The Ondo people are ancient forest-hunters, artistic brass-makers and agriculturalist unique Yoruboid-speaking people that forms a sub-group of the larger Yoruba ethnic group of West Africa, particularly in Nigeria and the Republic of Benin. Ondo who are one of the largest subgroups of the Yoruba people are found in the southwestern part of Nigerian State of Ondo.
Ondo women in their special occasion dress, courtesy vivimadecreationz
The Ondo kingdom which resides in Ondo State is found in the modern Akure and Obokun Local Government Areas form its boundary in the North while Ilaje/Eseodo Local Government Areas form its boundary in the South. In the East, it terminates at Owena River, which is in the Ifedore Local Government Area and in the West, the kingdom stretches as far as the Ooni River. In the Southern part, the land, which borders on the creek area of Ilaje-Eseodo is low-lying but rises gradually towards the North. Ondo is about 300 kilometers northeast of Lagos. It is situated in a forest region of Nigeria. According to 2006 Population Census data, the number of Ondo people in Ondo state is about 3,440,000.
Ondo women dancers
Historically, Ondo people are a mixture of Yoruba Oyo migrants who traces their origin to Ile Ife and aboriginal Idoko, Ifore and Oka people. However, the history of the origin of Ondo kingdom has been very controversial, as there are three different versions that purport to explain the origin of the people. The controversy is due to the fact that there were no written documents at that period. Thus, diverse accounts were given about her origin. Consequent upon the above, much of what is known about the period was legendary. Currently three leading schools of thought about Ondo origin is known. A first tradition, celebrated to this day claims that Ondo was founded by a wife of Oduduwa, the progenitor of the Yoruba who had migrated from Mesopotamia (Persia) to Ile-Ife. Oduduwa's wife, Pupupu, gave birth to twins, which were regarded as unlucky and resulted in her exile with her twins. She moved southward until she came to the current location of Ondo City.
Ondo men in their traditional yoruba dress with neck scarf (awe)
Pupupu became the first ruler of the Ondo Kingdom in the 15th century and her descendants wear the crown today. The celebrated Yoruba Historian and clergyman Samuel Johnson in his renowned work: "The History of the Yoruba" published in 1921, accounts a similar story but he averred that Pupupu was the wife of Ajaka, the grandson of Oduduwa. According to Johnson (1921) "The custom of killing twins prevailed all over the country in early times; it has died out all over the greater part of it so long ago, that no one can say precisely when or by whom a stop was put to it. But it happened once upon a time when the practice still prevailed that one of the wives of the Alafin (King Ajaka) gave birth to twins, and the King was loth to destroy them, he thereupon
gave orders that they should be removed — with the mother — to a remote part of the kingdom and there to remain and be regarded as dead.
Ondo people playing armpit drums at Ogun festival in Ole Oluji in Ondo State, Nigeria. Circa 1982. Courtesy Alan Denney
So she left with a large number of friends and retinue to the site of the present Ode Ondo, then sparsely peopled by a tribe named Idoko, and there settled, hence the term " Ondo," signifying the
" Settlers." The people of the district knowing who the strangers were, yielded them ready obedience, and the strangers became rulers of the district. Probably it was from this time infanticide received its death blow — in Yoruba Proper at least. It is said to linger still at Akure and the adjacent regions, but as a rule, in ancient times, whatever the custom set or discountenanced at the Metropohs, the effect thereof was rapidly felt all over the country.
The Ondos are sometimes classed among the Ekitis but that is hardly correct ; although lying at the border of the Ekitis, they are really a mixture of Qyos and Idokos, and their sympathy is
with all." (Johnson, 1921).
In the second version recorded by renowned Bini (Edo) historian Egharevba; he traced the origin of the Ondo people to Benin kingdom. He noted that during the reign of Oba Esigie of Benin (AD 1504) Aruaran, the King’s brother who threatened the throne of Benin was captured alive. He later committed suicide after an unsuccessful attempt to escape. The rest of his people were banished from Benin City. Iyase Osemwugbe, a loyalist to Aruaran decided to avenge the death of his master and the humiliation meted on Udo troops by the Benin troops. He launched an attack on Benin Kingdom but he was unsuccessful. A few of them managed to escape to the western side of Benin. The Udo troops were pursued until they surrendered. Osemwugbe surrendered and pleaded for mercy. Esigie pardoned them but they were banished. Thus the group came to be referred to as Emwa n’Udo (the Udo renegades) in Benin. Egharevba further claimed that Ondo was the contracted form of Emwa n’Udo while Osemawe was the corrupted version of Osemwugbe. The Benin historian supported his claim with the fact that Benin and Ondo people share numerous cultural heritages especially religious and ethical practices. Ondo people rejected the above versions outright on the ground that the first ruler of Ondo land was Oba Pupupu whom documented and authenticated history has been identified as one of the twin daughters of Oduduwa of Ile-Ife, who was the father of Yoruba race.
Odno men blowing a horn
In the third version, which is also accepted by all Ondo people and was narrated to J. K. Olupona in his 1992 study "Kingship, Religion and Rituals in a Nigerian Community: A Phenomenological Study of Ondo Yoruba Festivals," it was claimed that one of Oduduwa’s wives gave birth to a set of twins in Ile-Ife. This, according to Yoruba beliefs was an abomination: "Ese omo re" (what type of strange children are these?) Because the mother of the twins was Oduduwa’s favourite wife, her life and those of the set of twins were saved. However, Oduduwa sent them out of the palace with slaves under the guidance of Ija, a hunter. They arrived at “Igbo-Ijamo” (the forest discovered by Ija) near Ile-Ife and they stayed there for sometime. Thus part of the “oriki” (praise names) of the Ondo people include: "Ara Ita jamo. E ki m’ogun, omo alade igbo, iye mu ago ude m’emun," (A native of Ita Jamo, e ki m’ogun, son of the Prince of the forest who drinks palm-wine from a brass cup.) On the realization that “Igbo Jamo” was unsafe, they continued with their journey until they got to Epe, a place not far from the present Ondo town where Yangede welcomed them.
The new comers were in Epe for many years until a hunter was sent to look for a more suitable and permanent place for the dwelling of the people. As the hunter went about in the bush, he sighted some smoke and went towards its direction. He met Ekiri, one of the autochthons of the land. Then the hunter went back to Epe and informed the people that he had discovered a suitable place of abode. In order to find the prospect of the new place, Ifa oracle was consulted and the oracle instructed that the new comers should take along a yam stake (edo) as their walking stick. As they move along wherever the stick does not poke the ground, the people should settle. They moved from Epe and proceeded on their journey according to the instructions of Ifa and arrived at the present day police headquarters in Ondo, the stake did not poke the ground.
Chief Abdul-Ganiyu "Gani" Oyesola Fawehinmi, (22 April 1938 - 5 September 2009), Ondo man, was a Nigerian author, publisher, philanthropist, social critic, human and civil rights lawyer, politician and a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN).
In utter amazement, the people exclaimed “Edo du do!” which means in Ondo dialect “the yam stake could not enter the ground”. Hence the people settled there and the name Ondo was coined from Edo du do. In fact up till today, Ondo is still being referred as Edo do by some indigenous Ondo people. Further, Edo (yam stake) is up to the present day, a very significant component of the cultural inputs in yam farming in Ondo land. On arrival at Ondo, the new comers met three groups of indigenes spread throughout the land. They are Ifore, Idoko and Oka. Having recognized the royal characteristic of the new comers, these indigenous inhabitants conceded the authority to rule over the territory to the new arrivals without any struggle. Pupupu, Oduduwa’s twin daughter became the first ruler in Ondo. Gradually, the three original inhabitants imbibed the culture of the new arrivals.
Ondo people of Ile Oluji, Ondo State. Circa 1982. Courtesy Alan Denney
Drumming is a very significant part of Ondo social and religious life. It is a hereditary occupation in all Yoruba towns, Ondo itself inclusive. Ondo traditions are kept alive through their skill. The drummers are referred to as aayan.
Cowries abound in Ondoland even though its a forest belt. It is said that before the introduction of the European currency, the medium of exchange in Ondo was the cowry shells, oho eyo. Cowries are still being used in many parts ofOndo today for ritual purposes. The improvised bank of old in Ondo was the pot as there were no banks in those days. The people used to save their cowries (money) by putting them in pots and burying them in secret places especially in banana plantations. In fact, it has been reported that such savings have discovered years after the demise of the owner.
Ondo structure is characterized by the manner in which succession to rights is traced not exclusively or even predominantly in the male line but in both male and female lines. Educated Ondo today adopt the personal of the father or paternal grandfather as their own surname, and intend that this surname shall be borne by their agnatic descendants in the English fashion. But, traditionally, the Ondo man is saluted with oriki (praise names) of as many of the ancestors from whom his descent is recognized, whether in male or female line.
Ondo man with his typical Ondo facial tribal mark
All Ondo bear the same facial mark-a single stroke on each cheek; some body markings are given in the male line only-e.g. The three cuts across the right breast of the agnatic descendants of the Osemawe. Food taboos are associated not so much with descent groups as with deities. A man traditionally worshipped a deity discovered for him Ifa divination and not necessarily associated with a descent group.
