Re-Tribute to Ancient Yoruba Chief of Defence Staff: A Manipulation of History - By Akogun Tai Oguntayo
Reacting to the story titled; “Tribute to Ancient Yoruba Chief of Defence Staff, Ogedengbe” written by Mr Wale Adeoye on the historic Ekitiparapo war has been an herculean task for me in the last few days. Apart from the fact that the writer is a fellow journalist who is doing well in this pen pushing business, he is also one of the few Ekiti illustrious sons and highly cerebral colleagues that I accord so much respect. I’m therefore at a crossroad of how to do a critique of his story which is at variance with available facts and records by renowned authorities without burning bridges.
However, a lot of people especially those who know me as the author of FABUNMI EKITIPARAPO, a book which is currently on the recommended list of Ekiti State Ministry of Education, have been challenging me on some salient and fundamental issues in Adeoye’s story considering the many contradictions in the said story as opposed to other researches by eminent historians on the Kiriji war. Luckily, the writer himself told me in our brief conversation thereafter and confirmed that Owa Ooye of Okemesi Ekiti, Oba Michael Gbadebo called him to express his dissatisfaction with the story.
In my immediate response to the writer after reading through his piece, I appreciated his efforts in putting together the famous Ekitiparapo war story otherwise known as Kiriji war because it was a good attempt in rejigging our collective sense of remembrance of our heroes past though it was flawed with a lot of misrepresentation of facts. To be fair to him, the twisting of facts in his story was largely caused by those he spoke with who decided to feed him with incorrect information favourable to their ancestors. Hence the need to put the record straight for the sake of posterity.
While I may not consider myself as an authority on a contemporary Yoruba history just like Adeoye, it is however imperative that in putting together a historical narration of such significance, any writer that knows his onion should go beyond mere oral interviews by the grandchildren of the dramatis personae. Just like I did in 1995 while writing “Fabunni Ekitiparapo”, a Yoruba play which had been twice adopted by the Education Ministry since 1999, the writer ought to have consulted widely the works of approved authorities, the national archive and dig deeper into the genealogy of the actual originator of the war in person of Fabunmi Oraralada of Okemesi Ekiti who started what is today known as Ekitiparapo.
In the first instance, it was a complete untrue statement that Ekiti had no standing army before Ogedengbe joined them. How could a confederation of more than fifty towns fight a war for solid nine years out of fifteen years without having an army whether counterfeit or genuine? This is completely illogical and unacceptable! It is on record that Prince Fabunmi Asola Oraralada, following the advice of his uncle, Oba Aponlese of Okemesi, contacted the Oore of Otun who convened the meeting of Ekiti Obas and warriors in his palace. Available records have it that 13 Obas and 140 warriors across Ekitiland assembled at Oore palace to discuss the possibility of a war against oppression of Aare Onakakanfo and that was where the word Ekitiparapo (Confederation of Ekiti) emanated for the first time.
Going through the memory lane, it would be recalled that the crux of the matter was in 1871 at Imesi Oloja-Oke (now Okemesi Ekiti) where a young Prince, Fabunmi Asola Oraralada from Aponlese ruling house resisted the Ajeles who were becoming too oppressive. The war had raged on for nine years before Ogedengbe reluctantly joined them having earlier entered into a secret pact with the Ibadans not to wage war against them. The reason for Ogedengbe's secret pact with Ibadan is for another day. When the war became tough and he foresaw a likely defeat for Ekitiparapo, he decided to severe his accord with Ibadan to join Balogun Ayimoro and Ogunmodede who had already led Ijesa warriors to join the Ekitiparapo Battalion. The Peace Treaty that ended the war was signed on September 23, 1886.
Among those prominent captains who sent troops to Ekitiparapo were; Adeyale from Ila-Orangun, Olugbosun from Egbosi (now Ilupeju Ekiti) who led Oyelosi warriors, Akogun Irona who led Aisegba warriors, Balogun Apapalaso who led Warriors from Eruku, Osi and Ekan. Even from non Ekiti towns, some captains led their warriors to Ekitiparapo among whom were; Balogun Aruku who led Obbo warriors from Ilorin and Balogun Fakilede Apoti who led warriors from Ipetu Ijesa, just to mention but few. With all these troops from various quarters, how can someone say Ekitiparapo had no standing army before Ogedengbe joined them?
