THE CROWN CUSTODIANS

– Activities and events leading to the coronation of the first Olowu in Abeokuta.

The 13th Ólówú of Owu in Abeokuta, Ọba Adegboyega Dosunmu in an Owu crown regalia

In 1821–26, the armies of both Ijebu and Ife, supported by mercenaries from Oyo, attacked and devastated Owu Ipole as a consequence of a riot originally sparked off at the Apomu International market by an Owu man and an Ijebu woman in dispute over an alligator pepper sale. The Owus abandoned their heavily fortified city after a siege lasting over 5 years resulting in famine and impending pestilence, and escaped southwestward in groups toward Ibadan at about 1826. From their camps in these outskirts, they marched on and across the Ogun River and finally set up their transit camp at Oke Ata near Abeokuta where Sodeke, the Seriki of Egba and their leader, persuaded the gallant Owus to settle in Abeokuta about 1834.

It is important to state that the present Orile Owu is in the same location as Owu Ipole where the Owus from Modakeke, Iwo, and other places resettled in the early 20th century after about 80 years absence from the site.

The people of Erunmu, which was founded by the older brother of an earlier Olowu from the Amororo Ruling House, were always loyal to the course of Owu Kingdom. During the Owu war, the Olowu was carried on the back to disguise his escape from Orile Owu (Owu Ipole) to Orile Erunmu, while being guarded by a combined team of the Owu royal guards and Oluroko’s (Oba Erunmu) royal guards.

After Orile Owu was devastated, the remaining Owu army retreated to defend Owu Ogbere and Orile Erunmu against the allied army of Ijebu and Ìfẹ́ assisted by their Oyo war mercenaries.

Safeguarding the Crown:

Before Orile Erunmu was also devastated and razed to the ground by the same marauding junta of warriors, The Olowu and The Oluroko of Erunmu devised strategies to ensure that the royal lineages and the Crown inherited from Oduduwa was preserved. The Olowu entrusted the Owu Crown to a warrior simply referred to as Akogun (Akogun is a title of the Owu army Defense Chief), Ijaola, and a few of the king’s closest aides.

Editor’s Note: The Akogun referred to in this text has been uncovered to bear the name Akinale. He was the first Akogun title holder in the new settlement of Abeokuta, a title he brought from Owu Ipole after he succeeded Akogun Olugbabi Awalona, the infamous Akogun at Orile Owu (Owu Ipole) reputed to have ignited the fracas at the Apomu market causing the fatality of a pregnant Ijebu woman, and formented the onset of the various chains of wars which so much devastated the Yoruba nation and highlighted the Transatlantic slave trade!)

When the siege on Erunmu began, Akogun was assigned to the warfront with the hope that he could turn the tides of war while Ijaola was sent on a mandatory royal assignment to Ibadan with a message of truce for Maye, an Ibadan warlord who had been involved in the Orile Owu siege. Before these two Crown trustees left to carry out their respective orders, they had to entrust Oni (a skilled and specialized trader and farmer, and also the older stepbrother of Ijaola) with safeguarding the Crown. Oni and other men entrusted with the Crown mingled with the refugees who eventually settled in Abeokuta. These men had strict instructions not to disclose the whereabout of the Crown in the absence of the Akogun and Ijaola, unless they received news of their death.

Interregnum:

List of Olowu’s in Abeokuta since 1855

In 1855, the Owus crowned Ọba Adeyanju Pawu as the first king and Olowu of the Owus in Abeokuta at Oke Ago-Owu, a district in Abeokuta where they had settled. Notably, disregarding the period that elapsed between the death of the Olowu Akinjobi after the defeat of Erunmu, and the period of resettlement at Abeokuta, there was a 21 year interregnum from the time of arrival to the crowning of Pawu as the first Olowu in Abeokuta. (See past and present Olowu of Owu in Abeokuta). He reigned for 12 years.

The reason for the interregnum may be attributed to the deterioration of their socio-cultural bond that became evident during the journey between Orile Owu and Abeokuta. Hardship had made these Owu families insensitive to each other’s welfare. The worst affected were the Owu people of Erunmu and Apomu because they were fewer in number. As a result of their minority status they were marginalized by other Owu indigenes. Òní, the keeper of the Crown was convinced that if he revealed the Crown to a people who had grown insensitive to the needs of their brothers, he would allow despotic rule to hold sway over the townships of Owu, Erunmu and Apomu (the Owu kingdom in Abeokuta).

Over the years, Akogun (the highly ranked soldier) arrived in Abeokuta, but he could neither locate Ijaola nor Ijaola’s stepbrother, Oni. However, unknown then to the Olowu and Oluroko before the fall of Erunmu, Ijaola had returned to the town, but had to hide on a farm settlement to escape capture. He later settled in Iwo town where there was a community of Owu refugees and began to trade in commodities and prisoners of wars. It was in the course of this trade that he re-connected with his stepbrother, Oni, through another itinerant Owu merchant who was based in Abeokuta.

Eventually, all arrangements were made for Ijaola to migrate to Abeokuta where he re-settled the people of Erunmu in Ita Erunmu (now named Totoro, after a tree in the area). With the reunion of Ijaola, Akogun, and Òní, they consulted with each other, and resolved to reveal the crown of Oduduwa to the rest of the Owu community, nearly 21 years after the Owu people first settled in Abeokuta. This is what opened the way for activities leading to the first Owu coronation in the city.