This is so because Oke Idanre (Idanre Hills), a cluster of intimidating
and imposing hills houses some wonderful things which confound the
senses. Oke Idanre surrounds the town, envelopes it and dominates life
in the town. From any angle, one sees the hills and virtually every
activity revolves round this collection of hills. In fact, it can safely
be said that Idanre is not only under (Abeokuta) but on top of the
hills (Ori Okuta).
Apart from that cultural role, Oke Idanre pulls the wealthy and the
commoner, basically due to its perceived mystical aura and the giddy
excitement lovers of nature get when they surmount the steep, daunting
climb to the top, to witness a spectacular view of the new town and
adjoining hills in a breath-taking manner.
Saturday Sun was on a visit to Oke-Idanre, a few days back and gives
a vivid account of the many wonders that keep on attracting sight-seers
year in, year out.
The mystery and the thrills
Seun, the guide, a proud indigene, was quick to explain that the spirit
of Iyemero, the mother spirit in the rock, protects every tourist,
worshipper and passer-by who ventures to climb the hills to see the
pride of Idanre. “We have a lot of pride in our Arun River,
a place where people come to pray for blessings from God. The Agboogun
Foot Print corner is another tourist attraction where the gods expose
many people with evil intentions. So apart from the beauty of Idanre
Hills, people come here for spiritual cleansing”, he said.
Nevertheless, there is always an eerie feeling over the perceived presence
of some unseen but potent powers. There are even some areas tourists
are not allowed to venture. Also the reported presence of some wild
animals makes it necessary to move around in groups.
The great steps and Graffiti
It takes 640 steps to climb from the foot of the hills to the peak.
In between, there are five rest places for those who hate the strenuous
exercise. This is one of the great attractions and visitors are eager
to make their presence felt through unique graffiti. For example,
one Adeniran Akindele from State House, Abuja proudly wrote his name
on the shed of the fourth rest place.
Mighty Guru was there. Dotun and Mak-say from Abeokuta came visiting
while Osuola, Ife and Kike left indelible markings. Kolo and Bimbo
Soile marked Valentine’s day in a secluded part of the old Town,
right on top of the hill.
The European quarters
Expectedly, the exotic sides of Oke Idanre attracted some Europeans
who reportedly erected three bungalows as well as a tower on top
of the hill. However, this “hilly colonialism” did not
last. According to the guide, the foreign visitors had to abandon
their sojourn on the hill due to some mysterious happenings and the
theft of some of their equipment, including generators.
The old town
Saturday Sun saw a deserted old town on top of the hill.There were
abandoned buildings including the palace and courtyard of the Oba,
the shrine of the High Chiefs and residential quarters of many inhabitants.
Reports have it that the old town only comes alive once a year during
the Orosun Festival.
That is when all Idanre citizens and well-wishers throng the hill to
appease the gods of the land. .
Pa Josiah Ajayi, in recounting the history of Idanre, said that the
town started from the hill tops with the inhabitants taking shelter
at the nearby Oke Ilarun (Ilarun Hill) in times of invasion by marauders. “We
used to run up the hills in times of war in those days. Oke Ilarun,
over there, has some mystical powers. It will open up and swallow our
enemies. They then turn to spirits(Ebora). If you listen carefully,
you will hear the sound of those spirits crying as they pound yam inside
the rock. They are prisoners for life”, he said.
The mystery does not end there. There is the Arun River in a serene
corner of the hill. The water is so clear, clean and drinkable. One
can even see the stones and plants inside it.
People come to pray and fetch the water for spiritual cleansing. Those
who venture mid-stream claim that they experience dizziness and the
presence of a supernatural being, an eerie feeling which makes the
head swell. The experience is definitely not for the lily-livered.
The ancient palace
The coronation rites of a new Oba cannot be complete without a visit
to Oke Idanre. Palm fronds and dried tortoise head mark the path
the Oba-elect has to take, a path forbidden to the uninitiated. The
ancient palace also has an intimidating courtyard where the Oba used
to hold court. There is also a section where the heads of slaughtered
cows are arranged in a fashion. The indigenes claim that each cow
head signifies one year in the life of an Oba and the tenure of the
traditional ruler is determined by the number of cow heads.
The Aghagha hill
The significance of this hill which can be seen clearly from Oke Idanre
is that it emits smoke throughout the year. The Arun river is said
to derive its source from the hot confines of the hill.
The spiritual import of this is not lost on those who come from far
and near for spiritual help and many of them have reportedly journeyed
far up the hill to pray and fetch water from its source. Seun, the
guide, claimed that he was once attacked by a wild beast, a buffalo,
while taking a prominent member of a white garment church up Aghagha
hill. Undeterred, the church member was said to have warded off the
attack and insisted on staying a night on the hill due to his belief
that he would receive some powers to overcome his adversaries.
This rock, known as Okuta Iyanu, is perched precariously on top of
another rock behind some huts once inhabited by some indigenes of
the town. History has it that the rock has been so placed for hundreds
of years without any mishap, perhaps as an attestation to the wonders
of the almighty.
The Agboogun foot print
This rather spooky spectacle is for those with a fearless, inquisitive
mind. The Agboogun Foot Print fits any size of foot. The mystery
is that those with small feet, flat feet or any other size for that
matter get a snug fitting once they measure their feet with the Agboogun
Foot Print. It is also believed that those whose feet do not fit
the Agboogun Foot Print are those with evil intentions, particularly
witches and wizards. According to Pa Ajayi, “only a few persons
have been so identified in this manner. Thousands of feet have been
measured and deemed fit in this way. The Agboogun Foot print has
defied any human understanding. It is the work of the gods. Witches
and wizards keep their distance from here”.
The wonders of Oke-Idanre seem endless. Apart from those mentioned
earlier, there are some which could not be captured through photographs.
These include the Unreadable letters of the flood (inscriptions on
the rock face which could not have been made by human hands). There
is also the imprint of a mat, engraved on another rock face. A semblance
of the Ark of Noah is also one of the attractions in Oke-Idanre.
These continue to manifest as far as the eyes could see.
After a two hour sojourn atop Idanre hill, Saturday Sun left the
mysterious wonders and descended the 640 steps to the embrace of
of the new town. Seun, the guide, sums everything up thus, “you
go up Oke Idanre with a curious mind but you come down, marveling at
the greatness and power of the Almighty God!”
Nothing could be more apt.