The Yoruba people attach a lot of importance and respect to names of people, places and events and their meanings. They also believe that names are not given without particular references to their sources or origins. But names of some areas in Ibadan are of notable interest, because they carry a funny and controversial prefix: ‘idi’ which has been given lewd connotations like the woman’s buttocks but which has a different meaning. REMI ANIFOWOSE went round these areas to unravel the mystery behind the names. She reports:
The Fuji icon, Wasiu Alabi Pasuma, once serenaded the multiplicity of idi (bottom) based areas in Ibadan, with lewd connotations. Pasuma sang:
Orisirisi idi lo be n be n’ Ibadan (There are many idis in Ibadan)
Oto ni Idi Aro (There is Idi Aro)
Oto ni Idi Ape (There is Idi Ape)
Oto n’idi obi (There is Idi Obi)
Awon gan tun ni Idi Araba l’Eko (We too have Idi Araba in Lagos).
Pasuma, a Lagos-based lewd lyricist, carefully played on the word ‘idi (bottom)’ to suggest the human anatomy, even though the “idi” in the location names he referred to could be loosely interpreted as “area” or “downtown”. As bus loads of women graced Pasuma’s performances in the ancient city, Pasuma sought to convey the impression that they had different bottom shapes. Just as Pasuma sang, significant among areas in Ibadan are areas with the idi prefix before their names and this is sometimes misconstrued.
But depending on a person’s understanding of the Yoruba language. Some of such areas include Idi Arere, Idi-Ayunre, Idi-Ikan, Idi-Ape, Idi-Isin, Idi-Ahun, Idi Odo, Idi-Ito, Idi-Ose, Idi-Odo, Idi-Obi, Idi-Ope, among others. While some people, amusingly, perceive the meaning of the prefix idi to mean a woman’s bum (bottom power), suggesting Ibadan to be an endowed city of women with big bums like Idi Arere, some people take the prefix to mean, literally, ‘‘reason’’or the reason for something. Indeed, many Ibadan residents, including indigenes of the town, admitted that these particular names were a mystery to them. Though some elders explained that the sources of the names had nothing to do with the human’s behind. Sunday Tribune’s engagement with some youths, however, revealed they had formed their own suggestive impressions about the names of the Ibadan communities in relation with the human’s backside.
Explaining the concept of names and their meanings, the Aare Alaasa of Ibadanland, Chief Lekan Alabi, said just like the United States, names of areas in the city have their own history. According to him, Ibadan, is an amalgamation of tribes and people from other ethnic groups. ‘‘Like Shakespeare asked in one of his plays: what is a name? A name, according to Encarta Dictionary, is a word, term or phrase by which somebody or something is known and distinguished from other people or things. People, places and events are named based on several factors including history, culture, traditions and ancestral background of people of a particular area. In all cultures of the world, just like languages, mode of dressing, varieties of food and ways of greeting, names and their meanings are cherished and respected. In Nigeria, the Yoruba people, as part of their culture, attach a lot of importance to meanings and names of places, people and events. Yoruba people don’t just give names without historical, ancestral or cultural background. Hence the prefix ‘idi’ before names of prominent areas in Ibadan.’’
Chief Alabi explained further that Yoruba people attached so much importance to the source of a place,. According to him, a source or origin ‘‘is called orisun in Yoruba language. In Ibadan, a source (orisun) is called idi. ‘‘Ibadan is surrounded by seven hills, we also have oke, as a prefix like Oke Foko, Oke Paadi, Oke Ado, Oke Suna, among others. So, idi, oke, odo are names of sources used to differentiate or demarcate areas for naming. The prefix oke is used to differentiate areas on the hill or mountains from areas below, same applies to odo. In Ekiti and Ondo states, there are many areas with the prefix oke because the states are located on mountains and hills and we have their odo counterparts too like Igbara Oke, Igbara Odo, Odo Ayedun and many others. So, idi is a term used by Ibadan people to indicate the source or origin of a place or area.’’
Speaking on Ibadan, a city noted for being highly accommodative of a lot of visitors from far and near and who have now probably become settlers and indigenes of the city, Chief Alabi said, ‘‘Our ancestors were great people and this is undisputable from verifiable facts of the richness of our culture and traditions. The name, Ibadan, for instance, was given by our forefather, Lagelu, who was originally an ancestral prince from Ife, who came to settle in Ibadan. Ibadan was formerly known as ‘Eba odan,’ meaning Savanna in English. It is now shortened to be Ibadan. The Oyo people are descendants of the Alaafin. So just like Lagelu, our forefather, settled in Ibadan, an indigene of Ibadan could have roots or be traced to other parts of the country.’’
How names of ‘idi’ areas in Ibadan emerged
Going by historical account, the indigenes of Idi Ape, according to the Ekeeta Balogun Idi Ape, Chief Rashidi Alabi, were settlers from Offa in Kwara State. The area was named Idi Ape by Agbaakin Ayanwale, an Offa warlord, who in the course of fighting battles, came with his wife, Awele Elesu, and four children to Ibadan and decided to settle at a spot, under a tree called Ape.
