Friday 21 June 2024

The Brief History of Gbongan Ile

Oyo and Olufi's Migration:

Oyo, who reigned between 1750 and 1789, was the father of Olufi. Olufi migrated from Oyo with a large following due to the unrest following the death of Alaafin Abiodun in 1789. One tradition states that Olufi contested the throne of Oyo and, after losing, had to leave Oyo as tradition demanded. Another tradition associates Olufi's migration with the general unrest that characterized Oyo's politics after Alaafin Abiodun's demise, making the metropolis unsafe for peaceful coexistence. Consequently, many citizens followed Olufi as he left Oyo. It is likely that Olufi left Oyo after 1789, taking the Igbori route. His entourage stayed there for some time before moving to Soungbe and eventually settling in Gbongan Ile. These locations are mentioned in the Oriki Olufi, which also recounts significant events during Olufi's journey. Olufi carried a beaded crown from Oyo, which his followers recognized as a symbol of his status not only as an Oyo prince but also as an Oba in his own right.

The Impact of Old Oyo Empire's Fall:

The unrest leading to the fall of the Old Oyo Empire affected the stability of many towns in the savannah region. Soldiers of fortune emerged, carving out areas of jurisdiction and fighting weaker neighbors to establish their domains, ultimately destabilizing Oyo towns. These soldiers facilitated the Fulani penetration and destruction of many Oyo towns. Consequently, the population drifted from the savannah region to the forested south, where the marauders' horses couldn't easily penetrate. Many Oyo towns were destroyed or deserted, leading people to migrate towards Ife forest. Many settled with Olufi in Gbongan, while others settled in Origbo, later founding Modakeke. The fall of Owu in 1821 also led many people from Owu to settle in Gbongan. Some people chose to move to Gbongan from their Origbo base, causing Gbongan to grow due to the influx of people from various places.

Rebuilding Gbongan:

The peace in Gbongan was short-lived. In mid-1823, after the Fulani defeated Afonja in Ilorin, Muslim marauders from Ilorin and Iwo attacked Gbongan Ile, Ikire Ile, and Ipetumodu, causing the towns to be deserted. The people sought refuge in Ile-Ife. Around 1825, the people of Gbongan decided to rebuild the town but chose a new site in the heart of the forest rather than the old site at the savannah's fringe. This new location is why present-day Gbongan includes areas such as Owo Ope, Oke Egan, Oke Apo, and Oke Apata, as well as streams like Oyunlola, Akinjole, Alaanu, and Oleyo, which serve as water sources for the town. Therefore, the present Gbongan was likely founded around 1825, during a renewed influx of people from the crumbling Oyo Empire. The presence of an Oba attracted many people to settle in Gbongan, and the town's relocation to a forested region made it feel secure. By the mid-19th century, Gbongan had become one of the largest towns in the Yoruba region.

Olufi Becomes a Baale:

Ibadan's imperial drive into the Ijesa and Ekiti regions from the 1850s affected Gbongan in several ways. Gbongan was not conquered by Ibadan but was invited as a junior ally to help in the prosecution of Ibadan wars. Consequently, Gbongan actively participated in Ijesa, Ekiti, and Akoko campaigns, including the seventeen-year Ekiti Parapo War. Gbongan also fought as an ally of Ibadan in the Modakeke War of 1881-86, leading almost all Modakeke to move en masse to Gbongan on March 27, 1909, before Ode Omu was founded in 1910 for those who chose to settle in a separate town. The implication was that Gbongan's history during Ibadan's imperial drive was closely tied to Ibadan, which was ruled by a Baale. As a result, rulers of towns allied with Ibadan, including Gbongan, Ikire, Apomu, and Ipetumodu, were regarded as Baale. Olufi thus wore his crown annually during the Orisa Akire Festival.

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