The Ondo Version. The Ondo people are one of the largest Yoruba subgroups, situated in the eastern part of the Yoruba¬speaking area of Nigeria. The weather elements that characterize the region are those typifying the rainforest region of Sub-Sahara Africa. The descent of Ondo people, as well as the geography of the Kingdom does not reflect any significant deviation from those of other towns and communities peopled by the Yoruba of south-western Nigeria, who are virtually agreed on the common paternity of Oduduwa.
However there exists still, as in most historical collections, about three separate accounts that explain the origin of the Ondo people. While the people of the Kingdom, almost in unison rejected a version that links its origin to the old Benin Kingdom in present day Edo State, as being the invention of its proponents, there seems to be some level of convergence on the other two accounts which trace the origin of the people to Ife and Oyo respectively. While an outright invention of any historical account, as attributed to the Benin Kingdom version, may be unlikely, the symmetry of the more widely held versions of the origin of the people are herein reflected with the major dissonance being in the origin from either Oyo or Ife. But on a broad outlook, the two accounts seem to point towards the same direction, as those in Oyo originally migrated from Ife, the ultimate source of all Yoruba.
Oduduwa, the progenitor of the Yoruba was one of the sons of Lamurudu, who was believed to have migrated from Mecca, Saudi Arabia, after some sectarian disagreement. He held the title of Olofin Adimula before he left Mecca. This perhaps explains why most Yoruba Obas are still referred to by that title to date. Oranmiyan, one of the sixteen sons of Oduduwa who left Ile-Ife, probably out of sheer ambition or mere adventure, was the first Oloyo of Oyo (later referred as Alaafin)
and the father of Oluaso, who gave birth to Pupupu, the first paramount ruler of Ondo Kingdom. Pupupu, a female, was one of the twin children of Oba Oluaso, who was said to have reigned in Oyo in the 15th Century. The other twin, a male, was named Orere. Twin birth in those days was considered an abomination and a strange phenomenon, esemae, as a historical source interpreted it.
Conventionally, the twins and their mother were instantly put to death, to prevent the imminent bad omen which was believed to be synonymous with their arrival. But because Olu, the mother of the children was one of the favourites of the King, her life and those of the twins were spared. They were however with an entourage of slaves under the guidance of a hunter called Ija, sent out of the palace with a beaded crown and an Akoko tree, signifying their royalty. Those were to accord them the dignity and the reverence due to royalty. Again, their father against the tradition of multi tribal marks of Oyo, incised two long tribal marks, one on each side of the cheek. Oluaso was apparently conscious of the fact that he may not set his eyes on the children for a long time, hence those facial marks were incised on them, so that they would be recognisable any time they were seen or if they came back home. This explains the origin of the tribal marks of Ondo to date.
The group wandered through the forest till they got to a place called Epin, near Gbere, whose inhabitants were referred to as Ibariba. They were well received and catered for until the death of Oba Oluaso in 1530 AD. They headed back to Oyo when the succeeding king did not treat them fairly, but Onigbogi, the reigning king had to send them back to a virgin land compassed about by Ife, Ijesa, Ekiti, Ado(Benin) and Ijebu communities. They later got to Igbo Ijamo (the forest discovered by Ija). The group apparently stayed in this place for some time. Eventually they found lgbo Ijamo unsafe and therefore continued their journey eastward, until they finally got to a place called Epe, not far from the present Ondo town. They were in Epe for many years and as they journeyed on, they passed through a hill which is today known as Oke Agunla and
one of the communities that make up the present day Ondo Kingdom. From this hill, they spotted some smoke and headed in its direction. There they met a man called Ekiri one of the original inhabitants of the area. The Ifa oracle, as was the usual practice then, was consulted on the prospects of the newly found location. The oracle instructed them to take along with them a yam stake (edo), as their walking stick. They were to poke the stick into the ground as they went along their way, and wherever the stick didn’t bond with the land, they were to settle. The group left Epe and proceeded as instructed by the oracle until they got to a place where the yam stake did not penetrate the ground. The group chorused in surprise Edo du do, (The yam stake would not stick in).
According to oral history, the word Ondo is a contraption of the sentence “Edo du do”. When the group arrived in Ondo, they met the Ifore, the Idoko and the Oka people. These indigenous inhabitants recognised the royalty of the new arrivals and readily ceded to them the authority to rule over the territory. And in due course, the original inhabitants of Ondo were assimilated into the culture of the new comers. It remains a reference point however that the Idoko and Ifore settlers still maintain a kind of separate political structure which is akin, in many respects, to that of the larger Ondo community. As time went on, the people spread to form other settlements like lgbindo, lgbado, llu-nla, Odigbo, Ajue. Igunsin, etc. By and large, the Ondo people still regard Epe, a relatively small town, seven miles from Ondo, on the Oke-lgbo road, as their original town (Orisun), from where they migrated to their present location. Up until now, many Ondo festival and rituals have Epe as their source. Pilgrimages are sometimes made to Epe for some of the festivals. Historical account also has it that at the demise of the Osemawe, his head was usually buried in Epe while the remaining part of his body was in Ondo. It is also worthy of note that a historical account holds that Olu, the twin brother of Pupupu, actually settled down in Ile-Oluji and became its first traditional ruler. This may also explain the close link between Ondo and Ile-Oluji, who are actually descendants from siblings of same parentage. To date, forty three Obas have reigned in Ondo after Pupupu, the first Osemawe.
