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Ogbomosho: Elemosho, Soun and Crux of History



Ogbómoṣọ́ has the highest number of valiant holding the highest military rank in the Yorùbá land; Ààrẹ Ọna Kakanfos (the Yoruba generalissimo).

The 7th Ààrẹ, Toyeje was the first (he and Edun of Gbogan were Ààrẹ Ọna Kakanfos at same time; the first and the only time in history). Toyeje’s son Ojo Aburumaku also got the position (11th Ààrẹ Ọna Kakanfo) and Sir Samuel Ladoke Akintọla, the premier of Western Region during the First Republic (13th Ààrẹ Ọna Kakanfo).

“Kakanfo Ojo Aburumaku had no war to fight. He fomented a civil war in his native Ogbómoṣọ́ which he then had a good sport of putting down with severity. Afterall, he was Ààrẹ Ọna kakanfo, the Supreme head of the Ẹsọs, the 70 military commanders who make the Yorùbá warrior caste.”

Both the time of the town name and the king title are consequencial words spoken of and by Ọlábanjọ Ogunlọla Ogundiran, a mid-17 century Ìbàrùbá (also called Ìbàribá) hunter.

Without undue tautology, as most of the story has been told in the movie, ‘Ogbóri Ẹlẹ́mọshọ’ by Pa Lere Paimo (Ẹ̀dá Onílé Ọlá), the name Ogbómoṣọ́ was derived from the statement travellers passing to and fro, used to refer to the settlement as of him who beheaded Elemaso meaning “Ido Ẹni ti o gb’ẸLẸ́MỌ̀ṢỌ”. This was later contracted to Ogbómoṣọ́.

It’s known that Ogunlọla was a prisoner at Ọ̀yọ́-Ilé, the capital of the old Ọ̀yọ́ empire, for an alleged crime. After he conquered ẸLẸ́MỌ̀ṢỌ́, Aláàfin granted Ogunlọla freedom and even persuaded him to stay in Ọ̀yọ́-Ilé but he refused, he reportedly said to the Aláàfin: “Ẹ jẹ kí á má se ọhún” meaning “Let me stay yonder“. This is where the title ‘Sọun‘, the traditional ruler of Ogbómoṣọ́, was coined from.

An early missionary described the town: “Ogbomosho in 1891 was a walled city, the gates of which were closely watched by day and securely closed by night. There was little or no communication between it and Oyo and Ilorin which were only thirty miles to the north and south. The town, picturesque and well watered was isolated from the rest of the Yoruba towns. Political relations were maintained with the Ibadans, for the country depended on its security on the warriors of Ogbomosho and Ikirun… The strength of Ogbomosho lay in the wall and moat surrounding the town, and the warriors made full use of it by sitting close and tight..” (Wikipedia)


One day, Ogunlọla noticed smoke oozing from some nearby locations and approached these places and discovered other hunters. He afterwards formed Alongo Society with these trio. The Primary objectives of the society were: Defence against Sunmomi (slave prowler) raids group hunting of wild animals, and mutual assistance. Ogunlola was made the chairman. After each day’s hunting, they retired to Ogunlọla’s hut where they were treated to beans and other meals and were served with sekete wine brewed by Ogunlọla’s wife from fermented guinea corn. They also engaged in discussing current affairs and planning.

The first one named Aale at a site now called Oke-Elerin quarters, the second called Onsílẹ̀ at the site now known as Ijeru quarters, the third Orisatolu at Isapa quarters and the fourth Akande quarters. The descendants of the first three of these hunters are still today the Balẹs of Oke-elerin, Ijeru and Isapa quarters respectively. There is no more Bale Akandie.

The name ‘Ogbó’ in Ogbómoṣọ́ is also used for matured or ripe phenomena in Yorùbá language, thus in their praise poem, they say
“Ogbó mon ‘júgún, Ogbó sẹgi (Ogbó is nitty-gritty transformation)
Ogbó iṣu nii dì ìyàn, (Because, when yam transforms, it becomes pounded yam)
Ogbó eere* a d’ọlẹlẹ. (That of beans become moulded-beans food)
Ogbó lógbo àgbàdo; òun lo yí padà tó di ẹ̀kọ́. (Corn itself transforms, and becomes pap)”

“Esuu, the wife of Ogunlọla introduced the worship of Orisapopon to Ogbómoṣọ́. This object of worship is the same as Orisala and is worshipped in different towns under different names. The worshippers are distinguished by white beads worn round their necks and wearing only white dresses. Drinking of palmwine is forbidden to them. The name Òrìṣà Pópó was probably derived from the fact that Ogunlọla’s hut was on the north-south route therefore the Orisala being worshipped in the hut was name “Orisapopo” (idol by the highway). The importance and influence of ‘Orisapopo’ among the citizens of Ogbomoso is immense. It can be described as the patron “Orisa” of Ogbómoṣọ́.”

