Ila Orangun: Palm wine tapper’s haven
Ila Orangun in Osun State is popular for two things: it is said to have been founded by the direct son of the progenitor of the Yoruba race, Oduduwa and it is the largest palm wine brewing ‘industry’ in South West. Taiwo Abiodun was there.
AT the entrance to the town are a mass of palm wine trees of various sizes and shapes lining the road left and right. Some of these trees are at different stages and sizes while some are still fresh while a few had dried off. As the breeze pushes them sideways the palm-fronds slap one another. One could see some of these tall palm trees with gourds attached at the top. While one could also see the palm wine tappers afar off climbing the trees with special traditional ropes going up to ‘offload’ the contents of the gourds. “You have not seen anything yet, go into the forest and you will marvel seeing how we are blessed with these palm wine trees , we are the biggest suppliers of this product in the South West. Our wine is different from the chemicals you people take in Lagos. Our drink is fresh, undiluted and medicinal. It cures malaria fever, and we mix it with other herbs and roots and use it for one thing or the other,” Popoola Daoti, an Arabic teacher who lived in the town stated.
The hot afternoon sun had died down. It was in the evening time and everywhere had become cool. Sighted in many corners and drinking joints were motorcycles and different cars from the exotic to the rickety. Then the sight of gourds and plastic kegs with palm wine foaming from the mouths were conspicuously displayed. Again one could see the old and the young ones serving themselves with plastic cups and traditional calabash (aha). Here, the literate and educated ones mingled and exchanged banters with local men and women irrespective of their status and religions as they gathered together discussing local politics while drinking their favourite palm wine. Griots too were not left out as they were telling tales of their adventures but when highly charged they started gesticulating, punching the air with their fists expressing their views to drive home their points. In another scene some young men were seen dancing to Orlando Owoh’s music blaring from the four giant hifi speakers placed in strategic positions. Palm wine is what unites them.
Festival in the air
As they drank, one could hear some of them screaming and laughing hysterically. Some students who are ‘Kegites’ had a field day as they beat their leather drums and sang in praise of the ‘spiritual water’ (palm wine) as they were in ecstatic state and filled with what they call the ‘holy’ water. While some had dozed off after having a bout of it. Don’t blame them, it is all fun as they had before them their local brewed palm wine which the Yoruba tagged ‘Akiwarapa abito fun fun lenu’ epileptic ‘victim’ foaming from the mouth).Welcome to Ila Orangun the home of palmwine.
The ancient town of Ila Orangun is popular not because of the political gladiators they have or because of the politics they play. It is popular and well known as the only town in the South West that has the highest number of palm trees and also trade in the product.
There is no household in Ila Orangun that does partake in the palm wine business and it is said that the best palm wine is from Ila Orangun. In Yoruba people say Ila lo lemu, meaning the Ila people are the owners of palm wine.
From generation to generation
According to one of respectable sons of the town, Prince Olusegun Idowu Oladosun, “Our town is known as the only town generating 80per cent of her earnings from the proceeds of palm wine. There is hardly any household that do not trade in palm wine- from natives to non natives. In my family my forefathers were palm wine tappers. From my great grandmother down to my mother were all palm wine sellers. We brew palm wine, it is our own industry and source of income. It has become part and parcel of our tradition to offer visitors during ceremonies.”
Halimat Olawole (70) a palm wine trader said, “I am a native of Ila Orangun . I inherited the business of from my parents. Since I came into this world this is the only business my family has been doing. This is a palm wine town. I don’t sell Oguro. I sell real palm wine and ours is the best, no mixture. My forefathers were palm wine tappers. When my late father travelled and settled down in other places like Ile -Ife he was doing the same business until his death,” she continued “his name was Gbadamosi, my father had no other job than tapping palm wine. And his wives had no other job than selling the products to sustain the large family,” she said, beating her chest.
Prince Oladosun said the town has no other medicine than palm wine as palm wine is their medicine (Ila ko looogun, emu logun Ila), he said ” the only job we have here is palm wine tapping from time immemorial and also farming.”
For Suleiman Oluwarotimi -(from Aseda family), he said “Apart from being our business here, it is also highly medicinal. Palm wine cures all ailments, if any sick baby is given this palm wine she must be healed but if the baby did not recover then we believe the baby is a bastard.”
For a retired civil servant and non native Aremu Joseph (from Ekiti) , he said he worked and retired as a civil servant in Ila Orangun, he too added his voice “This is how we drink it here, I am from Ekiti State. I am happy to have been caught here drinking it, palm wine is good for your health but one should not abuse it and drink it to stupor,” he cautioned .
Another non-indigene, Bamidele Adeagbo said “I am from Idanre in Ondo State. My father was a palm wine tapper, my father once told me a story that the keg Ila people used to store their palm wine is called their hernia and this used to annoy them. I once fought some people over it but we later knew it was just a joke, but an expensive one.”
Silifatu Azeez who was seen assisting her mother serving palm wine said, “I am assisting my mother to sell palm wine and I am understudying it in order to continue the business when she is old and gone. The business runs in the family.” While the mother interjected in support of her daughter and said “Any job you are doing and didn’t pass it on to your children is questionable.”
Chief Yusuf Olaboye described the Ila Orangun as a rich cultural place where songs are rendered for the palm wine with his melodious voice he sang in praise of the palm wine:
Ope wewe lemu re ndun, Mo ba’la roko. Ila a muludun, mo ba Ila roko oo (The wine from the little palm tree tastes fine, I will go to the farm with Ila people. Ila makes the town to be lively, I will go to the farm with the Ila people )
Ila ko nise meji emu nise won (Ila has no other business but palm wine tapping)
The crown of the monarch is respected as it is believed it is original and not controversial, since he ( Ila Orangun) is a direct son and crowned Oduduwa son, no wonder they sing
Ila lade wa, nwon o w’ade ka (literally meaning it is Ila where the crown is, they don’t need to search for the crown elsewhere)
Yusuf Olaboye added ” Iyan lounje Ila ati emu ‘ (Pounded yam and palm wine is Ila’s favourite)
However, there is a taboo on palm wine tapping according to Alfa Daoti , “it is a taboo for a palm wine tapper to take a pint of the wine before climbing the palm wine tree, whoever does this could go blind!, ” but this was punctured by an elderly man who said ” it is not good for a palm wine tapper to get drunk before climbing the palm tree. You see we have seen a lot of people in the past who got drunk and when they got up there jumped down from the top not knowing again the high level they were, while some were wounded some too died, since then we made it a taboo for anyone to drink before climbing the palm tree.”
An indigene regrets that “before now many were into palm wine business but it is not as high as it was before and that does not mean we are lacking behind in this palm wine business.”