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 Origin of Yorubas 1 / 2 / 3 /

Origin of the Yorubas

The origin of the Ijebus has been variously given. One account makes them spring from the victim offered in sacrifice by the King of Benin to the god of the ocean. Hence, the term “Ijebu” from “Ije-ibu” (that is, the food of the deep). The Ijebus themselves claim to have descended from “Oba-nita,” thus, referring to themselves as “Ogetiele, eru Obanita” (that is, “Ogetiele, servants of Obanita”). But who was this “Obanita?” Tradition says he also was a victim of sacrifice by the Olowu or King of Owu. It was said that the Olowu offered in sacrifice a human being where two roads crossed; this was termed “Ebo-ni-ita,” a sacrifice on the highway. This was a situation where this particular victim of sacrifice was mangled and left for dead at the crossroad (“orita”). However, at night, the victim revived from the ordeal and crawled away into the forest, where he subsequently recovered and survived. He lived on fruits, and then did a little bit of farming. With population growth over time, and being the oldest man in most of the immediate area, he was regarded as the “father to all,” and subsequent generations called him their ancestor. Thus, the Ijebus were formed, and the term, “Ebonita” ( a sacrifice on the highway) was converted to “Obanita” ( a king on the highway). A forest is still shown near the village of Aha (or Awa), where he is annually worshiped, and from whence he was supposed to have ascended into heaven. Actually, legend had it that when Obanta became very old and was contemplating his mortality, he inquired from the “Ifa” oracle how his legacy would be after his demise. Ifa told him that if he did not want the township to be in disarray after his death, he should leave town and die outside. Shortly after this revelation, Obanta disappeared and left town without notice, thus leaving people to speculate that he must have ascended into heaven. This was how the phrase: “Obanta, the one who wages war from heaven” became coined. But “Lawa,” after he relocated to a new settlement, testified that the forest near his new abode, was also in close proximity to that of Obanta, near Awa or Aha. It was as a result of this testimony that people developed the belief that whatever statement came out of the mouth of Lawa was directly from Obanta! It is rather curious that both accounts of the ancestral origin of the Ijebus point to the incidents of being victims of human sacrifices. The latter account narrated above is reconcilable with the former, which states that the name “Ijebu” was derived from the expression: “Ije-ibu” (food of the deep). It is also safe to infer that the population over which “Ebonita” was the head, may have been largely influenced by the victims of the ocean so as to give the name “Ije-ibu” to the entire populace. There are also other important facts and curious coincidences connected with the Ijebus which have strong bearings on this tradition of their origin. The Ijebus, before the conquest, were the most exclusive and inhospitable of the whole of the tribes. Very few, if any, outsiders were ever known to have walked through the territory with impunity under any circumstances whatsoever. Many of those who attempted to do so were never seen nor heard from again! Commercial transactions with outsiders were carried on at the frontier or at the borders with neighboring towns. It is also important to point out that even if the latter account of the origin of the Ijebus, through being a victim of the Olowu were true, it is very singular indeed that it was mainly due to the Ijebus, with their firearms, that the Owus owed their fall and complete annihilation as an independent state to this day! Why so? Read on!

The original King of the Ijebus was known as the “Awujale”. His origin was thus given by authentic tradition, the event with which it was connected having occurred within authentic history. There were formerly two important towns called Owu Ipole and Iseyin Odo in a district between the Owus and Ifes. They were settlements from the cities of Owu and Iseyin, respectively. A quarrel was reported to have arisen between them on the matter of boundaries, and the dispute, having been carried on for many years, developed into open fights, thus degenerating into a crisis, which both the Olowu and the Owoni of Ife (both being interested parties) were unable to contain or resolve. This led them into sending messengers to the King of Oyo to solicit his help and, in response, he (the King of Oyo) sent out a special “Ilari” and a large number of attendants to put an end to the strife. The “Ilari” by tradition, had an inviolable personality. Hence, he came and settled down between the two warring factions, and right in the middle of the disputed piece of land, thus compelling them to settle their differences amicably and keep the peace. The Ilari was named the “Agbejaile” or “Alajaile” (an arbiter of land dispute). This term was subsequently ‘softened,’ ‘coined,’ and ‘rounded’ into the term: “Awujale.” This event occurred during the reign of King JAYIN. As it was customary to pay royal honors to the King’s messengers out of courtesy, this “Ilari” was accorded royal honors, as appropriate, and he remained there permanently and became the King of the region. The Ijebus, up to that point in history, had no king of their own because heretofore, they had preferred to hold themselves aloof from their neighbors. Subsequently, this “Ilari” who became the “Awujale,” moved to Ode. The Awujale ranks after the Oyo provincial kings such as the Onikoyi, Olafa, Aresa, and Aseyin

