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Ijebu People: From Cradle To The Present



From the onset, Ìjẹ̀bú are very wealthy Yorùbá tribe, being regarded as ‘Yorùbá Business Moguls’. They are said to have been spending Dollars before the advent of Westerners. (Ìran Ìjẹ̀bú nii tí náwó Dollar kí òyìnbó to de – Ìjẹ̀bú had been spending Dollars before the coming of Westerners). Because they did commercial transactions with outsiders which were carried on in the frontier or in the borders of neighbouring towns.

They were envied and it seems most of Yorùbá tribes in those days prayed to be (as wealthy) like Ìjẹ̀bú. “Ọmọ Ẹlẹ́hinkule adé wúre, Óoṣá jẹ́ ń dàbí onílé yí (having been to Ìjẹ̀bú’s yard, they pray unto the gods to make them likewise)


The origin of the Ìjẹ̀bús has been variously given, but all sadly tilt to the same horizon, related to sacrifices.

One account makes them spring from the victims offered in sacrifice by the
King of Benin to the god of the ocean, hence the term Ìjẹ̀bú from Ìjẹ̀-ibú, i.e., the food of the deep.

The Ìjẹ̀bús themselves claim to have descended from Ọba-níta, as they say of themselves, “Ogetiele, eru Ọbaníta,” i.e., Ogetiele/ servants of Ọbaníta.

But, who was this Ọba-níta? Tradition says he also was a victim of sacrifice by the Olòwu. It was said that the Olòwu offered in sacrifice a human being where two roads cross; this was termed ” Ẹbọ-ní-ìta,” a sacrifice on the highway, the victim being mangled and left for dead; he, however, revived at night, and crawled away into the forest, where he subsequently recovered and survived.

He lived on fruits, on the chase, and then did a bit of farming. With an access of population, being the oldest man met in those parts, he was regarded as the father, and subsequent generations call him their ancestor, and so the Ijebu tribe was formed, and the term ” Ẹbọníìta” (a sacrifice on the highway) was converted to “Ọbaníta” (a king on the high-way).

Ọbaníta was actually a pseudonym. There was really nobody of that name.

A forest is still shown near the village of Aha where he is annually worshipped, from whence he was supposed to have ascended into heaven. The victims also usually offered to ” Ọbaníta” annually
was always a human being, but this was never killed ; he was, however, always acted upon in some way or other unknown (by magic arts) that he always became demented, and left to wander about sheepishly in the Aha Forest, until he perished there. This
is, no doubt, due to the fact that the ancestor “Ẹbọníìta” himself, when a victim, was not killed outright.

It is rather curious that both accounts should have made them descended from victims of human sacrifices. This latter account is reconcilable with the former, which says they are ” the food of the deep,” for the population of which Ẹbọníìta was the head may have been largely augmented by the victims of the ocean so as to give the name Ìjẹ-ibú to the whole of them.

There are also other important facts and curious coincidences connected with the Ìjẹ̀bús which have strong bearings on this tradition of their origin.

Of all the Yoruba tribes, with the exception of the Ifẹ̀s, they were the most addicted to human sacrifices, which they practised up to 1892 when the country was conquered by the

  1. They were, before the conquest, the most exclusive and inhospitable of the whole of the tribes. Very few, if any, out-
    siders were ever known to have walked through the country with impunity under any circumstance whatever; not a few of those who attempted to do so were never seen nor heard of any more!

And if the latter account of their origin from the Òwu victim be the correct one, it is very singular indeed that it was
mainly due to the Ijebus with their firearms that the Owns owed their fall and complete annihilation as an independent state to this day. A full account of this will be given in due course.