The Ile Oluji Version: Oduduwa who migrated to Ile-Ife in the process of migration he and his entourage passed through many places such as Ekun and Epe (a village so named as a result of the abundant palm trees (ope) there and about 16 kms North East of Ondo, they left colonies of their making on their way. At Ekun, two men, Sunwen (as he was later known Oduduwa’s brass smith and Akasa (his priest) were left behind. At Epe, Ijabu (his palm wine tapper) was left behind. After a long period of settlement at Ile-Ife, Oduduwa’s children and grandchildren went forth to become the founders of kingdoms and Royal dynasties in all parts of Yoruba land.
Ile-Oluji is one of such kingdoms so founded. Investigation shows that in the early part of the fourteenth century, Olu-Ulode (that is, Olu from Ulode quarters in ife), dearly beloved wife of Oduduwa, gave birth to twin children, both male (this will be proved later). Ile-Ife, then under the leadership of Orisa, considered twins as taboo, and it was Ife custom to kill them together with their mother. Due to love for the mother and children, Oduduwa was reluctant to kill them. He named one “Esilosi”, that is “Favourite”, and the other “Oluwa”, that is “Lord”. (He was thus named because the Ife people used to greet Oduduwa as their Lord). In order to avoid a clash with Orisa, he summoned Ija, his trusted servant and Chief hunter, and ordered him to take the twins and their mother away from Ife. Ija was accompanied by Oduduwa’s brother and priest, who later took the title “Olofin”. members of Ija’s entourage included Olubidanre Agbogun and many others who wanted to go and sojourn in a new environment.
They moved about 4.8 kilometers away from Ife, to a place called “Ita-Ijamo” (the junction known to Ija). Ija then made hut for them there. When Orisa and then people of Ife learnt of this, they complained that they were too close to them, and gave an Ultimatum that they either moved or be destroyed. Ija and entourage consequently departed, and after two day journey got to Epe. Ijabu who had become the Yangede of Epe hosted and protected them while at Epe, till when the twins were about three years old.
The entourage in company of the twins later moved to Ekun-Ijama, the present day Ile-Oluji under the protection of Ija the Hunter. However, it is known through oral history that, while Olu Ulode was alive, Oduduwa visited Ekun-Ijama coinciding with the period of drought and famine in Ile-Ife. Oduduwa was claimed to have spent three years in Ekun-Ijama and lived in a quarter called ‘Atiba’ the present day “Oke-Atiba” in Ile-Oluji. It was during this period that Olu Ulode gave birth to a female child called Idowu. At Ekun-Ijamo, one of the male twins died, Olu-Ulode their mother also died in her sleep; which made Ekun-Ijamo to be renamed ‘Ile ti Olu sun ti ko ji’ Ile-oluji. The only surviving male twin known as Orere grew up to be crowned the first Oba of Ile-Oluji. The female child (Idowu) who was said to be bold, courageous and warlike later traced her father, Oduduwa, to Ile-Ife.
While at Ile-Ife, Idowu was asked how she was able to find her way through the thick forests and she replied that she was cutting short (mo ge pupupu) the forest paths to reach her destination. She was later referred to as Pupupu within the community. However, during Pupupu’s short stay in Ile-Ife, she caused a stir within the Palace when she went and wore Oduduwa cloth and crown to the full glare of everyone. Her action was likened to bad character (eshe; eleshe omo re; esemae). The Osemawe title was later carved out of Pupupu’s symbolic action. Oduduwa was infuriated and ordered that Pupupu should return to his brother ‘Orere’ at Ekun-Ijamo. It is of good note that Oduduwa did not collect the royal regalia Pupupu wore while she was sent packing from Ile-Ife.
When Pupupu and her royal entourage got to Orere at Ekun-Ijama, Ifa oracle was duly consulted and it was rightly advised based on the divination that she should travel further and settle in a place where the yam stake (edo) cannot penetrate the ground. The group eventually got to the present location called Ondo, where the yam stake would not stick in (Edo du do). Pupupu became the first Oba at ‘edo du do’ Ondo with the title Osemawe ( esemae ). Pupupu was succeeded by her son Airo, the first male Oba in Ondo.
IIe-Oluji kingdom and most of her neighbors in the very early times were situated in a forest known as “Igbo Ijamo” in Yoruba language or “Ugbo Ujamo”. It is referred to as IIe-Oluji “Ekun ijamo” (The-town-to-ija”) in Ile-Oluji spanning to Ofosu at the boundary of Ondo and Edo States, to Ikoya in Ikale land and Ajebamidele at the boundary of Ogun State. In the olden days, Igbo Ijamo was a wild and uncultivated land, situated in the tropical evergreen forest with tall trees and thick undergrowth full of wild beasts and spirits. It was not until the twin children of Oduduwa and their entourage came to settle there that some form of civilization was introduced to the people originally living there. The main town in the area was Ekun with surrounding villages like Ojowo, Upoti, Okua, and others. The name Ekun was later changed to IIe-Oluji by the people themselves. Ile-Oluji is the headquarters of ile-oluji/Okeigbo Local Government Council of Ondo State, Nigeria.