The Ijebu Province

Among the Ijebus, the civil authorities are of three divisions: The Osugbos or Ogboni, the Ipampa, and the Lamurin. Without these bodies acting in concert, no law can be enacted or repealed. Of these bodies, the Osugbos are the highest because even the King himself must belong to that fraternity. The Lamurins are the lowest. Among the Egbas and Ijebus, the Ogbonis are the chief executive. They have the power of life and death, and the power to enact and repeal laws. But in the Oyo provinces, the Ogbonis have no such power. They are rather more of a consultative and advisory body, the King or Bale being supreme. Only matters involving bloodshed are handed over to the Ogbonis for judgement or for execution, as the King deems fit. The actual executioners at Oyo are the Tetus, amongst the Ibolos, the Jagun and in the Epo Districts, the Akodas, or sword bearers of the principal chiefs, all acting together.


To date, there have only been fifty-three (53) Awujales. The currently reigning monarch (the 53rd Awujale) being His Excellency Alaiyeluwa Oba Sikiru Kayode Adetona, Ogbagba II enthroned in 1960. The others, in chronological order are: (1) Obanta - 1430; (2) Obaguru - 1445; (3) Munigbuwa - 1455; (4) Obanla - 1460 (from Obanta family); (5) Obaloja - 1470 (from Obaguru family); (6) Obalofin - 1482 (from Munigbuwa family); (7) Apasa - 1496 (from Obanla family); (8) Obaganju - 1508 (from Obaloja family); (9) Tewogboye - 1516 (from Obalofin family); (10) Obaruwa-Muda - 1520 (from Apasa family); (11) Ofiran-Ekun - 1532 (from Obaganju family); (12) Lapegunwa - 1537 (from Obaruwa family); (13) Owa Otutu-bi-osun - 1537 (from Tewogboye family - later became Dagburewe of Idowa); (14) Moko Idowa Ajuwakale - 1540 ( a blood relation of Owa Otutu-bi-osun); (15) Agbadisa - 1552 (from Lapeguwa family); (16) Obajewo - 1561 (from Ofiran family); (17) Obalewuileke - 1576 (from Ajuwakale family); (18) Obalumodan Elewu Ileke - 1590 (from Gbadisa family); (19) Mase - 1620 (from Obajewo family); (20) Olotuneso - 1625 (from Obalewu family); (21) Mola - 1635 (from Oba Gbadisa’s family); (22) Ajano - 1642 (the first female Awujale - from Oba Lumodan’s family); (23) Ore or Gadegun - 1644 (from Mase family); (24) Obaguwaja - 1654 (from Ajana family); (25) Jadiara or Olowo joye meji - 1660 (from Olotuneso family - was formerly the Dagburewe of Idowa before being enthroned as Awujale); (26) Sapokun - 1675 (from Ore family - same as that of the first female Awujale); (27) Folajoye - 1687 (from Mola family); (28) Mekun - 1692 (from Oba Jadiara’s family); (29) Gbodogi - 1702 (from Sapokun family); (30) Ojigi Amoyegeso - 1710 (from Folajoye family); (31) Obaliyewe Arojofaye - 1730 (from Mekun family); (32) Moyegeso Olope - 1730 (from Godogi family); (33) Ojora - 1735 (from Oba Guaja’s family); (34) Fesojoye - 1745 (from Oba Liyewe’s family); (35) Geje - 1749 (the second female Awujale - from Olope family); (36) Saponuwa Rubakoya - 1750 (same Olope family as the second female Awujale); (37) Orodudujoye - 1755 (from Ojora family); (38) Tewogbuwa I - 1758 (from Fesojoye family); (39) Gbelebuwa I - 1760 (from Orodudujoye family); (40) Fusengbuwa - 1790 (from Tewogbuwa family); (41) Setejoye - 1820 (from Ojigi Amoyegeso family); (42) Anikilaya (Fugbajoye) Aboogunsa - 1821 (from Sapenuwa Rubakoye family); (43) Afidipotemole (Ademuyewo) - 1850 (from Setejoye family - was dethroned in 1882 and banished to Epe); (44) Tunwase (Adesinbo) - 1886 (alias Orojojoye Adele tejiteji from Funsegbuwa family); (45) Ogbagba Agbatewole I (Adeleke) - 1895 (from Anikilaiya family); (46) Fusigboye (Adeona) - 1906 (from Fidipote family); (47) Fesogbade (Ademolu) - 1916 (from Anikilaiya family - was dethroned because of old age and fled to Lagos through Itoke); (48) Adekoya (Eleruja) - 1916 (from Tunwase family); (49) Fesogbade (Ademolu) (the 47th Awujale was reinstalled on January 1917 through the help of Bishop James Johnson who pleaded his case of wrongful dethronement with then governor); (50) Adenuga Afolagbade - 1925 (from Tunwase family); (51) Fibiwoga (Ogunaike) - 1929 (from Fidipote family); (51) Daniel Adesanya Gbelebuwa II - 1933 (from Oba Gbelebuwa I family).

