The Kingdoms "Olugbo of Ugbo" and "Ooni of Ife". A Controversy of Manipulation of History or a Fact From Antiquity

Academic Paper, 2020

17 Pages





Assessment of Facts on the Ugbo-Ìfẹ́ Controversy




Th e aboriginal s or earliest dwellers of Ile-Ife {Ule-Ufe in Ilaje dialect} ha ve been the kernel of controversy between the Olúgbò of Ugbò Kingdom and Ọọ̀ni of Ìfẹ́. Both monarchs presen t conflicting viewpoints which x-ray innate understanding. Thus, th is antiquated controversy till date is devoid of agreement between the monarchs and their people which paves way for a witty dialogue in the academic community .

Since this controversy is of antiquity, and may lingers on unabated. This study therefore explores the two views/schools of thought appertaining to this controversy, and critically examines facts from antiquity. The study notes that scholars have made tremendous strive through varied and robust publications to unmask the mysticism surrounding Ọbàtálá and Odùduwà’s personalities and have tried to lay to rest the Olugbó-Ọọ̀ni’s controversy. These researches have been useful but non-conclusive. However, this study concludes that availability of evidence to enhance Yoruba historiography are essential hormones of objectivity.

Keywords: Antiquity, controversy, mysticism, Ugbó, Ìlàje, Ìfẹ́, progenitorship.


This discourse opens with an explicit exploration of the two schools of thought that have come to chart the course of Ugbó and Ìfẹ́-Yorùbá historiography and are pivotal to unravel Ugbó-Ọọ̀ni of Ife controversy. It also attempts a critical assessment of facts from existing literatures on Ugbo, Yorùbá history and oral account of both palaces in the pre-Odùduwà era.

Pre-Odùduwà regime of Ugbó View and Ìfẹ́-Odùduwà View o n Yorùbá Origin

The less popular view to this controversy is the Pre- Odùduwà/Ugbó view, while the more popular view is the Ìfẹ́ - Odùduwà view on Yorùbá ancestral origin.

The pre- Odùduwà/Ugbo view has it that, before the coming of Odùduwà and his people to Ìfẹ́, there were already autochthonous people there. These were the famous Ugbó people, whose warriors were mentioned in Ìfẹ́ folklores. The Ugbó mentioned in these folklores is not the Igbo people of Eastern Nigeria, rather they are the Ìlàje people who today occupy the Atlantic coastline of Ondo State of Nigeria1 and are a distinguished, distinct and linguistic sub-group of the Yoruba people2. The Ugbó people evolved an ancient centralized government led by their rulers. The dynasty which they established ruled for a long time, producing many kings. Some of the names of their kings have survived in oral traditions and most widely remembered was Kutukutu Oba Ugbó3.

Ugbó kingdom flourished in politics, religion, economic and social activities. The nation was believed to have reached its peak in the reign of Ekenwa in the early centuries of the first millennium A.D. Thereafter, the nation was plagued with many problems amongst them being weak rulers and an epidemic that took many lives including those of reigning kings and many members of the royal family.4 As a result, the ruling family could not produce an adult candidate for the throne. An interregnum occurred, during which a regency was established pending the adulthood of the heir (Ọbàtálá). All these developments brought weakness to the Ugbó nation. Unfortunately, Ọbàtálá proved a weakling when installed as king and was unable to revitalize the nation. It was at this point, Odùduwà who was said to be watching events as they unfolded from his home base of Oramfe Hill near Ile-Ife where he met the Ugbó people5 launched an attack on the Ugbó people in Ile-Ife between 800-1000 AD. At the end, Odùduwà had an upper hand. He moved quickly to occupy the site of Ugbó headquarters. He regrouped his people including some dozens or scores of Ugbó people’s hamlets who wished to remain under his lordship and established his dynasty. Such early quarters as created by Odùduwà are; Moore, Ilode, Iremo, Okerewe, Ilare6.

The aftermath of the battle was that the Ugbó {Ìlàje} people began second exodus of migration to their present site, first, stopping at a place described as Ugbó-Ugbò close to their homeland, Ilé-Ifẹ̀. Not happy about their displacement, they went on incessant guerilla attacks on Ife, until they captured Moremi [Mọ́remí], a beautiful woman whom the oracles had warned against, not to be brought home by the “Romeo” king Oronmaken.

