Tuesday, 27 September 2016

Afa-Okeagbe in Nigerian History

         By Bayo Ogunmupe

     Afa is an ancient settlement in Okeagbe, Ondo State. It constitutes a little more than half of Okeagbe town. Along with such other settlements as Oge and Ido, at the behest of a West Indian missionary named Venerable Augustus Lennon, they relocated from their hilltop refuge, where they hid from slave raiders to settle at their present abode in 1924. Okeagbe is the headquarters of the Akoko Northwest Local Government of Ondo State.
     Another town created similarly at the urging of the same Venerable Lennon at the same time  is Idoani in Ose Local Government Area of Ondo state. There are no historical records of Afa up to 1923. For that reason, it was necessary to rely on linguistic evidence; long held oral traditions, evidence obtained from place names or the panegyric of the Ogotun lineage as well as logical deductions.
     The Sahara Desert covers most of North Africa. It is a dry inhospitable place. In the past, about 800 years ago, the Sahara Desert area was characterized by abundant rainfall that sustained lush vegetation, great rivers and lakes, human settlements and a variety of animals. Like is happening now, following climate change: a steady decline in rainfall caused the Sahara to dry up.
     Subsequently, desert conditions took root and expanded outwards. This caused humans to scatter in all directions. In the course of these, groups of people of common origin and language broke up into bands, taking their languages with them. Owing to mixture with alien groups and adaptation, their common language begins to diverge, becoming noticeably different.
     Such bands of the same people are now speakers of Igbo, Yoruba, Itsekiri and Igala. Which is why Afa-Okeagbe dialect is linked to those aforementioned nationalities. Moreover there had been wars between these communities such as the war between Afa and the Nupe at Ogidi near Kabba in Kogi state in 1885. There was another war with the Nupe in 1897 but this time the Nupe were assisted by the forces of the Royal Niger Company, the forerunners of the British colonial government in Northern Nigeria.
     The last war that took Afa fighters away from home before Pax Britannica was the Ekiti Parapo War, also known as Kiriji war, fought from 1876 till 1896 against the Oyo imperial army led by Ibadan. That Afa force was an amalgam  of Akoko, Ekiti and Ijesha fighters. The aim of the Kiriji war was to put an end to harassment from Ibadan marauders. It was for safety that people resorted to living on hillsides such as by Oyin, Aje, Oge, Akungba, Oka and Idanre.
     However, it was not the Fulani who brought Islam to Afa and the Akoko territory. It was the Nupe who for decades ranged freely all over Akoko from 1840 to 1897. Islam was the first alien religion in Akoko, Christianity followed a century later. It was not until 1842 that Protestant Christians penetrated into Akoko land via Badagry on the Atlantic coast. In Badagry, the Protestants quickly established their base; founding Western style educational institutions. With Ajayi Crowther  as their leader. They moved further inland to Abeokuta in 1846. The school they found in Abeokuta was moved to Oyo in 1896- becoming St Andrews College now renamed Ajayi Crowther University, Oyo. Regettably, Afa's location up country prevented education from reaching it even by the time it relocated to its present  site in Okeagbe in 1924.
     This book in review is titled, A Short History of Ancient Afa-Okeagbe. It was written by Oladele Awobuluyi, professor emeritus of Linguistics. It was published by Okeagbe Book Company in 2015. The book has five chapters, 101 pages in English and Yoruba combined. It also includes a preface, an appendix of traditional titles and the ward lineage in Ogotun Afa. The author, Professor Awobuluyi is the eldest child of the late Ologotun of Ogotun-Afa, Okeagbe. Educated in Nigeria and the United States, Awobuluyi has written many books in addition to many essays in scholarly journals at home and abroad.

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