IJEBU-REMO SHAGAMU: Akarigbo is the head of all the Kings in Remo land. The first Akarigbo was Igbodein, child of Aka, who was married to Onigbo. Onigbo was one of those that followed Obanta into Ijebuland originally. King Igbodein’s poetic praise (oriki) was: “Owa Mojo-nmogun ofin.” After he settled down at Oke Iyemule, he was quoted as saying: “Ore mo!” This was because he relocated to the new home in anger around the year 1450. It was Aroyewun Akarigbo who moved the people out of Iyemule and relocated them to orile Ofin. The other Akarigbos at this early time were: Luyoruwa, Radolu, Koyelu, Muleruwa, Tewogbuwa, Arioko, Liyangu, Otutu bi Osun, Erinjugbotan, Faranpojo, Igimisoje (who was renowned for leading his people (in 1872) to settle in the place now known as Sagamu, on a land owned by a man named Bammowu, after the Makun war of 1862. Shortly after this settlement, the people of Imakun came back from their hamlet and found Akarigbo, Alara, and Alado. After that, the Elepe, along with his friends, also arrived and settled. Shortly after, there was a dispute between Akarigbo and Elepe over crown and this resulted in war. It was during this battle that Akarigbo was quoted as saying: “Bi n ko tile ju osandie, emi ni Oloja Remo.” This new settlement, at that time, was called Sagamu because it was close to a river. After this era, Deuja became the Akarigbo in 1880. In 1895, Oyebayo became the Akarigbo, and it was during his era that another war ensued between him and the Elepe (in 1903) over the ownership of a crown. This war was so fierce that then Governor, the Hon. William MacGregor, had to intercede and mediate. During the mediation, then Ooni agba Olubuse was called as a witness and he gave a testimony to the effect that he did not know who the Elepe was, but he knew Akarigbo, and as a matter of fact, he received fifty pounds (£50) from the Akarigbo before giving him the crown in dispute. The governor eventually settled the rift and seized the crown from the Elepe. It was later reported that one Mr. E.S. Ajayi (B.Sc.), on his return from studying abroad, affirmed that he personally identified the crown on display at a museum in London. It was not too long after this incident that there was a conspiracy against Akarigbo Oyebajo and he was removed from the throne and banished to Calabar in 1914. Then Oba Awolesi became the Akarigbo in 1916. It should be noted that Akarigbo Adedoyin I was enthroned in 1916 but his reign was short-lived. It was in 1917 that the Akarigbo colluded with Awujale Ademolu and agreed to annex all land in Remo with Ijebu-Ode so both can become one.In 1924, the Akarigbo sent emissaries to the Ooni of Ife to request a crown for him. In response, the ooni sent a crown through his emissaries. As the Ooni emissaries were entering Ijebuland, they stopped by the Awujale Ademolu’s palace to pay homage. They told the Awujale the purpose of their journey, and on learning why, the Awujale became angry and promptly sent messengers to the Akarigbo, summoning him to come and explain the rationale behind his requesting a crown from the Ooni. Both Messrs H. D. Lamuth and T.B. Dew (then Counsel-General) chastised the Akarigbo for what he did and appealed to the Awujale to exercise patience and understanding. Then, the Ooni emissaries were sent back to Ile-Ife and Akarigbo returned to Remo to undertake appropriate rituals for his crowning ceremony. In 1936, another dispute ensued and this led the Akarigbo to be quoted as saying: “Mo kunle mo fi apo ko; mo duro owo mi ko to mo.” This statement became so controversial that the government had to send the Hon. Martin Dale to investigate the matter. It was during this investigation that the Akarigbo retained a lawyer named Palmer. At the conclusion of the investigation, Mr. Martin Dale recommended that Remo should be separated from Ijebu-Ode. Additionally, he also recommended that Remo should be paying four hundred pounds (£400) annually as land royalties to the government of Ijebu-Ode. This agreement was signed in 1937 and Mr R.T. Minne was made the District Officer for Remo area. However, on July 27, 1946, the Akarigbo Oba Adedoyin I, as well as Laperu, Ologere, Ewusi, Odemo, Alaiye Ode, Alalisan, Onipara, Alakenne, Onirolu and Elepe, all gladly visited then Oba Awujale Gbelebuwa II, who received them warmly. After a long discussion, Oba Akarigbo rose to say that all the misunderstandings of the past have come to an end, because, as he put it, all of them are Ijebu, and Remo should not be different. Then according to custom, kolanuts were broken into pieces and all of them took pieces and ate. Others at this August meeting were The Rev. W.F. Mellor, Attorney Adeleke Adedoyin, The Hon. T.A. Odutola and other palace Chiefs of the Awujale.

