Ara Suicide

In August 1855, the mass suicide in Ara, an Ekiti town, to prevent their enslavement by the ravaging Ibadan army. The act of suicide was first committed by Chief Elejofi, the town’s leader, who with the help of his eldest son, destroyed his house, belongings, many of his wives and children, before taking his own life. Elejofi’s example was followed from house to house. The repugnant sight of many unburied corpse turned the Ibadan army away and by the end of September they had returned to their base.

Ara, a town the size of Ijaiye and one of the most powerful among other Ekiti towns rebelled against its monarch, the Alara, for grave offences committed against his people. The Alara sought for help with the army of Ibadan, which had just emerged from a successful campaign at Ijebu-Ere, after few years of a humbling defeat of the respected Ijesha army. Ibadan at this time was positioning itself to replace the fallen Oyo imperial power, and when the deposed Alara returned to Ara with Ibadan envoy, the people accepted him out of fear. Shortly after initial encounter with Ara, the Ibadan men of war picked a fight with Ikoro, firstly over the refusal of Ikoro to allow them forage on its farms and secondly because they found Ikoro to be plotting to attack them. The civil strife at Ara was renewed when the Alara tried to stop his town from joining other Ekiti towns in defense of Ikoro. At the fall of Ikoro, the army of Ibadan proceeded to punish towns that had fought against them in defense of Ikoro. Chief Elejoifi, a patriot who had maintained neutrality even when the Alara was exiled, provided leadership for Ara and helped it hold out for a couple of months before hunger compelled the town to surrender.

Ara remained so scanty years after its sack that the captor, Ibadan did not think of appointing an Ajele for it. By 1865, many old quarters of the town had been re-occupied by exiles returning home from many directions.