A HISTORY OF ABEOKUTA FROM THE EGBA FOREST


Olumo Rock, Abeokuta, in the 19th century

The story of Abeokuta, the abode of the Egbas (and Owus), started with their liberation from the sovereignty of the Alafin of Oyo Empire, to which the Egbas had belonged.

The Liberation took place between 1775 and 1780, under the leadership of Lisabi, a resident of Igbehin who was born in Itoku. He organized an insurgent movement disguised under the name of Egbe Aaro Tradition Mutual Aid Society.

Lisabi later used the society to free the Egba by organizing the simultaneous killing of the Ajeles or Ilaris in all Egba settlements in 1780, starting from Igbehin. In all, more than 600 llaris or Ajeles were wiped out in one day. Ilaris were the representatives of the Alafin of Oyo and collectors of the tributes paid to the Alafin from all territories under the dominion of Oyo Empire.

The Ajeles or Ilaris generally behaved like an Army of Occupation in the places they administered. Their tyrannical rules marked them out as instruments for the oppression and suppression of the people. It was this authoritarian rule of the Alafin and reckless lifestyle of the Ilaris in Egbaland that resolved Lisabi and his peers to bring an end to the evil.

The adoption of the universally popular Aaro system of cooperative by the Egbe Ologun (Arms Bearers Club) of Lisabi was the strategy he used to plot against the Ilaris in his Igbehin town. All the other Egba towns rose and killed the Ilaris in their midst in an almost simultaneous coordination!

As soon as the news reached metropolitan Oyo the Alaafin wasted no time in dispatching an Army to crush the Egba rebellion. This was already anticipated in the Lisabi plan and the Oyo army of vengeance was routed and the freedom of the Egbas established. This episode occurred between 1775 and 1780 in the Egba forest.

This unity and cooperation among the numerous Egba forest settlements was very short lived, their lack of cooperation and unified direction later resulting in their being completely routed at the advent of the Yoruba Wars triggered at Apomu market near Orile Owu.

Much later around 1829, Lamodi of Igbehin and Balogun of the Egbas living in Maye’s camp in Ibadan, decided that the Egbas should escape from Maye’s bondage. The Egbas had heard about Abeokuta in their quest for a place to settle in. They sent Chief Sobookun, the Baamokun of Ilugun, and others to bring a handful of earth from there for divination, and the result was propitious.

The first batch to arrive in Abeokuta consisted of Egba Alake, Oke Ona, and Gbagura, in that order. Later, Olufakun led Owu to Abeokuta, while others soon followed.

(NOTE: It is known that an Owu-Apomu warrior by the name of Sangojimi Gudugba and his group were also at the head of that pioneering refugee team from Ibadan led by Sodeke).

Lamodi lost his life in battle at a river crossing while trying to prevent his first son, Osota, from being captured by Maye’s army, who were pursuing the Egba. Sodeke, the Seriki of the Egbas succeeded him and in 1830 led the Egba Alake into Abeokuta. Balogun Olunloye, the Balogun Ilugun led Ogba Oke-Ona while Oluwole Agbo, Balogun Ojo Gbagura led the Gbagura to Abeokuta.

An Itoko chief named Idowu Liperu had earlier been living at the settlement. He had crossed the Ogun River and settled on a farmland where three hunters by name Jibulu, Ose and Olunle joined him. Unlike, Liperu who erected a house with the assistance of the then Olubara Lafa the three hunters lodged in caves under the Olumo Rock. They had earlier assisted Sobookun to retrieve the soil samples from around the Olumo Rock.

Later, Adagba and others moved to the rock to join Liperu and the three hunters, who had settled there. Adagba was a brave man who had his farmland located very close to the rock. The settlement was called Oko Adagba, the initial name of Abeokuta. Olumo means ‘built by the Lord’ – its naturally furnished apartments being its caves! Another interpretation of Olumo is ‘Oluwa Fimo’ meaning God puts an end to the hostility against the Egbas. Abeokuta is also known as ‘Abe Olumo’ – a settlement under the rock.