The Ìfẹ́s dreaded the Ugbó because of their disguise in raffia bags and mat {Oke, eni, ojiko} like spirits, coupled with the skill to walk on stilt {agree} made of bamboo {eko/opa} and the use of spears {Ugaga}. Very soon, Mọ́remí understudied the warfare secret of the Ugbòs and she ran back home. She tutored her people and revealed that the Ugbò soldiers were human beings and their armours were highly inflammable.7

According to Tomoloju, “the ancestors of the Ilajes detested the Odùduwà take-over and, therefore, migrated through the forest of Oke Mafunrangan to a place near Esinmirin River from where they invaded Ile-Ife over a long period, carting away spoils and capturing slaves".8 This invasion was what motivated the legendary Ìfẹ́ Queen, Mọ́remí to embark on a heroic espionage quest that led to the eventual defeat of the marauding aborigines. The coastal town, Ugbó, under the paramount ruler. Ugbó is a major settlement of the protesting migrants. Its full meaning is ‘Mo r’ubo gbo ni.’ (I have a place to stay).9 Ugbó is the primary setting in the Mọ́remí legend. 10

Egboworomo stated that Mọ́remí as well as her only son called Oluworogbo became immortalized with the second most popular Edi {Èdì} Festival in Ilé-Ifẹ̀ while Olojo {Ọlọ́jọ́}Festival marks the first defeat of the Ugbó by Odùduwà. He subsequently unveiled that, after meeting their waterloo, some Ugbó people agreed to go back to the city and they settled in Ìwínrín compound; headed by Obá-winrin.11 Unable to contain this struggle any longer, the remaining Ugbos/Ilajes set off to find new towns and later became host to Odùduwà princes. They had a stop-over at Òkèmàfúnrangàn and on leaving Òkèmàfúnrangàn, they moved to Odigbo {Òdìgbó}of Old and Aye Town before reaching the present location, in the coastal or riverine part of Ondo.12

In consonance with the pre- Odùduwà/Ugbó view, Prof. Ogen didn’t just provide evidence in his “History, Politics and Ethnicity: A Critique of the Existing Canons of Yoruba Historiography”. He also uncovered an interview where the then Ooni and Araba of Ile-Ife confirmed the claim of Ìlàje-Ugbó as the aborigines and earliest known inhabitants whom Odùduwà and group displaced. According to him “John Wyndham, an assistant District Officer in Yorubaland in the early 1900s conducted series of interviews with the then Ooni and Araba of Ilé-Ifẹ̀ on the ancient history of Ilé-Ifẹ̀ which he later published in 1921 as Myths of Ife”.13 Olukoya Ogen however, gave a concise extract from this ancient classic thus; “In the vast Forest; and thus was born the first fair daughter of Oduwa’s city [ Ìfẹ́ ]. Men called her Ubo [Ugbo], and the leader took the name Olubo of Ubo [Olugbo of Ugbo] with his chieftaincy”14

It is remarkable to know that the ‘gbo’ suffix in Ugbó characterised the place names of the major settlements that were founded by the Ugbo migrants after their departure from Ìle-Ìfẹ́ to Òde-Ugbò. These are Okegbo, Odigbo, Iluagbo, Arogbo-Ile {Òkegbó, Òdìgbó, Ìlú àgbò} and finally, Ode-Ugbo.15

On the other hand, the Ìfẹ́-Odùduwà view or Yorùbá mythology has it that Odùduwà who later became the progenitor of the Yorùbá race, in Yorùbá historiography was said to have left either Egypt, Yemen, ancient Meroe, Arabia or Middle East about the second to first Millennia BC.16 The journey must have taken him decades if not centuries. Odùduwà and his followers settled and moved along the way. One of such settlements is called Gogobir {Gogobiri} in Northern Nigeria, before the Hausa states.17 He got to Oyo before going to Ìfẹ́, an ancient Yoruba city in south-western, Nigeria. The city is located in present-day Osun State. Other legends place these events in relation to the establishment of Islamic religion in Mecca. Thus, dated the early migrations to about the 8th century A.D.18

There is another myth of Ìfẹ́ - Odùduwà view which claims Ìfẹ́ is the origin of mankind or cradle of civilization and Odùduwà descending from heaven to establish Ìfẹ́. This myth tells us that Olódùmarè{God} sent Ọbàtálá to create the earth, giving him chain, sands and cockerel. But on his way Ọbàtálá got drunk and slept off. Oduduwa collected the items from him, came down from heaven via the chain and threw a handful of sand on the sea and he then put a cockerel so that it would scatter it.19 Thus, creating Ìfẹ́, the cradle of civilization.

