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Kurunmi of Ijaye: Where was he buried?

Kurunmi of Ijaye: Where was he buried?

………Three slaves were killed and used as pillow and bed to bury Kurunmi

……The Osse river was parted into two and Kurunmi was buried inside the river

……..Where Ijaye war was fought did not grow grass till today

…….Those who stole Kurunmi’s Masquerade regalia became blind and confused

Kunrunmi was a Generalissimo in Ijaye , who waged war and fought Bashorun Ogunmola of Ibadan. Controversy trails over the nature of his death and burial. And up till the moment of writing this story , there is no evidence of his tomb anywhere.

KURUNMI BURIED IN OSSE RIVER?

Pa Adio who is a native of Ijaye and cannot be less than 100 years of age heaved a sigh as he narrated the story his grandfather told him. He said ”Aare  Kurunmi died in his house after the war between Ijaye and Ibadan, and was buried in the  Osse river”. This reporter asked how could a man be buried inside a river or water , and he started the story “As the custom was in those days while burying a king, slaves who would run errands for him and who will accompany him in his journey would be killed and buried along with him , so three slaves were buried along with the Aare Kurunmi. The people, his soldiers used their spiritual power to stop the flowing of the river and buried the Generalissimo alongside with the three slaves  and after the burial the water was commanded and joined  together again!.”

Another version narrated by another man in the town said.” When the Aare was about to be buried,  three slaves were selected , while two were beheaded and used as a bed in the grave but  the third slave who could have been  used as his pillow ran for his dear life and was not  caught .The escaped slave went to inform the Ibadan people that he knew where Aare  Kurunmi was buried and  Basorun  Ogunmola sent for the head to be cut and be brought to him to serve as a cup for drinking water   but when they got there, they discovered  that the body of Kurunmi had been removed !”

While another version said Kurunmi  out  of shame and frustration  committed suicide by plunging into river Osse  .Another said  he was killed  by enemies and buried by the Osse River  while another said  he was killed in the war  and was brought home for burial, but there is no burial ground where he was buried  up to date, according  to Adio.

But Alhaji  Shehu Tijani disagreed with Adio and said Kurunmi’s body was removed  from  the river bank  to  another  place in the town and it was only one  female daughter  he had called Iyagbogbo who knew  where he was buried till date!” Tijani said with confidence and total conviction.

Mystery of the River Osse and Onponrin.

When this reporter got to the Osse river , it flowed heavily , and according to  Arawunmi Fatai; a security officer at Ijaye High School ,who  is also a native and a  masquerader ”  The river is mysterious  till date for  many  strange things happening on the  river,  at times smoke comes up from the river, and a rainbow sign comes up while everywhere would be shaking, one’s head would get swollen thus informing us that the powerful Aare Kurunmi  is still in the river”, the security officer  told this reporter.

Tijani said.” At Onponrin there are some areas where grass failed to grow this was because it was part of the spots of war. The war raged on for years and it consumed lives! Till date, grass does not grow there again.”

Tombs of Kurunmi and Bowen

To many students, the name Kurunmi is synonymous to Ijaiye. About eight students interviewed by this Reporter claimed to know the history of Kurunmi. Adams Owolabi who is an ex student of the school said the school has the tombs of the two titans, the Kurunmi monument and Bowen’s tomb.”We were taught in School that these two people fought war, one used the Bible while the other, Kurunmi used gun.This school, Ijaye High School was formerly named after Kurunmi until some years later when it was changed to Ijaye High school.I think the school should be called Kurunmi High School.”

At the gate of the school one could see the two monuments ,but sadly enough the two are unkempt as the wordings inscribed on them   have faded ,and hardly  can one read the letters on them .

On Bowen’s monument are the following words engraved on it “TO THE GLORY OF GOD AND IN AFFECTIONATE REMEMBRANCE REVEREND AND MRS THOMAS J. BOWEN WHO BEGAN BAPTIST SUNDAY SCHOOL WORK IN IJAYE ORILE, NIGERIA ON JANUARY 22, 1854. SUNDAY SCHOOL DEPARTMENT, NIGERIAN BAPTIST CONVENTION APRIL 21, 1979

While  Kurunmi’s own reads

TO THE GLORY OF GOD AND THE MEMORY OF THOSE HEROIC DEAD WHO HERE ON LAND GRANTED BY KING KURUNMI IN 1852 CREATED THE FIRST MISSION HOUSE, ESTABLISHED THE FIRST CHURCH AND LAID THE FOUNDATION OF BAPTIST WORK IN NIGERIA BAPTIST CENTENARIAN,  1850-1950.

According to Fatai, “the two monuments  show how these two powerful men came to unite in death for their monuments  were placed side by side  yet the two believed in different religions. Bowen brought Christianity and built a church which is the First Baptist Church in Nigeria in Ijaye while Kurunmi was a warrior who believed in Ogun, the Yoruba god of Iron. It is great to come here and preserve this place as a tourist centre.”

Mysterious Kurunmi’s masquerade!

