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.

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Feud of the Crown Custodians – Molashin Rises Above Conflict

Molashin Steps Up Above Chieftaincy Disputes:

In the afternoon of Monday, 20th January 2014, the 9th Omolasin Iwarefa Afobaje of Owu Kingdombholder in Abeokuta, since 1855, departed for the abodes of his ancestors.
Chief Olufemi Sunday Ogunlolu was 82 years old last October. He had held the title of Molasin for about 22 years, although the last 9 years of those were shrouded in official controversy!
It is noteworthy that Chief Ogunlolu as Molasin was one of the kingmakers caught in the web of legal friction that strained the ranks of the foremost 7 ancient citizens of the Kingdom at the selection and inception of the present royal regime of Oba Adegboyega Dosunmu, the 13th Olowu in the series at Abeokuta.

For the records, the great grandfather of the present Governor of Ogun State, Senator Ibikunle Amosun, was the 4th in the line of the kingdom’s Molasin Iwarefa kingmakers and title bearers in Abeokuta.

Seven Primus Citizens:

Omolaasin (Molashin) was the 7th of the original first 7 citizens of the ancient Owu Kingdom set up by Ajibosin (Asunkungbade) who was crowned as an infant as the first Olowu by Oduduwa, his maternal grandfather at Ile-Ife. Ajibosin is regarded as the 1st citizen of the Kingdom, a status still symbolized by his crowned descendants as Olowus!
In his wake come the Iwarefa Afobajes starting with Akogun as the 2nd citizen, followed by Obamaja, Orunto, Osupori, Oyega and finally Omolashin as the 7th in that order. Together they formed the Grand Senate and highest decision making council of the ancient Owu Kingdom!
This represents the classical heirarchy of the ancient institution headed by Ajibosin, then known as Omo-Olowu, son of Obatala and Iyunade, and grandson of Oduduwa, patriach of the whole of Yorubaland.
When Ajibosin was compelled to set out on his pilgrimage of exile from Ile-Ife after haven become a child-king, he was accompanied by 6 of the most faithful nobles and lords of Ile-Ife, personally handpicked for the exodus by Oduduwa himself to guide, nurse, and counsel the Royal infant until when he would be matured enough to handle the stately matters of Kingship wherever he would choose to set up his domain. These 6 accompanied by a retinue of citizens and servants set out with their royal ward to the land of Obatala, Ajibosin’s father who must have granted them land lease from his sprawling holdings of cotton plantations situated near the River Niger in present Kwara State to set up the first Owu Kingdom!
These 6 primus citizens were the original custodians of the crown of the Omo-Olowu granted by Oduduwa to his first grandson, Ajibosin, born of his first daughter, Iyunade, who married the roaming Ifa High priest, Obatala.
Ajibosin was the ward of these noble trusted Iwarefas who were to hold council for him as a Junta of Regents until he was ripe enough to exercise his inherent powers of Kingship as the first citizen of the emerging Owu Kingdom!

Conflicts around the Crown:

Recently, perhaps some 900 years after these beginnings which were later trailled by a kaleidoscope of experiences and happenings which had ultimately led some of the descendants of these noble 7 primus citizens and their entourage into the sprawling composite city of Abeokuta, a mighty challenge occurred…a vendetta!
A crack tore through the fabrics of these Owu crown custodians, sending ripples through their tightly knit ranks and slicing them in splinters along a sharply drawn divide!
So far there had been a general silence over the actual cause of the imbroglio that caused such a widespread misunderstanding amongst the citizenry of the kingdom in Abeokuta and beyond. Time may now be rife for an attempt at educating the public about the general cause of the friction, especially now that the last of the primary actors of the scene on the side of the Iwarefa kingmakers has gracefully taken a bow out of the stage!
In a nutshell, it all started after the death of Oba Adisa Odeleye of Owu Kingdom, the 12th in the succession of Olowus in Abeokuta…

Controversy in Kingmaking:

Perhaps if Ifa divination which was the ancient order for making new Kings had been employedbonce again in the selection process for a succeeding Olowu, the ensuing conflict may have been averted, as the oracle would have likely been more definitive about the directives to be adopted for the selection…but then, we are in modern times and Kingmakers’ guidelines now tend to emanate from laid down traditional Chieftain Laws of the State rather than suggestions stemming from an unseen animistic entity who speaks through patterns and symbols depicted on a Divination Board, and interpreted by its anointed native priests!
At the time of the interregnum, the Balogun of Owu Kingdom, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo was the president of the Federal Republic, and was generally regarded (rightly or otherwise) as regent and custodian of the Owu Palace. He issued directives to the kingmakers about the prescribed parameters to be adopted in the selection of a new monarch in line with the State’s chieftaincy laws and regulations, as the story is told.
This time, the onus was to fall on the Royal family acknowledged to produce the next Oba, the Amororo House, who initially fielded some 5 or 6 candidates.
Apparently the Kingmakers opted to exercise their own prerogatives, choosing largely to disregard the directives albeit with somewhat valid arguments about their rights to choose freely according to their conscience and preferences. After all, they reasoned, if the process was to be so automatic, what use then is the institution of Kingmakers? A programmed computer would easily do the job better!
The outcome of this dissention was a choice of candidate not favoured by the legally prescribed regulations. A conflict ensued when the kingmakers opted to hold their grounds and not retract their original preference, and the umpire, the Balogun Owu (himself a kingmaker since the political inclusion of Baloguns from the time of Akin-Olugbade), insisted that they must do a retraction, employing all the authority at his disposition to ensure compliance for the sake of sanity and preservation of the legal prescription on such matters.

