A grandson of Ajibogun Ajaka (Ubiquitous Warrior) Owa Obokun Onida Arara, one of the most accomplished son of Oduduwa, the progenitor of the Yoruba race of South-Western Nigeria and Benin Republic.” Ijesha, as a historic town is one of the oldest settlements in Yorubaland.
Other tradition among the Ijesa themselves also traces the origin of the Ijesas state to a younger son of Oduduwa called Obokun (Owa’s ancestor), in commemoration of an occasion on which he fetched sea water to cure his father’s blindness. Obokun then settled in what was to become Ijesaland. He found, like other founding heroes, pre-existing political structures including a confederacy of five towns in the Obokun area. Obokun himself is so central to the Ijesas that they call themselves Omo Obokun (Children of Obokun)
Owa Obokun Adimula Ajibogun, after fetching the ocean waters (Omi Okun) to heal the old-age blindness of his father Odua Olofin-Aye and who through conquest captured many territories including the vast territory known today as Ijesaland. It is worthy of mention that the capital of Ijesaland is dictated by which ever place the Owa Obokun Adimula chooses as his seat of government.
Ajibogun ruled Ile-Ife a short while, leaving vestiges of rulership in monumental words like “Enuwa”, Mode Owa” and so on. After conquering many territories in the whole of North Eastern Yorubaland, he established his imperial government at Iddo Omupetu and after a while at Igbadae. His successor, Owa Obokun Adimula Owaka Okile moved to Ilowa – Owa’s city. Okile’s successor, Owa Obokun Adimula Obarabara Olokuneshin, who was the FATHER OF PRINCE LAROOYE GBADEWOLU, THE FIRST ATAOJA OF OSOGBO, moved the seat of government to Ilemure, now known as Ibokun. His successor Owa Obokun Adimula Owari moved it to Ilekete and later Ipole. Owa Obokun Adimula Owaluse established Ilesa, which is today the royal capital city of Ijesaland in the fifteenth century.
Owa Obokun Adimula Owaluse transformed and reshaped the Ijesa traditional government which gave room to military supervision which took after the role of Ajaka, Ajibogun’s commander-in-chief of the Ijesa Armed forces. Owa Obokun Adimula Atakunmosa succeeded Owaluse in 1526.
The Ijesha territory is adjoined by the Ekiti on the east, the Igbomina to the north, the Ife to the south, and the Oyo and Ibolo to the west.
Ijesa history has a varied accounts based on myth and historical accounts. According to the first account by Samuel Johnson the Ijesa people used to reside in Ile Ife prior to the reign of Sango. It is said that Ijesa people were “slaves were purchased and located in the district of Ibokun ; there they were tended as cattle, under the care of Owaju, and from them selections were made from time to time for sacrificial purposes; hence the term Ijesa from Ije Orisa (the food of the gods). Hence the saying “Ijesa Omo Owaju ti ife opo iyk ” (Ijesas children of Owaju, subject to much sufferings).
It is believe that this particular history accounts for large number of Ijesa enslaved people of Ilesa getting shipped to slavery in South America especially Brazil, and the Caribbeans.
Johnson (1921) recounted that “There is also a legend that when the nations began to disperse from Ile Ife and members of the Royal Family were appointed kings and rulers in diverse places, a young and brave scion of the house was appointed the first Owa or king over the Ijesas, but that he returned to the alafin and complained that his territory was too small, and his subjects few, the sire there upon ordered a large bundle of sticks to be brought to him, and these sticks he converted into human beings for the Owa, in order to increase the number of his subjects. Hence to this day the Ijesas are often termed by their neighbours ” Qmo igi ” (offspring of sticks !)”
Whatever be the case it can be clearly seen that the ancestors of Ijesa people migrated from Ile ife to their present location in Osun State. Ilesha traditions hold that the site of Ilesha was already occupied by scattered settlements of an aboriginal population, the most important being identified with today’s Okesa, the long street running west-east along Ilesha’s spine, whose leader is regarded as the ancestor of Ogedengbe, The Obanla of Ijeshaland.
Ilesha became an important and major Yoruba military centre in the campaigns against Ibadan, 60 miles (97 km) west-Southwest in the 19th-century Yoruba civil wars. A leading member of a confederacy known as the Ekitiparapo meaning ‘Ekiti together’. This combined forces of the Ijesa and Ekiti was formed to fight for the independence of their people.
In 1817 a long series of civil wars began in the Oyo Empire in which hundreds of people died; they lasted until 1893 (when Britain intervened), by which time the empire had disintegrated completely.
The Ijesha people used to have a big territory but lost some portions of it to their neighbours during various conflicts and wars of the nineteenth and preceding centuries. The Ijesa was ruled by a monarch bearing the title of Owa Obokun Adimula of Ijesaland. The state of Ilesa consisted of Ilesa itself and a number of smaller surrounding towns like people of Oke-Ako, Irele, Omuo-Oke speak a dialect similar to Ijesha.
Some of the popular towns of the Ijesa are Ibokun, Erin Ijesa, Ipetu Jesa, Ijebu Jesa, Esa-Oke, Ipole, Ifewara, Ijeda,Iloko-ijesa, Iwara, Iperindo, Erinmo, Iwaraja, Idominasi, Ilase, Igangan, Imo, Eti-oni,Iboku, Erin-Ijesa, Ibodi and many others.
The Ijesas are very good in commerce and have cut a niche for themselves as the architects of ‘Osomaalo’ business in Nigeria. The appellation was originally considered as a term of abuse to characterize the aggressive Ijesa textile traders. The word ‘Osomaalo’ is tied to the process of debt collection. It means ‘I will not sit until I have collected my money,’ showing an inflexible determination to succeed in the face of all odds. This popular trading method allows customers to pay for goods in installments.
