top of page
< Back
4.2a(ii) Information from Emmanuel Alao, 1980-1981: Text

A detailed account of the history and culture of Oke-Oyi: information provided by Emmanuel Alao, November 1990 (Text transcribed from Emmanuel Alao’s handwritten accounts)


How it was founded

      Oke-oyi Oja was one of the prominent ancient Yoruba towns in the former Ilorin Division. Oke-oyi was firmly established before Ilorin was founded, precisely in the 17th century. The founder of Oke-oyi was one “OLUO” who was a reputed hunter from Old Oyo called Oyomesi. He was a son of Sango, one of the great Alafins of Oyomesi.

He was on a hunting expedition when he arrived at a spot near Oyi stream in the northern part of the then Oyo Empire. He found the place most conducive as a base and consequently settled there permanently. This place where he finally landed is called “Oke-oyi.”

      Because of his sterling qualities as a courageous hunter, an efficient herbalist, and a famous warrior in his life-time, people from various walks of life came from different parts of the Oyo Kingdom to settle with him and they joined hands with him in his struggle to establish a stable and strong Community.

      In many of the villages around Oke-oyi, kidnapping was very frequent. Villagers therefore came to Oluo [for help] against kidnappers. Oluo used to help them. He would fight the kidnappers until the wives and children were able to return to their people.

      All complaints from the surrounding villages were directed to the Oluo. Because of the nature of his job as a hunter, he had travelled far and wide. This same Oluo was the founder of Kulende near Ilorin. The present site of Ilorin was then a great forest. There was no settlement at Ilorin at this point in time. Because of the great forest, it was only brave and courageous hunters who could hunt in the forest at the time. Oluo and other great hunters hunted at the forest. There was a great stone where hunters used to sharpen their hunting tools. The term used in Yoruba to describe the grinding stone was “ILO-IRIN.” Years later, the grinding spot became so popular among the hunters to the extent that they used to inform [each other] about the great stone where they always sharpened their hunting tools. As a result of its popularity, the name Ilorin was coined for the spot which later became a Community some fifty years after Oke-oyi had been in existence. The stone that gave rise to the name Ilorin could be located at a place called “Idiape” in the present Ilorin town.

Also, during Oluo’s hunting expedition, he hunted towards the northern part of Oke-oyi and sited a landmark with a pile of stones at a place where Share is presently sited. The pile of stones is located at Odeagun in the town even to the present day, named after Oluo as “Okiti Baba Oke-oyi.”

At this very point of time at Oyomesi, Sango who was the then Alafin of Oyo was worried at home over his missing son, Oluo. As a result, a search party was organised. After days of intensive search towards the northern part of Oyomesi, Oluo was found where he had already become the founder and ruler of Oke-oyi. He later accepted to pay a visit to his father, which he did some few days after the search had left. Oluo was hospitably welcomed at Oyo as his arrival was accorded not only as that of a prince but also as a ruler in the new found land “Oke-oyi.”

      When Oluo was returning to Oke-oyi, he took his brother named Odebode along who also settled at Oluo’s Compound. A few years later when the population of the town increased, the elders of the town determined to establish “Koso” in accordance with the pattern in which Oyo was created. As a result “Koso” was established a few kilometres eastwards of Oluo’s Compound where Odebode finally settled. The creation of Koso was to represent a religious centre (Sango worship) while the Oluo’s Compound was to serve as administrative centre. This system was also practiced in Old Oyo/Koso and Ile-Ife/Modakeke.

Oke-oyi had been existing before Oyomesi was dismantled. Evidence to this was that when some immigrants from Oyomesi got to Oke-oyi, they branched to the Oluo who allocated some places to them to settle. Some of the places include present day Budo-Oyo, Budo Isale and Budo Oja known as Marafa.

     About the creation of the second Ruling House, history says that there was one successor of Oluo who did not have children. As a result, he was advised to take a girl as a wife, who should not be allowed to live in her matrimonial home for fear of being harmed by the elderly wives. Because of this, the ruler who took the title “Oluo” married a daughter of Olu-ode (the head of the hunters) and settled her in her father’s house as earlier advised. When she gave birth to a male baby, the prince was named Osin. At the death of his father, Osin was installed the Oluo and his mother’s house where he had been brought up was renamed Ile-Oluo Oke (formerly known as Ile-Oluode), because the name of Oluo overwhelmed Oluode’s Compound. The “oke” that is added to the renamed compound is owing to the fact that Oluode’s Compound was located at a relatively elevated area and with this, it could also be distinguished from the first Ruling House which was at this time called Ile-Oluo Isale since it was at the foot of where the new Ile-Oluo Oke was. Other compounds such as Ile Ogun, Ile Akogun, Ile Ajiponbe etc. were some of the compounds that sought refuge under Oluo, the most recent among them being Ile-titun who came from a village called Likeje [?]. This last group of people accepted to be serfs to Oluo if only he could give them land to live which they did by presenting half of their farm produce to Oluo every year.

