Odogbolu

Odogbolu town satellite image
Satellite image showing Odogbolu and environ. Source: Google Map

Odogbolu; Town formed in c.1850 by an Ijebu clan made up of eight homesteads, the founders of which historians say were possibly members of the original retinue of Obanta, the founding hero of the Ijebu kingdom. Odogbolu was formed from these homesteads, some of which existed hundreds of years before events following the dissolution of the Oyo Empire in 1837 and attendant security problem which forced them to live together in a single contiguous settlement. These Ijebu group of villages came together to manage their vulnerability, especially to Egba and Ibadan slave raiders who carted them away as slaves.

Also, they merged to reduce attacks by wild animals from the thick forest surrounding the homesteads, called Orule. J. Adams remarks this people as fine looking, stout, healthy and full of vigour. He described them also as being industrious, and that they manufactured for sale, an immense number of common guinea clothes besides raising cattle, sheep, and poultry products which they supply their neighbors[1].

Odogbolu was formed in Elesi tradition, which is one of the three factions of the Oba institution of the town, when Elesi’s predecessor, sent out his Chief Priest (Abore) named Ogbolu, to go find a suitable place where all the homesteads could settle down and live together. The Oremadegun claims ascendancy from Ijebu Ode, the founder, being son of the Awujale of Ijebu Ode who stole one of the crowns of his father to live with his supporters in Imodi, a place three miles away from Ijebu Ode. When castigated by the Awujale for his latter conduct he moved to Okun Owa but due to frequent plagues of epidemic, proceeded to Odo (Layanra) which is part of the present Odogbolu town.
 

Geography

Odogbolu is part of the Ijebu kingdom, situated southwest of Ijebu Ode, its neighbors are Ikenne, which is situated to the east, Eyinwa in the south, and Okun Owa to the west. These towns share boundaries with Odogbolu and all except Ikenne are known as Alekun. Odogbolu lies between 30°40’and latitude 6°52’in the rain forest region of Nigeria.

 

Politics

Government in Odogbolu do not differ from what is obtained in most other towns under the political influence of Ijebu Ode. Each of the eight homesteads however enjoyed a considerable degree of autonomy. The three Obas that existed are the dynasties of the Molada, Oremadegun, and Elesi. These Obas are seen as representing ancestors back to the originator of the dynasties. They are also honorary heads of religious cults in the kingdom. The Oba was bound by rules and his powers are checked with lots of taboos. Although much power is ascribed to him theoretically, he consults the various councils of chiefs in practice before making pronouncements on policies or laws.

Like all other Ijebu communities, the Osugbo is the judicial authority and one exists for each of the homesteads. Although membership of this very ancient institution is in theory open to “all middle aged men of good behavior who is patriotic and can pay prescribed fees,” what obtains in reality is that many members are title holders. The Osugbo was not without checks to its power. The Olurins, who may attend Osugbo meetings need to give consent before each decisions made by the council is legitimate. In their role as instruments of judicial function, the Osugbo answers to allegations by setting up an investigative panel consisting of their representatives and one from Pampa, a society of the town’s young men. Acting in the executive capacity on behalf of the Osugbo is the Oro cult. Oro carries out capital punishments, performed rituals for town cleansing and ensured adherence to the laws and orders made by the oba. Unlike the Osugbo, Oro is secretive.

With the British takeover of the instruments of power in Ijebu land, a District Officer was appointed who reports to Residents at Ijebu Ode with a superior at the provincial capital. Traditional courts lost their powers to the native courts that was established in 1913.

 

History

Prof. G.O Ogunremi of the Lagos State University, Ojo, commissioned to research Odogbolu history by the Odogbolu Society in 1989 contends the two major foundational history of the Odogbolu are marred by inconsistency, oftentimes, outright falsehood.

The Elesi claim the founding hero of Ijebu, Obanta, on his way from Wadai passed through Ile-Ife where he met Oduduwa. Obanta’s younger sister, Ajibade was thus bestowed Ododuwa in marriage. The union produced a son, Ogulana Adepameru, who with his mother and a medicine man, Ogbolu set on a journey in search of Obanta, their respective uncle and brother who had become at this time, the Awujale of Ijebu Ode. Ajibade died on the way and was buried at the Osun River near Osogbo. Ogunlana Adepamer with his Ogbolu medicine man friend arrived eventually at Ijebu Ode to the warm embrace of Awujale Obanta. Following Adepameru’s death, Alere, his son, was instructed by the Awujale to establish a spate kingdom behind the river Ome in a place known as Alekun. His grandson, Asalu, therefore ruled over the territory which includes present day Odogbolu. The Elesi claim asserts the name, “Odogbolu” was in honour of Ogbolu, the man sent by Sendugba who was Asalu’s son and successor, to look for a place where all the villages can settle together.

