OTUN, like any other major town in Yoruba speaking area of Nigeria has its own myth of origin as contained in oral tradition, which is handed down from one generation to another. This myth of origin is a valuable source of history that has its own limitations because of the fallibility of human memory. The history of Otun cannot be separated from the history of its founder and father, the legendary Oore of Otun-Ekiti.
Tradition has it that the Oore emerged from the Okun Moba (Moba Sea) in Lagos with a Golden Jug (Ago Ide) containing water in his hand, beads around his neck and a beaded crown on his head.
It is also a fact that Oore, had settled in different places at different times, starting from Moba near Mushin in Lagos and passing through Ile-Ife before they finally settled at their present location.
Some of the places they passed through after Ile-Ife included Akure, Oke Olodun and Ipole before moving to the present site over 400 years ago.
Other sources revealed that Oore has his origin from Ile-Ife like all other Yoruba ethnic groupings before migrating through the above stated routes to the present site.
Whichever source may be right, the incontrovertible fact of history is that Oore at one time or the other was at Ile-Ife and had a very strong relationship with Oduduwa, the father of Yorubas. All authorities, both oral tradition and written sources confirm this relationship.
In fact, the relationship between them was a special one, transcending that of father and son relationship. History has it that at a time during his stay at Ile-Ife, Oduduwa mysteriously went blind and efforts to restore his sight proved abortive.
It was the Oore who took part of the water brought from Okun Moba to wash the eyes of Oduduwa before his sight was restored. This feat performed by Oore endeared him to Oduduwa to the extent that he called him “Oloore mi” (meaning my benefactor).
This, according to history was how Oore derived his name. That special relationship has subsisted between Oore an Ooni up till the present day. For instance whenever the Ooni passes on (dies), the first Oba in Yoruba land to whom the information must be passed is the Oore who in turn announces the demise of Ooni to other Yoruba Obas.
Furthermore, before a new Ooni can be installed, certain traditional rites must be performed to invoke the spirit of four (4) very ancient Obas in Yorubaland. The Oore is one of them.
The pre-eminence of Oore among Yoruba Obas was further attested to by the fact that between 1578 and 1608, Otun was made the boundary between the Old Oyo Empire and Benin Kingdoms. This was as a result of the peace treaty, which the Oba of Benin entered into with the Alafin of Oyo.
During this period, most of the present day Ondo, Ekiti and Lagos States came under Benin Kingdom while the Old Oyo Empire had control over most of the Northern and Western Yoruba land as well as part of the non-Yoruba speaking neighbours like Nupe, Ibariba and Aja in Dahomey.
Throughout this period, either Benin or Oyo Empire never conquered Otun. This was as a result of the status of the Oore of Otun and Otun came to be regarded as a neutral ground where people from both sides settled amicably.
As a result of this, Otun became a bursting centre of commercial activities, which drew people from both kingdoms and from many other parts of the present day Nigeria and beyond.
The market, which up till today is held five days became second to none in the present Ekiti, Ondo and Osun State. People came from all over Yoruba land to attend the market. In fact, non-Yoruba tribes like the Nupe and the Ibaribas came to transact business in the town and many of them in the process settled permanently in Otun.
In order to maintain its pre-eminently commercial position, Otun had to develop its military capabilities to be able to ward off any external aggression. Backed up by his traditional importance among Yoruba Obas, coupled with the military capabilities of his Kingdom, Oore assumed the leadership of the Ekiti Obas in the 18th and 19th centuries.
At that time, Ekitiland included the present day Ekiti State, Akure and Akoko lands in the present Ondo State and all the Ekiti towns and villages in the present day Kwara state.
The role of Oore amongst the Ekiti Obas throughout the 18th and 19th Centuries was that of constructive and effective leadership. This period can conveniently be classified as the period before, during and after the Kiriji wars.
The immediate cause of the Kiriji wars was the scuffle between the Ibadan Ajele and his men on one hand and Fabunmi and his men on the other hand. This resulted in the killing of the Ajele and some of his men at Imesi Igbodo. This led Fabunmi to seek the support of prominent Obas and notable men of Ijesha, Ekiti, Akoko and Igbomina countries to fight the impending war.
Following this request, all the Ekiti Obas had to meet at Otun under the leadership of Oore to plan their strategies for the war. The final movement to the battlefront took off from Otun Ekiti. During the war, Oore provided men and materials towards the war efforts. Oore himself and the most of his chiefs were always at the warfront to encourage other Obas and to ensure that their subjects were not carried into bondage.
Throughout the wars, Oore’s leadership was never in question. He was the recognized spokesman and leader for all Ekiti Obas. One of the lessons learnt during the Kiriji wars by Ekiti Obas was that the military might of Ibadan was a function of their numerical superiority in the battle field. This, they discovered was as a result of the fact that different people from different parts of Yoruba land came to settle at Ibadan.
