Whenever you read the account of the Ijebu people about their origin they usually insist they are not from Ile-Ife, as history presents it.
They always trace their history to Sudan.
Let’s tell you more about their account as contained in brochures emanating from Awujale’s palace in Ijebu-Ode. See their account below.
Lying mainly in the deciduos forest region of Nigeria, Ijebu is bounded on the east by the Ondo territory, on the West by the Egba territory, on the South by the Lagos and the North by Ibadan. Apart from its capital town of Ijebu-Ode, the principal towns are Abigi, Ago-Iwoye, Arijan, Ejinrin, Epe, Idowa, Ikorodu, Ijebu-Igbo, Ijebu-Ife, Ijebu-Irnushin, Ikenne, Iperu, Ilishan, Imobi, Isara, Iwopin, Isiwo, Ode, Omu, Owu-Ijebu, and Sagamu.
The Ijebu who called themselves the ‘whitemen of the interior’ occupied a central position among the states of the Yoruba speaking people of Western Nigeria. But the name Yoruba was previously applicable only to the Oyo whose kingdom, as years went by, became so powerful as to include several of the other kingdoms. Indeed, until the latter part of the nineteenth century the non-Oyo never accepted the designation of Yoruba.
The bulk of Yoruba people regard Ijebus as peripheral Yorubas, while the Ijebu themselves do not hide the fact that the cohesion between them and others who call themselves central Yoruba has been the result of cultural and political interaction over the centuries. Time itself has taken care of these legends as the various groups of people in western Nigeria have come to accept common nationality as Yoruba; be they Ekiti, Ijesha, Egba, Ondo, Ijebu etc. even among the Ijebus, there are conflicting claim to the source of origin depending on the political intention of those concerned,
The Ijebu however clearly allied in language, religious beliefs and traditional culture to the rest of Yoruba. Like the Egba, the Ife, and the Oyo, the Ijebu are a very conservative and keen-witted people. Like the rest of the Yoruba, they were organised in towns and their capital town, Ijebu-Ode, like other capital towns was surrounded by thick walls. The migration legend has it that the Ijebu people came to their present territory from a region of Sudan called Owodaiye, corrupted to Waddai, as preferred by the traditional historians. Indicating that the Ijebus had a parallel migration wave like other Yorubas who believe they came to their present abode via Oduduwa; a claim which seems to be corroborated by a Haile Mariam publication who wrote that “the most powerful people that the Negede Orit (Ancient Ethiopian into Africa) met in east Africa were the Jebus”. Their King was claimed to be very influential that he was appointed Governors of Yemen. It is however not known if that king was the same Olu-Iwa, the legendary first ruler of Ijebuland. According to traditions, several migrations settled in Ijebu. The first of these founded the Idoko now a ward in Ijebu-Imusin. The second migration was thatof Olu-Iwa. Olu-Iwa was accompanied to Ijebu-Ode by Ajebu and Olode and other relations. It is strongly believed by most Ijebu that Ijebu-Ode derives from a corruption of Ajebu and Olode, the two most important relations of Olu-Iwa.
But perhaps the most important migrant on to Ijebu was that of the grandson of Olu-Iwa, Ogboraogan, son of Gborowo, who herself was daughter of Olu-Iwa, Ogboragan came with his mother and a very large company of followers. He passed through Osun at which river his mother died, hence the yearly sacrifice of a cow to that river. He also passed through Imusin and lost his cat at Ilese, (i.e. Ilu-ese – the town of cat). The traditions of this journey are still observed till today. He arrived in Ijebu-Ode with a large number of followers. We are told Olu-Iwa had died and that Osinrnore was regent. Before his death Olu-Iwa had secured the consent of Osinmore to vacate the throne as regent, should he die before the arrival of his grandson. Initially, the people thought it was an invasion but on the cooling of nerves the new arrival was greeted with shouts of joy by the inhabitants. His good bearing and attractive physical appearance recommended him to the indigenous people. Besides he had many followers; to the Ijebu, only a king could combine such merits. Those who saw them reported to those who had not that a king was outside, an event which gave rise to Obanta (Oba wa ni ta – i.e. a King is outside) the mythical name of the first Awujale of Ijebuland. Ogboragan took over the throne from Osinmore who had also been warned by Ifa oracle to leave the throne as soon as Ogborogan, grandson of Olu-Iwa, arrived in Ijebu-Ode. The Ijebu believe that Obanta was a divine king. He was guided to Ijebu by oracles and his rule was based on ancestry rather than conquest. Ijebu was neither included in the Benin Empire nor in the Oyo Empire. A nineteenth century proverb common among the Ijebu said that with the exception of the Ijebu and Europeans,
the whole world was a slave race. (A f’Ijebu a f’Oyinbo dede aiye dede eru ni). Irrespective of these claims, the Ijebus are united under the leadership of the Awujale of Ijebuland and this unity has been the strength of the people. as exhibited .by the. achievements of the people.