Selection Clauses:

So what are these prescribed selection clauses that created the sharp divide?
It is reported (I never saw the edict) that a candidate must be preferred if he is male, and issues from a male lineage.
It is even better preferred if this candidate issues from a lineage which had previously worn the crown of the Kingdom.
In this guise, it is said that Adegboyega Dosunmu who eventually ascended the throne after much controversy was the only candidate who qualified on both counts, being of a masculine descent, and also direct grandson of a previous Olowu of the same surname, Olowu Adesunbo Dosunmu, the 6th Olowu in Abeokuta from 1918-1924, thus he shouldn’t have been opposable by any of the other candidates!
Therefore when despite all these odds and entrities, the kingmakers’ votes still went to the ‘unqualified’ opposition, the umpire lost his cools as was reported, and adopted highhanded military tactics!
Allegations and counter-allegations of improprieties and/or favoritism on both sided of this divide rapidly followed and the State Government had to step in through dissolving the body of kingmakers and instituting an emergency panel of some Owu chiefs to take over the selection functions.
So, what right did the government have to interfere?

Prescribed Authority:

The government of Olabisi Onabanjo had withdrawn its prescribed authority from the stool of the Olowu in the 1970s at about the reign of Oba Adebowale Oyegbade, when there were some fracas involving the then Balogun. Following a 13 year interregnum which eventually resulted in the enthronement of Olowu Adisa Odeleye, the Owu palace had neglected to institute a restoration of this withdrawn authority which forbade the stool of the Olowu from appointing anybody to the order of chiefs in the kingdom. Consequently, all chieftaincy appointments made by Oba Odeleye who was crowned after the withdrawal of this prescribed authority were null and avoid according to law, regardless of the fact that he wasn’t privy to the disputes that brought about the injunction.

Annulled Chieftains:

After the 13 year interregnum, the only surviving Kingmaker in the Kingdom was the Orunto, the other remaining kingmaker, Chief Adeyemi, the Obamaja haven died not too long before the selection exercise commenced.
So, the new Olowu Odeleye had the singular distinction of haven been officially selected by only one kingmaker out of a total of eight the kingdom now paraded! Even the Orunto was soon to join the realm of his ancestors after his solitary achievement.
Olowu Adisa Odeleye was thus saddled with the unique task of appointing virtually singlehandedly the entire Owu Traditional Council, including the entirety of the 8 Kingmakers comprising all the 6 Iwarefas who form the core of the Afobajes, plus the Olosi (Olowu’s Ifa diviner), and Balogun who were recent additions during Oba Gbadela Ajibola’s reign that make up the team of eight!
Alas, these appointments by Oba Odeleye were to later become a mammoth exercise in futility as he had not procured the Prescribed Authority from the Ogun State Government to do so. Throughout his 10 year regime, he had neglected to seek a restoration of his royal right that was withdrawn from him even long before he dreamt of ascending the throne!

Throwing the Missiles:

It is popularly said that, ‘When the going gets tough, the tough gets going’. Believe me, the people of Owu are never to be found wanting in that arena! It was even said to me once (by a late Olowu in Kwara State) that the Owu must always be engaged in battle. “When there’s no foe at war to be fought, he’ll direct his missiles at home to his own kind”, said the Olowu, “It is part of the bloodline heritage passed down from our forefather himself, the great Owu partriach, Ajibosin, alias Asunkungbade!”
On this occasion, the missiles were directed homewards to demobilise the opposition, the Iwarefa Afobaje, because the issue of the long forgotten ‘Prescribed Authority’ suddenly emerged from the cobwebs, purportedly dug out by the pro-Dosunmu faction of the conflict for the attention of the Government in order to drive home their determination to follow laid down regulations. All chieftaincy appointments of Oba Odeleye were thus instantly nullified by law. The interesting drama here was that the resultant annulment affected nearly everybody on both sides of the struggle as they were virtually all, save a handful, stripped of their titles…and official functions, all the major actors haven been appointed by Olowu Odeleye without the prescribed authority!

