Reproduced below is the extremely revealing and informative Historical account written by the Olowu of Owu Kingdom, Oba Adegboyega Dosunmu in the official Brochure of the just concluded 2012 Odun-Omo-Olowu:
In the beginning of times, the people known as Egbas were offshoot of Oyo. They lived in hamlets scattered in the Egba forest South West of Oyo under a high-handed leader – Alafin whose Ilaris exploited the Egbas until their hero, Lisabi, liberated them, and they became a united nation under him.
However, this widely spread people belonged to three distinct branches as follows: the Gbaguras – the largest in land area under the leading King known as Agura. They settled in the Northern part of Egba forest. The second was the group known as Egba Oke-Ona because the area they occupied borders on Ona river and spread into the land of Remo province. The third was Egba Agbeyin to the west of the forest. Some of the Egbas also claim to come from Ife.
The Owus were originally savannah dwellers, who had their settlements near the Nupes. Infact, writers up to the 11th and 12th centuries mistook them for Nupes because of their warlike posture. Usman Dan Fodio called them (Noofes in his writing). They were also cotton farmers and Ifa (oracle) worshippers. Their forefathers who were cotton farmers also went on long war expeditions and explorations and reached as far as Ife in the forest region. Agbonmiregun – Setilu – was a well known Ifa priest and was the father of Obatala, a chaste man who also travelled far and near in what became known as west Africa. He was a great man who later married Oduduwa’s first daughter – Iyunade, by whom he got his first son, Ajibosin.
This Ajibosin was the darling grandson of Oduduwa who cried to get the crown from his grandfather and became known as Asunkungbade. He was later sent back to his father’s home town at Enpe where he became know as Omo Baba Olowu (son of a the cotton grower – father Obatala). Ajibosin was reputed to have many children including 6 males: Ayoloye, Amororo, Otileta, Akinoso, Akinjobi and Lagbedu (Ola-n-gbendu).
It was Ayoloye who on one of his war expeditions took refuge in Ibadan and took “Nkanlola” daughter of a leading Ibadan chief as wife, and had to sacrifice her to appease a river. This was the event that sent Owu parking from Ibadan, and finally led them to a land close to Ife where they settled under Amororo. This is the place that replaced “home”. This was Owu Ipole. They left great landmarks in Ibadan including river Ogbere (Ifa diviner of Olowu after whom the river was named). The Anlugbua shrine near Orita Bashorun etc.
The Owus, having gone through harrowing war time experiences over centuries, built a formidable fortress the type that had never existed in Yourba land (see Mabogunje’s Owu in Yoruba History).
In 1821, under Olowu Akinjobi war broke out as a result of Oba Amororo who died in 1817 trying to stop slavery among the Yoruba people of that region.
Oba Akinjobi who succeeded Amororo had no answer to the intrigues of his enemies and detractors of Owu’s posture against the infamous slave trade. Amororo had earlier arrested and tortured an Oyo crown prince for carrying on slave trade. He also fought and defeated Ife for the same reason. The posture of Owu against slave trade met the displeasure of Ijebu who mounted toll gate and collected money from the hintherland Yorubas who carried slaves to Lagos via Ijebu.
THE OWU WAR 1821 – 27
The immediate reason for hostility was that an Ijebu woman accused an Owu trader at Apomu market of short-changing her on (Atta Liya) alligator pepper. She claimed to have bought six bags of the pepper, but on getting home one of the six bags ran short of two peices of the pepper!!! The strange thing is that none of the other Yoruba women and men on that market day was able to broker peace. The fracas led to full scale war (1821-1827) that finally drove the Owus out of Owu Ipole! Even the Ooni whose Ife army had once been defeated by Owu not only joined the battle, the Ooni personally put a curse on anyone who would settle on the devastated Owu Ipole. Ibadan and Oyo joined the battle; Owu was completely surrounded and embattled for 4 years but the enemies could not scale the walls which enclosed Owu.
The combined forces of Ijebu, Ife, Oyo and Ibadan tried to persuade the Egbas to join the war against Owu, but they refused. That was remarkable but we need not say more about it. However, as a result of their failure to join the forces of Owu detractors, the combined army turned against Egbas and one by one they burnt down the towns and village of the Egbas. For two years the unsuspecting Egba towns were attacked and they and their many people and neighbours including some traders were burnt down and driven out of their peaceful settlements. This way and that, the Egbas and their hemmed neighbours ran out and finally became refugees under the Olumo Rocks on a land they finally named Abeokuta. These events took place between 1824 – 27.
