The Ijebu people of South-West, Nigeria

Contemporary Ogun state consists mainly three big sub-ethnic Yoruba groups; namely the Egba, Ijebu and the Egbado. Others include the Aworis and the Eguns who are located along the Nigerian International border with the Republic of Benin. We all belong to the Yoruba ethnic group of Nigeria’s South-west stock regardless of dialect differentials. The Ijebus occupy a lager physical portion of Ogun state than any other sub-ethnic Yoruba group. From a common state border with Ondo, the Ijebus of Waterside region, occupy Abigi and Oni. Others from Itele, Ijebu-Ife, Ijebu-Imushin to Ijebu-Ode are Ijebu descendants of varying patterns of historical migration from Wadai through Ile-Ife. The Ijebus of contemporary Ogun state share a common border with Lagos state at Omu; a town that lies at the southern end of Ijebu-Ode on the eastern border of Lagos state.

The Ijebus form a sizeable portion of the population of Lagos city and Lagos State in general. Aside from those who migrated to Lagos Island, Ebute-Metta and Yaba for commercial and economic purposes, the natives of Ikorodu and Epe are all Ijebu people. By May 1892 when the Imagbon War broke out between the British foreign invaders and Ijebu Kingdom, the Epe people of Lagos origin were suspected as ‘internal enemies’ who were capable of leaking security information to the colonial authorities in Lagos in exchange for some favours.
At this period, the Ijebu people had developed into an independent sovereign state, side by side with other pre-colonial Yoruba states. The defeat of sovereign Ijebu kingdom at Imagbon was the beginning of the decline of Ijebu people who became wholly and completely annexed with the Southern protectorate of Nigeria before the terminal amalgamation of 1914. Relatively proud, enlightened, smart, and confident of their ability and environment, the Ijebus had established themselves as mainly traders and middlemen between those who approached Lagos Island from the seas into the hinterland and those other African peoples and national societies that were land locked but wanted to reach the coastal area of Lagos.

The bold resistance of Ijebu warriors of the British colonial army, in their determined effort to enter and penetrate Ijebu kingdom in 1892, led to the decimation and excision of the kingdom, after the war, in order to conquer it permanently. Ikorodu town near Lagos, Ejinrin and Epe which were all parts of Ijebu kingdom were added to Lagos colony to constitute Lagos state. Today, Lagos state is over-crowded and the demographic pattern of people living on the Island of Lagos, Ebute-Metta, Yaba, Mushin, Surulere and in their recent physical extensions is different from those of others resident in Ikorodu, Epe and all townships which the Ijebus populate.

Therefore, it would be reasonable to suggest that the excised portion of Ijebu-land which was added to Lagos after Imagbon war of 1892 be returned to the old Ijebu kingdom for the purpose of creating a more viable Ijebu state. A good number of Nigerians today are ignorant of the cultural identity of the people of Ikorodu. People from other parts of the country see them as sub-urban Lagosians or Lagos Yorubas. They are technically correct. But no, the natives of Ikorodu, Epe, Mojoda, Ibonwon, Igboye and others along Epe route have naturally unalloyed and unambiguous identity as Ijebus of Lagos state today. It would be in natural order if they could be returned to join the rest of their people and become part of the dream Ijebu state. All the traditional Agemo priests that arrived Ijebu when Obanta came centuries ago, still pay their traditional homage and ritual observance to the Awujale till today.

The Ayangburen is traditionally one of the sons of the Awujale. The natives of Ikorodu are naturally attracted to Lagos city owing to its status as a cosmopolis of the Europeans who arrived West Africa with all the economic benefits and opportunities they had to offer. Lagos city was the first urban centre to which Nigerians of all ‘hew and cry’ tried to settle down and live in pursuit of new economic opportunities and exploit its colonial empowerment for better life. The proximity of Ikorodu town to Lagos Island by boat provided a natural access and advantage to the ijebus who approached Lagos for economic benefits and other social advancement. The gun-powder business monopoly by the Ijebus was a unique example.

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