MIGRATION HISTORY OF OWU PEOPLE
(culled from an address by the Olowu, Oba Adegboyega Dosunmu at the 8th Owu Day Celebrations in 2007)
Much had been written about Owu people but concerning our origin, many things remain unclear. From the present Kwara State, through Oyo, Osun, Ogun to Lagos State, you will find remnants, even large settlements of Owu people, prospering and playing great leadership roles but all records as to our origin remain speculative and unclear. Albeit, we know certain facts viz:
(1) That most Yoruba people settled around the region of old Oyo which is very close to the present Niger State.
(2) That within the said region of old Oyo, Owu was very prominent and even ruled the waves. Owu collected tribute from the Bariba, the Borgu and had ruled over old Oyo until the reign of San go. All this happened because they (Owu) also settled within that very region. (See Johnson’s “History of the Yorubas” p.149). Their presence in that region was indisputably powerful.
(3) There is a place called “Owu Orile”, some ten miles north of the town of Awe which oral evidences claim to be the original homestead of Owu. Spreading for miles on the north eastern side of the settlement is mostly Igbo Owu.
(4) The name Olowu was a derivative of the savannah crop called Owu (cotton). Here again is another pointer to the fact that the original homestead of the Owu people was in the savannah and not in the southern forest region.
(5) All the Owu settlements in the northern part of Yorubaland (below River
Niger) are older settlements than the settlements in the southern forest region.
Considering the southward movements of Owu people, the earliest record showed their encounter with the pre-1820 first settlement of Ibadan. (See “Iwe Itan Ibadan by Oba L.B. Akinyele, Olubadan of Ibadan, 1955-1964). Although, every movement was as a result of war, Owu did not fight Ibadan but instead entered peacefully. This is because Ibadan leaders had earlier sent them an Olive branch. They knew that Owus attack on them was imminent. Ibadan even offered them a place to settle, spreading from Ita Lisa in Ibadan to the place now known as Owu Ipole near Ikire. This pleased the Owu leaders to the end that they agreed to live peacefully with Ibadan but soon, Ibadan suffered two attacks in quick succession from Ife and other people to the end that Ibadan was routed twice. In 1821-26, the Ijebu Ife attack also devastated Owu Ipole.
The Owus ran out of their heavily fortified city about 1826. They escaped through their southeastern gate in groups and entered their assailant territories through Ijebu Igbo and spread southward, settling in places like Ikija, Omu, Ayepe and other places. However, the main body of Owu escapees went towards the new settlement of
Ibadan. It is important to state that the present Orile Owu is the same place as Owu Ipole, earlier referred to, where Owus from Iwo and other places resettled in the early 20th century.
The main body of escapees from Ibadan marched across Ogun river and finally arrived at Oke Ata near Abeokuta where Sodeke and other Egba leaders persuaded them to settle about 1834. Again, Owu fought side by side with Egba in the Makun and other wars against Ado Odo and Dahomey in 1842-45. Owu contingents fought and routed Awori at Itori, Yobo, Ifo, Atan, Ota and also occupied those places till today.
Yes, Owu people had fought wars, won battles and settled in very many places between the Niger river and the sea (Owus in Lagos State; Epe, etc.), yet their main stream had settled among the Egbas in Abeokuta BUT, THEY ARE NOT EGBAS, neither are they lJEBUS. (See Johnson’s “History of the Yorubas, p.18). Owu settlements in Ijebu and Abeokuta were not as a result of direct battles or victory over them, but mostly on friendly terms.
Owu’s settlement in Abeokuta was not based on any form of hostility. The Egbas owned most part of the land and they settled Owu on the part of Abeokuta that we still occupy.
OTA & ADO-ODO
Owu was a major factor in the 1842-45 war against Ota and Ado Odo. It is interesting to note that halfway through the war, Sodeke devised a way for the Egba contingent led by Ayikondu to desert the warfront (see Ajisafe, Iwe Itan Abeokuta, p.73), employing the services of his friend (the enemy), Gezo, the Dahonean war leader. As an Awori Ota King, declared in 1935, the conclusion of the war of Otal Ado Odo was led by Gbalefa, the Owu General and his Owu contingents and that is how Owu people not only conquered but occupy the now Gbalefa Peninsular.
THE ADMINISTRATION OF ABEOKUTA
It is to be understood first and foremost that the Administration of Abeokuta is based on strict historical factors which clearly spells out areas of authority of each of the first 4 kings in Abeokuta, viz, Olowu,Agura, Osile and Alake. The largest part of the land of Ibadan through Bakatari, Odeda, Osiele to the eastern part of the old Igbo Egba is occupied mostly by Gbagura. Some of the Gbagura land which voluntarily declared their allegiance to the Alafin included Awe, Kojoku, Agerige, Aran, Fiditi, Abena, Akinmorin, Doba and Oroko. If today all these were to be added, Gbagura would be the largest Egba land. Agura is the key king over these traditionally Gbagura land.
