LIFE OF ALAAFIN ABIIPA OBAMORO (THE GHOST CATCHER)
Alaafin Abiipa was the 12th Aláàfin of Oyo. He was preceded by Alaafin Ajiboyede and succeeded by Alaafin Obalokun.
He ruled in Oyo-Igboho of the old Oyo empire from 1570-1580. Being the fourth and last king who reigned in Igboho.
His effort was to carry out the last wishes of his father, which was to remove the seat of the empire’s Government back to the ancient capital.
The nobles however, and those born at Igboho were strongly opposed to the removal, but could not prevent or dissuade the king from carrying out his purpose; they therefore had recourse to a stratagem by which they hoped to thwart his purpose.
When they knew the king was about to send his messengers to inspect the old sites, and to propitiate the gods as a preliminary to reoccupation, emissaries were secretly dispatched by them to precede the King’s messengers.
The Basorun sent a hunchback, the Alapini an albino, the Asipa a leper, the Samu a prognathi, the Laguna a dwarf, the Akiniku a cripple. All these emissaries are considered by the Oyo people as unnatural beings, suffering the vengeance of the gods, hence they are termed “Eni Orisa” (the belongings of the gods).
They are usually kept as priests and priestesses to Obatala and other gods, especially the albinos, dwarfs and hunchbacks.
As the King’s messengers sent to inspect the old site were about to offer the sacrifices at the place appointed, these counterfeit apparitions who, according to instructions from the high chiefs had posted themselves on the hill Ajaka, at the foot of which the old palace was built, by preconcerted plan suddenly began to chant: “Ko si aye, ko si aye nibi mo” (no room, no space here any longer).
At night, they roamed about the hill, hooting and cooing with lighted touches in hand, and they were taken for spirits of the hill refusing them readmission into the old Oyo.
This report was distressing to the king, he was at a loss what to do. The Ologbo or Arokin (chief cymbalist) shrewdly suspecting the real facts of the case advised the master to send hunters to investigate the truth of the matter. The six brave hunters sent to inspect the matter were:
Boni, Igisubu, Alegbata, Loko, Gbandan and Olomo.
The six famous hunters armed themselves with weapons and with charms to meet any contingency for self defense.
When these hunters discovered that they were human beings, they descended upon them with gusto, one of the hunters took aim and would have shot one of the deformed beings had he not cried out and begged for his life.
They were all taken alive and brought before the king; and being questioned they were obliged to betray their masters who were at this time ignorant of what had taken place.
The king adopted a most characteristic way of administering to his nobles a silent rebuke which told.
At the weekly meeting of the king and the noblemen for the Jakuta sacrifices (which occur every 5days) after the usual proceedings and religious ceremonies of the day were over, and they retired into the banqueting hall for refreshments as usual, the king on this occasion sent to each of the noblemen a calabash full of locally made beer by the hands of his own deformed emissary.
The Basorun saw with ineffable surprise his hunchback whom he thought was playing the ghost at a distant Oyo emerging from the King’s inner apartment with a calabash full of beer for him, the Alapini saw his albino coming towards him with beer, the Asipa looked perplexed as he saw his leper, the Samu awed at the sight of his Prognathi, the Laguna marvelled when he saw his dwarf waddling towards him and the Akiniku amazed as his cripple approached to serve him with locally made beer.
Each of the high chief being waited upon by his own deformed emissary.
Instantly a deep silence pervaded the room and the rest of the time passed in an ominous stillness.
The king and his noble chiefs parted without a word being spoken on the subject. The noblemen, however, showed their resentment by poisoning the Ologbo the King’s adviser; but he in order to show his love and esteem for the deceased, ordered for him a semi-state funeral, and had his body wrapped in ass’s skin to be taken to the old “Oyo” site for interment.
From this incident, Alaafin Abiipa was nicknamed Oba m’oro (the king who caught ghosts).
Another nickname given to the king that had connection with this event was derived from his head slave Bisa, a Bariba, who was his favourite and one time had great influence with his master.
The king found out that Bisa was accomplice with the Nobles in thwarting his designs. His majesty now adopted a characteristic method of administering him a very sharp rebuke which he never forgot. This is the method he used:
Alaafin Abiipa one day called Bisa and told him that Eleduwe (the king of his native country, Ibaraba) was dead, and that the Baribas have sent to him to pay the ransom of Bisa, who has been elected to the vacant throne.
“Now Bisa, will you go?” Aláàfin Abipa asked
“Yes, your majesty” replied Bisa, “and your majesty may be sure of this, that when I ascend the Ibariba throne, the Ibariba country to its utmost limits will be free and open to all Yorubas”
The king, Aláàfin Àbíìpa then rejoined “why do you wish to go to your country and yet you were trying to prevent me going to my own ancestral home by planning with the nobles? Therefore, you shall not go.”
Bisa begged hard, but his master remained resolute, hence he was nicknamed “Ogbolu Akohun, Akohun Bisa Jale” (Ogbolu the refuser, who totally refused Bisa’s entreaties). From this time, Bisa lost all influence with the king.
The design of removing the seat of Government to Oyo by Aláàfin Abiipa was now successfully carried out and Oyo from that time was known as “Oyo Oro” meaning Oyo of the Ghosts.
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