Between 1830 and the turn of the century, the settlers in Abeokuta were forced to fight several wars mostly for the survival of the emerging settlement. In 1832, the Ijebu Remo people provoked the new settlers into taking arms against several Ijebu Remo towns in the Owiwi war. In 1834, an attempted Ibadan invasion also challenged them into a war which resulted in the heavy defeat of the Ibadan army at the Battle of Arakanga which manifested the potency and indispensability of the warriors of the Owu settlers who had only recently been convinced by Sodeke to settle with them in order to boost the new settlement’s defences!

In 1842, the settlers took the offensive against the Ota people in order to ensure free movement through Ota territory on their route to Lagos for firearms. This led to another war in 1844 when they attacked Ado under the Owu war general, Gbalefa, for assisting the Ota people two years earlier. The same year, the Dahomeans, under King Gezo, invaded Abeokuta but were repulsed. The Dahomey army repeated the invasion in 1851 and suffered the devastating defeat of their largely female ‘Amazon’ warriors who were pursued all the way to the outskirts of their kingdom!

In 1849, Abeokuta attacked Ibarapa for waylaying the Egba in their territory. Among other wars fought by Abeokuta were the Ijebu-Ere War in 1851, and the Ijaye War of 1860-1862, and the Makun War of 1862-1864, as well as a few others. In most of these encounters, they emerged victorious – although they suffered their own reverses in some as well.

After the demise of Sodeke, Abeokuta had no leader for quite a number of years. The administration of the town was left in the hands of chiefs like Ogunbona the Balogun of Ikija, Okukenu the Sagbua of Ake, Somoye the Seriki, who later became Bashorun in succeeding Apati, Bada of Kemta, and others.

The Egbas in an effort to reunite from this leadership fractionalization elected to install an Oba, and the lot fell on Okukenu, the Sabua of Ake and head of Egba Ogboni cult. An industrious woodcarver, he was installed the Alake of Ake on August 8, 1854.

A few months later in 1855, the first Olowu in Abeokuta, Oba Adeyanju Pawu from the Otileta Royal lineage was also crowned!

The above were culled, refined, and edited from articles posted on historical sites.

13 comments on “A HISTORY OF ABEOKUTA FROM THE EGBA FOREST

  1. Dear Sir,
    The story above is incomplete and some facts were either omitted on purpose for ulterior motives or by blatant ignorance by the writer. The good news is, The New OWU generation refuses to concurr to your forgetfulness.

    • I am not the writer per se, just the compiler and editor, as the footnote of the post in italics must have indicated.

      However, it does not suffice to just disagree, as you really need to elaborate on your dissention and remind us of what we may have chosen to forget, or be ignorant about in the article as accused so that we may, including ‘the new Owu generation’ all learn from the corrections!

      Awaiting your views Mr Makinde.

  2. please,explain the relationship between the ilugun in abeokuta and the orile ilugun along ibadan road and also, explain the royal family in oke-ona egba abeokuta.

  3. This is so great and interesting to read. Bi omode ko ba itan, a ba aroba.. Aroba si ni baba itan.. You are right Mr Owulakoda. javascript:HighlanderComments.cancelExternalWindow();

  4. Good story indeed… please where can I get the full version of this story to know how much my FATHER is involved. Also want to know the relationship between ilugun asalu and ilugun orile.

    Thanks.

    • Igbore (Abeokuta)

      Asa, one of the female children of Awujale Oba Jadiara Agbolaganju, with her husband, went to Abeokuta and established a new domain, now known as Igbore. The family-of-origin poetic praise (oriki) is as follows: “Asa ara Igbore omo Oba Ganju, Afota modi.”

      As you can see from above, the original settlers in what become known as Abeokuta settled in Igbore and Ake area. The Awujale Oba Jadiara Agbolaganju reign about 1665, when the Oyo people (descendants of Oduduwa through Oranmiyan) form what the Europeans called the Oyo empire, and there were still in the upper region of the present western Nigeria just below the river Niger. The old Oyo capital city called Oyo-Ile also known as Katangua was in the present Ilorin area. And about 1750s the Egbas were people living in small villages under the Oyo empire, without a Royalty and a kingdom, they have village heads as Bales those are not of any Royal blood.