The combined forces returned to Owu Ipole, bent on burning the city down to ashes. When they finally broke through the barriers of great Owu walls, the enemies found old incapable women and some children whom they carried away to Ife … bulk of the men and leaders had carried their goods, artefacts and their Ifa out on a trek that lasted over six years, during which their wearied escapees had settled here and there especially in Ijebu land and Ibadan which they re-entered through Remo land. Yet the main stock encouraged themselves to press on aiming to get to Iseri in present day Lagos. They crossed the Ogun river at Opeji and about 1828 – 29 landed at Oke-ata near Abeokuta. They heard news of some of their relatives settling down with the Egba refugees in Abeokuta but they were bent on getting to Lagos.
EGBA IN OWU HISTORY
Within two years the “temporary” sojourn in Oke Ata had spread to nearby Aro, Olomore, Kurere, Idiori and some parts of Imala. For nearly two years the Egba leaders headed by Sodeke came to persuade them to join them in settling in Abeokuta and through the persuasion of General Sodeke and Agbo of Gbagura who were war acquaintances of Balogun Olufakun, Laara, Gbademu and Adetaloye they agreed to join the Egbas to live in Abeokuta.
THE PLOY OF EGBAS
Within the two years of their settling down in Abeokuta between 1827 -1830, the Remos, the Dahomey had attacked the new settlement of Abeokuta using the Kobape/Sokori route (the Remos) and the Isaga/Sokori route – the Dahomeans to attack the Egbas. It was for this reason that the Egbas never dared settle in that area, so they saw an opportunity to get the Owus to settle on that dangerous route of their enemies. Infact, in the settlement arrangements that had gone on, they had persuaded the Owus to settle along Ogun river banks of Sokori; and also told them to occupy all that land areas up to Lagos where they (the Owu) originally intended to go.
Within their first five years of settling in Abeokuta, the Owu had faced and warded off Dahomey attacks on at least two occasions in 1839 and 42. It was on one of such attacks that the Owu army discovered that the Dahomean army comprised mainly of women – one breasted amazons. Enraged, the Owus challenged the Egbas to summon courage and together in 1845 they successfully put an end to the incessant attacks of the Dahomeans.
The Owu Armies led by their generals chased the Dahomeans even into their own home of Porto Novo. The cannon that Owu seized from them is still in Owu Palace today.
TWO PEOPLE; ONE SETTLEMENT
When one considers the plight of both the Egbas and the Owus especially when one considers the circumstances which have brought both from their homesteads to this Abeokuta, one cannot but think of both as having a common destiny.
They have both charted a common part, fought and won victories over common enemies and they are fully integrated and made full successes of themselves in their new land of refuge – Abeokuta.
UNITY IN SEPARATION
There had been forces – social, political and economic – that had drawn us together. I believe that having been so drawn together, we should not allow such powerful conditions to now set us apart. Our fore fathers did not war against each other. History had brought us who were neighbours to the same situations, under same political umbrella – that is now not protecting both from inclement social conditions. What must we do? We are only two in number – Egba and Owu. This is undeniable. There are four kingdoms, but two people! This seems complicated but certainly not beyond our comprehension.
The original set up was very good: Four Kingdoms, Four corners (origun merin) viz;
- Abeokuta (main city) and environs for Alake
- Abeokuta / Ibadan axis for Agura
- Abeokuta / Lagos axis for Olowu
- Abeokuta / Sagamu axis for Osile
Please note that in this 21st century all Egbas (that is a covering name for the two peoples (Egba and Owu) have four townships;
- Egba comprising of Egba Alake, Gbagura and Oke Ona
- Owu comprising of 22 townships
All occupy every parts of the four corners of Egbaland. (Please note that the term Egbaland is a convenient term that means Egba and Owu). In the same breadth and as have been explained above, Abeokuta IS NOT EGBALAND; it is a city belonging to both Egba and Owu.
If there is anything to share, it is the land area – nothing more. Let Egba occupy the 3 corners and Owu her only 1 corner.
As for any other thing (IF ANY) let such be shared at a ration of 75% Egba and 25% Owu (75% to Egba and 25% to Owu). If you will ponder a while before you begin to protest, that ratio is in agreement with all earlier proposals and postulations.
I am not a politician, neither is any of the other 3 Obas a politician (I guess), but if politicians should continue to have a hand in traditional and historical unity herein postulated, they can create either 2 (Egba and Owu) traditional councils or else 4 (Egba, Owu, Gbagura and Oke Ona) traditional councils.
Let me end with the favourite, proclaimed and acclaimed declaration of all the Obas of Egbaland:- ‘’And now exist faith, hope and charity … but above all these Love is the greatest’’
Alayeluwa, Olowu Kangunere, Akobi Oodua
OBA DR. OLUSANYA ADEGBOYEGA DOSUNMU, CON
Olowu and Paramount Ruler of the Ancient Owu Kingdom
You may go to the Discussion Forum to enter conversation on this article.