Ara was one of the most powerful towns in Ekiti in the early 1850s but by August 1855, the once strong town had become a shadow of itself. The people of Ara (also called Ara-Ekiti) committed mass suicide to avoid getting enslaved by Ibadan.
The mass suicide was initiated by Chief Elejofi, the leader of Ara town. With the help of his first son, he destroyed his properties, killed his family and then killed himself. This act was then replicated by many other households in the town, and when the Ibadan army arrived with a large range of weapons, they immediately turned back at the gory sight of dead bodies littered everywhere.
It all started when the townsmen turned their backs on their former leader (The Alara of Ara) for misuse of power and bad governance. They claimed he had committed several unspeakable atrocities against the Ara people. This led to his exile. It was during the Alara's exile that Chief Elejofi took over the rulership of the town.
The former Alara of Ara was not willing to let go of his leadership, so he sought for the help of the all-powerful Ibadan army. At the time, Ibadan was positioning itself to replace the fallen Oyo imperial empire, and was looking for towns to shove under its administration. So for that reason, the Alara's request was granted by the Ibadan army and he formed alliance with them.
In order to prevent enslavement by the ravaging Ibadan army, the Ara people started committing suicide. Their leader Chief Elejofi, who had just taken over the rulership of Ara and held unto it for some months before it eventually crumbled due to starvation, was the first to commit suicide. With the help of his first son, he destroyed his properties, killed his family and himself. Several members of the town followed suit.
Ara was left deserted for many years until some of its exiled descendants returned home. Ara suicide remains one of the most disturbing chapters in the history of Ekiti and the entire Yorubaland. This incident is quite similar to the mass suicide of Igbo slaves off the U.S. coast in 1803.
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