However, even in this, the desired effect was attained, as all the Kingmakers were thus stripped of their powers to select since they were all affected and thus no longer bonafide chiefs in the eyes of the State Government!

The stage was thus set for the very State Government to appoint its own selectors who were ordered to strictly follow the prescribed guidelines to select a new Olowu. Oba Adegboyega Olusanya Dosunmu thereby energed as the 13th Olowu of the Kingdom in Abeokuta.

Titular Restorations:

Immediately on ascention of the throne, Oba Dosunmu haven been conferred with a full restoration of the hitherto withdrawn Prescribed Authority by Governor Gbenga Daniel was quick to reappoint and thus restore the title of Balogun of Owu Kingdom to Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, his staunch benefactor and childhood mate, right there and then on the podium in Coronation square at Ita-Iyalode.
Contrary to popular understanding, the new Oba subsequently issued a fiat to all annulled Owu chiefs to come forward for the restoration of their titles under the newly acquired prescribed authority. Many heeded the call, but a few including all the Kingmakers abstained swearing never to go for a second conferment of the same title as that would be tantamount to abomination and insult on their persons and office, they reasoned.
In time, Olowu Dosunmu toughened up in typical Owu fashion and revised his initial benevolent stance demanding for at least two candidates to be presented from the kingmaker families, a move that may be eyed with suspicion as a ploy to weed out the old brigade who failed to support his selection to the stool of Owu and continued to defy his moves for a truce!
On his part, the monarch may tend to argue that since Royal candidates for the crown are usually chosen by Kingmakers from not one, but a host of candidates presented by the ruling house-to-be, the crown too should be justified to choose from an array of candidates to be presented from the Iwarefa families instead of their choice alone being imposed on the whole community! Reasonable, logical and philosophical…but is it traditional?
Thus, yet again a new battle line was drawn by the feuding compatriots. Every entreaty had failed to budge both sides in the new faceoff!
In the case of the Molasin, as in a couple of others, their families stood solidly behind them over principles that it was their clans’ prerogatives to select and present their kingmaker candidates to the palace, for royal blessing and official installation alone, and not for the former to help them in selecting. This they said had always been the practise since the official institution of Ajibosin on the throne as Olowu when he became of age, in line with directives passed to them directly by Oduduwa. Thus an en-passe or stalemate ensued, which in the case of a few of the others, as is likely in the case of the Molasin, could only have been broken by death!

An Overview Philosophy:

My personal philosophy in all of these, for whatever it may be worth is that progress is only achievable through motion, and motion is facilitated only through changes. If these changes are forward looking, progress shall be achieved. If however the changes are lopsided, they will only result in negative motion with consequent retardation.
Changes, when they must take place, should do so delicately and slowly enough to be understood by those for whom they are intended so as not to generate disruptive ripples, which will end up decelerating the whole process and progress anyway!

Disclaimer:
The above is the story in brief of the feud amongst the Crown custodians of Owu Kingdom in Abeokuta as understood by me, the writer, from reports, personal discussions and interactions with affected parties and sundry. While admitting individual interest in the matter on both sides of the divide, one as an installed chief of the kingdom under the renewed prescribed authority, and also as a Molasin Iwarefa family member and mover, the accounts rendered represent my unbiased personal understanding and summations alone. They do not represent or portend to represent any official views and may not be admissible for any legal proceedings whatsoever.

The 2013 Owu Day Festival Announced

Prince Adeshina, Chairman Planning Committee.

Prince Adeshina, Chairman Planning Committee.

The annual festival of Owu Kingdom, the Odun Omo Olowu, also known as Owu Day Festival which is usually featured in the first week of October anyway has been confirmed for Saturday 5th of October as the staging date of the 2013 edition.

The chairman of the Planning Committee, Prince Adekunle Adeshina, the Omoleefon of Owu Kingdom announced to his committee members at their recent meeting at the Owu Palace on Oke Ago Owu in Abeokuta that the Olowu and paramount ruler of Owu Kingdom, Oba Adegboyega Dosunmu has approved that date for the staging of the climax and highlight of the week long festival which crescendo is to take place at its usual venue of the Gateway Secondary School at Ita Iyalode in the Owu Quarter of Abeokuta.

It should be noted that this venue like many similar educational premises in Ogun State has recently been totally revamped and given a facelift by the government of Senator Ibikunle Amosun, he himself an Owu man stemming from the Molashin compound on Totoro Rd, Abeokuta. All the roads leading to the venue have also been transformed into first class 8 – lane avenues backed up with blinding street lights as a part of the transformation of the whole city of Abeokuta amidst many other major cities of Ogun State.