Finally, on January 9, 1952, the Akarigbo announced publicly at the send-off ceremony of the Hon. A.F. Richards that he (the Akarigbo) would henceforth, refrain from being involved in any public discord or battle. This Akarigbo became deceased on March 21, 1952. A memorial service was held for him on April 20, 1952. Shortly after his death, his son, Prince Adeleke made himself the Akarigbo, but was promptly removed by the people through an order of the court.


This was the name Ewusi named his settlement, and being a prince, because he was the son of Awujale Obaruwa, used that influence to become the King of Makun. It was the war that raged in his home town in 1862 that made him to settle at Imakun. Little is known about the names of previous Ewusis. However, history had it that Ewusi Sotinwa was dethroned in 1929 during the Folagbade disturbance. Olukokun came after him, but he was also dethroned. The next king was S. Asaye and he was well liked by then Awujale Daniel Adesanya Gbelebuwa II. It was out of this likeness that the Gbelebuwa presented him with Apete (coronet) in 1939. Oba S. Asaye became deceased on June 22, 1952.


Alaiye Ode was one of the children of Awujale Geje. He was a sibling to the Onibeju of Ibeju. It was recorded in history that one of the Alaiye of Ode, by the name Oshinloye, was accused of murder in 1902 and was found guilty by the Sagamu court and fined £150. After Osinloye, Dipeolu became king, but was dethroned in 1928 with the charge that he opened the doors of his palace and made negative remarks about the town masquerades (Oloro).


Alaperu, who founded this town, was a grandchild of Awujale Ofiran. However, historical records show that the Elepe argued, at some point, that it was him that founded Iperu. There is scanty information regarding previous Alaperus. In 1915, Alaperu Owokalade was crowned and it was him that Awujale Folagbade gave the “Apete” in 1926. Later, Soyebo became Alaperu until 1939 when he was deceased. After him, Abraham Okupe was installed as “omowe, borokinni olowo soke dile” in 1940.


