Ijebu people

Ijebu

Ijebu

The Ijebu people are an ethnic subtribal group hailing from Nigeria. They are a part of the broader Yoruba people which are native to south-central Yorubaland, located in the southwest of the country. The Ijebu people speak the Ijebu language, a sub-dialect of the Yoruba language.

 

Description

The Ijebu share boundaries on the north with the Ibadan, on the west with the Egba and on the east with the Ilaje, all of which are other subgroups of the Yoruba. The Ijebus are the most populous of all the Yoruba groups and were allegedly the first southwest Nigerian tribe to establish relations with the Europeans in the 14th century. The Ijebus, though split into various divisions (including Ijebu Ode, Ijebu Igbo, Ijebu Imushin, Ijebu Ife, Ijebu Ososa and Ijebu Remo), see themselves as united under the leadership and authority of the monarchical Awujale, who is seated in Ijebu Ode. The Ijebu people are known for the trade and production of cassava flakes (popularly known as Garri).

The Ijebu territory is bounded in the North by Ibadan, in the East by Ondo, Okitipupa and the West by Egbaland. The Southern fringe is open to the sea with the coastlines of Epe, Ejinrin and Ikorodu. Despite the political division which has these three towns in Lagos while the main part of Ijebuland remains in Ogun State, the people have always regarded themselves as one entity even when the immigration legends which have often been cited point in different directions. The Ijebu nation consisted of 5 divisions: Ijebu-Ife, Ijebu-Igbo, Ijebu-Ode, Ijebu-Ososa and Ijebu-Remo.
The Ijebu people are identified with four types of oriki ({Ijebu}, a very important oral poetic genre among the Yoruba people of Southwestern Nigeria): Apeja (oriki soki or name version), Orufi (oriki) ulu praises of towns, Orufi gbajumo (praises of distinguished personalities), Orufi orisa (praises of gods) and Orufi Oba (praises of obas). The orufi establishes that the Ijebu people are a veritable link in the relations of the Yoruba people and the world.
The name “Ijebu” was derived from the expression: “Ije-ibu” (food of the deep). The Ijebus themselves claim to have descended from “Oba-nita,” thus, referring to themselves as “Ogetiele, eru Obanita” (that is, “Ogetiele, servants of Obanita”).

However, the people, unlike other Yoruba groups seems to have different migration legends. One school of thought tend to link the Ijebu with the biblical Jebusites and Noah (hence Omoluwabi -- omo ti Noah bi -- the children of Noah), the other legend also trace the origin of Yoruba people, and by implication, the Ijebu to Mecca where Oduduwa, the legendary ancestor of the Yoruba, was said to be the son of King Lamurudu. Oduduwa, according to the legend, had to be expelled from Mecca when he resorted to idolatry. With the third school of thought, the Ijebu traditional historians tend to stick to the migration legend that the people migrated to their present territory from a region of Sudan called Waddai which means that the Ijebu had a parallel migration wave just like other Yoruba who believe they came to their present abode via Oduduwa. That claim seems to be corroborated by a publication by one Haile Mariam which states that "the most powerful people that the Negede Orit (ancient Ethiopian immigrants into Africa) met in East Africa were the Jebus." Their King was claimed to be so influential that he appointed the governors of Yemen. If that king was the same Olu-Iwa, the legendary first Ruler of Ijebuland, we do not know.

Whatever be the case, most of Africans were once settled in Mesopotamia and they all left to Egypt and, Ethiopia Sudan (Kush/Meroe). These place was the convergence point of most African ethnic groups before their dispersion or migration to their current settlements.

Ijebu people founded an ancient city Ijebu-Ode which archaeological evidence has proved to be in existence from A.D. 900.  By the 15th century, Ijebu was a highly organized and powerful nation, and defended itself against enemies.  Ijebu Empire was second to Oyo’s empire in the 15th century.
There was already reference to it in the 16th century by Pereira, who noted that “twelve or thirteen leagues up this river [the Lagos lagoon] is a very large city called Geebuu, surrounded by a great moat. The ruler of this country in our time is called Agusale [Awujale], and the trade is mainly in slaves ...but there is some ivory” (Pereira trans. Kimble, 1937: 123). By the 18th century, statements about the coastal trade of the Ijebu placed greater emphasis on the traffic in craft products. John Barbot (1732: 354), for instance, noted it as a place “where good fine cloths are made and sold by the natives to foreigners, who have a good vent for them at the Gold Coast…”

More than the other Yoruba people, the Ijebu people have had a long time relation or the first Yoruba people to have contact with the Europeans in the early 14th century. This is because the Ijebu are the erstwhile coastal traders/ middle-men for the European goods, variously acknowledged by historians (Ajayi & Espie 1965), and as further proved by Biobaku (1972) ...Until the nineteenth century, European activities were restricted to the coast, and the only Yoruba states of which Europeans had any first-hand knowledge were Ijebu and, later, Lagos.
Iyonro is a sub-quarter of Uwade in Ijebu-0de. Odusino (2004: 10) says that Iyonro was the home of the first set of Ijebu people who learnt gold-smithing from Europeans. It was these Ijebu people who in turn taught the trade to others whence it got diffused to the other Yoruba people and other Nigerians.

