What we encountered inside Igbo–Eledumare. By Wale Ojo lanre
Inside Igbo Olodumare : A forest where “ snail is bigger than the tortoise “
The thick forest which lies between Eti – Oni Village, Ilesha and shares border with Ile – Oluji, christened Igbo Olodumare which is a part of a town called Oke- Igbo , all in the old Western region was in total obscurity and of no particular importance just like several others jungles in the land until 1949 ,when Chief Daniel Olorunfemi Fagunwa now of blessed memory, diverted global attention to this sleepy agrarian town when he published the first ever novel to be written in an indigenous language in Africa with the title Igbo Olodumare –The Forest of the Almighty
That the book was the first to be written by any Editor in an indigenous language in Africa was intriguing as well as the setting of the story there –in -Igbo Olodumare a forest which he accorded many eerie accounts of encounters of a human being with spirits and daemons.
The graphic details of the Odyssey, adventure and encounter of Olowoaye, the brave hunter with the mysterious heavenly elements and spirits and its analogy of moral value which D O Fagunwa situated squarely within the confines of Igbo Olodumare have not only sparked off controversy about its reality but turned the forest to a tourism enclave.
Welcome to Igbo Olodumare, a forest where snail is bigger than the turtle!
Journey to Okeigbo now in Ondo State was smooth as the road from Ibadan to Ife – Ondo road where we branched at the Oke- Igbo junction, just about 10 km to Ondo town is quietly motorable as FERMA has proved to be a worthy institution on it.
However, our thinking about Igbo- Olodumare was faulted as it is not located just within the periphery of Oke – Igbo township but off the city about 25 kilometres with about 7 others settlements between.
It took clever driving and keen concentration before making to it to Oke – Alafia junction as the road from Oke- Igbo is in a very bad shape having last tarred during the Western region era.
The 4 kilometres drive from Oke – Alafia to Igbo – Olodumare settlement was not smooth either as we had to cross some streams on wood made- bridge!
However , we were surprised at getting to Igbo Olodumare village to see that it is bigger and lively than the other7 settlements along the road.
Though the road to Igbo Olodumare village could be described as an advanced footpath but it is not defective when it comes to the availability of some social facilities as the present Government has not only been able to provide a well-equipped Clinic served with two doctors and nurses but the D O Fagunwa Memorial Grammar school and the primary school founded in 1960 have been renovated .
It is a village which the publication of Igbo – Olodumare by D O Fagunwa has brought and attracted development as it also harbours, a Catholic church, a mosque and an Anglican Church. There has also been an attempt at ensuring the provision of electricity to the village with the presence of poles and transformers!
Mr. Olarenwaju Okeaje, a staff of the Ondo – State Ministry of Culture and Tourism who is the custodian of Igbo – Olodumare Tourism Grove and one Temitayo Famule, an indigene of Oke – Igbo who kindled the interest of venturing into the forest in TTM were on ground to pilot us inside the forest.
After exchanging of pleasantries Mr. Okeaje revealed “ You are lucky that the weather has been friendly today for if it had rained, we would not even try to venture in. And moreover, the forest is still sleeping”
What do you mean by the forest is still sleeping? we asked Mr Okeaje
“Thank you, remember that I once told you that Oke Longwood is not an ordinary place where one can just enter, no stranger can come into the forest without any guardian and few people know this, for instance, there are some place you cannot get to at a particular time, you can’t just enter the place anyhow. Some words need to be said before you embark on a tour and without those things, one will miss the road because of the complexity of the forest route. Secondly, there are some leaves that must not touch one’s body and some many others like that so anybody who is not conversant with the site cannot just jump in”.
