History of Egba
HRM OBA ADEDOTUN AREMU GBADEBO. CFR
Alake and Paramount Ruler of Egbaland
I. WHO ARE THE EGBAS?
The Egbas are a major sub-tribe of the Yoruba who inhabit south western part of Nigeria. They are the biggest of the four ethnics groups within ogun state, one of the 36 states making up the federal republic of Nigeria.
The Egbas share boundaries with the lagosians of Lagos state, the Ibadans and Ibarapas of Oyo state and the benoise of the republic of Benin.
For occupation they are largely farmers and traders, while in religion, they follow Islam and Christianity, with a small number still adhering to African traditional religion. The Egbas are culturally rich as depicted in their mode of dressing, food, festivals, and other ceremonies.
The Egbas are warlike people once occupying a vast territory, known as egbas, forest, extending eastwards to awe now in Oyo state and westward to the edge of Lagos lagoon. They once came under Oyo empire but soon librated themselves through a cooperative strategy schemed by Lisabi. however in the early nineteen century they suffered a crushing defeat in the hand of up and coming Ibadan forces who drove them out of their lands, and assassinated their commander in chief , Balogun Lamodi. The Egba command then refuge in 1830 ‘’beneath the rock’’ named OLUMO. This known as Abeokuta was located on the farmland of Aaagba, an itoko farmer.
The new settlement grew rapidly into a well-secured town which gave the Egbas sufficient confidence to extend an invitation to the fleeing own squad, heading for Egbado country or Badagry in search of safety, to stay with the Egbas in Abeokuta.
The enlarged Egbas community soon entrenched itself in the, subduing the neighbouring Egbado communities who had attempted to join the Dahomeans to dislodge the Egbas . The pseudo allies were routed, and the egbas became secured in Abeokuta. Nor could the Ijebus, Oyos and Ibadans henceforth disturb the Egba settlement.
A significant development which occurred about this time in the history of the Egbas was return of some Egbas element bringing back with them superiors know-how in every sphere of life.
Coincidentally too, Christianity made its advent into Nigeria through Abeokuta in 1842, and with it came western education which was to transform the life of the people. The egbas thus began to benefits from the enlightenments which came with the early interaction with the British, and placed the community above all others in the sub-region.
II. THE INDEPENDENT EGBA STATE
The wisest decision taken by the Egbas in their early days at Abeokuta was the abolition of the numerous city kingdom, fusing them into one solid egbas state. The war chiefs who had led the Egbas into Abeokuta under the authority of Seriki Sodeke, established a strong central administration over the town of its environs. So impressed were the British colonialist with the level of egba civilization that they exclude the egbas from the British subjugation, when the rest of Nigerian came under the protection and rule of her majesty government.
The British thus recognised the independent status of the egbas which earned the territory the nomenclature of egbaland, in contradiction of the rest of Nigeria which become known as the protectorate of northern and southern Nigeria.
Indeed in 1893, the British concluded a treaty with the Egbas underlined the autonomy of the federated Egba kingdom. In 1898 were to consolidate their enviable status with an All -Egba cabinet made up of the ALAKE of egba land as president at the head of the cabinet ministers, comprising the sectional Obas; the Osile of Oke Ona, the Agura of Gbagura and the Olowu of Owu and the top traditional muslims and Christians general title chiefs as ministers with assigned portfolios. The Egbas ogboni house at itoku served as senate exercising legislative powers and judicial powers as well over serious crimes like treasons. Less serious offences and civil disputes were handled by the royal court at Idi ere in ake palace all decisions confirmed by the Alake were final hence the saying:Ejo ku s’Ake.
Each of the townships numbering 143 or so administered its own affairs, thus enjoying relative autonomy Vis a Vis the central administration at Alake. Between the central administration and the township administration stood the sectional administration presided over by each Obas i.e. the Osile of Oke Ona, the Agura of Gbagura, and the Olowu of Owu. In the exercise of their respective powers, both the townships and the section were subject to the overall authority of Alake- in council. Here is one attribute of the Alake’s paramountcy over all other the obas of Egbaland.
Egba indigenous federalism worked perfectly and helped to promote peace unity and stability. An important feature of this federalism which as endured till today is the sharing formula adopted by the Egbas to the allocation of political offices distribution of assets, and other benefits as well as bearing of burdens . thus Egba Alake being bigger than the other 3 sections put together will take 50% while the remaining 50 % would be divided into three parts to be taken equally by Egba Oke ona, Gbagura , Owu, .
Such was the aura of the unity and stability carried by the egbas in the twilight of the nineteen century and extended to the early twentieth, that their prestige and reputation resounded across the seas. . A famous English author wrote a book about the time which he approximately titled “sunrise within the tropics” describing life and the level of sophistication of the Egbas in that period compared other communities across Africa and elsewhere.
