Irefin, oldest palace in Ibadan on the verge of ruins

Irefin, oldest palace in Ibadan on the verge of ruins

Friday, September 9, 2016 11:41 am

Irefin palace

Irefin palace

Gbenro Adesina/Ibadan

The monthly environmental sanitation in Oyo State has no serious impact on Irefin district of Ibadan where the over 200 year old ancient palace in the city, “Irefin Palace” is situated. Around the palace are all sorts of wastes including animal faeces littering, suggesting a very unhealthy environment.

The palace serves different purposes to different people. For the residents of the area, it is a market place where various food stuffs, live animals like goat, and hens and some local items are being sold. Some services providers like tailors, barbers, hair dressers and wristwatch repairers also have shops there where they are dispensing their services, and tourists within and outside the city throng it.

However, the buildings in the palace premises are all death traps especially to their occupants as they are not only in sorry states of disrepair but collapsing. If government does not take urgent step, whenever any building in the palace collapses, it may claim lives.

The palace, which is mostly occupied by the aged and dated to the early 19th century, is already giving way as the structures are dilapidating due to neglect. Parts of the palace have collapsed. It is gradually turning to a burial ground as many burial spots were sighted in the palace. The palace with about 125 rooms which was constructed with mud blocks and enclosed with strong fence by the sixth monarch of Ibadanland, late Baale Irefin Oguntade who reigned between 1912 and 1914, has about 300 family members of the Oguntade’s lineage comprising: Fagbunre, Ogundeji and Igun families.

One of the dirty parts of the palace

One of the dirty parts of the palace

In the palace is a one storey building situated in the middle of the compound with adjoining shed-like bungalows to the sides and a spacious courtyard at the middle while attached buildings were also constructed at the back.

Investigations revealed that the storey building, which has been locked up for years and only opened for tourists, was occupied by King Irefin and his nuclear family members while palace workers, servants, and the king’s extended family members occupied the adjourning bungalows. The king’s palace was constructed in a way that it was quite easy to view at a glance from the upstairs the entire compound and making it easy for anybody to hear the call of the king whenever he made such through the palace middle window.

Very pathetic was the unhygienic state of the palac-was unkempt and stinking. At the entrance is a small bathroom for all the occupants to bath. The entire rooms and the passages are covered in black soot as a result of the occupants’ cooking in the passages due to lack of kitchen.

Given the background of the palace, an elderly residing family member, Mr. Fatai Ogundeji Irefin, a retired sergeant of the Nigeria Army said that Irefin people are Owus who migrated from Owu town in Osun State. He added that due to war, the Owu town collapsed and its indigenes spread across the Southwest in 1825. Among the places they scattered to are: Owu in Abeokuta, Erunmu, close to Iwo town, Apomu and Ibadan. “Irefin is a name of a person. His father was a warrior and his father migrated to Ibadan where he was allocated a place which includes where we are today according to the practice then. Ibadan is an all comers city where people come from different parts of the Southwest and settled”, he said.

As a result of his service to humanity and protection of his people, Irefin, the son of Oguntade was appointed as Baale (now the title is king) of Ibadanland. The monarch, who was described as an incorruptible leader, was said to have served his people creditably to the extent that his name could never be forgotten in the annals of Ibadan. He was described as a fearless king who stood shoulder to shoulder with the then Alaafin of Oyo, Oba Adeniran Adeyemi 11, who was the father of the current Alaafin, Oba Lamidi Adeyemi 111.

Fati Gundeji Irefin

Fati Gundeji Irefin

Irefin. who would never subject Ibadan to any authority was said to have rebuffed the then Alaafin over his attempt to claim superiority over Ibadan as contained in a letter captioned, “Baale of Ibadan”, written by the Secretary of Southern Provinces dated September 1936. In the letter, Baale Irefin and his chiefs petitioned the government against the insult from Alaafin. However, Alaafin later had his way after allegedly succeeded in buying over Irefin’s chiefs and getting the then District Commissioner of Oyo State, Captain Ross Bower to depose him.

Ogundeji, who disclosed that the family vocation of the lineage is blacksmithing which they have lost touched with because no one wants to do it again said, “Irefin was appointed on merit as a protector of his people. He never failed when he goes to war. He did very well even when he was appointed over his clan just like Mogaji, he never encouraged his subjects to steal for him just like the way the other baales were doing in line with the Panegyric of Ibadanland, “Ibadan ti o jale, Oju lonro, Ibadan omo ajorosun, alo koloun kigbe”. He even cut off the hands of people caught stealing”.

He disclosed that Irefin palace was formerly the second largest palace in the city but with the demolition of the former biggest, Ibikunle’s palace, which was sold in pieces, Irefin palace becomes the biggest calling for the preservation of the palace for the unborn generation to let them know what and how traditional or ancient palace looks like.

He stated further that apart from Irefin discouraging robbery, he introduced taxes to maintain the city, stopped the exportation of palm oil when it became scarce emphasizing, “He introduced taxes for the development of the town. He instructed that nobody should buy or sell palm oil in big containers but in a small pot so that it would not be sold out of the country and will be enough for us at home. He was stated to have contributed the highest amount of money for the construction of Ibadan Grammar School”.

Stressing that the city lacks traditional palace, he noted that the palace at Oja’ba could not be referred to as traditional palace as it lacks all the features that qualifies it as a traditional palace, he appealed to the state government to ensure that Irefin palace is maintained in order to preserve the palace. “This palace is collapsing. We beg the government to help us maintain and rebuild it because we do not have the financial power to maintain it. Do you think somebody like me, a military retiree can maintain it? No. The thickness of it is 23 inches”.

Ogundeji further explained that apart from the state government and council representatives who usually come to the palace to see the avenue of upgrading it to tourist centre, ministers from Abuja and representatives of the Federal Government and foreign investors have also come in to see what could be done to turn the palace into s money making one.

Speaking on a telephone chat, the Commissioner for Information, Culture and Tourism, Toye Arulogun confirmed the tourist potentials of the palace, stressing that it is one of the sites the government has identified and hoped to package and promote for tourism. “The major challenge is how to secure an understanding with the family that owns the palace. Government is willing to develop the palace. If the family could operate symbiotically with the government on the palace, there will be a turnaround of the palace”, he added.

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