Omo Ijebu Alare!! Omo Alagemo Merindinlogun!!
Ijebu-Ode is the largest city inhabited by the Ijebu, a sub-group of the Yoruba ethnic group who speak the Ijebu dialect of Yoruba. The town has been historically and culturally the headquarters of Ijebuland.
The name “Ijebu-Ode” according to Olusola, is a combination of the names of two persons namely, AJEBU and OLODE who were conspicuous as leaders of the original settlers and founders of the town. OLODE was said to be a relative of OLU-IWA the first ruler of Ijebu.
It is difficult to state with certainty who of the two progenitors preceded the other. But tradition has it that Ajebu, Olode and Ajana met on this land which was uninhabited dense forest and consulted Ifa Oracle to determine the actual spot on which one of them should make his abode. The oracle directed that Ajebu should go and settle on a spot now known as IMEPE, Olode and Ajana to remain together at place known today as Ita-Ajana. The grave of Ajebu is still marked by a Tomb erected by his descendants at Imepe, near Oyingbo market on the Ejinrin road. Olode’s grave is also marked at Olode Street at Ita-Ajana quarters, Ijebu-Ode.
Ijebu-Ode town was divided into two main wards namely; Iwade and Porogun. Iwade ward is further divided into two Iwade Oke (also called Ijasi) and Iwade Isale, that is Upper and lower Iwade (North and South). By this division, there are thus three wards in Ijebu-Ode town: Iwade, Porogun and Ijasi.
Each ward was further divided into “Quarters” known as “ITUN, headed by OLORITUN. What could be described as the town council in those days was the council for the Oloritun known as “Oloritun Medogbon”, that is the twenty-five quarter heads.
TRADITIONAL GOVERNANCE OF IJEBU ODE
The People’s parliament, the Pampa was the mother and spring board of the other groups although it is the lowest in ranks. The Pampa were the people refered to as the electorate in modern democracy and from whom the others derive authority. Without the Pampa, the Osugbo and the Ilamuren and even the Oba could not exist. The Pampa was the voice of the common people which must be heeded in the administration of the town.
Titles in the Pampa society were as follows: The Agbon, The Kakanfo, The Lapo-Ekun, The Jagun, and The Likotun. Other chiefs lower in ranks to the Jagun and Likotun were the Ashipas. Their functions were to be the link between the mass of people the “Womparis” and the higher chiefs.
This is a cult, a fraternity of chiefs and Elders which was also the Executive Authority of the town. It has also a religious character. Two brass images known ad “EDAN” was the centre of worship in the Osugbo cult. It was the highest group and cult and commanded the respect and obedience of all. Women were admitted into it by initiation but such women must have passed bearing age. Titles in Osugbo in order of precedence were: Odele Olurin, The Oliwo, The Apena and The Akonaran.
The bearers of the titles had different functions in the Osugbo.
The Apena is the chief steward in the society. There was an inner circle known as the Iwarefa consisting of only six members as the name implied including the Apena and the Odele Olurin. The Oliwo and the Akonaran were not in the Iwarefa circle. The Osugbo was the Legal Executive. They enforced the law and execute judgements in capital crimes. They were also members of the “Owa” the king’s court.
The Ilamuren is the class of high chiefs under the headship of the Olisa. Other chiefs in the class are the Ogbeni-Oja, Egbo, Olotufore, Apebi, and other chiefs that may have been initiated into the class having fulfilled all the conditions of initiation and provided “Eran Iboje”, (a feast of ram or goat). The seat of the Ilamurens is ILISA. But when it comes to the Afin palace of the Awujale, the Ogbeni-Oja takes the precedence over any chief. The “Oja” in the Ogbeni-Oja title is not “market” (its common meaning) but the PALACE (AFIN AWUJALE).
The Ogbeni-Oja title had remained vacant for long time in Ijebu history. Not much was known about its relevance and importance until Chief T.A Odutola became the Ogbeni-Oja. The position of the Ogbeni–Oja in the society became clearer and recognised during the reign of Awujale Gbelegbuwa II. The highest title (not Hereditary) a free born Ijebu can aspire is that of Ogbeni-Oja. This was attested to by Prof. E.A. Ayandele in his book. “The Ijebu of Yorubaland, 1850-1950; Politics, Economy and society. Pg.117”
Finally reconciliation was effected when Odutola was able to purchase the highest title available to a commoner that of the Ogbeni-Oja, a position that put him de facto next rank only to the Awujale.”
