ASCENT TO IDANRE: Akure Set for 2019 NBA-SLP Conference
In the run-up to their 2019 Conference, under the theme, “Value-Added Legal Practice,” members of the Nigerian Bar Association’s Section on Legal Practice (NBA-SLP) marked their arrival in the host city, Akure, the serene and leafy capital of Nigeria’s Ondo State, in the most dramatic fashion: with an ascent to one of Nigeria’s most beautiful and most stunning natural landscapes.
The trek to the top of the legendary Idanre Hills seemed to be a fitting tribute to the SLP’s renewed commitment to rise to greater heights, and to take its engagement with its members and other stakeholders to a whole new dimension, as could be attested to by the gusto with which these lawyers made the arduous climb.
For all the challenge they present to even the most enthusiastic climber, these elevated heights– also known as the Oke Idanre Hills – are also a wonder of aesthetic beauty and tremendous cultural and historical significance. Recognized globally as one of Nigeria’s most important tourist attractions, the site was deservingly designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2007. The summit of these hills rises to a jaw-dropping 3,000 feet above sea level, dwarfing the community of Idanre like the proverbial Gulliver towering over the town of Lilliput – seeming to nestle the town protectively in its arms, or threatening to fall and crush it any moment.
Led by Gbenga, a tour guide, the NBA-SLP conferees began their long trek to the top, beginning from the famous ‘Great Steps’ – an over 600-step staircase that leads up into the hills. These winding steps are punctuated by five resting-points situated at least 100 metres apart. As they made their way to the top, and then to the fabled ancient settlement on the hills, the conferees were educated – nay, regaled – by the tour guide as he gave a riveting account of some momentous events in the long history of a people who trace their ancestry from the ancient city of Ile-Ife, but see their forebears, not as offspring of Oduduwa, the legendary progenitor of the Yoruba race, but as his siblings. The story of Idanre’s beginnings – almost a thousand years ago –has it that a relative of Oduduwa decided to leave Ile-Ife (the Yoruba’s ancestral home) with a band of followers, but not before making away with a magic crown belonging to Oduduwa himself, for which they incurred the wrath of their kinsmen, who pursued them deep into uncharted jungles, forcing them to flee far from civilization. For many years, they kept up a nomadic existence until at last, they came upon a massive range of hills, which held them spellbound in unspeakable awe – at which, legend says, they exclaimed, “Idanree!” (What a wonder!). For over 800 years, they settled at the plateau on the top of these hills which, apart from their scenic beauty, also served as a natural defence against any potential adversaries, before migrating downhill in the early 20th century.
As the lawyers ascended the hills, they discovered that Idanre is steeped in myth and legend – many of them woven around the monarchy, the custodian of age-long traditions which still inform the nature and character of its modern counterpart. Other legends revolve around a famous hunter named Agboogun, who was reputed to possess supernatural ability. Among his legacies is the so-called Agboogun’s Footprint (formed, it is said, when he stamped his foot upon a rock – an imprint which has been indelible since then). In the past, people accused of witchcraft were made to try it for size. Amazingly, the imprint fits any foot size – except that of the guilty, who is then punished according to tradition.Other extraordinary locations include a spring known as Omi Aopara (Thunder River). Oral tradition holds that before embarking on a military campaign, warriors gathered for a drink at the stream. At who ever’s turn the thunder rumbled, such an individual was bound to die in the war – and so was left out of the campaign to prevent that eventuality.
According to NEWSWIRE Law and Events Magazine’s correspondent at the site, one of the high points of the lawyers’ tour was their arrival at the original settlement on the hills, which holds many tangible relics of the past, among them a group of well-preserved antique buildings such as the Ancient Palace, a low-roofed mud building with courtyard, supported by carved pillars and housing artifacts such a collection of animal skulls from the annual sacrifice of cows to symbolize the number of years a reigning king has spent on the throne. Another remarkable building is a low-walled house, which served as a prison for felons in that long-gone era – which stands a short distance away from a courthouse complete with a dock and a witness stand! Behind the courthouse is a clearing where the king ceremoniously wears his crown during an annual festival to mark its provenance.
From this settlement, the lawyers marveled at the sight of a smoking hill in the distance. Known as Orosun’s Hill, this phenomenon is covered in a smoky haze from morning till night. It is named after Orosun, a female warrior credited with the protection of the Idanre people in their times of greatest peril. Local lore claims that Orosun, after a lifetime of amazing exploits, simply disappeared at the foot of the hills one fateful day, but has been deified since then. From under the Orosun Hill flows the Arun River, which is reputed to have healing powers – which the lawyers duly collected by the bottleful!
Even the coming of Europeans, and their introduction of western education and Christianity, also leaves its imprint on this ancient community, most notably the building which housed the first formal elementary school in the locality, the Igbo-Ore Primary School.
Idanre Hills are indeed a rich slice of Eden, with their robust ecosystem. It is a place where nature is spontaneously benevolent: great weather, pristine skies and virgin jungle. And then there is the breath-taking scenery, looking down on the town below. It is a place where history, nature and culture intertwine to weave a timeless tapestry of reality that never fails to humble anyone.
At the end of the tour,the visiting lawyers all agreed that it had been an exhausting and exhilarating experience indeed. It was also a fitting preparation for the intellectual rigours of the conference that was due to commence the following day.
See photos below:
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