HOW THE PRESENT ABEOKUTA WAS FOUNDED
Abeokuta, town, capital of Ogun state, southwestern Nigeria. It is situated on the east bank of the Ogun River, around a group of rocky outcroppings that rise above the surrounding wooded savanna. It lies on the main railway (1899) from Lagos, 48 miles (78 km) south, and on the older trunk road from Lagos to Ibadan; it also has road connections to Ilaro, Oke-Ogun, Shagamu, Iseyin, and Kétou (Benin).
After the fall of Owu, and the punishment inflicted upon some Egba towns for secretly befriending the beleaguered city, the camp at Idi Ogugun broke up, and the leading Ife and Ijebu generals returned home to their respective masters, but the rest of the allied armies with the Oyo refugees were invited by the Ijebus to Ipara, a town of Ijebu Remo.
Making this place their headquarters, these restless bands of marauders found occupation for their arms in conquering and subjugating several towns in Ijebu Remo under the Awujale of Ijebu Ode, Iperu, Ogere and Makun.
Pretext was soon found for waging war with the Egbas who were then living in small villages scattered all over the area between Ipara and Ibadan. Several expeditions were made from their base at Ipara, and Iporo, Eruwon, Oba, Itoko, Itesi, Imo, Ikereku, Itoku, etc., were taken.
After the dust settled, a band of marauders congregated at Idi Ogugun and Ipara. The marauders consisting of Oyos, Ifes, Ijebus, and some friendly Egbas, with Maye a bold and brave Ife chieftain as their leader. The friendly Egba chiefs who joined the marauders at Idi Ogugun and at Ipara, and now they were all living together at Ibadan.
The most influential among the Egba chiefs were were: —Lamodi, Apati, Ogunbona, Oso, Gbewiri, and Inakoju. Ogundipe, who afterwards became a notable chief at Abeokuta was as at then only a blacksmith and a private soldier.
Rivalry was so rife among these various tribes that altercations were frequent, and one led to a civil war. In a public meeting held at the Isale Ijebu quarter of the town, Lamodi an Egba chief shot Ege an influential Ife chief down dead with a pistol, and in the commotion, which ensued Lamodi himself was slain.
For fear of the Ifes avenging the death of Ege the Egbas withdrew in a body from Ibadan and encamped on the other side of the Ona river, about 3 or 4 miles distant. Here also they were ill at ease and after divination they sent for one Sodeke to be their leader, and they escaped to Abeokuta then a farm village of an Itoko man, and a resting place for traders to and from the Oke Ogun districts.
Abeokuta means ‘under a rock’, signifying the protection which the Olumo Rock offered the Egbas during attacks. Since the discovery of Olumo Rock, no one has fallen from it. Not even once. Sodeke was at the head of this new colony until his death. This was about the year 1830. They were continually swelled by Egba refugees from all parts of the country and also by Egba slaves who had deserted their masters.
At Abeokuta the refugees kept together according to their family distinctions:
1. The Egba Agbeyin comprising Ake the chief town, Ijeun, Kemta, Imo, Igbore, etc. These were under the Alake as chief.
2. Egba Agura (or Gbagura) comprising Agura the chief town Ilugun, Ibadan, Ojoho, Ika, etc., under the Agura as chief.
3. Egba Oke Ona with Oko the chief town. Ikija, Ikereku, Idomapa, Odo, Podo, etc., under the Osile as chief.
Here also the Owus joined them, one common calamity throwing them together. It was some considerable time after that Ijaiye joined them, and so by degrees all the Egba townships about 153 became concentrated at Abeokuta, the new town comprising Ijemo Itoko and a few others who were already on the spot.
Until the death of Sodeke in 1844 the Egbas never spoke of having a king over them, Sodeke wielding supreme power in a very paternal way. Of external relations, very little (if any) existed, each of these families managed its own affairs, and there was no properly organized central government.
Even after the foundation of Abeokuta there were still some Egbas residing at Ibadan. Egba women also who were unable or unwilling to go with their husbands to the new settlement were taken as wives by the new colonists at Ibadan and they became the mothers of most of the children of the first generation of the new Ibadan.
From this it will be seen that the most common tale of the Egbas being driven from Ibadan by the Oyos is lacking in accuracy. Such then is the foundation of the present Abeokuta.
Abeokuta was a walled town, and relics of the old wall still exist. Notable buildings include the Ake (the residence of the Alake), Centenary Hall (1930), and several churches and mosques. Secondary schools and primary teachers’ colleges at Abeokuta are supplemented by the Federal University of Agriculture, which specializes in science, agriculture, and technology, and the Moshood Abiola Polytechnic.