The Ondo kingdom, which is located in the tropical rain forest belt of Nigeria, occupies an area on latitude 706’ in the North and longitude 4050’ in the East. The modern Akure and Obokun Local Government Areas form its boundary in the North while Ilaje/Eseodo Local Government Areas form its boundary in the South. In the East, it terminates at Owena River, which is in the Ifedore Local Government Area and in the West, the kingdom stretches as far as the Ooni River.
In the Southern part, the land, which borders on the creek area of Ilaje-Eseodo is low-lying but rises gradually towards the North. Ode Ondo is about 290 metres above sea level. The majority of the people reside in Ode-Ondo, the capital of the kingdom. Ondo is located in the damp tropic within the tropical rain forest and the southeasterly wind blows through the region throughout the better part of the year.
The cooler dry continental air from the north abounds during the months of December, January and February of the year. There are many valuable timbers in the forest such as iroko, mahogany, opepe, afara, obeche, and olofun to mention just a few. The big forest reserve occupies over 1000 square kilometres. Almost 23 x 105 cubic metres of timber are harvested annually. Indeed Ondo people are great farmers. They cultivate food crops such as yams, cassava, maize, cocoyam, rice and beans. Ondo elders believe that no land can be useless to farmers, hence the proverb: Ale ye san koko, de san koko, a mu gbe ’gbado. The farmland that is neither suitable for cocoa nor cocoyam farming, will be used to plant corn. The most important cash crop is cocoa, which covers a massive portion of land. Other cash crops are rubber, coffee, kolanuts and palm produce. These collectively constitute the people’s means of economic support. It is not surprising that because of the importance of cocoa in Ondo culture, our elders coined many proverbs on cocoa. Below are a few of such proverbs:
(i) Koko so igi d’eniyan. (Cocoa elevates wood to the status of a human being).
(ii) Koko e da luu, onen lu li koko, lu gbese. (Cocoa prevents one from beating him (a cocoa farmer), for whoever beats a cocoa farmer beats debt (incurs a huge debt).
(iii) Aisan buuku s’onen ye nen koko. (A terrible disease besets someone who does not possess cocoa farm.)
Ondo people speaks a unique South-East Yoruba (SEY) dialect of Yoruba language that belongs to the larger Niger Congo phylum. Apart from Ondo, SEY is spoken in Okitipupa, Ilaje, Ọwọ, Ikarẹ, Ṣagamu, and parts of Ijẹbu.
South-East Yoruba was probably associated with the expansion of the Benin Empire after c. 1450 AD. In contrast to NWY (North-West Yoruba dialect), lineage and descent are largely multilineal and cognatic, and the division of titles into war and civil is unknown. Linguistically, SEY has retained the /gh/ and /gw/ contrast, while it has lowered the nasal vowels /ịn/ and /ụn/ to /ẹn/ and /ọn/, respectively. SEY has collapsed the second and third person plural pronominal forms; thus, àn án wá can mean either 'you (pl.) came' or 'they came' in SEY dialects, whereas NWY for example has ẹ wá 'you (pl.) came' and wọ́n wá 'they came', respectively. The emergence of a plural of respect may have prevented coalescence of the two in NWY dialects.
History Of Ondo Kingdom
Sitting among the thickly forested planes that characterize southwestern Nigeria are the towns and communities that make up the Ondo Kingdom. Located some 300kilometres to the north-east of Lagos, Nigeria's economic nerve centre and 45 kilometres west of Akure, the Ondo State capital, the Kingdom is easily reached by road from all parts of the country. The Ondo people are one of the largest Yoruba subgroups, situated in the eastern part of the Yoruba speaking area of Nigeria. The weather elements that characterize the region are those typifying the rainforest region of Sub-Sahara Africa.
Ondo people celebrating Ekimogun day
The descent of Ondo people, as well as the geography of the Kingdom does not reflect any significant deviation from those of other towns and communities peopled by the Yoruba of south-westernNigeria, who are virtually agreed on the common paternity of Oduduwa. However there exists still, as in most historical collections, about three separate accounts that explain the origin of the Ondo people. While the people of the Kingdom, almost in unison rejected a version that links its origin to the Old Benin Kingdom in present day Edo State, as being the invention of its proponents, there seems to be some level of convergence on the other two accounts which trace the origin of the people to Ife and Oyo respectively. While an outright invention of any historical account, as attributed to the BeninKingdom version, may be unlikely, the symmetry of the more widely held versions of the origin of the people are herein reflected with the major dissonance being in the origin from either Oyo or Ife. But on a broad outlook, the two accounts seem to point towards the same direction, as those in Oyo originally migrated from Ife, the ultimate source of all Yoruba.
Oduduwa, the progenitor of the Yoruba was one of the sons of Lamurudu, who was believed to have migrated from Mecca, Saudi Arabia, after some sectarian disagreement. He held the title of Olofin Adimula before he left Mecca. This perhaps explains why most Yoruba Obas are still referred to by that title to date. Oranmiyan, one of the sixteen sons of Oduduwa who left Ile-Ife, probably out of sheer ambition or mere adventure, was the first Alaafin of Oyo and the father of Oluaso, who gave birth to Pupupu, the first paramount ruler of Ondo Kingdom.
Ondo Cultural troupe
Pupupu, a female, was one of the twin children of Oba Oluaso, who was said to have reigned in Oyo in the 15th Century. The other twin, a male, was named Orere. Twin birth in those days was considered an abomination and a strange phenomenon, esemawe, as a historical source interpreted it. Conventionally, the twins and their mother were instantly put to death, to prevent the imminent bad omen which was believed to be synonymous with their arrival. But because Olu, the mother of the children was one of the favourites of the King, her life and those of the twins were spared. They were however with an entourage of slaves under the guidance of a hunter called Ija, sent out of the palace with a beaded crown and an Akoko tree, signifying their royalty. Those were to accord them the dignity and the reverence due to royalty. Again, their father against the tradition of multi tribal marks of Oyo, incised two long tribal marks, one on each side of the cheek. Oluaso was apparently conscious of the fact that he may not set his eyes on the children for a long time, hence those facial marks were incised on them, so that they would be recognizable any time they were seen or if they came back home. This explains the origin of the tribal marks of Ondo to date.
The group wandered through the forest till they got to a place called Epin, near Gbere, whose inhabitants were referred to as Ibariba. They were well received and catered for until the death of Oba Oluaso in 1497. They headed back to Oyo when the succeeding king did not treat them fairly, but Onigbogi, the reigning king had to send them back to a virgin land compassed about by Ife, Ijesa, Ekiti, Ado(Benin) and Ijebu communities. They later got to Igbo Ijamo (the forest discovered by Ija). The group apparently stayed in this place for some time. Eventually they found lgbo Ijamo unsafe and therefore continued their journey eastward, until they finally got to a place called Epe, not far from the present Ondo town.
They were in Epe for many years and as they journeyed on, they passed through a hill which is today known as Oke Agunla and one of the communities that make up the present day Ondo Kingdom. From this hill, they spotted some smoke and headed in its direction. There they met a man called Ekiri one of the original inhabitants of the area. The Ifa oracle, as was the usual practice then, was consulted on the prospects of the newly found location. The oracle instructed them to take along with them a yam stake (edo), as their walking stick. They were to poke the stick into the ground as they went along their way, and wherever the stick didn't bond with the land, they were to settle.
The group left Epe and proceeded as instructed by the oracle until they got to a place where the yam stake did not penetrate the ground. The group chorused in surprise Edo du do, (The yam stake would not stick in). According to oral history, the word Ondo is a contraction of the sentence "Edo du do". When the group arrived in Ondo, they met the Ifore, the Idoko and the Oka people. These indigenous inhabitants recognized the royalty of the new arrivals and readily ceded to them the authority to rule over the territory. And in due course, the original inhabitants of Ondo were assimilated into the culture of the new comers. It remains a reference point however that the Idoko and Ifore settlers still maintain a kind of separate political structure which is akin, in many respects, to that of the larger Ondo community. As time went on, the people spread to form other settlements like lgbindo, lgbado, llu-nla, Odigbo, Ajue. Igunsin, etc.
By and large, the Ondo people still regard Epe, a relatively small town, seven miles from Ondo, on the Oke-lgbo road, as their original town (Orisun), from where they migrated to their present location. Up until now, many Ondo festival and rituals have Epe as their source. Pilgrimages are sometimes made to Epe for some of the festivals. Historical account also has it that at the demise of the Osemawe, his head was usually buried in Epe while the remaining part of his body was in Ondo.
It is also worthy of note that a historical account holds that the twin brother of Pupupu, actually settled down in Ile-Oluji and became its first traditional ruler. This may also explain the close link between Ondo and Ile-Oluji, who are actually descendants from siblings of same parentage.
Ondo State, Nigeria was created on 3 February 1976 from the former Western State. It originally included what is now Ekiti State, which was split off in 1996. Akure is the state capital.
The state contains eighteen Local Government Areas, the major ones being Akoko, Akure, Okitipupa, Ondo, and Owo. The majority of the state's citizens live in urban centers. The big government universities in Ondo state are the Federal University of Technology Akure, Akure and the Adekunle Ajasin University, Akungba/Akoko.
