Joshua Akinwande




“Egba meji ki njara won niyan”… It is the popular slogan among the Egba people. It literally means that two Egba indigenes will not debate or argue with each other. They will rather unite to face others people even when they both know they are wrong. I guess this philosophy must have been a major factor that has given them victory in most of the battles they fought in those days.
Abeokuta (Rock city), an ancient town is the capital of Ogun State, south western region of Nigeria, the most populous country in the continent of Africa. Rock city, as it is called by the modern people is the home of the Egbas. (This Egba nation is made up of the following sub-divisions - the Ake, Owu, Oke Ona, Gbagura and Ibara, each with its own king).
Abeokuta is situated at the east bank of Ogun River, around a group of rocky outcroppings that arise above the surrounding wooded savannah. It lies on the main railway (1899) from Lagos, 48miles (78km) south. It also has road connections to Ilaro, Sagamu, Iseyin, and Kétou (Benin).
According to history, huge and tall granite outcropping known as Olumo Rock lies in the centre of the town was a refuge place for the Egba refugee during the time days of tribal wars. This rock is historical and stands as a symbol of protection or refuge for the Egbas and generally among Yoruba people.
The traditional attire of the Egba is of the Yoruba speaking people. The men usually wear “Kembe/ Sokoto” (trouser),” Buba and Agbada” (top) and crown it with “Fila” (cap). The women put on Iro (wrapper), “Buba” (top) and crown it with “Gele” (headgear) with “Ipele” (a piece of cloth placed on the shoulder or wrapped around the wrist).
The traditional food include Lafu or Amala fufu (white powder produced from cassava), and Ewedu (a kind of vegetable). Also, the traditional drink is “Wara” drink (Cottage Cheese drink).


ABEOKUTA which literally means “refuge under the rock or refuge among rocks or simply under the rock” was established in 1830 by the leaders of the Egba refugees who fled from the disintegrating Oyo Empire. The name was derived from the protection which these refugees sought under Olumo Rock, now a tourist centre in the town. It was founded after the intertribal wars between the Yoruba speaking people which ravaged their original homes between 1817 and 1830.

The first war/Alligator pepper war

The first and major of these wars began at Apomu Market, presently located at Irewolede Local Government area of Osun State. In 1821, an Owu man who sold alligator peppers was at Apomu Market selling his wares. He laid them out in piles containing 200 peppers each. An Ijebu woman came to the market and purchased a pile. She did not confirm at the point of buying the correctness of the number of peppers in the pile she selected, but found it convenient to do counting on reaching home. She claimed to find only 199, which meant that one was missing. The Ijebu woman went back to the market to accost the Owu man over the one pepper by which the portion she selected was less, and demanded restitution of the missing one. But the Owu man objected, maintaining that he was sure of his own count. The argument over this single pepper developed into an open quarrel between the two of them. Later, it blew out into a fracas in which people of Owu and Ijebu clans in the market took sides with their kith and kin. Sectional sentiments soon became whipped up into open confrontation in which a life was lost and several people were injured. Each side went home to narrate to their Oba (king), chiefs and townsmen the events of the day. As would be expected, each group took umbrage over what it considered to be a raw deal from the opposing camp. Within a matter of days, the fight over a single alligator pepper had resulted into a total war in which the Owu and Ijebu peoples threw caution to the winds and restored to open arms.
Before this incident, the people of Ife had suffered defeats in the hands of the Owu people, and the Ijebu had similarly been routed by the Owu in a war fought over the slave trading. 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-about, teamed up with Ife and Ijebu forces. The combined attack of the Ife-Ijebu-Oyo coalition forced the Owu homeland to fall after a long siege, and the events following this catastrophe gave birth to the founding of Abeokuta a few years after.
The fall of the Owu homeland was quickly followed by the fall of some other Egba towns, each being sacked in succession by the Ife-Ijebu-Oyo tri- alliance force. The Egba towns which had folded their arms while the Owu people fought solitarily now became victims of the ravening wolves represented by these rallies. The only pity of it was that among the first to fall was Ikija. Ikija was attacked because its people stood by the Owu people in the war of 'Alligator Pepper'. Before long, many Egba towns also fell and all the survivors eventually sought refuge in Abeokuta after a few years, and thus made Abeokuta their permanent place of sojourn. Their decision to leave Ibadan for Abeokuta was however informed by the hostility of the Oyo, Ife and Ijebu, with whom they shared sojourn in Ibadan.
Lamodi, a warrior of note, was credited with the initiative for the migration to Abeokuta, although he himself never got to the Promised Land because he died on the way. He was at the time the Balogun of the Egba people. Sodeke, who was then the Seriki of the Egba, took over and led the first wave if immigration to Abeokuta in 1830. Bringing up the rear of the migrants to Abeokuta were the Owu people in about the year 1834. Some others also came later.
The site they choose for Abeokuta was originally the farmland of an Itoko farmer whose name was Adagba. Adagba had no choice but to receive the Egba refugees with both hands and the credit he got was that Abeokuta became known by another name – “Oko Adagba", meaning Adagba's Farmstead.
On setting in Abeokuta, each community continued its main occupation of farming, cultivating mainly food crops and cash crops, notably cotton, palm-trees, and kola-nuts. A few did pretty trading and some practised itinerant merchandising. There were also craftsmen, hunters, drummers, weavers and dryers; some practised traditional healing, mingling it with some form of divination. They were very religious and each adhered to a belief in one god or another. They specialized in a genre of oral traditional poetry known as Ege which is both musical and philosophical in content and forms. The first few years immediately following the settling in Abeokuta were fraught with difficulties - social, political and economic. But for the fact that they lived simple lives, they would have found the problems overwhelming. The problems of each group findings and selecting appropriate land to farm was enough to daunt them. And the quick succession of the waves of settlers posed problems with extra dimensions. The new pottage represented by the many group of settlers needed time to simmer and mellow down to attain acceptable taste. Then there were the need for food supply. Being new settlers, they needed a year or two to be able to plant enough food to feed themselves. So it was largely a question of scrounging for food in the first two years by a people who had escaped from unsettling ravages of war.

