One Of The Wives of Bale of Oshogbo & Awujale of Ijebu Kingdom

The Ijebus also known as Jebu or Geebu was a Yoruba kingdom in pre-colonial Nigeria settled in the fifteenth century. Oral history claims its ruling dynasty was founded by Obanta of Ile-Ife.

One of the most developed Kingdoms in the region with a complex and highly organized government. The capital city of Ijebu Ode is still where the Awujale’s palace is located. The Ijebus used the Osugbo also known as Ogboni (a council of free born men that acted as the Kingdom’s courts) to check and balance the Awujale’s powers.

The Osugbo were divided into six groups based on rank, the highest being the iwarefa, headed by the Oliwa and was the second most powerful figure in the nation. The Olisa who could be described as the mayor of Ijebu Ode was also a powerful figure.

Like many African societies, Ijebu was also divided into three age ranks and these groups each had their own leaders. The Kingdom is made up of several towns that stretches to parts of Lagos State and borders Ondo State. These towns includes Ijebu-Remo, Ijebu-Igbo, Ikorodu, Epe, Ijebu Waterside, Iwopin, Lekki in Lagos State, Ijebu-Imushin, Ijebu-Ife, Odogbolu and Ago-Iwoye.

The Ijebu Kingdom grew powerful in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries mainly due to its strategic location on the trade routes between Lagos and Ibadan. The kingdom imposed sharp limits on trade insisting that all trade through the region be conducted by Ijebu merchants. The monopoly brought great wealth to the kingdom, but also annoyed Europeans.

In 1892 the British attacked Ijebu in response to its barriers on trade successfully occupying the capital and burning down the meeting hall of the Osugbo. The British army employed Maxim guns, according to the soldier-adventurer Frederick Lugard. In defending himself against charges of excessive death rates in Uganda from his own use of the gun, he stated: “On the West Coast, in the ‘Jebu’ war, undertaken by Government, I have been told ‘several thousands’ were mowed down by the Maxim.”

British troops occupied the kingdom for several years and was eventually annexed to the colony of Southern Nigeria. The Ijebu kingdom was governed by a king and his group of elders, who usually were men of a higher status and of considerable influence.

The council governed the region and had representatives of further devolved councils who no longer had any power since the invasion of Lord Lugard although these councils continued to meet and advise the Obanta, their power however was largely ceremonial since the establishment of British Rule in their protectorate.

Image Credit: UK National Archives