The Ondo Kingdom retained independence from other regional powers until the 19th century when pressure from expanded European contact and crisis in Yorubaland caused political crisis. With the expansion of the Atlantic slave trade and large scale population displacement in Yorubaland, the political life of the Ondo Kingdom changed. Prior to the 19th Century, Ondo was unusual in the region for their council system and or the relatively open land tenure principles. The council system rotated leadership amongst houses and there was some significant political status given to women, who had their own council which consulted with the men's council (a role disputed by others). The Ondo land tenure principle was that all land was property of the king, but that any man could farm it as long as he obtained permission from the leader of the nearest community. However, with increasing pressure related to population movement in Yorubaland and increasing relevance of the slave trade, much of this changed. Political and economic power changed from hereditary lineage and access to land holdings to focused primarily on slaveholdings. The result was large scale conflict in the Ondo Kingdom from 1845 until 1872, a period with rapid regime change, wars with other regional powers, significant violence, and change of the capital city three times. During this period, worship of Orisha spread widely, leading to human sacrifice (often of slaves) in order to try and end the disorder.
Juju music maestro, King Sunny Ade whose real nameSamuel Adeniyi Adegeye is of Ondo descent
When Christian missionaries started to enter Yorubaland in the later half of the 19th century, Ondo was considered a large, forest-based kingdom. However, missionaries largely focused on the other areas in and around Yorubaland rather than Ondo. This may have been because some missionaries thought that the Ondo were socially lower than other Yoruba tribes, perhaps because their custom of concubinage was unacceptable in the Christian tradition. However, in 1870, John Hawley Glover, the administrator of the British Lagos Colony began focusing efforts on the kingdom of Ondo, largely to create alternative trade routes to Lagos. In 1872, Glover helped negotiate a peace treaty between Ondo and Ife who had been hostile for a number of years which allowed expanded trade between Lagos and Ondo. Missionary operations began in 1875 throughout the Ondo Kingdom.
The Osemawe of Ondo made an agreement on 20 February 1889 with the Governor of the British Lagos Colony by which free trade was guaranteed between Ondo and the colony, and disputes would be referred to an arbitrator appointed by the governor for resolution. In 1899 an order in council was issued to extend the Lagos protectorate over Yoruba land, making Ondo formally subject to the British crown.
During the political turmoil of Nigeria in the early 1980s, Ondo was the site of large scale political violence and members of the royal lineage were killed.
The kingdom survived under colonial rule and subsequent independence, and the coronation of the 44th Osemawe, Oba Victor Adesimbo Ademefun Kiladejo, on 29 December 2008 was a major event, attended by many dignitaries
The ethnic composition of Ondo State is largely from the Yoruba subgroups of the Akoko, Akure, Ikale, Ilaje, Ondo, and Owo peoples. Ijaw minority (such as Apoi and Arogbo) and Ilaje populations inhabit the coastal areas; while a sizable number of the Ondo State people who speak a variant of the Yoruba language similar to Ife dialect reside in Oke-Igbo. These people are also Yorubas.
Ondo State Cultural Troupe
Ondo State contains the largest number of public schools in Nigeria - over 880 primary schools and 190 secondary schools.
Local Government Areas
Ondo State consists of eighteen Local Government Areas. They are:
The excesses of Oba Arilekolasi (1861-1866) laid the foundation for the two phases of Ondo civil wars. According to Olupona, Arilekolasi conceded a lot of power to the palace slaves, to the extent that the latter harassed the people for no just cause. As a result of these excesses Arilekolasi was poisoned. However, he pronounced a curse on Ondo people namely that their lands would remain deserted. He requested one of his slaves to avenge his death. Shortly after the Oba’s death, Kulajolu, the slave, left the palace to establish a rival state in Igbodan, from where he waged many
wars on Ondo. A good number of Ondo citizens ran away from their homes and took refuge in surrounding villages such as Ajue, Igbado and Erinla, while majority of the people fled to Oke-Opa where they established an interim government. During this chaotic period, the reigning Oba committed suicide at Igbado for fear of being taken captive by the invaders. This, according to an informant, gave rise to the Ondo proverb: Ogun e e ko Ondo aio ho, this means that it is forbidden for Ondo to be taken captive by war. When the next Oba, Ayibikitiwodi (1873-1876) was installed, he sent a delegate under the leadership of Chief Ogedengbe to make a peace treaty with Kulajolu. To pacify him, the Oba conferred on him an Eghae high chieftaincy title, which he accepted. Kulajolu became high Chief Odunwo, the third ranking chief to the Oba in Ondo traditional system. He was however attacked by another popular slave, named Ago who drove him out of Ondo to Erinla where he died. As a result of the previous years of unrest in Ondo, the throne became very
weak and was susceptible to another civil war under the reign of the next Osemawe, Afaidunjoye (the one who came to the throne at an unpleasant time). Ago, the second slave who had earlier on rescued Ondo from Kulajolu, began another disruptive war against Ondo. He took advantage of the weakness of Ondo to launch an attack on them with the help of Ife and Ilesa. His army was camped at Oke-Igbo and attacked only from Aise. The nub of his troop that came from Ife made up the first colonists of Oke-Igbo. That is why, despite the fact that Oke-Igbo is a major town in Ondo State, less than nine kilometres from Ondo, it remains culturally an Ife town, in spite of its
geopolitical location, which falls within Ondo.
The Ago versus Ondo battle, which claimed many lives from both sides ended up in a fiasco. Ago fled to Ile-Oluji, nine kilometres away from Ondo. At Ile-Oluji, Ago had a quarrel with Osokun, one of his soldiers. He was ousted out of Ile-Oluji with the help of the Ile-Oluji people and the combined group of dissidents from Ilesa, Oke-Igbo and the forces of Ondo. He was finally captured at Oke-Igbo where he was thrown into the Ooni River.
The above civil wars in Ondo together with Yoruba wars paved way for the British influence on Ondo. As a result of these civil wars, many people fled the town making the governance of Ondo extremely weak and vulnerable. Consequently the British had little or no resistance gaining access through Ondo into the hinterland to establish trade links and to set up administrative machineries.
Ondo State Chief Judge, Hon Justice Olasehinde Kumuyi Speaker, Ondo House of Assembly, Rt Hon Samuel Adesina, Ondo State Governor, Dr Olusegun Mimiko
Traditionally, Ondo people have always sustained their economy from two major occupations: farming and trading which incidentally correspond to the division of labour between male farmers and female traders. The mainstay of Ondo’s economy is agriculture. There are two seasons in the year, the dry season and rainy season. These seasons correspond with the planting and harvesting periods. The Ondo people have two types of farmland. They have small parcels of land, which is usually within a walking distance where yams, corn, cassava, beans and vegetables are planted. This parcel of land is called oko etili or igo. The other farmland is located far from the town where mainly cash crops are cultivated. As earlier pointed out, the major cash crops are cocoa, kolanut, palm oil and rubber. The people build hamlets in the farm where they can stay for a week or more depending on the quantity and pressure of work to be done.
As the villages and hamlets developed, more people were accommodated and people were able to stay longer on their farms. Some rich farmers built houses with corrugated iron roofs. A chief was usually appointed by the Oba to supervise the farm areas. Such a chief would then become the “Oloja”, the head of the area. Here again, a micro-sociopolitical set up is established to govern the community. Such hamlets are usually named after the founder of the area. With this development of distant farmland, the inhabitants only return to Ode-Ondo during traditional festivals or Christian or Muslim festivals. The farmers depend on cooperative ventures during which an individual may engage the assistance of his close friends or age grades on the farm. He in turn will offer the same assistance to those who have assisted him. This cooperative effort expressed in the form of labour exchange is referred to as owe. A Yoruba proverb expresses this cooperative venture succinctly: Oni loni nje, eni a be l’owe, (Today is the day for the one who has accepted to help on farm work). Ondo farmers believe that they get a lot of work done through participating in this cooperative enterprise. After the cultivation of the farmland, a portion of it is usually divided among the farmer’s wives who are not engaged in trading activities on which they will cultivate less labour-intensive crops like pepper, cassava and vegetables. Each wife takes care of the planting and weeding. However, it is not unusual for Ondo women to cultivate cash crops especially on farmlands inherited from their parents. The crops are usually reserved for family consumption. Nevertheless, the wives are the sole marketers of the excess crops from their husbands’ farm while the head of the family sells the cash crops. As earlier mentioned, the second mainstay of Ondo economy is trade, which is carried out by women. Among the articles of trade are aso oke (woven material), iyon (coral beads) and mats. These articles are sold in the market, “Oja” or “Ugele”. The practice of women in trade has become religious, social functions and of economic significance.