Ogeere was a settlement established by Ologeere, child of Lipakata (Agbenimadehin). He was one of those who followed Obanta to Ijbeland, but later established his own domain at Ogeere. Every year, a cow is killed at Ogeere as part of a ritual for the Awujale. In 1945, Alfred Ashaye (Olowo soke dile) was crowned the Ologeere.


The Odemo, who founded this town, was an important member of the entourage of Obanta to Ijebuland, and just like others, he also later established his own domain at Isara. There have been many Odemos crowned since the town was founded but the first popular Odemo, Oba Samuel Akinsanya-Saki was crowned in 1944. Prior to becoming the Odemo, Oba Akinsanya was a popular politician in Lagos.


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.”


Adaba, another female child of Awujale Oba Jadiara, went on a long journey out of town with her husband, Ebedi. Adaba was known to be heavily involved in cracking kernels (eyin) a lot. She used to crack kernels for long periods without rest (both day and night) to the extent that she was nicknamed “Aseyin,” which became Iseyin till today. This was how the people of Iseyin in Oyo was given the following poetic praise (oriki): “Omo Adaba ku osun sese da apa si; Omo Erelu Ijebu; Omo Ebedi-Moko.”

IFE-IJEBU History of this town has been scanty because it was ritually decreed, in earlier times of its founding, that the history of the town must not be told. However, around 1920-1921, during the controversy between Chief Jewo Oropo and the Ajalorun of that time, as well as the later rift of 1932 between Balufo and then Ajalorun, some of the history of the town came to light.

Ekun Tete was the first King of Ife-Ijebu. He was known to like idol worshiping a lot, being the head of the “agbohun ona-orun” in Ile-Ife. Before he left town because of his idol-worshiping habit, it was he who asked Balufo Ijaogun to make sacrifice for “Aija ni orun.” This was how Ekun Tete became the Ajalorun, thus earning the poetic praise (oriki) of: “Ajalorun Ekuntete.” It was this Balufo whose name was changed to “Orunto Olufe” of Ile-Ife for which he is known till today. It was during the reign of Awujale Oba Moyegeso (1710-1725) that the Ajalorun came to Ijebuland. However, in 1937, during the rift between Remo and Ijebu-Ode, then Ajalorun, Oba Olugbofega, was reported to have claimed that Ajalorun was the replacement to Oduduwa of Ile-Ife and also that he came to Ijebuland before Obanta. After Olugbofega, Asani Mabadeje became the Ajalorun in 1943. It was during the reign of Oba Asani Mabadeje that the ambitious claims of the Ajalorun were curtailed.

IJEBU-IGBO Ademakin or Orimolusi, whose poetic praise (oriki) was “Adoro Oke”, was from the Osimore family and was a very strong hunter. It was while he went on a hunting expedition to the eastern area of Ijebuland that he met a man named “Ogu Ogun Elegi”, who was an “Olode” from Imusin. Both of them started hunting together and came across an elephant. Instantly and simultaneously, they both shot at the elephant, killing it. As they carved the elephant, a scramble ensued for some of the precious parts, but Ademakin exercised restraint and said: “Erin mo Olusi.” It was this incident that made Ademakin’s wife (Sopen) to advise him to relocate and he did. So, after he relocated, the story was that whenever people form out-of-town came looking for Ademakin, Ogun Elegi would tell them as follows: “Orimolusi Ijebu, o wa ninu igbo lokankan.” - meaning Orimolusi Ijebu is in the forest ahead. This was how Ademakin became the Orimolusi of Ijebu-Igbo. Later, Ogunelegi left this forest and re-settled in an area known till today as “Idode”. The seat of Orimolusi is at “Oke Sopen”. Over time, more people came to settle in the area, and among these people, some named their area “Ojowo”, while others named theirs “Atikori”, “Okeagbo”, and “Japara”. Total settlements in this forested area were five in number. Other villages like: Asigidi, Igboaire, Awa, and Odo Molu later merged with them. Each of them had their own village heads, but they all accepted the Orimolusi as the overall head.

