These are the texts of an Interview with the AKOGUN of Owu Kingdom, CHIEF RAOBIL ISHOLA AKINSIPO, at the premises of Leadway Assurance, Oke-Ilewo, Abeokuta on Friday 7th June, 2013.
NOTE: This dialogue unfolded in a mixture of both the Yoruba and English languages, but has been transcribed into English using approximate words as accurately as the author could determine. Every attempt has also been made to recreate the oral atmosphere of the encounter as best as possible!
OK. AKOGUN, WE CAN START NOW…
“I was born in Atan in Ado Odo Ota Local Government Area on 19th April 1955. My father Alhaji Jimoh Alabi Sunmonu was the son of Sunmonu Aborishade. My mother was Madam Janet Anike. Aborishade was the son of Akinsipo who pioneered the Akogun Oke compound here in Abeokuta.
Akinsipo came from with the troupe from Orile after the war. He wasn’t the title holder of the Akogun from Orile. It was a man named Akinale who was reported to have been the title bearer.
If you haven’t forgotten the Apomu market incidence that caused the Owu wars of Orile. The then Akogun named Olugbabi Awalona who was involved in that incidence was blamed by the Owu people for the ensuing war. He was reported to have fought and submitted himself to death, lacking the will to continue living in the Orile war due to the incessant depressions and fault finding that continued to plague him.
Because of this, Akinsipo’s mother believed that Owus were wicked and opposed his son becoming Akogun in Abeokuta…”
WASN’T SHE AN OWU WOMAN HERSELF?
OR IS IT THAT THEY LIED AGAINST OLUGBABI. WASN’T HE THE ONE WHO SPLIT THE STOMACH OF THE IJEBU WOMAN AT THE MARKET ACCORDING TO THE STORIES?
“It’s not that he split her stomach if you follow the story carefully. He was the market superintendent and he was going to quell a commotion within the market when his little son who followed him was pushed into a stall of salt by the surging crowd causing the boy to fall with the salt spilling all over his head. The salt seller then hit the boy with a stick, causing him to bleed from the head. In his angry attempt to hit back at his son’s assailant with the flat side of his sword, he lost his balance and caused a fatal wound with the sharp edge instead.”
YOU HAVE JUST TALKED ABOUT SALT WHEREAS THE STORY SAYS ALLIGATOR PEPPER WAS THE COMMODITY THAT CAUSED THE FRACAS.
“Yes. Alligator pepper caused the initial market commotion between the Owus and Ijebus, but when he went to control the situation, it was the incident of the salt stall involving his son that actually led to fatality.”
SO IT WAS A SALT SELLER THAT WAS STRUCK WITH THE SWORD?
“Yes. It was a salt seller, not the alligator pepper seller. The salt seller happened also to be an Ijebu woman.
(A little exchange about Akogun’s extensive Yoruba books collection quickly ensued)
“It was the recollection of this incident that made Akinsipo’s mother adamant about her son not becoming another Akogun title holder in Abeokuta. That is what caused the splitting of the Akogun compound into two in Abeokuta when they now went to install one of the Akogun foot soldiers as Akogun according to the story I was told. That is also why the first Akogun title in Abeokuta emerged from the Akogun Isale compound.
It was after the demise of that first one that Akinsipo now became the 2nd Akogun.”
THE SAME AKINSIPO WHO’S MOTHER OBJECTED TO HIS TAKING THE TITLE INITIALLY?
“Yes! As his mother was now dead, there was no obstacle for him.”
NOW TELL ME ABOUT AKOGUN AKINALE, HOW DOES HE FIT INTO ALL THIS?
“It was him that brought the title into Abeokuta.”
YOU MEAN HE WAS THE IMMEDIATE SUCCESSOR OF OLUGBABI AT ORILE-OWU
“Yes! After Olugbabi went to die in the war of Orile. It was after the death of Akinale in Abeokuta that they unsuccessfully wanted to install Akinsipo the first time.