Brass making: Another very important profession is brassmaking, (ude). This profession is peculiar to Ifore, one of the original groups of Ondo settlers. These people were specialists in brass production. It was acknowledged that they had the best guild system in Ondo. No wonder then one of the Ondo praise names (oriki) refers to their beginning: E kim’ogun, omo alade igbo, iye m’agogo ude m’omi. E kim’ogun, the son of the forest king, who drinks water with a brass cup. The Ifore people were very proud of their achievements in brass work. In fact archaeological excavations carried out supported this claim. Nevertheless, few references to this antique craft are still found in Ondo ritual context. For example, Ondo people regard it as a taboo for anyone to wear a brass necklace or bangle during the festival of Oramfe. However, modern professions such as carpentry, tailoring, driving and barbing have replaced these traditional guild groups. They all have similar modus of operandi, most especially in their cultic devotion to Ogun, the most popular deity in Ondo kingdom.
Ondo Women in Trade
Women generally have peculiar instincts, especially when examining issues relating to social and economics matters. Such instincts could be seen in their attitudinal behaviours exhibited in trading and cultural practices. The Ondo women, like others across the World also possess social and economic instincts which are put into play to promote the socio/economic development of their town. This is evident in the level of activities in which they are involved. However, one major area where the contributions of Ondo women to the development of their homeland can easily grasped has to do with the practical demonstration of certain norms, belief and customs which are instilled on their children.
Owing to the importance attached to the role of Ondo women in the economy of the town, the title of a paramount female chief is instituted. The title is known, as earlier mentioned, as “Lobun” which means owner of the market. Most of the villages and hamlets in Ondo governance started as farming settlements or market places. Johnson pointed out that the principal market of the town is always in the centre of the town and in front of the house of the chief ruler.
In addition to the above trading activities of Ondo people, they are also engaged in many other occupations though these are restricted to men only and in most cases limited to specific ancestries.
It is worthy of note to see that women have been making valuable contributions to the development of Ondo since the creation of the town over 500 years ago. In fact, the story of Ondo cannot be completed without mentioning Oba Pupupu, a woman and the first Osemawe of Ondo Kingdom who reign between 1510-1530 A.D. Besides, the record laid by this legendary female Monarch, there was also the history of a woman warrior called Yeye Taagba whose traditional herbalist medicinal prowess was said to have played significant role in retention of the present Ondo Kingdom from the hands of external aggressors who were troubling the town during her time. There is also the history of "Yeye Gbanejoke", a prominent successful businesswoman mogul, slave trade merchant and the first ever richest Ondo woman in the history of Ondo Kingdom who acquired the vast majority of Ondo landscape and till today her generation enjoys the most recognized popular and famous family title name as Gbanejoke (omo gbesokun).
Notwithstanding, the achievements of these three legends recognized above, the present generation of women in Ondo have been making meaningful contributions to the development of the Kingdom. While some have excelled in their chosen profession and has brought honour to the town through this, some have ventured into businesses and other areas commonly dominated by the men to make their presence felt. Again, another area where the industrious instincts of the Ondo women are further demonstrated is in their desire to own properties like their male counterparts. It is therefore not an exaggeration to assert that women in Ondo Kingdom have at least three out of every ten houses in the town. Therefore, when viewed against this background, it is not an understatement to say that women have made some positive contributions to the social-economic development of the town which is visible and could simply be described as an enduring legacy.
usually starts from home, for instance in the training of the female child. An Ondo woman would ensure that attitudes such as cleanliness, hard-work, and patience among others are imposed in the minds of their female children to prepare them for the future roles of house wives. Hence, before getting married, an Ondo girl is usually given some tasks to carry out at home such as sweeping, cleaning, cooking and fetching of water among other domestic chores. Besides, she is also tutored on some social and cultural values like greetings, dressings and paying respect to elders to mention a few. In the same vein, the male children are also given training in some cultural and social values to prepare them for future challenges as husbands. However, within the context of what has been written above, one particular attribute for which Ondo women are noted for is the role they play in the education of their children.
It is a common practice to note that greater percentages of Ondo women are willing to sell their possessions for the simple reason of educating their children than owing material things. They would always be heard singing “ere omo mi o, ma je na le o” (meaning I will invest on my children to enjoy in my old age). Perhaps, this is responsible for the high level of educational attainment and socialization for which the people of Ondo people are noted. In the same vein, early childhood training, the Ondo children are exposed to by their mothers could be responsible for the low rate of juvenile delinquencies in the town and hence the relative peace pervading therein despite the rapid changes in its social and economic status. Before the advent of civilization, it is generally regarded as an abomination for an Ondo person to get convicted and sent to prison. Anyone who has the misfortune of being convicted would be ostracized by the people who would want to have any interaction with such persons. The situation was so serious to the extent that a convicted person may find it difficult to integrate within the environment even after serving his/her jail term. He or she may sometimes find it difficult to marry or bestowed with position of authority in the town.
Those were the time when the values system was held in highest esteem and mothers were actively involved in the activities that would help to mould the character of their children. Hence mothers in Ondo Kingdom then were playing significant, legislative, executive and judicial roles in the family. In fact the past children who grew up in Ondo whether male or female usually dread the presence of their mothers than their fathers because of what they regard as highhandedness on the part of their mothers who would spare no time to spank them if they failed to understand the message passed across which were transmitted then through the use of one of the crudest and easiest ways of training that was the use of the senses (i.e. eyes, legs, fingers and hands) and sometimes through folklore and tales. In fact, it is generally believed among the Ondos in the past that a true son and daughter of the town who in local palace are called Omoloore Ondo literally interpreted as a well behaved Ondo sons or daughters should not be involved in any matter that could tarnish the name of his/her family by going to prison. Mothers in Ondo are always in vanguard of those who would always ensure that their children are not involved in any crime that would bring the family name into disrepute. I would however not dissipate much energy on the olden days method adopted by Ondo women for training of their children but would rather concentrate on the subject matter of this discourse by identifying the various contributions made by some women of Ondo extraction to the development of their biological home.
The system of government in Ondo Kingdom is a rather an interesting one. The focus is centralized on the election of a divine kingship. The king’s status is a hereditary one and it rotates among five genealogies namely Arilekolasi, Jisomosun, Aroworayi, Jilo and Fidipote. The king’s authority is partly derived through the legendary fore-parent, that is, Oba Pupupu who was the daughter of Oduduwa, the founder of the Yoruba race. According to Olupona, the three indigenous ethnic groups, namely Ifore, Idoko and Oka people surrendered to the newcomers without any fight. It was also noted “all rights and privileges pertaining to the territory were readily ceded to the newcomers”. This surrender was re-enacted by the Oloja of Ifore to the Osemawe of Ondo during which the Oloja made a pledge. In return, the Osemawe conceded to the Oloja of Idoko the control of that portion of the land i.e. Idoko ward. The Osemawe as a king wears a beaded-crown, which to him, in common with some other Yoruba kings, is the most valued possession because it is a symbol of his link with Oduduwa. According to a Yoruba myth, Oduduwa gave beaded crowns to his children as they departed from Ile-Ife to their various kingdoms. Hence, the possession of these beaded crowns from Oduduwa signifies authority and seniority among the many Yoruba Obas who reign today. The sacred staff of office (opa oye) is an innovation put forward by the colonial government. A staff of office was presented to the Osemawe as a symbol of the government’s acknowledgement and sanction of his rule.
Ondo people celebrating Ekimogun day
According to Olupona, the Osemawe governs through the institution of chieftaincy that is organized hierarchically. The first hierarchy is the council of five senior chiefs who are referred to as Eghae (the Oba’s council). These high chiefs are in order of seniority Lisa, Jomu, Odunwo, Sasere and Adaja and of course, the Osemawe as the overall head. They are usually referred to as Eghaafa mefa, because they are six in number; the Osemawe inclusive.
Each of these chiefs has both ritual and social functions to perform on behalf of the Oba. They are paired up for these purposes. The first pair is Lisa and Jomu and Sasere and Adaja is another group. The big umbrella (abuada oba) is the most visible indicator of the Oba’s presence. These high chiefs wear coral beads on their wrists and ankles. The most important symbol of authority of an Eghae is the sacred drum called Ugbaji. This drum is symbolic in the sense that during any ritual performed in the house of the chief, the drum will be marked with white and red chalk, after which a prayer is offered, the Oba’s as well as the particular chief. The Eghae dances to the tune of ugbaji during any celebration that signifies the authority and power he possesses.
Eghae is the highest chieftaincy title any Ondo citizen can possibly attain and can only be attained if he has previously taken a less dignifying chieftaincy title. Lisa is the second in command to the Osemawe out of the five Eghae chiefs. The position of Jomu is a hereditary one and it is the third in rank to the Oba. The Eghae are responsible to the Oba and they, (including the Oba himself) constitute the legislative council, which has the power to either enact or repeal laws. They can be likened to the “Judicial Committee of the House of Lords”
The Ekule, who number seven, are the next grade of chiefs, lower in rank than the Eghae. They are grouped in the following order: Odofin, Arogbo, Logbosere, Odofindi, Sagwe, Sara and Olotu-Omoba. The first four are deputies to the Eghae chiefs. They are responsible to Eghae and also perform other functions for the kingdom. These include serving as treasurer and recorder, heading the lower court that takes care of smaller judicial cases and taking charge of palace stewards. Each of these lesser chiefs is assigned specific duties to perform. The details of these duties will not be discussed in this study. It suffices to note however that the activities of the chiefs are well coordinated for effective governance.