The King of the Ìjẹ̀bús is known as the Àwùjalẹ. His origin was thus given by authentic tradition, the event with which it is connected having occurred within authentic history:

There were formerly two important towns called Òwu Ìpólé and Isẹ́yìn Odò in a district between the Òwu and Ìfẹ́s; they were settlements from the city of Òwu and Isẹ́yìn respectively. A
quarrel once arose between them on the matter of boundaries, and the dispute having been carried on for many years, developed into an open fight, and both the Olòwu and the Ọọni of Ìfẹ́ (both being interested parties) were unable to put an end to the
strife. Messengers were now sent to the Àlàáfín at Ọ̀yọ́ who sent out
a special Ìlàrí and a large number of attendants to put an end to the strife. The person of an Ilari being inviolable, he came and settled down between the two contending parties, in the midst of
the disputed plot, and thus compelled them to keep, the peace.

The Ìlàrí was named “Agbéjàilẹ̀ or Alájailẹ̀” (an arbiter of landed dispute). This term was subsequently sof termed, down to Àwùjalẹ. This event occurred during the reign of King Jayin, the 18th Àlàáfín of Ọ̀yọ́ (1655-1670).

As it was customary to pay royal honours to the King’s messengers out of courtesy, this Ìlàrí was accorded royal honours in due form, and he remained there permanently and became the King of that region over the Ìjẹ̀bús who up to that time had no tribal “king” of their own and rather held themselves aloof from their neighbours.

Subsequently he removed to Ode. The Àwùjalẹ ranks after the Ọ̀yọ́ provincial kings such as the Oníkòyí (of Ikoyi Town, Ọsun State), Ọlọ́fa (of Ọffà, Kwara State), Arẹsa, Aseyin.