The room where the Kurunmi’s masquerade regalia was kept was dark. In fact, about four people brought out the basket where the regalia was kept. Pa Tijani Salami who is the custodian of Kurunmi’s masquerade spent over 50 minutes to unwrap the regalia as pieces  of clothes attached to it are up to 3,000 shreds made from local fabrics to foreign ones.

Also attached with the clothes are uncommon carved wooden mask, monkey and baboon’s skulls. Fear gripped this reporter as the material was unwrapped when he requested to have a glance!

In fact, the man in charge of the masquerade, Salami said the masquerade was inherited by him for he is from Kurunmi’s lineage. His words: “This is Kurunmi’s masquerade’s regalia and sword he used during his conquests, and I am the custodian of it. If you look at my cheeks you will see my facial marks and that is how Kurunmi had it .One becomes its custodian by inheritance. This material is well over 120 years old, in fact it was there before I was born. After the death of Kurunmi, it was inherited by one Odeyemi, then to Biobaku who was in charge.  After his exit, it was handed over to Gbileomo  and again when he died I took over from there. One of my children will also inherit it when I am gone. It does not go to anybody anyhow, never! The regalia is very heavy and we offer sacrifices like goat, chicken and other things and sacrifice to it all the time. We must not forget to offer sacrifice at all. If we don’t do it then calamity might befall this town,” he swore.

He went further, ” Nobody can steal it, in fact  it is on record that it  was once stolen some years ago and I believe they wanted to sell it to those who needed artifacts but when the robbers got to the Osse River they could not  go further again as they  were hearing sound  and voices  of human beings  coming out from the regalia and they had to drop it”.

Another man who is also a masquerader, Gafari Ege corroborated the story and said” those who stole the regalia became blind , when they faced Ibadan, they  would again faced Ijaye, again when they faced Ijaiye they would again faced  Ibadan! They became blind and confused. They said strange human cries was coming out from the regalia. No one steals the material and go scot free. No one steals it and live! It is not meant to be stolen. Those who stole it were later caught and they died afterwards. Other masquerades run away from it, for it is powerful!”

Undeveloped town

The natives are not happy that the town, Ijaye is not developed .According to Pa Tijani, “we are being used, many of these theatre artistes would come here and use these places to shoot films and would later go away smiling  to the bank but will not come here to assist in its development .Not only that ,some government officials came here few years ago and promised to come  back and assist in putting Kurunmi’s statue here  but they came here  and erected  only two poles and left. We heard nothing from them again. Many people come from overseas to see all these monuments like the River Osse, the spots of war, the mysterious palm tree that sound like the booming of gun during the war to ward off enemies, Onponrin-the spot where they waged war and where grass does not grow again, the Ogun Shrines of Kurunmi and many others but nobody speaks about the development of this place .Where we have the monuments of Kurunmi and Bowen’s are not properly kept . We are being forgotten and our heroes too are forgotten. If it is in overseas, they will appreciate what we have here but here nobody recognizes us. We have been constructing this palace for a long time, nobody comes here to look at our effort and assist”.

However, he said” we appreciate people like Senator …….Lanlehin, Yemi Aderibigbe who are really trying for us. We need more assistance, we don’t want our history to die. They should cooperate and build a monument in remembrance of our hero, Kurunmi.”

Meaning of Ijaiye

Ijaiye spread all over Yorubaland, but this is Ijaye Orile, the hometown of Kurunmi the warrior, said Tijani. According to Tijani, Ijaye means we fought and survived the war (A ja ajaye). Tijani said since the Ijaiye people were warriors and always conquered wherever they fought and on their return would give a public cry that they had survived the war!  This is the original source where all other Ijayes spring from. All the places known as Ijaye today left from here to Abeokuta, Lagos, Egba among others, Tijani boasted.

When this reporter demanded for Kurunmi’s photograph, another controversy started while some said they would look for it others laughed hysterically saying there is no picture of Kurunmi but a caricature of the late Ijaye Generalissimo can be carved to represent him. What a man of controversy!

Ijaye Town

The town is small yet it has produced many great leaders, Yoruba Warriors and great politicians.  Ijaiye town is about 20 kilometers to Ibadan.  The town is quiet, the people are mostly agrarian.  There is no signpost to welcome visitors to the town. Most of the buildings are dilapidated. Painfully, they all agreed that they have notable people but contributed with little to develop the town.”  There is no signpost here to welcome you to our town. This is Ijaiye town, the historical town of the Yoruba legendary warrior, Are Kurunmi, of which the late Professor Ola Rotimi wrote his story from. ” Alhaji Shehu Tijani lamented as he welcomed this reporter to the ancient town.

To many, the story of Kurunmi and his exploits is fiction while others believe it is true with the facts available and of course the monuments and relics of war!