It was the Akinsipo who established the Akogun–Oke compound where I emerge from. Akinsipo had 3 wives; Ominike, Omileye and Wemimo. It’s only the lineages of Ominike and Omileye that have male children, while Wemimo was only blessed with females. That is why that lineage cannot produce Akogun title holders because it is restricted only to male lineages.”
SO WHICH LINEAGE DO YOU STEM FROM, OMINIKE OR OMINEYE?
“I come from Ominike. However it is not that we premeditated an arrangement, but things seem to follow a divine order because it tends to rotate alternately between Akogun-Oke and Isale. When Rufus Onifade passed away from Akogun –Isale, it has come back to us at Akogun-Oke. The previous Akogun-Oke title bearer prior to myself was of the Omineye lineage. As you see, it seems that God arranged it orderly and alternating!”
MEANING THAT ALL THESE WERE NOT PREMEDITATED, THEY JUST HAPPEN?
“It’s not pre-arranged in Akogun Oke.”
OH! ONLY AMONG THE LINEAGES OF AKOGUN-OKE…BUT THE TRANSITIONS BETWEEN OKE AND ISALE ARE ALTERNATED DELIBERATELY?
“Yes, yes! Between Oke and Isale. That one is established , but not amongst us in Akogun-Oke.”
IS YOUR MOTHER AN OWU WOMAN?
“Her mother is Owu, but the father is Ikija. My maternal grandmother is of Orunto and Lumosa compounds. She was Dorcas Bolarinwa Adeniji from Orunto compound beside the palace there. Her mother is of Lumosa compound by the African Church. My mother on her father side is from Oloko compound in Ikija and Adosu, sometimes called Amosu in Ago-Odo.
In Orile, Akogun was the head warrior while Jagunna is the equivalent among the Egbas until they mingled with the Oyos in Ibadan where they adopted Balogun into their cultures. Laara and Olufakun were not Baloguns until after they got to Abeokuta. Akin-Olugbade was the 10th Balogun here.”
YOU ARE THE CURRENT AKOGUN. DO YOU HAVE A NAME?
“Of course, I have a name.” (frowns scrutinously and laughs)
SOMEHOW, YOU NEGLECTED, OR OMITTED TO TELL US IN YOUR INTRODUCTION SPEECHES.
“Oh! I did? I am Raobil Ishola, born into the Akinsipo family.”
WHAT PUZZLES ME NOW IS WHY AKINALE, THE AKOGUN FROM ORILE OWU, WAS NOT THE HEAD OF THE OWU CONTIGENT THAT CAME TO ABEOKUTA INSTEAD OF LAARA AND OLUFAKUN?
“In war periods, all sort of things do happen. It is known that Akinale was the custodian of the crown from Orile-Owu. It is possible that he had to cede administrative functions to others in order to devote his efforts to this mission of ensuring the safe transit of the crown.”
(EDITOR’S NOTE : The more likely reason is that the Akogun title temporarily suffered a setback in relevance after the Apomu incident and the ensuing war triggered by Akogun Awalona, such that a mercenary Balogun was even recruited to lead the Owu in their attempt to regain their lost cities of Owu Ipole and Owu Ogbere. This mercenary general was no other than Maye himself (Ijaola was sent to recruit him), the Ife war general who was in the forefront of the siege that devastated Owu Ipole, aka, Orile Owu. He was the first instance of a Balogun in the Owu system, which later became firmly established after Laara (civil leader), and Olufakun (defence leader) had successfully led the Owu refugees into Abeokuta)
DID HE NOT ARRIVE WITH THE MAIN CONTIGENT OF OWU FOR THIS REASON? SANGOJIMI FOR INSTANCE WAS THE FIRST TO ARRIVE WITH HIS APOMU TROUPE ALONGSIDE SODEKE BEFORE OTHERS STARTED TO COME
“In fact some had come earlier and took the route of Itoko…”
(Interjection) THAT WAS THE SANGOJIMI GROUP. ANOTHER SET CAME LATER WHO FIRST CAMPED WITH AGBO OF GBAGURA BEFORE LINKING WITH SANGOJIMI. LAST TO COME WAS THE MAIN BAND OF OWUS WHO WERE ENCAMPED AT OKE-ATA BERORE THEIR ASSIMILATION INTO THE TOWN PROPER. WHICH SET DID AKOGUN AKINALE COME WITH?
