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IJEBU PEOPLE SHREWD BUSINESS-LIKE SUB-YORUBA ETHNIC GROUP WHO WERE THE FIRST YORUBA TO HAVE CONTACT WITH EUROPEANS

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THE Ijebu People are very enterprising, shrewd business-like and agriculturalist Yoruboid-speaking people that forms a sub-set of the larger Yoruba ethnic group, inhabiting the South-Central part of Yorubaland in South-Western Nigeria. The Ijebu people who constitute the largest ethnic group in the Yoruba land reside particularly in parts of Ogun and Lagos States of Nigeria.

Ijebu women of Ijebu-Ode with their awesome hairstyle at annual Ojude Oba festival in Ijebu Ode, Ijebu Ode local government area of Ogun State.

The Ijebu territory is bounded in the North by Ibadan, in the East by Ondo, Okitipupa and the West by Egbaland. The Southern fringe is open to the sea with the coastlines of Epe, Ejinrin and Ikorodu. Despite the political division which has these three towns in Lagos while the main part of Ijebuland remains in Ogun State, the people have always regarded themselves as one entity even when the immigration legends which have often been cited point in different directions. The Ijebu nation consisted of 5 divisions: Ijebu-Ife, Ijebu-Igbo, Ijebu-Ode, Ijebu-Ososa and Ijebu-Remo.

The Ijebu people are identified with four types of oriki ({Ijebu}, a very important oral poetic genre among the Yoruba people of Southwestern Nigeria): Apeja (oriki soki or name version), Orufi (oriki) ulu praises of towns, Orufi gbajumo (praises of distinguished personalities), Orufi orisa (praises of gods) and Orufi Oba (praises of obas). The orufi establishes that the Ijebu people are a veritable link in the relations of the Yoruba people and the world.

The name “Ijebu” was derived from the expression: “Ije-ibu” (food of the deep). The Ijebus themselves claim to have descended from “Oba-nita,” thus, referring to themselves as “Ogetiele, eru Obanita” (that is, “Ogetiele, servants of Obanita”).

 

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However, the people, unlike other Yoruba groups seems to have different migration legends. One school of thought tend to link the Ijebu with the biblical Jebusites and Noah (hence Omoluwabi -- omo ti Noah bi -- the children of Noah), the other legend also trace the origin of Yoruba people, and by implication, the Ijebu to Mecca where Oduduwa, the legendary ancestor of the Yoruba, was said to be the son of King Lamurudu. Oduduwa, according to the legend, had to be expelled from Mecca when he resorted to idolatry. With the third school of thought, the Ijebu traditional historians tend to stick to the migration legend that the people migrated to their present territory from a region of Sudan called Waddai which means that the Ijebu had a parallel migration wave just like other Yoruba who believe they came to their present abode via Oduduwa. That claim seems to be corroborated by a publication by one Haile Mariam which states that "the most powerful people that the Negede Orit (ancient Ethiopian immigrants into Africa) met in East Africa were the Jebus." Their King was claimed to be so influential that he appointed the governors of Yemen. If that king was the same Olu-Iwa, the legendary first Ruler of Ijebuland, we do not know.

Whatever be the case, most of Africans were once settled in Mesopotamia and they all left to Egypt and, Ethiopia Sudan (Kush/Meroe). These place was the convergence point of most African ethnic groups before their dispersion or migration to their current settlements.

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