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University of Ilorin, Ilorin, Nigeria

By: Adepoju Oluwatimilehin Samuel

Welcome to another episode of throwback thursday. Today, we will be discussing the iconic called Ogendegbe. 

 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.

 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.

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.

After the final settlement of the 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.

  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.

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.

Post Author: Ridhwan Abdullahi

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