The Ijesa (or ‘Ijesha’ in old Yoruba orthography) tribe is a sub-ethnic group among the mother Yoruba tribe. This group is predominantly from Ilesa and domiciled in Osun State, Nigeria. They are bordered by Ekiti on the east, Oyo on the west, Igbomina on the north, and Ife on the south.
The Ijesaland comprises of towns such as Ipetu-Ijesa, Esa-Oke, Ibokun, Ijebu-Ijesa, Ifewara, Erin-Ijesa, Esa-Odo, Kajola, Imesi-Ile, Ikeji-Ile, Owena-Ijesa, Otan-Ile, etc.
As it is with many tribes, there is more than one legend stating how the people of Ijesa got to their present location. However, the legends all have one similar feature – the Ijesa people migrated from Ile-Ife.
One legend states that the founding father of the Ijesa people was a son of Oduduwa – the man believed to be the father of the Yoruba race. According to a source, Owa, Oduduwa’s son, had gone to look for sea water on the request of the Ifa Priest who Oodua consulted when he suffered partial blindness. Journeying through Ijebu-Ode, he got the water at Eleke near Epe. This water, mixed with other ingredients as directed by the Ifa Priest cured Oodua of his blindness.
After this time, Owa (or Ajibogun) (the one who fetched the sea water) left Ile-Ife to settle elsewhere. Before he left, his father, Oodua, gave him a large crown and blessed him. He and his brother, Agigiri, who left Ile-Ife together made several stops along the way and some of the people who left with them also died on the journey. Obokun, Owa’s ancestor, later settled at the present-day Ijesaland. Hence, the people of Ijesa call themselves “Omo Obokun”
Going further in history, after a while, the first Owa appointed went to the Alaafin to complain about the meagre size of his subjects and territory. In order to solve his concern, the Alaafin ordered sticks to be given to Owa. He took these sticks back to his land and converted them to people and so, increased the number of his subjects. Therefore, to this day, neighbours of the Ijesa people refer to them as “Omo igi”
(offspring of sticks).
The Ijesas are known for their resoluteness and doggedness. They earned themselves the appellation, “Osomaalo
”, derived from how they ensured that they collected their debts from their debtors. The word means, “I will not leave until I have collected my money”. This shows a deep level of determination of the Ijesa people to achieve whatever they set their minds on to do.
They are also known for their bravery. Tracing down to history, an Ijesa descendant – a popular one at that, Ogedengbe Agbogungboro, was the Commander-in-Chief of the Ekiti Parapo Army for the Kiriji war fought in the nineteenth century. He was known for his martial skills and rogue personality accompanied with mystical powers that transported him from one place to another. These attributes combined helped him to win the war against the Alaafin, thereby securing his homeland, Ijesaland, from being overthrown by the Alaafin.
, also known as Olumirin Waterfalls, is a major tourist attraction located in Erin-Ijesa. It was discovered in 1140 AD. The waterfall has seven floors and on the topmost floor, the Abake Village is located. This waterfall is a sight to behold as it flows among the rocks and yet has beautiful green vegetation around it.
Other tourist attraction sites, though archaeological in nature, are Kiriji War Museum
at Imesi-Ile, Agirigiri Shrine
at Ijebu-Ijesa, Ogun Shrine
at Ipole, Osun Shrine
at Iponda, Owa-Obokun Millennia Palace,
and Obanla Palace
both at Ilesa.
Tribal marks were commonplace among the Yorubas in earlier centuries. This, they did, as a means of identification – that is, the tribal marks helped to identify where a person is from.
Among the Ijesas, there is no distinctive tribal mark style. However, for the most part, the marks are usually about 5 or 6 horizontal lines on each cheek, closely drawn and very long too.
(pounded yam) and egusi soup “washed down” with palm wine is the traditional dish of the Ijesa people.
Among all the traditional festivals in Ijesaland, the Iwude Ogun
is the most outstanding and always celebrated in grand style. The festival entails the incumbent Owa (King) paying visits to all the traditional chiefs in Ilesa.
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This article was first published on 5th August 2018 and updated on August 7th, 2018 at 5:38 pm