Owu Historical Facts and Myths


obatala oldman

The creating Obatala

The details below represent a brief synopsis, and an at-a-glance summary of facts and details that must have been represented several times on this website. They are compiled for your brief referencing!:


Ajibosin:

First grandson of Oduduwa. Son of Obatala (Odua’s high priest) and Iyunade (First Princess and daughter of Oduduwa). Ajibosin became the first Olowu after he was given a crown as an infant by his grandfather and thereafter was encouraged to leave Ile-Ife with his mother for his father’s homeland when old enough to rule because two Obas could not sojourn in the same kingdom.

Asunkungbade:

Nickname of Ajibosin meaning ‘He who cries to receive a crown’, the first Olowu. He is reported to have acquired his crown as an infant when he refused to stop crying while playing on the laps of Oduduwa, his grandfather, until the latter removed his crown and placed it on the head of the crying infant to appease him. Thereafter, he would resume crying furiously at every attempt his mother, Iyunade, made to remove the crown from his head in order to return it to Oduduwa. The patriarch thus decreed that he be allowed to retain the crown and automatically pronounced king to establish his own domain as soon as he was old enough to rule.

As two kings could not sojourn in the same kingdom, Iyunade was compelled to take the young king to his father, Obatala’s homeland among the Tapas in the Empe region where he was granted sojourn and land just below the Niger on his father’s cotton farmlands to set up his kingdom, thus earning him his 2nd alias, ‘Omo-Olowu’ (litt: Son of a cotton owner).

Obatala:

Husband of the first princess of Ile-Ife, Iyunade, and father of Ajibosin, the first Olowu. He was also the Ifa High Priest and Spiritual Consultant to Oduduwa among many other monarchs in the now the West African sub-region. Ifa divination ability was second nature to Obatala being reportedly the son and scholar of Agbonmiregun Setilu, the acclaimed Ifa progenitor from Nupeland. Obatala also had considerable farming interests as the owner of vast cotton plantations located adjacent to the River Niger in the Savannah region, presumably acquired from his vast earnings as an International Ifa Consultant – which earned him the appellation of ‘Olowu’ or cotton owner.

Obatala was larger than life and was no less prominent than Oduduwa, the acclaimed patriarch of the Yorubas. In fact, he has been deified as the head and oldest of the Orishas who created the physical world at the behest of Olodumare.
It is also claimed that Obatala had arrived Ile-Ife down a mythical chain long before Oduduwa arrived by similar means, and ruled the people before the latter came to stage a civil war which deposed Obatala as leader. The two were later reconciled and Obatala agreed to assist Oduduwa’s reign through his Ifa Divination. Oduduwa granted his first daughter, Iyunade, to the Ifa High Priest perhaps as part of their truce concessions.

As a roving Ifa consultant, Obatala became very wealthy and invested heavily in vast land holdings in the savannah region which he employed in cotton farming, an occupation that earned him the appellation of Baba-Olowu (cotton lord). Ajibosin was to inherit a large chunk of these which formed the bedrock of his original Owu Kingdom at the fringe of the Nupe country.

As an Orisha, Obatala has some of the largest followings and worshippers both at home and in the Diaspora, being matched perhaps only by Orisha Ogun and Sango adherents.

Omo-Olowu:

Ajibosin’s new nickname after he relocated accompanied by 6 Iwarefas to his father’s hometown among the Nupes in response to his being the son of Baba-Olowu, the cotton farmer.

There are logical speculations that the original Owu homestead which was established just below the River Niger may have bourn such a descriptive name like ‘Ago Omo-Olowu’.

The name has translated also into an ancient Owu annual festival that is observed coupled with the new yam festival among many Owu communities.

Iwarefa:

Six trusted high chiefs and first class awo counsellors from the court of Oduduwa, the Yoruba patriarch and progenitor who were hand-picked by him in faith to accompany his royal grandchild, AJIBOSIN Olawunmi into exile, and upon whom the newly established crown which was to translate to the crown of the Olowu was entrusted. They are constituted among the first original seven Owu citizens, the first being Ajibosin the child Oba himself!

According to tradition, two kings could not co-habitate in the same domain, so when Ajibosin was made an infant king, he had to go on exile from Ile-Ife, his grandfather’s domain, to pioneer his own kingdom.

The 6 Iwarefas were appointed to accompany him, guard him, guide and counsel him into adulthood and into becoming a worthy king. He was first sent to his father’s homeland amongst the Tapa/Nupe people which also correlates with the original homestead of many notable Lagosian aborigines!

These 6 Iwarefa were Akogun, Obamaja, Orunto, Osupori, Oyega and Molashin. They also double as the original traditional King makers of the kingdom called Afobaje.

