Igbajo vibes and Awujale’s supremacy over Alake

Written by on September 2, 2019

Frugality and generosity aren’t bedfellows. But they’re diametric financial dispositions that define the Ijesa and the Ijebu. The ‘Osomalo’ imagery portrays the typical Ijesa man as an ultra-frugal fellow, who could stoop at a spot for a thousand years just to recover a debt even as the ‘Owo alare’ symbolism depicts the average Ijebu man as an extra-stingy character, who would never give or lend his money to anyone, insisting that the very money you see in his hand doesn’t belong to him; it belongs to ‘alare’ – someone else. Uhnn! The similar lifestyles of the Ijesa and the Ijebu remain inscrutable to many other Nigerian sub-ethnicities, who accuse them of being stingy because they won’t foolishly part with their money just as they accuse them of extravagance in the way they throw parties. The land of the Ijebu and that of the Ijesa are the unmistakable capitals of merriment among the Yoruba, the same way Paris, London, New York and Milan are, unarguably, fashion capitals of the world. But how can you accuse a people of stinginess and extravagance at the same time? I suspect mischief and envy at play.

As for me, the Ijesa and the Ijebu are neither prodigal nor stingy. They’re only a people who work their butts off for their money and they sure know how to spend it. They’re a strong-willed people, who will never listen to cock and bull stories or allow anyone to push them around. Looking for a people with class and confidence? Look the way of the Ijesa and the Ijebu. They work hard, they party hard. Period!

Despite their obvious commonalities, socio-economic relationships, especially marriage between these two unique peoples were shackled to the poles of suspicion and myth in the remote and immediate past with parents from both sides firmly shutting the intermarriage door among their children. Time, information and socio-economic give-and-take between the two unique communities have, however, considerably doused the fire of mutual suspicion and derision between the sub-ethnic regions.

Ironically, history says both the Ijesa and the Ijebu were among the sons of Oduduwa, who left Ile-Ife, the cradle of the Yoruba, to expand the Oduduwa kingdom throughout the southwestern region of modern day Nigeria, thence to Edo, Delta, Ilorin, Kogi, Niger, Dahomey, Ghana and even beyond. Over the centuries, history has stood faithfully by its assertion that some sons of the Yoruba progenitor, Oduduwa, left Ile-Ife when the need arose for them to fan out.

From Samuel Johnson’s The History of the Yorubas to Emmanuel Tugbiyele’s An Introductory History of Igbajo, historical accounts affirm that 26 sons of Oduduwa left Ile-Ife to found various Yoruba kingdoms. In his latest work, Igbajo: History, Culture and Development, Associate Professor of African and Culture History, Ranti Ojo, quoted the late Ooni of Ife, Oba Adesoji Aderemi, as giving a list of the 26 children of Oduduwa that have the authority to wear beaded crowns to include the Obalufon Ogbogbodirin, eldest surviving son of Oduduwa who was said to have succeeded Oduduwa; Oba of Ado (Benin); the Orangun of Ila; the Alaketu of Ketu; the Oloyo (not Oranmiyan); the Obarada who was driven to found lately the kingdom of Dahomey; Oninana who founded a kingdom in what is now known as Gold Coast (Ghana) today; Onipopo of Popo; Owa-Oore of Otun; Alara of Ara; Ajero of Ijero; Ewi of Ado; Awujale of Ijebu; Akarigbo of Remo; Osemawe (who was called in from Ondo to be crowned); Olowu of Owu (son of the first daughter of Oduduwa); Deji (Ajaponda of Akure); Elekole of Ikole; Alaaye of Ipole Aaye (whose descendants recently founded Efon); Olosi of Osi; Olowo of Owo; Olojudo of Ido (appears an offshoot); Owo-Olobo (who founded Obo kingdom destroyed by the Fulani); Owa Aringbajo of Igbajo; Owa Otan, and Owa Obokun of Ilesa.

Ojo, who is the immediate past Head of Department, History and Diplomatic Studies, University of Abuja, also recalls an Oyo State publication of the coronation programme of the immediate past Ooni of Ife, Oba Okunade Sijuwade II, in 1980, saying that Adegbola Akeran, who founded Igbajo, a predominantly Ijesa community, was among the 27 offspring of Oduduwa who left Ile-Ife to found various kingdoms. Interestingly, the names of some of today’s big towns and cities were conspicuously missing in the Adesoji list. Ojo, in his list of some major Yoruba towns, affixed the approximate years of their establishments to include Abeokuta: c. 1830; Ijebu-Ode: c. 1500; Ibadan: c.1830; Lagos: c.1350; Osogbo: c.1670; Ado-Ekiti: c. 1310; Akure: c.1130, Ogbomoso: c.1650, Ondo: c.1500; Ile-Ife: c.700***; Badagry: c.1425; Ilesa: c.1350; Oyo: c.1100; Ikorodu: c.1864; Ilorin: c.1700; Ede: c.1500; Epe: c.1750; Igbajo: c.1250; Iwo: c.1300; Shaki: c.1835; and Ikere-Ekiti: c.1100.

By the foregoing, it is apposite to state that the Awujale of Ijebuland, Oba Sikiru Adetona, wasn’t wrong when he said in May this year that he was superior to the Alake of Egbaland, Oba Adedotun Gbadebo. According to Ojo, Oba Gbadebo’s assertion of being superior to the Awujale was a mere political statement, stressing that Abeokuta came into existence after Ile-Ife, with the aid of other Yoruba towns, defeated the combined forces of Apomu and Oyo, leading to the destruction of Apomu and the movement of the people of Apomu to the present day Abeokuta. Ojo said, “Ijebu had long existed before Abeokuta came into being. Epe was a slave port of the Ijebu. The Alake’s statement was political.”

Speaking in a telephone chat with me last week, the Owa of Igbajo, Oba Olufemi Fasade, said the preeminent place of Igbajo among foremost Yoruba communities wasn’t in doubt. Fasade said one of the biological sons of Oduduwa founded Igbajo. Igbajo was the theatre of the last internecine war among the Yoruba. The war, popularly known as the Kiriji War, came to an end with the signing of a Peace Treaty on September 23, 1886. Similarly, the Olojudo of Ido-Osun, Oba Aderemi Adedapo, in a telephone interview with me last week, said the pages of Yoruba history were replete with historic facts and figures affirming Ido-Osun’s enviable position in the evolution of Yoruba kingdoms. Adedapo said the Ooni of Ife, Oba Adeyeye Ogunwusi, remained the head of all Yoruba leaders.

History, I believe, should be a beam of light to illuminate the past, understand the present and prepare for the future. Distortion of history for personal or political gains is a disservice to humanity. History shouldn’t be a tool of oppression, either. In the bid to strengthen and reposition the South-West region, today’s Yoruba leaders must forge a common front by creatively addressing the ills of illiteracy, infrastructural decay, unemployment, violence, kidnapping, killings and corruption in governance. From Governor Adegboyega Oyetola of Osun to Governor Kayode Fayemi of Ekiti to Governor Seyi Makinde of Oyo to Governor Rotimi Akeredolu of Ondo to Governor Dapo Abiodun of Ogun and Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu of Lagos, history is silently recording their activities on its pages – either for good or for bad. Yoruba governors, legislators and other political leaders should remember that history is kind to Obafemi Awolowo because he served in deed and in truth. What will history say of you? History, they say, never really says goodbye.



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