From the inception of Oke-oyi, eleven “Oluos” or Bales have reigned and the present incumbent, Oba Joshua Alao, is the twelfth.

      By the history of Oke-oyi and in accordance with Oke-oyi native law and custom, all Oluos are chosen from the Oluo Oke and Oluo Isale Ruling Houses, and under no circumstances could an Oluo be chosen outside these two Ruling Houses. The person to be selected must have a blood relationship with one of the two Ruling Houses, but under the tradition no woman could be allowed to ascend the stool of the Oluo of Oke-oyi.

Relationship of Oke-oyi with surrounding towns & villages

      Oke-oyi like any other Yoruba town has other towns and villages as neighbours. These neighbourlines [?] was as a result of hunting expeditions of Oluo and [the?] boundary share accorded to him by other boundary sharers. Oke-oyi and Ilorin shared [a] boundary with a village near Ilorin called Kulende, that makes Oke-oyi the rightful owner of Kulende which is vivid from what has been mentioned about this village earlier on. Oke-oyi’s boundary with the Nupes is a town called Share (present headquarter of Ifelodun LGA). The boundary indication was marked by a stone at the present site of the Central Market of Share. It is as a result of this that we have two traditional rulers in Share up to date, one a Nupe, the other a Yoruba, with the title “Ndapoto” and “Olupako” respectively. Oke-oyi has its boundary with the people of Igbaja at Osi river. As a result of these classified boundaries, Oke-oyi neighbours accorded the Oluo [the] full honour of a ruler, while the same right was also accorded [to] other neighbours’ rulers by the Oluo. These totally ruled out domination of one ruler by the other. However, with the advent of the Europeans, attempts were made to make larger towns the administrative centres of an area. As a result many traditional towns and villages were merged with Ilorin for administrative convenience. It was as a result of these new developments that the rulers of the administrative town started to claim superiority over other rulers. However before Oluo left Oyomesi, he was given an emblem or symbol of authority by his father, Sango, the Alafin of Oyomesi, which made Oluo a legitimate and independent ruler. These symbols of authority included “Odu” and “Ogun” which identify Oluo as a prince in Oyomesi. The site of the Odu is at the frontage of the present Oluo’s palace while that of Ogun is with Odebode, the leader of the kingmakers.

Procedure and method of selecting the Oluo of Oke-oyi

      There are two Ruling Houses in Oke-oyi. These houses as earlier mentioned include Ile Oluo Oke and Ile Oluo Isale. Succession to the stool of Oluo between these two Houses is rotational. However, if the House whose turn it is to supply a candidate is unable to supply a suitable one then the other will be asked to supply a candidate(s) even though it is not its turn. In any case, the decision to nominate a candidate or candidates is made by the two Ruling Houses, and the decision of the Kingmakers as to the selection of an Oluo elect is final.

      Under the custom and tradition of the people of Oke-oyi, the Kingmakers consist of Chief Odebode (leader), Chief Bale ode, Chief Elemoso, Chief Jagun, Chief Akogun and Chief Iyalode. Under the custom, this body is accorded the power of electing an Oluo. And this is done in such a way that when an Oluo dies and the stool becomes vacant, the Kingmakers will invite nominations from the two Ruling Houses. The two Ruling Houses will meet and select a candidate or candidates who must be a member of [one] of the two Ruling Houses. The name or names selected by the Ruling Houses will be submitted to the Kingmakers. After the submission of the name or names of candidates to the Kingmakers, they (the Kingmakers) will invite the Ifa Priest to consult the Ifa oracle on the prospects of the candidates submitted. The Kingmakers will then deliberate on the results of the consultation with the Ifa oracle and finally select one of the names as the Oluo elect. Under the custom, the decision of the Kingmakers is final as earlier mentioned.

     After such election, the head of the Kingmakers will announce the result to the members of the Ruling Houses in particular and to the town’s people in general. After the announcement, the Ruling Houses and the Kingmakers will perform series of rituals for the Oluo elect for seven days, praying to the Gods that his reign may be prosperous for the town’s people as a whole. On completion of the rituals, the Oluo elect would be taken to the Alafin of Oyo for final installation. However, this custom and tradition of selecting the Oluo, especially going to the Alafin for installation, has been somehow disrupted with the coming of Islam but not completely anyway.

Traditional religions of Oke-oyi

     Oke-oyi, a notable Yoruba town, has many religious setups such as Egungun, Sango, Orisa-oke, Ọrọ, Ogun, Ifa and many others which originated in Oyomesi the Cradle of the Yorubas.

