A Brief History of Okuku

Like many other Yoruba towns, Okuku has an ancestral link with Ile-Ife, the cradle of life in Yoruba mythology. Oladile the founder of Okuku was a direct descendant of Oduduwa and one of the four brothers who left Ile-Ife at the same time: the others being Alara, Ajero and Orangun.
As was the pattern in those days, most of the children of Oduduwa emigrated from Ile-Ife to settle and take possession of virgin land where they could become famous in their own rights. One of the four children, Orangun, decided to stop as soon as he got to where is known today as Ila and became known at his ascension to the throne after victory in wars as Orangun Ile-Ila.

Another, Ajero stopped at the spot now known today as Ijero in Ekitiland where he became the Oba after winning his battles.

The remaining two brothers, Alara and Oladile moved on until they reached a location in Ekiti land. After series of conquest, they decided to settle finally at Aramoko, the new foundland. Naturally, the senior brother Oladile had expected to be enthroned but Ifa priest divined otherwise, insisting that the oracle had not chosen Oladile but his younger brother, the Alara. Oladile resisted but the priest firmly insisted that it would either be Alara or somebody else, definitely not Oladile. Thus, while Alara became the Oba in Aramoko; Oladile, his children and supporters left Aramoko and moved on in search of a new domain.

It is therefore no conincidence that the descendants of the ruling house in Okuku have the Yoruba Oriki of “Omo Alara, Omo Ajero, Omo Orangun Ile-Ila”. They are all (extended) children of these brothers in Yoruba tradition.

After consultation with Ifa Oracle, the Oladile group was advised not to settle until it came across an exceptionally thick clump of palm trees. Eventually, Oladile found a complete uninhabited spot in a thick palm forest. The settlement he subsequently found was named Iko-Ikin (Iko, a thick clump, Ikin, palm-nuts) which became changed in time to kookin, near the Otin River.

The new settlement was swelled by the arrival of numerous immigrant families mostly from farther north. A group of wood-carvers led by Otebolaje from Oje came to settle in Kookin, and married Oladile’s daughter, Lalubi. This family was given a traditional chieftaincy, the Odofin. The importance of the Odofin, an ancient in-law of the Olokuku, derives partly from the fact that he is the traditional host of a new Olokuku for brief periods after installation and before the Oba moves to the Aafin (Palace).

Other immigrants soon followed among them Apa, Tela Oloko and Winyomi, the founders of Aworo-Otin’s, Oloko’s and Oluode’s Compounds, respectively. Each group was allowed to retain its own chieftaincy or traditional title brought with it or given to it for good service, a practice which continues.

In this way, Kookin grew to be a large and prosperous town. Access to iron from the mines at Isundunrin near Ejigbo enabled Kookin to become an iron-works centre. It is said that there were over one hundred and forty people in the trade, and that Kookin market supplied Ila, Ilesa, Oyo, Iresa and Iregba with iron tools and weapons.

Kookin, and subsequently, Okuku, became the centre of the numerous communities that began to grow around it. Some of them were related/connected to Kookin itself, and among these are Inisa, (through the Eesa and the Osholo), Eko-Einde and Ijabe. Eko Einde and Ijabe were both said, by legend, to have ruling houses descended from sons of Oladile who were sent to settle disputes among groups of newcomers. Many other communities were established and all of these respected and accepted the authority of Kookin.
After Oladile, many Obas ruled at Kookin. Among them were Oluronke Alao, the precursor of the present Oyeleye branch of the Okuku family, Mosin, Oyedeji, Oyedele and others.

Around 1760 Kookin fought a lost battle with the Ijesa in the Ijesa Arara (dwarfs) war. The war was so called because of the short stature and stockiness of the invaders who struck when all able-bodied men were in the farms.

The war survivors were led by the Oba Jala Okin from Kookin, a few kilometers north of the ruins of Kookin to found a new settlement which came to be called Okuku, ‘Awa ti a ku ku or Oku to ku ku’ (that is, survivors) after surviving yet another disaster caused by water poisoning consequent upon drinking the water of the Obuku (formerly Amuku river).

Jala Okin ruled Kookin for thirteen years before the massacre and he continued to rule the new settlement for another eight years before he dieid. He changed his title of Oba Kookin to Olokuku (the owner of Okuku) of Okuku. He is fondly remembered for his almost limitless capacity to endure and his sterling qualities of able leadership.

There was peace and progress until the Ilorin-Ibadan Wars which started during the reign of Oyekanbi I and disturbed peace at Okuku once again. The Ilorin war camp was at Offa while that of Ibadan was based at Ikirun. Okuku was half-way in between. Consequently, Okuku suffered seriously during the war by the raiding parties. Oba Oyekanbi died during the course of the war. It was not until the time of Oyewusi I that the war ended and Okuku once more enjoyed peace following Captain Bower’s imposition of peace in 1893.

Oba Oyekunle (1916-1934) reigned at a period when the World War I and Yoruba wars were raging. His reign ushered in relative peace however, he was responsible for settling boundary disputes between Okuku and several towns around Okuku. His charismatic personality and his impartiality won for him the support and admiration of the people of towns and villages around Okuku. He was the brain behind the first Native Court. A local cell called ‘Atimole’ was built and the native police ‘Akodas’ started to function during his reign.

To accommodate the then District Officers a rest house, ‘Bareke’, was also built. He transformed the thatched palace into a near-modern palace roofed with corrugated iron sheets. He laid a very strong foundation from which modern Okuku emerged.

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