While the Elesi’s claim reduces Ogbolu to a messenger, the Molada’s version contends Ogbolu was himself the founder. This assertion, like the first, is in variance with the third, the Oremadegun story which assigns Oremadegun, a man from Ijebu Ode royal lineage as founder. This claim was punctured by historian G.O Ogunremi based on chronological references. What is most plausible about the origin of the eight homesteads which makes up Odogbolu, Ogunremi argued, is that they came together around the year 1850 from sites not too far away to a land owned by one Numoye to forge a common front for their safety.
 

Festivals

The Agemo festival which emphasizes the unity of Ijebu comes in the month of June. Curfew is imposed on women as Agemo priests file through the town. While human sacrifice used to be a part of the festival, author Ogunremi affirms a cow is now been used. Araorun or “Citizens of heaven” are celebrated during the Egungun festival, when masked persons are seen with their escorts. Devotees of each spirit of the deceased prostrate or genuflect as they approach, with some offering presents.

 

Religion

Principal orisa of the Ijebu people called Agemo is believed in Odogbolu to be the orisa of the founder of Awujale’s dynasty, Obanta, which he brought with him from Ile-Ife to Ijebu. The chief priest of this idol had moved to Odogbolu after a revolt against him by people who found the spate of human sacrifice demanded by it unacceptable. Such were the practices which James Johnson, a renowned clergy of his day whose mother was from the Ido quarters of Odogolu kicked against. Johnson also warned the growing antagonism against reform measures from the British are not without consequences. This, they took with a pinch of salt, until the Imagbon war in which fighters from Odogbolu joined their Ijebu counterparts against colonial force. There was a quick change of heart when it was observed that even the several sacrifices to Ogun, the god of war, would not shield local warriors from the Maxim guns.
 

Christianity:

In 1893, the people of Odogbolu made the acceptance of Christianity official and they, acting on the counsel of the incarcerated Awujale, consulted Christian Missionary Society agents Odumosun Etitale and Olusoga of Itantebo who taught the first set of faithful in the ways of Christ.

The first congregation of the St. Paul Anglican Church gathered under a shed at the Efiyan market, before moving to Igbepa. A mud church was erected in 1897 with their spirits often lifted by counterpart visits of delegates from Ijebu Remo CMS. The Catholic Church was planted in 1916 under the leadership of Rev. Father Organs who came in from Okun-Owa. Services were held in turns at the homes of converts. Soon, a small piece of land was acquired in Odo Alaro where a permanent church was sited. According to one Mr. B.A. Oguntade, interviewed by Odogbolu historian in 1986, other well represented churches includes the Christ Apostolic Church, Holy Flock Church formed in 1934, Celestial Church of Christ, and the Methodist Church.
 

Islam:

Pioneer Yoruba Muslims had to worship privately and secretly. This however was not enough in the case of Odogbolu. Because of the conservatism of Ijebu people, Islam was unknown till the nineteenth century. Following the liberalization of Ijebu, Islam was introduced through activities of traders from Lagos around the Kajola port, a busy port through which Odogbolu made contact with the outside world. When locals spotted Muslim traders praying dutifully they were fascinated and soon joined in. From Kajola, the young Muslim community moved to Idole Quarters, later to Ita Efiyan where the first mosque was built.
 

Economy

Economy is traditionally subsistent and agriculture is the mainstay. After family needs are met, excess food stuffs, palm oil, palm wine, and kolanut can be exchanged internally. In the age of cash crops, cocoa, palm produce, and kolanut were exported. Generally, the growth of agriculture was not optimized due to limitations in the use of ploughs caused by the prevalence of trees, limited farm land, and tsetse flies.

Historically, there are day, night, and periodic markets. Buyers are often intercepted by middlemen buyers who had ready cash to pay for farm produces before it reaches the market. Goods like tinned food and clothes are imported through Lagos and picked at the depot at Ijebu Ode by traders from Odogbolu who resold them at the market. There is a periodic market at Obu odo, where items from farther places were wholesaled. For long distance trade, the Uren River proved useful in the 1920s as palm produce were transported through a route which ended in Ebute Odo in Lagos.

 

[1] . Adams, Remarks on the country extending from Cape Palmes to the River Congo. Frank Cass 1966, p. 108

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