Other battles

Between 1830 and the turn of the century, the settlers in Abeokuta were forced into fighting several wars. In these wars, they creditably proved their mettle. In 1832, the Ijebu Remo people provoked the new settlers into taking arms against several Ijebu Remo towns in a war called - Owiwi war. In 1834, the Ibadan people also challenged them to a war which resulted in the defeat of the Ibadan army in what was known as the Battle of Arakanga. In 1842, the settlers took the initiative of a war with the Ota people in order to ensure free movement through Ota territory each time they needed to get to Lagos to buy firearms. This led to another war in 1844 when they attacked Ado for assisting the Ota people two years before.
The town was also settled by missionaries (in the 1840s) and by Sierra Leone Creoles, who later became prominent as missionaries and as businessmen. Abeokuta’s success as the capital of the Egba and as a link in the Lagos-Ibadan oil-palm trade led to wars with Dahomey (now Benin). In the battle at Abeokuta in 1851, the Egba, aided by the missionaries and armed by the British, defeated King Gezo’s Dahomeyan army (unique in the history of western Africa for its common practice of using women warriors). Another Dahomeyan attack was repulsed in 1864. Troubles in the 1860s with the British in Lagos led the Egba to close the trade routes to the coast and to expel (1867) its missionaries and European traders. After the Yoruba civil wars (1877–93), in which Abeokuta opposed Ibadan, the “Egba Alake (king) signed an alliance with the British governor; Sir Gilbert Carter recognized the independence of the Egba United Government (1893–1914). In 1914 the kingdom was incorporated into the newly amalgamated British Colony and Protectorate of Nigeria. The Abeokuta riots of 1918 protested the levying of taxes and the “indirect rule” policy of Lord Frederick Lugard, the British governor-general, which made the Alake, formerly “primus inter pares” (first among equals), the supreme traditional leader to the detriment of the other quarter chiefs.
In 1849, Abeokuta attacked Ibarapa for waylaying the Egba in their territory. Among other wars fought by Abeokuta were the Ijebu-Ere War in 1851, and the Ijaye War of 1860-1862, and the Makun War of 1862-1864, as well as a few others. In most of these encounters, they emerged victorious - although they suffered their own reverses in some as well. Among Egba war leaders were Sodeke, Ogunbona, Apati, Seriki Akoodu, Ogundipe Alatise, Sokenu, Basorun Somoye, Olufakun, Agbo, Iyalode Tinubu, Majekodunmi, and a host of others.


