THE COGNOMEN OF "IJAKADI L'ORO OFFA" AND BENEVOLENCE HISTORY OF OFFA PEOPLE. By Alabidun, Shuaib Abdulrahman

Date: 2017-12-27

Offa is an ancient town and Headquarters of Offa Local Government Area of Kwara State, Nigeria. By landmass, it is the second largest town in the state, after Ilorin, the state capital that takes first. It is also the traditional Headquarters of Ibolo dialect of the Yoruba speaking people of Kwara and Osun States.

Going by the history lane, though, strenuous efforts were made to obtain reliable archival records from various sources as there were controversies surronding the exact year of its existence. A source has it that Offa was first settled around AD 1000 by Yoruba while another source documented it to have been around 1395. Be it as it may, none ever debunked the fact that Offa was founded by Olalomi Olofa-gangan who happened to be a crown prince from Oyo. He was the one that brought the area into limelight. He was believed to be a direct descendant of King Oranmiyan in Ile-Ife.

Skillfully, Olofa-gangan was a renowned hunter credited for his professionalism as an archer. His first settlement was near a river called Marka. Being distinguished and a frontier town in the old Oyo Empire, Offa featured in both intra and inter-tribal wars and defended itself against the Nupes and the Fulanis.

According to Prof. Saburi Biobaku, he believes that "Great men appear now and again to help shape the course of human history. The history of their lives does not of itself amount to the totality of the history of man. It nevertheless serves to illuminate that history and unravel the course of human events." In total agreement with the intellectual disposition of the sage, writing about the historical background or even about the legends of an ancient town like Offa is like putting leg in an endless marathon relay race or diving into an ocean, which according to L. A. K. Jimoh, its "depth and width of which appear limitless". Olofa-gangan died at Offa Eesun in the course of his migration.

However, for the better part of history, It is amazing to discover that Offa as a town was eventually coined from Olofa-gangan; a name formed from the weapons Olalomi Olofagangan made used for his hunting activities. The weapon, which is a bow and arrow called OFA in Yoruba Language. No wonder, sometimes, Offa is spelt as 'Ofa'.

By keeping the ancient tradition, Offa is known with ijakadi (wrestling) which is dated back 14th century. It is a cultural festival that was enacted around 1498 AD during Moremi Festival. Moremi, a great heroine from Offa who became the queen of Oranmiyan of Ile-Ife. Like Queen Amina of Kaduna, Moremi singlehandedly rescued the people of Ife from their enemies.

Ever since then, the festival has been annually stipulated for December. Nearly everybody from all walks of life do grace it. It has become a meeting point for all Offa indigenes. It is coincides with the eating of the new yam. The eating of the new yam is characterized by the cutting of the yam into two halves by a blindfolded man which is referred to in vernacular as " LA'ARE".

Ijakadi as history has it, is a remembrance of the duel between the two illustrious sons of Offa who engaged each other in a fierce wrestling over a tuber of yam in the farm yard where nobody was around to separate them. In the modern day and in commemoration, Ijakadi has now become a form of mock wrestling bout between the Olofa of Offa and his second in command (Essa), while the whole town cheers them on and take sides.

Ironically, Olofa usually wins the duel. This is to remind the people that Olofa remains the indisputable supreme authority of the town. But in his defensive excuse, "ESSA" would always find an excuse for his defeats thus "suku loyomi," meaning "it was the corn chaff that slipped me not the Olofa". This usually attract a thunderous ovation from the crowd with the slogan " KABIYESI OOO".

Activities that featured during the last edition of the festival included a Road show which paraded the five districts of Offa in their dazzling colours, the Arewa Offa Beauty Pageant which celebrates the traditional Offa women, a Food Expo which showcased different dishes of sweet potato - Offa main food crop and Ijakadi Traditional Wrestling.

The word ijakadi has a big influence on an average Offa man, as the praise name of Offa is "Ijakadi L'oro Offa", a Yoruba phrase meaning " Wrestling is our game".

Da- Golden

 


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