BRIEF HISTORY OF THE OWU KINGDOM
Owu, formerly known as Orile-Owu, an old forest kingdom, is thought to have been the earliest town outside of Ile-Ife, the Yoruba people’s traditional homeland. The idea that this ancient kingdom served as the foundation for all other Owu communities has given rise to many controversies.
The Owu people are particularly well known among the many Yoruba sub-ethnic groups, especially when one considers the years of war that involved the larger Oyo Kingdom. Thus, other Yoruba sub-ethnic groups, such as Oyo, Egba, Ife, Ijebu, Ijesha, Awori, Remo, Igbomina, Ondo, and Ekiti, are inferior to the Owu kingdom. Owu was popular as a prominent ancestral domain of the Yoruba people. It also ruled the waves in the aforementioned area of old Oyo.
The Owus are mainly concentrated at Ago-Owu in Abeokuta, but a larger number of Owu towns may be found elsewhere across the Yoruba empire. The Yoruba kingdom stretches into the Republic of Benin from Nigeria’s borders.
Following their initial settlement in Ago-Owu in 1820, where the history of the Owus was first written down. According to oral history traditions, the Owus lived in the present-day nation of Nigeria in a region that was directly along and below the Niger River. Tribal and ethnic disputes directly contributed to the Owus’ southerly migration.
According to history, the rulers of Ibadan dispatched diplomatic emissaries to the Owus after receiving information about the Owus’ allegedly impending attack on their town. So, unlike earlier settlements, the Owus did not attempt to fight against the army of Ibadan but instead moved in peacefully. From Ita Lisa to Owu Ipole near Ikire, the monarchs of Ibadan provided the Owus territory to settle there.
Up until the reign of Sango, Owu had been the ruler of old Oyo, collecting tribute from the Bariba and the Borgu. All of this occurred because the Owu also made their home in that area. History has it that they undoubtedly had a strong presence in the area. In the Makun and other conflicts against Ado Odo and Dahomey in 1842–1845, Owu fought alongside Egba. At Itori, Yobo, Ifo, Atan, and Ota, Owu contingents engaged in battle, routed the Awori, and are still occupying those locations.
However, their mainstream had settled among the Egbas in Abeokuta. The Owu people had waged wars, won battles, and settled in several locations between the Niger River and the sea; that is, there are Owus in Lagos State; Epe, etc. Nevertheless, they are not Ijebus or Egbas. But their relationship was because the Owu colonies in Ijebu and Abeokuta usually developed on friendly terms rather than as a consequence of direct combat or victories over them.
As a result of their liberty to spread across all regions within the Yoruba kingdom, Orile-Owu was formulated. The word “Owu” is derived from a cotton plant of the genus Gossypium, whereas “Orile” refers to an ancestral residence or hamlet. The Yoruba people call this plant owu. “Orile-Owu” denotes the Owu people’s first home or hamlet. Early inhabitants of this kingdom grew cotton and traded in it. As a result, it was given the name “Igbo Owu,” or Cotton Forest.
The forces of Ijebu and the Ife assaulted and destroyed Owu Ipole between 1821 and 1826. Around 1826, the Owus fled their heavily guarded city and headed in small groups southwestward toward Ibadan. From these peripheries, they marched on and over the Ogun River until they reached Oke Ata, which is close to Abeokuta, when Sodeke, the Egba supreme leader, convinced the valiant Owus to dwell there in approximately 1834.
It is important to note that the current Orile Owu is the same location as Owu Ipole, where Owus from Iwo and other areas relocated in the early 20th century. Also, the residents of Erunmu, which was established by a previous Olowu from the Amororo Ruling House, were consistently devoted to the cause of the Owu Kingdom. However, the Olowu was transported from Orile Owu, that is, Owu Ipole to Orile Erunmu during the Owu War on his back, which, according to history, was to conceal his escape, protected by a united squad of his royal guards and Oba Erunmu’s royal guards.
Thus, the remnant Owu army withdrew after Orile Owu was completely destroyed in order to defend Orile Erunmu from the united armies of Ijebu and Ife.
Giving thanks to Olodumare, that is, the Almighty God for providing for all needs is the original intent of the Omo Olowu holiday. Since its inception in 1999, the annual Owu Day festival has drawn both Owu natives and visitors from around the globe. The second weekend in October will be Owu’s public celebration of the benevolence of the Almighty God, according to a declaration made public by the Olowu of Owu Abeokuta, Oba Dosunmu, on October 9, 2010.
This announcement was made to officially launch the new Omo Olowu festival, which will take the place of the previous Owu Day Festival going forward. Ironically, the Owu Day Festival held its tenth and final performance in 2009 on the tenth day of the tenth month.