imaginary sea loudly advertised the occupation of Awhanjigoh residents.
This sleepy, riverine community, a part of Badagry, Lagos, is home to
over 700 people. The ancient relics and architectural marvel of this
fishing community stand it out. It is home to a range of memorabilia of
the slave trade era and many other historical monuments.
whose position remains undisputed anytime tales of slave trade
resonate. However, beyond history and the flurry of tourists thronging
the area, there seems to be a number of mysteries surrounding this
idyllic settlement, especially with a recent happening that many have
found hard to believe or explain: the baffling sight of an Iroko tree
that was mysteriously struck by fire and burned for 17 hours, defying
professional efforts at putting out the flames. The weird incident,
which occurred on Sunday, March 19, 2017, amazed residents and visitors
Office area of the community, burned till midday the next day. It was
gathered that the tree was gradually dismembered with its branches
falling off after being consumed by the fire.
the leaves of climbers around it were not scorched. Rather, they
seemingly formed a shield, preventing water from penetrating to quell
the flames. The tree was only burning at the stem, leaving out the
branches, and it later spread to its top.
lava, while it emitted flames, which raged all night from the middle of
the trunk. When fire fighters unsuccessfully tried to put out the
flames, they turned their attention away from the Iroko tree to other
properties around. Firemen who responded to the challenge likened the
mystery fire to one ignited by a gas explosion, adding that they
exhausted three trucks of water with chemicals at the scene, yet the
fire refused to be put out.
was strange but real. The Iroko tree, on its own, burst into flames.
Firemen rushed to prevent its spread to nearby buildings. Surprisingly,
when water with chemical was used, the fire increased rapidly and spread
to the top of the tree.
firemen to stop their operation. It was strange because the tree, which
is about 60 meters tall, generated some life-threatening heat, yet the
leaves remained fresh-green and intact. When the fire was finally put
out the next day, two branches of the tree had burned out, yet, the
leaves were as fresh as ever.”
that all responders fought hard to douse the flame. He observed that the
tree’s branches all fell within the confined space housing the tree,
causing no damage to any property around.
that the fire burned for several hours before his men were alerted,
recalling that it started from the middle of the tree.
scene at about 7:11am. We noticed that the leaves around the stem were
increased in ferocity. At some point, we observed to our surprise that
it was spreading to the top of the tree.
to halt our action. We had to evacuate people in the area to safety
because there was a church, post office and some residential buildings
sharing the area with the tree.”
stability. It has resilient and robust roots that reach deep into the
earth. These characteristics were also displayed by this particular
tree, which stood at a dizzying height of 60 meters, towering above the
community, overlooking many rusty rooftops scattered around the bank of
the serene Badagry River.
charred remains of a once majestic tree. Its branches were all consumed
by the inferno, even as a hollow chamber in its middle still emitted
smoke when the reporter arrived. The 250-year-old tree was surrounded by
deep, age-long, mysteries that precede the town’s inhabitants. Sacred,
revered and appeased every nine days, the gigantic tree sat on a
traditional worship place that also housed another Yoruba deity ‘Ogun
Awanji,’ the god of thunder.
Gbewa 1, a walking distance from the Iroko tree, the incident was still
being discussed. The monarch, who appeared to be in deep consultation
with some men believed to be the custodians of the tree, later stepped
aside to attend to the reporter.
even though he was well educated and literate, he took a leave of the
visitors to have a bath. When he returned, he was adorned in an
all-white outfit, typical of a Lagos white-cap chief. After a quick
retelling of the history of the town, he disclosed that the fire
incident was actually the third in a row, noting that it had occurred in
the 1970s and 1980s.
nine days always started in his palace. The chief maintained that nobody
ignited the fire and nobody could put it out because it was mystical,
and it posed no danger to anyone. The royal father recalled that when he
was informed about the fire, he alerted the Lagos State Fire Service.
that some leaves prevented the water from reaching the tree. He
recalled that the leaves were not the Iroko leaves, they were climbers’
leaves that had long intertwined with the tree.
water, fire started spilling out from its roots. At that point, my
prayer was that it should not spread to the buildings around. Later, at
about midnight, the fire fighters on ground exhausted their water and
went to refill. After a while, the first branch fell, followed by the
second and the third. It was at that point that the fire on its own
started reducing and finally stopped on Monday.”
remained intact. The incident in the 1980’s, which I witnessed, also
started at the top; the leaves were burned out. From then, the tree
remained leafless until this fire. Unfortunately, this third one has
reduced the tree to a skeleton,” he said.
tree, High Chief Igbehin Ojengen, his son was appointed to take over,
adding that the age-long rite of worshiping the tree and the deity
located in the same compound had remained: “We pour libation on the
tree every nine days, which is the second day of Badagry Market (Ojo
eyin Oja). We use local gin, corn meal (ekoo), cowries, eggs, hens, palm
oil and other items to pray at its foot.”
Joten Gbeyon Jengen, disclosed that his family was in charge and
shouldered the responsibility of performing all necessary rituals to the
gods of the tree on behalf of the community.
promoting peaceful and harmonious existence of the community and its
inhabitants. He stressed that none of the local festivals like Egungun,
Igunuko and Oro, among others, marked in the ancient town could commence
without homage to the sacred tree.
belonging to the elders and the terrestrial world), insisting that it
was very powerful. Before the reporter could be allowed into the sacred
groove where the tree was encased, some consultations were made. At the
entrance, the chief priest, unlocked the padlock which secured the red
gate, and sternly warned the reporter not to capture everything with the
the shrine. It exuded an eerie feeling that made every hair stand on
edge; this was even as goose bumps suddenly appeared on the skin, with
the heart palpitating. But buoyed by the desire to get every detail
about the sacred tree, the reporter quickly took snap shots of the tree.
With the reporter apologising profusely, the tour continued. Then in a
short while, the monarch announced that it was time to go, leaving the
reporter pondering the personality of this mystery, awe-inspiring tree.