ILU AWON AJẸ (TOWN OF WITCHES)
There is a small town on your way to Oyo, just behind Fiditi, it’s called Ilu Ajẹ. Literally, it translates to “Town of Witches”.
In the late 80s, there used to be a sign board in Fiditi that pointed to the path to the village, the signboard had the inscription :
“WAY TO ILU AJẸ, HOME OF SCIENCE!”.
Lots of people used to fear indigenes of Ilu Ajẹ because it was said that every man in Ilu Ajẹ is born of a witch, and every woman in ilu Ajẹ is a witch!
The Yorubyte crew visited Ilu Ajẹ to find out why a whole village would be populated by witches.
Because the Baale (village head) is dead and no replacement has been chosen yet, we met with the chiefs who told us the history of the town….
The father of the current Alaafin, i.e Alaafin Adeyemi II was said to have many siblings when he was young. One of his siblings got missing!
A king’s son got missing ke? Infact, scrap it, Alaafin of Oyo in those days was not a king, he was an Emperor! No, a deity!
Death the father, death the mother, second in command to the gods!
When the son of such an entity gets missing, of course it’s bedlam in the whole empire!
Hunters were commisioned to look for the son. Every nook and corner of Oyo town was searched. Every crevice was checked, all hilltops were visited, yet the Alaafin’s son couldn’t be found.
Like the shepherd who had 99 sheep but was despondent about the lone missing sheep, the father was heart broken about his missing son.
Herbalists were consulted, from Oyo to Ife. Sorcerers were recruited from Egbado to Ilaje, yet no one could help find the missing son. Kabiyesi was sad, Olori was pained, the whole empire was gloomy.
One evening, three months later, as the king and chiefs were in the open court deliberating on the issue, a Babalawo strolled into the palace court with his apo ifa (oracle bag), everyone looked at him in askance, “Baba, what do you want, why are you here, who do you want to see? Can’t you see we are in the middle of a serious issue?” the chiefs asked him.
“Kabiyesi o”, the herbalist greeted the king. “I am a babalawo from a remote and secluded part of the outskirts of town, i have come to help you with your missing son”.
“Kikikikikikikikikikikiki”, the chiefs laughed. “Babalawos from ‘saner climes’ have tried and failed, oniṣeguns with Harvard degrees have attempted and fumbled, who do you think you are? Please get out!”.
Kabiyesi was just looking at him in a non-interested way. Not to treat the baba in a rude manner, Kabiyesi asked him to go ahead, but he should make it snappy.
Iwaju ọpọn o gbo
Eyin ọpọn o gbo
Olumu Ọtun, olukanran Osi
Aarin ọpọn Ita ọrun…..
Hear o north of the universe
Listen o south of the universe
Hear o wise ones of the east
Listen o knowledgeable ones of the west …..
The Babalawo made his divination and told the king thus… “Kabiyesi, you need not stress yourself. In 7 days time, when the sun is directly over the head, and man stands upon his own shadow, get 5 chiefs to sit under the shea butter tree at the eastern border of the town. They should be dressed in white, and they should continuously clap their hands rythmically in unison, On the 201st clap, the king’s son would have reached them and he would ask for water”.
It was clear, the Babalawo was MAD!
But one tries everything to find a lost son. so, though the recommendations of the babalawo was crazy, the Alaafin still carried them out.
Behold, on the 201st clap, the king’s son came to them.
When the son was brought to the king and the events narrated, Alaafin Adeyemi the first was said to have asked “iru babalawo adifaṣẹ bi ajẹ wo ni babalawo un?”. What sort of herbalist who makes divinitions that comes through like a witch’s proclamation is this? Where does he live? The people anwered that he lived by a forest patch at the outskirts of Oyo. The king asked that he should be visited.
For a long time, when people want to describe the area where the herbalist lived, they would say ilu adifaṣẹ bi ajẹ. Over time, people just started shortening it to it Ilu Ajẹ, they omitted the “adifaṣẹ”. Thus the name Ilu Ajẹ was birthed.
Today, Ilu Ajẹ has no electricity and has no pipe born water. They have been neglected. Given what their forbears did for the royal stool in oyo, they shouldn’t be forgotten.
By Prince Toyin Akingbade Gcfr
9th June, 2018