Thirty-six cows were found dead in mysterious circumstances at Oke Owa Hill in Ijare in Ifedore Local Government Area of Ondo State. The traditional ruler of the community, Olujare of Ijare, Oba Adebamigbe Oluwagbemigun, tells The Punch about the incident as he explains some of the mysteries
When were you crowned as the monarch of Ijare ?
I ascended the throne of my forefathers about 22 years ago. Ijare came from Ilare Quarters, Ile-Ife, (Osun State).
In the last week, there have been reports in the media about the mysterious death of 36 cows at Oke Owa Hill, what exactly happened?
There was a rainfall which was accompanied by four thunderstorms that (Saturday) night. I was in the sitting room at the palace watching television when the rain started. The thunderstorms were very fierce. The last one came with strong lightning and a tremendous sound. Everyone was scared, even in the palace here. I knew that something must have happened somewhere as the lightning was very fierce and bright. So in the early hours of Sunday after the rains, someone in the community, who had gone to check his trap around the area, ran to the palace to report what he saw there. When he came into the palace, he was trembling and he took a while before he could say what he saw.
Some people have been talking about the sacredness of the Oke Owa land where the cows were found dead?
Oke Owa (Owa Mountain) is a sacred place for people from the community. I had never heard of such a thing since I was enthroned as the oba. This one is a peculiar one. It has never happened before. It is not a place that anyone can just walk into. I go there once a year and come back the following morning. Anytime I go there, the whole community will be on the ground to welcome me back.
What is the history behind the sacredness of Oke Owa?
Oke Owa is not a place where everybody can go; you can climb the hill now but you cannot go into the inner place that I enter, never. That is how it had been before I became the king. If you say you want to go there, we will warn you against it. For those (herders) that went there with their cows, you can see the consequence.
But since I became a traditional ruler, I had never witnessed an incident of this nature and I cannot say if such had occurred before I became the king.
What are the unique traditions of this town?
Our tradition is enormous. For instance, the place where the incident happened, I go there once in a year. What will make me not to go there will be if there is an epidemic and we don’t pray for that to happen.
Since the place is sacred, why were the Fulani herdsmen that went there allowed to go there?
We were not aware that they went there. No, we never knew. I am the only one that is permitted to go to the innermost part of the hill. Like I said, I stay there till the following morning. There is a place for the chiefs, who accompany me, to stay. They dare not venture to follow me to the exact place I go. I am the only one that climbs to the place.
Do the herdsmen need to return there to do something to appease the god(s)?
To do what? The place is sacred. The antidote is simple; they should not just go there.
What will happen to the dead cows now, will they be buried there or taken away from there?
You can’t do anything to them; you can’t even touch them.
Don’t you think leaving them there to decompose could cause an epidemic in the community?
Yeah, I have informed them at the Ondo State Ministry of Health, although they cannot do anything there without us. So what I will do is to tell my chiefs to follow them to the place, to do the necessary things. The cows are still there.
But some people have alleged that the cows were poisoned. How would you react to that?
That is mischievous and nonsensical, how can you poison 36 cows at once? Is it by giving them food? It is not true; I see that as nonsensical. Those saying that don’t know what they are talking about.
Is there any plan by the community to completely bar anyone from going to the land to avoid a recurrence?
There is a limit to where people can go on that mountain. Even strangers or you as a journalist, there is a limit to where you can go there; that is all I can say. We warn people not to go there; please don’t go there.
What is the next line of action for the community on the matter?
The only thing I can tell my people is not to entertain any fear; some people have been coming to the palace to express fear. They say they fear that Fulani people may come back to attack them in future but I have been telling them not to entertain any fear because Ijare is where Ijare is. We didn’t poison their cows and we didn’t go there with them. All I know is that the place is sacred and people are not permitted to go there anyhow.
What development has the town experienced since you became the king?
I ascended the throne 22 years ago and I believe that the ordinary people can tell you that Ijare has advanced tremendously. Ijare is bigger than what you are looking at and we have witnessed a lot of happenings but not in this dimension (not on the killing of cows). I know my people are peace-loving.