IJEBU KINGDOM - BRIEF HISTORY
The Ijebu people inhabit the South-central part of Yorubaland in western Nigeria. They are bounded in the North by Ibadan, in the East by the Ilaje and Ondo people and the west by Egbaland.
The southernmost borders of Ijebuland are defined by the lagoon waters of Epe, Ejinrin, Ikorodu, and Ogun Waterside.
Despite the political division which has placed some of these towns in Lagos State and the main part of Ijebuland in Ogun State, the Ijebu people have always regarded themselves as one entity.
Some migration legend linked the Ijebu origin to the biblical Jebusites and Noah (hence “Omoluwabi - omo ti Noah bi - the children of Noah). Other migration legends trace the Ijebu people to Mecca where Oduduwa, the legendary ancestor of the Yoruba was said to be the son of king Lamurudu. According to the legend, Oduduwa was expelled from Mecca when he resorted to idolatry. This is an objectionable story since it implied that the Yorubas must have come into existence as group after some faithful Muslims expelled Oduduwa some 1500 years ago. But serious anthropologists and historians dismiss all these stories as far-fetched.
The migration theory that the Ijebu people came to their present territory from a region of Sudan called Owodaiye, corrupted to Waddai. Is preferred by the traditional historians, indicating the ijebus had a parallel migration wave like other Yorubas who believed they came to their abode via Oduduwa.
Omo Ijebu Alare!! Omo Alagemo Merindinlogun!!
A lot of evidence abounds in support of the fact that the Ijebus migrated into Nigeria from Sudan, the Sudanese tribal mark being the most obvious although it is varied and duplicated all over Yorubaland. For the Ijebus, the three vertical marks on both cheeks are the national marks. Additionally, the original languages which Arabic superseded and spoken in the boarder of South Sudan and Ethiopia is very much like the Ijebu dialect. Names like Esiwu, Saba, Meleki (corruption of Menelik) are still synonymous to the Ijebus and the Southern Sudanese. A musical flute formerly used during the coronation of the Awujale is still being used in Ethiopia and Southern Sudan.
The ancestors of the Ijebus who now inhabit Ijebu-Ode and district came into Nigeria from ancient Owodaiye Kingdom of Ethiopia which came to and due to the Arab supremacy in Middle-East and the Sudan where Owodaiye was situated. The kingdom of Owodaiye (Corrupted into Waddai) was bounded in the East by Tigre and the Kingdom of Axum; in the North by Nubia in the South-Eastern border it was bounded by the land of punt while there was no clear boundary in the West. The Ijebus share their culture and religion with these people; tribal marks with Tigrians and ancient Axumites, funeral rites, the Agemo cult and the Erikiran are shared with Egyptians, the Nubians and Puntites. The Yoruba’s in Nubia were the nearest people to the Ijebus in Owodaiye. But there were basic differences between the two people: whereas the Yoruba group practices circumcision on both their male and female, the Ijebus only practice it on only male, the Yorubas used to bore the lower of their ears in both sexes while the male never bore in Ijebu.
IA claim which seems to be corroborated by a Haile mariam publication, who wrote that “the most powerful people that the Negede Ort (Ancient Ethopian Africa) met in East Africa were the Ijebus.” Their king was claimed to be very influential that he appointed the Governors of Yemen. It is however not known if that king was the same Olu-Iwa, the legendary first ruler of Ijebuland. Negede Orit’s sojourn into Ethiopia was several centuries before king Solomon and the famous Makida, the Queen of Sheba ( about 900 B C) where he met the Ijebus on the East Coast of southern Sudan, a legend that negates the earlier story of the descent from Mecca.
The above tradition shows that the Ijebus were in Nigeria before the main Yoruba stock as the Ijebu King being referred to was the fifth Awujale. Oduduwa set out to visit the Ijebu King in appreciation of this service, but died about fifteen miles east to Ijebu-Ode. His followers settle down at idofe a town which has now become extinct. The Ijebu legend tracing their origin to Waddai must have brought the known rivalry between them and the other Yoruba people. If indeed Lamurudu and Oduduwa descended from Omu, the younger brother of Olu-Iwa, there is some sense in the claim that the Ijebus are senior to the Yorubas and cannot therefore accept the junior order that puts them under the Ooni of Ife and Alaafin of Oyo.
The first major groups of Sudanese that came to Nigeria were led by Iwase who came to Ife several centuries before the major Sudanese immigrations under Oduduwa and Olu-Iwa, who entered the country about the same period as the Yoruba under Oduduwa. There are many reasons to believe that they arrived before the main Yoruba group. The most important being the one on the Yoruba tradition that when Oduduwa was alive, he became partially blind sometime and consulted the Ifa priest, Agbonmiregun, with a view to finding the remedy for the ailment. Brine was recommended and oduduwa had to send his Son, Obokun to the sea to get the sea water. Obokun wandered in vain for many years until he came to the Ijebu king for help who promptly aided him a messenger that guided him to the sea, and on his return to Ijebu he was also given some eye medications by the Ijebu King (Lewu Legusen), which on application restored the sight of Oduduwa..
The bulk of Yoruba people regard the Ijebus as peripheral Yorubas while the Ijebu themselves does not hide the fact the cohen 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 a common nationality as Yoruba, be they Ekiti, Ijesha, Egba, Ondo, Ijebu etc. Even among the Ijebus there are conflicting claims to the source of origin depending on the political intention of those concerned. 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 achievement of the people. The ijebus are known for their business acumen which dated 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 have attributes of a trader from age twelve.
The Yoruba people are very enterprising set of people who are self-reliant and innovative. By the middle of the nineteenth century, the Ijebus had become the major mover in the business world, and they have become more prosperous not only terms of understanding the dynamics of the merging modern facilities, but also in terms of physical and social infrastructures. In those days, it is on record that the houses and streets of ijebu people were superior to those of the surrounding people and communities. They cultivated their lands adequately bred high-breed farm animals and were the 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.
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 the noveaux riches in ijebuland. The European observers found them more intelligent that the other Yoruba groups are described in the following phrase: “They are remarkable as a race for their integrity to a fault.” By 1900, Ijebu-Ode had become the capital of ijebu land with a population of about 20,000, a ten percent of the entire ijebuland population.
(The ijebus of the Yorubaland; 1850-1950. Politics, Economy & society, Prof. F.A Ayandele, 1992). Thereafter the ijebus went on to distinguish themselves in whatever trade they dabble into, becoming positive yardstick for measuring business acumen and ingenuity throughout the country as “people that can stone into money