Abeokuta was a sovereign nation for 20 years and 11 months before the British almagamated her with the rest of Nigeria. She had her own laws, Police Force, Civil Service and was well organized. The Alake was the head of the defunct government known as the Egba United Government (1 February 1893- 1 January 1914). The almagamation with the rest of Nigeria did not go down well with the Egba people and this resulted in the Adubi War (1918). I have compiled some facts about this ancient and paramount city that seats as the capital of Ogun State and also the pride of Egbaland.
Abeokuta was founded in 1830, with Sodeke as her leader. The initial name of Abeokuta was “Oko Adagba” meaning “Adagba’s farmstead”-Adagba was an Itoko farmer. Sodeke who led the Egbas met him there.
Abeokuta means ‘under a rock’, signifying the protection which the Olumo Rock offered the Egbas during attacks.
Since the discovery of Olumo Rock, no one has fallen from it. Not even once.
Eastern side of the Olumo Rock in Ikija, Abeokuta
The first church in Nigeria, St. Peter’s Anglican Church, is in Abeokuta.
The first Baptist Church in West Africa and the first local government in Nigeria (Abeokuta South) are in Abeokuta.
The first University in Nigeria should have been located in Abeokuta but due to infighting, it was established at Ibadan as the University of Ibadan in 1948.
The first secondary school in Nigeria was sited in Abeokuta before it was relocated to Lagos as CMS Grammar School due to unknown reasons.
The first hospital in Nigeria, Sacred Heart Hospital, is in Abeokuta. It is still functioning.
The first bridge in Nigeria (Sokori Bridge-1903) built by a Nigerian (Mr. John Adenekan) without European supervision is in Abeokuta.
The first Newspaper in Nigeria (Iwe Iroyin) was founded in Abeokuta in 1859.
The first president of the Nigeria Union of Teachers and the first woman to drive a car was from Abeokuta. They both married each other. They were also the first male and female admitted to Abeokuta Grammar School.
The first indigenous Chief Justice of Nigeria (Justice Adetokunbo Ademola) was from Abeokuta. He was the son of the longest reigning monarch (Alake) in Egbaland.
Okukenu Sagbua I, was the first Alake of Egbaland. He was enthroned on August 8, 1854. His descendant, Okukenu Sagbua IV is the current Alake of Egbaland.
Alake Gbadebo I, was the first monarch in Nigeyou
to visit England on a state visit. He spent 20 days at sea-May 5-25, 1904.
The first time a white man came to Abeokuta on January 4, 1843, everybody (both young and old) left their homes and market places to catch a glimpse of Henry Townsend, the white man.
During the American Civil War (1861-1865) which interrupted the U.S cotton trade to Europe, Abeokuta exported cotton to England.
The most influential woman in the history of Egbaland and the first Iyalode of Egbaland was Madam Tinubu. Tinubu square in Lagos and Ita Iyalode in Abeokuta are named after her. She died in 1887.
In 1893, the Egba United Government was recognized as an independent nation by Britain. She had her own laws. Many developments were made until 1914, when she was amalgamated to form Nigeria. The Sokori Bridge was constructed in 1903 and Abeokuta Grammar School was founded on July 16, 1908.
Abeokuta has produced many outstanding persons in the nation: In Academics (Reverend Israel Oludotun Ransome-Kuti, Professor Saburi Biobaku), In Accountancy (Akintola Williams, Folorunso Oke, Bola Kuforiji-Olubi), In Law (Justice Adetokunbo Ademola – first indigenous Chief Justice of Nigeria, Olumuyiwa Jibowu, George Sodehinde Sowemimo, S. O. Lambo, Chief F.R.A. Williams, Prince Bola Ajibola), In Medicine (Moses Majekodunmi, Professor Thomas Lambo, Koye Ransome – Kuti)), In Military (Olusegun Obasanjo, Oluwole Rotimi, Enitan Ransome-Kuti), In Civil Service (Simeon Adebo), In Literature (Ajisafe, J.F Odunjo, Amos Tutuola, Wole Soyinka – of Egba mother), In Music (Josiah J. Ransome-Kuti, Fela Ransome-Kuti, Femi Ransome-Kuti, Fela Sowande, Ebenezer Obey, Sina Peters, Adeola Akinsanya, Prince Adekunle, Ayinla Omowura), In Journalism (Olusegun Osoba, Reuben Abati), In Women Rights and Entrepreneur (Iyalode Tinubu, Eniola Soyinka, Elizabeth Adekogbe, Funmilayo Ransome-Kuti and Iyalode Bisi Tejuoso), In Politics (Olusegun Obasanjo, Ernest Adegunle Sonekan, M.K.O. Abiola, Moses Majekodunmi, Dimeji Bankole, Ayotunde Rosiji, Olusegun Osoba, Ibikunle Amosun) and others countless to mention.
In 1925, Josiah Jesse Ransome-Kuti (1855-1930) Fela’s grandfather, became the first Nigerian to release a record album after he recorded several Yoruba language hymns in gramophone through Zonophone Records.
The most enlightened clan among the Yoruba tribe are the Egbas. Her chiefs had been interacting with the Queen of England as far back as 1868 which continued till a century later. English and Egba monarchs did exchange gifts.
The only South Westerners ever to rule Nigeria are from Abeokuta (Olusegun Obasanjo and Ernest Shonekan).
It is widely believed that Egba women are more independent than any other Yoruba tribe in the country e.g Eniola Soyinka, Elizabeth Adekogbe and Funmilayo Ransome-Kuti.
Popular Egba Song:
Egba ile, ibe ni ‘gbagbo ti bere;
Egba ile, ibe l’olaju ti bere;
Omo Egba won m’aye je.;
Baba mi se die loro mi emi l’omo Lakesin.
Bo ni male ma wi ni mosalasi, won a ni ka ma ro’ko;
Bo ni ‘gbagbo ma wi ni Soosi, won a ni ka ma s’agbe.
Eni yo s’ore agbe, a jinyan koko, a senu kabata;
Ewele wekun ewele,
A ko ma f’oju sunkun ara wa;
E e wele wekun e wele.
Awa omo Olumo, awa Egba a ho yaya, awa omo Olumo (2ce).