As at 1850, the town of Ara was one of the most powerful towns in Ekiti with a settlement spaning as big as that of Ijaye in Egbaland. In August, 1855, the people of Ara (also called Ara-Ekiti) committed mass suicide to avoid being enslaved by the titanic Ibadan.
The mass suicide was led by the leader of Ara town, Chief Elejofi, who with the help of his first son, destroyed his properties, family and then killed himself. This act was replicated by many other households in the town and when the Ibadan army arrived with their wide array of weaponry, they immediately turned back at the gory sight of dead bodies littered everywhere.
Earlier, the people of Ara had rebelled against their ruler, the Alara, because of his bad governance and grevious offences he committed against his townspeople; he was exiled. It was during the Alara’s exile that Chief Elejofi took over the rulership of the town.
The exiled Alara was not willing to let go of his leadership and thus sought help from the almighty Ibadan army. His request was granted because Ibadan which as at then was gradually filling the vacuum created by the fallen Oyo was hungry for towns to shove under its administration. The Ibadan army had just returned from an expedition in Ijebu-Ere and together with them, the deposed Alara returned to Ara and was accepted out of fear.
Shortly after Ibadan restored the deposed Alara of Ara, its army attacked Ikoro, another town in Ekiti, because they didn’t allow Ibadan army to forage on their crops and also because they were suspected to have been planning an attack on the Ibadan army.
During the attack on Ikoro, some other towns in Ekiti defended Ikoro and joined the battle against Ibadan. The people of Ara also tried to defend Ikoro but were stopped by their restored leader and so another unrest ensued in the town. Ikoro was eventually defeated by Ibadan and the latter went ahead to punish the towns that helped Ikoro during the war, including Ara.
During this period, Chief Elejofi had again taken over the rulership of the town and upheld it for some months before it eventually crumbled due to starvation, and to avoid being enslaved, the people of Ara committed an unprecedented mass suicide. This was in some ways similar to the mass suicide of Igbo slaves off the U.S. coast in 1803.
The town of Ara was left deserted for many years before some of its exiled descendants returned home. Ara suicide remain one of the most disturbing chapters in the history of Ekiti and Yoruba land.
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Source : OLDNAIJA