•The gods were angry when the cows desecrated the sacred hills—Monarch
•We prayed to the gods after the cows plundered our farmlands —Community Prime Minister
•They’re now food for the deities——Traditionalists
•The herders would’ve died too if they didn’t hide from the rain
•A monarch was once buried there alive, how much more ordinary cows
•Traditional rites to be conducted for the 36 cows.
•Herdsmen leave community in fear
•People should respect tradition——Speaker House of Assembly
Dayo Johnson Akure
WITHOUT any premonition that he was shepherding his 36 cows to be killed on a sacred hill, a herder identified as Ladam left Ilorin, Kwara state for down south in high spirit and arrived safely in Ijare, lfedore council area of Ondo state barely two weeks ago.
Ladam was in search of greener pasture for his herds hence he trekked across the two states before arriving at the hill that has now turned to their final resting place having been struck dead by lightning.
On arrival in the purely agrarian community known for trading in kolanut, Ladam without asking questions erected a tent on top of the hill known as Oke Owa and confidently stayed there with other herders he met on ground. At least the constitution guarantees him free movement and association in his fatherland.
However, the people of the community according to reports had on several occasions warned the herdsmen of the danger of allowing their cows to graze in the secluded area on the hill.
The unexpected however occurred last week Saturday as the god of thunder residing on the hill struck by sending lightning which consumed all the 36 cows within a twinkle of an eye.
The unusual event started with a downpour accompanied by thunderstorms and lightnings which lasted about three hours. At the end, all the 36 cows around the sacred hill were struck dead in one fell swoop.
The herder and his other colleagues escaped death by the whiskers as they reportedly hid few metres away from where the cows were grazing in the rain. After the lightening had struck, any passerby would mistakenly think that all the cows were in a sleeping competition as no scratch was noticeable on their body as they lay dead on the hill.
Ladam’s joy was thus short lived as he left the community empty handed, dejected and bankrupt barely a week after he arrived
It was learnt that the sacred Oke Owu hill became significant in the history of the community because it was the first point where the community’s monarch settled on his way from Ile-Ife. Hence, the community idolised the hill and on yearly basis, the monarch would go to the hill to perform a priestly function.
Vanguard learnt that the farmers in the community had on several occasions reported the destructive activities of the herders on their farmland to their traditional ruler, the Olujare of Ijare, Oba Adebamigbe Oluwagbemigun who in turn had cried to both the security agencies and the state government.
The traditional ruler had reportedly met severally with the herdsmen on the complaints of his subjects as regards the destruction of their farmlands but nothing was done to halt the menace.
Vanguard learnt that the people of the community therefore decided to take the matter to their gods as the herdsmen turned deaf ears to their cries over the unending destruction of their farms.
They refused to heed our warnings—Community Prime Minister
The Prime Minister of the town, High Chief Wemimo Olaniran confirmed that the death of the cows was an act of their gods saying “we have warned them several times to vacate that sacred place”.
Olaniran who holds the title of Sapetu of Ijare said “five days before this time, we learnt that Fulani men were there and were trying to build their tent and we protested that they were taking over our land from us. We therefore prayed to God to save us and intervene because we don’t want anything to desecrate the place as it is a very special place as far as Ijare community is concerned. They took their cows to our farms to eat our crops. And at times, they would go as far as uprooting our cassava tubers to feed their cattle.
“We pleaded with them that we don’t want trouble, they should not graze on our farm again, yet they refused to heed our clarion call. When we now learnt of their presence at Okeowa, as usual we went into a prayer session in the palace. We told God we are helpless people, our heritage of years and centuries ago is being desecrated and we don’t want the gods of the land to be annoyed. We prayed fervently to God to come to our aid.
“The incident was an act of God which no one could query. The place is a very special place as far as Ijare community is concerned. It is only the king who enters there once in a year for sacrifices. We were there this morning and we saw 36 cows dead apart from the one inside the bush. It has happened and there is nothing we can do about it. There had been incidents like that before but not as massive as what we have there now. Some individuals who desecrated the land in the past witnessed thunderstorm attack. When you desecrate any part of Ijare particularly the places where sacrifices are made like the grove, such incident would happen so we don’t allow anybody to go there.
“The place, ‘Owa’ is a sacred place, where the Olujare normally visited once in a year. He would stay there in seclusion for a day and perform some traditional rites and no other person is allowed to go there. It is a sign that the gods don’t want whosoever to move to that place and settle down there. The place is not meant for any ordinary person, even when Kabiyesi himself goes there, which is once in a year, there is a way he will comport himself when he gets there.
“One unforgettable incident that happened there was that one traditional ruler of this town went there but he couldn’t return, he was buried alive there. So we don’t encourage people to climb that hill. As at now, nobody can touch the dead cows, even the Fulani people that we met there said it was thunderbolt attack, they even told us that anyone who was interested could go there and take away the cows. But we said it was a taboo for anybody to touch or do anything anything there until after three days when some traditional rites would have been performed by the traditionalists. The dead cows will be there forever, it is part of the history of our land for people to see as testimony in future that such a thing happened. An Oba was buried there alive and heaven did not fall how much more ordinary cows.
“No other casualty occurred. When it happened, some chiefs accompanied me to the police station to make an official report, the DPO even came to the palace and we explained to him that it was an act of God and he confirmed that it was thunderbolt attack and that the cows were not poisoned.
