Chief Elemo also spoke about the town’s traditions and natural resources. “In this town, we also have our taboos which form part of our folklore. You can’t carry a bunch of plantain in public in Ilawe, you don’t roast yam in public especially around a market place. Each family house or quarter has its own traditions and taboos among others. We have eight quarters, the new one is Ilorin, others are Oke Emo, Oke Iloye, Iro, Adii, Oke Pa, Aaye and Oke Ibedo.

“About our resources, we have plenty bananas, and if you go to our local market, banana is a major cash crop in Ilawe. Most times when buyers don’t come on time, the crops get spoiled.

“We, the Ilawe Progress Union,  have made efforts. We once engaged FIIRO, which is a federal agency in charge of assisting in tapping local resources, to write a feasibility report for us on how we can tap into banana for economic gains by setting up a small factory for its processing. They produced the feasibility report after we had paid for it and we handed it over to the state government with the hope that there would be collaboration between the government and the town on the management of the factory, but since then , 19 years after, the government has not taken any step on it.

“Some of our eminent sons and daughters have also made efforts towards developing our resources. People like Femi Falana actually brought investors who came around to see what they could do but haven’t returned to do anything probably because the environment was not conducive for them,” he lamented.

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