Foluso Longe in his 1981 book, “A Rare Breed: the story of Chief Timothy Adeola Odutola”, pg 13 wrote: “ Little is known in the country about Adeola Odutola’s political activities, yet he dominated the politics of Ijebuland from about 1945 to the present time where in his position as Ogbeni-Oja, he is in his own as his Prime Minister and moving force in Ijebuland”. Ogbeni-Oja Odutola enjoyed very high and dominant position in the Royal Palace of the Awujale.
When Awujale Gbelegbuwa II acceded to the request of the Orimolusi of Ijebu-Igbo and granted him permission to wear a beaded coronet in 1950, it was Ogbeni-Oja Chief Odutola who, as representative of the Awujale presided over the ceremony in Ijebu-Igbo and presented the beaded crown to Orimolusi Jewel Adeboye. When Oba Adesanya, Gbelegbuwa II joined his ancestors in January 1959, it was Ogbeni-Oja, Chief Odutola who became the chairman of the Regency Council and presided over the affairs of Ijebu-Ode during the interregnum.
The Western Region Government also accorded the office of the Ogbeni-Oja deserved recognition in the official letter to the Local Government Adviser announcing the appointment of the new Awujale Adetona on 4th January 1960. Chief Odutola presented the new Awujale, young Oba S.K Adetona to the Ijebu people at Itoro, Ijebu-Ode on 14th January 1960. Historians must however note the consolidation and modernization which have been effected in hierarchy of the High-chiefs of Ijebu-Ode in recent years and during the reign of the present Awujale.
By 1995 Oba Adetona had evolved and established an orderly and traditional system of succession among this class of high chiefs.
THE ODI SOCIETY
This was composed of the Oba’s attendants. Their descendants also come into this rank. They are employed as messengers of the Oba. They were first styled “Agunrin” and later became “Odi’” by promotion. Another category in this class are the refugees (asaforiji) who sought refuge under the Oba because of one reason or the other from their homes and or countries. From this Odi rank, some were promoted and could then leave the Oba’s palace and occupy land allotted to them by the Oba on which they lived with their family. They farmed on the Oba’s land for their living, but were always at the Oba’s services whenever he needed them. But the land will never pass to them.
This is a society which was more commercial in nature than political. It was the equivalent of chamber of commerce. Members looked into anything pertaining to trade and market disputes. They have the Olori Parakoyi (head) and his Ashipa in running the organization.
The people of each Quarter met regularly in the house of the OLORITUN and deliberated on matters affecting them. The Quarter heads in turn also met to discuss larger issues affecting the town. Each Oloritun represented the people of his quarter.
The Awujale and Paramount ruler of the Ijebuland is the ultimate symbol of the 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, the Ijebu people have ever growing reverence for their monarch.
IJEBU ODE AS A LOCAL GOVERNMENT
After the defeat of the Ijebu army in Imagbon in1893, it was expected that sooner than later, the colonial authorities would impose their Western style local administration on the town.
When the Western Regional Government in Nigeria introduced the system of Divisional Administration, Ijebu Provincial Administration was created in 1923 with Ijebu-Ode as its provincial Headquarters and has continued to play an important administrative role with passage of time and with successive Local Government reforms.
However, the Local Government reforms introduced by the military brought drastic changes.
In 1991, Odogbolu Local Government was carved out of ljebu-Ode. In 1996, Ijebu North East Local Government was also excised from Ijebu-Ode.
Despite the balkanisation of the town, Ijebu Ode remains one of the leading local governments in the state.
Ijebu Ode is located 110 km by road north-east of Lagos; it is within 100 km of the Atlantic Ocean in the eastern part of Ogun State and possesses a warm tropical climate. With an estimated population of 222,653 (2007), Ijebu Ode has 39 Public Primary Schools, 14 Public Junior Secondary school, 13 public Senior Secondary Schools, 110 approved Private Nursery and Primary Schools and 22 approved Private Secondary Schools.
It is the second largest city in Ogun State after Abeokuta. It will important to pay tribute to those who have managed and served in the local government till date and are listed below: