IN THE BEGINNING
Oduduwa (Oodua) was the first ruler of a unified Ife Kingdom and the acclaimed progenitor and patriarch of various independent royal dynasties in Yoruba land, and is today venerated as “the hero, the warrior, the leader and father of the Yoruba people”.
Obatala was the chief Priest of Oduduwa. He was a chaste man who also travelled far and near in what became known as West Africa. He was a great man who later married Oduduwa’s first daughter – Iyunade, by whom he got his first son, Ajibosin.
Other Historian posited as follows:
Oduduwa was the progenitor of the Yorubas. Oduduwa had only one son, OKANBI who died in an expedition. Before his death, Okanbi had fathered seven children. The first two were females – mother of Olowu and mother of Alaketu. The remaining five were males. Oduduwa had to take up the care of his seven grand children.
Ajibosin was the darling grandson (great grandson) of Oduduwa. One day he was playing in the laps of his grandfather pulling on the beads of the crown repeatedly. The indulgent grandfather placed the crown on the child’s head, but the child refused to give it up. He cried uncontrollably when the crown was taken off his head. Eventually Baba Oduduwa gave up further attempt at retrieving the crown. The patriarch declared and decreed that Ajibosin should be allowed to retain the crown as his mother’s inheritance. He automatically pronounced him king hence the nickname Asunkungbade (One who cried to acquire crown)
Baba Oduduwa then called six of his trusted nobles – Akogun, Obamaja, Orunto, Osupori, Oyega and Omolaasin to accompany the young king to his father’s (Obatala) homeland among the Tapas in the Empe region near River Niger.
These six trusted nobles were charged to establish a kingdom for him and help him in the administration of the kingdom.
Thus the boy became the first to be crowned king amongst the offspring of Oduduwa – hence “Owu ni a koko da” – it’s Owu Kingdom that was first created
It will therefore be correct to say that the Olowu Ajibosin and his six companions form the nucleus and foundation of Owu people all over the world.
These are the six trusted high chiefs and first class counselors from the court of Oduduwa, the Yoruba patriarch and progenitor who were chosen by him in faith to accompany his royal grandchild, AJIBOSIN Olawunmi and upon whom the newly established crown which was to translate to the crown of the Olowu was entrusted.
The 6 Iwarefas were to guard the infant oba, guide and counsel him into adulthood and into becoming a worthy king. They constituted the first original six Owu citizens apart from Ajibosin the child Oba himself!
These 6 Iwarefa chiefs were Akogun, Obamaja, Orunto, Osupori, Oyega and Molashin. They also double as the original traditional King makers of the kingdom called Afobaje.
Some account reported that the Iwaefas may have been accompanied on that historical expedition by the Olosi who was Oduduwa’s resident ifa priest.
Ajibosin was reputed to have many children including 6 males: Ayoloye, Amororo, Otileta, Akinoso, Akinjobi and Lagbedu (Ola-n-gbendu).
OWU EXPANSION AND MIGRATION
The Owus multiplied, prospered and expanded in the Empe region towards the old Oyo. They became very prominent and even ruled the waves. Owu collected tribute from the Bariba, the Borgu and had sometime ruled over old Oyo until the reign of Sango. Their presence in that region was indisputably powerful.
There is a place called “Owu Orile”, some ten miles north of the town of Awe which oral evidence claim to be the original homestead of Owu. Spreading for miles on the north eastern side of the settlement is mostly Igbo Owu.
The earliest record of southward movements of Owu people showed their encounter with the pre-1820 first settlement of Ibadan. (See “Iwe Itan Ibadan by Oba L.B. Akinyele Olubadan of Ibadan, 1955-1964).
Although, every movement was as a result of war, Owu did not fight Ibadan but instead entered peacefully. This is because Ibadan leaders had earlier sent them an Olive branch. They knew that Owu attack on them was imminent. Ibadan even offered them a place to settle, spreading from Ita Lisa in Ibadan to the place now known as Owu Ipole near Ikire. This pleased the Owu leaders to the end that they agreed to live peacefully with Ibadan.
Another account was that:
While in Ibadan, Ayoloye took “Nkanlola” daughter of a leading Ibadan chief as wife. On one of his numerous war expeditions, he had to sacrifice Nkanlola to appease a river – River Ogbere. It was reported that this was the event that sent Owu parking from Ibadan, and finally led them to a land close to Ife where they settled under Amororo. This is the place that replaced “home”. This was Owu Ipole. However, they left great landmarks in Ibadan including river Ogbere (Ifa diviner of Olowu who turned to a river that was named after him) and the Anlugbua shrine near Orita Bashorun etc.
The Owus, having gone through harrowing war time experiences over centuries, built a formidable fortress at Ipole, the type that had never existed in Yoruba land. The Owu kingdom was ruling the waves in the area that now constitute the present Osun and Oyo states.
