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. The Owus, moved on from Abeokuta to settle more families in new areas through conquest. Akindele Gbalefa, a great warrior and General of the Egba-Owu Joint Forces led his people to acquire new land.

    Gbalefa Peninsular originally before 1836 belonged to the people of Ilobi and Odo Odo. Between 1836 and 1839, the egba army under the leadership of Akindele Gbalefa waged war against the Ilobis who were then occupiers and owners of a portion of the peninsular. At the end of the war the Ilobis were sacked and driven away from their own land – a portion in the peninsular. Consequently, this land came under the control and possession of the Egbas.

    Similarly, the Egba Army under the leadership of Gbalefa waged war against Ado Odo and the land of the Ado Odos abutting the land of the Ilobis accrued to the Egba warrior as spoil of war. Then Egbas matched forward to encircle Ado Odo. A delegation led by Henry Townsend approached the Egba warriors and effected settlement. But the land of the Ado Odos that has fallen to the control and possession of the Egbas remained in the peninsular.

    This is the circumstance in which Henry Townsend named the land acquired from the Ilobis and the Ado Odos as Gbalefa Peninsular (see National Archive).

    The Aworis of Ota were the closest neighbours of the Egbas in the Gbalefa peninsular and so some portion of the land in the peninsular was allocated to them for solely farming purposes. They were not allowed to sell any portion and must obtain permission to build houses on the land. Gbalefa and his descendants and the Egba community have since 1843 been in undisturbed possession of the Gbalefa peninsular up until this day, exercising absolute ownership thereon, allocation portions of the area to various Egba community. The descendants of Gbalefa and the various members of Egba community settled on Gbalefa peninsular and founded many villages, the headquarters of which is Iju.

    During the colonial administration and under the Egba native authority, the area called Gbalefa peninsular was with Ota district, which was in itself under Egba native Administration with seat of the administration at Abeokuta. At no time in history did the Aworis have any possession in the peninsular.

    1. What a falseful story, no wonder the aworis say “afikoti yoju egba, afi ponpondo yoju ketu” and this has never been disputed by any egba man.

  2. It is an aberration to say ado odo was conquered in any war……all wars fought by ado odo were either settled or won……AMUWA AGBE WA O!!!! Ado the only awori kingdom that was never conquered…..

