Owo is one of the key prominent towns in Yoruba land with rich history and culture that are symbolic in many ways.
Beyond the tradition, Owo town also has good political history in today’s Nigeria stemming from many events of the past. In 2019, the people of Owo celebrated the 1000years of founding of Owo town in grand style, and since its founding by a Prince from Ile-Ife (The Cradle and Source of Yoruba race) – the small town has not stopped growing in population and resources through the inputs of many Owo indigenes.
OmoElublog today, is here to go in-depth into the history, Culture and tradition of Owo town viz-a-vis other interesting things that you may want to know about Owo as a stranger or as a reader.
HISTORY OF OWO TOWN, ONDO STATE
To start with, the meaning of the name “Òwò” in Owo was reportedly gotten from twin words (Omo – Òwò) which means a Child of Respect or Honour which was given as a pet name to a certain prince of Oduduwa dynasty in Ile-Ife, named Ojugbelu Arere.
Before his arrival on earth, a diviner has seen through his future that he will be a boy that will be honoured and respected widely by many and would be the pathfinder and leader for a set of people. This premonition indeed came to past, as Prince Ojugbelu Omalaghaye Arere left Ile-Ife one day with another half brother of his, Prince Ojomo Jagun, 12 elders called the Ighares and many youths called Ugbamas to an unknown destination on a very day in 1019AD.
Along with his entourage, Ojugbelu took Six (6) other things from his Oduduwa father’s home, which are symbolic in the culture of the Owo people. These 6 things are;
- Enchanted Monkey
- Beaded Crown
And all of these 6 things have their significance; The Blessing is for Prosperity, The Adanigbo serves as human Comforter, Enchanted Monkey as Pathfinder, Crown as Symbol of Royalty, Sword also for power of royalty and tool for clearing path in the forest while the Tumpet is to attract wandering people and strangers in the forest.
Today, it has become a Taboo for an Owo indigene to eat Monkey.
On their Journey to the present Owo town, they fought many hindrances at certain places called Aluma and Upafa. At Upafa, there was a serious lightening and thunders that affected their journey , so they stayed at Upafa temporarily. It was at Upafa that Prince Ojugbelu the leader of the team died after a while and his son IMADE was made the head in 1070AD.
After a while, the team moved to a safer aboard and haven, in a new place that is about 12 (twelve) miles from Upafa. Their first station in Owo is around an Hill called Okitisegbo, which today becomes the new Owo land in present Ondo state.
His half brother, Prince Ojomo Jagun also died later and was made the head of a certain quarter in Owo that becomes Ijebu Owo today. The Oba of Ijebu Owo gift is in recognition of Prince Ojomo’s faithfulness and loyalty to his Late brother, Ojugbelu as he rejected the offer to replace his elder brother many times as the leader of the team.
CULTURE AND TRADITION OF OWO TOWN
Olowo of Owo
The Olowo of Owo is the traditional head of the Owo people and his palace is centrally located around Oke-Oja opposite a market, in Owo town.
Olowo’s palace is another masterpiece of ancient art, as many symbolic areas in the palace are paved with quartz pebbles laced with strong pillars supporting the different courtyards and adjoining areas, with big verandas.
Olowo’s palace is called Aghofen in native parlance and it is reported to be the largest in Africa with about 100 Courtyards called Ugha, plenty rooms all sitting on sprawling acres of land.
All these Ughas or courtyards serve many purposes and notably among them are these 26 Ughas, with 17 still standing today;
Ọ̀nà Gòdò Àdó
Ùghà Òlúwá Bùmúlí
Ùghà Yeye Ọgwá
Òkè Ulí Adé/ Ulí Ọgwá Òde
Ùghà Okèghà (Ọ́ghọ̀)
Owo kingship has had many years of succession over the years and as such there are Three (3) dynasties in the town with and one main Royal family called the Elewookun rulling house, that has produced 33 Olowos till date.
