Ogunbado Gorge: Ancient Ogbomoso’s Golgotha of criminals and the mysteries of the adjoining Laka and Yemoja streams
Femi OGUNLANA & Oluwole AREO
A mention of Ogunbado in Ogbomoso will make one, especially an aged person, get overwhelmed with a scary feeling and an actual visit to the area will surely make one cringe in trepidation. This is because of what Ogunbado stood for in the past. Ogunbado is the host of a frightening, very deep gorge resulting from years of weathering and the erosive activity of floods, thereby cutting a deep cleft in the earth leaving steep walls down to the bed.
Ogunbado area is regarded as the middle of the city; a resident described it as idodo (umbilical cord) of Ogbomoso. On lowland, it receives deluge of water from varying sources, the instigation of the deep gullies and the gorge that typify the area.
In years past, the Ogunbado Gorge was put to a grim use as a dumping spot of night marauders and thieves who fell in the brutal hands of traditional night guards (hunters). The gorge became the final resting place of many slaughtered thieves and other criminals, the Golgotha or sepulcher of thieves in Ogbomoso and environs.
An aged resident of the area who however preferred anonymity submitted in a chat with The Insight that countless criminals have perished at Ogunbado from time immemorial.
A section of ogunbado gorge after it is filled up.
The Insight further learnt that the last time slaughtered armed robbers were dumped in the gorge was in about 2016, however, the bodies were evacuated later by men of The Nigerian Police Force. This was not so in the past, the dead bodies would be left to rot in the ravine and the remnant bones and other remains get washed off by the flood of Ogunbado.
In the opinion of Comrade Babatunde Alabede Oosa, the coordinator of Oodua Peoples Congress (OPC), Ogbomoso Senatorial District, and who lives in the Laka/Ogunbado axis, the Ogunbado canyon was indeed sunk by piles of dead bodies over the years.
Comrade Alabede who disclosed that his father was a ruthless hunter and had the power to command bush animals for slaughter anytime he wanted to entertain visitors and did not have bush meat at home, revealed that he heard a lot of tales on the Ogunbado gorge from his father.
He said, “Thousands of armed robbers perished there. In those days, robbers invaded from Ile-Ife, Ede, Iwo and many other towns and several of them were slain. This was the time jungle justice was the order of the day, such criminals when overpowered were thrown into the sunken hole.”
Alabede recalled an experience with his father. According to him he was very young then; it was deep in the night and he beheld his father awakened from sleep, put on his hunting costume and then put his back behind a wall in the room and disappeared.
Alabede, curious attempted the same feat but was not successful. When his father returned shortly after, he was soaked in blood, indicating some night marauders had been overpowered and exterminated.
“Such fallen criminals used to be dumped in the Ogunbado canal,” Alabede disclosed.
Also, Chief Layi Ogunlade, head of hunters in Laka, and who has been in the profession for over forty years, corroborated the findings revealing however there was another “mortuary” of criminals in Masifa as he preferred to refer to the ravine as a mortuary.
Chief Ogunlade stated, “Any criminal that escaped in Masifa cannot escape in Laka and any that got away in Laka dared not in Masifa,” noting he grew up to know Ogunbado as the “mortuary of armed robbers.”
Laka And Yemoja: Life And Death
However, that geographical location is more than Ogunbado, it is an area woven in mysteries as there is a Yemoja Waterfall with its tempting plunge pool, and then, there is the Laka water source with all its unique features.
What name do we call the area? The name Laka and Ogunbado are used interchangeably though Ogunbado lies towards the southern end while Laka is more appropriate for the northern belt of the enclave formed into one, with no natural boundaries. The three landforms i.e. Laka, Ogunbado, Yemoja occupy the inner recesses amid thick vegetations while residential houses stand in the peripheries.
Ogunbado, Laka and Yemoja are three streams so to say but whose waters never meet. It is as strange as it is unique, they are domiciled in the same vicinity and appearing to relate but never doing so in reality. Mention Ogunbado, mention Yemoja, you are crushed by a creepy feeling but Laka on its own is more of a merciful landform because of the domestic benefits it offers to the inhabitants in time past and even now.
Ogunbado, it has been remarked, is a gorge of justice; its deep, wide and wild gullies form water courses during the annual rainy season, so it is a stream or river dependent on rain water. Nevertheless, Laka isn’t a stream but a land very rich in water that when any part of it is dug to even less than a foot you begin to scoop water in adequate quantity for domestic and herbal uses. Yet, it is not rain dependent; in all seasons – rainy or dry – water is within reach.
yemoja grove after it is filed and concreted
From all corners of Ogbomoso in the past before the advent of boreholes, well and tap water, Laka provided water for household uses, in fact, it was learnt even as back as the 1990s, the place was always a beehive of activities in the morning as people flocked the place from all directions with carriers of different moulds to fetch water. Scoop a little bit of sands from a spot to make a small hollow and water starts to ooze out hence the name – Laka! That is its mystery! Another distinctiveness of Laka is that its water is very clean, particles-free (at least to naked eyes), colourless and stench-less and indeed possesses all the features of good drinkable water.
