“You are welcome to our ancient Oba’s palace”, the tour guide said as we approached a mud structure that resembled a gate… and he handed us over to the Chief Priest of the Palace- a young fella with stone-rigid face, garbed in a lurid attire of flowing red wrapper, his bare chest almost like that of a nursery school slate…”
All day, we had been exploring the magnificent ancient architectural relics of the Old Oke-Idanre – the ancient settlement of the Idanre people before they descended the hills and resettled at their present foothill location.
As we proceeded into the Oba’s Palace of the ancient settlement, the interior opens up into an unusual courtyard, bedecked with rust-brown iron roofs sloping down to the floor of dusty yard and supported by dexterously crafted wooden pillars which bore different cultural figures such as twin children, women and men. The courtyard is enclosed by a network of interconnected rooms of different sizes, and a huge stack of cow skulls rested at a one of the dingy corners of the yard.
The tour guide explained how the skulls are being used to record the number of years of reign of each Oba in Idanre land; and as he rounded up his exciting speech,a young fella with stone-rigid face, garbed in a lurid attire of flowing red wrapper, his bare chest almost like that of a nursery school slate. On his bare sun-tanned chest, rested traditional beads of varying sizes; and his voice rang a melodious tone as he greeted us with arms stretched out:
“E káàbò sí ààfin oba Idanre ayé àtijó” (welcome to the ancient Oba’s Palace of Idanre land).
He’s the chief priest and custodian of Ìdí Àjàní Shrine (the shrine of the ancient palace). He offered to give us the opportunity to see the shrine if we will do it in an orderly manner. With great ecstasy and vivacity, we quickly formed a straight line and was led into a wooden trap door at a rear end of the courtyard, took a left and entered another door which opened into a smaller yard. A small tree of bright verdure foliage stood at the centre and a shroud of palm-frond with strings of cowrie had been made around its base. A local clay bowl containing sacrificial materials had been placed at its base with a stream of palm oil smeared on top of them.
I was the last person to enter the room.
“You must not enter the presence of the great without offering him a token from your purse”, the priest said as I closed the door behind me. I almost gasped in laughter at the notion of “offering time, blessing time” at a local shrine. As I immediately turned to open the door and quickly ‘escape’, the cognizant priest bellowed “you are not allowed to leave the presence of the great without the rest of the people you came in with”. I was almost like “whaaattt???…na by force?“. Then I quickly sealed my lips before my disgust found wings on my tongue, and I land myself in trouble.
I decided to stay, but refused to drop a naira at the foot of the small tree. The five or so minutes I spent in the shrine was more like an hour of disturbed conscience. I felt like I was the weird one there as every other person reached into their pockets and dropped naira notes into a big bowl offered them by the priest. An ambience of guilt held me as we filed out of the yard. Then gradually, I regained my confidence when a some members of my team began to lament and complain about the apparent form of extortion they just experienced at the shrine, and calling it a ‘touristic scam’- payment for seeing nothing. One said he thought the priest was going to perform a magic for us to see or at least pray for us, or something. I couldn’t but laugh at them and boast of my “smartness” in not dropping my money in the bowl; but little did they know my load of guilt was times ten of the feeling of folly they were battling with.
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This article was written by Folarin Kolawole
Founder of Naijatreks, Nigerian-born Folarin Kolawole is a geologist, travel writer and researcher. When not at work, he travels the length and breadth of Nigeria, exploring, taking photos and writing about her numerous hidden tourist potentials. 'Naijatreks' is a product name registered under the Ntreks brand, which is also duly registered by Nigeria's Federal Corporate Affairs Commission. The contents on this blog are re-usable. However, it must be ensured that it is linked back to this blog, and correctly attributed to Naijatreks or the author. Please do not edit, rewrite or commercialize the original works on this blog without direct and written permission from the Founder (Folarin Kolawole). For inquiries and advert placement on the blog, kindly contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com.