     Before the coming of Islam, these religion[s] as in other Yoruba towns were the most important religious setup in Oke-oyi, with each celebrated annually. The Egungun festival for instance is normally celebrated for seven days towards the end of every raining season with dances, exchange of gifts and contests among the Masquerades. As for the Sango (God of thunder), Ogun (God of iron), Ifa and others, these are normally celebrated during the beginning of the dry season with worship of the different gods, exchange of gifts and dances to show their gratitude to their gods for guiding them through the past y ears. This unlike the Egungun festival, normally lasts for nine days.

However, most of these religious organisations have been superseded by Islam and Christianity. But traces of these can still be seen today, e.g., the Egungun, Sango, Ogun and Ifa which are still celebrated every year.

Oke-oyi and the advent of Christian missionaries

      As to the activities of the missionaries in West Africa, Oke-oyi was also not left out. At one time, the only missionary society in the area was the Seventh Day Adventist (SDA) [mission] from America which was stationed at Shao, a small town near Ilorin under the leadership of Rev. Babcop [Babcock?].

      The coming of the missionaries to Oke-oyi happened [after] one Nuologun, a creditor from Oke-oyi, once went to Shao to claim his money from a debtor by name Aderonmu who had a son by name Adebiyi, an Evangelist under the
SDA mission. Nuologun was fascinated by the way the missionaries had developed Shao. And so he told Evangelist Adebiyi that he wanted Christianity to be extended to Oke-oyi as well. Following this, the SDA missionaries came to Oke-oyi in 1921. At that time, one Babajide was the Oluo. Due to his hospitality, the missionaries asked whether they should send an Evangelist teacher to Oke-oyi [to] which he agreed. And so an Evangelist teacher by name Thomson Atolagbe was sent as the first missionary teacher. On coming to Oke-oyi, he sojourned with the Oluo for about two years, and during this period, he gathered people both young and old whom he taught how to write and read the Bible. As his followers were multiplying every day, he was given a more spacious place outside the Oluo’s palace. When later the white missionaries came back and saw the progress made within the short period of Evangelist Thomson’s coming to Oke-oyi, they were very happy and they approached the Oluo for a piece of land which he gave them at the outskirts of the town (where the present church is built). There, they built a school and a church. Thomson Atolagbe was later transferred from Oke-oyi. But after him, many other missionaries were sent to Oke-oyi. Prominent among them was Evangelist Amos Alao who was the first headmaster of the school. In fact the school had reached Standard four (as it was called at that time) before he was sent by the SDA mission to the Nigeria Teachers Training College at Ohe (presently in Oyo State) for further studies. While he was away, new missionary teachers were sent to the school. However due to their lack of experience, the school started heading for a precipice. It was during this period that the Local Education Authority (LEA) also proposed to open a new school at Oke-oyi and by 1947 an LEA Primary School was opened at Oke-oyi. Meanwhile, Evangelist Alao returned to Oke-oyi after his course, but before his return, the school had fallen considerably [in] its standard. His staying at Oke-oyi did not last long when he was transferred. His departure however meant the final fall of the school. But the church lingered on for another ten years before it also fell completely.

The failure of the early missionaries (SDA) in Oke-oyi can be attributed to many reasons. First was the inexperience of the Evangelist teachers later sent (especially after Evangelist Alao) who could not rally [?] on converts as was done by their predecessors. Second was the pressure from the Moslem Jihadists who were forcefully converting people. So dreaded were they that even the Christian converts quickly changed into Moslem. Third was the competition with the LEA who also wanted to have a foothold at Oke-oyi as well as other missionary societies such as the African Church mission and the Cherubim and Seraphim Church [which] are also among the early missionary societies that came to Oke-oyi.

Questions for Emmanuel Alao, November 1980:

1 Who founded Ilorin?

2 Did the Ilorins settle their own people/serfs at Kulende?

3 Did the Oke-oyi people bring crafts from Old Oyo, e.g., pottery, beadmaking? What crafts are practiced in Oke-oyi today?

4 Who became district heads in the area including Oke-oyi? Any memories of them?

5 Often missionaries were prevented from settling in Muslim emirates. Did the Seventh Day Adventists have to get permission to settle in Shao and Oke-oyi? Did they find it difficult to get permission? Why do you think they were allowed to settle in Shao and Oke-oyi, and not in other parts of Asa, Moro, etc.?

6 In some areas, efforts at “development were made by the emirs after the Second World War, e.g., schools, maternities, earth dams, fishponds—was this done at Oke-oyi?

