The Old Oyo National Park is fast becoming a tourist destination in Oyo State. The park takes its name from Oyo-Ile (Old Oyo), the ancient political capital of Oyo Empire; it contains the ruins of the city. History has it that Oyo-Ile was destroyed in the late 18th Century by Ilorin and Hausa/Fulani warriors. One of the main objectives of creating the park is to preserve and manage these anthropogenic resources in the abandoned ruins/sites of the former capital city of Oyo-Ile.
The park has archaeological, cultural and historical sites dotted in and around it. These features stand it out considering its dual-prospect of archaeological and historical heritage. The park is not just about wildlife. One of the historical sites is the River Ogun. The river seems to have a cultural and historic role to play in the area.
According to the Director and Conservator of the Park, Mallam Ibrahim Goni, the river flows through the park and drains into the Atlantic Ocean, breaking into pools during the dry season to form what is called the Ibuya Pools. The pools, Goni said, are “believed to have healing powers on Fridays, if and when a sick person takes his/her bath in it.”
The river has since become a myth. According to a myths, it is forbidden for a traditional ruler in Oke-Ogun Area. During a visit to the site, it was like one was back in time to one of those moonlight stories that are gradually becoming extinct in the fast-paced contemporary African age.
Assuming the toga of an ancient storyteller, the director takes the visitor into the historical myth. “The story had it that Ogun was a woman and wife of the Okere of Saki ,” he began. “The Okere of Saki was a powerful ruler. He had one spiritual dress that he used for his protection and strength during wars or attacks. This dress must not be beaten by rain or touched by a woman. This, the traditional ruler, warned his wives seriously not in any day take or touch the dress.
But on this fateful day, the Okere went to the farm and he spread the dress outside in the sun to dry. There was a cloud forming threatening to rain. This fact troubled Ogun, his wife because she did not want her husband to lose his spiritual powers. So, she summoned courage to look for a stick which she used to pick the dress from outside and brought it into the house”.
Goni explained that the Okere was also sensitive to the threatening rain. So, he left everything he was doing in the farm and rushed home, adding that when he got home, he found out that the dress had been removed from where he had spread it. Fuming with anger, he found out that Ogun the wife had taken it in.
“He was terribly annoyed with the wife without allowing her to explain. The wife (Ogun) had abnormal breasts which she had warned her husband (Okere) not to abuse her with it no matter the degree of his annoyance towards her. But that day, he insulted her with it. You see, Ogun was equally powerful. She had a pot containing herbs which she used for her protection.
“She too got annoyed with her husband (Okere). She carried her pot of power and ran away to the bush. Okere pursued her and when he got hold of her, they both struggled together. In the process the pot fell and broke at a point, which is believed to be called Oyo-Igboho.
The content in the pot flowed out and was believed to become what is now called River Ogun today. The River Ogun (where the goddess of Ogun, wife of Okere was alleged to inhabit) remains the source of River Ogun at Oyo-Igboho. Since then, the Okere of Saki is said to be forbidden to see the river face-to-face. Hence, he must cover his face with a veil, if he has to cross or pass through the river.”
He said the historic and mythical story surrounding the park has impacted on its image. Other interesting sites also stand it among other parks. We are always ready to receive visitors,” he said.