The History of Ibadan

Oyo-State

Ibadan came into existence in 1829. According to local historians, Lagelu, the Jagun (commander-in-chief) of Ife and Yoruba’s generalissimo, left Ile Ife with a handful of people from Ife, Oyo and Ijebu to found a new city, Eba Odan, which literally means ‘between the forest and plains.’ According to HRH Sir Isaac Babalola Akinyele, the late Olubadan (king) of Ibadan (Olu Ibadan means Lord of Ibadan), in his authoritative book on the history of Ibadan, Iwe Itan Ibadan, printed in 1911, the first city was destroyed due to an incident at an Egungun (masquerade) festival when an Egungun was accidentally disrobed and derisively mocked by women and children in an open marketplace full of people. In Yorubaland, it was an abomination for women to look an Egungun in the eye because the Egunguns were considered to be the dead forefathers who returned to the earth each year to bless their progeny. When the news reached Sango, the then Alaafin of Oyo, he commanded that Eba Odan be destroyed for committing such abominable act.

Lagelu was by now an old, frail man; he could not stop the destruction of his city, but he and some of his people survived the attack and fled to a nearby hill for sanctuary. On the hill they survived by eating oro fruit and snails; later, they cultivated the land and made corn and millets into pap meals known as oori or eko, which they ate with roasted snails. They improvised a bit by using the snail shells to drink the liquefied eko. Ultimately, Lagelu and his people came down from the hill and founded another city called Eba’dan.
The new city instantly grew prosperous and became a commercial nerve centre. Shortly afterwards, Lagelu died, leaving behind a politically savvy people and a very stable community. The newly enthroned Olubadan made a friendly gesture to the Olowu of Owu by allowing Olowu to marry his only daughter, Nkan. Coming from a war campaign one day, the raging Odo Oba (River Oba) would not allow Olowu and his army to cross until a human sacrifice was performed to appease the angry river. The chosen sacrifice was Nkan. The Olubadan was infuriated at hearing of Nkan’s death; he sent an emissary to inform the Alafin of Oyo. Yoruba kings and rulers such as Alake of Egba, Agura of Gbagura, Ooni of Ife, Awujale of Ijebu. Then the Olubadan sent his army to attack the powerful Olowu of Owu and defeated him. The Olowu committed suicide to escape being captured by the Ibadan army. The battle shattered the great Owu kingdom into pieces till today. Some of it remains in the mother town which is the present Orile-Owu in Osun State, while others are in Ogun State, known as Owu Abeokuta and etc.
A part of Ibadan was historically an Egba town. The Egba occupants were forced to leave the town and moved to present-day Abeokuta under the leadership of Sodeke as result of their disloyalty. Ibadan grew into an impressive and sprawling urban center so much that by the end of 1829, Ibadan dominated the Yorùbá region militarily, politically and economically. The military sanctuary expanded even further when refugees began arriving in large numbers from northern Oyo following raids by Fulani warriors. After losing the northern portion of their region to the marauding Fulanis, many Oyo indigenes retreated deeper into the Ibadan environs.
The Fulani Caliphate attempted to expand further into the southern region of modern-day Nigeria, but was decisively defeated by the armies of Ibadan in 1840.

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