List of Past Olowo of Owos are as below
- Olowo Ojugbelu 1019 -1070A.D
- Olowo Imade 1070 – 1106A.D
- Olowo Kodo – 1106 – 1156A.D
- Olowo Agwobojoro – 1156 -1209A.D
- Olowo Dondon – 1209 – 1260 A.D
- Olowo Adegberin – 1260 -1305 A.D
- Olowo Opa – 1305 -1332 A.D
- Olowo Asunlola – 1332 -1340 A.D
- Olowo Rerengeje – 1340- 1345 A.D
- Olowo Asusoma – 1345 – 1386 A.D
- Olowo Ogeja – 1386 – 1430 A.D
- Olowo Imagele – 1430 – 1481 A.D
- Olowo Alamuren – 1481 -1539 A.D
- Olowo Omesan – 1539 – 1578 A.D
- Olowo Omaro – 1578 – 1600 A.D
- Olowo Oshogboye – 1600-1648 A.D
- Olowo Alubiolokun – 1648 -1690 A.D
- Olowo Otutubiosun – 1690 -1719 A.D
- Olowo Ajagbusin-ekun 1719-1760A.D
- Olowo Ajaka – 1760 – 1781A.D
- Olowo Elewu-Okun – 1781 – 1833 A.D
- Olowo Aghagunghaye – 1833-1876A.D
- Olowo Adara – 1876 -1880
- Olowo Aladetohun – 1880 -1889
- Olowo Atanleye 1st – 1889- 1902
- Olowo Ogunoye 1st- 1902-1913
- Olowo Olagbegi 1st – 1913 – 1938
- Olowo Ajike 1st – 1938 – 1940
- Olowo Teru Olagbegi II 1940-1966
(Deposed later to return to throne)
- Olowo Adekola Ogunoye 2nd -1966-1993
- Olowo Olagbegi II Returned 1993-98
- Olowo Folagbade Olateru Olagbegi III (OFR, SAN) – 1995 – 2019
- Olowo Ajibade Gbagedesin Ogunoye III (2019 – Till Date)
Biography of present Olowo of Owo
The present Olowo of Owo is Oba Ajibade Gbagedesin Ogunoye who hails from the popular Ogunoye lineage of the Royal Elewu-Okun Ruling house. He’s a trained Lawyer and a retired Civil Servant.
Oba Ajibade Gbagedesin pulled 14 votes from the consortium of OmoOlowos voting system who are the kingmakers headed by the most senior Omo Olowo, Chief Oladoyinbo. Consequently, Oba Ajibade Gbagedesin was announced the Olowo Elect on 12th of July 2019 and was installed and coronated officially as the 33rd Olowo of Owon amidst fanfare, on Sept 10, 2019.
Young Prince Ajibade Gbagedesin Ogunoye III was born on 6th of July, 1966 to the royal family of Late Oba Adekola Ogunoye II, Olowo of Owo kingdom and Late Olori Nike Ogunoye who died in December 2020.
Oba Ajibade started his Education at
Owo government primary school and later moved to Owo High School both in Owo town. He proceeded to Oyemekun grammer school Akure for his A-level Studies, where he came out in flying colours.
Oba Ajibade then gained Admission to the then Ondo State University, Ado Ekiti now Ekiti State University where he studied Law and bagged his First degree and later my Masters in Law after attending the Law School.
He’s a Solicitor and Barrister of the Supreme Court of Nigeria.
Oba Ajibade joined the Ondo state civil service as an Administrative Officer in 2001, after working for few years as a secondary school teacher.
Between 2001 and 2019 when he took over the stool of his forefathers, he worked & transversed various ministries, department and agencies of government in Ondo state.
Oba Ajibade rose through the Civil Service hierarchy to the level of a Permanent Secretary as the Government House and Protocol PS, an office he held for few days after he emerged as the Olowo of Owo kingdom.
There are (12) twelve Elders and Youth that formed the Olowo nucleus who came with Prince Ojugbelu from Ife who became the first early settlers in today Owo kingdom.
These 12 twelve are;
- Chief Adafen of Owo
- Chief Alajagho of Owo
- Chief Olisagho of Owo
- Chief Orogun of Owo
- Chief Alagha of Owo
- Chief Inoren of Owo
- Chief Odogun of Owo
- Chief Adanigbo of Owo
- Chief Arogho of Owo
- Chief Iragun of Owo
- Chief Odede of Owo
- Chief Alamuren of Owo
It is to be noted that this list is not in any other of seniority or importance.
Owo Kingdom Quarters
There are 5 principal Quarters in Owo town who are Traditional next in rank to Olowo of Owo and these Quarters hold the title of His Royal Highness since March 1995. The Quarters are;
- HRH Akowa of Owo – Head Iloro Qtrs
- HRH Ojumu – Head of Igboroko Qtrs.
- HRH Osere – Head of Ehinogbe Qtrs.
- HRH Ajana – Head of Isaipen Qtrs.
- HRH Ojomo – Head of Ijebu Quarters
These five are the Iloro Chiefs headed by HRH Akowa.
Again because of Late Prince Ojomo’s faithfulness and Loyalty to his Late Brother Ojugbelu, he was made a king of Ijebu-Owo with the Iloro title of Ojomo.
IGOGO FESTIVAL IN OWO TOWN
The most prominent festival in Owo town is the annual IGOGO festival that comes up every September of the year.
It is a festival in remembrance of one of Late Olowo’s beloved wives, Oronsen a goddess in human flesh, who placed a curse on the town after being angered by other wives, but gave a way out – If she can be remembered yearly, then prosperity will not elude Owo town.