It was therefore suggested that All Ekiti towns and villages should transplant into a single new megalopolis, but that they should still retain their old locations as farms. This idea was accepted by all the 16 Ekiti Obas (Alade Merindinlogun) and Otun, which was the domain of Oore was naturally chosen as the site for the Ekiti Parapo Town.
The settlement was expected to extend from Otun to Ayede. In fact, many of the prominent Obas and chiefs in Ekiti had to come to Otun to identify the specific areas where their towns would be located. However, later developments resulted in the dropping of the idea.
To be quickly stated in passing, other relevant an unassailable documented facts that attest to the pre-eminence of Oore among the Yoruba Obas in general and his leadership of the Ekiti Obas in particular.
At the end of Kiriji wars, Oore led the team of other Ekiti Obas including Owa Ajero of Ijero and the Olojudo of Ido in signing the peace treaty that signified the end of hostility on 3rd July, 1886.
He again led the same team on behalf of the 16 Ekiti Obas to sign the treat abolishing slave trade and human sacrifice with Lagos Government on September 29th, 1886. These accorded the Oore the honour of being the first signatory to these treaties.
Samuel Rowe the then Governor of Gold Coast Colony documented some useful hints concerning the pre-eminence of Oore of Otun on May 29th, 1883. He said “Ekiti Parapo is a name given to the confederation of Efon tribes. There are said to be 132 Kings among them. The Principal of these kings is one Oray (Oore).”
During the Kiriji wars, Oore’s recognition as the leader of Ekiti Obas was affirmed by Reverend Charles Philip, the messenger4 to C.A. Moloney, the governor of Lagos by what he wrote in a note on 14th May, 1886 about his visit to Okemesi during the war. He said “We first called on Oray (Oore), king of Otun who is regarded as the senior of Ekiti Kings, I read the Governor’s Letter to him:
In 1889, Major Reeve Turcker was appointed by the Colonial Secretary to take charge of the administration of Ekitiland Inclusive of Ijesa. After his extensive tour of this unit between October 1899 and February 1900, he established the Ekiti Council of Obas and Oore was made the President.
It is on record theat he presided over the first two meetings of the council held at Ilesha in June 1900. The controversy between the Northern Government and the administration of Major Turcker led to the carving away of Otun, Obo, Ishan, Ayede and Ikole and their merger with the Northern Nigeria.
Following the adjustment of Ekiti-Kabba boundary in 1909, Ishan, Ayede and Ikole Ekiti-Kabba returned to Ekiti Division while Otun and Obo, two of the senior Ekiti Kingdoms remained in the Northern Nigeria.
This position remained unchanged in spite of protracted agitation by Otun until 1936 when Otun finally returned to Ekiti Division.
During the period of Oore’s absence in Ekiti Land, the idea of Ekiti Council of Obas became moribund and as a matter of fact no meeting of the council was held throughout the period due to lack (absence) of leadership.
Following the return of Otun to Ekiti Division in 1939, the Ekiti Council of Obas was swiftly reconstituted in form of “pelupelu” and Oore was again made the President.
When the Ekiti Superior Native Authority was amended in 1946 and established in 1947 the President was to be rotated among the 17 Ekiti Obas, Oore was made the first President.
Oore was the first Oba in Ekiti land to be presented with a Certificate of Honour by His Majesty King George VI in 1947. This was in addition to the Certificates of Honour he received in 1886 and 1900. The next Oba that got the Certificate did two years after Oore.
In the biography of H.R.H. Oba Aladesanmi, the Ewi of Ado- Ekiti, he said “I am the third position in Ekiti Division Council of Traditional Rulers which has Ajero of Ijero as the second. The Senior one, Oore of Otun has his district transferred to Ilorin Emirate Council which was later returned to Ekiti Division of Ondo Province after much agitation from the people to the government”.
The delegation that was sent by the Ekiti and the Ijesa to carry message of peace to Emir of Ilorin was made up of the messengers of Oore of Otun Ekiti, Owa of Ijesa and Ogedengbe from Ilesha.
The pre-eminence of Oore amongst the Yoruba Obas was clearly evident during the meeting of all Yoruba Obas that was held with Governor Sir Mc-Gregor on 31st May, 1939 at Rex Cinema in Ibadan.
After the meeting, the Governor together with all the Yoruba Obas took a group photograph in which 12 of the Obas sat in the front row on the right hand side of the Governor was the Ooni of Ife, Oba of Benin and Ewi of Ado. The Oore of Otun, H.R.H. Oba Oyinloye Olubin sat fourth to the immediate right of the Governor.
Samuel Johnson, (1939) The History of Yoruba land; 2nd Ed.
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