For 45 years now, a subsisting rumour has circulated in the Yoruba music world, gaining the currency of reality everyday. It is the allegation that a fatal accident in 1975 which involved Ibadan-based musician and Awurebe music crooner, Dauda Epo Akara and which killed two of his band boys – Dauda and Omoboade – had the hands of late Apala music maestro, Ayinla Omowura, in it. The accident generated so much hoopla. Ayinla reportedly placed a spell on Epo Akara’s vehicle. The theory was that, having cursed a Dauda, Epo Akara’s powerful native drug neutralizer rebounded the curse off him, which then went to Dauda, his band member. Taking the speculation a notch higher, it was said that a few weeks after the accident, Omowura went to Epo Akara’s Popo Yemoja home in Ibadan and on meeting his father, congratulated him for having effectively soaked his son in phials that deflected his incantations off his head. In memorializing the accident where 14 of them travelled and had an accident at Alapako, outskirts of Ibadan, Epo Akara sang, Awa merinla, awa merinla r’ajo o…
In my book, Ayinla Omowura: Life and Times of an Apala Legend which will be on sale from May 6, 2020, I sought to take the wind off the sail of this allegation. Sule Epo, one of Epo Akara’s band boys, whose stage name was Oyinmiyinmi, in an interview, described this as mere rumour and indeed, baseless. He described the duo of Ayinla and Epo Akara as bosom friends and attributed the unfounded allegation to the handiwork of their foes. He said that Ayinla never cursed Epo Akara or the vehicle the band was travelling in and that the accident was caused by a huge fog which affected the visibility of the driver.
Another person interviewed was Sakaniyawu Ishola, one of Epo Akara’s band members. He joined the band in 1973. He was with Epo till his death. Sakaniyawu was in the ill-fated vehicle and he confirmed that the band boys were dead drunk on the journey. He said that on the said day, the Epo band had gone for a marriage ceremony which took place in Ilupeju, Lagos. The band met Omowura singing at the event as he was engaged to sing for the afternoon. According to Sakaniyawu, the Epo band got there at around 3pm.
“As we got there and our musical instruments were being brought down by the parker boys, Epo Akara went and met Ayinla Omowura where he was playing on the bandstand and the two brothers embraced and greeted each other. When we also began our own play, Ayinla came to the stage to salute Epo Akara. They both greeted each other again. That was what I saw,” Sakaniyawu said.
Asked how true the claim was that on that day, many of the people who had gathered to watch the gigs of the duo left Ayinla and flocked to Dauda’s stage, Sakaniyawu said it was true. He attributed this to the fact that many of those who were there had never heard the voice of Dauda before. Another source attributed it to the fact that many of those who gathered at the function were Ibadan sons and daughters who saw in Epo Akara, a gravitation towards home.
Could a line of a song by Ayinla, to wit, “won ba wa laba won fe sako, ori ere ni moto won mi a jabo – they met us in the village and are gallivanting; your vehicle would have an accident!” be the link of Omowura to the accident? Ayinla sang that song in 1973. It couldn’t have been directed at Epo Akara because the accident under reference happened in 1975.
Epo Akara, great musician and one of the best from Ibadan, literally died unsung. His house beside Guru Maharaj Ji’s den is uncompleted. The state government never did anything to memorialize him. Ayinla’s lot is different. Ex-Governor Ibikunle Amosun of Ogun State changed the face of Omowura’s home in Itoko, probably an acknowledgment of how he put Egbaland and Ogun State on the map of world musical history. Omowura’s children I interviewed for my book were full of profuse praises for this past government in Ogun. Will Governor Seyi Makinde do same for Epo Akara?