‘’The big Ape tree is located at the junction adjacent the Officers’ mess, here at Idi Ape. Birds and other animals wine and dine on the tree. Those days, the area was a very thick forest but development has taken place and the tree has been cut when roads were to be constructed along that path,’’ Chief Alabi recalled.
He said Agbaakin Ayanwale and his family, who had walked a very long distance from Offa to Ibadan, decided to rest under the Ape tree, adding that he eventually decided to settle at that same spot where he killed animals, ate some and sold the rest.
‘’That spot, under the Ape tree, the first settler, Agbaakin Ayanwale, named Idi Igi Ape, now popularly called, in a shortened form, Idi Ape. From there, our fore father, Agbaakin Ayanwale, started accommodating and giving lands to other people who also decided to settle in Ibadan from different areas,’’ Chief Alabi retold.
The story surrounding Idi Arere is quite different, though its naming too could be traced to a tree called Arere. ‘‘Idi Arere is the centre of Ibadan, a trekking distance from Oja Iba and Molete to the left and right respectively. It is one of the seats of core politics in Ibadan. The Arere tree, which the area’s name is traced to, is located just at the junction. Our forefathers, those days, hold meetings right under the Arere tree to deliberate and resolve community issues and crises,’’ the chairman, Landlords Association and Vigilante of Idi Arere, Chief Kola Olayiwola, explained.
‘’But you can see that development has taken over. Houses and a garage have been constructed at the spot where the tree was. Whenever there were issues to deliberate on or resolve, the Arere tree was the meeting point.As a result of the spot’s popularity, the whole community named it Idi igi Arere, now known as Idi Arere,’’ he added.
For Idi Ose, the tree called Ose is significant to the naming of the area. Idi Ose is a community on Ojoo/Moniya Road, directly opposite the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA). Interestingly, the Ose tree, which the community is named after, is still standing The gigantic tree, in front of the agricultural institute, has dried and withered.
The community head (Baale) of Idi Ose, Alhaji Suara Amusa, who shed light on the historical emergence of the area, explained that Idi Ose had been in existence for about 600 years and the community initially owned and occupied the entire land allocated to IITA ‘’before the Federal Government took over the land and allocated it to IITA. The land IITA is now occupying had 70 villages of Idi Ose occupying it before it was taken over by government. So, Idi Ose is now occupying the other side of IITA.
Speaking on how the community was named, Alhaji Amusa said it was under the Ose tree that their fore fathers, being farmers and hunters, after embarking on their various farming and hunting activities, would retire to rest and eat.
‘‘At a point, the tree spot became so popular that even their wives brought foods to them there. Their friends also met them there to eat and chat after the day’s activities. A bukateria was even built under the tree afterwards. The spot was like an eating point for people. Since the spot under the tree became so popular, the area was named after the Ose tree and called Idi Igi Ose by the people,’’ he said.
According to Chief Richard Akinjide and a community leader of Idi Isin, Mogaaji Musta Odunjo, settlers of the area were predominantly farmers and hunters who would settle to rest under the big Isin tree after returning from the market where they had gone to sell their farm produce. ‘’The tree, which was situated at the junction where a Nursery school is now built, was a resting point for our fathers. They would chat, wine, dine and crack jokes under this tree before going to their respective homes. It has been cut as a result of civilisation and development. So, Idi Isin got its nams from the tree source,’’ Odunjo explained.
Ninety-one- year-old traditional head of Idi Ayunre, Alhaji M.O. Adegoke, while explaining how the area came about its name, said Idi Ayunre was formerly known and called Aba Ogunbileje,’ with Oluokun family as the first settler. He said Ogunbileje was a warlord who has a servant called Ajia saying ‘’Ajia’s wife, Orogboro, was significant to the naming of Idi Ayunre, because she was noted for selling bean cake (Akara) at a junction where the Ayunre tree was exactly located.’’
He added that passers-by, who stopped at the spot (under the tree) to buy akara, would sit to eat their akara, while also resting and chatting. ‘‘The spot soon became very popular such that a bukateria was even built right there and the people began to call the place ‘Idi Ayunre meaning Idi igi Ayunre. Aba Ogunbileje turned Idi Ayunre, ’’ he stated.
Destruction of historical links
However, of all the idi communities visited by Sunday Tribune, it was discovered that except for the Ose tree that is still standing, trees which were significant to the origins of other communities and are supposed to be memorable landmarks for these communities have been destroyed as a result of urban development. In developed countries, such things are sacred and jealously guarded to bring to remembrance the significance of their sources.
Speaking on the destruction of historical landmarks as a result of urban development in Nigeria, a lecturer in the Department of History, University of Ibadan, Dr Rasheed Olaniyi, said modernity and urban development had led to loss of memories of the significance of historical monuments, saying the social and economic importance of naming had changed, such that the symbolic nature of those names was no longer relevant. He said it was significant to keep memories of names with proper documentation.
While also charging governments and stakeholders in the tourism and urban development sectors to take into consideration the preservation of historical monuments, Dr Olaniyi urged the National Museum to be alive to their statutory responsibilities in this regard.
Meanwhile, visitors to and residents of Ibadan who hitherto had applied sexual innuendos to the Ibadan idi communities and other such communities in Yorubaland now know that Idi Arere and/or Idi Ose does not in anyway relate to the size of a woman’s buttocks!
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