THE OWU WAR 1821 – 27
The Immediate and Remote Cause of Owu war
One market day in 1821, an Owu man who sold alligator peppers was at Apomu Market, now in Irewolede Local Government Area of Osun State, selling his stock of peppers. He laid them out in lots containing 200 peppers each. An Ijebu woman came to the market and purchased one pack. She did not verify on the spot the accuracy of the number of peppers in the lot she selected, but rather found it convenient to do the counting on reaching the guest house where she lodged.
She claimed to find only 199, which meant that one was missing. The Ijebu woman dashed back to the market to confront the Owu man over the one pepper by which the portion she selected was less and demanded that the missing one should be replaced. But the Owu man rejected, maintaining that he was sure of his own count. The argument over this single lobe of pepper developed into an open quarrel between the two of them. Later, it escalated into a fracas in which people of Owu and Ijebu clans in the market took sides with their respective kith and kin. Sectional sentiments soon became whipped up into open confrontation in which a life was lost and several people on both sides were injured as no one allowed the other any quarter. Within matters of days, the fight over a single alligator pepper had escalated into a conflict in which the Owu and Ijebu peoples threw caution to the winds and resorted to open arms.
Another account was that the then Akogun Owu, Olugbabi Awalona, who was the market Marshall at the International Apomu market accidentally and fatally lacerated an Ijebu trader with his special sword (Epe)
Before this incident, the people of Ife had suffered several defeats in the hands of the Owu people and the Ijebu had similarly been routed by the Owu in a war fought over slave trading. An Oyo Crown prince had earlier been arrested and tortured for carrying out slave trade.
Now, both the Ife and Ijebu saw the opportunity to settle scores with the Owu by joining forces to face the Owu. Even the remnants of the Oyo forces, just returned from their mission to repel a Fulani invasion, and who were by then mere lay-abouts, teamed up with the Ife and Ijebu forces.
The combined attack of the Ife-Ijebu-Oyo coalition laid a long siege for about 5 years but could not break through the fortified Owu wall.
Inside the city of Owu Ipole, food shortage surfaced and the only option was for the Owus to escape.
The Owus escaped out of their heavily fortified city about 1826. They escaped through their southeastern gate in groups and journeyed through Ijebu Igbo and spread southward, settling in places like Ikija, Omu, Ayepe and other places.
However, the main body of Owu escapees went towards Ibadan. From Ibadan they marched across Ogun River and finally arrived at Oke Ata near Abeokuta about 1828 – 29. They heard news of some of their relatives settling down with the Egba refugees in Abeokuta but they were bent on getting to Lagos.
Within two years the “temporary” sojourn in Oke Ata had spread to nearby Aro, Olomore, Kurere, Idiori and some parts of Imala. For nearly two years the Egba leaders headed by Sodeke came to persuade them to join them in settling in Abeokuta and through the persuasion of General Sodeke and Agbo of Gbagura who were war acquaintances of Olufakun, Laara, Gbademu and Adetaloye they agreed to join the Egbas to live in Abeokuta.
Thereafter Owu fought side by side with Egba in the Makun and other wars against Ado Odo and Dahomey in 1842-45. Owu contingents fought and routed Awori at Itori, Yobo, Ifo, Atan, Ota and also occupied those places till today.
Within their first five years of settling in Abeokuta, the Owu had faced and warded off Dahomey attacks on at least two occasions in 1839 and 42. It was on one of such attacks that the Owu army discovered that the Dahomean army comprised mainly of women – one breasted amazons. Enraged, the Owus challenged the Egbas to summon courage and together in 1845 they successfully put an end to the incessant attacks of the Dahomeans. The Owu Armies led by their generals chased the Dahomeans even into their own home of Porto Novo. The cannon that Owu seized from them is still in Owu Palace till today.
Ota and Ado-odo War (Gbalefa Peninsular)
Owu was a major factor in the 1842-45 war against Ota and Ado Odo. As an Awori Ota King, declared in 1935, the conclusion of the war of Ota/ Ado Odo was led by Gbalefa, the Owu General and his Owu contingents and that is how Owu people not only conquered but occupy the expanse of land now called Gbalefa Peninsular.
The main stream of Owus had settled among the Egbas in Abeokuta BUT, THEY ARE NOT EGBAS, neither are they lJEBUS. (See Johnson’s “History of the Yorubas, p.18). Owu settlements in Ijebu and Abeokuta were not as a result of direct battles or victory over them, but mostly on friendly terms.
It is important also to state that the present Orile Owu is the same place as Owu Ipole, earlier referred to, where Owus from Iwo and other places resettled in the early 20th century. In other places from the present Kwara State, through Oyo, Osun, Ogun to Lagos State, you will find remnants, even large settlements of Owu people, prospering and playing great leadership roles