Ijebu as a prime brass importing kingdom highlights the early importance of metalworking in Ijebuland.  They were the first set of people to manufactured gears of wars in history of Nigeria.  The Ijebu are the first Yoruba to have invented money made from cowrie shells called “OWO EYO”, which was accepted throughout the kingdoms of Yoruba land until the European culprits came and destroy it.  After that they made legal tender coins called “PANDORA” made from silver materials, which were acceptable throughout Africa and Europe.  These coins were popularly known as “OWO IJEBU” in Yoruba language.

The Ijebu are rainforest belt people and therefore, the people are agrarian and predominantly farmers. They also engage in vocations like lumbering, weaving carving, printing, dyeing, fishing, schooling and other modern days educational services. According to common Yoruba sayings, no known profession could be mentioned without the presence of an Ijebu man, as an average Ijebu man engages in any trading activity just to make money. Being a people with early access to western education next to their Egba neighbour, (Ayandele 1982:1-25), the Ijebu people also do combine western education with commerce and trading which takes them to far distances. The geographical positioning of the Ijebu as a Yoruba people living very close to the coast put them at a vantage position of coming across the Europeans on the latter’s arrival on the African soil in the early 19th century, thus establishing the relations between them.

Ijebu celebrates a number of festivals including the annual Ojude Oba festival in Ijebu Ode, Ijebu Ode local government area of Ogun State. This particular festival is an annual occasion where the ancestral lineage of the first converted Muslims of the Ijebu people pay homage to their King, the Awujale, for allowing their ancestors practise Islam. It takes place on the third day of Eid-el-Kabir, displaying the rich cultural heritage of the Ijebu people, and attracting tourists from across the globe and Ijebu indigenes in the diaspora. The festival witnessed Ijebu sons and daughters including the Baloguns, age-groups (Regberegbes), societies and various groups paying homage to the Awujale and Paramount ruler of Ijebuland, Oba (Dr.) Sikiru Kayode Adetona, Ogbagba II, at his newly constructed edifice directly opposite his palace.

 

Geography and Climate

The Ijebuland is bounded on the North by Ibadanland, on the East by Ondoland, on the West by Egbaland and on the South by the lagoon. Oduw[bi (2004:1-3) says the Ijebu territory, in pre-colonial times, constituted a single kingdom under the Awujale, who was their ruler and the titular ruler of Ijebu -Ode, the capital of the kingdom with a land area of approximately 8,130 km (3139 square miles). The Ijebu territory covers the eastern section of both the Ogun and Lagos States of modern Nigeria. The Ogun State section is the larger of the two and is made up of about 6,360 Km2 (2,456 square miles) (Oduw [bi 2004:1-2). In terms of present day local government arrangement, the Ijebu section of Ogun State comprises nine local government areas: Ijebu –East (Ogbere) Ijebu -North (Ijebu - Igbo), Ijebu North –East (Atan) Ijebu -Ode (Ijebu -Ode), Ikcnne (Ikenne), Odogbolu (Odogbolu), Ogun Waterside (Abigi), Remo-North (Isara) and Sagamu (Sagamu). The Ijebu -speaking local government areas in Lagos State are Epe (Epe), Ibeju-Lekki (Akodo), and Ikorodu (Ikorodu). The Local Government areas of Ikenne, Remo-North and Sagamu in Ogun State and Ikorodu in Lagos State are the Ijebu -Remo (Remo) parts of Ijebuland.

Located some 7oN latitude, Ijebu-Ode lies squarely within the tropical lowland rain forest region. The natural vegetation consists of a great variety of species arranged in a complex vertical structure with an emergent layer of large trees (up to 60 meters high) including mahogany (Khaya entandrophragma), obeche (Triplochiton), afara (Terminalia), iroko (Chlorophora), african walnut (Lovoa trichilioides), and ekki (Lophira alata) which form the basis of the major timber industry in the vicinity of the city. The forest structure protects the fragile soils from erosion in the high rainfall regime of the region. Traditional uses of the forest essentially maintain this protective function, by permitting long fallow periods and using mixed cultivation practices in which trees are allowed to remain. Increasing population densities, however, have caused the shortening of fallow periods and are leading to problems of soil erosion in parts of the region (NEST, 1991: 146).

