HRH, CHIEF OGEDENGBE, Obanla of Ijeshaland (Oba-Ala Ogedengbe of Ilesha I), in his warrior uniform. The first generation of the Great Ogedengbe dynasty.
Full name: Saraibi Ogedengbe (famously known as Ogedengbe Agbogungboro)
Place of Birth: Atorin Village, Ilesa, Osun state
Parents: Pa Apasanforijiwa & Madam Falupo
Decorations: Balogun of Ilesha Seriki Ajanaku of Ijeshaland General / Commander-in-Chief of the Ekiti Parapo Army Obanla of Ijeshaland (Oba-Ala Ogedengbe of Ilesha I)
Profile: Ogedengbe was a personality to behold a true character that made history and defines culture right from his early age to adulthood. He was a proud, courageous and confident Ijesa, although extremely difficult, he had a true and genuine love for his town and people. Ogedengbe was a no-nonsense man nor was he afraid of anyone. He was fearless, always willing and ready to fight or attack anyone who dares to challenge him and would not stop until the end. Ogedengbe had fame, charisma, wisdom and knowledge and was the ultimate icon of his time. Men want to be him and women want to be his wife.
The late Chief Ogedengbe Agbogubgboro, the Generalissimo of Ekiti Army was born at Atorin, a village about twenty kilometres from Ilesha in the now Atakomosa East Local Government areas. This was his mother's village; his father's village was Oke-Orisa which is about the same distance from Ilesha and in the same present day Local Government areas as Atorin.
Before Ogedengbe was born, the Ifa oracle predicted that he was going to be the saviour of Ijeshaland. The name given to Ogedengbe at birth was SARAIBI.
He was born as a normal child and he grew up at Atorin as a healthy industrous young man. From the early years of his life, it became clear that he was very strong and surpassed all his mates in acts of valour, whenever he engaged in wrestling with his mates, he always floored them, hence the name "OGEDENGBE". In adulthood, Ogedengbe engaged in several campaigns against the Ibadan people who were oppressing and attacking the Ijesha people. During one of such campaigns, he was captured and taken to Ibadan.
It was on this occassion the Ibadan people put tribal marks on his face before releasing him. He fought in the Ibadan army until he became a senior military commander and then returned to fight and lead the Ijesha forces. After this, he gathered a large army of Ijesha young men and engaged in several bitter fightings against the Ibadan people.
Ogedengbe exploits also took him to Ekiti and Akoko areas where he sold a lot of them into slavery. This was why he was often referred to as "O soko Ekiti soko Akoko". He also went as far as the present day Edo state. The Oba of Benin had to appeace him before he desisted from waging war against his domain. He gave Ogedengbe presents of beads, slaves and other valuable articles.
After this exploit, Ogedengbe returned to Igbara-Oke intending to settle down there. This was the time when the Ibadan people engaged the Ijeshas and the Ekitis in a fierce war at Oke-Imesi. The leaders of the Ijeshas and the Ekitis had to persuade Ogedengbe to come and lead them as his unrivalled exploits had become a legend in the whole of Yoruba land. He agreed and went to the battle field to check the inordinate ambition of the Ibadan people.
The fighting went on for about nine years . It was Captain Bower, the then resident commissioner at Ibadan who finally settled the war by a treaty in 1886 (23rd September, 1886) after he had won the war.
It was due to all these attributes that he possessed that made him into a local hero in his town.
