The Ijebus have been, through migration legend, linked to the biblical Jebusites and Noah (hence Omoluwabi omo ti Noah bi the children of Noah) but these are far fetched. Other migration legends trace the Ijebu people to Mecca where Oduduwa, the legendary ancestor of the Yoruba was said to be the son of King Lamurudu. According to the legend, Oduduwa was expelled from Mecca when he resorted to idolatry. This is an objectionable story since it implied that the Yorubas must have come into existence as a group after faithful Muslims expelled Oduduwa some 1500 years ago.
The migration legend said that the Ijebu people came to their present territory from a region of Sudan called Owodaiye, corrupted to Waddai, is preferred by the traditional historians, indicating the Ijebus had a parallel migration wave like other Yorubas who believed they came to theirs abode via Oduduwa.
A claim which seems to be corroborated by a Hailemariam publication who wrote that “the most powerful people that the Negede Ort, (Ancient Ethiopian Africa) met in East Africa were the Ijebus”. Their king was claimed to be very influential that he appointed the Governors of Yemen. It is however not known if that king was the same Olu-Iwa, the legendary first ruler of Ijebuland.
Negede Orit’s sojourn into Ethiopia was several centuries before King Solomon and the famous Makida, the Queen of Sheba ( about 900 BC) where he met the Ijebus on the East Coast of Southern Sudan, a legend that negates the earlier story of the descent from Mecca.
A lot of evidence abounds in support of the fact that the Ijebus migrated into Nigeria from Sudan, the Sudanese tribal mark being the most obvious although it is varied and duplicated all over Yorubaland. For the Ijebus, the three vertical marks on both cheeks are the national marks. Additionally, the original languages which Arabic superseded and spoken in the border of South Sudan and Ethiopia are very much like the Ijebu dialect. Names like Esiwu, Saba, Meleki (a corruption of Menelik) are still synonymous to the Ijebus and the Southern Sudanese. A musical flute formerly used during the coronation of the Awujale is still being used in Ethiopia and Southern Sudan.
The ancestors of the Ijebus who now inhabit Ijebu-Ode and district came into Nigeria from the ancient Owodaiye Kingdom of Ethiopia which came to an end due to the Arab supremacy in the Middle-East and the Sudan where Owodaiye was situated. The kingdom of Owodaiye (Corrupted into Waddai) was bounded in the East by Tigre and the Kingdom of Axum; in the North, by Nubia in the South-Eastern border, it was bounded by the land of punt while there was no clear boundary in the West. The Ijebus share their culture and religion with these people; tribal marks with Tigrians and ancient Axumites, funeral rites, the Agemo cult, and the Erikiran are shared with Egyptians, the Nubians, and Puntites.
The Yorubas in Nubia were the nearest people to the Ijebus in Owodaiye, But there were basic differences between the two people: whereas the Yoruba group practices circumcision on both their male and female, the Ijebus only practice it on only male, the Yorubas used to bore the lower of their ears in both sexes while the male never bore in Ijebu.
The first major groups of Sudanese that came to Nigeria were led by Iwase who came to Ife several centuries before the major Sudanese immigration under Oduduwa and Olu-Iwa, who entered the country about the same period as the Yoruba under Oduduwa. There are many reasons to believe that they arrived before the main Yoruba group. The most important being the one on the Yoruba tradition that when Oduduwa was alive, he became partially blind sometimes and consulted the Ifa priest, Agbonmiregun, with a view to finding the remedy for the ailment. Brine was recommended and Oduduwa had to send his Son, Obokun to the sea to get the seawater. Obokun wandered in vain for many years until he came to the Ijebu king for help who promptly aided him a messenger that guided him to the sea, and on his return to Ijebu, he was also given some eye medications by the Ijebu King (Lewu Legusen), which on application restored the sight of Oduduwa.
That’s all on the first part of this wonderful history to the Ijebus, Follow @wakhode for more updates and on all social media platforms
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