Ijesa History

Ijesaland lies in the Yoruba speaking region of southwestern Nigeria, around the upper reaches of the Osun, Shasha and Oni rivers which flow south and southwest into the Lagos lagoon, some hundred miles away.
Ilesa, situated in the center of the two Ijesa divisions Obokun and Atakumosa, was probably founded about early sixteenth century but it was apparently not the earliest center of the Kingdom. The foundation traditions of the Ijesa take the form of a dynasty migration from Ile-Ife.

The first five or six rulers of the dynasty are associated with places other than Ijesa, particularly in and around Ibokun some fourteen miles to the north. To this day, Orisa’s Priest the Chief of Ibokun plays a significant role in the installation of the Owa Obokun of Ijesaland (King of Ilesa) and in the Great annual festival of Ogun in Ilesa. In its earlier days, before Ilesa came so greatly to outstrip all other Ijesa settlements in size and power, it seem the kingdom may have been more of a federation with the Owa a kind of “Primus inter Parres.” This is suggested by the nominal presence of the heads, styled Ogboni of three ancient towns–Ibokun, Ijebu-jesa and Ipole–among the most senior grouping of Ijesa’s six Agbanla (Chiefs). Atakunmosa is associated with the expansion of Ijesaland to the east and south which sojourned in Benin. The late sixteenth century was referred to as Atakumarhe in Akure forty miles to the southeast of Ilesa. Atakumosa was considered an ancestor to the ruling house and as late as the 1890’s, the first Owa Ajimoko was claiming jurisdiction over Akure on the grounds that Atakunmosa has set the boundaries between Ijesa and Benin on the far side of Akure.

The Ijesa seem now to have stabilized their northwestern frontier with Oyo, Osogbo on the far bank of the Osun being an Ijesa outpost and Ada, a border town where both Owa and the Alafin of Oyo had rights. Ilesa’s size and steady growth from the sixteenth to the nineteenth centuries indicate that it was a powerful magnet in the whole zone of Oyo and Benin. Many titled lineages at Ilesa have clear traditions of immigrant descents from other towns: Lora, Salosi and Sawe from Ondo; Risawe from Ekiti; Segbura from Efon; Ejemo from Owo; Sorundi, from Ikole and Arapate from Aramoko. Igbajo which is twenty miles north was linked with Ilesa and up to the late ninetieth century was regarded as a tributary of Ijesaland.


As Yoruba Foundation Legends go, Obokun the Owa’s ancestor was the youngest son of Oduduwa. Olofin, alone of all Oduduwa sons, volunteered to go and fetch sea water to cure his father’s blindness. On his return he was told his father was dead, and he asked for his “portion” of his inheritances. He was told that all inheritances including crowns were given to his elder brothers. Instead he was given a sword–Ida Ajase (sword of conquest) and told to seize his heritage from his elder brothers. Our logo shows the sword been raised as a testament to this event and evidence of a great warrior! His patrimony is claimed to begin from the square still known as Enu Owa “The Owa’s Approach” in front of the Afin (palace) of Ife itself.