The Last Owu Homestead

by Oladipo Yemitan.

Arguments have raged for a long time now over the location of the seat of the Olowu’s Kingdom at the outset of the 1821 -25 Owu War. The purpose of this article is to put these arguments to rest once and for all so as to allow us devote our precious time and energy to other issues capable of moving us forward.

Let me state categorically that Orile Owu in the present Ayidaade” Local Government Area of Osun State is definitely not the location of Owu homestead as at 1821. Where then was it?

The first record of the site of Owu’s last homestead can be gleaned from the pen of Rev. David Hinderer, the first whiteman to set foot on Ibadan soil and who, in his diary entry of 4June 1851, guided us thus:

‘This afternoon, I rode out to the place of old Owu which is only two miles from my lodging. Owu was an old very large town composed of the whole tribe of that name. It was destroyed about thirty years ago and is now converted into farms by the Ibadan people but main ruins still remain… To think of the awful and bloody scene such a large place must have witnessed at the time of this destruction makes one shudder (sic) and feel indignant…’ 1

Five years later, we were assisted with another account. Dr. E.C. Irving, ‘The Ijebu Country, Church Missionary Intelligencer, Vii {1856}, pp 66-71, enlightened us as follows:

‘To the north-east of and near to Ibadan are the extensive ruins of Owu. With this city originated the Civil war which reduced to ruins so many towns once large and prosperous. For some five years did a powerful army of the people of Ife, Ijebu, and Yoruba (i.e Oyo), lay siege to this town…’ 2

The above 2 accounts were written within 30 years of the Owu War when memories of the war were still fresh. Therefore, their revelation of the location of Owu homestead in 1821-25 can hardly be faulted. The site was undoubtedly in the vicinity of ­Ibadan. But there were other pointers to the location.

After the fall of Owu, the allied forces of the Ijebu, Ife and Oyo retired to camp at a place called Idi Ogungun (a spacious camping ground dominated by an Ogungun tree) because they had left their individual homes for over 5 years and now had nowhere to go. Here, they were faced with the decision on the new line of action open to them. Ikija was the first town that loomed large on their radar to attack. While the Owu war was on, these forces had sought to take advantage of the nearness of Ikija to pillage on their farms. But the Ikija had proved uncooperative and had refused them permission to steal their crops in self-interest and their revulsion against the attack on Owu. The allied forces therefore wreaked vengeance on Ikija by sacking the well­ defended town on the pretext that they aided the Owu in the war. The location of Ikija was in the area where the present NTC headquarters is situated at Iyaganku area in the present-day Ibadan. This is another proof of the 1820s location of Owu homestead.  3

Earlier, mention was made of Idi-Ogungun. Its location was in the area now occupied by Bishop Phillips Academy in the neigbourhood of Iwo Road Junction and on the way to Monatan at Ibadan, which Ieads us to the same conclusion that Owu homestead of that era could not have been in any other place than near Ibadan.

If a corpus mentions Ogbere as the priest to the Olowu and we are constantly reminded of an Owu Ogbere. The stream which flows by the Agodi Motor Part in Ibadan is the Ogbere Stream, named after that arch-priest of the Olowu whose Kingdom was then situated near Ibadan. Another name for Owu Ogbere is Owu Yingbin – to digress a little bit.

We may now go back to the skirmishes which followed the Apomu Market incident of 1821 when an argument over a few bunches of alligator peppers escalated to the Owu War. When the first wave of attackers rose against Owu in reprisals for the Apomu incident, the Owu forces drove them off, pursuing them as far as Oje and Ofa, right to the centre of Ibadan itself. At that time, Oje and Ofa were almost merging into one single town as evidenced by the saying, Ko si iyato ninu Ofa ati Oje (Ofa and Oje are conterminous) and ‘Ohun to wa Ieyin Ofa, O ju Oje Io’ (there are more places after Ofa beyond the nearby Oje). This saying has merely been misinterpreted today to mean there is more after 6 than the figure 7. Today, Oje Market in Ibadan reminds us of the location of the early 19th century Oje, juxtaposed to Ofa (Oke Ofa Babaasale, etc). The 2 towns, Oje and Ofa, formed the buffer between Owu Ogbere and Ibadan. The Ibadan of that time hovered around Oja-lba in the Mapo Hill area.

Then, there is the existence of the Anlugbua Chains (marking the Owu deity shrine) in the neighbourhood of the Broadcasting Corporation of Oyo State premises at Orita Basorun (the precincts belonging to Basorun Olutole). Anlugbua shrine is a regular feature everywhere the Owu settled. Appropriately enough, Orita Basorun is at the backyard of Agodi where the last Owu homestead was situated. Anlugbua chains are invariably sited in the nearby grove to Owu. If Owu was not nearby, Anlugbua chains would never have been found at Orita Basorun. That area is still called Anlugbua till today.

The Ibadan people of over 100 centuries ago knew and farmed on the ruins of Owu City walls. The present-day Governor’s House at Agodi was even built across a stretch of the Owu walls.

Finally, let us re-visit old Abemo in our search for the location of the last Owu homestead. Abemo, now long destroyed, was a rival to Ijaye town in the neighbourhood of today’s Oyo. Ayo and Lahan, two war generals, lived at Abemo while Kurunmi, the Aare Ona-Kakanfo, ruled over the neighbouring Ijaye town. An intrigue was hatched by Kurunmi and Ayo to kill Lahan but he out-manoeuvred the plotters. Later, in an unsuspecting moment, Ayo succeeded in attacking Lahan’s quarters, set it on fire and humiliated Lahan very badly. Basorun Oluyole, the then Ibadan general, visited Abemo to console Lahan and to reconcile the 2 sides. During the reconciliation meeting, one Ogungbade stood up and raised his objection to the terms of settlement being proposed. He said:

‘I am an Owu man by birth, my parents came from the ancient Owu Ipole to the city Owu where I was born. The same fortune that smiled on my parents at Owu Ipole, smiled on them at the city of Owu. Here am I, fortune is smiling on me today though I was taken captive at the fall of the city of Owu. Let Abemo be destroyed today and let me lose alI I have and be taken captive, I shall still be a great man wherever I may be …’ 4

Ogungbade’s parents came from the Owu Ipole in today’s Ayedaade Local Government Area to the Owu Ogbere near Ibadan where he was born and taken prisoner in 1825.

The 8 grounds of proof above are sufficient for now. Additional evidence of the fact that the last Owu homestead was at Agodi in the present-day Ibadan is to be shared with interested readers and historians in my forthcoming book,  ‘A Comprehensive History of the Owu’.

Notes :

1. David Hinderer, ‘Account of a journey to Ibadan’, 4th June 1851 in C.M.S, CA 2/049.

Hinderer set out on this visit from his residence at Kudrti in Ibadan, out of sheer curiosity. Undoubtedly, the story of Owu War was current in Ibadan at that time.

2. Irving was the CSM Medical Officer. His account buttressed that of Hinderer.

3.      The late Mr. Adekanmi Oyedele, author of ‘lwo Ni’ and ‘Kini Mo Se’, as a boy knew the ruins of the walls of Ikija very well and walked over them on occasions. I interviewed him.

4.      Quoted in Samuel Johnson,’History of the Yoruba’, 1921.

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