Ìjẹ̀bú, Ọmọ Ère N’ìwà
(Ìjẹ̀bú, one’s attitudinal dispensation stagnant, like statue)
Wọn o mú eégún wọ Igbó Isára ri
(Masquerade was never taken to Isára Groove)
Ibà ló mú eégún wọ Igbó Rẹmọ̀
(Prior to the time your forefathers took the veiled gnome to Rẹmọ̀ Forest)
Ọmọ Onígbo mándè-mánde, Ọmọ Onígbo mánwọ-mánwọ
(You are the owner of one sacred, impregnated groove)
Ọmọ Onígbo mánwọ-mánwọ
(Your forebearings are guardians of the forbidden Forest)
Àlejò tó wọ Igbo-oro yíò d’ẹní ẹbọrà.
(Stranger that go stray into the Forest shall become a sacrificial lamb)
Mẹ́fà n’ìṣù Ìjẹ̀bú:
(Yams are categorized in six ways in Ìjẹ̀bú)
Méjì jíjẹ,
(Two are edible; eaten)
Méjì aìjẹ,
(Two are inedible; uneatable)
Oṣa Ẹlúùkù ni bàbá yín n fi méjì tó kú bọ….
(Your fathers used to sacrifice the remaining two to Ẹlúùkù Deity)
Nlẹ, Ọmọ Ad’òru m’adé
(Greetings, descendants of those that kept close tally with crown)
Nlẹ Ọmọ Ad’òru m’oṣù p’ adiyẹ jẹ
(Your forebearings kept close tally with months, just to monitor when fowls will be matured enough {to be consumed})
Àní, Tobá wu Ìjẹ̀bú a hún ẹni rẹ ni wínníwínní
(They say, if Ìjẹ̀bú want they knot mats chronologically)
Tobá wu Ìjẹ̀bú a hún ẹni rẹ ni wìnnìwìnnì
(Or, they may choose to knot mats otherwise)
Tobá wu Ìjẹ̀bú a fi ẹni rẹ tókú s’ọdún Agẹmọ
(Or, if so desired, Ìjẹ̀bú may use the remaining/available mats during Agẹmọ Festival)
Ọmọ Alagẹmọ mẹ́rìndínlógún a bíìjo wínní…
(You are descendants of six Agẹmọ of acrobatic dance)
Ọmọ òun s’eni Ọ̀yọyọ ń yọ
(Descendants of the ancient mockers that mocked at one, when Ill befell)
Ọ̀yọyọ man yọ man; òun to ns’eni yìí kólé pá’ni
(Tell the mockers not be laugh much, for this ill would not kill one)
Ọmọ dúdú ilé o mán ọbẹ̀ ṣeé, púpato man ọbẹ̀ se ko si nílé
(Descendants of the dark complexioned that don’t know how to cook, the light complexioned who can is not home)
Ọmọ mo r’ẹiyẹ mi ò r’oko
(I saw a 🐦 bird, but didn’t see stone)
Mo r’oko tán ẹiyẹ ti fo lọ
(But when I did see it, the bird has flown away)
Ọmọ mo r’ìṣù mi ò r’ọbẹ̀,
(I couldn’t find knife when I saw the yam)
Mo r’ọbẹ̀ tan mio r’ìṣù
(When I eventually did, I couldn’t see the yam anymore)
Ọmọ adiyẹ gùn ori òkè o po leèlè
(Descendants of a fowl that climbed high on a rope)
Ará o r’òkun ara o r’adiyẹ
(Neither the rope nor the bird 🐦 was in discomfort)
Ọmọ Al’adiyẹ tii fi ẹyin rẹ ye kingbin-kingbin
(Yours is an ancient bird that laid eggs en masee)
Ọmọ àfinju Ìjẹ̀bú ti nfi ọkọ rẹ je Apena
(The enlightened Ijebu women will rather help raise her husband in cult hierarchy)
Ìjẹ̀bú ni o ti nnà owo Dollars ki òyìnbó to de
(Ijebu had been spending Dollars before the coming of the White man)
Igba t’òyìnbó de tan l’owo ọun to pọsi, Ọmọ abìgì owo nso lẹkule
(The Whiteman coming only made the money become surplus)
“Oṣa jẹ ń dàbí onílé yi,”
({They pray}: “May the Grand deity make me be like the owner of this house, i.e Ìjẹ̀bú)
Ni won fi nso wipe:
(That’s why they say:)
Dúdú Ìjẹ̀bú owó
(The Black complexioned Ijebu are moneybags)
Pupa Ìjẹ̀bú owó
(The light complexioned Ijebu are moneybags)
Kúkúrú Ìjẹ̀bú owó
(Shortish Ijebu people are moneybags)
Gíga Ìjẹ̀bú owó
(Tall Ijebu are moneybags)
Itọ Ìjẹ̀bú owó
(Their spittle is money)
Kẹlẹmbẹ Ìjẹ̀bú owó
(Their phlegm is money)
Ìbínú Ìjẹ̀bú owó
(Their anger is money)
Ẹrin Ìjẹ̀bú owó
(Their laughter is money)
Pẹlẹbẹ Ìjẹ̀bú owó
(Slim Ijebu people is moneybags)
Banku Ìjẹ̀bú owó
(Fat Ijebu people are moneybags)
Ọtun Ìjẹ̀bú owó
Their right is money)
Òsì Ìjẹ̀bú owó
(Their left is money)
Iwájú Ìjẹ̀bú owó
(Their front is money)
Ẹyin Ìjẹ̀bú owó
(Their back is money)
Kékeré Ìjẹ̀bú owó
(Young Ijebu people are moneybags)
Àgbà Ìjẹ̀bú owó
(Likewise the elderly are rich)
Igbẹ Ìjẹ̀bú owó
(Fieces of Ijebu is money)
Itọ Ìjẹ̀bú owó
Their urine is money)….
T’owó towó ni Ìjẹ̀bú nji, t’owó towó ni Ìjẹ̀bú n sún
(Ijebu sleep and wake up in money)
Ìjẹ̀bú ọmọ Ọlálọrẹ…..

Fully Compiled, Arranged, Translated by:
Jimoh Taofik Adekunle
(Jimson Jaat Taofik)
The MAD Writer: Pen Priest
Facebook: Jimoh Taofik Adekunle
Twitter: @jimsonjaat01
Phone: 08144510532

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