It is suggested in some quarters that they may have been accompanied on that historical expedition by the Olosi who was Oduduwa’s resident ifa priest. However it is more accepted that Olosi although never an Iwarefa was included into the ranks of Afobaje (kingmakers) only in Abeokuta at the same time when Adegbenro instigated the inclusion of Balogun Owu, a title he was then holding, into those ranks.

Each of the Iwarefa have their individual and distinct functions in the core traditional culture and religious rites of the ancient kingdom.

Anlugbua:

An ancient Owu war hero venerated worldwide as the symbol of Owu courage and steadfastness, who is mythically reported to have disappeared into the ground with the promise to re-emerge in order to assist his people at anytime they were threatened by enemies and if he was alerted through a pull on the exposed end of a chain he was reported to have dragged with him underground.

An incident once occurred when in order to confirm this capability he was summoned when actually there was no war and any need to do so. Anlugbua reportedly rose from the ground to behead all within his reach only to recognize thereafter from their facial marks that he had slaughtered his own people. He sank back into the ground a saddened man with a resolve never to emerge again in the same manner.

It is pertinent to note that virtually all Owu settlements, big or small, lay claim to Anlugbua disappearing into the ground within their communities and likewise they build shrines for him and celebrate him in annual festivals. However indications exist that he may have been a native of Owu-Kuta called Akindele Onilu-Ogba, who may actually have done his underground disappearance act at nearby Owu-Ogbere which was at that time possibly the main Owu homestead situated beside Ibadan.

There are also some Owu communities who believe that Anlugbua was actually Ajibosin the Asunkungbade and first Olowu himself!

Epe:

A short war cutlass made of brass which is also the symbol of Owu authority and military might, used by their warriors, with which they are reputed to be battle daredevils and conquerors, who would defy all the odds of personal safety and charge at their enemies in a frenzied rage.

It was one of these Epes (still in safe custody within the Kingdom at Abeokuta) that triggered the Owu war which fused into the Yoruba wars of 100 years when it was accidentally used to fatally lacerate an Ijebu trader at the International Apomu market near Owu Ipole by the then Akogun Owu, Olugbabi Awalona, who was the market Marshall.

Keke Olowu:

Traditional facial mark of the Owus to distinguish them from other tribal groups, especially when on war expeditions. The Keke or Gombo consists of four or five perpendicular and horizontal lines placed angularly on each cheek ; they occupy the whole space between the auricle and the cheek bone ; three small perpendiculars are also placed on the horizontal lines on both cheeks The Keke-Olowu, an Owu variation of these is like the Keke or Gombo with the lines discrete or interrupted and links each ear with the side of the cheeks. It was common prior to the later adoption of the agbaja-olowu.

Abaja Olowu:

The Abaja are sets of three or four parallel and horizontal lines on each cheek ; they may be single or double, each line being from half-an-inch to one inch long.

The Abaja-Olowu in distinction from other abajas has 3 perpendicular etchings fitting neatly above 3 horizontal ones and are very thin and narrow in contradistinction from the very bold ones worn by other tribes. This is further accentuated with an additional 3 small horizontal etchings on the forehead called ‘keeta’.

Furthermore, members of the royal families would have an additional 6 markings on the forearm with a further 3 below the navel.

Orile-Owu:

An Owu homestead of the 18th to 19th century where the people rose to military and commercial prominence among the southern Yoruba states. The city at its peak was reported to possess two huge circuits of defensive walls of up to 12 feet in height and about 2 meters width at its bases. The outer and more prominent wall which also enclosed the royal farms had a very wide ditch lying over 12 feet deep and strewn with thorns, spikes and other dangerous things spanning all around the city circumference at the outer periphery of the walls, which may have totalled up to 20 miles in length.

Stories emerging from Owu-Ile near present day Oyo and Awe claim that one of the Princes from their community named Akinfala actually founded Owu Ipole after eloping due to a royal tussle for the crown. Consequently the settlement is better known to them as Owu-Akinfala. Another of their princes by the name Akindele was said to have founded Owu Ogbere at about the same time.

Orile Owu, previously known as Owu Ipole at its time of prominence is also reputed to be the site of the great Owu War triggered from the Apomu International market which fanned the 100 years long pan-Yoruba wars of the 18th and 19th centurlies. Owu Ipole was resettled some 80 years after its destruction as Ago-Owu before experiencing a further name transformation to Orile-Owu.

