The word ‘Awori’ – one of the major subgroups of the Yoruba nation may sound like it doesn’t have a meaning. But there is rarely a Yoruba word without its rich depth of meaning. One may, however, require the knowledge of the custodians of the culture to be able to realize their symbolism.
‘Many years ago, our progenitor Olofin Ogunfunminire was told to place a calabash on the river at Ile Ife and wherever it sinks, that is where he should call his home. So he and his people followed the calabash all the way from Ife through the modern-day Abeokuta till it sank. So when people were asking ‘Awo yen da – where is the calabash’, he responded ‘O ti ri – it has sank’. This is the genesis of Awori’, recounted the custodian and paramount leader of the Awori dynasty, His Royal Majesty, Oba Sulaiman Adekunle Bamgbade (Ayodele III), Olofin of Isheri who doubles as the Adimula of Awori Kingdoms.
Explaining the primacy of Isheri among the Aworis, the royal father said: ‘Isheri is the cradle of all Aworis. Olofin is a very rich king after he gave his sons land after the river. He was still at Ido, where he gave Oniru his land, Elegushi his land, Aromire was the one he left at Isale Eko, he gave Ojora his land, he gave Oloto his land, and others too but he still has majority of the land so Olofin is a very big stool. So even after his expedition of Ido, this is the town he came to. So in this town, we have industrial estates and residential estates and so, this is just the ancient town which is the home of the indigenous people.’
Being the dominant indigenous group in Lagos, the Aworis play a pivotal role in Lagos, the commercial nerve centre of Nigeria and West Africa’s economic hub. Yet Isheri is a centerpiece for this massive Yoruba sub-group. ‘80% of all Obas in Lagos are Aworis so it’s been a challenging responsibility but by the grace of God, I have been able to lead. You can’t talk about Lagos without Isheri. Search the history books. If we sit down, you will learn a lot of history about Lagos. Even River Ogun was named after Olofin Ogunfunminire’, the king told delegate executive members of NAOSNP by the National President, Comrade Oki Samson in an exclusive interview at his palace.
The king who has spent barely a year on the Olofin stool, HRM Oba Sulaiman Adekunle Bamgbade (Ayodele III), Olofin of Isheri further spoke on the unique challenges he is having in order to reposition the kingdom. ‘Being the Olofin of Isheri is a bit dynamic because we have so many families in one community and the stool of Olofin is actually huge. What the Ooni of Ife is to Yorubaland is what the Olofin is to Aworiland.’
‘We are changing the landscape for people to come and see what Isheri Olofin is about. We are on the path of putting Isheri where it belongs in the scheme of things. So if you go around town, you will see that there is a still a feel of the olden days. It is just now that we are trying to redevelop the town.’
NAOSNP gathered from the monarch, ‘Our progenitor, Olofin Ogunfunminire, proceeded from Ile-Ife before hunting expedition took him to Ido. His wife, Ajayi gave birth to the Idejos – the Onirus, the Elegushis, the Ojoras, the Aromires, the Olotos, the Onikoyis – so when we talk about being an Olofin, you must be ready to not just be the Olofin of Isheri but be the Adimula of Awori Kingdoms. So what I find complex is how to carry along the whole Awori kingdoms because there are a lot of challenges to carry the Olofin as the head to where it belongs.’
On his plans to unveil the rich culture and history of the Awori dynasty to the entire world which will lead to a boost in tourism HRM Oba Sulaiman Adekunle Bamgbade (Ayodele III) hinted: ‘When I was going through our archives, I saw so many plans from the past which the Olofins and others talked about including the Awori Museum but it has not come to be established. But as we speak, this palace will undergo remodeling and we expect the Ooni of Ife to come and flag it off at my first anniversary.’
‘We have so many artifacts but they are scattered around. We are going to actually have a place for that here in the palace. I am sure in 1 or 2 years from now, people will be able to come and see the history of the Aworis. Since I came, I have organized an Awori summit where the whole Obas and our prominient sons and daughters have come to sit and deliberate about the Awori people. We are in the process of organizing Olofin Ogunfunminire Cultural Festival. The committee is already working on it.’
‘We are aware that the Lagos State Government has given us an Awori Day Festival but that still does not stop our own because this is our progenitor so we will be showcasing a lot that many don’t know about Olofin Ogunfunminire’, he disclosed to NAOSNP.