Egba Oke Ona owns the land that spreads north of Ona River and ran along the east fringes of Remoland and through Siun/Owode to Abeokuta.
The Egba forest which spreads from the southern part of Oyo through part of Oke Ogun down to the present Abeokuta ends at Oko Adagba and includes such independent towns as Ake, Ijeun, Oba, Igbein, Ijemo, Itoku, Imo, Emere, Kemta, Iro, Igbo, Erunwon, Itesi, Ikopa, Iporo and many other towns. Most all of them and their villages have zeroed-in in Abeokuta. The first Alake was installed in Abeokuta in August 1854. Today, there are ten of them: -
(1) Okukenu 1854- 1862
(2) Ademola I 1869 -1877
(3) Oyekan 1879 -1881
(4) Luwaji 1885 -1888
(5) Sokalu 1891 -1898
(6) Gbadebo I 1898 -1920
(7) Ademola II 1920 -1962
(8) Gbadebo II 1963 -1971
(9) Lipede 1971- 2005
(10) Okukenu (IV) 2005
OWU ADMINISTRATION IN ABEOKUTA
(1) Pawu April 1855 -1867
(2) Adefowote 1867 -1872
(3) Aderinoye 1873 -1890
(4) Adepegba 1893 -1905
(5) Owokokade 1906 -1918
(6) DosunmuI 1918 -1924
(7) Adesina 1924 -1936
(8) Gbogboade 1938 -1946
(9) Ajibola 1949 -1972
(10) Oyegbade 1975 -1980
(11) Oyelekan 1987 -1987
(12) Odeleye 1993 -2003
(13) DosunmuII 2005
Owu is ruled by Princes selected from six ruling houses: Amororo, Otileta, Ayoloye, Akinjobi, Akinoso and Lagbedu. These kings are assisted by a core of chiefs known as Ogboni and Ologun. This core of chiefs is headed by the Balogun who has under him Otun, Osi, Seriki, Aare Ago and Jagunna. Ogboni has as their head, the Akogun, Obamaja, Orunto, Oyega, Osupori and Omolasin. Olosi is the Ifa priest of the Olowu. Originally, we have 3 townships namely Owu, Erunmu and Apomu.
In the reign of Oba Odeleye (1993 2003) the number of our townships expanded to 22 and this eased the administration for Owu tremendously. By tradition, Olowus were selected by six kingmakers, but two more chieftaincies were added in 1964 including Balogun and Olosi.
Alakosos who now assist the Oba in governing the 22 townships were introduced in 200I and the experiment is working out well.
Ogboni culture was not originally part of Owu’s administrative structure; it was adopted only after the Owus settled in Abeokuta as an imitation of the Egba culture. Even then, it was not fully accepted and that was why we never had an “Iledi” (ile Ogboni), the traditional house of the Ogbonis. The Owus are called “Agborogbimo”, hence a return back to our cultural value is imminent by establishing the “Igbimo” in place of the Ogboni.
We have recently reorganized our administrative process. What we have now is an Olowu-in-Council with a Cabinet of 7 chiefs including: Balogun, who is also the Prime Minister of the Kingdom, Olori Igbimo (the old Ogboni system actually never existed in practice with Owu, and had now yielded place for “lgbimo”), Olori Omooa. (Princes here always had a say in Owu administration but now are officially recognized and brought into the system), Olori Parakoyi (who is now charged with the duties of development throughout the kingdom), Balogun Apomu (Apomu and Erunmu are also brought fully into the system), Onroko or Balogun Erunmu: and lyalode. These seven chiefs minister to the vital needs of the kingdom under the leadership of the Olowu.
All the ruling house chiefs and others are now working under the Olori Igbimo. Each township is set up a miniature of this “federal” system.
Further changes will take place that may cause us to seek legal coverage in terms of amendments to various relevant declarations.
The Cabinet will meet monthly. Owu Traditional Council will meet 6 times a year. Owu Council of Chiefs will meet 3 times a year. An Olowu Constituent Assembly
of Chiefs, Obas, Baales and people will congregate once a year, a week before Owu Day Celebration.
All these changes are geared towards a more efficient Administration of the kingdom.
It is no more chieftaincies for the asking and certainly no more “business as usual”.
OWU NATIONAL CONVENTION
It is our plan to foster greater unity among the various Owu settlements across Nigeria. The movement was started in early 80s by our immediate past Balogun Akin-Olugbade. Our present Balogun OLUSEGUN OBASANJO is bent on making all Owu settlements get closer for economic, social and political growth. It is part of his duty as Balogun
We are planning big for our towns, villages and land. God helping us, we shall succeed. We are in an era of recovery.