There is no year the Egbeda community doesn’t celebrate Ikole festival. The period is a time dedicated to cleaning the Orowe stream the only source of drinking water, and its’ environs particularly the fat trunk of an Ìrókó tree that stands in the middle of the stream. This sanitary festival is carried out amid fanfare, work-songs, chants and traditional drumbeats. It was one of the places of solution Olúrónbí made up her mind to visit in the quest to finding lasting solution to her marital woe. In the traditions of the Saki people where she belonged, no sane human would agree that infertility in the family is not entirely the fault of the woman. Every man is seen as virile enough by nature to perform his marital obligation and when issue as this arises, all suspicion is on the wife.
A story was once told of a man in the quietest secrecy. His wife kept mum over the whole marital irresponsiveness whereas, the public went about muttering all manners of malicious gossip about the woman, of how she had lost her womb as a teenager, how she got married to a spirit husband in the marine kingdom and what nots. Only a few friends of the family knew where the shoes pinched. The case of Olúrónbí however was of another dimension. Though there were rumors flying here and there, nevertheless, there appeared to be an air of certainty about the prime suspect of the infertility. All fingers pointed towards Olúrónbí and with such scotching pressure coming from all facets, she broke wild to seek spiritual help.
This was after fifteen years of marriage. She had hopelessly become the butt of all kinds of joke in Egbeda community. To rid herself of such shame and derision, she made up her mind to go the whole hog in restoring her lost pride among kinsmen.
According to the tradition of the community, the deified Ìrókó in the stream had a keen ear and would gladly oblige the request of barren women in the land and beyond. Over the years, it had come to be known that a kind-hearted goddess inhabited the trunk and she was widely referred to as an obstetrician because, the belief of the people had it that she catered for the countless unborn children in her kingdom among whom she would choose from to grant the earnest request of the women. This was the piece of news Olúrónbí got wind of and was resolved to embark on the journey hoping it might just be her turn to be gifted a child of her own.
While she awaited the sanitation to be done with, it eventually got to her turn to offer her request to the giver of blessed children. At this time, she had a reflection on the family pressure over the years. She fell to her knees and wept uncontrollable. Most annoying was, two weeks prior this journey, her mother-in-law had attacked her at the market square, jeering and calling her all sort of abominable names. The public disgrace was too crushing that when she finally was able to trudge the long distance home, the thought to just “do it once and get out of the shame” filled her sullen heart. She wanted to commit suicide but for the intervention of a still voice. As if filtering through the window chinks, enjoined her to exercise more patience.
Before the deified Ìrókó, she remained face-down as if too flustered to whisper that long meditated prayer request to an omnipotent goddess.
There were plenty testimonies that gave Olúrónbí the steel courage to make this journey. She had been told of a barren woman in a neighboring community who had made it to the same stream. She was rewarded with a male child exactly a year after she visited. However, Olúrónbí decided to go the extra mile in her request unlike what she learnt from the others. Maybe her action was fuelled by her level of desperation to at least make her faithful husband happy. At least, this once. “if you give me a male child, I will bring him back to you as a token of appreciation”. She had enthused.
It was on a market day when she couldn’t stay back at home because of domestic needs. There were a few things in the farm to be attended given it was planting season. She wouldn’t leave all the responsibilities to her husband as a supportive wife. Even when the roads were lonely, Olúrónbí found her way to the farm. She was lucky it happened few distance away from the community. It was on her way back. It only took a split second; she collapsed and was unconscious of her immediate surroundings. By the time she was examined at home by veteran local midwives, the good news tinkled her ears and her heart leapt in joy on being told she was pregnant! Just like the case of a Hebrew woman, she wept happily in songs to the supreme giver of life.
Irapada had grown into a handsome five-year-old boy domineering and quite visible among peers. Of course, it was way obvious he had attributes of an over-pampered child. His mother must not hear him cry or being beaten by anybody, she would bring the heavens down. Even her husband couldn’t do anything to change the condition knowing the depth of hell Olúrónbí had gone through before God answered her prayers. He wasn’t aware either of the place she went to pray or privy to the promise to consecrate the life of the eventual child to the services of the giver. That was the secret to be borne by whoever was party to it.
It had been a bright day one afternoon when all of a sudden, the weather changed in rapid movements of cloud gathering towards the East. This was a sign of heavy rains. Being the first quarter of the year when the rains were eagerly anticipated for the first plantings, the quick development was going to delight farmers who had been waiting for such experience. As usual, Irapada had gone out to play, though not too far but as much as the mother would allow, his absence would always cause occasional tempest in her heart. To make sure he was at all-time safe, she formed the habit of checking on him at a regular interval. The change in the weather however, was like a bolt from the blue. No one had expected it albeit the season. In the batting of an eye, the cloudy weather gathered fearful momentum that gave rise to a raging storm. Within same moment, there was a fiercest storm such as was never seen before. It took the entire community hostage. Voices of frantic women could be heard calling out the names of their children to come back home immediately because of the premature dusk that came upon the community like a thick blanket.
The storm had given way to a hurricane and nobody knew such disaster was lurking around, hiding behind some traitorial trees to take a swoop on the community. Just as other panic-stricken parents, Olúrónbí was at the top of her voice calling Irapada to come back home. When he didn’t show up within expected time, she could no longer hold her peace. Daring to come outside amid the threat, she went straight to Kolawole’s mother. Kolawole was Irapada’s regular play-mate. On arrival, what she saw was most disturbing. Kolawole’s mother was squatting over the lifeless body of her son weeping profusely. When Olúrónbí asked what had happened to Kolawole, his mother couldn’t part her lips to offer the needed explanation. While the two children were playing in the storm defiling the menace, they were soon overtaken by the dreadful hurricane. Kolawole’s dead body could be found but no one could tell of the fate of Olúrónbí’s only son. The hurricane had swept him away leaving no trace behind. Ìrókó had come to claim his own. Upon hearing this, Olúrónbí burst into a dirge that would continue for years!
“ Oníkálukú ń jẹ́jẹ̀ẹ́ ewúré…ewúrẹ́ ewúrẹ́ Oníkálukú ń jẹ́jẹ̀ẹ́ àgùntàn…àgùntàn bọ̀lọ̀jọ̀ Olúrónbí jẹ́jẹ̀ẹ́ ọmọ rẹ̀ ọmọ rẹ̀, apọ́n bí epo, Olúrónbí ò, jọhin jọhin, Ìrókó Johin Johin”
Translation-Everyone promised goat,others came with ram,a big fat ram, Olúrónbí promised her only soon,her only beloved son. Olúrónbí has a son, Ìrókó claimed the son.