It should be noted that some other people of Ijebu-Igbo origin had argued that a person named Onoyelu was the first to settle at Ijebu-Igbo, and that he was the “Oloja Igbo”. It was after him, this historical version stated, that Ikudeinde, Adefisibe, Ikupakude, Ojumiri and Adetuga, all became kings. Then, there came a long period when Ijebu-Igbo was without a king. During this period, Ijebu-Igbo was ruled by village chiefs (Bale) until a man named Situ was removed as village chief (Bale) in February 1929, and a man named Adesemowo was crowned as the king in 1930.

ODOGBOLU A man by the name “Elesi Ekun Ogoji” was credited to have first stumbled into this town while hunting, and settled at “Efiyan”. Then, one Chief Ogbolu was sent from Ijebu-Ode to be the overseer, and he settled at “Odo-gbolu”. But because of his lackluster attitude, another person named Chief Layanra or Madegun ( a friend to one of the children of then female Awujale), was sent to replace him. Chief Layanra settled at “Odo Layanra”. Since that time, no other replacement was sent until 1943, when Onasanya was installed as chief. One day, Elesi went hunting in the forest and ran into a man named Aderohunmu, who was a child of Oba Awujale Ajano (1642). Prince Aderohunmu was reported to have been banished from Ijebu-Ode for lying. However, the condition in which Elesi found him in the forest was so pathetic that on getting back home, he went directly to the Awujale and reported that while hunting in the forest, he ran into a dark complexioned man behind river “omen” (“okunrin dudu lehin omi omen”) who claimed to be the Awujale’s son, and pleaded for clemency for the prince. The Awujale, apparently still bitter about what his son did, was not as sympathetic and even joked, saying: “O mo le da ni” meaning, that’s what you get for being a traitor. It was since then that this prince became known as: “Moloda” (Okunrin dudu ehin Omen). Elesi was so filled with pity for Prince Aderohunmu that he pleaded with the prince to leave the forest and come and stay with him. So, in 1850, Prince Aderohunmu obliged to leave his settlement at Orule Iloda, and relocated to Odogbolu, and named his new area “Iloda”, which later became one of the prominent areas in Odogbolu. It was since this time that Odogbolu had known no peace. This was because of the claim that the area known as “Moloda” should be the center of leadership for the entire Odogbolu area, but Oremadegun disagreed, thus creating a tug-of-war over territorial supremacy. This rift dragged on till 1903 when General Reef Talker had to intervene. Also in 1915, General Moore House intervened. In 1916, Mr. Sawyer, the District Administrator also intervened; same in 1924 by General Major Rockson. It was at this time that the Moloda made up the story he received his crown form Ile-Ife. As a result of this apparently false claim, he was dethroned.

In March 1929, Oba Dagburewe of Idowa, Idi Mobulejo, accompanied District Commissioners Rowel Jones, and T.B. Dew, undertook an investigation into the records of Odogbolu indigenes regarding the Moloda matter. During the investigative proceedings, Oba Dagburewe advised the Odogbolu people to consider merging the three royal titles (then existing) into one and then rotate ascendancy to the throne among the three areas. This advice was rejected. Then in 1930, Awujale Fibiwoga decreed that the three competing areas (Remadegun, Elesi and Moloda) would form the leadership for Odogbolu. This was how Odogbolu became a town with three leaders! It was after this that James Idowu became the chief of Moloda. In 1939, Odogbolu became separated from Idowa and Eyinwa became part of Odogbolu. Then in 1944, Chief Mobaranku became the head of Moloda.

Source: Itan Ido Ijebu by Dr. Badejo Oluremi Adebonojo, First published in 1990 by John West Publications Ltd., John West House, Plot “2" Block “A”, Acme Road, Ogba, P.M.B. 21001, Ikeja, Lagos, Nigeria. Some information also taken from an unpublished manuscript by the same author, who has since died.








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