The last group of secular chief is Elegbe. These are the lowest chieftaincy titled citizens. They are fifteen in number; they are responsible for the security of the town, and for maintaining law and order.
High chief and Lisa of Ondo kingdom
The “Alaworo” priest chiefs are the next group of leaders in Ondo. These are largely heads of local, pre-Oduduwa groups who are now in a position of “ritual superiority” over the newcomers. The members in this group are Oloja Oke-Idoko; Ekiri of Ifore, Sora and Akunnara. Sora and Akunnara are 0ramfe priests. All these titles are hereditary and candidates are elected from the family concerned. It is noteworthy that women feature prominently in the social and economic development of Ondo kingdom. There are for example, female chiefs referred to as “Opoji”. They are hierarchical too like their male counterparts. The highest female chief is Lobun. It is the most esteemed title in Ondo. This office is surrounded with mysteries and taboos. As earlier mentioned in this chapter, the first Oba in Ondo was a female (Oba Pupupu). Although a decision had been made never to have a female ruler again, women nevertheless are entitled to have a female leader, Lobun, who is also referred as “Oba Obirin” (woman king). Lobun means the owner of the market.
This title shows the important place of the market and of trade among Ondo women toward economic development.
The Lobun’s major responsibility is the installation of a new king. She is also in charge of Ondo markets as well as the priestess Aje (god of wealth and prosperity). It is the responsibility of Lobun to open new markets and perform necessary ceremonial rites that pertain to this. As earlier noted, many mysteries and taboos surround the title and this makes it extremely difficult to get a replacement when the seat is vacant. A very significant norm regarding the position is that whenever a Lobun dies, a replacement cannot be made until the reigning Oba dies. The new
Lobun is elected for the main purpose of installing the Oba. This development must have accounted for the difficulty encountered in finding a replacement for the position after the demise of the Lobun.
Olupona noted, “Once a Lobun is appointed, it is forbidden for her to engage in any domestic duties. She may not step on an unswept floor early in the morning and she may not eat any food prepared the previous day” 8. The keeping of her “holiness” is that the town must cater for her throughout the period of her reign. What a privileged position!
Like their male counterparts, the women have a council comprising Lisa- Lobun, Jomu-Lobun, Orangun-Lobun, Sasere-Lobun and Adafin. There are other female chiefs of lower grades. These are Odofin-Lobun, Ogede-Lobun, Sama-Lobun and Awoye-Lobun. The Eghae has the responsibility of selecting Lobun while the high female chiefs elect the other female chiefs. These appointments, however, are subject to approval of the Oba through chief Sasere.
Ondo Social structure (Social life)
It is important to discuss aspects of the social life of the Ondo people in order to provide a comprehensive background and relevant context for a meaningful investigation into the words of wisdom in Ondo culture.
The clannish spirit permeates the heart and core of the social life among the Ondo. Thus the interdependence of relatives, brothers and sisters, members of the nuclear and the extended family is the rule rather than the exception. At the micro level, the people are organized into compound consisting of nuclear and extended families. Each compound has a head that, in most cases, is the oldest man in the compound. Each married woman in the compound prepares food for her husband and children while the unmarried adult males in the compound choose one of the wives of the head to act as his mother.
At the macro level, the compounds are organized into wards or quarters headed by any one among the following political, traditional and administrative groups; the Eghaafa (the five most powerful high chiefs/king-makers and the king); the Ekunle (the eight chiefs next in seniority to the Eghaafa) or a member of the Elegbe (Ayadi Company) who make up the traditional police force and charged with the responsibility of maintaining the peace and security of Ondo town.
The other towns and villages outside Ondo kingdom but within the jurisdiction of the Osemawe, are also organized under the supervision of less senior chiefs called Baale who pay regular homage to the Oba of Ondoland.
The Kinship System
It is important to explain some key terms that are relevant to the kinship system among the Ondo people. The Ondo people often make a clear-cut distinction between two consanguinal relationships, namely Omiba, the paternal relations and omiye, the maternal relations. Omiba is hardly used by the Ondo people. But it is more common in Ile-Oluji. Nevertheless paternal and maternal kins are equally important in the life of the Ondo people, hence the owe Ondo:
"E e n’aka’ba da ma nen t’iye” (It is not possible to have paternal kinship without maternal kinship)
Bai is another important term by which a child calls his/her father or any adult male of about his father’s age and above. Bai, which means “my father”, carries the connotation of respect in Ondo culture. A child refers to his grandfather as Bamagba, that is, my older father. Yei is the term that refers to “my mother”. Yemagba or Yemlila means my grandmother.
A senior sibling in the family is designated as egin. This title is often joined to the name of the senior sibling, for example Egin Dupe that is my senior sister Dupe. Egin applies to both male and female senior siblings. This term can equally apply to senior cousins or other unrelated senior males and females. Very often the words anti and buoda coined from the English words “aunt” and “brother” are used to designate a senior sister or brother. It is not uncommon to find that Ondo people in places beyond Ondo town, e.g. Ibadan, Lagos, Kano, Jos are often referred to and even nick-named Egin to distinguish them from other Yoruba.
Perhaps the aspect of social organization of the Ondo people that has received considerable attention and study among researchers is the kinship system. The works of Lloyd (1962, 1968 and 1970) and those of Bender (1970, 1972) as well as Eades (1980) on this subject are quite revealing having substantially added to our knowledge on this subject. However, the positions held by these scholars on the subject are divergent.
Lloyd contends that the Yoruba culture is quite heterogeneous as evidenced by the significant differences between the various ethnic groups. This anthropologist further opined that differences exist between the descent systems of the southern and northern Yoruba kingdoms. While the descent system of the northern kingdoms is agnatic, that is patrilineal, the southern Yoruba kingdoms of Ondo and Ijebu operate the cognatic descent system, in which the descent of an individual can be traced through his ancestor in “both male and female lines” . This means that while an individual in the northern kingdom can identify with only one descent group, the
cognatic system of the south to which Ondo belongs allows one to identify with more than one descent group.
On the other hand, Bender is of the view that the Ondo people have not only very distinct patrilineal descent groups but are also characterised by Patrilineal convictions, beliefs and philosophy.10 This is because a typical Ondo individual “claims membership in his/her father’s descent group”11. For example, an individual who for whatever reason brings disgrace, dishonour or disrepute on his people or family is often lampooned, criticized and rebuked with the proverb: O m’owo osi juwe ’li ba e, which means the individual has described the direction to his father’s house with the left hand. This is a very disgraceful and disrespectful act in Ondo culture.
Having evaluated the theoretical and methodological basis of Lloyd’s and Bender’s positions, Eades proposes that the kinship system found among the different Yoruba ethnic groups is a bilateral arrangement. But, the emphasis is on the patrilineal pattern. This researcher associates with the view that the Ondo kinship system is bilateral for four reasons, two of which are enshrined in the words of wisdom of the people. First, the Ondo value, respect and appreciate both their Omiye and Omiba and indeed, their lineage. Hence they put in place arrangements such as annual or biannual
meetings (upade ebi) to ensure cooperation and unity on matters of mutual interest. Such meetings are of two categories namely upade ebi otun which means a meeting of the relations on the right side, that is, one’s father’s relations; and the upade ebi osi, which means a meeting of the relations on the left side, that is, one’s mother’s relations. In addition, the recognition of this bilateral arrangement is reflected in the roles and responsibilities, which one’s ebi plays during important
celebrations such as marriages and funeral ceremonies. The cooperation and assistance which these meetings render their members often evoke the wise saying: "Ebi ma yon, which means, “one’s relations are sweet”, (that is associating with one’s ebi is a sweet, joyous and pleasant experience). This is because one’s burden becomes lighter when one’s relations shoulder it collectively. This saying is corroborated by yet another proverb: Onen i yeye yon, sugbon u jeun nwon ke? Which means a large number of people is helpful but how about their feeding?
Secondly, there is a proverb that warns or cautions against the neglect of either one’s maternal or paternal lineage: E e n’aka’ba da ma nen t’iye. This means, “one cannot have his father’s hand (lineage) without having his mother’s hand”(lineage) in other words, one does not have a paternal kin without a maternal kin. Thirdly, Ebi Mode in Ondo, the origin of the Awosika lineage is traceable to a woman. Hence as Bender rightly pointed out, the occurrence of a female progenitor of Ondo lineages is not a rare event.
Fourthly, the emphasis on patrilineal in Ondo kinship ideology, may be connected with the palace coup d’etat in which the first woman Oba of Ondo land, Oba Pupupu, was replaced with king Airo, the first male Oba of Ondo. Airo means a substitute or a replacement. Although this shift in the Ondo kingship pattern took place several centuries ago, the Lobun stool, a very powerful, highly respected and enviable ruling house, still exists vibrating in the Ondo culture today in spite of the
vicissitudes of the long, distant past.
Lobun is still referred to as the “Oba Obirin” (the woman king) in Ondo. The Lobun stool exercises such an enormous ritual power in Ondo culture that the Lobun is seen as a “king” in her own right and that without Lobun, no king of Ondo land can be installed. In addition, “it is a daughter of the Lobun or a woman within the lineage that succeeds her”. Her power and significance in Ondo culture is often reflected in a rhetorical question often asked to caution pride or rebuke arrogance in a girl/woman: We de se Lobun i? Are you Lobun, the woman king? Or how come, you are arrogating to yourself the importance of king Lobun?