      They eventually tried but failed in their attempt to gain their economic and political freedom from the Oyo Royalty who where their lords and Obas under the leadership of a Oyomesi (Oyo parliament) member called Lisabi and his Egbe Aro (Aro club) which lead to their being sent out of their villages (Egba-Ile) and they where then scattered everywhere as refuges some of them settled in a land which is far away from up North (Oke no un) the original settlement of the Oyo people (Oyo empire according to the Europeans) called Eba Odon (by the road side) which was already settled by the Ijebu people which become known now as Ibadan, the Ijebu people called the Oyos awon ara Oke. The Oyo warriors’ settlement close to Ibadan is call Oke-Ibadan (far away of Ibadan) and that has been their settlement name and so it remain now.

      However, by 1836 the Egba people in Ibadan area and other places where invited to settled in Igbore and Ake where the Ijebu people have been since the 1670s, so who would had invited them to the land. There is no land among the Egba-Ile in the up North (Oke no un) called Ake or Igbore, since all there present settlements now bears the same names of their original villages in the Egba villages (Egba-Ile)? The obvious answer is off cause the Ijebus whom they settled with in their land in Ibadan, and also has relatives in a very big land that was protected by the Awujale warriors because of Igbore and Ake which is the land of Asa a daughter of an Awujale Oba Jadiara Agbolaganju.

      The notion that they were saved by hidding under the Olumo rock whenever they were under attacks by the Oke-Ibadan warriors (servants of the Alafin Oyo Royalty) who drove them away from their Oyo origin territory called Egba-Ile, and subsequently from the areas close to Ibadan, until they became refugees in Igbore, Ake area known as Abokuta now. Does not make any sense, let us look at this; how wide is the Olumo rock, and how many people could had and perhaps hide now under the rock when there is a major war? I would assume some few hundreds or very few thousands successfully without being spotted by their assailant and enemy. So this historical account that the Olumo rock saved them during that period does not make sense logically. Also history tell us that during the Ijebu and Owu war, the Owu people hide in their forest and hills and the Ijebus used blockages (what is called trade and economic embargo now) to prevent food and other things they need for them to survive from getting to them where they hide after their farms had being burnt, and eventually when they could not stand hunger they came out of their hidden and they where captured and allowed to settled down as smaller communities in different places. And most of the wars fought subsequently then after by the Ijebus, the Oke-Ibadan warriors used the same war tactics to win their wars. In actually facts the Egbas, some of the Owus, and the Ijaye people settled down in Abeokuta was because the Awujale warriors protect the place because of the Ijebu settlement of Igbore and Ake.

      It is a fact that the tribal marks in the face of people of Igbore and Ake became the official tribal marks for all the people of Abeokuta area which is the official tribal marks of the Ijebuland (Remo, Epe, inclusive). It is a historical fact that the Egbas become known to be blood relative of the Ijebu people, “Ijebu ati Egba omo Iye ara awa wa” (Ijebu and Egba we are related by a mother) which explained the historical fact that we are related by the order of Asa a daughter of the Awujale Oba Jadiara Agbolaganju. So emphatically, the original and first oriki of the inhabitant of Abeokuta as above is the oriki of Abeokuta. The British facilitating the crown of the Alake of Ake to reflect the settlement of Ake, understand tradition, because we have the same system of monarchy, and I would bet you the Owu people would have not tolerate a non Royal person to be crown over them, if not the fact that the blood descendant of the Asa a daughter of the Awujale had been given the crown, and off course also a descendant of the Egba.

  5. Igbore (Abeokuta)

    Asa, one of the female children of Awujale Oba Jadiara Agbolaganju, with her husband, went to Abeokuta and established a new domain, now known as Igbore. The family-of-origin poetic praise (oriki) is as follows: “Asa ara Igbore omo Oba Ganju, Afota modi.”

