”At pilgrims’ rest beneath Idanre Hill
The wine-girl, dazed from devine dallying
Felt wine-skeins race in fire-patterns within her
Her eyes queried, what then are you?
At such hour Why seek what on the hills?”
Wole Soyinka, Idanre and Other Poems.
When on December 28, 2005 the Governor of Ondo State, Dr. Olusegun Agagu went up Idanre Hills with his entire cabinet, many people, as the wine-girl referred to by Wole Soyinka, queried, why is the Governor going up into the abandoned Idanre Hills? Would it not be more fruitful if he concentrated his efforts on developing the new towns downhill?
This and similar questions motivated the original booklet which tries to explain why people go up the Idanre hills.
Idanre Hills as generally known had provided shelter for the Idanre people for over 800 years before the first European, Sir Thomas Gilbert Carter, the then colonial governor of Lagos, in the company of some of his colonial officers visited the Owa of Idanre Kingdom, Arubiefin the First, in 1894. This was the period when the colonial governments were penetrating into the interior of Africa. The Governor brought with him documents from Her Majesty the Queen of the United Kingdom and Empress of India, requiring the Owa to cede the sovereignty of Idanre Country and sign a treaty with the British. Sir Carter had attacked Ijebu two years before – ostensibly in an effort to end slavery – and most of the Yoruba kingdoms had become protectorates of the British at this time. The Owa would have been well informed about the power and influence of the British.
In his report to the colonial office, Sir Gilbert Carter commended the Owa; stating: ”I am delighted to have met such an intelligent ruler as the Owa of Idanre Country”. These documents are also the first known written praise of the beauty of the Idanre Hills. ”For my part, I would far rather spend a couple of weeks among these delightful mountains, than at the Canary islands”. If Idanre Hills could lauded so in 1894 by a colonial officer on a mission, one should not wonder why people still seek those hills today in our modern age.
One of many mysteries of the Idanre Hills is the question of why the Idanre people chose to settle there? What prompted them, if they had travelled from Ile-Ife, to travel as far as Oke Idanre before they found a settlement? Did they meet other humans when the settlers arrivers, or was it virgin land? Many of these questions may never be answered, since most of the stories of Idanre are collected from legends, chants and incantations to the gods.
In the following pages, I intend to tell a story of the origins of the community, but since so much of the information known is based on oral narration, I will be using the account given by the colonial office in Nigeria in the intelligence report of 1934 extensively. I shall comment where necessary to highlight aspects of interest from an indigenous point of view.
On particular issues relating to other settlements, I have used the Golden Jubilee publication on the Alade Community published in 1978 by the Alade Community Association.