Before then, Olowo Oba Rerengeje who was the 8th Olowo of Owo that reigned between 1340 – 1345, had expressed interest in Queen Orosen to become one of his wives at the palace. The lady rejected the king’s offer but on one condition – certain rules must be complied with, as Taboos
The 3 forbidden things are
- No Okro breaking or pounding in the palace among the wives.
- No open splashing of water in the palace courtyards.
- No putting or carrying of huge lumps of firewoods on head from the farm.
For years, these rules were strictly followed until one day, when the other wives ganged up against her over an argument and broke these taboos. All these happened while the Oba Olowo Rerengeje was away. This angered the Queen and he disappeared into a nearby forest called Ugbo Oluwa, now a sacred grove in Owo. Oronsen left her head tie called Oja in a place called Ugbo Oja.
All efforts to get her back proved abortive and the events of IGOGO festival as a form of sacrifice to appease her since then became a yearly historical event in Owo kingdom and Igogo has been in practice and celebrated in Owo kingdom and beyond for more than 500yrs out of 1000yrs of the town’s total existence since 1019AD.
During Igogbo Festival, every Olowo of Owo and his people will dance around the town, with the king dressing in a coral bead on neck and hands, regalia as beaded gown with his hair plaited like a woman, in remembrance of his late wife.
During this festival which often last for 17days, no drum must be beaten in Owo town except gongs, which is where the Festival derived his name from called Igogo.
In Igogo festival, about 200 Articles consisting of Dried fish, Kolanuts, Alligator Pepper, bitterkola will be sacrificed and appeased to the Oronsen goddess. The annual festival kickstarts from the Upeli Court with the Iloro Chiefs making procession, headed by Chief Akowa along with many Cultural activities that showcase the best of Owo culture.
Geographical Location & Political History of Owo town
Owo is located anciently between Ife and Benin town and falls among other towns in Ondo state like Akure, Ondo Ore etc. Owo falls under Owo Local Government in Ondo North Senatorial District and shares Federal constituency with Ose Local Government under Owo/Ose Federal constituency of Ondo State.
Politically, Owo occupies a special place in the heart of Yoruba political nation as the first serious political group -The Action Group was formed in 1951, at the house of the foremost Owo political leader, Late Chief Micheal Adekunle Ajasin under the leadership Chief Jeremiah Obafemi Awolowo. Action Group today remains a party that has placed the Yoruba people of Western Region of Nigeria in limelight and higher pedestal with many laudable achievements ranging from Good Educational Policies where many Nigerians of Yoruba descent had the rare opportunity of enjoying free Education.
Population and Economy of OWO TOWN
Today, Owo population by research is reportedly close to half of a million as it remains part of the first 5 biggest towns in Ondo State Nigeria.
Predominantly, Owo people like many Yorubas were peasant farmers, hunters and fishermen, but with civilization and infrastructural development that welcomes migrants into Owo town to live and to work, it is not surprising while Owo population is growing daily.
Owo town today is the seat of the then Ondo State Polytechnic now Rufus Giwa Polytechnic, the Federal Medical Centre Owo, a Private University – Achievers University Owo among many others. There are also many bank branches like First Bank, Wema Bank, etc in Owo town. Owo is also a home of artefacts from Benin and Ife extractions housed at Owo Museum established in 1968.
Today – Students, Lecturers, Bankers and Nurses, Medical Doctors, Farmers, Traders and Civil Servants are the majority of people living in Owo and it is a lovely town to visit for many reasons which by now you will agree with.
List of 5 Prominent Owo Indigenes with times and History are
(1) Oba Olateru Olagbegi I – Late Olowo of Owo and a business Tycoon (The richest Owo indigene with history). He owns many Old story buildings of yesteryears that are still standing in Owo town till today, with many farmlands and many successful grandchildren.
(2) Oba Adekola Ogunoye II – Late Olowo of Owo under whose reign recorded many unprecedented developments to Owo kingdom. It was during his reign that Owo becomes the seat of Ondo state Polytechnic and got a medical tourist centre with the Federal Medical Centre Owo. It was also during the reign of Oba Ogunoye that Chief Ajasin an Owo man becomes the first politically elected Governor of Ondo State in 1979.
(3) Chief Micheal Adekunle Ajasin -Former Governor of Ondo State (1979-1983), a Former Teacher and Western Nigerian Political Leader.
(4) Oba Folagbade Olateru Olagbegi III – Immediate past Olowo of Owo. A lecturer and a Legal Practitioner. He was the first Educated Olowo of Owo, and first Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN) fom Owo kingdom.
(5) Governor Rotimi Akeredolu SAN – Incumbent Governor of Ondo State and Former President of the Nigerian Bar Association.
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