Unlike the Oyo and the Egba, the Ijebu had no cause to remove from their original settlement. Relatively peaceful and comparatively more prosperous than any other section of the Yoruba, Ijebu probably retained, until the British advent, a good deal of the elements of indigenous Yoruba government. Ijebu played a leading role in the foundation of modern towns of Abeokuta and Ibadan. The Ijebus are known for their business acumen, which dates back to the early nineteenth century and according to the testimony of contemporary observers of that time, a child is expected to have known the value of money and possess the attributes of a trader right from age twelve. The people are a very enterprising set of people who are self-reliant and innovative. By the middle of the nineteenth century, the Ijebus had become the major movers in the business world and they had become more prosperous, not only in the emerging modern realities but also in terms of infrastructures. In those days, it is on record that that the houses and streets of the Ijebu people were superior to those of the surrounding people and communities. They cultivated their lands adequately, bred high- breed farm animals and were first and foremost self-sufficient. The excess proceeds from their sundry efforts were spread around their neighbourhood. The Ijebu people are generally noted for their intelligence and integrity. Ijebu was the nearest coastal state to Lagos and strictly controlled the major trade routes from that commercial centre to the interior Yoruba country. The greatest economic asset of Ijebuland throughout the nineteenth century and far into the present century was timber – on which 19th century Lagos depended and the major source of wealth of the first generation of noveaux riches in Ijebuland.
The ljebu had Customs clerks at ado ana Kekere at the ljebu-lbadan boarders, Iperu and at lkorodu. In these towns, they exchanged the produce of the interior Yoruba country with goods they obtained from the Lagos people at Ikorodu. They had a very big market at Ejinrin, which during the first half of the nineteenth century was described as the largest market in West Africa. They were firmly opposed to direct trade. They believed that trade should ‘go from hand to hand’. No inducements whatsoever convinced them to abandon this privileged position. For forty years, negotiations went between the British officials and the Ijebu authorities for the opening of these trade routes to direct trade. But all failed to achieve that desired end, since British colonial expansion proceeded almost invariably along the commercial highways, it was not until the” eventual conquest of Ijebu on May 20, 1892, by the British force at Magbon, that the British Government could penetrate into the interior Yorubaland and ensure direct trade. This penetration made possible the eventual inclusion of the Yoruba states into the political entity now known as Nigeria.
The system of government in ljebu, like in the rest of Yorubaland was one of limited monarchy. The government of the capital town, Ijebu-Ode was also the central government of the ljebu nation. The head of the government was the Awujale in whose name all acts of government were carried out. The Awujaleship was rotated among the 4 ruling houses of Anikilaya, Gbelegbuwa, Fidipote and Fusengbuwa. The person of the Awujale was regarded as sacred. He was believed to be a companion of the gods and on whose ‘amen’ to prayers was enough to ensure their fulfilment. (Ekeji Orisa, Alase Adura, Alayeluwa). He was majestic not only by birth butin his person and his bearing. He appeared in public only 3 times a year. These were during Bere festival in October, the Ebi festival in February and the Agemo festival in June/July. On such occasions, his face was heavily veiled and he was surrounded by all pomp and pageantry. The Awujale is the spiritual head of the Ijebu. His supremacy over all ljebu was accepted as a matter of course. The Awujale was the only one who had ‘customs’ clerks at the principal outlets of the capital and the strategic outposts of the country. He was the only one who gave names to the ljebu age-grades. The law of the land was promulgated in his name. As Commander-in-Chief of the Ijebu army, he was the only one who could declare war or sue for peace. His sanction was a sine qua non for the foundation of an Osugbo. He had the absolute prerogative of mercy and pardoned those criminals who sought his forgiveness.
The Awujale was the fountain of honour, and he conferred Chieftaincies and other honours on worthy ‘Sons of the Soil’.
In 1894, both Ikorodu and Ijebu Remo were excised from Ijebu-Ode by the British Colonial Government. And the rest of Ijebu remained under the rule of the Awujale until 1914 when the whole of Nigeria came under British rule. In 1917, however, by the formation of the Judicial Council, Ijebu Remo was again brought under the control of Ijebu-Ode. The Council comprised the Dagburewe of Idowa, the Akarigbo of Ijebu Remo, the Ajalorun of Ijebu-Ife, the Oluwo of Owu with the Awujale of Ijebuland as its President. Its functions were ‘political, administrative, and judicial’. In 1921, the Awujale became the Sole Native Authority of Ijebu Province. In 1951, the entire Ijebu province including Epe and Ikorodu became part of the Western Region of Nigeria. And on April 13, 1960, Alayeluwa Oba Sikiru Kayode Adetona was installed the Awujale of Ijebuland.
The Awujale and Paramount Ruler of Ijebuland represents the totality of the worth and ancestral heritage of a people that have carved a niche for themselves not only among the renowned Yoruba people but also across the length and breadth of the nation.
Today, Ijebu people have an ever-growing reverence for their monarch, which has become an insignia of an enviable past. Fortified with a very robust political structure, the Ijebu people otherwise known as “Omo Obanta” voluntarily look unto the royalty with adequate loyalty and allegiance. Inclusive of this system are the economic structure, social organization, community relations, justice administration, infrastructure development among others.