The two myths of the Ìfẹ́-Odùduwà school of thought enjoy wide acceptability among scholars to the extent that they deliberately refute and suppress new facts or contrary opinions. Worthy of note was the torrent of reactions from prominent Yorùbá kings, and intelligentsias castigating and refuting the claim of His royal majesty, Omo N’ Oba N’Edo Uku Opolokpolo, Erediauwa, Oba of Benin’s book titled “I Remain, Sir, Your Obedient Servant” where in page 33 of the book he upturned the age long belief of Ife-Benin connection. He acclaimed that prince Oranmiyan came from Ufe to rule Benin, his father Odùduwà was indeed prince Ekaladerhan/Ogwugwa, son of Ogiso Owodo of Benin. He gave an account of how Edkaladerah became Oghene n’ Uhe [Oduduwa].20

However, Yoruba historians such as Prof. Ade Ajayi among others refuted the claim of Omo N’ Oba. Prof. Ajayi opined that, “Odùduwà either dropped directly from Heaven with some [accompanying] 400 deities to become the progenitor of Yoruba or he [Odùduwà] came from somewhere in the far east”.21 Thus, giving credence to the wide acceptability of the Ìfẹ́–Odùduwà view and its intolerance of opposing views.

Of a truth, Oduduwa cannot come from far east and heaven at same time. Who then is Oduduwa and where exactly did he come from? remain a subject of discourse among contemporary scholars.

Prof. Osuntokun however dismissed the claim of the Ìfẹ́-Odùduwà view as some clever persons’ imagination because before Odùduwà came to Ìfẹ́ perhaps in 8th century there were already people in Ìfẹ́ and the Moremi legend of an Ìfẹ́ princess finding the secret of Ugbó attacks illustrates the fact.22

In the light of this, Ogbemudia in his article titled “The Point the Ooni Missed” on Sunday Sun, 2014; equally dismissed the Ìfẹ́-Odùduwà view as amusing permutations.23 In his words, “this celestial allusion to heavenly descent is nothing more than an exercise in historical mythology lacking empirical validity. The idea of emergence from the East; far, middle or near, should be rude to Yoruba esteem. None of these *Easts* add any substance to their account”24

Without mincing words, it is plausible to argue that the Ìfẹ́ - Odùduwà view is not totally inconsonance with the Pre- Odùduwà-Ugbo view on the claim of aboriginal settlers. Apposite to remark that, although, there’s wide acceptability of the Ife- Odùduwà myth by most historians, and Yorùbá intelligentsias. However, there’s a meagre group of historians who disagree with the Ìfẹ́-Odùduwà myth weaved in mysticism and lacking empirical validity.

Moreover, it is lucid that both views cannot be true at same time. It is therefore critical to put to practice objectivity of historical facts in order to cancel the automatic ticket given to the Ìfẹ́ - Odùduwà progenitorship as the hub of Yorùbá origin. Exploration of ethnographic facts as well as copious scrutiny and analysis of scholarly materials are assessed in the subsequent paragraphs.

Assessment of Facts on the Ugbo-Ìfẹ́ Controversy.

