Ise-Ekiti: 120 Years Of The Magic Lantern
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THE people of Ise-Ekiti were stunned on Wednesday, November 30, 1898, when a ‘magic lantern’ was put on exhibition in the town. The villagers, in the present day Ekiti State, could not believe their eyes as they watched the display of the magic lantern.
Some adherents propagating Christianity, who had their tutelage in Lagos, brought the lantern to the town. It was a journey, which took several days through mosquito-ridden forests and the Ogbese River.
It was very hazardous to cross the Ogbese River in those years, which meandered through thick forests and rocks when there was no bridge on it. In fact, some students going to higher classes were carried across the Ogbese River in those days.
In the diary of Bishop Philips, he recorded that through the exhibition of the magic lantern that year, they were able to realise the sum of two pounds and 16 shillings. What the people referred to as magic lantern, was actually a movie projector, which had never been seen in the town in those years.
However, it was recorded in the diary that the money realised from those who came to watch the magic lantern was used to buy a church bell.
The town, Ise-Ekiti, has a rich history. It’s a land of culture, education and Christianity. The rich history, cultural evolution, emergence of Christianity and educational advancement was brought to bear recently when St. Mark’s Anglican Church celebrated 120 years of Christianity in the town.
It was the day the town came alive and recognised its illustrious sons and daughters, (those who had passed on), their children, and their offsprings and several others, including government functionaries, who were pioneers of modern development in the town. The event also revealed why Ise-Ekiti and some Ekiti towns are reservoirs of knowledge that produce professors and educationists in the country.
Coincidentally, Oba Aweloye, the great grandfather of the present monarch, Oba David Adetunji Ajayi Aweloye II, was on the throne in 1896 when the magic lantern was brought into the town for people to watch.
The award ceremony, initiated by the priests and elders of the church, evoked a sense of pride, memory and love for the Aweloye, who was present at the ceremony and he paid glowing tributes to the memory of his grandfather in the establishment of the early church.
He saluted the courage of the foundation members, most importantly Mrs. Lucricia Fayose, popularly called Yeye Lukiri (1877-1976), who risked her life with others under a very harsh and hostile environment. Oba Aweloye II recalled the establishment of St. Mark’s Primary School, Ise-Ekiti, in the first decade of the 20th Century, as “a watershed in the history of educational development and civilisation in the community.”
He mentioned how the love between Ise-Ekiti and Emure-Ekiti in 1958 culminated in the establishment of a grammar school. The Oba also mentioned the relationship with the three major crown heads in Ekiti, the Ewi of Ado-Ekiti, Ajero of Ijero-Ekiti and the Arinjale of Ise-Ekiti.
These were the three towns that received the torch of Christianity in those early years. The Oba likened Ise-Ekiti to Israel, which was chosen as the “peculiar treasure of God.”
Amongst those who were given awards of distinction in the town were the first Post Master, Pa John Ogunleye, and the first university graduate in 1951 and parliamentarian, Babalola Olokesusi, who encouraged parents to enroll their children in secondary schools.
Olokesusi was potrayed in the book, Ise-Ekiti, A Cradle of Honour, written by Prof. L.B. Kolawole in 2003, as the man who changed the educational landscape of Ise-Ekiti by the way he also encouraged the kids from the town to enroll in his schools – Academy Secondary School, Sapele, and Holy Trinity School, Sabongida Ora, where he was principal at various times.
His boys in the town were known as “Olokesusi boys.” Interestingly, the town recalled at the recent event that his boys were the ones who emerged as professors, technocrats, administrators and great achievers from the town over the years.
Sadly, the principal died at the age of 38 but his footprints were remembered and honoured at the event.
From a ceremony, which was to mark 120 years of Christianity in the town, the anniversary became a huge event to celebrate foremost indigenes and reminisce on old times.
Venerable J.O. Adeyemo, the Archdeacon of the church, who was happy with the turnout of the event, said that he was elated that he received massive support from everyone. According to him, the idea of celebrating 120 years struck him because when the church clocked 100, it was not marked.
The Most Reverend Dr. S.A. Abe, Archbishop of Ondo and Bishop of Ekiti (Anglican Communion), expressed delight that the impact of Christianity has spread to other sectors such as education, health and social amenities in the town. The General Secretary of the Anniversary Committee, Joseph Olatunji Falana, said it took a year to plan the glorious event that touched all facets of the Ise-Ekiti life.
Special guests at the event included the governors of Ekiti and Ondo States, Dr. Kayode Fayemi and Dr. Olusegun Mimiko; Chief Afe Babalola, Niyi Akintola, Wole Olanipekun, and Benedict Ajayi. Twenty-four people were given posthumous awards, including Rev. Charles Jemiriye, who was head of the church at inception.