While Orile-Owu (Owu-Ipole) enjoys the reputation of being the largest and most prominent homestead of the Owu people in the 19th century, there is suggestive evidence that it may actually have shared that prominence with its neighbouring Owu-Ogbere for a while until the latter was sacked perhaps about a decade earlier sending out a flood of Owu refugees to further boost Owu Ipole in population and prominence.

Owu Ogbere:

Now defunct, Owu Ogbere developed from the vast expanse of land given to an Olowu at the fringe of Remo-land by the Baale of Ibadan when the former haven been expelled from the sub-Savannah region, presumably the settlement of Ahoro (Owu Ile), was going to pass through the Baale’s domain. In order to forestall any misunderstanding or confrontation with the much feared Owu who were erstwhile the most powerful force in the whole of Yorubaland, the Baale sent emissaries to the approaching Olowu to acquire as much land as he would desire near the borders of his own territory. Ibadan was then an Egba Gbagura settlement of the statute of a large village or small township.

The resulting Owu-Ogbere probably grew to great prominence in the 18th and 19th century and was only sacked in the aftermath of the unfortunate ‘Nkan’ saga when combined military forces attacked it to enact revenge on the Olowu, an alliance which sent Owu Ogbere packing from the Baale of Ibadan’s land mostly to nearby Owu-Ipole, Owu-Kuta, Erunmu etc.
It too had featured an outer and an inner ring of defensive walls in a similar manner to Owu-Ipole.

Chronological details suggest that Owu Ogbere may have existed side by side with its more prominent cousin Owu Ipole and perhaps even came into existence prior to the latter, and may have been sacked approximately only some 10 years before Owu Ipole which is now known as Orile Owu.

The Nkan incident :

Nkanlola was the name of the very beautiful daughter of the Baale of Ibadan who was given in wedlock to the Olowu when the latter came to settle near them at Owu-Ogbere. As the tale goes, the Olowu who was either an Oba Akinjobi or Ayoloye went on a war expedition and was greeted by a devastating storm which threatened to seal off his path at a river crossing. On consultation with his Ifa Priest, he was told that he would have to sacrifice something to the gods as thanksgiving if he were allowed to accomplish his expedition successfully.

On his return journey to the river after his initial successful crossing, he proceeded to offer his thanksgiving sacrifice, but all his offerings were rejected only to be informed through Ifa divination that he had to sacrifice his wife as originally promised. Perplexed that he never made such a bargain, he was reminded that the name of his wife was Nkan (‘Something’), and that he had agreed to offer something (nkan) to the gods if his plea was granted.

With extreme sadness and reluctance as he seemed to have been conned by the gods due to his misunderstanding of their expectation, he had to succumb to the sacrifice, which infuriated the Baale of Ibadan, Nkan’s father, when he heard that his daughter had been sacrificed. He proceeded to assemble aid from some combined regional forces to expel the Owus from Ogbere. The inhabitants of Ogbere were thus displaced to such settlements as Owu-Kuta, Erunmu, Apomu etc with the majority however probably going to further fortify Owu-Ipole (Orile-Owu) with their population.

The Sango event:

Sango was the junior brother of Ajaka, the son of Oranmiyan who succeeded that first Alaafin and founder of Oyo.

He was summoned by the Oyomesi (Oyo Senate and Supreme Council) from his mother’s land in the Nupe territory to succeed his brother Ajaka who had been deposed by them presumably because he was seen as too weak to respond to the Olowu’s demands in those days when Owu was then the foremost military force of the region, and by extension the whole of Yorubaland.

When Sango assumed office as the Alaafin (logicaly the 3rd in the series) he defied the Olowu and was able to repel his attack, perhaps aided by Elempe of the Nupes who were also under the sovereignity of Owu, and instilled strong fear in the latter by use of fire breathing antics!

Thus liberated from Owu’s persistent domination, the Oyos embarked on a heavy program of militarization, purchasing war horses in huge numbers from their Bariba and Nupe neighbours in order to sustain their independence and expand their territory.
Sango’s military focus was to be his undoing as he perhaps neglected the common welfare of his subjects and became unbearable such that the Oyomesi who had initially brought him in also had to ease him out especially after an unfortunate lightening accident instigated by Sango himself where he virtually lost his entire household, wives and children.

The Oyomesi thus recalled his exiled brother Ajaka to resume his monarchy.
Sango was however glorified after his suicide at Koso followed by that of Oya, his favourite wife, and was deified as the god of lightening presumably in memory of his fire breathing antics that rescued Oyo from Owu, and perhaps also as consolation for the self inflicted tragedy while practising his control over the elemental forces of lightening.

