The memoirs of the 16-year Kiriji war and its effect in Yoruba land was brought back to life recently in Imesi-Ile, Osun State as members of the community began a move to transform the sites into tourism potentials for economic development of the town.
Kiriji war, an internecine war which ravaged yorubaland is the longest war in the world. It was a war fought to resist the overbearing influence of Ibadan over Ekiti and Osun. It ended on 23 September 1886 after a peace treaty was signed by stakeholders in Imesi.
Annually, the people of Imesi gather to celebrate Kiriji day, a day to remind themselves of the war and at the same time remember their loved one who died during the war, they visited the war sites, battlefields and showcase the relics of some of the materials used by warriors during the war.
Some of the war sites in Imesi include Ibu latoosa, a spot where latoosa was killed, Fejeboju stream, therapeutic and healing water where wounded soldiers healed their wound with water from the stream, for years the water was red, Asasa caves, a site with nine caves that can take between 200 and 500 people at a time, blacksmith spot, Masoleum of Mass burial where over 400 soldiers guiding Latoosa were killed and buried, Aga Ogedengbe, the confederate high command and the proclamation spot.
Besides the monument, some materials including war garment, charms, guns, swords and masquerades were always displayed during the remembrance.
But the 2018 celebration of Kiriji day celebrations took another dimension as Kiriji Cultural Foundation initiated a developmental plan with the launch of infrastructural projects on the sites with the intent to transform Imesi Ile into a tourism destination by adding value to historical spots.
Dignitaries from all walks of live including representatives of Osun State ministry of Home Affairs, Culture and Tourism, Representative of the Ooni of Ife, Oba Adeyeye Eniitan Ogunwusi Ojaja Ii, Chief Jimoh Aliu, Erelu Funmi Rotiba, members of Imesi Progressive Association and others participated in the tour during which the foundation for development in all the sites were laid.
Ooni of Ife who was represented by Oba Fayemi Oluwamayowa Elerefe of Irefe in Osun State commended Kiriji war foundation for their decision to preserve sites where an important aspect of Yoruba history took place. He added that visiting the place will always remind the Yorubas of the need to stay in peace and harmony and avoid anything that lead to war.
Speaking on the development, Otunba Sola Ojo Wiliams, Founder Kiriji War Foundation said the rationale behind the move is to attract more visitors and enhance economic development of Imesi through historical tourism sites which abound in the community
“This is the centre of Ekiti Parapo war, most of what transpired then happened here and instead of allowing the sites to be wasting away we have decided to add value to it and transform it into a tourism destination in the state,” he said.
“Before now we usually go to the sites every year with top personalities Governor Oyinlola use to be part of it, Aare Gani Adams and his team have also been here.”
Ojo also hinted that the federal government has approved the construction of a museum where all the relics would be kept and that effort is ongoing to enlist the sites into one of the world heritage sites in Nigeria. He added that the state government under the leadership of Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola also took some steps in developing a site by erecting pavilion and a staircase.
Engineer Sukanmi Olamijulo, Chairman, Imesi Ile Progressive Association (IPA) in an interview with our reporter said: “The projects have been tagged to some organizations and individuals and assured that before the next Kiriji day celebration the projects would have been completed.” Adding that they are collaborating with the state government on the projects.
Hon Olalekan Omole, Chairman Obokun East LCDA who was also part of the tour said: “The launching of the developmental projects on the war sites is a welcome idea which should be supported by all and sundry. We are all happy with this move and I believe this is part of our vision for the state. Tourism development will enhance the state economic development because it is good source of income. I want to advise the federal and state governments to be consistent in promoting cultural tourism in the country, this country is endowed with a lot of potentials.”
A tourist and visitor to Imesi, Sir Dan Nawrizin commended the initiative and urged them to ensure good security is in place to protect not only the tourist sites but tourists visiting the sites. “Tourism is a great source of income,” he said. “It has the potential to generate good income for the country. Many countries thrive on tourism alone and I am sure Nigeria can also get to that level with increasing flow of tourists and cash into our economy.”
Oluaye Adetoyese Olakisan Abdulahi, Oluaye Oba Ogboni Agbaye is of the view that apart from the infrastructural development and annual celebrations, traditional rites should also be performed periodically to avoid further bloodshed and at the same time use it to appease the spirits of those who were killed during the war.
The event ended at the palace square with cultural dance from Osun state cultural troupe and others as well as masquerade display by Oyiiri and Gbadobiogan, two of the powerful war masquerades that also joined in prosecuting the war.