Ogedengbe subsequently became one of the most important men in the history of Yorubaland, Nigeria and Africa, hence the name ‘OGEDENGBE AGBOGUNGBORO’ meaning ‘OGEDENGBE THE WARRIOR’
It began in the 19th century, a century of revolution in Yorubaland, after the fall of the old Oyo Empire due to political crisis. Ibadan, a new city founded in the 1820s wanted to dominate and rule the rest of the Yorubaland and as result, there were wars among the kingdoms of the Yorubas.In particular the Kiriji war (also known as the sixteen years war) which started in 1877, it involved the struggle for power, influence and survival.The Ibadan on declared ‘a war to end all wars’ on the Egba on Monday, 30th July 1877, the Kiriji war officially begun. The Ijebu joined and it began to spread. In 1878, it spread to the east, the Ekiti and Ijesa countries became united and formed an alliance known as Ekiti-parapo (the combined forces of the Ijesa and Ekiti) which was led by Ogedengbe of Ilesha . The Ife and Ilorin later joined. Ibadan now had a string of foes that were ready to fight for their independence and also to free themselves from Ibadan imperialism.
Picture of General Ogedengbe (second left) and some of his warriors - The Ekiti-parapo Army, taken shortly after their victory of the Kiriji war of 1877-1892.
During the war, in order to ensure close relationship between the families competing for power, dynastic marriages were a common phenomenon amongst the Yoruba Kingdom – especially among the Ekiti ruling houses. Ogedengbe, the Ijesa and Ekiti-parapo war hero, had wives from various parts of Yorubaland for the purpose of cementing political, and invariably, war alliances. It is believed that Ogedengbe had over 99 wives from various parts of Yorubaland. The king of Ila, for instance, sent him his daughter to prevent an attack on his town. Ogedengbe himself also gave his daughters in marriage to notable personalities from other parts of Yorubaland.
History has it that during the war, Ogedengbe was totally beheaded but he cheated death in a miraculous way. His headless body simply walked towards his head, he picked it up and fitted his head back on. This event, although very real and true but yet unbelievable, made his enemies even more terrified of him. For they believed that what could possibly kill Ogedengbe if the beheadings did not send him off to his grave. This is why up till today, the house of Ogedengbe symbol is a sword to remind us all of the time the brave warrior was beheaded with a sword and still survived the attack. This attempt on his life enraged him and offered Ogedengbe a new lease of life to defeat all his enemies.
For a time Ogedengbe of Ilesha, the legendary warlord, even terrorised the Yorubaland extending his ravages to Benin territory, capturing towns and enslaving its inhabitants. The kiriji war was the last war among the Yorubas and it lasted for sixteen years. It was bought to a halt by British administration in Lagos, which produced the June 1886 Treaty and the proclamation of peace in Yorubaland. Although the peace treaty was ready in June, it could not be signed and sealed and the stalement continued until the Yoruba traditional ceremony (ritual) of ending a war was held at the appointed place on the battlefield.
The war did not actually end until 1892. As a result of this war, Ibadan failed to build a lasting empire and provide unity for the Yorubas.
In 1986, a hundred years after the Kiriji war, a reconnaissance trip was made to the site of the signing of the peace treaty. The trip was part of an academic conference organised to mark the centenary of the Ekiti-parapo Peace. The teams’ discovery is illuminating on the Yoruba approach to peacemaking and peace enforcement. First, it was observed that war termination involved boundary adjustment. The planting of a peculiar plant, the dracaena perennial tree, delineated new boundaries (Yoruba word: peregun). At the Ekiti-parapo peace site, the two-peregun trees planted over a hundred years ago still proudly stand demarcating the Ibadan-Ekitiparapo territories and reminding all sides to the conflict of the cessation of hostilities. The greatest advantages of the peregun tree are its perennial features. It is not easily destroyed by fire, it survives droughts and it sprouts quickly if accidentally cut. In addition, among the Yoruba, a taboo is built around the tree: it must not be uprooted and wherever peregun stands is considered sacred. In essence, a sense of permanence and inviolability is built around Yoruba peace treaties.
The war prowess of the Ijesa military under the command of the great Ogedengbe were to be commended, for without their ferocious involvement in the Kiriji war and other battles, many parts of the Yoruba land would have been permanently subservient to Oyo and other more powerful Kingdoms. Other notable war heroes of the 19th century that displayed bravery were Fabunmi of Oke-Imesi, Oluyole, Ibikunle and Ogunmola of Ibadan, Onafowokan of Ijebu, Sodeke of Egba etc.