The above kinship-related proverbs, the significance of upade ebi in Ondo culture, the Ebi Mode example coupled with the power, honour and ritual significance attached to the Lobun institution, collectively recognize, authenticate and support the bilateral nature of Ondo kinship system.
The Lineage and Family Pattern
A very important social unit in Ondo is the lineage group or edili. Edili is a descent group which is made up of family members who can trace their origin to the founder of the lineage called Baba nla, “through a line of male descendants.” The family lineage occupies a very important position in Ondo culture. It is considered an important basis for the naming of children e.g. Edileola, which means “a wealthy lineage” and for identification purposes e.g. Edili Awosika, Edili Jilo to name just a few.
The lineage consists of family units called uli. And uli is a family compound unit that is made up of a father, his wife (ves), children and immediate relations. To qualify for the membership, rights and privileges of an uli, a child must be born there. Being born in one of the Ulis that make up the edili qualifies the child to all the rights and privileges of the edili.
The oldest member of the edili is the Bab ’agba, who is the Chief Administrator of the lineage who holds intact and maintains the tie of kinship called “Okun Ebi” or the kinship bond. The genealogical bond between one member of the lineage and another is called ajobi. This bond is regarded as a most important link of trust. It is not uncommon for the Ondo people to pray or swear in the name of their ajobi either to give validity to a statement, pledge or promise or to assure their audience that there will be no breach of trust. Today, however, this lineage bond appears to be weakening because of the formation of new social ties outside the
lineage. This decline of ajobi is vividly captured in the following Ondo proverb:
E i s’alajobi mo, alajogbe o ku i i. (There is no longer a kinship bond, what is left is
co- residence bond.)
The Marriage Practices/Ceremonies.
Marriage is a very important turning point in the life of a young man or woman. At marriage, the bride and the groom take independence from their parents to establish a home of their own. It is an opportunity for the bride and the groom to show their neighbours how good ambassadors they are of their respective homes. Though marriage confers independence on the newly married, the cultural norms require that the man and the woman consider themselves as members of their respective families.
Marriage is seen as an important bond of friendship and cooperation between the family of the bride and that of the groom. Ondo people practice an exogamous pattern of marriage. A man or a woman cannot marry within his/her lineage. Inbreeding is frowned at. To avoid this and other
problems, the parents of the two parties usually carry out intensive investigations to determine:
(i) if the bride and groom to be are related;
(ii) if there is any history of barrenness in either the husband’s or wife’s lineage;
(iii) if there is any history of insanity in any of the two lineages;
(iv) if there is any known hereditary diseases in any of the two lineages, such as
Consent to proceed with the marriage may not be given by either of the two parents unless they are sufficiently satisfied with the outcome of their investigations.
The preparation of the maid for marriage starts wit h the “Obitun” festival. Obitun is an initiation ceremony for girls who had attained the age of puberty. The purposes are to purge the maid of any evil influences or curse with which she might have been afflicted and to announce to the community that she is now ready for marriage.
The Obitun festival lasts for nine days and it is usually scheduled to coincide with the installation of a chief. During the first day, the maid is confined to the house. But in the evening of each subsequent day, she dances and s ings at her home in the company of her friends and co-obituns. But on the ninth day, the Obitun dresses in a three-piece aso oke and beads worn round her neck and waist, dances round the town in the company of her friends. At puberty, the boys perform the less elaborate Aapon rites. The Aapon wears beads and cowry around his neck for seven days.
In addition to the above standard type of marriage, the other type of marriage, which is common among the traditional Ondo people, is the levirate. Two kinds of levirate practices exist. These are the anticipatory levirate and the post humus levirate. The anticipatory levirate involves the act of secretly inheriting the wife of an old man when he is still alive by either one of his mature sons or his brother. Whenever the old man dies, the relationship is regularized.
In the post-humous levirate, the son or brother of a deceased man, based on agreement and choice pairs with the wife or one of the wives of the deceased to live a matrimonial life along with his own legitimate wife (wives). The primary purpose of the levirate institution is to provide support and fellowship for the family of the deceased.
The demise of a family member, young or old, is usually greeted with sorrow. Even though Ondo people believe that death is a necessary end and that it will come when it will come, they do not like losing any member of their family. This goes a long way to show the kinship affinity. It is believed that no matter how old a relation is; he or she has an important role to play in one’s life. Hence death, though a natural phenomenon, Ondo people find it difficult to accept its reality.
The Funeral Service for the late mother of Ondo First Lady, Chief (Mrs) Modupe Adeniyi, at St Stephen's Cathedral, Ondo,
When a person dies in Ondo, particularly a young person, such death is received with suspicion. The first reaction would be a suspicious cry of A an ma po o o o! i.e. they have killed him or her. The relatives would like to find out if in fact, the deceased did indeed die a natural death. They would go to Ifa diviner to find out the cause of the death.
It is pertinent to note here that when a young person dies, he or she is buried without any delay. Moreover, when an elderly person dies, the death is announced to all and sundry by dancing round the town. This is called iyaghayogho in Ondo language. The eldest son of the deceased brings a goat, which is slaughtered at the place where the corpse is given the last bath. This is called ibugwe. The corpse is thereafter dressed and laid- in-state. Later the corpse is put in an expensive coffin and
taken to the final resting-place, usually in a room in the house.
Burial ceremony is an expensive event in Ondo culture. The expenses become more outrageous particularly when the deceased is a Chief. The news will have to be broken to the Oba with some gifts after which there would be dancing round the town for nine days, performing rituals.
The maternal relations of the deceased are responsible for the provision of the coffin. The husbands of the daughters of the deceased take charge of the digging of the grave while the eldest daughter brings a goat and thirty wraps of pounded yam, N20.00 and a keg of palm wine usually undiluted with water. Each of the husbands of all the married daughters of the deceased bring twenty wraps of pounded yam and a keg of undiluted palm wine each. The male members of the deceased’s family group themselves and each group buys a goat and sanyan (a type of woven material) or about ten yards of cloth for dressing the deceased.
On the third and seventh day after burial, the family members make supplications for the deceased. There is usually eating and merry making. Traditionally, bean cakes (akara) are served around the neighbourhood. On the last day of celebration, that is the eighth day, the family members dance round the town and subsequently converge at home to continue with the feasting. On the morning of the ninth day, there is a family meeting during which the inventory of all the deceased’s property is taken. This is shared at a convenient date among all members of the family.
The widow(s) of the deceased usually keep vigil throughout the night of the seventh day amidst singing and drumming. In the middle of the night, the widows go through a series of rituals, an important one of which includes bathing. It is believed that these rituals will protect them from the spirit of their husband who hovers around them. The widows dress in white and will remain indoors for three months or nine months in the case of high Chief.
Idowu observed that:
"Religion is very much and always with us. It is with us at every moment of life
– in our innermost beings and with regard to the great or minor events of life;
it is discussed daily in the newspapers, through the radio and television, it is
with all of us inevitably whatever may be our individual avowed attitude to
The above observation is very true of the Ondo people. Religion has been a part of the people from time immemorial. Religion is the heart of life of the people and forms the basis as well as all-guiding principles of the life of the people. As rightly pointed out by Odumuyiwa “with the Yoruba (Ondo), morality is certainly the fruit of religion”. Among the Ondo as among other Yoruba communities, man’s character is of supreme value. Hence the saying Iwa l’ewa omo enia – character is the beauty of the human being. Ondo people place great emphasis on character. For them, character
means honesty, truthfulness, and chastity before marriage, responsibility, generosity, hospitality and the other virtues. Ondo people embrace these virtues whereas they severely condemn stealing, falsehood, hypocrisy and all the other vices. This is because:
"The sense of obligation to do, that which is believed to be right, is in fact, the
pressure of God upon every human life. God is made known to all men, even
though they may not have learned to call Him God, (or may refuse to) and
obedience to the behest of their conscience is the essential condition of growth
in the knowledge of God."
There are three major religious groups in Ondo today: the traditionalists, the Christians and the Muslims.
The Ondo people, like other Yoruba ethnic groups, believe in the Supreme Being from whom all creation originates. He is recognized as “Olorun”. He is seen as the Lord of the heavens and as the presiding deity of the Ondo people. He is the author of heaven and earth, the source of all lives and the fountain from which men receive their spirit. But this Supreme Being is a distant deity of vague personality in one sense. But in another sense, he is omnipresent. Sacrifices are seldom offered to him directly. Yet, he is the receiver of all sacrifices.