Ijesa military prowess is summed up in this war song “Ijesha ree arogun yooo..ye so’gbodo fowo kan omo obokun ri a……” “An old Yoruba community, Ilesha was an important and major military centre in the campaigns against Ibadan, 60 miles (97 km) west-Southwest in the 19th-century Yoruba civil wars. A leading member of a confederacy known as the Ekitiparapo meaning ‘Ekiti together’. This combined forces of the Ijesa and Ekiti towns like Ikole , Ijero, Otun-Moba, Aramoko and other Ekiti smallers towns expect Ado and Ikere (who were engaged in war with Bini at the period) was formed to fight for the independence of their people. The town has a memorial to Ogedengbe, an Ijesa warrior-leader who died in 1910. Ogedengbe played a vital role during the kiriji war of the 19th century, which prevented Ilesa and other towns from being conquered and dominated by Ibadan and other powerful regions.
Ijesa people speak a Central Yoruba dialect (Yoruboid language) that belongs to the larger Niger-Congo language group. Ijesa dialect is akin to the adjoining Yagba, Igbomina, Ifẹ, Ekiti, Akurẹ, Ẹfọn, and Ijẹbu areas that are classified under Central Yoruba dialects of the larger Yoruboid languages.
The state of Ilesa (Ile ti a sa which means a homeland we chose),the traditional Headquarters of Ijesaland and the capital of the first Local Council in Nigeria (Ijesa/Ekiti Parapo Council) named by the British Colonial Administrator on 21 June 1900 comprising the present day Ondo and Ekiti States of Nigeria. POPULATION: 310,000.
The major traditional deities unique to the Ijesa are Orisa Onifon, which is prevalent to the North West of Ijesaland, Ogun which is very significant and celebrated with grandeur annually by all Ijesas, culminating into the Iwude Festival. Ifa-Orunmila, Arampe and Osun are also very important deities in Ijesaland.
The “OSOOMALO” sole entrepreneurial business men with high transactional fortune acumen spread their activities and interest like wild fire into the nooks and crannies of Nigeria and beyond. Osoomalo trade is one of the greatest contributions of Ijesas to the world of commerce, trade, industry and banking. The Osoomalo migrants became very influential in their abode of business and saw the prospect in education and sent their children and wards to school. It was their practice to visit home at least twice in a year, contribute to the development of their homestead in terms of cash. The emergence of the Cocoa trade which a lot of Ijesas took part in cannot be wished away. Ijesas took the lead and massively reaped the gains of western education.
PAST IJESHA RULERS
There are four royal houses amongst which accession to the throne is supposed to be rotated: Biladu, Bilagbayo, Bilaro and Bilayirere.
Past Rulers have been as follows:
Owa Ajibogun –
Owa Owaka Okile
Owa Obarabara Olokun Eshin
Owa Owari 1466 – 1522
Owa Owaluse 1522 – 1526
Owa Atakunmosa 1526 – 1546
Yeyelagagba 1588 – 1590
Yeyegunrogbo 1588 – 1590
Owa Biladu I 1652 – 1653
Owa Biladu II 1653 – 1681
Yeyewaji 1681 –
Owa Bilaro 1681 – 1690
Owa Bilayiarere 1691 – 1692
Owa Bilagbayo 1713 – 1733
Yeyeori 1734 – 1749
Ori Abejoye 17.. – …
Owa Bilajagodo “Arijelesin” … – …
Owa Bilatutu “Otutu bi Osin” 1772 – 1776
Owa Bilasa “Asa abodofunfun” 1776 – 1788
Owa Akesan 1788 – 1795
Owa Bilajara 1… – 1807
Obara “Bilajila” 1813–1828
Owa Odundun 1828–1833
Ariyasunle (1st time) -Regent 1839
Owa Ofokutu 1839–1853
Ariyasunle (2nd time) -Regent 1853
Owa Aponlose 1858 –1867
Owa Alobe 1867–1868
Owa Agunlejika I 1868 – 1869
1871 Vacant 4 Jun 1870 –
Owa Oweweniye(1st time) 1871–1873
Oweweniye (2nd time) 1873–1875
Owa Adimula Agunloye-bi-Oyinbo “Bepolonun 1875 – 1893
Owa Alowolodu Mar 1893 – Nov 1894
Vacant Nov 1894 – Apr 1896
Owa Ajimoko I Apr 1896 – Sep 1901
Owa Ataiyero [Atayero] 1901–1920
Owa Aromolaran 1920–1942
Ajimoko “Haastrup” -Regent 1942 – 10 Sep 1942
Ajimoko II “Fidipote” 10 Sep 1942 – 18 Oct 1956
J. E. Awodiya -Regent 18 Oct 1956 – 1957
Owa Biladu III “Fiwajoye” 1957 – Jul 1963
.Ogunmokun… -Regent Jul 1963 – 1966
Owa Agunlejika II 1966–1981
Owa Gabriel Adekunle Aromolaran II 1982 – ?
Ijesa history is such that one can properly put into three major perspectives: the monarchy/
royalty, war-lordship and assertiveness all encompassed in effective leadership. One cannot but mention the bravery and gallantry of great Ijesa Heroes Seriki Ogedengbe Agbogungboro and his lieutenants like Fabunmi Oraralada of Okemesi, Obe, Okunade Arimoro, Ogunmodede, Fapohunda, Jowo-jori Onigbogi, Ogunlae Dagunduro and host of other Ijesas who fought the overzealous Ibadans led by Aare Latosa to a standstill at Kiriji in Imesi-Ipole during the Intra-Yoruba ethnic civil war. Ogedengbe and Fabunmi led the Ijesa, Ekiti and Igbomina Allied Forces to save the whole of the Yoruba nation from the dominance of the Ibadans.