    As you can see from above, the original settlers in what become known as Abeokuta settled in Igbore and Ake area. The Awujale Oba Jadiara Agbolaganju reign about 1665, when the Oyo people (descendants of Oduduwa through Oranmiyan) form what the Europeans called the Oyo empire, and there were still in the upper region of the present western Nigeria just below the river Niger. The old Oyo capital city called Oyo-Ile also known as Katangua was in the present Ilorin area. And about 1750s the Egbas were people living in small villages under the Oyo empire, without a Royalty and a kingdom, they have village heads as Bales those are not of any Royal blood.

    They eventually tried but failed in their attempt to gain their economic and political freedom from the Oyo Royalty who where their lords and Obas under the leadership of a Oyomesi (Oyo parliament) member called Lisabi and his Egbe Aro (Aro club) which lead to their being sent out of their villages (Egba-Ile) and they where then scattered everywhere as refuges some of them settled in a land which is far away from up North (Oke no un) the original settlement of the Oyo people (Oyo empire according to the Europeans) called Eba Odon (by the road side) which was already settled by the Ijebu people which become known now as Ibadan, the Ijebu people called the Oyos awon ara Oke. The Oyo warriors’ settlement close to Ibadan is call Oke-Ibadan (far away of Ibadan) and that has been their settlement name and so it remain now.

    However, by 1836 the Egba people in Ibadan area and other places where invited to settled in Igbore and Ake where the Ijebu people have been since the 1670s, so who would had invited them to the land. There is no land among the Egba-Ile in the up North (Oke no un) called Ake or Igbore, since all there present settlements now bears the same names of their original villages in the Egba villages (Egba-Ile)? The obvious answer is off cause the Ijebus whom they settled with in their land in Ibadan, and also has relatives in a very big land that was protected by the Awujale warriors because of Igbore and Ake which is the land of Asa a daughter of an Awujale Oba Jadiara Agbolaganju.

    The notion that they were saved by hidding under the Olumo rock whenever they were under attacks by the Oke-Ibadan warriors (servants of the Alafin Oyo Royalty) who drove them away from their Oyo origin territory called Egba-Ile, and subsequently from the areas close to Ibadan, until they became refugees in Igbore, Ake area known as Abokuta now. Does not make any sense, let us look at this; how wide is the Olumo rock, and how many people could had and perhaps hide now under the rock when there is a major war? I would assume some few hundreds or very few thousands successfully without being spotted by their assailant and enemy. So this historical account that the Olumo rock saved them during that period does not make sense logically. Also history tell us that during the Ijebu and Owu war, the Owu people hide in their forest and hills and the Ijebus used blockages (what is called trade and economic embargo now) to prevent food and other things they need for them to survive from getting to them where they hide after their farms had being burnt, and eventually when they could not stand hunger they came out of their hidden and they where captured and allowed to settled down as smaller communities in different places. And most of the wars fought subsequently then after by the Ijebus, the Oke-Ibadan warriors used the same war tactics to win their wars. In actually facts the Egbas, some of the Owus, and the Ijaye people settled down in Abeokuta was because the Awujale warriors protect the place because of the Ijebu settlement of Igbore and Ake.

    It is a fact that the tribal marks in the face of people of Igbore and Ake became the official tribal marks for all the people of Abeokuta area which is the official tribal marks of the Ijebuland (Remo, Epe, inclusive). It is a historical fact that the Egbas become known to be blood relative of the Ijebu people, “Ijebu ati Egba omo Iye ara awa wa” (Ijebu and Egba we are related by a mother) which explained the historical fact that we are related by the order of Asa a daughter of the Awujale Oba Jadiara Agbolaganju. So emphatically, the original and first oriki of the inhabitant of Abeokuta as above is the oriki of Abeokuta. The British facilitating the crown of the Alake of Ake to reflect the settlement of Ake, understand tradition, because we have the same system of monarchy, and I would bet you the Owu people would have not tolerate a non Royal person to be crown over them, if not the fact that the blood descendant of the Asa a daughter of the Awujale had been given the crown, and off course also a descendant of the Egba.

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