Picture of some of the Ekiti-parapo war heroes in their warrior uniform shortly after the Kiriji war of the 19th century.
After the final settlement of thre KIRIJI war, Ogedengbe returned back to Ilesha to settle down. Although there were one or two incidents such as being taken to Iwo for a short period between 1896 to 1898. On the whole Ogedengbe's home coming was relatively peaceful.
Ogedengbe-led Ilesa forces were given a hero welcome back home and Ogedengbe himself was rewarded for his stance, bravery and heroism during the war, he was honoured with a royal title of “OBANLA OF IJESHALAND" also known as "OBA-ALA OF ILESHA" (meaning THE "MIGHTY" KING OF IJESHALAND). A respectably earned title, truely deserving of a brave warrior.
OBA-ALA OF ILESHA is the highest chieftaincy title in Ijeshaland making OGEDENGBE the second in command and rank to the monarch, OWA-OBOKUN OF IJESHALAND. Ogedengbe also had his own palace known as the Oba-Ala palace at Okesa street, Ilesa which is a stone throw away from the Owa’s (King) palace. The shape of his palace is round, a letter ‘O’ shape to signify the first letter of his name – OGEDENGBE
Although, OWA is the ultimate decision-maker in Ilesha, no law can actually be passed on the land without prior consultation with the OBANLA (Oba-Ala). History has it that none of Ogedengbe’s descendant have actually being crowned OWA (King), as Ogedengbe himself was a KINGSMAKER (Afobaje) rather than a king. For example, it was because of Ogedengbe that Ilesa never introduced two Agunlejikas during his reign.
The Ijesha people wanted to make him the Owa at one stage, but he refused. In the end, he was installed as the OBANLA OF IJESHALAND in 1898.
It is also important to note that this chieftaincy title was specially created for Ogedengbe to show Ijeshas gratitude as they felt greatly indebted towards him. No other person/s has ever been bestowed with such title before him. This is why up till today; the OBA-ALA of ILESHA chieftaincy title is more likely to be awarded to an Ogedengbe as a mark of respect for the Great Ogedengbe himself. In the past, Ilesha’s worthy personalities other than Ogedengbe’s descendant had been awarded the OBA-ALA OF ILESHA title but when an Ogedengbe is bestowed with this title, it becomes known as “OBA-ALA OGEDENGBE OF ILESHA”.
Ogedengbe of Ilesha was crowned the OBA-ALA OGEDENGBE OF ILESHA I, after the kiriji war. Chief Saraibi Ogedengbe lived peacefully thereafter until he died on the 29th July, 1910. The sky rocked and thundered (3 times) to show that a great warrior had passed away. He was buried at his palace and his descendants have since carried on with the great legacy the Legendary Yoruba warrior left behind.
His first son,Ogunleye later became the Oba-Ala Ogedengbe of Ilesha ll. Ogedengbe’s grandson, Stephen Olusesan became the Oba-Ala Ogedengbe of Ilesha lll – all are now of blessed memory. All the Oba-Ala Ogedengbe of Ilesha are buried at the Oba-Ala’s palace at Okesa Street, Ilesha.
In Nigeria today, Ogedengbe’s name is synonymous with Ilesa (his town) or the word ‘Agbogungboro’ (Yoruba word meaning ‘The Warrior’). He was an icon during his days and his greatness is still felt and present up till today. Ogedengbe was without a doubt a big celebrity, whom today is referred to as an inspiration to young men. His statue can still be seen as you enter the city of Ilesha, which was erected as a permanent memorial to him.
The people of Ijesha always says that "The day Ogedengbe died, God shot gun throughout Nigeria (Ojo ti Ogedengbe ku, Olorun yon ibon)"
Ogedengbe Agbogungboro – you will never be forgotten and your greatness and legendary will surely reign forever.