    We wish to reiterate that at no time did our ancestors fight any war against the Owu people in the nineteenth century. It is on record that the “pre-emptive strike “against the Awori, Egbado corridors in 1830s started with the unprovoked aggression and killing of Olu Agunloye and thereafter spread to other areas. See S.B. Biobaku(1957).The Egba and Their Neighbors(London University Press).We boldly say that the Missionaries accounts of Henry Townsend, Bishop Ajayi Crowther, Asiwaju and Biobaku suggest that the Egba military incursions which took place at the battle of Imojulu was provoked by the desperation of Egba and Dahomean forces to inherit the ruins of the collapsed Oyo empire due to weakened and successful Fulani raids of 1837 that sacked Alafin of Oyo from Oyo Ile to its present site Ago-Oja,Oyo.It was written and affirmed in a note by Venn to Ajayi Crowther dated 23rd of August 1853 who wrote on Egba-Ado military warfare as follows:
    ? Mr. Townsend and myself went to the Egba war camp against Ado the latter part of the month to mediate between them as they had been at war between them since last November which cost them loss of many lives on both sides to very little or no advantage to either party, the besieged Ado suffered more severely the first four months from starvation in consequence of which many poor people and children died, till supplied with provisions from Porto Novo, but the warriors maintained their grounds within their walls and made a bold resistance. I am thankful to say we have succeeded in removing the Egba away from the camp upon the conditions that Ados would not molest travellers to and from Badagry nor any of the small towns in that neighbourhood in league with the Egbas, which the Ados promised to observe. No sooner was this concluded that the Egbas set fire to their camp and the whole army about 3000 or 4000 moved homeward on Saturday the 30th of July but we did not till Monday the 1st when we struck our tent and planted three trees on the spot to perpetuate memory of the unexampled occurrences in this part of West Africa. See the Missionaries’ Papers.
    Still on the echoes of Missionaries with Ado chiefs was reported in the Quarterly Journal of 27th July, 1853 that the:
    ? Arrival at the camp where everyone was very glad to see us to gain confidence of Ado who knew very little of a disinterested European. Mr Townsend proposed our tent should be pitched between Ado walls and Egba camp to show we did not side with the other. Our messengers went into might be able to restate them more minutely to their chiefs. The Ados assembled as before but with more confidence in us as friends,and their arms being ordered to be laid aside which they did. With Ado messenger came one from the King of Port Novo with the King’s staff and another staff belonging to the so called King of Ado both which he held in a cloth with the greatest respect to which we all bowed with due honour as to a sovereign. See the Missionaries’ papers.
    On July 28th of 1853:
    ? We sent messenger to tell the chief of Ado, we were coming to them after breakfast having heard all the grievances of the Egbas, we entered the walls of Ado to hear them also, in a short time, all were ready and about 500 men armed with muskets, bows, arrows etc. were presented sitting around us and their chief Mr. Townsend opened the subject by a short speech, two spokesmen stepped forward, one supporting the other and related a long and old story of the wrongs the Egba had done as far as the time of Adele who was King of Lagos about 30 years back notwithstanding that they were glad to be reconciled, they were peaceful people and never troubled anybody. See the Missionaries’ Papers.
    A vivid appraisal of Egba Ado military confrontations was captured by Ajisafe, a foremost Egba historian in his book titled The History of Abeokuta (1924). He wrote on the first Egba-Ado war that “in 1845 the Egba people failing to capture Ado returned home. Chief Sodeke the leader of Egba people in Abeokuta had died (January 10, 1845) before the return of the army” –pp 48. On the second Egba-Ado military attacks, Ajisafe further noted at page 57 of the same text that:
    ? Having failed to capture Ado in 1845 the Ado people were still in the habit of pillaging and plundering the Egba on the way Badagry. The Egba people now determined to subdue it, early in 1853 they sent a strong force against them from here the Egba army sent a detachment of the Army to Lagos to assist King Akitoye in his contest with Kosoko his uncle. The Army at the walls of Ado had besieged it for some months when the Rev. Townsend went to Ado entered the town and effected a reconciliation between the parties. The Egba then returned home.
    S.B Biobaku (1957) in his book, The Egba and Their neighbours wrote that Ado “could not be hemmed” and “starved into surrender” as the “Egba wont to do”. Also, J.F Ade Ajayi and Crowther (eds) also noted that Ado is the “main obstacle to their power (that is Egba) in Southern Egbado and on their route to the sea through Badagry”. See Ade Ajayi and Crowther eds.
    We reiterate that at no time did Ado engage in any war with the Owus but with the Egba forces. His Royal Majesty Oba Gbadebo,the Alake of Egbaland, a man of peace further reveals in the Coronation souvenir dated 19th November 2005 at page 60 and this further reinforced our argument that Ado was never conquered by the Egba forces. In fact, the Owu as a sub-ethnic group was not known as a distinct player in the Ado-Egba-Dahomean warfare of the !9th century. Where lies the argument of Owu conquest story? We know that the Owu’s main thrust of argument in post Egba-Ado military warfare is on the purported “minutes of a meeting held at the Olota’s palace, Otta, on Wednesday, the 10th of April, 1935, with the Olota of Otta, his chiefs and representatives of Otta Baales in the District in connection with the publication on the issue of Akede Eko, No. 13, vol VII of Saturday March 30th 1935. Page 7, col 8” vis-à-vis the “Questions from Oke-Odan District: Things we want to know: Especially questions 1, 2, 3, 4 & 5 as ordered by the Resident Abeokuta Province”. See the Olota of Ota Palace Minutes of Meeting dated 10th April, 1935.
    We humbly seize this opportunity in reiterating that the above meeting which the Owu community is brandishing is a Kangaroo document purportedly made by the so-called Egba-Ota axis without any input from Ado kingdom.
    Nowhere, did the aforesaid document ever mention any representative of Ado kingdom as being in attendance nor did it refer to Owu as having conquered Ado kingdom as a prelude to a possible suzerainty of Olowu in Ado kingdom or elsewhere in Aworiland.
    The diktat called Egba-Ota document of 1935 breached the elementary principles of administrative law (1) nemo judex causa sua (that a man cannot be a judge in his own cause) and audi alterem partem (that a man is not condemned unheard).
    Admittedly, that the Egba-Ota communities were to decide on Ado’s fate, would it not have been proper for Ado representatives to be a party to the Olota’s palace purported meeting now being relied upon not even by the Egba but the Owu, who we say never featured throughout records as an entity that waged war against our ancestors?
    The coronation pamphlet on the Alake of Egbaland earlier mentioned reaffirms our stance that we have no traditional links with the Olowu and the territorial incursions on Adoland via Dodo axis is an invitation to chaos.
    We say boldly that the Awori people deserve peace and our peaceful co-existence is being turned into another thing by annexation and annihilation tendencies of the Olowu of Owu and his collaborators using state machinery as a shield.
    We say without iota of contradiction that the Egba-Ado military confrontations ended on 23rd August, 1853 and that the post-colonial gerrymandering which culminated in the so-called Gbalefa peninsula was contrived on fraudulent antics with the so-called colonial authorities.
    Are there not courts i.e. Supreme court verdicts which has rendered nugatory the purported expansionists contents of Gbalefa Peninsula which is purely a survey plan produced to gratify self-serving desire of the hegemonists claim of Owu adventurists?
    We hasten to submit that there are sprinkling settlements of Ado extractive origin that are co-inhabitants with Egbas and our brethren in Ota contrary to spurious claims that Ado has no stake on landed matters in Gbalefa axis.

