The Untold story of Ogedengbe Agbogungboro of Ijesha Land 1822-1910. Wars and Generals.
The Yoruba history has so many tales of war generals, war lords, priests, kings and noble women who fought for the peace of the land, in the 100 years war period that once ravaged the land, but the emergence of a first class warrior and diplomat, in the person of Ogedengbe of Ilesha, is one story that will forever echo all through Yoruba land. Note this, history will recall Ogedengbe born as an ordinary man, but his life and legacy bore extra-ordinary, mystical and great acts that made people wonder how true his story was.
Let me take you on a journey to how it all started in the year 1822.
Born as Orisarayibi Ogundamola, (His passion for leadership earned him the appellation Ogedengbe) he was born in 1822 to Apasan Borijiwa and Juola Orisatomi, and his birth according to Yoruba history coincided with the annual Ogun festival.
Aponlese 1, was the Owa of Ilesha at the time the young leader to be was born. It was customary for the Owa during this Ogun festival to invite all the ‘babalawos’ (medicine men) in the Ijesha territory to come and predict what will be the outcome of the new year to come. It was at this meeting that one particular ‘babalawo’ predicted that on an ‘Isegun’ day in 1822 a child will born in the land and he will deliver the Ijesha people from his oppressor(s). And when the day came the Owa sent all his servants to all ‘igberikos’ and as predicted by the ‘babalawo’, Ogedengbe was the only baby that was said to be seen born on that day. After the naming ceremony, he was carried from his father’s house in Ijoka Ilesha to Atorin his mother’s village, about 24 kilometres away from Ilesha township.
History has it that Atorin, towards the end of the 18th century consisted of only six to eight huts and an average estimation of 40 people. Cut away from the Ijesha town, Atorin was a very poor village with a tiny connecting route to Ilesha town. Because of the circumstance surrounding his birth and the plan of the Owa to keep a close eye on the young Ijesha saviour, it was said that he was pampered and loved by his parents, and he was still breast-feeding at the age of seven. Growing up, the young Ogedengbe was a rascal, known for his rude attitude towards old people and he had the very strange habit of calling his parents by their first name with no care. Such was his wild behaviour until the age of fifteen when he went on a voluntary exile, because of the personal assault he encountered with a woman called ‘Salakenu’ a villager in Atorin reputable for her witchcraft.
He later fled to Ilesha where he was received by his father and close associate. Due to his rascal attitude and restlessness, he found a common cause with a popular age group called the “Ipaye” which had an age range of 15-24years. At 17, Ogedengbe was elected the deputy leader of the group. As a socio-political unit in Ilesha then, the “Ipaye” were responsible for cutting and fixing public buildings like the Palace, the shrine, Market stalls, building and repairing of roads and making sure order was in the town then. It was from this group Ogedengbe was catapulted into political limelight.
At about the age of 35, around 1857, Ogedengbe decided to get married to a beautiful young Ijesha girl called “Orisaleke” but the parents of the girl opposed the marriage, simply because of Ogedengbe’s lifestyle, which was considered wild and reckless then. Ogedengbe being who he was, took the girl from her parents house damning the consequences. The matter was later reported to the Owa, and Ogedengbe was sentenced to three months in prison.
After his release, quite a number of incidents sprung up that turned the young Ijesha man into a full war general. Not only that, but one of the greatest in Yoruba land. One was the liberation of villages surrounding Ekiti (Efon,Itaawure, and Oke-Mesi) from their Ibadan oppressor, and also the 1867 attack on Igbajo by llesha and a reverse attack on Ilesha by Ibadan which forced the collapse of the Ijesha army and the flight of Ogedegbe to Ita-Ogbolu.