I bring two literary pieces on this, “ẸLẸ́MỌ̀ṢỌ́: THE DEVIL WAS ONCE A SHINING ANGE (part 1 and 2). I thus present them in anti-chronological order.
“Today he is on the wrong side of history. Our oral legacy presents him as the most villainous psychopath to ever tread this part of the world. A ghoulish, cruel, unforgiving angel of death who is so death obsessed that he killed mothers at market place and left the kids by the lifeless body of their mothers to cry just for the fun of it. He hacked down two lovers to send shivers down the king and inhabitants of the capital of a whole nation.

“You can call this story a prequel to ÒGBÓRÍ ẸLẸ́MỌ̀ṢỌ́ written and acted by our dear grandfather – bàbá Lérè Pàímọ́; which tells the story from the side of the king and the hero, of how the ancient town of Ògbómọ̀ṣọ́ came to be.

But here the focus is on that villainous character, that blood loving daemon, the mysterious gnome, the invisible wizard, the lone ranger who lived in solitude and cannibalized in the thick of the forest, and whose name – ẸLẸ́MỌ̀ṢỌ́, sends shivers down the ages as well as your spine as you read this right now.

“Like Tìmí Àgbàlé Ọlọ́fà-iná and even the people’s defender Gbọ̀nká, I won’t be surprised if he was once a loyal, dutiful and hard working guard who fell out of favour with the power that be then. History is mostly written or oraturized from the side of the ruler in ancient time.

So, don’t you think every villain deserves a fair hearing? A fair history? First, his name suggests of a man who was a master at what he was doing. “ẸLẸ́MỌ̀ṢỌ́” – ẹni tó mọ ìṣọ́ – master of the art of guarding? King’s guard? Lord protector of the realm? Hand of the king? Or just a low born vigilante who through diligence, bravery and success attracted envy and bitter antagonism?

“In relation to this, the brilliant Mr Oríadé Ìpọsọlá Ajétẹlú has opined that: “What if the name is not “ẹni tó mọ ẹ̀sọ́” but ẹlẹ́mùú ẹ̀sọ́ VS ẹ̀sọ́ ẹlẹ́mùú. A trapper in guide and we call him slave hunter or trapper. Because it must have originated from Oní – ẹ̀mú – ẹ̀sọ́ or ẹ̀sọ́ oní ẹ̀mú.
A lot of vowel Assimilation and tonal Assimilation occur. Remember, in àrànmọ́, ẹ at the beginning of ẹ̀sọ́ turns oní to ẹlẹ́ and at the same time, ú accepts assimilation from ọ́ and by that ẹ̀mú becomes ẹ̀mọ́ and finally, tonal change or shift occur after the omission of ẹ̀ from ẹ̀sọ́ and ọ́ from ẹ̀mọ́ takes it and becomes ẹ̀mọ̀. Finally finally, ẹ̀ from ẹ̀ from ẹ̀mọ̀ removed. So we have ẹlẹ́mọ̀sọ́.”

“Irrespective of what comes out of this, could it be that after falling out of favour, he was disgraced and as a result blinded with rage and revenge?

“Ènìyàn ló kọ́ ẹṣin lóró, ẹṣin ò kúkú mú ìkà wá láti ọrùn.

“One thing about ancient names is that majority of them are not the name you were given by your parents at birth. Your parent probably gave you orúkọ àmútọ̀runwá (birth circumstantial name) or orúkọ oríkì ( praise name), or orúkọ afìdíléhàn (names that reveals your family) However, the name that will last you a life time and reverberates down the history when you are long gone is the one you earned either through good or bad deeds, your habit, your physical features or just a teasing name from your friends and fiends.

Ògèdèm̀gbé Agbógungbórò was not his real name; Ògbórí Ẹlẹ́mọ̀ṣọ́ was not his real name; Ògbórí Ẹfọ̀n was not his real name; Aríkúyẹrí was not his real name; Olúkòso was not his real name. Something they all did in their lives gave them the name.

“No record of Ẹlẹ́mọ̀ṣọ́ before his encounter with Ṣọ̀ún may exist. But, the meaning of his name and its usage in common sayings are enough to give him a pre-encounter with Ṣọ̀ún a fair history.”


