Friday 4 August 2023

Ogedengbe The Itinerant Warrior

Ògèdèngbé is one of the most important men in the history of the Yorùbá. Ògèdèngbé was the Ìjẹ̀ṣà warrior who was the Commander-in-Chief of the Èkìtì-Parapọ̀ Army. His name at birth was Ọ̀rìṣàráyíbí Ògúnmọ́lá. He was born at Ijọka but taken to Atorin, near Iléṣà in Osun State in 1822 after he was named. He earned the name Ògèdèngbé for his dexterity in wrestling and fearlessness. Agbógungbórò was added when his war credentials soared. Growing up, Ògèdèngbé exemplifed valor, courage and industry. He was tall, intimidating, with piercing eyes. He grew up at a time of great unrest between Yoruba sub-ethnicities. In his youth, he was reckless, commanding and charismatic. Ògèdèngbé was involved in several campaigns against the Ìbàdàn who often attacked the Ìjẹ̀ṣà. In one of such during Ìgbájọ war in 1867 Ògèdèngbé was captured. It was said that, at Ìgbájọ, a young Ìbàdàn soldier severed his head, Ògèdèngbé staggered back and picked up his head, fixed it back. This terrified the Ibadan. Baṣọ̀run Ògúnmọ́lá captured him and took him to Ìbàdàn, where he fought for Ìbàdàn army and rose to the position of senior military commander. To make the ridicule complete he was given Ìbàdàn tribal marks. The Ìbàdàn thought someone might take him for an Ìbàdàn man and kill him in battle.

After the fall of Ọ̀̀yọ́, Ìbàdàn, a new city founded in the 1820s began its quest to  rule and dominate the rest of Yoruba sub-ethnicities. The struggle for power, influence and survival led to a sixteen year internecine war among the Yoruba. That war was named Kírìjì - an onomatopoeic play on the thunderous sound of cannons fired by the Èkìtì and Ìjẹ̀sà, under the command of Ogedengbe. Kírìjì war was fought between the Western Yoruba (Ibadan, Modakeke Oyo and Ọfà forces ) and Eastern Yoruba (Ìjẹ̀sà, Èkìtì, Ifè, Àkókò, Ìgbómìnà, Kàbbà, Egbé and Lọ́kọ́ja). During the Kírìjì war, Ìbàdàn was fighting on five fronts. The first battle in Kírìjì war between the Western and Eastern forces called Ogun Jálumi (battle of waterloo) fought at Ìkìrun on 1st of November, 1878 ended in ignominious for the Ekiti. This defeat led the Èkìtì to Ògèdèngbé, who had been reluctant to lead the Ekiti-Parapo against Ìbàdàn under whom he obtained his infantry training. Ògèdèngbé led the Ekiti Parapo front, assisted by the Ẹ̀gbá, Ìjẹ̀bú and Èkó (Lagos) against Ibadan imperialism. Ìlárá-Mọ̀kín served as the military and reconnaissance headquarters where Ekiti War generals reviewed and perfected war strategies. The Èkìtì and Ìjẹ̀sà purchased cannons in abundance and that gave them advantage over Ibadan. During the Kiriji war, it was said that Ògèdèngbé would shoot arrows from his room to the battlefield. He was also known for making himself invisible. Ògèdèngbé trusted no one but his dog who is rumored to be more of a wild canine beast. People ran at the sight of the beast. Ògèdèngbé tied cowries on his dog on market days and the dog would walk into the Ìyálọ́jà stall. She would load supplies on the dog and the dog would return home.

After the armistice was signed to end Kírìjì war, Ògèdèngbé returned to a hero's welcome in Iléṣà. He was honoured with the highest chieftaincy title of Ọbańlá of Ìjẹ̀ṣà, second to the Ọwá-Obòkun of Ìjẹ̀sà in 1898. After Kiriji war, Chief  Ògèdèngbé lived peacefully until he died on the 29th July, 1910. Mysteriously, Ògèdèngbé's dog disappeared immediately he died. Other notable war heroes of the 19th century Yorùbá were Baṣọ̀run Olúyọ̀lé, Ìbíkúnlé and Ògúnmọ́lá of Ibadan, Ọ̀náfọwọ́kàn of Ìjẹ̀bú, Ṣódẹkẹ́ of Ẹ̀gbá and Fábùnmi of Òkè-Ìmẹ̀sí.

It is hard to write about Ògèdèngbé without delving much into Kírìjì war. It was Kírìjì that cemented his legacy as a fearless warrior with remarkable skills in war strategy and weaponry. This defining Yoruba civil war will be discussed on Òbíríkítí some day soon.

Narrated by Bamidele Ademola-Olateju

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