The Apomu Market incident:

When Owu Ipole (now Orile-Owu) was at the height of its prominence as a city state in the 19th century, its most important satellite town was Apomu situated some 20km away from its walls with a market which was the most prominent south of the River Niger, competing commercially with the likes of the Kano and Timbuktu markets in the desert region of Africa. Located in Ife territory and originally governed by the former, the Apomu market was the commercial nerve centre of the Owu City-state of Owu-Ipole (Orile-Owu), which must have derived much of its commercial wealth and funds for its military expeditions and defense from its trading revenues as the Owus were not noted for slave trading, but in converse were even engaged by the Alaafin of Oyo to help prevent the menace and protect its citizens who were among the many who would flock regularly to trade their wares and crafts at the famed Apomu market. For its commercial strategic placement, Apomu was secretly or openly desired by many of the powers at play in the Yoruba nation, including Ife, Oyo, Ijebu, Ikoyi, Ilesha and Ibadan. This is the origin of the popular Apomu cliché that goes “Apomu suru, oko ilu banti banti” (ie. Tiny Apomu which lords it over all the high and mighty communities)!

On this fateful occasion, a dispute involving the sale of alligator pepper occurred between an Owu farmer/trader and an Ijebu woman which resulted in the infliction of fatal wounds on the woman. The market erupted into riot and things happened in quick succession which resulted in the declaration of a full scale war on Owu by the Awujale of Ijebu assisted by Ife and war mercenaries from Oyo and Ibadan.

The Pioneering of Abeokuta:

The city of Abeokuta which now holds the enviable position of the largest concentration center of Owu indigenes on earth is reportedly pioneered by the Egbas led by Sodeke, their leader. This is true indeed, but represents only the half truth!

The complete truth is that Oko Alagba now named Abeokuta was jointly pioneered by the Egba contingent led by Sodeke, the Egba Seriki after Lamodi lost his life resulting in the exodus from Ibadan, and a warrior/hunter named Sangojimi Gudugba at the head of an Apomu-Owu contingent. They came together, slept together, fought together and camped together up to Osiele which was their original settlement in Abeokuta. The scarcity of water however drove them on and at Adatan they split up with Sangojimi and his Apomu contingent opting to go forward to encamp at Oke Saje, while Sodeke opted for going left to Isale Ake to pitch camp near a major stream.
All this while, Orile-Owu was still under the siege of the combined forces of the Ijebus, Ibadans, Ifes, and Oyos – which lasted all of 7 years.

However the first group of Owu escapees from the Orile Owu siege who were to join Sangojimi at his new location at Ago Owu came exactly 6 years and 7 months after the Apomu contingent arrived at Oke Saje while the main body of Owu refugees came not long after and were first detected at Arakanga where the news of their approach brought jitters and apprehension among the Egba settlers who were not yet sure of their mission and intentions. Later when news of their encampment at Oke-Ata nearby at the other side of the Ogun River was brought to them, Sangojimi was to confer with Sodeke, and Agbo (the Gbagura leader who had hosted the first small group of Owus before their transfer to Sangojimi) that their best option was to invite the Owu contingent to join the emerging settlement as equal stake-holders in its defense and development, thereby any possible confrontation with the unpredictable Owus would be averted, while at the same time they would have won the strongest military allies they could ever hope for as partners who would help in boosting the defense of the then extremely fragile new settlement called Abeokuta.

Owu prominence past and present:

1st Yoruba Super-power tribe – Owu (then in the Savannah region) was the oldest organized Yoruba settlement with a crowned King after Ile-Ife. It was a regional power wielding authority even over Oyo which became a powerful empire only after Sango was able to free it from the control of the Olowu through his fire-breathing antics.

Madam Tinubu – The first Iyalode of Egbaland of Gbagura and Owu extraction with the courage of many men who engineered the deposition of Oba Kosoko, and the return of Oba Akintoye both in Lagos, and organised the defence of Abeokuta from invading forces among numerous other remarkable feats.

Baale Olugbode – The Owu Kuta warrior who became Baale of Ibadan, only a few decades after Orile Owu was vanquished by the same Ibadan led allied forces.

G.W. Johnson – The Owu and Ijesha returnee (from Sierra Leone) who in 1865 conceived the Egba Unites Board of Management, which regulated government in Abeokuta appreciably enough for the British Colonial Government to grant the city its independence in 1893, some 67 years before Nigeria as a nation enjoyed the same priviledge.

Alake Ademola 1 – The son of an Owu man from the Ademola compound Oke Ago Owu who was also the Jagunna of Owu in 1862 became the 2nd Alake of Abeokuta. His grandson was also installed Alake Oba Ademola ll.

