Who Owns ILORIN: Ifá’s Documentation On A Yoruba Town


Who owns ILORIN: Ifá’s documentation on a Yoruba town

By Oloye Fakunle Oyesanya

A couple of days ago, it was surprising to hear of an Islamic Cleric in Ilorin town stating that Ìlọ́rin is not part of Yorùbá land. Unfortunately, some Yorùbá people have allowed themselves to be wallowing in ignorance and stupidity due to their religious indoctrination. The indoctrination has caused their narrow-mindedness, ignorance, and refusal to learn from other’s standpoint and thus created a forum in their minds for madness and disaster.

Consequently, the man’s utterance and action can be likened to a Chinese proverb thus: “he who knows not, and does not know that he knows not is a fool, so shun him.” To worsen the situation, some people rely mostly on fabricated stories about our history written by foreigners or foreign-sponsored Yoruba scholars who did not consider the recorded history in our oral traition and intangible heritage of Ifa. Ifa is the Olódùmarè sacred word of the beginning; it also became a body of knowledge and databank into which all the knowledge of life is encoded for humans to use.

This coded body of knowledge is found in all the 256 chapters of Odù-Ifá, starting from Èjì-Ogbè to Òfún -Ọ̀ṣẹ́. Each Odù represents an esoteric pigeon-hole, itself divisible into another 1,680 sub-holes. There is no gainsaying that Ifa divination system of the Yorubas is recognized and endorsed as a “Masterpiece of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity” by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO, 2005). For several millennia, Ifá as a sacred scripture has been regarded by the Yorubas as the potent source of their inspiration, a crucial part in the formation of human perception of reality.

It hitherto remains sacred and treated as possessing authority that could always be referred to and relied upon under any circumstance.

According to Dr. Ade Ekundayo in an article entitled “Spirituality and Mental Health – An Ifá Overview” Published in Orunmila Magazine, issue No. 7 defines Ifá as follows:

“Ifá is an ancient monument where the culture of the people is encapsulated, enthroned, and entombed. It is much more than Geomancy in that it is not only divinatory. It also embodies the Beliefs, Religion, History, Sociology, and Ecology of the people. Therefore, it diagnoses, treats, adjudicates, arbitrates, guides, advises, instructs, teaches, explains, and attempts to unravel the mystery of Existence in this world. Generally, it covers the physical and biological systems. Ifá also skims the chemical then moves on quickly into the psychological, religious and spiritual.”

Furthermore, in one of the lectures delivered by Prof. Idowu Odeyemi, “What is Ifá?” He highlighted eight basic essences of Ifa as follows:

1. The Spiritual Essence, which relates to the place of man (as a spirit) in the cosmos, the powers of matter, and all aspects of ontological evolution and development.

2. The Religious Essence relates to faith, catechism, and Ifagelism (Preaching)
3. The Divine Essence is related to the methods of Divination and accessing of esoteric information, the mechanics of Divination, and the systematics of Divine Message collection, processing, and interpretation.

4. The Worship and Sacrificial Essence relates to the basis and meaning of worship and sacrifice.

5. The Medicinal Essence is related to both magical and materialist medicine

6. The Historical Essence deals with all creation history, including the creation of materialist, non-materialist, and spirit worlds.

7. The Scientific Essence deals with the power of observation, axiomatic, astronomy, cosmology, cognitive and pre-cognitive experience, astral science, physical and biological sciences, logic, philosophy, mathematics, statistics, and computer science.
8. The Cultural Essence is related to rites, rituals, politics, socioeconomics, language dress, and normative value systems.

The focus here in regard to the topic is to extrapolate and understand the historical essence of Ifa, as highlighted by Prof. Idowu Odeyemi. Ifá reveals the history of humankind, nature, and existences on earth including the emergence of the Irunmole on the earth’s surface. Also, the Yoruba history from the beginning of time till about four or five centuries ago can still be found in nearly all the stanzas of Odù Ifá. The Yoruba (a recent terminology) describes the ethnic group of about 45 million people Africawide that inhabits Western Africa, mainly the countries of Nigeria, Benin, Ghana, and Togo. There is hardly any ancient town in Yorubaland that is not mentioned in Ifá Scriptures, including Ìlọ́rin. Historically, ” Ìlọ́rin was founded by the Yoruba, one of the three largest ethnic groups in Nigeria, in 1450 (15th Century). Ìlọ́rin is a city situated in Kwara State, west-central Nigeria. It is bounded by Benin to the west and by the Nigerian states of Niger to the north, Kogi to the east, and Ekiti, Osun, and Oyo to the south. Almost all of its savanna area was conquered by the Fulani in the early 19th Century (about 400 years after the town was founded by the Yorùbá), and the region remained part of the greater Fulani empire until the forces of Sir George Goldie’s Royal Niger Company defeated the emirs of Nupe and Ìlọ́rin in 1897.” (Brittanica, 2009).