For one thing, the Ugbó acknowledged their dwelling in Ile-Ife before the coming of Odùduwà and his group to displace them and the Ìfẹ́ - Odùduwà school of thought has not denied this. Infact, Oral history in Ìfẹ́ has it that Odùduwà was not the original leader of his group and that he took over from Ọbàtálá when Ọbàtálá got drunk. It is also known that there were surrounding villages before the coming of Ọbàtálá/Odùduwà group. Some of the folklores have it that 90 rulers predated Obatala/ Odùduwà revolution.25 Osuntokun in his inter alia on the subject succinctly posited; “there were autochthonous people in Ìfẹ́ before the advent of Odùduwà perhaps in the 8th century”26

Ogundipe on the other hand solidified this evidence when he postulated in his History of Yoruba: Fact of the Matter , 2004, that “the migration of the dialectic groups in Yorùbá occurred in three phases and they all migrated from Ile-Ife towards the eastern flank. In the phase one is the Pre- Odùduwà group. The second phase was the Immediate Post- Odùduwà group while Omo Olofins, the Adimula descendants who established Ijasa kingdoms and equally began a new dynasty at Akureland formed the third group. The Pre- Odùduwà group comprised the Ilaje, Ikale, Ondos, Idanre and Owo.27 They were said to have left in annoyance through the present Oke-Igbo axis to their present abode. The Legendary Obatala led this group out of Ile Ife. They were the famous Ugbo warriors mentioned earlier in the Ìfẹ́ folklores”.28

It must be borne in mind that ancient or pre- Odùduwà Ìfẹ́ was also known as Igbómókun{Ugbómokùn}. The wars of vengeance which they fought against the Odùduwà group and which culminated in the famous Moremi episode are known as Igbo raids and the Ugbo war camp on the outskirts of Ìfẹ́ was known as Igbo Igbo [Ugbo Ugbo], that is Ugbo’s forest.29 There is evidence that the Ondos were amongst the mass exodus that left Ìfẹ́ with Ugbo, which reflected in the socio-cultural affinity of the Ìlàje/Ugbó, Ikale/Ìkálẹ̀, Ondo/Òndó, and Owo/Ọ̀wọ̀ people.30 Based on the aforementioned, attempt to raid Ugbo its place as the earliest inhabitant of the place in discourse could be seen as intolerance of contradictory opinion shrouded in mysticism.

Though, certain historians claim there are no pre-historical accounts of earliest development of human civilization and the evolution of political consciousness in Ile Ife. However, a thorough excursion into political evolution in Yorubaland uncover both existed and further lay credence to the position of Ugbo as the aborigine of Ìfẹ́.

Evidence from the Ikedu traditions as analyzed by Akinjogbin shows that the process of the development of the various kingdoms and the evolution of political institutions and government in Yorubaland in general first began in Ìfẹ́ area. There, a centralized state emerged sometime in the first millennium BC.31 Historically, the title of the earliest inhabitants of Ìfẹ́ [Ufe] who were the Ilajes/Ugbo was Obalufe, Olugbo or Oghone. It can therefore be said that both the titles and indigenous dialect were suppressed by Odùduwà and his group but the remnant of this early institution were preserved in the Ikedu tradition.32

It must however be stressed that Oghonne and Ọọ̀ni are two different titles with different historical backgrounds. During the British punitive expedition of Benin in 1897, early European writers visiting Benin and other parts of west Africa did not refer to Ọọ̀ni instead Ogone. For instance, the report received from Benin by early Portuguese travelers as published by Pereira in 1937 acknowledged a sovereign named Ogane or Hoguanee to whom Oba of Benin sent a message on his enthronement.33 Thus, Ogane or Olugbo is of antiquity while Ọọ̀ni of Ìfẹ́ is a title adopted after the Odùduwà take-over. Some of the names of Ugbo pre- Odùduwà kings survived in oral traditions. Reference was also made to Kutukutu Oba Igbo, which translates to “Oba Igbo presided during the early beginning in Ìfẹ́.34


Excerpt out of 17 pages


The Kingdoms "Olugbo of Ugbo" and "Ooni of Ife". A Controversy of Manipulation of History or a Fact From Antiquity
History and International Studies
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ISBN (eBook)
ISBN (Book)
Olugbo, Ooni of Ife, Ooni Adeyeye Adewusi Eniola, Obaterun Akinruntan, History of Yoruba, Ife, Ilaje, Oduduwa, Moremi, Obatala, Olokun, Ikuemonisan Bababo, Nigeria, Fact of history, Benin history, Benin-Ife Controversy, Oba of Lagos, Oba of Benin, Origin of Yoruba
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Bababo Ikuemonisan (Author), 2020, The Kingdoms "Olugbo of Ugbo" and "Ooni of Ife". A Controversy of Manipulation of History or a Fact From Antiquity, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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