•It’s a reliable place for settling disputes – Oba Aromire
By Ebun Sessou & Oghene Omonisa
Fausat (not her real name) had enjoyed a happy married life with her husband but her delay in conceiving after 10 years of marriage necessitated pressure from her in-laws, especially her mother-in-law. The old woman was not happy as Fausat could not bear a child for her son, who was also her only male child.
At 40, Fausat was losing all hope of bearing a child. Out of desperation and in order to protect her marriage, she thought perhaps her husband was responsible for her inability to conceive, and decided to seek out a male partner who would impregnate her and her husband would naturally accept the baby. Beautiful and social, finding a man was not difficult for Fausat.
Ironically, not only did the man not make her pregnant, her infidelity became not too secretive and a friend of the family caught Fausat on a date with her lover and reported to her mother-in-law. But because Fausat loved her husband and was still very much interested in the marriage, she vehemently denied the allegation when her husband and her mother-in-law confronted her.
Her husband not satisfied, planned to divorce her. The marriage was on the verge of collapse until the matter was taken to Iledi for settlement. Interestingly, the whole truth was revealed at Iledi effortlessly, but remarkably, the matter was settled amicably and the marriage is still intact.
How it works
For the people of Ijora, Lagos State, Iledi is their traditional court which is very essential in settling rifts between people, communities, villages among others. It is also known as the assembly point for the traditionalists recognized for their veneration of the personified earth (Ilè or Odua).
SaturdayVanguard investigations revealed that Iledi is a superstitious and complex architectural creation. The structure and the materials used in constructing it are a representation of the forces of the earth. It is also believed that materials used in decorating the place are used to communicate with the gods.
The Oba of Ijora, Lagos, Oba Fatai Aremu Aromire, in his explanation? said Iledi in Yoruba land is an essential aspect of Yoruba culture that must not be neglected. According to him, “Iledi has been in existence before civilisation. As such, every part of Yoruba land has Iledi. There is no place in Yoruba land that has no Iledi because of its great significance.”
He continued: “Iledi has been in existence before civilisation and it is a place where rifts are settled. It serves as Yoruba traditional court. Whenever there are disputes between individuals, villages or towns, the matter is settled at Iledi.
“For instance, if there is a clash among members of a particular family which has lingered for so long and it is posing problem in the community, the family will be referred to Iledi.
“Today, most people take their cases to the Nigerian courts due to the advent of Western education. But many Yorubas still believe that Iledi is the right place to settle disputes. There are lots of issues that are settled at Iledi and series of cases are referred there on a daily basis.
As a matter of fact, some cases should be referred to Iledi instead of taking them to court.” Oath taking is one of the features of the conventional court, Oath-taking is the major feature at Iledi. All parties take oath to say the truth and nothing but the truth. After hearing the truth from all sides, it is then left for the traditionalists who serve as mediators to arbitrate judiciously.
“It is a place where oath is taken and therefore, it is expedient that you don’t tell lies, if not, you will face the consequences”, says Oba Aromire. Oba Aromire further explained that different cases are brought to Iledi for settlement, and there are no restrictions on the nature of the cases. Whoever is at fault, he or she must apologise to the other person and promise to desist from such act.
Both parties must say the truth in order to get justice and forgiveness. The party at fault will not be stigmatized in the community because he or she was taken to Iledi. So, Iledi is where you get justice”, Oba Aromire said. He stated further, ” Iledi is significant in a community because it reveals the truth.
And until you take your case to Iledi, you will continue to suffer in silence. It is a pity that people prefer going to court than taking their cases to Iledi. The tradition at Iledi is sacred. It is forbidden for anyone to be biased.
“It is only traditionalists that use Iledi. The traditionalists who serve as mediators have taken a sacred oath not to be biased but if anyone violates the oath, such person will die because it is where justice prevails. The traditionalists know the repercussion of telling lies. “We are losing our culture and it is affecting us. It is better we go back to our culture”.
According to Pa Amuda Aberejo, 93-year-old Baale of Ilasa, Lagos, another name for Iledi is Osugbo. The language used in communicating at Iledi can only be understood by the people who have been initiated. You cannot understand the language unless you are initiated.” Ibrahim, the Baale’s son, adds that Iledi is like a secret cult.
“Whatever is done or said there must not be heard in the public domain. You have to go through initiation and oath-taking before entering the place. You cannot enter Iledi if you are not initiated. And once you have entered the place, that is the end. There is no looking back. Both man and woman can be initiated.
“An ordinary person cannot enter Iledi. If he or she does, he or she will face the consequences. Another thing is that there are some things that would be required of you before you are initiated. Iledi members wear white attire and hold stick whenever they go out.
“Another thing about Iledi is that it is where the Oba-elect (Ipebi) is kept for three months, where he will be initiated and indoctrinated on the traditions and customs of the land. All the sacrifices will be carried out at Iledi before he is crowned.
“The traditionalists who carry out the sacrifices are members of a certain cult. They are in three categories: Owopa, Osugbo and the Reformed Fraternity, which is comprised of the rich, and they vary in their operations.
“The mediators would warn the disputing parties against future occurrences. But if they did not desist from having the same disputes, then Aagan (masquerade) would be consulted. A big goat will be used in the process to appease the gods and the disputing parties will pay for the sacrifices.”
He adds: “Before civilisation, people respected Iledi, but civilisation has taken over.”
Continued relevance Explaining the continued relevance of Iledi even in the face of Western civilization, Jamiu who lives at Ijora, told Saturday Vanguard that so many marriages heading for the rock have been restored at Iledi. He also narrated the story of a 35-year-old woman who was wrongly accused of infidelity by her sister-in-law due to hatred.
According to him, the matter was also amicably resolved at Iledi. He confirmed that when Fausat’s case was brought to Iledi, and she truthfully narrated her story after taking the oath, the mediators saw that she did it out of genuine love for her husband and to keep the union, the mediators understood her plight and pleaded with her husband and mother-in-law to forgive and accept her back, which they did. “The truth is that you get justice at Iledi as nobody dares tell lies there and go scot-free”, Jamiu said.