It was late in the night of December 31st, 1999. The world was preparing to welcome the new millennium and it has reached an apocalyptic fear level. It was such an awe inspiring year. Many apocalyptic prophesies had been said of the coming millennium, so I took refuge from the fear of unknown about the coming year by watching again the classic epic movie of Ògbórí Ẹlẹ́mọ̀ṣọ́, fantastically made by Pa Lérè Pàímọ́. We used to play tape video then, and by the time the fascinating movie was over, I could not put another one; for we have nothing else at home that could match or beat the classical work of Ẹ̀dá Onílé Ọlá. So I relaxed on the couch and off I dosed into the land of dreams.

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Then I met him in my dream. He was in a place that looked like a dense forest. A man of about fifty years of age. He looked everything the character portrayed by Lalude. Well, except that he was charcoal black in complexion and I didn’t see the cone shaped basket cap. That must have been alien to Yorùbá dress. And yes, he was dressed moderately flamboyant too. What I saw was a negroid warrior with biceps and broad chest nearing his inactive years of war and adventure. Yet, he looked like a man of wisdom than rogue. It is like wisdom and action combined in one person. He motioned me to settle down on a stone seat beside him, and we started a dialogue.

“My name is Ẹlẹ́mọ̀ṣọ́ of the old Ọ̀yọ́ kingdom. I was alive during the time of Aláàfin Àjàgbó. In fact he was my childhood friend. Contrary to what you might have heard about me, I am a Bariba by ancestry but with a Yorùbá mother. You can ask from Ṣọ̀ún Ogunlọlá himself and he will tell you about me.”
He motioned to a burial site by a tree on which hangs the paraphernalia of a hunter.

“Should I tell you about Aláàfin Àjàgbó or you are familiar with his story.”
I told him I would like to hear the story again. All I know is that Ajagbo was an Alaafin of the West African Oyo Empire, whose long reign took place during the seventeenth century.

“Well” Ẹlẹ́mọ̀ṣọ́ continued. “Aláàfin Ajagbo succeeded his grandfather Obalokun as Alaafin. If you remember, it was during the reign of Obalokun that white men first stepped foot on Ọ̀yọ́ royal city. Obalokun even sent his”son” to go and learn the way of Portuguese.” I bathed my eyes in disbelief as I never heard this part of the story before. So there was an Aláàfin that sent his son to white men’s land? Ẹlẹ́mọ̀ṣọ́ did not notice my surprise.

He continued. “Well, king Àjàgbómòkún was his full name, and what does that tells you?” The words caught me unprepared! I open my mouth to speak but nothing came out. “So he had been to….” I could not say the rest of what the name revealed.

Rather than give me a pat in the back for my discerning mind, Ẹlẹ́mọ̀ṣọ́ looked at me with disdain. “Why is it that you younger generation of great ancestors are just realizing basic things about what happened in the past? Is it because you have an aversion for reading about your history or you have demonized your ancestors the way you demonized every one including me?” He squinted his eyes to probe further into my soul as he gave me a straight look.

“Well, you are right in your deductions except that Obalokun did not send his actual son,” Ẹlẹ́mọ̀ṣọ́ mused, “What King will send his heir apparent to a land beyond the sea? No, he sent his grandson and the reason for that is simple: the grandson was a troublesome yet brilliant mind. And Àjàgbó did not succeeded Obalokun directly, there was a brief reign of Oluodo.” Silence filled the forest.

“If you are surprised by the name and what it reveals, then you will be more surprised if I tell you that king Àjàgbó reigned for 140 years. How is that possible? You will likely ask. The secret lies in the fact I want to tell you today, do not tell any other person.” Ẹlẹ́mọ̀ṣọ́ bent sideways to whisper into my ears: ” Aláàfin Àjàgbó was a twin! Identical twin to be precise!!

“What!” I exploded with mother of all disbelief. “Could it be that…” Ẹlẹ́mọ̀ṣọ́ did not wait for me to finish the sentence, he gave approval nod to whatever has cracked open in my mind before I vomited it with words.
I made a mental scan of the History of the Yoruba by Samuel Johnson I came across in the past, but I could not recall that priceless information being revealed to me now. Doubt if I have a copy of the book for myself, so I made a mental note I will consult Bode Oje to buy one. Meanwhile, let me enjoy this top secret of the ancient world that had been sunbaked and buried almost forever.
“Yes, they were twin brothers. Brilliant twins with a touch of weirdness from the time we were young.” Ẹlẹ́mọ̀ṣọ́ continued.
“They loved playing pranks with their similarity as people found it hard to identify which one is Taye and which one is Kehinde. Only their grandfather, Obalokun could tell which is which. Yet, I was their friend and our friendship grew so fondly I used to sleep at the ààfin with them. We go to farm together sometimes carried on the shoulder by kings slaves. We hunt bush rodents and squirrels together. Yet, Àjàgbó twins continued to play prank on us their friends and sometimes each of them made away with double share of our game playing identity prank on us. Yet, we love them for their pranks and every child wanted to be their friend for they were two amiable charming boys.
We were on such hunting expedition near the city main road when an entourage came of white men carried on 3 seats, each seat resting on the shoulder of six black men. The entourage was of about 24 men comprising 6 white men and the rest were blacks. It was like seeing alien or gods coming to Ọ̀yọ́ in flesh and blood. We quickly took a short cut and rushed down to Ọ̀yọ́ to inform the court of the approach of some strange white men. The court guards did not believe us initially, but when the road chief came to break the news again, they took us serious and reported the issue to the king. It was a memorable day when the first white men knocked at the gate of Ọ̀yọ́ ilé and the gate of brass was opened for them. It was the beginning of my story and the beginning of intrigue, betrayal, conspiracies, war, love, patriotism, scandal and a whole lot of unforgettable events that I’m about to tell you. All I want is your listening ear to hear my own side of the story.” With this words, Ẹlẹ́mọṣọ́ sighed…..