The most significant ecological factor in the city region is, however, the deep, ferralitic soils characterized by friable consistency, low silt content, low base exchange capacity, low pH and generally low content of plant nutrient. Consequently, the region has not been very successful in cocoa production or in cultivation of yams (other than water yam). In traditional terms, therefore, Ijebu-Ode is not situated in a major agriculturally rich region. Kola nut (Cola nitida) is grown in parts of the region and the secondary regrowth of oil palms provide very valuable products (palm oil and palm kernels) for export and local commerce.

The introduction of cassava (Manihot escutenca) in the 16th century from South America provided the region with a crop whose productivity is remarkable on sandy, sandy loamy, and even exhausted soils unsuitable for other crops.

 

Language

Ijebu people speak a distinct Yoruba dialect that is akin to both Central Yoruba (CY) and South-East Yoruba (SEY) dialects. Central Yoruba (CY) dialect is spoken in Igbomina, Yagba, Ilésà, Ifẹ, Ekiti, Akurẹ, Ẹfọn, and Ijẹbu areas, whilst South-East Yoruba (SEY) dialect is also Okitipupa, Ilaje, Ondo, Ọwọ, Ikarẹ, Ṣagamu, and parts of Ijẹbu.

The Ijebus are found in large concentration in Epe, Ikorodu and Ibeju-Lekki, apart from those who have long settled in Lagos Island especially in the area of Idumagbo and Ebute Ero. Traditions of the origin of the group link them with Ijebu-Ode and Iremo quarters in Ile-Ife. Most of the Ijebu Village settlements in Lagos state were established during the era of the trans-Atlantic slave trade especially in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.

Central Yoruba forms a transitional area in that the lexicon has much in common with NWY, whereas it shares many ethnographical features with SEY. Its vowel system is the least innovating (most stable) of the three dialect groups, having retained nine oral-vowel contrasts and six or seven nasal vowels, and an extensive vowel harmony system.

South-East Yoruba was probably associated with the expansion of the Benin Empire after c. 1450 AD. In contrast to NWY, lineage and descent are largely multilineal and cognatic, and the division of titles into war and civil is unknown. Linguistically, SEY has retained the /gh/ and /gw/ contrast, while it has lowered the nasal vowels /ịn/ and /ụn/ to /ẹn/ and /ọn/, respectively. SEY has collapsed the second and third person plural pronominal forms; thus, àn án wá can mean either 'you (pl.) came' or 'they came' in SEY dialects, whereas NWY for example has ẹ wá 'you (pl.) came' and wọ́n wá 'they came', respectively. The emergence of a plural of respect may have prevented coalescence of the two in NWY dialects.

 

History

There are immigration legends which tend to link the Ijebu with the biblical Jebusites and Noah (hence Omoluwabi -- omo ti Noah bi -- the children of Noah) but these are farfetched. Other immigration legends trace the origin of Yoruba people, and by implication, the Ijebu to Mecca where Oduduwa, the legendary ancestor of the Yoruba, was said to be the son of King Lamurudu. Oduduwa, according to the legend, had to be expelled from Mecca when he resorted to idolatry. This is another unacceptable story in that it implied that the Yoruba must have come into existence as a group after faithful Muslims expelled Oduduwa some 1,500 years ago.

Ijebu traditional historians tend to stick to the migration legend that the people migrated to their present territory from a region of Sudan called Waddai which means that the Ijebu had a parallel migration wave just like other Yoruba who believe they came to their present abode via Oduduwa. That claim seems to be corroborated by a publication by one Haile Mariam which states that "the most powerful people that the Negede Orit (ancient Ethiopian immigrants into Africa) met in East Africa were the Jebus." Their King was claimed to be so influential that he appointed the governors of Yemen. If that king was the same Olu-Iwa, the legendary first Ruler of Ijebuland, we do not know.

There is a lot of evidence in support of the fact that the Ijebus migrated into Nigeria from Sudan. The most obvious is the Sudanese tribal mark which, though varied, is duplicated all over Yorubaland. In particular, the three vertical marks on both cheeks are the national marks in Ijebu. Moreover, in the border between South Sudan and Ethiopia, the original language which Arabic language has superseded is very similar to Ijebu dialect. Names of people such as Saba, Esiwu, Meleki (corruption of Menelik) and many others are still common in Ijebu and the South of Sudan.

A kind of flute which was formerly used during the coronation ceremony of the Awujale is still used in Ethiopia and South of Sudan. In the second place, the passage quoted from 'Ethiopian History' by Haile Mariam at the beginning of this essay shows that Negede Orit which entered Ethiopia several centuries before King Solomon and the famous Makida, Queen of Sheba (about 900 B.C.) met the Ijebus on the east Coast of Southern Sudan.

