Mystical crocodile which makes wishes come true
|The crocodile. Inset: Chief Raufu Yesufu Delesolu|
TO some people, crocodile is a wild animal which should be kept in a zoo for visitors to the zoo to behold while to some other people, it is a killer, or better still, a deadly animal which must not be toyed with. But to the descendants of Delesolu family of Oje Idi-Ayunre, Ibadan, Oyo State, the crocodile is the family's favourite animal and, at least, one of it must be kept close to the family house.
So, for any child of the Delesolu family, the first wild animal he or she recognises and sees at a very close range is the crocodile. Not even modernisation or westernisation has changed the idea of keeping a live crocodile close to the family house as would be noted by any visitor to the family house, the Delesolu Court, at Oje Idi-Ayunre.
According to the head of the family, the Mogaji, Chief Raufu Yesufu Delesolu, who doubles as the Gbonka Olubadan of Ibadanland, their forefathers, Delesolu and Olajinfin, both of same parents, migrated to Ibadan from Ijeru in Ogbomoso and settled at Oja'Ba, beside Chief Oderinlo's family house, the then Balogun of Ibadanland.
"Both of them were warriors who possessed charms but noted that their children were always dying. Thus, they asked Chief Oderinlo to allow them relocate to another place. So, the duo were given a vast stretch of land which Delesolu and Olajinfin cleared and settled on.
"The land was not, however, given free of charge as 11 slaves, 11 horses and a lot of cowries were collected from our forefathers. Some of the highly respected Ibadan chiefs present during the transaction included Chief Oderinlo, Iba Oluyole, Chief Opeagbe, Chief Balogun, Chief Foko and Chief Babalola.
"Also, a lot of brass metal (Oje) were found on the land, because of that and because Delesolu and Olajinfin's grandfather, Olaosebikan, lived in Oje-Ile before it was conquered by Fulani warriors; the new site was named Oje while a market was started there after some sacrifices were made." Mogaji Delesolu stated.
He noted that it was the culture of his forefathers to keep crocodile. "It is purely tradition," he asserted. He said a crocodile was also kept in the family house at Ijeru in Ogbomoso, adding that the first crocodile which was brought to Ibadan died in 1939. The present one, which he said was 70 years old, was bought from Akewukereke at Owo-Baale village, close to Erunmu.
Mogaji Delesolu, who was born in 1943, said the family does not regard "the crocodile as its god, so we do not appease it in any manner." All they did was to give it water and that it was when some white men visited their domain that they were told that the crocodile could eat chicken as well. The crocodile also has the honour of eating the left-over from meat sellers nowadays.
Aside the fact that the family is protected from the outbreak of smallpox as none of the family member suffers an attack whenever there is an outbreak, the crocodile, to the best of his knowledge, and does not have any magical power, even as he regarded as rumour the belief of the people involved in the stories doing the rounds.
He recollected that there was a particular governorship aspirant in Oyo State, whose wife visited the crocodile, bought a live chicken, used it to rub her body from head to toe, praying that her husband would win the election before throwing it to the crocodile. "The husband actually won but the woman did not come back to fulfil her promises to the crocodile," he added.
Also, a nurse had been there sometime to collect part of the water in which the crocodile lives in while some other people, herbalists especially, were said to have gone to the family house to collect the crocodile's excreta and its eggs, which were said to be bigger than the duck's.
The Mogaji also said women in need of children used to come around to collect the crocodile's water to which herbalists prescribed herbs which they purchased from the herb sellers at the Oje market. Hence, the large number of herb sellers in the market. He however claimed that none of the people who came there to solicit for one assistance or the other from the crocodile ever came back to say thank you. All they did was bought it a chicken when they came around for the first time.
Maybe the most popular of the rumours about the crocodile is that it leaves its enclosure and visits any woman in the Delesolu family who puts to bed to greet the mother and child. Describing the rumour as untrue, Mogaji Delesolu said the only times the crocodile left its habitat was when its enclosure had not been cemented and it dug its way out but that it was always caught close to the Ojo'Badan family house and brought back to its enclosure with the aid of a sack.
He also narrated what would probably have put an end to the tradition of keeping crocodile close to the family house. He said some years back, a young male member of the family fell into the crocodile's enclosure but that surprisingly the crocodile did not make any attempt to hurt the boy, who he said is now a pharmacist. He noted that the crocodile has never wounded or attacked anybody till date.
Members of the Delesolu family do not eat crocodile while they accord the crocodile at death, a befitting burial after which another crocodile would be bought and nurtured to adulthood. It must be one crocodile at a time. It is a cycle which is repeated and the onus falls on the family's Mogaji to care for the crocodile.
Mogaji Delesolu noted that about two other families in Ibadan, one at Agbeni, also breed crocodiles.