Deji’s Palace, a monument of great importance
Deji’s Palace, a monument of great importance
By Shola Makanjuola
In Nigeria, many traditional buildings and monuments of historical importance built during pre-colonial and early colonial era have virtually disappeared, deteriorated or modified through deliberate human activities or ignorance of their socio-cultural and economic importance to the present and future generations, particularly, the people of their immediate environments. In their place, we now have to contend with modern architecture of contemporary styles and descriptions.
Nigeria is endowed with both cultural and natural resources which are cherished for their social, cultural, educational and economic importance. Cultural heritage buildings are testimonies of our fore-fathers ingenuity, which are sources of national pride. One of such buildings which has since become a national monument is the “Deji’s Palace” Akure in Ondo State.
The Deji of Akure Palace was built about 1150 AD by the first Oba of Akure land named Asodeboyede, the grand child of Oduduwa, progenitor of the Yoruba race.
It is located in Akure-South Local Government Area of Ondo State. The Palace was built through communal effort as was the custom of the people at that time. Since then the palace has inhabited about forty-nine kings, out of which three were females. Oba Afunbiowo Adesida I, replaced the palace’s original thatched roof with corrugated iron sheets between 1897 and 1957 (Eludini, 2005).
The palace occupies a land mass of about 229.666ft by 278.868ft. The entire palace is made up of twenty-two courtyards of different sizes with different partitions. The largest of the courtyard is about 145.145ft by 88.65ft. Built in a beautifully situated rising ground; the architects took full advantage of special possibilities changing levels of terrain.
There are four main entrances to the courtyard, one for the male folk, one for their female counterpart, while the central one is for the royalty and the fourth is to the Afunbiowo hall at the upstair.
The entire construction was done with matched creamy coloured clay, molded into shapes. The doors are held to the walls with a locally made wooden hinges. The walls are 1.5ft thick with several pillars of various sizes.
Acting as supports to the roof in the courtyards. The pillars are incised with geometrical patterns. Some parts of the walls have circular openings of about 0.35 in diameter to facilitate viewing. The only storey building here, houses the main entrance which leads to the largest courtyard, from where the other structures can be accessed. Most of the courtyards have various altars for different shrines. Examples of such are Ua-Lila, Ua-Ogago, Ua-Ulbura, Ua-Oriole, LTa-Ikomo, Ua- Ameshe, Ua-Odoaya, Ua-Odoile, Ua- Oduowa, Ua-Ojukota and the rest.
The cultural significance of Deji’s Palace, cannot be over emphasized. The Deji’s Palace in Akure, like some other palaces in Nigeria is very important to the people of Akure land and to Nigeria as a whole, no wonder it has since been declared a national monument. The indigenes of Akureland still make use of their palace for many reasons despite the erosive influence of Western civilization on royalty generally. The palace is the seat of the reigning monarch of Akureland, where issues concerning the general well-being of the town and its people are handled. For example, when there is dispute or disagreement between two individuals or, group of persons, such matters are brought to the palace for settlement and whatever judgement that is handed down is upheld by the people. In many other ways, the palace maintains peace and harmony among the people. Up till toaday the monumental palace is still the meeting point for cultural and socio-religious activities of the people of Akureland. That is why it is correctly referred to as a “Living Monument”.
One of the traditional laws guiding the palace is that restricting the female to some areas within the palace. Women are forbidding entering the palace through the male entrance at the left hand side of the palace. The other entrances by the other side of the building have no restrictions placed on them. They may be used by both senders. In some of the courtyards like: Ua-Odule, the residential place of the Oba, only his servants and virgins are permitted to enter there.
Okite Omo Lore: This is the platform in front of the palace in an open place. It is only the Oba and the first daughter that are permitted to stand on the platform of about two feet high. This is only during his installation as the Oba. Another is Oke-Ogunina: This is a small room where a chair is kept on which a dead Oba is seated as part of the burial rites before his final interment. A living or ruling Oba is not expected to see the chair in his life time.
There are two wells in the palace. One at the Olori’s quarter (Ua-Oduowa) and the other in Ua-Odoile (The Deji’s Private Yard). The second well is strictly for the preparation of his meals. It is a taboo for any other person to fetch water from it apart from the King’s special servants.
The oath taking at the palace among other taboos has served as. protection to this monument. Ua-Lila: Which is the largest of the courtyards hosts large number of people who offer sacrifices and prayers to their ancestors. Both the adherents of Christian his servants and virgins are permitted to and Muslim faiths also use it to offer supplications to God on behalf of their people. It is used also during festivals in Akure land. All other courtyards, too numerous to mention here, serve various purposes in the life of the palace and the people of Akure land.
Like some other national monuments, the Deji of Akure palace is a national monument of great importance in architectural works and sculptures which are of outstanding universal values from the point of view of history and science. The architectural designs were based on local needs, availability of construction materials and reflecting local traditions of the people of Akure land. The Monument is one of the national monuments under the National Commission for Museum and Monuments.