The gods were angry——Monarch
The traditional ruler of the town, Oba Oluwagbemigun who spoke with vanguard also said what happened to the cows that desecrated the sacred hill was “purely an act of the gods
He lamented that the herders had refused to heed warnings to keep off the sacred hill noting that it was “against the tradition of Ijare to turn Oke- Owa hill to a grazing land”.
“Okeowa is a sacred place and our people know that they can’t just go there the way they like. As the ruler of the town, I go there once in a year and I don’t even go there alone. I go there with my chiefs and some people who are revered. There is nothing we can do than to reiterate to them how sacred the place is. My people know this. We will keep warning them. To me it is an act of God, what we were warning them against has come to pass”, he said.
On the rumour making the round that the cows were poisoned, the monarch denied saying “the cows died because they strayed into the sacred hill which angered the gods. Things of this nature had never happened since I assumed the throne 22 years ago. The villagers and the herders have been living together peacefully. Nobody was aware that such had happened until the following morning when a hunter who went to check his trap came to inform us of the unfortunate incident.
“Though, when it started raining early Saturday, we heard the sound of the thunder four times but we never envisaged it could happen because we did not believe anybody could go there. Even as the king of Ijare, I only go there once in a year, after appeasing the gods. Days ago, Miyetti Allah leader in this local government came to my palace, he also said that it was lightning strike and that the owner of the cows, a 26-year-old man has gone back to Ilorin.”
The monarch has however appealed to his subjects to go about their normal duties without causing any trouble and equally appealed to the State Government to expedite action and remove the dead cows after the traditional rites must have been performed on them.
Some traditionalists who spoke on the incident said what happened in the community showed that tradition cannot be toyed with. Speaking with vanguard, a traditionalist, Haruna Igbekele said “the herdsmen were warned but they took the warning with a pinch of salt and the repercussion was grievous. I am sure that if the herdsmen were beside the cows when the lightning struck, they too would have died instantly. I was informed that they hid far away from the hill where their cows were grazing when the rain started. Otherwise human casualties would have been recorded. The herders preferred the herds to graze in the sacred hill because the grass there are greener and fresher. It’s a sacred place where people are not allowed to visit so the grass there is much and fresh. That must have attracted the herdsmen to the place. The journey to the sacred hill is almost an hour. I don’t know why the herders will leave the low level field and prefer to take their herds to the top of the hills”.
Another traditionalist, the Akogun of Ijare, Chief Isaac Awe said that the dead cows cannot be removed from the hill but will get rotten there. He said, “it is impossible to remove what the deity has killed. They have become food for the gods. We need to urgently appease the deities because obviously they have been provoked”.
Miyetti Allah accepts fate
In an interview with the state chairman of the Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria in Ondo state, Alhaji Bello Garba, he said “the members of the association had visited the area to ascertain what was responsible for the death of the cows. Our findings showed that the cows were not poisoned as being speculated in some quarters. It’s an act of God. We have pleaded with the owners of the cows to take heart. There is nothing anybody can do about it. We do not suspect any foul play on the part of the community. Our members across the state would continue to live peacefully with their host communities”. To avoid a re-occurrence, Garba promised that “the association will continue to sensitize its members in the state on the need to avoid sacred areas”.
Govt moves to prevent epidemic
Meanwhile, the state government has deployed officials of the Health and Agriculture Ministries to the community to prevent looming epidemic as the decomposing cows have started emitting foul odours across the community. The officials have met with the monarch and other community leaders.
Veterinary officers from the Ministry of Agriculture during a meeting at the palace of Onijare of Ijare Oba Adebamigbe Oluwagbemigun said they were in the town to set up a disposal committee to prevent likely outbreak of epidemic in the town. The committee, they said will consist of security agencies, Federal Department of Veterinary and Pest Control, State Ministry of Agriculture, State Environmental Sanitation Service, the host community and Miyetti Allah.
The leader of the team from the Ministry of Agriculture, Dr Akinsorotan Akinbamidele warned the people not to go to the scene of the incident to prevent infection by Anthrax diseases which they said was highly contagious.
The Speaker of the House of Assembly, Rt Hon Bamidele Oloyelogun who hails from Isarun, a neighbouring community in the council area said “the people should respect tradition and stop creating unnecessary tension. Oloyelogun expressed displeasure with the way cattle had destroyed farmlands in the town.
The chairman House committee on Agriculture who accompanied the speaker to visit the area, Taofeek Muhammed said that though the incident was sad but it was a signal to the Fulani herdsmen to check their ways of operation.
However, many questions remained unanswered as to the death of the cows while the herdsmen who were on the hill with the cows were spared.
The traditionalists and community leaders who were interviewed insisted that “no one can question the gods as they do what they like and like what they do. If it pleases the gods, the herdsmen on the sacred hill would have been struck dead too. Just believe what you are told. It is obvious that the herdsmen went beyond their boundaries and the deities showed that they are still potent but just wanted to teach then some lessons.
Meanwhile, findings by vanguard showed that herdsmen have relocated from the community following the ugly incident which had turned the community into a tourist centre since last Saturday when the gods struck.
The hills which had hitherto housed the herdsmen according to reports are now empty as the herders have moved their herds out of the community. The movement according to eyewitness account was carried out late at night.
Police Image maker Femi Joseph said that normalcy had returned to the community and that the herdsmen and the community had resolved to continue to live peacefully as the death of the cows was an act of God.