OSOSA ILU OSHIN MEJE (the town of seven gods)

An IWA team recently visited Ososa, the ancient town in the Western part of Nigeria, bordered on the West by Odogbolu, East by Ijebu-Ode and South by Idowa Egbe. The town is also almost synonymous with one of Nigeria’s greatest theatre practitioner, Pa. Hubert Ogunde. He was so good at plying his trade that he brought great fame to his home town, Ososa, and I guess that is why his statue is conspicuously positioned at the two entrances of the town on Sagamu-Ore-Benin road.
When we got to the town, we headed straight to the palace of the Gbegande of Ososa, Alaiyeluwa Oba (Dr) Adetoye Alatishe MD, FAGP “Ilufemiloye –Orunroye VI, the royal father who owns and runs a hospital in Ijebu Ode, and who was once the chairman of Ijebu Ode Local Government, was extremely hospitable to us.
He started by saying that the town was a conglomerate of units, which was why is usually referred to as “Ilu Oshin Meje” meaning the town of seven gods. Basically, the people were in different locations before they decided to come together for security reasons because of the rampant cases of invasions by other clans. At that time, there were inter-tribal wars and the only way to fight the enemies was for them to come together with a king to provide leadership. This was before 1500, but by 1529 or thereabouts, the Awujale dynasty had been established and Ijebu was existing and had other smaller villages around it. His imperial majesty, the Awujale of Ijebuland will often say “when Obata came, he did not meet a barren land.
Speaking about the origin of Ososa, the Gbegande of Ososa, Oba Alayeluwa Adetoye Mojeed Alatishe, said “Ososa was founded by Esigbu, son of the 9th Awujale. According to oral history, the prince decided to go and establish an independent area, and while leaving he went into the archive and took the tallest crown which was the genesis of title “Gbegande”, describing the prince as the prince that carried the tallest crown. Expected of the prince, he left with many loyalists who acknowledged him as their leader (Oba). The prince and his entourage like most people would, trekked from Ijebu Ode to Ososa, “that is why up till today, when a new Oba is to be crowned in Ososa, he must go back to Ijebu Ode, through a stipulated route and do the compulsory 24 hours trek through the rocky bush paths’’.

The special coronation routine in Ososa unearthed the filial relationship which existed between Ososa and Awujale since the first Oba reigned. Consequently, whenever an Oba was to be selected in Ososa, the choice must be approved by the Awujale after which some rituals including the “Isako le”, which is a compulsory gift and the 24 hours trek lasting from evening to evening will begin.

Ososa has four ruling houses all of which are from Ijokun quarter, one of the seven quarters in Ososa. Ijokun which is now headed by High Chief Adebowale Adesomiji enjoys this rare privilege because it was the place where Esigbu settled when he came from Ijebu Ode. Apart from Ijokun, there is Oke Ala quarter headed by High Chief Owolabi Dairo, Oke Esin headed by High Chief Moruf Adefila, Osa Lakoye by High Chief Oresanya, Odo Owa by High Chief J. Adesanya Onasanya, Odo Alere headed by High Chief Adeniji Olujagun and Idomowo, headed High Chief Lawrence Adenuga. Apart from the quarter heads, there is also High Chief Ifaniyi Odupitan the Olootu Apena of Ososa and High Chief Ganiu Oluwo the Olowu of Ososa.

To talk about the Ososa people is not a simple task as acknowledged by Oba Adetoye Mojeed Alatishe.
As the custodian of the people’s tradition, he said the older generations, who were hard working people had their ancestors as hunters and warriors. “Like in our own family, our great grand-father who answered the name Alatishe was a warrior”.
Oba Alatishe further narrates that “even at the advent of civilization and with the influence of the Ijebus, my people were in love with education as some people were given scholarships, of which I was a beneficiary with the assistance of the Late Chief Olabisi Onabanjo, the first Civilian Governor of Ogun State, I got a Federal Government Scholarship to Moscow Medical Institute Moscow USSR where I studied medicine to qualified as a medical doctor. It was common at that time for people to help one another to acquire education.
It’s rather unfortunate that this generation who whether educated or not have now drifted. “an average Ijebu man now loves comfort, luxury and wants to make money sometimes by hook or crook.
Away from this, the monarch says there is something that is peculiar to the community: “ there is hardly any Ososa son or daughter that cannot dance! I do not know whether it is genetic, but I know I have never seen any Omo Ososa that cannot dance – any form of dance.
Once you pull out the equngun (the masquerade), everyone will hit the dance floor including children and this explains why Awujale will always insist on Egungun from Ososa each time he had an occasion. All over the state, we are the best!”
The Oba, also described his people as rustic, saying it takes a town crier to effectively pass information to them. If such information is passed to them through others means or channel, they will not attach much importance or credibility to it. The monarch was full of praises for his people for being proud sons and daughters of Ososa. “What thrills me most is that each time I run into any Ososa son or daughter outside the town or in other places, they are proud to be called Omo Ososa whether he or she is from a royal family or not especially if he or she can say our “Oriki’’ (cognomen). I feel great when my people recite the Oriki of Ososa, it is our anthem and we are so proud of it because it is shows that we cherish our tradition and unity.

Oba (Dr) Adetoye Alatishe, the Gbegande of Ososa, also spoke about marriage in Ososa with IWA. He explained, “I am almost sure that the fundamental requirements and rites of marriage, is same in all Yoruba land particularly in Ijebu land. The role of the “alarena’’, that is the go-between or the negotiator, was very important. We are a close knit people almost everyone knows one another because you are likely to either belong to the same age group “egbe” or trade group or some other social relationship will bind you together. Whenever a family desires to marry a certain maiden for their son, they will traditionally go in search of an “alarena”, who usually is a man of good repute and a close friend to the maiden’s father. It is the “alarena who goes, usually very early in the morning before his friend goes to farm to announce the intention of the family of the groom-to-be. Most often the dialogue is conducted cordially and the “alarena” is told to come back for answer on a later date. The maiden’s family takes that time to, if they don’t already know the family of the groom-to-be very well, find out about the family. All things being equal the “alarena”, is then given a date to invite the family of the groom-to-be for a first meeting “mo mi nmo e”, after which another day is set for the marriage rite, “idana”. The “idana” was sort of the biggest stage in the consummation of marriage then, involving both the bride’s families and the groom’s families because after the successful completion of the ceremony the groom’s family can then come and take their bride on a day convenient and agreeable to both families. In conclusion, the Gbegande said: “did you notice that I have repeatedly mentioned the family, it is intentional because the practice of being betrothed may not be very fashionable again, but then my people were usually betrothed to the families and not individuals. This method made the couple to be indebted to both families, who played major roles in connecting or match-making them. By implication, such marriages hardly crash because of the elders they can fall back on for counseling when and if necessary.

Ososa is blessed with land, water and of course, the people. The monarch says he has been making the best use of these. The people were encouraged by their king to venture into fish farming and to cultivate cassava. Presently, youths, unemployed graduates and retired workers are now gainfully employed in Ososa. The Thai Cassava Processing Industry located in Ososa has been a blessing as local farmers are sure of ready market irrespective of the volume of garri or starch or other cassava-related foods they produce. The cassava industry has gone ahead to encourage farmers with sundry incentives making the business very lucrative. Very importantly, the fish farming industry now attracts fish farmers from outside Ososa because of the good organization and efficient security network in the area mapped out for fish farming.

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