The ancestors of the Ijebus who now inhabit Ijebu-Ode and districts came into Nigeria from the ancient Kingdom of Owodaiye of Ethiopia which came to an end as a result of Arab supremacy in Middle East and the Sudan where Owodaiye was situated. The Kingdom of Owodaiye was bounded in the North by Nubia; in the East by Tigre and the Kingdom of Axum; in the West there was no clear boundary, while along its South-Eastern border, it was bounded by the land of Punt. With these people the Ijebus share their culture and religion. With the Tigrians and ancient Axumites the Ijebus share their tribal marks which are made up of three vertical marks on the cheeks while with the Egyptians, the Nubians and Puntite people, the Ijebu share many of their funeral rites, the Agemo cult and the Erikiran.

The Yorubas in Nubia were the nearest people to the Ijebus in Owodaiye. Even the Ijebus differ from the Yoruba in many respects. For example, while the main Yoruba group practice circumcision on both male and female members of the family, the Ijebus never practice it on the female members; the Yorubas used to bore the lower part of the ear in both male and female while the male never bore in Ijebu.

The first major wave of Sudanese that entered Nigeria was led by Iwase who came to Ife several centuries before the major Sudanese immigrations under Oduduwa and Olu-Iwa. The Iwase group of immigrants came during the reign of Esumare of Ife Erinrin. The next groups of Sudanese immigrants were the Ijebus and the kindred peoples under Olu-Iwa, who entered the country at about the same time as the Yoruba under Oduduwa. There are many reasons to believe that they arrived before the main Yoruba group. The most important reason was stated in a Yoruba tradition that when Oduduwa was alive, he became partially blind and went to consult Agbon-niregun, an Ife Priest, with a view to finding out what he must apply to his eyes to regain his sight. Agbonniregun recommended brine and so Oduduwa had to send one of his sons, Owa Obokun, to the sea to bring him sea water.

The latter wandered for many years in vain until he came to the King of Ijebu for help. This king sent a messenger to guide him to the sea and on Obokun's return to Ijebu, the King of the ljebus (Lewu Legusen) gave Obokun medicines for Oduduwa's eyes. And when Oduduwa applied the brine and the medicine, he regained his sight. The above tradition shows that the ljebus were in Nigeria before the main Yoruba stock because the king of Ijebu referred to was the fifth Awujale. In appreciation of this service, Oduduwa determined to visit the King of Ijebu, but he died about fifteen miles east of Ijebu-Ode. His followers settled down at Idofe, a town which has now become extinct.

The Ijebu legend tracing their origin to Waddai must have brought the known rivalry between them and other Yoruba people. If, indeed, Lamurudu and Oduduwa descended from Omu, the younger brother of Olu-Iwa, there is some sense in the claim that the Ijebus are senior to other Yorubas and cannot, therefore, accept the junior position that put them under the Ooni of Ife or Alafin of Oyo.

The bulk of Yoruba people regard the ljebus as peripheral Yoruba while the ljebus themselves do not hide the fact that the cohesion between them and others who call themselves central Yoruba has been the result of cultural and political interaction over the centuries. Time itself has taken care of these legends as the various groups of people in Western Nigeria have come to accept a common Nationality as Yoruba, be they Ekiti, Ijesha, Egba, Ondo, Ijebu, etc.. Even among the Ijebus, there are conflicting claims to the source of origin depending on the political intention of those concerned.

Irrespective of these claims, the Ijebus are united under the leadership of the Awujale of Ijebuland and this unity is the strength of the people as exhibited by their achievements in the past 40 years of the reign of Oba Sikiru Adetona, Ogbagba II.

 

Economy

A study of the city in 1998 (Odugbemi & Oyesiku, 1998) found that less than 20 per cent of the population are wage-earners in the public or private sector; over 60 per cent are engaged in petty trading whilst some 8 per cent are subsistence farmers, whilst the remaining operate in the informal sector as self-employed artisans and providers of a wide variety of services. There are a few small- and medium scale industries in the city and its environs mainly concerned with sawn timber milling, furniture-making, brewing and fruit-juice production and a pharmaceutical industrial establishment. Informal sector activities are usually associated with low productivity and low incomes, and 70 per cent of the household heads earned less than N8,000 (US$80.00) per annum whilst only 10 per cent earned above N16,000 (US$160.00) per annum. Consequently, without the remittances from sons and daughters abroad, 90 per cent of the people of Ijebu-Ode lived below the international extreme poverty line of US$1.00 per day.

Source: Kwekudee-tripdownmemorylane.blogspot.com