He revealed that “ The enclosure is not just an ordinary forest. This forest like other forests of cultural value has their sleeping hours. When the leaves are at rest and thus save for you to go in and come out. Though many believed that some of the acts or actions recorded in Late D O Fagunwa’s books are mere myth or figment of a robust mind and not back up with reality I must let you know that it is beyond that. Is it just a mere coincidence or just a wish that the forest is christened Igbo – Olodumare? Is it just a coincidence or happenstance that D O Fagunwa had to come here in those days, clutching his files and sheets of paper all the way from Oke – Igbo to seek a literary refugee of inspiration inside this forest? By the time you get there, you will feel whether it is just an ordinary forest of literary creation “
As he led us through a very narrow footpath which he said was the only route to the forest, Mr. Okeaje related many unusual happenings which have taken place inside the forest
“ Like I was telling you, the forest is not just an ordinary rain forest. My grandfather and father who great hunters were made us believed that most of these mysterious acts recorded by DO were real, true and happened.A nd that is the reason why the forest has been sequestered from the farming plot since the creation .. Also, some of the animals recorded in the books are still there.I t may interest you that you cannot find a single goat being reared in igbo Olodumare village . Yes goat rearing is forbidden in this village because of the mystery goats from the forest which roam the village frequently.So any goat you see here is from the forest hence no one should touch it. “
He explained that igbo Olodumare encompasses and harbours many mysterious and wonderful enclaves which include Oke Langbodo , ( Langbodo Hill ) , Aginju idakeroro ( Jungle of perfect tranquillity) Ibugbe Ekun Oloju kan ( Abode of one-eyed Lion) Igbun ailopin ( bottomless pit ) , AginjunOjola Ibinu ( Enclave of the wild python ) and many others.
At Ogberiwese River.
As we moved forth, we got to a river christened Ogberiwese literarily means “ a river where the non- initiate must wash his fit to be able to go inside the forest “.
Mr. okeaje explained “This is a stream you cannot do without, it is very important to this community because everybody going to Oke Langbodo must cross the stream and if you have any evil intention it will be washed away.So crossing the river is like initiation someone into the system. Apart from that at the beginning of every year the community will gather, fetch the water both late in the night and early in the morning and sprinkle it all the route leading to the community so as to wade off evil and to expose whoever betrays or plan evil in the community “
, “ There is no way you can go into the forest without having a touch of this stream . Yes , either directly or not , you must pass through this stream. I mean have a touch of the water which sanctifies you to enter the forest. That is why there is no bridge over this . It is not ritual It is just natural ‘
We walked through the water and moved on without any ceremony, trekked about 50 meters, got to a junction where three paths meet only for Mr. Okeaje to declare “ we are at where three paths meet. This is from the village, the one on the left lead to heaven, the right goes to Oke – Langbodo which is our destination’
Perceiving our disgust at the seeing such a wonderful place in its raw form and state, Mr. Okeaje disclosed “ I was seconded here in 2003 during the administration of late Chief Adebayo Adefarati who also dispatched one of his commissioners to come here and see things for him . The Commissioner came but could not do anything tangible before the tenure came to an end. However, relieve came here during the Governor Agagu’s tenure, when his first Commissioner for Tourism, one Mrs. Tola Aworh visited here and very impressed about what she saw. It was then that the gate, the stair case and the statue of Baba onirugbon yeuke was built and erected here . She showed enthusiasm about this place but unfortunately, too , her tenure ended.However , good news is filtering from the stable of Governor Rahman Segun Mimiko which has promised set to turn the place to a world-class Literary Village “
After trekking for about 750 meters , we turned left and entered a cocoa farm which seemed to serve as a cover to Oke Langbodo which one must climbed before entering to Igbo Olodumare .
As we got to a badly constructed stair case which has been battered by nature and leads to the entrance of the Igbo Olodumare , Mr Okeaje opened the gate , turned his back to the forest and said “ This is the entrance to Igbo Olodumare .You are about climbing Oke Langbodo , the hill not meant for jelly liver fellows but for strong iron hearted adventurers who are determined not only to dare the hill but to dine with the spirits and daemons of Igbo – Olodumare “
As he finished making statement, cold shiver made a spark in my marrows, I exchanged glances with the rest of us exchanged glances with others but Mr Okeaje quickly saved the situation ‘ don’t be afraid , you will all go and come back unscathed. It is after the eating of the meal that you lick fingers.No evil will come upon you as no evil has touched any tourist who dares to visit Igbo Olodumare . As it was before so shall it be forever “
We climbed the staircase which terminated at the foot of a huge rock with a small cave which has some stones and other particles.
Mr Okeaje at this juncture offered a strain of prayers and supplications telling God’s know who our mission, praised the forbears of the forest and obtained permission for our journey.
He also exalted the Seven Heroes who first ventured into the forest and thank God almighty for the success of the trip.