7 What kinds of pressure did the Muslims bring to bear on people to convert them?

8 The Ilorin Talaka Parapo or other political party—role in Oke-Oyi?

Answers to these questions, November 1980:

1 THE FOUNDER OF ILORIN. Long before the coming of the jihadists, Ilorin had been founded by one Laderin who migrated to the present site of Ilorin from Oyomesi.

2 HOW KULENDE CAME TO BE PART OF ILORIN. Ilorin did not actually settle her people at Kulende but the inclusion of Kulende or the control by Ilorin came as a result of the administrative boundary brought about by the Colonial masters so as to make the administration of the area easier.

3 CRAFTS OF OKE-OYI [THAT] PEOPLE BROUGHT FROM OLD OYO. With the foundation of Oke-oyi by Oluo, many people came from Oyomesi, among which was his brother Odebode, who came to help Oluo to build up his chiefdom. And while they were coming, they brought with them many crafts such as weaving, especially the weaving of a cloth known as “Ofi,” carving of mortar and pestle, dyeing of cloth, pottery such as moulding of pots, making of baskets, making of beads, making a crown with the use of beads etc. However with the increasing migration of young men and women to look for jobs in the urban centres, these crafts and artistic skill have been reduced to only dyeing, weaving (added note: both men and women) and in most cases, carving.

4 DISTRICT HEADS OR “SARIKI.”  Right from the coming of Islam to Ilorin and her surrounding towns and villages, it had been the attitude of the Jihadists to place a “Sariki” in any conquered territory or town especially in those areas which they had found difficult to conquer. Initially, these Sarikis were charged with the duty of teaching the converts the doctrines of Islam. But with the coming of Colonial rule, the British were forced to recognise these Sarikis as district heads instead of chiefs of the respective towns and villages where these Sarikis were. And from that time onward, the Sarikis had been charged with the duties of district heads instead of only as religious leaders. And in most cases, these Sarikis are friends, relatives or brothers of the Emir. The first Sariki that was sent to Oke-oyi was one Malam Gadanga, who was an Hausa Jihadist. And after him, many have been sent to Oke-oyi and incidentally the present Sariki is the grandson of the first Sariki who is by the name Yakubu Gadanga (added note: nowadays, just mainly to collect tax; he lives in Oke-oyi).

5 HOW THE MISSIONARIES CAME TO SHAO AND OKE-OYI. As the SDA mission was spreading its influence from Ibadan like other missionary societies, they came first to Ilorin and asked the Emir whether they could be given permission to establish at Ilorin, but the Emir refused to grant them permission, instead, he told them that they could go to other parts of the emirate like Shao at the southern tip of Ilorin where the number of Moslem converts was very small. Following this the SDA established a station at Shao and it was from here that Christianity was spread to other places like Oke-oyi as mentioned earlier on. Frankly speaking, the Emir was not against the emergence of other religious setups in other parts of the emirate especially where Islam had little influence, but he was particularly against the establishment of any form of religion other than Islam in Ilorin which was the religious and political capital for fear that such a new religious setup might overshadow “the true religion,” Islam.

6 DEVELOPMENT AFTER THE SECOND WORLD WAR IN OKE-OYI. Since the end of World War II, there have been many developments in Oke-oyi, e.g., the establishment of a primary school in 1947. However the very recent ones are the establishment of a poultry farm by the Kwara State Agricultural Development Corporation, the electrification of Oke-oyi, the establishment of a Cooperative Federation and the building of the Osin Area Council Secretariat at Oke-oyi. The Area Court there had been built before the Second World War.

7 HOW ISLAM WAS ABLE TO GAIN GROUND QUICKLY. In their conquest for more territories, one major weapon which the Jihadists used was raiding of towns and villages. It was the ruthlessness of this raid that was so dreaded that many people quickly surrendered to the Jihadists. And it was for this same reason that many converts feared to go back to their former religion.

8 [no answer provided]

Kinglist for Oke-oyi provided by Emmanuel Alao, 16 January 1981.

The following are the twelve Oluos that have reigned at Oke-oyi, according to their order of succession and the ruling house where each of the candidates came from:-

1 OLUO Oluo Isale Ruling House

2 Ajayi Oluo Isale Ruling House

3 Osin Oluo Oke Ruling House

4 Akinwumi Oluo Isale Ruling House

5 Oyediran Oluo Isale Ruling House

6 Banrole [Bankole?] Oluo Isale Ruling House

7 Akudo Oluo Oke Ruling House

8 Babajide Oluo Isale Ruling House

9 Oyetunde Oluo Oke Ruling House

10 Jimoh Odedeyi Oluo Isale Ruling House

11 Alhaji Yusuf Akanji Oluo Oke Ruling House

12 Joshua Alao (the present Oluo Isale Ruling House

Oluo of Oke-oyi)

bottom of page