The people of Ekiti form a homogenous ethnic group among the large Yoruba tribe in Nigeria. Although the Ekiti-speaking people can be found in towns such as Ondo, Akure, Akoko, Ijare, Ilara-Mokin, and Igbara-ole, they exclusively inhabit Ekiti State, one of the 36 states in the country.
Ekiti is culturally bound by Igbomina to the north, Ijesha to the west – the boundary being at Ipetu-Ijesha, Ondo to the southwest, Owo to the southeast, and Yagba and Ijumu to the northeast.
The name, Ekiti…
The name of the State and by extension, the tribe, Ekiti, is a derivation from the word, ‘Okiti’, which means, ‘hill’ or ‘a mound’. The name is derived from the rugged mountainous feature of the State.
According to oral and contemporary written historical records, the Ekiti people trace their origin to Oduduwa, the son of Lamurudu, a King in Mecca. Oduduwa is generally believed by the Yorubas to be the ancestor of the Yoruba race.
One of the legends states that, Oduduwa travelled from Mecca and upon arriving at Ife Ooyelagbo, he met people already settled there, among whom are Agbonniregun, Obatala, Orelure, Obameri, Elesije, Obamirin,and Obalejugbe.
Agbonniregun (Orunmila) thereafter migrated from Ife and founded Ekiti. To further prove this claim, Alara, and Ajero were both sons of Agbonniregun. Orunmila himself spent his entire life at Ado, which is why they have the saying: “Ado ni ile Ifa” (Ado is the home of Ifa).
Yet, another legend states that it was Olofin that migrated from Ile-Ife with his 16 sons. Two of them settled as they travelled – one at Ijesa and the other at Igbomina – while the remaining 14 children and their father kept travelling till they got to the place now called Ekiti (ibi ti okiti po si).
From the above, it is safe to deduce that the people of Ekiti migrated from Ife.
The old Ekiti was larger than the current one. This is largely due to the concurrent re-divisions the state has experienced over the years.
There was never a centralized political unit in Ekiti; there just existed 16 Principal Kingdoms. Ekiti was under the British Protectorate before the amalgamation of Nigeria and then, grouped under the Western Region of Nigeria alongside Ondo State. Ekiti was declared a state on October 1, 1996. Some towns were, re-divided with Ondo, Kogi, and Kwara (Moba, Ilale) States later on.
The motto of Ekiti
It is not surprising that the motto of Ekiti State was “Fountain of Knowledge”. The people pride themselves in their academic prowess and feats, as well as the high level of their intelligence. More so, Agbonniregun, their founding father, is praised as “A-kere-finu-s’ogbon”. For example, an Ekiti man, Prof Ekundayo Adeyemi, was the first Professor of Architecture in West Africa.
The state motto was changed to “Land of Honor; Land of Integrity” on March 6, 2011.
The Ekiti people maintained an autonomous lifestyle and although they speak the Ekiti dialect, the language has variants from one town to the other. More so, the language of some towns is affected by the town with which they share boundaries. For example, the people of Otun speak a dialect close to that of the people of Igbomina whereas the people of Omuo have their dialect influenced by the Ijesas of Osun State.
Notwithstanding these variations, the Ekiti dialect remains relatively uniform, that is, to a fair degree, a native of Ekiti would comprehend when the other is speaking his dialect regardless of whether they hail from different Ekiti towns.
Generally, the Ekiti dialect replaces ‘i’ with ‘u’ especially at the beginning of words. Example: ‘idi’ > ‘udi’ (reason), ‘ile’ > ‘ule’ (house).
This is an integral part of the Ekiti people. Hospitable and warm in nature, they treat their visitors to a dish of pounded yam and isapa soup with bush meat. The soup can vary depending on the town and the occasion as well – egusi, ila asepo, efo worowo etc.
There are several towns in Ekiti State. Some of them are Ado, Ijero, Otun, Iloro, Aramoko, Oye, Ikere, Ikole, Ayetoro, Usi, Emure, Ilawe, Ijurin, Efon-Alaaye, Omuo, Iyin, Imesi, Ire, Ikoro, Oke-Mesi, Ijan, Awo, Ido, Ayedun, Ikogosi, Irele, Igbara-Odo etc.
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