Aside from the fact that Ìlọ́rin town is mentioned in Ifá, the people of Ìlọ́rin ‘s sociocultural identities were described. These can be found in some stanzas of Odù Ifá such as Ọ̀ṣẹ́ Òtúrá, Ọ̀wọ́nrín Ọ̀sá, etc. For instance, Ifá describes the ancient people of Ìlọ́rin as one of the most skilled in blacksmithing and iron smelting/metallurgy. This description by Ifá gives credence to the etymology of the word “Ìlọ́rin” (a Yorùbá language), which was actually called “Òkúta ìlọ́ irin” (meaning stone for sharpening metals). It is from this tool that the town Ìlọ́rin derived its name. Ifá also describes the people of Ìlọ́rin in terms of their recalcitrant attitude towards offering of ẹbọ and traditional rituals. Their refusal to heed advice, according to Ifá, led to the negative outcome and their downfall. A stanza of Ọ̀ṣẹ́ Òtúrá reads in part thus:
…Àgbẹ̀dẹ wọn ò mẹ̀’rọ́ ìlẹ̀kẹ̀
Dífá fún wọn ní Ìlọ́rin Ọ̀pá
Níbi tí wọn ò mọ rírú ẹbọ
Wọn ò mọ èrù àtètè tù
Wọ́n wá ń kú ikú agọ́ sílẹ̀ bẹẹrẹbẹ ………

…A blacksmith does not know how to manufacture beads (Alias of Babalawo)
He was the Awo who cast Ifá for them in Ilorin town
Where they did not recognize the value of offering ẹbọ
They did not believe in offering ètùtù
Consequently, they were dying foolish deaths in droves

In Ọ̀wọ́nrín Ọ̀sá, Ifá says:
… Àwọn ká sọ̀rọ̀ fún ni ká má gbà
Adífá fún wọn ní Ìlọ́rin Ọ̀pá
Nílé Mọ́mọ́, ọkọ Moróhun
Àmọ̀rí adùn níí gbẹ̀yìn ọ̀rọ̀
Ìlú tó yìí wọn ò leégún
Ẹṣin l’eégún wọn, ọ̀kọ̀ lorò ibẹ̀
Gàárì ni pààká, Agádánṣi ni t’Alábala
Ọmọ ab’ọ̀kọ́ dún hún-ùn orò lójú pópó
Ọmọ ab’ẹṣin sín eégún jẹ lójúde Ọba
Wọ́n ní kó rúbọ kó leè b’Ọọ̀ni ọmọ
Ẹbọ kó má leè bi lórú …

Those that were advised but refused to heed the advice
Were described during Ifá divination for the inhabitant of Ìlọ́rin Opa
In the home of Momo, the husband of Morohun
Where happiness was the consequence of their plight
A big town without ancestral deity (Egungun)
Rather horses were used to represent their Egungun
The javelin became their traditional sporting rituals
Gaari was used to represent their masquerade
They are the offspring of those who used javelin on the street to make sound similar to Oro sound
The ones who used horses to mimic Egungun masquerade in front of the palace
He was advised to offer ebo to beget a stubborn and strong-willed child
But he offered the ebo not to have such a child…

Some other nearby Yoruba settlements in Kwara State, as mentioned in some Ifá stanzas, include Àjàṣẹ́ Ìpo, Ọ̀fà, Aṣà, Mọ̀rọ, Igbónnà, etc. Ipò and Ọ̀fà towns are always mentioned in the concluding part of most Ifá stanzas as follows:
“Èrò Ipò, èrò Ọ̀fà
Ẹ bá ni ní wọ̀wọ́ ire gbogbo”

“Travelers to Ipo and Ofa towns
Join us in the midst of abundant Ire.”

In Ogbè Atẹ́, there was a story of the king of Ipò town (close to Ìlọ́rin). He invited some Babaláwo to come and divine for him; the Babaláwo advised him to undergo Ifá initiation due to the hardship and adversity he was facing. On this, Ifá says:
A kìí jí ní kùtùkùtù
Ká má mọ Odù tó dá ni s’áyé
Dífá fún Olúpo Àláelú
Èyí tó f’ ẹ̀yìn tì
Tó ń f’ẹkún sùnrá hùn ire gbogbo
Èyí tí ilé ayé ni lára kokooko bi ọta
Wọ́n ní kó ṣáá kàalẹ̀, ẹbọ ni ṣíṣe
Kó sì lọ rèé tẹ Ifá
Ó gbẹ́’bọ, Ó rú’bọ
Kò pẹ́, kò jìnnà
Ire gbogbo wá ya dé tútùru
Ifá dé ò, Aláṣẹ
Ọ̀pẹ̀ abìṣẹ wàrà wàrà