This meanwhile is against the enveloping filth of the surrounding area as people dump household refuse there in torrents, wash there and practice open defecation. All this nonetheless pales into insignificance in the water that struts out of the bowels of that ground. It is awesome! Hence, Laka’s cognomen: Laka Opoki, Ari’mi Pa’le, Ari’to Se’be, Ari’gba Ebo Se’deri Amu (Laka Opoki, which finds faeces to rub house, which finds urine to cook soup, and finds calabash of sacrifice to use as lid of water pot).
Alabede says and this was reechoed by the crowd that forms a ring round while The Insight was having a chat with him that, “Laka is a wonderful creation of the almighty God, I don’t know whether to call it a spring or a brook, all I know is that Laka is a useful water body in the area, till today, it supplies water for our domestic use in all Laka and beyond.
“It is the water we drink till tomorrow, it is faultlessly clean, aside that, if anybody is suffering from malaria, and he drinks the water or uses it to bath the illness will disappear. It is God sent. Furthermore, the water never dries, even in the height of dry season the water will still spurt out.”
However, something is inexplicable; the waters never mix, when Ogunbado is coursing down, Laka’s water goes under. This also gives rise to the saying, Laka o ki n fi omi olomi sanra (Laka never relies on water from any other source).
For Yemoja, it is a mini water cascade with a deep pool, stretching down to an unfathomable depth; and it never flows in torrents. Its existence is another mystery. When Ogunbado’s flood courses down too, Yemoja’s water takes a back seat, the Ogunbado water flows over it, it is only after Ogunbado dries off that Yemoja will return with buoyancy. Yemoja as stated is a very cavernous depression into which the water falls from the outcrop rock. On the surface, it looks harmless, appearing as a shallow pool of water and this has caused many children to drown in the pool while trying to scoop its water or bath near it.
“Yemoja has claimed several lives especially of children,” a resident remarked.
“And when this occurred, the dead body is spilled out,” he further disclosed.
But in spite of these harvests of deaths in Yemoja, people would ever go there. Like during the dry season, it is said, when Laka is overcrowded with people fetching water some would prefer to scoop water from it and might slip in the process, getting drowned. But Yemoja water is never as sparkling clean as Laka’s perhaps because it is stagnant water.
In addition, Yemoja is worshipped. Even during the visit by The Insight several calabashes with offerings of sacrifices were sighted by its grove.
Meanwhile, Yemoja suffered a horrendous calamity (if it is right to put it that way) some years ago when an erosion-control channelization project was executed in the area during the tenure of Chief Adebayo Alao-Akala as governor of Oyo state.
The deep pool of Yemoja was filled up with tons of block stones. “However, this was not without a stiff resistance by Yemoja,” an eyewitness told The Insight.
“This is because the block stones being piled into the depression strangely were flung out back overnight. This caused a delay in the execution of the project as the strange occurrence lasted for weeks. This stopped only after its chief priestess was consulted by the contractor and pleaded with, that the goddess of the water be appeased. This was accompanied by a big ceremony, only after this, were the stones not pushed out again,” the eyewitness added.
Comrade Babatunde Alabede, OPC Coordinator Ogbomoso.
The pool was blocked but the water still streams out. The project thus saw to the filling up of much of the Ogunbado gorge though the massive canyon isn’t all eliminated.
But the incredible project is well appreciated by the residents of the area.
In a chat Bara Soun of Ogbomosoland, High Chief Tijani Abioye, who has his family house in Ogunbado was full of thanks to Otunba Alao-Akala over the channelization project, noting that the project saved houses in the area from further degradation and destruction by erosion.
“We thank Akala for helping us to control the erosion in Ogunbado, if not for his intervention when he was governor of Oyo state, the pit would have extended in width, and more houses would have been lost to the gullies.
“We are happy for the erosion control project, it drastically reduced the rate of erosion in the area and helped us to secure our houses,” Bara Abioye stressed.
Speaking on his dream for Ogunbado, Bara said it was to get Ogunbado excised from Aaje as a ward so that Ogunbado can have an independent ward rather than Aaje-Ogunbado ward.
High Chief Abioye who was installed in May 1979 also sought the assistance of governments towards provision of amenities in the area.
He lamented that as big as Laka/Ogunbado is, the area could not boast of a government health centre, this is just as he said that the area is suffering from lack of functional boreholes or wells while calling on governments to come to their aid.
He also called for assistance towards the completion of the Ogunbado Hall being built through communal efforts.
Ogunbado, Laka and Yemoja are landforms that border on the mystic and ever will they remain. Perhaps, the tourism potential of the area should be strategically harnessed.