And as time went on, his powers and popularity were growing fast. Apart from his reckless,diplomatic and commanding leadership, Ogedengbe was also said to have possessed great magical powers which came into full limelight during and after the Ekitiparapo war. His encounters with Ibadan also proved the general in him. The first was in 1864 when he was captured while assisting in the defence of Ilara against the Ibadan troops, and the second time was in 1867 when he was captured during the Igbajo war. It was during this war a young Ibadan soldier severed Ogedengbe’s head off during the war, and the Ijesha general staggered back, rolled, picked up the fallen head and fixed it back on his body. This made his enemies terrified of his person. After this incident, he was captured by Ibadan’s own General Bashorun Ogunmola, who decided to humiliate Ogedengbe by disfiguring his face with Ibadan tribal marks, hoping someone will later take him for an Ibadan man and kill him, but this didn’t happen. Ogedengbe learnt a lot of military tactics, secrets and trainings while in captive in ibadan. These two occasions brought out the “general” in Ogedengbe.
During the Ekitiparapo war, it was said that Ogedengbe would stay in his house and fire arrows from his room to the battle field, he was also known for his random disappearing acts which made him difficult to kill by his enemies.
Known for his diplomatic and charismatic attitude, he was also a fond addict of the native sniff called “tabaa”. Being a war general, he didn’t trust people for the fear of being poisoned, so most times he normally sent his dog on errands to the market. At that time in Ilesha, the sight of the dog was abnormal because no one had ever seen a dog as tall and huge like that before. Eye witness account says the dog was similar to a wild beast, while walking on the road, people ran at the sight of the dog. He normally tied a sack of cowries and samples of what he wants to buy around the dogs neck, and the dog goes to the market and walks straight to the ‘Iya loja’s’ tent. The ‘Iya loja’ is the female head chief of the market. The woman unties the rag around the dog’s neck, fills it with the required goods and the dog returns to its owner. And as the dog returns to its owner, the house owner of every house it passes must greet the dog saying “ L’o gun ofe oooo”. Any house owner that doesn’t salute the dog will be reported to Ogedengbe.
Mysteriously the dog disappeared after Ogedengbe died.
After the Ekitiparapo war and the great trouble periods in the history of Yoruba land, Ogedengbe settled back in Ilesha, but his band of war boys could not contain themselves to the new peaceful atmosphere, they went raiding people, harassing and kidnapping innocent citizens.
This prompted Captain R.L Bower to arrest the war general in 1894 with his friend Prince Fabunmi, the Owa of Ilesha. Frederick Haastrup pleaded passionately for the release of Ogedengbe and after much begging to Governor Carter he was released after a lengthy sum of £6,000.00 was posted for his bail.
Ogedengbe was conferred with a chieftaincy title of Obanla of Ilesha in 1898, thus the highest mark for his gallant achievements in the Kiriji/Ekitiparapo war. The restless, reckless and powerful Ogedengbe now after so many years of war and fights, now became a respectable chief and his service was now to the people.
Ogedengbe died in 1910.
Ogedengbe was no doubt one of the greatest war generals that ever lived in Yoruba land. His great wisdom and diplomatic war-like manners saw the Yorubas through the Ekitiparapo war. A real war master, his study of war tactics and war weaponry was second to none. A straight-forward man who always kept to his promises. The Ijesha people will forever continue to cherish his memory. A cenotaph was erected for him at the Obokungbusi Town Hall. And the Ogedengbe Memorial School in Ilesha is a monumental masterpiece in his memory. Till this day, he remains the greatest warrior in Ijesha land, Hence this praise song
“Gbogungboro lo l’oke Anaye
Odidi omo afodidi gun;
O fiwaju digun,o fehin digun
Odidi omo afodidi digun;
Ayanmode baba ogbe odidi omo afodi digun.
It is the war lord who owns Anaye
The fortress that checks all wars
With chest and back he face his faces,
The fortress that could check all wars,
The great scar that awards all sores,
The fortress that could check all wars.
Credits:B.F Adeniji (Ogedengbe: An Ijesha Warrior in the 19th Century)
Rev Adebola Mojisola Ogundele nee Adejuyigbe.(Whose Maternal Uncle is the Great Warrior)
Animation Art Work:ASIRI.