  4. Where did you get your story from? The great Owu Kingdom was never deafeted , all thanks to the great walls of Owu kingdom…. The only reason why the owu’s are scartered is bcos they are born worriors and when people like Egba’s ask for help during war is a territory too much to ask for ? The Owu’s earned their territories fighting wars other people can’t fight alone… Funny you said Owu kingdom in osunstate was defeated, I begin to wonder why it still exist and remained a strong empire in Yoruba land. Owu people can be described as the FBI, CIA or the Nigerian Army bcos they clean up the mess other people make. I wonder what would have become of the Egba if Owu had not honnored their invitation ….. Let’s call a spade a spade… I am a proud Owu I don’t belong to Egba in any way, My heritage is Orile Owu in Osun State ….. We are here bcos we earned it… There is nothing anyone can do about that. Eyin omo olowu oduru , stop claiming egba claim the teritory you earned in egba that and only that belongs to us. What was the Egba’s looking at when ibadan came to egba and defeated Ijaye ? The major occupation of the egba’s was farming and trading as you’ve said but the occupation of the Owu’s was fighting … They are basically worriors. Stop reading stories on Google, go to the Ake palace and request for the orriginal story.. In it you will realise the true stories. Thanks


    2. Ijaye was not yet part of the egba’s as at the time ibadan attack them.
      Owu did not not fight any war/battle before they became Egba, they were given an invitation for resettlement after what oni of ife then pronounced that they should be utterly destroy.

    3. This Mr Ogunpola no sabi history. He is talking dust. Orile owu was defeated by the combined forces of Oyo, ife and ijebu. Infact, you shld know that in that war, the egbas fought on Owu side leading to the egba settlements esp ibadan being taken over by these victorious army.

  5. If ? were not defeated while was orile owu destroyed with no living soul we egbas had mercy on ? guys ??? accept ? in our land as foreighners wonderes

    1. Every body wondered to abeokuta . Egba also were also refugees in abeokuta after their homestead was destroyed and they only came to abeokuta as refugees four years before Owu. During the four yeas , egba were hiding under olumo and can not claim to own any land . Owu settled in abeokute after there were begged to stay , and as warrior tribe , they refused to hide under olumo , but settled facing the dahomeys( south west region of abeokuta ) allowing the egbas to come out of hiding and settled behind the owus

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