Modern Abeokuta is an agricultural trade centre (rice, yams, cassava, corn [maize], palm oil and kernels, cotton, fruits, vegetables) and an exporting point for cocoa, palm produce, fruits, and kola nuts. Rice and cotton were introduced by the missionaries in the 1850s, and cotton weaving and dyeing (with locally grown indigo) are now traditional crafts of the town.
Abeokuta is the headquarters for the federal Ogun-Osun River Basin Development Authority with programs to harness land and water resources for Lagos, Ogun, and Oyo states for rural development. Irrigation, food-processing, and electrification projects are included. Local industry is limited but now includes fruit-canning plants, a plastics factory, a brewery, sawmills, and an aluminium-products factory. South of the town are the Aro granite quarries, which provide building materials for much of southern Nigeria, and a huge, modern cement plant at Ewekoro (18 miles [29 km] south).
Abeokuta was a walled town, and relics of the old wall still exist. Notable buildings include the Ake (the residence of the Alake), Centenary Hall (1930), and several churches and mosques. And also it has some modern buildings like OPIC Towers, Obasanjo International Library, and Moshood Abiola International Stadium. The town is the home to some major higher institutions in Nigeria; the University of Agriculture Abeokuta, UNAAB (1988), Ogun State Polytechnic now called Moshood Abiola Polytechnic, MAPOLY (1979), and other private universities.
It is also the home of some notable personalities in Africa; Amos Tutuola (1920), Nigerian author of richly inventive fantasies. He is best known for the novel The Palm-Wine Drinkard and His Dead Palm-Wine Tapster in the Deads’ Town (1952), which was the first Nigerian book to achieve international fame. Late Fela Anikulapo Kuti (Oct. 15, 1938). He launched a modern African-based music called afro-beat, which fuses American blues, jazz, and funk with traditional Yoruba music. From the late 1960s he used his music as a vehicle to protest.
Moshood Kashimawo Olawale Abiola (Aug. 24, 1937), an executive, financier, and politician. He was one of the richest magnates in Africa and popularly regarded as the leader of the pro-democracy movement in Nigeria. Olusegun Obasanjo (March 5, 1937), Nigerian General, politician, and diplomat, who was the first military leader in Africa to hand over power to civilian rule. He served as ruler of Nigeria (1976–79) and as president (1999–2007).
Peter Akinola (Jan. 27, 1944), Nigerian Anglican archbishop and primate of the church of Nigeria who in 2007 created a controversial American diocese to welcome discontented Episcopal parishes to a more conservative branch of the Anglican Church. Akinwande Wole Soyinka (July 13, 1934), Nigerian emeritus professor playwright and political activist who received the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1986. He sometimes wrote of modern West Africa in a satirical style.
And other notable Egba people are William John Campbell(a mayor/councilor in Freetown, Sierra Leone), Prince Bola Ajibola(former Chief Justice of the Federation, former Judge, International Court of Justice), Adekoyejo Moses Majekodunmi(former Minister of Health, former Administrator of Western Region), Chief Ernest Sonekan(Chairman Interim National Government after the annulled June 12, 1993 election), Chief Justice Adetokunbo Ademola(1st Chief Judge of the Federation), Chief Simeon Adebo (Distinguished Administrator and one time Nigerian Permanent representative to United nations), Samuel Funmilade Onipede (University Lecturer in the United States), Chief Dr. Opeki Fabunmi Sowunmi (Ifa Priest, Consultant, Lecturer, Author), Jimi Solanke (Playwright, Actor, and Singer), Yusuf Olatunji (Renowned Musician popularly called Baba L'egba), Chief Toye Coker (Senior Advocate of Nigeria), Simeon Adewole Ademolake (First Elected Christian Democratic Councillor in UK).
Abeokuta is the only town with an Anthem among the Yoruba people in Nigeria.

Egba Anthem                                                        

Stanza 1:
Lori oke o'un petele (On the mountain and the valley)
Ibe l'agbe bi mi si oo (that’s where I was born)
Ibe l'agbe to mi d'agba oo (That’s where I was nurtured unto maturity)
Ile ominira (the land of freedom)
Maa yo, maa yo, maa yo o; (I’ll rejoice, I’ll rejoice, I’ll rejoice)
l'Ori Olumo; (On the Olumo Rock)
Maa yo, maa yo, maa yo o; (I’ll rejoice, I’ll rejoice, I’ll rejoice)
l'Ori Olumo (On Olumo Rock)
Stanza 2:
Abeokuta ilu Egba (Abeokuta, Egba land)
Un ko nii gbagbe e re (I’ll never forget you)
Un o gbe o l'eke okan mi (I’ll hold you esteem in my heart)
Bii ilu odo oya (like the countries abroad)
Stanza 3:
Emi o f'Abeokuta sogo (Abeokuta will be my pride)
Un o duro l'ori Olumo (I’ll stand on the Olumo Rock)
Maayo l'oruko Egba ooo (I’ll rejoice in the name of Egba ooo)
Emi omoo Lisabi e (I, the child of Lisabi)
Stanza 4:
Emi o maayo l'ori Olumo (I’ll always rejoice on Olumo Rock)
Emi o s'ogoo yi l'okan mi (I’ll praise you from my heart)
Wipe ilu olokiki o (That in a famous town)
L'awa Egba n gbe e e (We, the Egba lives)

For those who love to travel, I will recommend
that you visit Abeokuta, Nigeria and
see for yourself this ancient city called THE ROCK CITY.
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All rights belong to its author. It was published on by demand of Joshua Akinwande.
Published on on 07/16/2011.


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