rock where Lisabi, the Egba icon founded the city of Abeokuta
The seperate kingdom which Lisabi founded will find a home half a century later “under the rock” as illustrated in this picture. Source: Association of Egba and Yewa Descendants in Canada

Lisabi is the traditional hero of the Egba people, who are the native occupiers of Abeokuta, a Yoruba town some 77 kilometers from Lagos. Lisabi was a giant man who lived in Igbehin but he was from another Egba village called Itoku. He conspired to achieve independence for the Egbas from the Alaafin of Oyo who presided over an empire that spanned most of the Yoruba lands. Alaafin’s representatives to Egba villages were at this time, extremely oppressive.

To achieve his aim, Lisabi first developed a mutual society system called Egbe Aro, in which each farmer members enjoyed the cooperation of one another in cultivating their farmlands. Lisabi was always willing to help other members in their farmland but never requested their own service. His plan was to evolve the group into a military society, and this he achieved. A meeting house of the new militia group he formed was built in each Egba village from which an insurrection was planned.

In 1775, following the beckoning of Lisabi who murdered the first Alaafin’s representative in his own village of Igbehin, about six hundred empire agents were killed in a few moments. Anticipating a reprisal, Lisabi summoned his companions, removed women and children to a ravine called Ogbun Melegun and hid himself and his small army in another part of the same ravine. He took the hostile army who came to Igbehin by surprise and defeated them. Prosperity abounded for the Egba tribe many years after this victory, thereby earning for this warrior, the title by which he is today known; father of all Egba people. Lisabi was murdered in old age by the nobles of the land who got tired of his senile leadership.

Tope Apoola
Profession: Writer