“I really don’t know that but according to stories told…also by Kabiyesi, he and another person* whose name I don’t remember were saddled with the task of protecting the crown, so they split up and only came back with their priced possession after the town was secure and the main group were safely settled.”
(Editor’s Note : That other person who was assigned to protect the Owu Crown is Ijaola, who strategically delegated the task to his stepbrother, Oni. Akogun Akinale indeed arrived in Abeokuta somewhat late, but it was the initially unknown whereabout of Ijaola who had taken refuge at Iwo, and who had kept the crown with Oni without the Akogun’s knowledge that delayed the process of coronation in Abeokuta)
AKOGUN, I LEARN THAT YOU ARE THE PRESENT CUSTODIAN OF THE SWORD THAT CAUSED THE TURMOILS AT ORILE-OWU.
I WILL SOMEDAY LIKE TO BEHOLD THE ARTIFACT WHEN CHANCED.
“You can see it today. I have it with me here because I had earlier taken a photograph of it for Papa Yemitan (now the Bàápitàn of Owu Kingdom), which I can also forward to you.”
“When Odua made the toddler Asunkungbade an Oba by giving him a crown, he instructed 6 of his trusted nobles to follow him to establish his own Kingdom and assist him with governance until he was matured enough. They are the ones who became the Iwarefa Afobaje. So when you are talking about Owu hierarchy, first comes Olowu, and next the Iwarefa Afobajes, in the core traditional setting. But there can be changes to any administration from its head, however all such must take cognizance of what was in existence and there should be wide consultation.”
BUT ANYBODY WHO WANTS TO MAKE CHANGES SHOULD EXPECT OPPOSITION AND RESISTANCE ALSO! BABANGIDA MADE SWEEPING CHANGES IN HIS ADMINISTRATION, SOME WERE RETAINED LIKE THE FIRST LADY CONCEPT, AND SOME REJECTED IMMEDIATELY HE LEFT, LIKE THE DIRECTOR-GENERALS.
“Exactly, after it’s all said and done, the bottom line is that things will progress along the lines they must eventually, so to some extent people should accept the change in the interim and wait. All along, changes are taking place: We’ve had new chieftancy titles created only when we got here which were not originally traditional to us etc.”
HOW ABOUT THE OGBONI SYSTEM, WHICH IS SAID TO BE STRANGE TO THE OWUS?
“The Ogboni system is owned by the Egbas. The lamb that roams with the dog will eventually eat shit…so that’s how we adopted the Ogboni system. The Ogboni system is not supposed to be secret or evil. Every adult man in Egba is supposed to be at a level of Ogboni, but as the hierarchy rises, it becomes extremely selective such that protectionism starts to develop to make them appear very exclusive.
When the Orile Owu war was to start, the Egbas did not support the Owus. Even Ibadan was owned by different factions like Gbagura. The whole of Agodi area is Owu land. Oyo owned Ilorin, and when trouble started there over Afonja’s issue, there were a lot of displacement amongst the Oyos, who were then willing to engage in any occupation. When they met the Ifes and Ijebus, they were easily recruited into their armies as mercenaries. The result of that was that the Egbas who refused to help Owu were also attacked and displaced by the combined army, who had then adopted warfare as a game and way of acquiring riches as the spoils of war. So the lack of unity of the Egbas reverberated against them also…”
….(to be concluded)