The Egbas administration concluded treaties of friendship, commence and judicial relationship with the British. to further assert their independence status, the Egbas moved to established diplomatic relationship with the British colonial masters by appointing a special envoy in the person of prince Ladapo Ademola who later became oba Ademola II, Alake of Egbaland in 1920. Ademola thus became the diplomatic representatives of the Egbaland in lagos, the seat of the British colonial administrative in nigeria. A further illustration of unique status of Egbaland was the invitation extended to Oba Gbadebo I, to pay a state visit to Britain in 1904 as a guest of Queen Victoria he was very well received.
Regrettably however, the British colonial government soon grew impatient with the Egbas who refuse to take dictation from the colonial governor in lagos. They then seized upon a local disturbance in Abeokuta the ijemo-war to deal a deadly blows on the egbas . On pretext on quelling the ensuing unrest and to check the insecurity in the area, which the British felt posed a serious threat to their national interest, they proceeded to ask the independence government of Egbaland.
Thus Egbaland was forcibly brought into the British protectorate of Nigerian in 1918, deftly ending the posture of a proud independent Egba nation, a free enclave within a dependent Nigeria.
III. THE NIGERIAN NATION
Following the annulment of Egba sovereignty by the British, the Egba quickly reconciled themselves to their new dependent status. The British policy of indirect rule adopted in administering colonial Nigeria enabled the Egba to continue to enjoy some autonomy through the aegis of Egba native authority [ENA]. Thus Egba federation survived with its practice of true federalism which guaranteed unity and stability as well as –prosperity of the area.
The early embracement of western union education as noted above also enabled the Egba to produce high level manpower in virtually every sphere of human endeavour. In the context of the new Nigerian nation, therefore the Egba soon dominated every segment of the society the professions, the public, service including the judiciary, even commerce and industry.
In the former western region under premier Obafemi Awolowo himself, half Egba, the Egba fared reasonably well especially in he civil service . The legendary Simeon Adebo was the Head of the Service while professor Saburi Biobaku was the secretary to the premier and the executive council, with chief S.O Eriwunmi as permanent secretary in charge of a key ministry, Sir Adetokunbo Ademola headed the judiciary.
When Nigeria attained independent on oct.1960, Egba star dimmed politically somewhat. The highest Egba political holders were federal ministers in Balewa government , Dr Koye Majekodunmi and chief Ayo Rosiji.
In the western region , however Alh. D.S Adegbenro was second in command to chief S.L Akintola who had succeeded Chief Obafemi Awolowo as premier. When the crisis within the ruling party, Action group [AG] erupted a majority of the members in western house assembly endorsed D.S Adegbenro as the premier . The NPC-NCNC federal government coalition however blocked Adegbenro premiership thus precipitating a serious political crisis which resulted in the declaration of the state of emergency in the western region in 1962. interestingly the lot fell on Dr. Koye Majekodunmi , a federal minister and an egba son to wear the mantle of sole Administrators with near absolute powers.
The western region crisis deepened culminating in the in the first military coup of January 1966 which sacked elected civilian government and paved away to a prolonged military administrator in Nigeria. The civil war which was fought to check Biafran secession was won by the federal government with General Olusegun Obasanjo, an illustrious Egba son playing a leading role in the combat and had the honour of accepting the surrender of the Biafran Army.
It is worthy of mentioned that the 9-years of general Gowon ,two Egba sons namely Brigadier Oluwole Rotimi and Brigadier Mobolaji Johnson were among the 12 states military governors . It is a matter of pride that only the two of them emerged untarnished following the probe of all the military governors in the country.
With overthrow of General Yakubu Gowon as the head of state, General Muritala Mohammed moved in with General Obasanjo as second –in command when the popular Muritala Mohammed administration fell in to the abortive coup of Dimka in 1976, Obasanjo stepped in as head of state and made history by voluntary handing over power to the elected government of president Shehu Shagari in 1979.
IV. CREATION OF OGUN STATE
In February. 1976, the two provinces of Abeokuta and Ijebu were merged to form Ogun State when Nigeria was restructured in to 19 states. Abeokuta became a state capital. This
development threw up a high expectation that, the old Egba glory would return, Unfortunately, acute rivalry among the ethnic groups making up ogun state, namely Egba, Ijebu, Remo, and Yewa [formerly Egbado] has not enhanced Egba progress.
When in 1979, the military took a bow to usher in an elected civilian Administration, it was assumed that the Egbas would have the first slot as governor. What looked like an ideal candidate emerged in the person of Chief Soji Odunjo being the both egba and the egbado stocks ironically, the Egbado dumped Odunjo and aligned with the Ijebus and Remos to paved the way for Chief Bisi Onabanjo from Ijebu to emerged as the first civilian executive governor of Ogun State .
On the second coming of the civilian rule after yet another military regime [1983-1999]Chief Olusegun Osoba an Egba became governor and served his full termed of four years . He was succeeded in 2003 by Otunba Gbenga Daniel from Remo who is now serving his second term as Governor.
How have the Egbas feared since the creation of Ogun State? The General verdict is that their situation could have been better, given the size of their population and the fact that the capital of the state was suited in Abeokuta the heartland of territory, The grouse is that given the historical structure of Abeokuta and the fact that it is now a state capital , the town should have had more to show for its new status compared to the other state in the country.