The greatest injustice the writer did to Ekiti ancestors was saying that “Fabunmi was probably in the rank of Brigadier”. The writer could be pardoned because of the use of the word “probably” which means that he was not really sure of the appropriate tittle with which he could decorate the originator of Ekitiparapo war. As a matter of fact, Fabunmi could not even be given a nomenclature of today’s military title other than to be referred to as the Generalissimo of Ekitiparapo war going by the way he prosecuted the war from the beginning to the end. Even let us accept but not concede the fact that Ogedengbe was more dexterous during the war, it does not warrant his superiority over Fabunmi who initiated and led the war for nine years before inviting him to join the struggle. In a contemporary modern day military setting, the best fighter or most skillful military officer is not necessarily the head of the army.
From available records, Balogun Adeyale from Ila-Orangun was sent from Ekitiparapo camp to ask Igbajo to join the war but the latter declined on the grand that they were not Ekiti. This was why Ekitiparapo troop attacked Igbajo and defeated them utterly despite the intervention by the Ibadan warriors led by Osuntoki to support Igbajo. The fierce battle cut across Iresi and Otan Ayegbaju turning the rivers in the area to red having been polluted by the blood of the casualties. This was why they called that battle “Ogun Fejeboju” as warriors were left with no option than to rinse their faces with water of blood occasioned by heavy casualty.
Another misrepresentation of fact in Adewale’s write up was that when Ogedengbe joined them the Ektiparapo camp recorded “first recruitment drive of 10,000 Ekiti enlisted within months at the palace of Oore.” Not only that Ogedengbe wasn't there when the meeting that heralded the war was held at Otun but that only 13 Obas and 140 war captains attended the meeting to represent their leaders. This can be confirmed from the national archives and presentations at the centenary of the war held at Ile-Ife in Osun State.
According to Professor Banji Akintoye in his address on September 23, 2019 while marking the Yoruba Treaty day, when the full war broke out, the record of the warriors by Ekitiparapo was put at over 50,000 at Imesi Ile. The place where the warriors were first mobilized for war was at Ita-Ode in Okemesi and not at Oore’s palace as erroneously put by Adeoye. It was the first meeting where decision to form a confederation that was held at Oore’s palace not gathering of warriors.
Another area that should be put in proper perspective was where Adewale said; “I saw some of the weapons imported by Ogebdemgbe from Hambourg (sic) in Western Germany.” Records have it that Ekitiparapo businessmen in Lagos imported the sophisticated weapons not Ogedengb. The businessmen were the ones who imported double barrel guns which they supplied the Ekitiparapo troop at Igbajo to assist them improve on the use of Dane guns.
It was the frightening booming of the double barrel gun that Ibadan warriors took back home to say that: “some unseen spirits have joined the Ekitiparapo warriors and those spirits were moving in legions sounding ''Kiii-riii-jiii!!!” So, if in deed, Adewale had seen some archive weapons in form of imported gun at Ogedengbe’s place, it must be sone of those supplied to them by the Ekitiparapo businessmen not that Ogedengbe personally imported them from Germany.
The writer also said that “there were reports that a certain ballistic expert from Okemesi manufactured bombs and lethal weapons during the war.” The question is; just like the writer claimed to have met Ogedengbe’s grandson and Aare Onakakanfo’s descendant, did he attempt to find out who is this family of this so called “ballistic expert from Okemesi who manufactured bombs and lethal weapons during the war”? Did he even visit the Balogun family of Fabunmi in Okemesi or Imesi Ile where Fabunmi became an Oba after the war? The artifacts are still alive till today to crosscheck the veracity of the stories given to him by those grandsons of Ogedengbe and Aare Ona Kakanfo.
Thank God the writer admitted that “little has been done to bring out the thick and thin of the Ekiti Parapo war, there are still many grounds uncovered” but due diligence would have brought about presentation of accurate account of events.
Another story which appears cock and bull was the one the writer was told by the grandson of Are Onakankanfo that the “Oracle had told the custodians of the Yoruba that a certain group of ''Afin'', Albino (referring to white colonialists) were coming to take Yoruba land by force”. Was that why Aare Onakakanfo was sending his surrogates to various Yoruba towns and villages to forcefully collect Isakole for him? The truth is that Aare Ona Kakanfo, because of his military prowess, was moving from one village to another, overpowering them and expanding his dominion over them in order to control their economic and human resources. It was in Ekiti, particularly, Okemesi Ekiti where he met a stiff resistance and this heralded the war that lasted for more than a decade.
Without necessarily belabouring the issue, I think I have been able to put the record straight for the sake of our future generation.