As promoters of Owu cultural heritage, Owulakoda.com celebrates the milestone achievements of one of its sons, Governor Ibikunle Amosun in his milestone efforts of enhancing the image of the state, just as we also celebrate the laudable achievements of another Owu icon, ‘Baba Iyabo’ Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, the Balogun of Owu Kingdom and former President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria who entrenched the nation solidly into its path of democracy, and reigned the longest and arguably the best in the history of the Nigerian nationhood.

Owulakoda also gathered that the 2013 festival is also being planned to be the best and most sophisticated by far in the series, with special emphasis being placed on outreach to both the Diaspora and the rurals. New special features are also being planned to complement the scheduled events of the day. The festival Programme shall also be remarkably overhauled and expanded into new realms while the World Wide Web shall feature significantly as a major tool of information dissemination.

In brief, one should expect the 2013 Odun Omo Olowu/Owu Day Festival to be simply stunning. Ba atiri!

BREAKING NEWS: Free Websites to all Owu Communities!

Owulakoda.com is offering free websites (subdomains) to all Owu communities worldwide who are registered with the Royal Union of Owu People (RUOP)!

This is part of our website’s contributions to the development of Owu history, culture, and modern information delivery systems at all Owu community levels, and solidarity with RUOP at 21, as an anniversary gift to all Owu people.

Since the inception of owulakoda.com in 2008, there have been comments about the seeming Owu-Abeokuta bias of the website and many observers had proposed a more pan-Owu approach to the site. It is in response to these requests that we have chosen the most appropriate moment to unwrap our gift package to all the Owu communities, the 21st anniversary of the union, hosting at Abeokuta on the 7th and 8th of December, 2012.

The free websites shall operate in this fashion:

They shall be managed with our hosting account under the address of owulakoda.com, but shall include their own distinctive addresses or identity as a prefix.

For example, if Owu-Obaloyan community wants its own site under this scheme, it may be addressed as obaloyan.owulakoda.com, likewise if Orile-Owu also seek a presence, it shall read as orileowu.owulakoda.com etc.

The advantage to the participating communities is that they will be able to project their local history, opinions and related news and information to the whole world in exactly the way they desire… totally free of charge as we shall bear the costs and technical details of hosting their sub-domain websites!

The major condition however is that members of the various communities will have to provide the history and other contents they want to feature on their individual sites, and perhaps also a specific person as co-author to assist with managing contents and comments on those sites. The regularity of contents and dynamism of these sites will totally depend on these inputs since we at owulakoda .com are limited by resource and logistics to take up any major extra responsibilities.

It is thus hereby publicly announced that all communities interested in benefiting from this scheme make their interest known to either the RUOP executive body either through their zonal representatives, by email directly to this website through ashiwaju@owulakoda.com, or at the floor of the 21st Owu Convention in Abeokuta.

Why are we doing this?

We came online specifically to serve, project, and propagate the great Owu heritage to the whole of the universe, and we aim to do just that with all our ability…with or without any human assistance, so help us God!

Moreover, we are convinced that all Owu people, big or small, should have a voice to communicate their mighty presence to the world!

HAPPY 21st UNIFICATION ANNIVERSARY to all Omo Ajibosin worldwide.

ANLUGBUA A GBE WA O!

December? Nay, It’s ‘WUcember

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The Owu National Convention has come of age. Hooray!

At 21, it has come back home to roost…where it started its journey 21 years ago!

An annual pan-Owu fiesta, it is usually hosted on a rotational basis among all Owu communities in Nigeria and the Diaspora on or about the first weekend of December, or is it Owucember?

This year Owu-Abeokuta its originator will host the annual convention on the 7th and 8th of December at the Gateway School festival grounds at Ita-Iyalode.

The highlight event for Friday 7th December is the Gala Night which kicks-off at 8pm for an all-night musical frolicking session attended by a live band, after an earlier business-as-usual going to the mosque and official meeting of all Obas and the RUOP Executives.

Saturday 8th also starts early with a church thanksgiving session, and then, the big stuff – The Convention proper – which promises electrifying cultural displays and drama, among other mind-blowing features and extras like scholarship awards and free medical diagnostics for all comers!

The convention brochure for this 21st outing also promises to be a true departure from previous ones – a true memorabilia of the Owu people that will glow forever in your reference library!

Oh! For the records in advance, the National Convention of Owu People was the brain-child of the late Balogun of Owu-Abeokuta, Barrister Akin Olugbade, which was taken to greater heights and permanently entrenched by his successor, Balogun Olusegun Obasanjo, the ex-President and Commander-In-Chief of the armed forces of Nigeria.

By the way, if you were to attend the venue in the custom-made adire uniform designated for the event (costs N2,000 for 6 yards), you may just be one of the lucky winners of certain surprises that may be lined up by the organizing committees!

A concise history of the Royal Union of Owu People (RUOP) and the complete convention time-table shall soon be posted here.

Further information available through the Secretary, Local Organizing Committee (LOC), of the 21st RUOP Owu National Convention – Tel : +2348033377642.