The Egbas, the Owus, and the Dahomeans – African History

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Egba Kingdom

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. 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 origina 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.

where is Owu today? They became a scattered people and Sodeke invited some remnants Owu to settle with the original Egbas in 1834 at Abeokuta.

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.


Egba/Dahomey wars

The Egba and Dahomey war is also interrelated with this because the two (Obansanjo and Ajibola) 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. These victories were due to the collective efforts of Egba, including Owu.

A bi e’gbo pe won ji olumo Egba ri ni- ewo orisa- Literally meaning that the rock that binds the Egbas can never be stolen due to its natural nature which is an abomination to the gods.


From an Egba man living in the Oke Ona section of Egbaland in Abeokuta:

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22 thoughts on “The Egbas, the Owus, and the Dahomeans – African History”

  1. NOTICE:The egba’s never made any successful victory against ibadan warriors who chase them far into outskirts of ijebu giving them no choice but to hide in the OLUMO ROCK to prevent MORE attack….

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