Asking him why all that, Mr Okeaje informed
“This particular arena is where the itinerant 7 heroes of igbo Irunmole ( Forest of a thousand daemons) congregated and offered prayers when they came to explore Oke Langbodo on their way to Igbo Olodumare . We have acted it the way it is was done in the past and it shall be well with us “
We diligently followed him behind as we stepped behind the huge rock and battled the bush to and stepped up to plateau strata of the hill where a statute of s man with a long beard and a smoke pipe in his mouth is mounted.
Welcome to the abode of Babaonirugbon yeuke ( the Old man with long beard )who lives on the cliff of the hill .
After having a romance with Baba onirugbon yeuke ,we had to pass through a labyrinth of footpath overgrown with climbers and roots of trees which spread its tentacles on the ground and on the Hill.
Climbing Oke Langbodo
Getting to the bottom of Oke- Langbodo one may initially think that there was nothing so spectacular about the hill , as it is not so high and look too simple .
Mr Okeaje played a fast one on us by quickly climbed the hill and asked us to follow .
For about five minutes none- of us was able to mount the hill though there was no rain , the hill was slippery . Attempt for us to crawl even made it worst as we could not move an inch up.
Mr Okeaje smiled. “ That is Oke – Langbodo for you . This hill place has proved many mountain climbers to be novice in Mountain Climbing “
After he saw that none of us could make it up, he came back to pilot us by pulling us up and asking us to step on his feet .
Even with this , one of us was so scared that he opted to stay at the bottom of the hill but later changed his mind on the fear that he would be lonely and God forbids him seeing any strange object. Mr Okeaje had to persuade him after he volunteered to back him up the hill which he eventually did.
We had a 10 minutes rest after scaling through the portion of Oke Langbodo , which Mr Okeaje said was the most challenging part and that we were lucky that it never rained in that part of the village in the last 12 hours.
We then proceeded to the top of Oke Langbodo ,where we had a panoramic view of a lush and beautiful green rain forest vegetation of wonderful breath, seeing as far as Eti –Oni Ilesha , a town in Onus state and ile – Oluji in Ondo –State !
Wonderful view! Exciting scene! Beautiful scenery of immense proportion!
Yes, the effort at climbing worth it all .
At the jungle of perfect tranquility
We then proceeded to Aginjunidakeroro, ( the jungle of perfect tranquillity).And in sincerity, the flora of this jungle seemed to have enjoyed absolute peace as the leaves are not only deep green but most trees have “eyes “. The ambience of this forest was enveloped in eerie silence. It was really a jungle of perfect tranquillity.
According to Mr Okeaje , “ This is the forest where the great fight between human and a spirit took place . And it was recorded that the human trashed the spirit with ignominy to the consternation and surprise of other daemons which left them speechless! Hence, the name Aginjuidakeroro .
Mr Okeaje pointed to us the bottomless pit “ You can see that hollow.That is ‘igbunainisale ‘. You can see.No one has ever gone there .”
As we left the jungle of perfect tranquillity, we wanted to proceed to the abode of the wild python, but Mr Okeaje revealed that “ It is a bit far but most importantly we are behind time . This is about 2: 30 pm, the forest is much awake. We must and cannot risk gong there now .
And as we descended Oke – Langbodo , my mind went straight to the Stone Mountain ,located in Atlanta Georgia, US , which daily attract droves of tourists and which has no serious historical or any mythological importance like this Oke Langbodo , Igbo Olodumare , Oke Igbo , Ondo – State .
As we got back to Igbo Olodumare , Adewumi Adeoye one of the villagers said “ I hope you have seen a part of this mysterious forest of ours. It is planted by God Almighty and those accounts in Oloye D O Fagunwa are far beyond a fecund imagination of his. If you can stay here in till the night you will feel the impulse of being close to Igbo Olodumare . It is real. Our supplication to the government of the day is to help in polishing this raw material for the benefit of all. Igbo Olodumare is real. It is mysterious. It eerie. it is a forest of wonders.Y ou just come and sees…….
Faces of the 4 heroes .( awon Akoni ) Temitayo Famule (from Oke – Igbo ), Wale Ojo – Lanre , Abiodun Dada ( Sandoka) and Remi Oladoye ( Alarinka Editor ,JP) at the same spot where the ” awon Akoni Meje ” as recorded by DO Fagunwa in his book Igbo Irunmale ( Forest of a Thousand
Daemons ) met to plan their entry into Igbo Olodumare . — at Pictures taken in Igbo Olodumare Village , Oke – Igbo , Ondo – State by Wale Ojo – Lanre