Balogun Akin-Olugbade – Owu political and industrial icon who was the chief whip of Action Group, & succeeded Awolowo as the leader of the opposition in Nigeria’s first Parliament. He built a hospital & social center for the people of Abeokuta and was the Aare-Ona Kakanfo before his elevation to Balogun of Owu.

Olusegun Obasanjo – Retired Army General who hails from the Olusanmi compound in Sokori, Owu Abeokuta is the only 3 term and longest in office Head of State of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. He revamped the Owu National Movement now called RUOP which was originally founded by Balogun Akin Olugbade, his predecessor in the office of Balogun Owu Abeokuta. A one time leader of the Eminent Personalities group and contender for the post of Secretary General of the United Nations. He is the current Balogun Owu.

Gbenga Daniel – Former Governor of Ogun State and Aare Ajibosin of Owu Kingdom. His mother was Owu from Omu Ijebu.

Ibikunle Amosun – Former Senator, and current Governor of Ogun State. Hails from Molasin compound in Owu Abeokuta. His great grandfather wathe 4th Molashin Iwarefa-Afobaje (Kingmaker) in Abeokuta.

Wale Babalakin – Lawyer (Senior Advocate) and business tycoon of Owu Gbongan extraction. Son of Justice Babalakin.

Taiwo Akinkunmi– An Owu indigene who designed the Nigerian National flag…and it is still flying high!

Owu l’a koda:
A phrase popularly used by Owu people to denote that Ajibosin (alias ‘Asunkungbade’), the first Olowu was also the first among the offsprings of Oduduwa to receive a crown from the great progenitor of the Yoruba race, and his Kingdom of Owu was the most ancient and most powerful in the whole of Yorubaland outside Ile-Ife!
Detractors however sometimes like to slant the pronunciation of the phrase to mean ‘Owu is the paint carrier’, an assertion that makes no sense whatever, whichever way you may look at it.
Another meaning which could be derived from a pronunciation slant of the phrase means “Owu the sword-bearer”. Sword-bearers (Akoda, also known as Tetu and Jagun) were the Royal guards and king’s executioners in the days of old…a qualification that is utter nonsense in the light of the first royal statute awarded to Olowu ahead of the rest of Yorubaland. My argument to such in this guise is that it is impossible for Owu to have ever been Akoda since they got their crown at childhood ahead of every other oba in Yorubaland. Children and royalties are never known to be akodas. If there is any cause at all to consider servitude as Akoda, it could only have come from the realms of the detractors themselves since Owu got its crown ahead of others – and royalties do not serve commoners! Perhaps they had even been Akodas to Owu itself generations earlier when Owu was the regional power before Oyo (through whom the Egbas for instance came to being)!

The Internet is also a host of this phrase in the form of Owulakoda.com and Owulakoda.me, the names of the authority website of the Owu people hosted with the following Internet domain addresses or URLs; http://owulakoda.com, http://owulakoda.me . The website is a compendium of Owu and Yoruba history, culture and interactive discussions about the Owu heritage.

6 comments on “Owu Historical Facts and Myths

  1. Asiwaju,ke pe fun wa sir. A very concise summary of Owu history,a good job well done. Sir,you ommitted d names of this great Owu sons from Ibadan since me am Owu from Ibadan such names as Dr Victor Omololu Olulonyo former executive governor of old Oyo state(now Osun and Oyo state) and Elder Wole Oyelese former Minister of special duties. Am also suggesting that we should increase the compilation of prominent Owu sons and Daughters world wide to foster commonality and sense of pride among future Owu generations thus propeling them to aim for the top in whatever human endeavours they might find themselves. Omo Olowu Oduru,Omo Oba nile aro,Anlugbua a gbe wa o…Owulakoda,if you are in doubt,go and ask in Ile Ife.

    • Thank you ‘olusholamacowu’ for your observation of the commissions.
      Welcome back to the ‘forum’. Pity the real dedicated Owu People’s forum is now down, temporarily I hope.

      We may chose to adopt the subsection of the article labelled ‘OWU PROMINENCE, PAST AND PRESENT’ as work-in- progress. In this respect, you may send me a list of your own compilation with their merits so that we can continue to grow the list of honour.
      In fact a project could be made in that respect with an article dedicated to such.

      Meanwhile send your submissions directly through the comment box, or through owulakoda2@gmail.com or Ashiwaju@gmail.com.
      This is an open invitation to everybody motivated to contribute to the list of Owu achievers!

      • Happy birthday to the Ebora Owu himself,Chief Olusegun Obasanjo,Omo Olowu oduru,Omo oba nile aro,Omo amolese bi alari aseyi samodun o..Owulakoda.

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