Ogbómoṣọ́ ni ọ
(You are from Ogbómoṣọ́, [Of Ọyọ Empire])
Ogbó mon ‘júgún, Ogbó sẹgi
(Ogbó is nitty-gritty transformation)
Ogbó iṣu nii dì ìyàn,
(Because, when yam transforms, it becomes pounded yam)
Ogbó eere* a d’ọlẹlẹ.
(That of beans become moulded-beans food)
Ogbó lógbo àgbàdo; òun lo yí padà tó di ẹ̀kọ́.
(Corn itself transforms, and becomes pap)
Òun láàfi sọpe Ogbómoṣọ́ làá tíì j’iyán; la tíì j’ẹ̀ka ka tó fi ẹkọ yangàn lè,
(That’s why it is said: in Ogbómoṣọ́ eating both pounded yam and ọkà [solid food made out of yam flour] are prelude to pap)
Nílé Akintọla ọkọ Faderera,
(In the hometown of [Chief Samuel Ladoke] Akintọla; Faderera’s husband)
Ajala ìjì ọmọ ọkọ loogun ọmọ àlè.
(Ajala, the wirlwind; bonafide children are superior/antidote of the illegitimate)
Nlẹ, ọmọ ‘Laayanku oo..
(Greetings, descendants of ‘Laayanku)
Ọmọ ari Gangan pé ìlú rẹ jọ,
(Ancestry of those that used the talking drum to call populace of the town and its neighborhood)
Ará Ìbàrù [Ìbàrùbá]*, ọmọ ó jọ’lù j’apẹ̀
(Descents of Ìbàrùbá, dancers to both drum beats and its cadence)
Ero Ìbàrù níwọ̀n ó… nlẹ ọmọ ó jo’ lù gbe’rin
(Ìbàrùbá they are, they dance and chorus songs simultaneously)
Baba Ìbàrù kú, Ìbàrù lòun ó man ẹkùn sun
(Ìbàrù Ancestry don’t grieve at fathers’ death)
Ìyá Ìbàrù kú, Ìbàrù sọ pé òun kóléé gb’aawẹ
(Not even Mothers’ death will make them grieve)
Ìkookò gbẹgiri lo tí fọ l’étí ni Ìbàrù Ilé, ní wón n sunkún asuu ndakẹ;
(But their beans-soup pots get dinted/broken a bit on the rear; they cry uncontrollably)
A ṣọ tán ni wọn bá ri aṣọ mú bora.
(When rectified, they clothed themselves in regalia of joy)
Ọtun Ìbàrù, a mú ọfà o pá eeje;
(Ìbàrù’s amazing archery skills fall enemies in their seven fold on the right)
Òsì Ìbàrù, a mú ọfà a pá ẹfa,
(Ìbàrù’s archery skills fall enemies in their six fold on the left)
Agbedengbede Ìbàrù tíì mú ọfà ó pá endilogun
(In-between, Ìbàrù people do kill enemies in their 16 folds)
Ẹranko tí Ìbàrù bá tá lọfà tio bá kú
(Whichever animal Ìbàrù shot arrow at, but didn’t die)
To bá di ojú ọdún, wọn a m’ori wọ’we lọ bíi ìṣù.
(Such have its hairs fall off on the shoot’ a universal)
Ará Ìbàrù, ọmọ ó jọ’lù j’apẹ….
(Neighborhood of Ìbàrùbá, dancers to both drum beats and its cadence)….
Olú Óje ni wọ́n, ọmọ ar’ọti wẹ bí òjò…..
(They are also Olú Óje, those who bath with liquor, as if it’s rain)

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