Akoko people occupy the hilliest and most rugged part of Yorubaland, a phenomenon which historian, S.A. Akintoye posits, is an explanation for the great cultural diversity found among the group. The people’s ancestral abode is in the North East part of Yorubaland and the northern end of Ondo State, sharing borders with Kogi, Edo and Owo people. They are unlike other Yoruba groups in having diverse language dialect, and every town and villages maintained its independence from the others. Akoko communities originated from five different sources including Ile-Ife, Owo, Ekiti, Benin, and Kabba. Generally, the traditional history of the origin and migration of the people revolves around Ife myths where it is said that sixteen children of Oduduwa conquered aboriginal peoples to integrate them into the new political order.
Some forty-five towns and villages are counted as Akoko, among the bigger is Oka, populated by migrants from Ile-Ife who wanted a suitable abode. Having settled around the precincts of lofty hills, they formed an alliance that protected them against Nupe and Edo invasions. Epinmi, like a few other towns have history of origin traced to Benin kingdom. Akoko kingdoms have similar traditional religious views which consisted of major Yoruba dieties. Their consciousness of the oneness of the divine order however is reflected in names children had been christened with even before the advent of monotheist religions, such as Olorunfemi, and Oluwadamilola, both acknowledging the beneficence of God. Both Islam and Christianity is represented among Akoko population. Akoko tradition speak of at least twenty-seven invasions of the country by armies of powerful neighbors, especially Owo. The Edo, due to the proximity of their Benin kingdom, especially the Afenmai areas, successfully overan Akoko towns but faced frequent revolts that made rulership over the entire Akoko difficult. From 1865, it became subsumed under the new power of Ibadan which moved fast to replace the declined empire of Oyo. Because of its relative distance from Ibadan, Akoko was always the poorly defended backwood province of the Ibadan empire. Ogedengbe, the 19th Century Ijesa warrior harnessed this weakness when it sacked Akoko towns under Ibadan dominion in the 1870s. While some towns surrounded to Ogedengbe, others like Ido-ani, Afo, and Ikun, which resisted were destroyed and the people enslaved.
At the closing of the century came the British power which ended both the side wars waged by Ado Ekiti celebrated warlord, Aduloju against Akoko people, and Ogendengbe-led Ekiti Paparpo War against domineering Ibadan. Akoko lands, like other Yoruba hinterland kingdoms thus came under British protectorate. Akoko people now constitute the majority in Ondo state after the severing of Ekiti which was part of the state till 1996. Although Islam was first to be introduced to the people, Muslim population have dwindled in favor of Christianity over the years, Akoko land, being close to the center of the fierce revival of Moses Orimolade, who was a son, and Ayodele Babalola who preached in the villages in 1930.
Conflicting dialects are a common heritage in Akokoland. From Oke-Agbe to Erusu to Igedegede, Ikaramu to Igasi and Ogbagl, communication breaks down when dialects are involved. For instance, in Oke-Agbe, headquarter of Akoko North West Local Government Area, which is a small, hilly town comprising four different indigenous tribes that speak four different dialects. Also Erusu, Ikaramu and Ibaram are next door neighbours but their individual native tongues are mutually unintelligible.
Indeed, in some parts of Akoko, physical boundaries hardly exist between towns. The territorial limit of a community is audible in its tongues. It is a story of a people united by history, bound by geography, coerced by economic interests but scattered by language, Akoko is an unusual sub-ethnic group of the Yoruba nation. Mutual Intelligibility exists in most dialects spoken by most sub-ethnic groups In the South West. Linguists agree that some of the dialects of Yoruba are largely allophonic of the larger language. Disparity was passed down by their patriarchs. The conglomeration of towns and villages in Akoko today came as migrants from different parts of the country. And they became united by territory; a unity spurred by a common cause to form a formidable alliance against terrorist tribes of the primordial times 1.
- TELL 8, Novermber 1995