The present Administration in Ogun State is quite aware of Egba discontent which recently re-echoed during the high level dialogued between the Governor Daniel and a high powered Egba delegation led by his majesty Oba Adedotun Gbadabo Okukenu IV, the Alake and paramount Ruler in Egbaland.
The Egbas acknowledge some notable improvement which the Governor has introduced to Abeokuta the modernisation of the royal pavilion at the Ake palace square, transforming the Olumo rock into the Ultra- modern tourist attraction of international standard the dualisation of a number of city roads, notably lalubu street, Oke ilewo the construction of modern residential estates at various location in the city for all level of the society high, middle and low.
The Governor took the trouble to explain that he was willing to do more, but emphasized his constraints mainly funding, expenses incurred on behalf of the federal; government in carrying out works which are responsibility of the federal government where the latter has been slow to act, where often not defrayed timely, thus, participating a short fall in the available funds for states project.
The Egbas applaud the state governor for the new surge in development of Abeokuta and the other areas making up Egbaland, but still felt that much more was deserved, they recognized that the governor is responsible for all the segment making up Ogun State that must be even handed .
At the same time, we must stress that all fingers are not equal. In any distribution, given the size and stature of Egabland, the Division must take a lion's share in the State. In other words on grounds of its population and for hosting the State Capital, Egbaland must receive primary and bigger attention.
In this regard, we would like to know percentage of the State Budget is allocated to Abeokuta as State Capital, and what share is allocated to Egba Division as the biggest of the four divisions. We may have here respectfully suggest that after deducting the expenses for the State Capital (Abeokuta) whatever remains should be allocated to the four Divisions on the basis of two-fifths (2/5) going to Egbaland, while three-fifths )3/5) are shared equally between Ijebus, Remo and Yewa. This is true equity.
V. EGBALAND VIS A VIS NIGERIAN NATION
If the Egbas appear not to have fared satisfactorily within Ogun State, what is the position nationally, that is, within the large Nigeria Nation?
The Egbas had produced many outstanding human materials for Nigeria; within the Profession: Law (Chief F.R.A. Williams, Prince Bola Ajibola), Medicine (Professor Thomas Lambo and Koye Ransome – Kuti), Accountancy (Akintola Williams, Egunjobi, Folorunso Oke, Bola Kuforiji-Olubi, Idris Sulaiman), Judiciary (Justice Adetokunbo Ademola – first indigenous Chief Justice of Nigeria, Olumuyiwa Jibowu, George Sodehinde Sowemimo, S. O. Lambo), Public service (Simeon Adebo), Literature (Wole Soyinka – of Egba mother), Music (Sowande, Fela Ransome-Kuti, Ebenezer Obey, Sina Peters, Adeola Akinsanya – Baba Eto, Prince Adekunle, Yusuff Olatunji – adopted Egba son, Ayinla Omowura) Sports (Sprinters: Arogundade, Ajao, Erinle; High Jumpers: Majekodunmi and Sobande), Women Emancipation and Enterprise (Iyalode Tinubu, Mrs. Funmilayo Ransome-Kuti and Iyalode Bisi Tejuoso).
In the political life of Nigeria, we have given the country a military Head of State in the person of General Olusegun Obasanjo. We even produced one Civilian president in the person of Chief M.K.O. Abiola who was elected on June 12, 1993 in the fairest and freest elections in Nigeria but who, alas, was not allowed to take his post following the unpardonable and controversial annulment of the landmark elections. Abiola was to die a martyr and hero in strange circumstances while in Abacha’s detention. There was also Ernest Adegunle Sonekan, the Interim Head of state (1993). We also gave to Nigeria chief Olusegun Obasanjo in is coming as elected president of Nigeria between 1999 and 2007, sadly marred toward the end by his alleged Third Term Bill which he has vigorously denied.
Under the current Administration of President Umar Musa Yar’Adua, the fortunes of Egbaland appear to be on the rise once more. Providence delivered an unexpected top political position to the Egbas in 2007 through the fortuitous emergence of Hon. Dimeji Saburi Bankole as Speaker of the House of Representatives thus becoming the No. 4 Citizen of Nigeria.
Without sounding immodest, no other group in Nigeria had given so much to the Nation as Egbaland, yet we seem to have got little in return. There is no major Federal presence in Egbaland. Even though Egbaland was the cradle of Western Education in Nigeria and the birthplace of Christianity in the Country, it rook decades after the establishment of the University College of Ibadan in 1948, before a full-pledged University was sited in Abeokuta in the form of the University of Agriculture, Abeokuta. Some may argue back that the Obasanjo have held the Head of Government position twice in rear times. He should know what was best for his own people.
BEING PAPER PRESENTED BY Late
DR. ABDUL-LATEEF ADEGBITE, CON
SERIKI AND BABA ADINNI OF EGBALAND
NIGERIAN SUPREME COUNCI; FOR ISLAMIC AFFAIRS (NSCIA)