Kurunmi’s house

At the frontage of  Kurunmi’s house are Ogun  and Sango shrines  while a big baobab tree is standing ‘majestically’ there like the ones in Yoruba Palaces, showing  the symbol  and authority of  a King  and  also that a Generalissimo  once  lived here.  Today we can only meet few of the grandchildren of the late Warrior who died in 1861.  He did not have surviving direct children again. In  Kurunmi’s house is a small bungalow where Pa Layiwola  Adio who is over 100 years old lives .The centenarian is  one of the grandchildren of Kurunmi  and who is among  the few old men in  the town. The old man still have scanty story of Kurunmi.  Adio referred the late warrior as Aare throughout the interview to describe Kurunmi, He said “they Are was surrounded by many myths. My father told me how powerful Are was, that he was feared and respected because he was powerful with his juju!.”

Another historian in the town lamented over the disappearance of what could have been monuments and antiques, he said” There were houses without windows and these were where those who have served their punishment in Kurunmi’s palace. There was one that served as the house of Ogun, a Yoruba god of iron. Another too served as spiritual incubation where the great warrior stayed for days communicating with his ancestors!. In some of the rooms no man born of a woman dare venture to ente, some of the rooms too are forbidden to enter by any woman  while only a lion – hearted man who was sure of himself could go in there. In some of the rooms too one needed  to bend down  before entering! Today, these are no more!”

But Aare’s house where his family now live is a structure of a building that is as old as the creation. There are mud brick buildings that have fallen and some of the walls have caved-in. The wooden frames have weakened while some of the windows are no more, these are some of the houses in the vicinity of Kurunmi’s house today!

His  exploits

The late warrior was said to have invaded many towns and  conquered .He was said to have  had harem of wives and  hundred of slaves and warriors  for  a Generalissimo with powerful juju and was powerful. He was invading towns , and annexing them all until he tried the Ibadan town which eventually failed him.

According to Pa Adio “We heard that Aare Kurunmi refused to pay homage and give royal gifts to the then Alafin of Oyo,  Adele who succeeded his father, Atiba. When  Adele discovered that Aare did not support him,  he then sent  a message to him to chose  whichever one that suited him: either peace or war but Kurunmi chose war. While all  the neighboring towns like Ede, Ibadan, Egba pleaded with him to chose peace but  he refused  until he was defeated”, he said.

Another version said the Generallisimo  waged war with the Ibadan who were led by Basorun Ogunmola , and  he fell  in  the war.” My great father  said  when the Ibadan met the Ijaiye , the war became bloody. Then it was recorded that a  Christian Missioner  Bowen  who was the founder of  Baptist Church pleaded with Kurunmi not to wage war but to embrace peace but Kurunmi came with annoyance and brought out gunpowder and Bible  and told Bowen he would pick gunpowder since his generation was noted to be warriors while Bowen picked Holy Bible and said he was there to establish a church and preach the gospel. Bowen then left Ijaye  for Abeokuta to settle”, he added.

Kurunmi was very powerful and so much  believed  in the efficacy of Ogun, the Yoruba  god of Iron, no wonder at the frontage of the house  under  a big tree are Ogun shrines where he used to worship the  god of Iron, the shrines are there till this day.

Pa Adio continued: ”The war between Ijaye and Ibadan was heavy with casualties, and according to what we were told here as thousands of Ijaye  died in this war! If you walk eight miles from this town towards East, West, North  and South you will discover a lot of clay pots, mud houses and shrines buried there thus evidencing that some people had lived here over two hundred years ago ! .They were probably buried here. We have excavated a lot .”

Asked of the five children of Aare who died in the war, the old ma said “a lot was told about the war. The Ibadan war was the heaviest where casualties were much. I remember that over 141 towns defended Ibadan when she waged war against  Ijaye. We were betrayed while Alafin was against us. And you know if one town faces over 141 towns it is a big problem and that was how Ibadan won the war against us!. They feared and respected Aare  Kurunmi. His five children later died in the war while the skull of one of them was brought to him, thus he was shocked beyond doubt .He became devastated and dispirited”.

How Basorun Ogunmola was forced to eat ashes

Another version ,according to Tijani  said “Kurunmi captured Basorun Ogunmola alive and  he was brought  to Ijaiye where he was chained and was fed with  ashes  in the palace. That is where  the Ibadan natives  got their panegyrics ‘Ogunmola, son of Ibadan  who  survived death  in spite of  eating the ashes!( Ogunmola omo  a la eeru ma ku). The story continued that in the night one of Aare Kurunmi’s wives betrayed him as she secretly went to unfetter Basorun Ogunmola and  assisted him to escape back home(Ibadan) .When Basorun Ogunmola got to Ibadan he   went to re strategize and later invaded  with over 141 neighbouring towns who supported him to win  Ijaye  in the war! .Not only this  it was also revealed that the River Osse, a mysterious river  which must not be passed through by non  indigenes  was demystified  and the taboo was broken. The secret of its taboo  was leaked  to the  warring enemies (Ibadan) who passed through and demystified the spiritual aspect of the river  and since then it began to dry and made Ibadan to conquer them(Ijaye),” Tijani added.

Owena Press Limited (Publisher of The Hope Newspaper), Akure

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