The first church in Nigeria, St. Peter’s Anglican Church, is in Abeokuta.
The first Baptist Church in West Africa and the first local government in Nigeria (Abeokuta South) are in Abeokuta.
The first University in Nigeria should have been located in Abeokuta but due to infighting, it was established at Ibadan as the University of Ibadan in 1948.
The first secondary school in Nigeria was sited in Abeokuta before it was relocated to Lagos as CMS Grammar School due to unknown reasons.
The first hospital in Nigeria, Sacred Heart Hospital, is in Abeokuta. It is still functioning.
The first bridge in Nigeria (Sokori Bridge-1903) built by a Nigerian (Mr. John Adenekan) without European supervision is in Abeokuta.
The first Newspaper in Nigeria (Iwe Iroyin) was founded in Abeokuta in 1859.
The first president of the Nigeria Union of Teachers and the first woman to drive a car was from Abeokuta. They both married each other. They were also the first male and female admitted to Abeokuta Grammar School.
The first indigenous Chief Justice of Nigeria (Justice Adetokunbo Ademola) was from Abeokuta. He was the son of the longest reigning monarch (Alake) in Egbaland.
Okukenu Sagbua I, was the first Alake of Egbaland. He was enthroned on August 8, 1854. His descendant, Okukenu Sagbua IV is the current Alake of Egbaland.
Alake Gbadebo I, was the first monarch in Nigeria to visit England on a state visit. He spent 20 days at sea-May 5-25, 1904.
The first time a white man came to Abeokuta on January 4, 1843, everybody (both young and old) left their homes and market places to catch a glimpse of Henry Townsend, the white man.
During the American Civil War (1861-1865) which interrupted the U.S cotton trade to Europe, Abeokuta exported cotton to England.
The most influential woman in the history of Egbaland and the first Iyalode of Egbaland was Madam Tinubu. Tinubu square in Lagos and Ita Iyalode in Abeokuta are named after her. She died in 1887.
In 1893, the Egba United Government was recognized as an independent nation by Britain. She had her own laws. Many developments were made until 1914, when she was amalgamated to form Nigeria.
The Sokori Bridge was constructed in 1903 and Abeokuta Grammar School was founded on July 16, 1908.
Abeokuta has produced many outstanding persons in the nation: In Academics (Reverend Israel Oludotun Ransome-Kuti, Professor Saburi Biobaku), In Accountancy (Akintola Williams, Folorunso Oke), In Law (Justice Adetokunbo Ademola – first indigenous Chief Justice of Nigeria, Olumuyiwa Jibowu, George Sodehinde Sowemimo, S. O. Lambo, Chief F.R.A. Williams, Prince Bola Ajibola), In Medicine (Moses Majekodunmi, Professor Thomas Lambo, Koye Ransome – Kuti), In Military (Olusegun Obasanjo, Oluwole Rotimi, Enitan Ransome-Kuti), In Civil Service (Simeon Adebo), In Literature (Ajisafe, J.F Odunjo, Amos Tutuola, Wole Soyinka – of Egba mother), In Music (Josiah J. Ransome-Kuti, Fela Ransome-Kuti, Femi Ransome-Kuti, Fela Sowande, Ebenezer Obey, Sina Peters, Adeola Akinsanya, Prince Adekunle, Ayinla Omowura), In Journalism (Olusegun Osoba, Reuben Abati), In Women Rights and Entrepreneur (Iyalode Tinubu, Eniola Soyinka, Elizabeth Adekogbe, Funmilayo Ransome-Kuti and Iyalode Bisi Tejuoso), In Politics (Olusegun Obasanjo, Ernest Sonekan, M.K.O. Abiola, Moses Majekodunmi, Dimeji Bankole, Ayotunde Rosiji, Olusegun Osoba, Ibikunle Amosun) and others countless to mention.
In 1925, Josiah Jesse Ransome-Kuti (1855-1930) Fela’s grandfather, became the first Nigerian to release a record album after he recorded several Yoruba language hymns in gramophone through Zonophone Records.
The most enlightened clan among the Yoruba tribe are the Egbas. Her chiefs had been interacting with the Queen of England as far back as 1868 which continued till a century later. English and Egba monarchs did exchange gifts.
The only South Westerners ever to rule Nigeria are from Abeokuta (Olusegun Obasanjo and Ernest Shonekan).
It is widely believed that Egba women are more independent than any other Yoruba tribe in the country e.g Eniola Soyinka, Elizabeth Adekogbe and Funmilayo Ransome-Kuti.
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