Ondo people emphasized the unique status of “Olorun”. He is recognized as the head to whom all power and authority belong and all honour is due to him. Olorun or Olodunmare is unique. He is not one among many but His supremacy is total. His ultimate pre-eminence is confirmed because things happen only when he approves and if he does not approve, nothing comes to pass. Hence the Ondo/Yoruba saying: A dun un se bi ohun t’ Olorun fe, a so ro o se bi ohun ti Olorun o fe – As easy to carry out as what God desires, and as difficult to carry out as what God does not approve of. Ondo people, like other Yoruba ethnic groups, have many deities that they regard as messengers of “Olorun”. They believe that since it is not possible to see God owing to the distance between Him and humans, sacrifices could be made through the smaller deities to Him. Among the deities worshipped in Ondo are Ifa, Sango and Ogun, to mention just a few. But the most popular is Ogun. We shall focus attention on Ogun worship as a popular religion in Yorubaland in general and in Ondo, in particular. Nevertheless, it will be necessary to highlight the origin of Ogun in order to
enrich our knowledge of this deity.
Origin of Ogun
Many myths and legends exist as to the origin of Ogun. Much of the knowledge of the deity is based on the fact that he was one of the earliest divinities. He loved hunting and was referred to as “Osin-Imole”, that is, the Chief among the divinities. He cleared the thick impenetrable way with his iron implements for other the divinities when he was coming from heaven to possess the earth. Being a ruthless deity, he lived in seclusion at the top of the hill where he went about hunting. Tired of secluded life, he decided to go for a settled life, which he had rejected earlier on. He came down from the hilltop in a garment of fire and blood but could not find an abode in any community. So he borrowed fronds from the palm-tree and headed for Ire where he was made king. Hence, the name Ogun Onire (Ogun, the Lord of Ire) was given to him.
The Christian Religion
The history of Ondo witnessed a significant turn during the second half of the 19th century because the events that took place had a far- fetching effect on the conversion process. The prolonged Yoruba civil war of the 19th century had serious impact on Ondo and her people. There was an internal crisis in Ondo, which led to a total breakdown of law and order. This crisis gave Ile-Ife warlords the opportunity to join hands with the town’s dissenting forces to bring an end to O ndo’s autonomy. The people fled to different places until 1872 when the British government sent captain
Goldsworth to put an end to the civil strife, restored peace and also restored Oba Jimekun to the throne and encouraged the people to return home.
The British did all these with the intent of creating trade route by sea and by land through Ondo to the other Yoruba hinterlands, thereby avoiding the danger precipitated by the escalating Yoruba civil war. Ondo was, as far as the Christian religion was concerned, a terra incognita and hence Goldsworth conceived the idea of having a Christian mission in Ondo. So, on March 29, 1875, David Hinderer, Hunsi Wright and William Dada opened a Christian mission post. Rev. Phillip was the missionary in charge of Ondo, preaching in any available open space including the Oba’s palace and C hief’s compounds.
Nevertheless, this does not mean that conversion was sailing smoothly in Ondo. No, it did meet some resistance especially after the people realized that the Church was having a negative impact on their traditional beliefs and practices. They refused to give land for Church buildings. However, owing to Philip’s display of diplomacy, he was able to overcome the obstacle. The first Church was dedicated on 3rd May 1881. Thus Ondo became a relatively strong mission center with schools built to educate the children and converts. No wonder then, Ondo people are highly educated. Today, there is hardly any street in Ondo where one will not find a professor. Ondo people viewed the coming of Christianity as an important turning point in their lives. The forced exile for 30 years had a devastating effect on their morale. With the advent of Christianity, there was social restoration and lasting peace.
It is no wonder then that Ondo people have their own ethnical canticle that expresses the unique experiences, in Ondo history. While the tribal canticle of other Yoruba subgroups are grounded on folk beliefs and traditional experience, Ondo’s canticle is based on the conversion experience; an experience defined as a new life under the banners of Christianity:
Bi ola, bi ola oo Luxuriant, colourful and majestic
Adodo fusi s’eti omi Like the flower blooming by the river bank
Jesu ma fusi s’ Ondo So did Jesus (Christianity) flourish on Ondo soil.
Ola ma ti b’okan w’aiye oo ee Greatness is not the preserve of one source
Bi ola, bi ola oo Luxuriant, colourful and majestic
Adodo fusi s’eti omi As a flower blossoms by the river bank
Jesu ma fusi s’Ondo So Jesus has become a pride of Ondo town
Ola ma ti t’oke waiye o ee Our prosperity has come from above
Aiye wa sese wa gun oo ee Now our lives are organized.
Muslims constitute about 13% of the total population of the Ondo people whereas Christians constitute 73% as revealed by the population census of 1952. Gbadamosi notes that the first record of the presence of Islam in Ondo is contained in Phillips’ diary of 26th Nov. 1880.
In comparison with the rise of Christianity in Ondo, the conversion to the Muslim religion was less successful. Muslim traders were probably the most significant contributors to the growth of Islam in Ondo. The Mus lims gained easy access through the eastern route to Ondo and they were able to disseminate Islamic ideas and doctrines to the people. It is worthy of note that the Muslim traders’ main purpose was business but some of the traders considered themselves as instruments of
conversion and as Islamic missionaries in addition to their normal business vocation.
This phenomenon, as revealed in Mukti Ali’s observation is not peculiar to Ondo. Says Ali:
"Islam does not preach an exhaustive magical charisma-to borrow Max Weber’s
term –belonging to the priest alone, as Christianity teaches, but it is by its
nature a missionary community. Because of the expansive missionary nature
of Islam, every Muslim is a propagandist of the faith."
The Ondo high Chiefs played important roles in the spread of Islam. It is interesting to note that despite the small numerical strength of the Muslim community in Ondo, Christians and Muslims are equally represented in the Chieftain class because they embraced both religions.
According to Olupona, unlike the Christian religion, the Islamic religion did not clash with the already existing socio-cultural ethics and norms of the traditional religion in Ondo. They were allocated a piece of land where small pox victims were ritually buried. The place was however purified by Alfa Alimi. The year 1888 marked the official beginning of Islam in Ondo. Because this religion did not clash with the traditional religion, it enjoyed the support of the nobles and chiefs of Ondo. This gesture enhanced and encouraged the general tolerance of the people. Olupona pointed out that Chiefs Sasere Ayotilerewa Awosika and Lisa Anjanu Fawehinmi, though not Muslims directed the course of Islam right from its very beginning. These chiefs prepared the basis for the cordial relationship between Islam and the traditional structure in Ondo community.
The Ogun Festival in Ondo
The Ogun festival is celebrated in Ondo between the months of August and September every year. According to Olupona the preparation for the festival commences seventeen days before the actual Ogun day at the appearance of the new moon. At an early morning ceremony in the house of Ayadi, the ritual specialist of Ogun public worship, the upe (a traditional trumpet made from a long gourd) is sounded to notify the people of the on-coming festival. The sound of upe then becomes a common feature throughout the period of the festival, which lasts seven days. The sound of the upe is very significant because it carries messages which are sometimes complimentary and at other times abusive from one youth to the other.
During the seventeen-day interval, the worshippers of Ogun assemble in groups to praise the divinity and other past cultural heroes associated with him, such as Jomun Ila.
On a major market day, which is nine days before the festival, the king’s emissary makes the official announcement of the ceremony. Many activities are usually carried out in preparation for the festival, among which is the communal clearing of paths and the repairing of bridges and other footpaths. Five days to the festival, a few households perform a ceremony called aleho.
There are usually three parts to the ceremony – aisun ogun (night vigil), ogun ale (night ogun) and ogun owuo (morning ogun celebration). The procession involves all traditional and modern day professionals and guilds. Every possible professional group in Ondo – such as blacksmiths, medicine men and women, drivers, hunters, tailors, barbers, to mention just a few, participate in this celebration. The only exceptions are probably civil servants and white-collar workers. Most of them are usually dressed in rags, palm- fronds with their faces and bodies smeared with blue dye, white powder and or charcoal. Some, however, use that period to show affluence and nobility by wearing unusually beautiful multicoloured outfits.
The Osemawe is not left out of this festivity. He usually leads the early morning procession. He wears a beaded crown that covers his whole face with white sheet tied on his left shoulder over his agbada (flowing gown). Others such the high chiefs, medicine men and other trades men follow the king’s procession. Every professional demonstrates his trade. The most esteemed group is the traditional medicine men referred to as oloogun (medicine people). They are attired in medicine
garments laced with all kinds of frightening herbal substances. This group usually engages young school children to write signposts, which display the name of their pedigree and praise names, some with warnings written in proverbs and the metaphorical magico-medical expertise of the oloogun. This serves as a warning to the general public. The following are examples of such signposts:
i). Eni ti o ba fi oju ana wo oku
He who looks upon today’s dead with the same eyes that saw the living.
ii). Ebora a bo l’aso.
Will have his clothe removed by the spirit.
iii). Ati pe eni ti oju eni ti ju eni lo.
He who is above one is above one.
iv). Bi uya lila ba a gbonen sanle.
If one is brought down by big trouble.
v). Kekee a ka gun oiho onen
Smaller problems come up too.
vi). Opekete ndagba
As the palm-tree grows up,
vii). Inu Adama nbaje
The palm wine tapper becomes sad
viii). Ase i s’amodoun
Many happy returns of this festival
ix). Ogun ye mo ye
Ogun lives and I live too.
