Tuesday, 17 May 2016

KURUNMI : VALIANT WARRIOR (PART 1) By Taiwo Abiodun

Kurunmi, a Yoruba Generalissimo and a native of Ijaiye, Oyo State, died in 1861 after the famous Ijaiye war with Ibadan. The truth about his death and burial are still shrouded in controversy. Taiwo Abiodun, who visited the town recently, reports.

I jaiye town is about 20 kilometres to Ibadan; it is a small town that has produced many great leaders and leading Yoruba warriors of the 19th century. It is quiet, and mostly agrarian. There is no signpost to welcome visitors or announce the town. Most of the buildings are old and dilapidated. Painfully, most residents all agreed that they have notable people who have contributed 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 play about," 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 as in many Yoruba palaces, showing the symbol and authority of a king and also that a Generalissimo once lived there. Today there are only few of the grandchildren of the late warrior who died in 1861. In the house is a small bungalow where Pa Layiwola Adio, who is estimated to be over 100 years old lives .The centenarian is one of the grandchildren of the great warrior Kurunmi. He is one of the few surviving old men in the town. He still has scanty story of Kurunmi. Talking about Are Kurunmi, Adio said "The Aare was surrounded by many myths. My father told me how powerful Aare was; that he was feared and respected because he was powerful with his juju!"

Another historian in the town lamented the loss or disappearance of what could have been monuments and antiques to signpost the story of Kurunmi. He said, "There were houses without windows and these were where those who erred 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 enter, some of the rooms too are forbidden for 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 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.

Aare Kurunmi's exploits

The late warrior who had a harem full of wives was said to have invaded many towns from where he captured hundreds of slaves and warriors. He invaded towns, and annexed many until he tried Ibadan. According to Pa Adio "We heard that Aare Kurunmi refused to pay homage and give royal gifts to the then Alafin of Oyo, Adelu who succeeded his father, Atiba. When Adele discovered that Aare did not support him he then sent a message to him to choose whichever one that suited him: either peace or war; but Kurunmi chose war. While all the neighbouring towns like Ede, Ibadan, Egba pleaded with him to choose peace but he refused until he was defeated."

Another version said the Generalissimo 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 Missioners Bowen who was the founder of Baptist Church in Nigeria pleaded with Kurunmi not to wage war but to embrace peace. However, 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 the Holy Bible and said he was there to establish a church and preach the gospel. Bowen then left Ijaiye 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.

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