Olumo Rock: Egbas’ shelter, fortress
By Jimoh Babatunde
Imagine blasting a rock and instead of the normal powder eruption, what you have is pus and blood gushing out. That is one of the mysteries associated with the Olumo Rock in Abeokuta, Ogun State.
Olumo Rock is a massive outcrop of granite rocks of primitive formation from which Abeokuta, the capital of Ogun State, derived its name. The highest point on the Olumo rock is about 137 meters from the base of the rock.
Another mystery surrounding the rock is the existence of a tree of over 200 years old which still grows there. “This tree neither withers nor sheds its leaves throughout the year. It flourishes throughout the seasons, whether dry or rainy season,” it was reported.
Olumo rock is an historical monument, which served as a shelter and fortress to the Egba people during the Yoruba Intercity wars. By 1830, the main body of the Egbas had already settled at the site of the Olumo and the refuge provided by the rock marked the end of their wanderings and struggles for existence.
Since then, they regard the Olumo Rock as their protection shrine and they make annual sacrifices to its deity. People from all walks of life still go there for divine consultations.
During a tour of various sections of the rock recently, the tour guide disclosed that the Alake of Egbaland, being the paramount ruler of the Egba, offers sacrifices in the shrine on behalf of the people and prays for the whole country and the entire Egba people, as well as for the tourists that visit the rock.
To the Egbas, Olumo Rock stands not only as a monument of faith in unity but also a source of strength and unfailing protection and sustenance from the Supreme Being who led their ancestors through the perplexities of life safely to Abeokuta.
Olumo Rock, today, is a world class tourist destination that stands as the only one of its kind in Africa and presumably the world. The centre consists of a fast food joint, museum, and a giant telescope to view Abeokuta, a fountain of atonement, a recreational park, and an amphitheatre among others.
From the gate with the inscription ‘Olumo Rock Tourist Complex,’ tourists will not lose sight of the heavy duty escalator and a glass elevator running the different levels of the rock alongside the old stairway for visitors who love climbing.
Climbing the rock could be extremely challenging, most especially for the aged, the installation of this facility has greatly helped to attract more visitors to Olumo Rock, but the fun still lies in using the old stairway.
As we make our way to the top of the rock, it leaves many breathless and ready to take a break to rest on the benches under the trees growing from the rock and enjoy some clean breeze. The journey continues with climbs on irregularly sized rocks through a narrow corridor that leads to the top of the rock.
All along the way, we catch sights of carvings in the rock, cowry-studded statues and the ancient abode of the priestesses who lived in huts on the rock. It was amazing to note that the rock is naturally surrounded by caves, one of which is about 20 feet long and 25 feet wide.
These caves have slab-like stones, which appear to have served as seats used by the ancient dwellers. It probably was used as a hall by the dwellers.
Another cave, some 20 meters long and 17 meters wide, seemed to be a dwelling place. It has five in-built rooms with a long corridor, a sitting room, kitchen and a store.
At the east end is another big cave, built with mud walls into outer and inner chambers. This is used as a shrine by the devotees of Orisa-Igun, God of longevity. Orisa Igun is celebrated annually during which goats, rams and other animals are sacrificed. The ceremonies last for 30 days.
There were also points with holes on the floor where the Egba warriors were said to have hidden their wives and children during inter tribal wars. There are holes dug on the floor which were said to have provided a devise for grinding pepper.
At the summit of the rock, tourists have the opportunity of having a panoramic view of the city from atop the rock.
The old St. Peters Cathedral, the Ogun River, the city’s beautiful central mosque, the Alake’s palace and many others, can be sighted from the top of the rock.
Descending was not as difficult as climbing. At the base of the rock; some tourists took time out to visit the museum of history while some took time out to relax at the eatery.
It was learnt that efforts are being made to initiate and execute visual art projects, which when completed, would portray the historical and cultural significance of Olumo Rock as the ancestral home of the Egbas and also make the complex aesthetically pleasing.
“Sculptures as well as mural designs which will tell stories of past and present events, would be placed around the rock while some spaces have also been mapped out to be used as gardens, just as locally made tents are in the pipeline for those desiring to hold parties in a natural environment within the complex,” it was gathered .