FEATURE ARTICLE

Lekan Akinosho a.k.a Scoro 8Wednesday, December 19, 2007
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Toronto, Canada

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EGBA-OWU CONTROVERSY: THE DISTORTION OF HISTORY

s an Egba man from the Oke Ona section of Egbaland in Abeokuta, I read with keen interest the statements credited to Olusegun Obasanjo, ex- President of Nigeria, and Prince Bola Ajibola, the former Attorney General and Minister for Justice of Nigeria, during the sixteenth Owu National convention. The two of them, publicly said that, the people of Egbaland, owed its existence to the Owu, as they saved Egba nation from the Dahomeans, and that, they were fighting war of identity. Prince Ajibola had earlier said that all Egbas were settlers in Abeokuta.


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As a student of history, to ignore such assertions would amount to an affront on truth and disrespect for the Egba people. What these two officials are doing is to distort history. Thus, it is germane to put history in perspective and set records straight, so that the educator must be educated, instead of displaying unnecessary ignorance or intellectual charlatanism.

Historically, the Egba people were agriculturists and traders under a federation of three groups-Ake, Okeona and Gbagura scattered over 150 towns and including the modern city of Ibadan, Oyo and Ijaye. Perhaps for the divisions, they were susceptible to attacks, thus for some time they were province of old Oyo empire. However, in their quest for freedom and democracy, the three sections, working together under Lisabi, got rid of Oyo imperialism in the late eighteenth century and became self-governing federation. Egba's independence did not last for long as they were in the 1820's overran by a joint Oyo, Ife and Ijebu armies. The attack forced the Egba out of their homes and under Sodeke, migrated to a hilly area marked by huge rock presently known as Olumu Rock that used to be a camp for some Egba hunters and farmers. It was because of this the town Abeokuta 'refuge among rock' or 'under the shadow of the rock' was founded in 1830. It must be noted that the Owus were not a foundation member of Abeokuta as Obasanjo and Ajibola are claiming. One can therefore, rightly say that the emergence of Egba kingdom came about during the fratricidal war of the Nineteenth century in Yoruba land.

Owu came to lime light around 1821 and 1828 in what has been known in Yoruba history as Owu war. The war started partly as a result of the struggle between various Yoruba districts as well as the attack on Ife towns by Olowu Amororo, an action considered as sacrilegious because of the sacredness of Ile -Ife in Yoruba land the supposed spiritual birthplace of the Yorubas. The result of his action became a disaster for the Owu people in their original abode and threw the whole of Yoruba land into civil war. The Owu were thoroughly defeated by the combined forces of Ibadan and Ijebu, and the Oni of Ife, the spiritual head of the Yorubas, ordered with his constitutional authority, that the Owu capital, Orile-Owu must be destroyed with no human existence. I am asking Obasanjo and his fellow traveller Ajibola, that, where is Owu today? They became scattered people and Sodeke invited some remnants Owu to settle with the original Egbas in 1834 at Abeokuta.

Therefore, for Obasanjo and Ajibola to say they know where they are coming from is arrant nonsense and lack of historical sense. How do we locate identity here for a people permanently confined in diasporas? How can a people in such disarray and invited as settlers now take advantage of the accommodationist policy and benevolence of Egba people? A bi e'gbo pe won ji olumo Egba ri ni- ewo orisa- Literally meaning that the rock that binds we Egbas can never be stolen due to its natural nature which is an abomination to the gods.

The Egba and Dahomey war is also interrelated with this because the two of them said that the Owu saved the Egba from the Dahomiens. I think this is an attempt to degrade other Egba people who are known as great warriors from the outset. There were two major attacks on Abeokuta by the Dahomiens. The first in 1851, under king Gezo, who used female warriors, the 'AMAZONS' during which Dahomey was not only defeated by the great Egba, but it lost more than three thousands soldiers. Gezo's son and successor, Gelele, swore to avenge his father's humiliation and defeat, made the second attempt with more soldiers in 1863, but lost about five thousand soldiers. It was a big lesson for them in their attempt to get hold of the rich areas of Yoruba hinterland. I say to Obasanjo and Ajibola, that history owes these victories not to the Egba, but collective efforts of Egba, including Owu.

What befell Owu was the same thing that happened to Ijaye under Kurunmi who was the Aare Ona Kakanfo (ARMY CHIEF) of Oyo. He tried to undermine the power of the Alafin, but met his waterloo in the hands of Ibadan warriors led by Bashorun Ogunmola. Ijaye was destroyed and many of them found their way to Abeokuta like the Owus. The Owus are scattered people trying to lay claim to homeland through settlement.

From the above, it is obvious that both Obasanjo and Ajibola are ahistorical. They can never earn my respect due to their despicable role in the history of modern Nigeria. Obasanjo had the opportunity of governing Nigeria twice- rare in history, but there is nothing to show for it other than RUINS AND RUINS. While Ajibola is a well-known lawyer and judge, his immediate record in Nigeria is that of military apologist, who supported and continue to support anti-people policies. My advice to them is to seek historical knowledge and stop suffering from 'MOUTH DISEASE' The Egbas will continue to maintain a pride position in the political, as well as the socio-cultural structure of Nigeria, despite some so-called elite who are always fanning the embers of disruption and distortion of the peaceful co-existence of our people. It is the dream of my generation to create that structural greatness not only for Egba people, but also for the whole of Ogun state. Take note we are on our way and what is to be done is driving goal.

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