When Ayadi ushers Ogun in, he must sacrifice dogs (aja) and tortoise (aghon) and pour libations at the shrine of Ogun. It is the general belief in Ondo that a dog is Ogun’s favourite meat. Thus during Ogun festival, dogs are usually mercilessly immolated. The Ondo people do not in any way regard a dog as a pet as the western people do. Ondo people seldom eat dog meat but they frequently sacrifice dogs to appease Ogun. Hence, their neighbours nicknamed them Ondo aj’aja that is, Ondo the dog eater. The sacrifice of dogs is the climax of the ritual and by this, the blood flows
into the shrine.
Ogun is the kernel of Ondo’s popular religion for many reasons. During O gun festival, every section of the society is represented. It is only during this festival that children, domestic servants, foreigners, artisans, traditional circumcision doctors, religious and political authorities perform as devotees of Ogun. As the divinity is tied to professionalism, everybody participates. For example, warriors, blacksmiths, traders and even women who hardly participate in other Ondo festivals play very significant roles in these festivities. Certainly, it is a time when women-dominated professions such as traditional medical paediatrics (alagbo omode or olomitutu) and women’s market associations display their wares and advertise their profession.
Furthermore, during this festival, people show their indebtedness to Ogun as the founder of iron and metals, which are essential ingredients for technological development. It should be noted that sacrifices are made to ogun from time to time, particularly whenever a journey is going to be undertaken. It is not surprising then that the importance and fierceness of ogun is captured in this proverb:
“Onen yo ri ibi ogun ti gbe’je de sa eyin jija e fa i”. (Whoever sees ogun where it is taking blood and does not run, certainly has problem with his heels).
It should also be emphasized that Ogun festival serves as an occasion whereby the memory of deceased ancestors and cultural heroes are commemorated. The worshippers of Ogun proclaim O gun’s praise-names as follows:
Ogun lakaiye, osin imole
Ogun, the strong one of the earth, Chief among the deities
Ogun alada meji, ofi okan san’ko, o fi Okan ye’na
Ogun, the possessor of two matchets; with one he prepares the farm, and with
the other he clears the road.
Ojo Ogun nti ori oke bo
The day Ogun was coming down from the hilltop
Aso ina l’o mu bora, ewu eje l’o wo
He was clothed in fire and bloodstained garment
Ogun onile owo, olona ola
Ogun, the owner of the house of money, the owner of the house of riches
Ogun onile kangunkangun orun
The owner of the innumerable houses of heaven
O pon omi s’ile f’eje we
He has water in the house but takes his bath with blood
Ogun awon l’eyin ju, egbe lehin omo orukan
Ogun whose eyeballs are rare (to behold), protector of orphans
Ogun m’eje l’ogun mi
There are seven ogun who belong to me
Ogun Alara ni igba’ja
Ogun of Alara takes dogs,
Ogun Onire a gba’ gbo
Ogun of Onire habitually takes rams
Ogun ikola a gba’ gbin
Ogun of surgery habitually takes snails
Ogun Elemona nii gba esun ’su
Ogun Elemona takes roasted yam
Ogun a ki’run ni iwo agbo
Ogun a ki’run habitually takes ram’s horn
Ogun gbena gbena eran awun nii je
Ogun of the artisans eats the flesh of tortoise
Ogun Makinde ti d’ogun l’ehin odi,
Ogun Makinde has become the ogun after the city wall
Nje nibo l’ati pade Ogun?
By the way, where did we meet Ogun?
A pade ogun nibi ija.
We met ogun in the battlefield
A Pade Ogun nibi ita
We met Ogun at the junction
A pade re nibi agbara eje naa
We also met him at the pool of blood
A gbara eje ti i de ni l’orun bi omi ago
The pool of blood that reaches the neck like a cup of water
Orisa t’o ni t’ogun ko to nkan,
Whichever divinity regards ogun as of no consequence
A f’owo je’su re nigba aimoye
Will eat his yams with his hands (without a knife) times without number.
E ma b’ogun fi ija sere
Do not joke about war with ogun
Ara ogu kan go-go-go-
Ogun is anxiously waiting to strike.
Traditional Games In Ondo Ekimogun Kingdom
There are many ways of passing time in Ondo Ekimogun Kingdom. Males, Females, Adults, Children and the Aged have their different pastimes. The games adults play are different from those children. While adults usually play Ayo-Lopon game, the children have as one of their favorites, the game Lako.
LAKO: Generally, Lako is both an indoor and outdoor game. It is mostly a game played by young girls and boys between the ages of nine and seventeen. Lako can be played by people of the same age group as well as mixed. That is a male and a female can engage one another in playing the game. It is a game that requires high level of concentration. An individual can also play it. What is required is a set of either six pieces of ISE, PALM KERNEL NUTS or PEBBLES each about the size of a cube of sugar.
The game balls, six in number, must be one that a player’s palm can obtain and hold. In playing Lako, the rounds are determined. Five rounds make one set. The rounds begin with the holding all the six items of game in the palm and splash-throw them on the play board. The play board is usually on the floor or on a mat. One of the game’s play items is proven by the turn players. In the beginning round, the player will throw the game item on hand up and must successfully pick one of the five game balls as well as catch the one thrown up. This, the player must repeat five times in the first round. If in the course of the round or any round at all, the player failed to catch or pick without touching another ball, the player is dead set according to the rules of the game. Picking a thrown up game ball without touching another game ball is a little bit difficult. Sometimes when the game is played on a mat, player’s hands must not touch the mat. If the player does, he or she will be accused of having touched the ball. Often, the game may come to some abrupt end as a result of the accusation and denials.
The ever vigilant eyes of the player next in line when the play is dead by one player is always eager to call a play dead with the most little error on the part of a player. In many cases, it is only a third eye witness that calls the game dead when the contesting players are at logger head. But once a player successfully picks the game balls in the first set round, he or she automatically continues to the stage of picking two balls at a time and must be able to catch the ball that has been thrown up. The process then goes to catching the up ball and picking three balls, and also getting to four, and five balls to end the first round set. At this point, the successful player is regarded as having bought a house. The house bought is depicted by a material item. The material item is what signifies to a spectator mate who is leading the player. Some parents do not allow their children to play Lako with those they consider troublesome or whose parents are troublesome. However, many children do not listen to their parent’s warnings when they are interested in playing Lako. Entrepreneur mothers especially do not want their children to be engage in Lako because, their children, rather than go about their businesses of selling will either be watching the game or playing it. As a result, they would not have made the expected sale. Usually, they would be admonished and punished.
AYO-LOPON: Ayo-lopon is an old age game that is generally played by males or females adults. Only two people can play the game at once. The Ayo-lopon which is SEEDING BALLS used for the game is made from special seeds of the rope tree called by the name given to the game (Ayo). Opon is the name given to the playing board of the game. No less than forty-eight pieces of the Ayo Seeds are required for the games play board. The board is usually about one foot in length and three inches in breadth. The games board is carved into it a set of six two equal size depth holes facing one another. The Ayo Seeds are placed into each of the six two equal size set of holes in groups of four pieces each. This adult game demands as much concentration as the chess or draught games. The attention required in this game is quite enormous and takes a lot of time before a round game is concluded by many who are experienced and are considered to be masters of the game. In playing the game, the two players are always seated comfortably with the Opon Ayo placed between them with the players sitting in a face-face formation.
The Opon Ayo between the players makes a formation of the plus sign of the arithmetic’s table while the rules of the game are that players begin playing clockwise. The player makes the beginning moves in the play by taking any of the four pieces of the Ayo in one of the six holes on his or her side of the game board and putting each of the Ayo in simply another game board hole in attempts to establish what is called ODU. Sometime, the move will backfire on the player setting up the strategy because it is a very big gamble. A lot of strategy moves are planned to be executed in the course of playing a round of the game. For the purpose of understanding, there is a PLAYER “A” and there is PLAYER “B”. As a PLAYER “A” makes his or her moves, the moves are pure calculation of what will be the exact moves of PLAYER “B”. Should PLAYER “B” move toward directions different from the expectations of the thoughts of PLAYER “A”, then PLAYER “A” must go back to the drawing board of his or her summation of the knowledge and experience of PLAYER “B”.
At every step of the way in the playing of the game of Ayo-Lopon, the idea is to be able to win or capture the most numbers of the Ayo Seeds on the home side of your opponent. Your opponent is also trying to win more of the Seeds on your side each of the Players can only win either two or three Seeds at one play turn and move. For example, if PLAYER “A” has three Seeds on his or her home side, for that Player to be able to have a successful play turn, PLAYER “B” must have at least, one Ayo Seed in a hole on his or her home side. If this is the case, PLAYER “A” will end up with at least two Seeds to take home from that play turn. Also, if there were two Seeds there, he or she will end up winning three Seeds. But if there were already three Seeds in the hole, the play turn is an unsuccessful play turn. No one can win four Seeds or one Seed. The better the PLAYERS are not difficult to identify by spectators of the homely game. The winner at the end of each round of play depicts the looser with an identifying object. Better still, the spectators can simply adopt the greeting statement that apply to most adult game play settings MOH KUN TA O means I greet the play master. It is the master mind that usually responds with OTA E JE, OPE LE FOHUN means the master is responding the fools mind cannot respond.