It is not advisable for one to wake up in the dawn of one’s life
Without knowing one’s birth Odù
This was the declaration of Ifá to Olúpo Àláelú (King of Ajase Ipo town)
Who reclined and was weeping in lamentation of his inability to achieve all Ire in life
He whose life was as hard and tough as pebbles
He was advised to offer ẹbọ
And also told to undergo initiation
He complied
Before long, not too far

All Ire in life came to him in abundance
Here comes Ifa, the embodiment of Ase
The holy palm tree, which ensures that its predictions come to pass with rapidity

On Igbónnà (Ìgbómìnà), and Mọ̀rọ, Ifá says in Ọ̀yẹ̀kù Méjì:
Olókoṣẹ́ l’awo àf’ìkùn
Ó f’ìkùn títí
Ó lọ bí òde Igbónnà
Arẹ̀rẹ̀ l’awo am’ẹ̀mù
Ó m’ ẹ̀mù títí
Ó lọ bí òde Dàbàì
Tìnhín -tìnhín mèrùwà jìngín
Ó m’ẹ̀rọ́, ó m’ẹ̀pa
Títí lọ dé Ìgbòho-Mọ̀rọ…

Olokose, the sparrow, is a crooked-legged bird
With its crooked legs, it went as far as Igbonna town
Arere, is a diving bird
It dived and traveled as far as Dabai town
The small Tinhin-tinhin bird is not easily recognizable in the shrub
While flying inside the shrub
He went as far as Igboho-Moro…

It was not a mere coincidence that these towns were mentioned in Ifa without having to do with the people of Yoruba land. On Aṣà town, Ifá says in Ìrẹtẹ̀ Ìworì thus:
Eégún wọlé ó ní òun ò rì Gọ̀ntọ̀
Gọ̀ntọ̀ náà wọlé ó ní òun ò rí Eégún
Ẹni tó pé èèyàn kò sí
Olúwarẹ̀ ni kò sí
Dífá fún Ọ̀rúnmìlà
Baba ń sawo lọ sókè Aṣà
Ẹbọ ni wón ní kó ṣe
Ó gbẹ́’bọ, Ó rú’bọ …

Eegun, the masquerade, enters and pays no attention to Gonto
Gonto, too decides to show a lack of recognition to Eegun
Whoever disregards other people
Such a person deserves no recognition
These were Ifa’s messages for Ọ̀runmila
When going on a spiritual mission to the land of Asa mainland
He was advised to offer ebo
He complied …

In conclusion, for a Yorùbá person to say that Ìlọ́rin is not part of Yorùbá land is an attempt to twist and mangle the truth out of shape due to motives other than a proper representation of fact not far from greed, political ambition, and illicit financial gains. This act is foolhardy and tantamount to committing grand deceit capable of misleading not only this generation but several generations to come. Let those in the habit of falsehood and lies remember what Ifá says in a stanza of Ogbè Ọ̀sá:
Purọ́purọ́ kú
Ó kú sí gbó iná
Ṣìkàṣìkà kú
Ó kú sí ọ̀dàn oòrùn
Sòótọ́-sòótọ́ kú
Ó kú gbẹdẹ mukẹ
Ó f ẹ̀yìn ti àmù ìlẹ̀kẹ̀
Ara òpùrọ́ kìí balẹ̀
Mo sọtítọ, ara rọ̀ mí gbẹ̀dẹ̀ gbẹ̀dẹ̀
Dífá fún ọmọ ènìyàn
Wọ́n ń tọ ’rùn bọ̀ wáyé
Ẹbọ ni wón ní kí wọ́n wá ṣe
Ǹjẹ́ ṣòtítọ́ ṣòdodo
Eni tó ṣòtítọ́ ni ‘mọlẹ̀ ngbè

The liar died
And died in the forest of fire
The wicked died
And died in the savannah of the scorching sun
But the truthful died
And died peacefully
And reclined his back against the pot of beads
A liar has no rest of mind
I speak the truth, and I feel extremely comfortable
These were the declarations of Ifa to humankind
When coming from heaven to the world
They were advised to offer ẹbọ
Be truthful, be honest
Those who are honest the deities will support

Aboru aboye.

Akoda Awo of Ibese Kingdom.

Britannica, T. Editors of Encyclopaedia (2009, January 9). Kwara. Encyclopedia Britannica. https://www.britannica.com/place/Kwara
Ekundayo, A. (2007). Spirituality and Mental Health – An Ifa Overview. In Orunmila Magazine, issue No. 7.
Odeyemi, I. (n.d). What is Ifa? Elerii Ipin Magazine. International Council for Ifa Religion.
Popoola, S., Oyesanya, F. & Okemuyiwa, G. (2004). What is Ifa? The Diet: Ifa Lecture Monograph. Ifa International Training Institute.


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