Trip to the forest of a thousand demons

Statue of one of the spirits in the forest.
Tunde Babajide, recently paid an adventurous visit to Igbo Olodumare to relive the lengendary work of the Late Chief D.O. Fagunwa in Ogboju Ode Ninu Igbo Irunmole.

Meandering through the hilly and sometimes sloppy rough road, from Oke Igbo through Kajola Arepa, Wasinmi, Bolorunduro, Araromi Awo, Camp, Ojooja, Oke Alaafia 1 and 2, the Sunday Tribune crew got to Igbo Olodumare the location of ‘Ogboju ode ninu Igbo Irunmole, a popular legendary novel by D.O Fagunwa on a motorcycle after an hour ride.

The head of the community, Oba Iyiola Igbo Olodumare, the Ogbolu Osin of Igbo Olodumare, was not around when Sunday Tribune called. On hand to receive them were Pa Tiamiyu Oyebode and Pa Ezekiel Oyewale who described the Igbo Olodumare village as a suburb of Oke Igbo. They said it was the Late Chief D. O. Fagunwa, on one of his expeditions, who discovered the place, which was a thick jungle filled with only spirits, fairies and wild animals.

He also named the place Igbo Olodumare (God’s forest) and the thick jungle, Igbo Irunmale, considering the fact that it was domiciled by spirits. Also, he named the various mountains and parts of the jungle according to his experience thus: Oke Langbodo, Oke Hilahilo and Aginju Idakeroro amongst others.

According to some of the inhabitants of the community, people heard about the new place founded by Fagunwa and decided to be part of the farming expedition from the neighbouring villages to the place. They were farming and moving closer to the place but nobody actually got to settle down in the place until the white men came there in the 50s, trading in plank business.

The whites employed blacks who fell the big trees and sawed them into planks. “That was what paved way for the settlement of many people in the community”, claimed Pa Oyewale, who said he got to the village in 1957 from Osun State. According to him, that was when the spirits started receding further into the bush. He claimed they did not see the spirits or the fairies but heard their humming while working.

According to Pa Oyebode, the farmers who settled there were led by Ogbolu Osin Oluwayemi, Amoda, Latomi, Akinyosoye and Mike Olatunji, who brought Pa Oyebode there from Oke Igbo. The first Baale was Ogbolu Osin Oluwayemi who later got a crown from Oke Igbo and became a king; the second was Latomi; third, Akinyosoye while the fourth and ruling monarch is the son of the first monarch.

The people are majorly farmers of cash and food crops like cocoa, cola nut, palm trees, oranges, cassava, yam and maize while their wives make palm oil from palm kernels. Their favourite meal is pounded yam and bush meat which is fast going into extinction. The village, which lacks electricity, pipe borne water, good road network and hospital, depends solely on stream water as the borehole no longer function. The few vehicles which ply the bad road do so every five days, which is the neighbouring village’s market day.

Oke Langbodo, one of the hills in the forest.The community can also boast of one primary and one secondary school – Fagunwa Memorial Primary and Grammar School, Igbo Olodumare. To enable the community achieve the best educationally, the European Union, in its Micro-Projects Programme in Six States of Niger Delta (MPP6) with Abia, Akwa Ibom, Cross River, Edo, Imo and Ondo in association with the Federal Government of Nigeria provided the school with a solar powered computer laboratory. The project is still on-going.

However, Mr. Olanrewaju Okeaje, the keeper of Oke Langbodo, who has the keys to the mysterious forest and who believes in the maxim, “Seeing is believing” claimed that a visit to Igbo Olodumare would convince anyone who has read Fagunwa’s Igbo Olodumare that the book is not mere fiction. Travelling through the cool cocoa plantation on motorcycle during which every one had to use one hand to prevent the trees’ twigs from getting into one’s eyes, the Sunday Tribune crew got to Oke Langbodo with the help of two young boys and Tosin, the keeper’s little daughter. The gate was unlocked and via the staircase, the crew got to a smaller gate at the base of the mountain. A few steps away was the effigy of Baba Onirungbon Yeuke mentioned in Fagunwa’s novel, Ogboju Ode ninu Igbo Irunmale and a number of historic spots mentioned in the novel were seen. Spots like the scene of the fight between Kako Onikumo Ekun and spirits, the quiet forest (Aginju Idakeroro).

But spots like the habitat of the fiery snake (Ojola ibinu), the habitat of the snail that is bigger than the tortoise and the deep valley (ogbun ainisale) could not be reached due to the difficulty in climbing the slippery mountain and the risk involved. If one missed one’s step, one could end up dead.

Mr. Okeaje, however, appealed to the government to make the road to the historic forest motorable, return the remaining objects taken to the city for moulding in good time and construct little signposts to depict historic spots on the mountains. Meanwhile, the Sunday Tribune noted that if the tourism commissioner under the leadership of Governor Olusegun Agagu could take a step to build a guest house with a restaurant, provide a good road network, potable water, electricity and build staircases to connect the mountain tops, so that all visitors would be able to get to all the historic spots without stress.

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