Ibadan (Èbá-Ọdàn) is the capital of Ọyọ State. It is located in south-western Nigeria, 78 miles inland from Lagos and is a prominent transit point between the coastal region and the areas to the north. Its population is estimated to be about 3,800,000 since the days of the according to 2006 estimates. Ibadan had been the centre of administration of the old Western Region, NigeriaBritish colonial rule, and parts of the city’s ancient protective walls still stand till today. The principal inhabitants of the city are the Yorùbá.
Ibadan’s pre-colonial history centered on militarism, imperialism and violence. It came into existence when Lagelu, the Jagun (commander-in-chief) of Ife and Yoruba’s generalisimo left Ile Ife with a handful of his people to found his own city, Eba Odan, which literally means ‘between the forest and plains.’ According to HRH Sir Isaac Babalola Akinyele, the late Olubadan (king) of Ibadan, in his authoritative book on the history of Ibadan, Iwe Itan Ibadan, printed in 1911, the first city was destroyed due to an incident that happened during an Egungun (masquerade) festival when an Egungun was accidentally disrobed and derisively mocked by women and children in an open marketplace full of people.
In Yorubaland, it was an abomination for women to look an Egungun in the eye because the Egunguns were considered to be the dead forefathers who returned to the earth each year to bless their progeny. When the news reached Sango, the then Alaafin of Oyo, commanded that Eba Odan be destroyed for committing such an abominable atrocity! Lagelu was by now an old, frail man; he could not stop the destruction of his city, but he and some of his people survived the attack and fled to a nearby hill for sanctuary. On the hill they survived by eating oro fruit and snails; later, they cultivated the land and made corn and millets into pap meals known as oori or eko, which they ate with roasted snails. They improvised a bit by using the snail shells to drink the liquefied eko. Ultimately, Lagelu and his people came down from the hill and founded another city called Eba’dan. The new city instantly grew prosperous and became a commercial nerve centre. Shortly afterwards, Lagelu passed on to the great beyond leaving behind a politically savvy people and a very stable community.
The newly enthroned Olubadan made a friendly gesture to the then Olowu of Owu by allowing Olowu to marry his only daughter, Nkan. Coming from a war campaign one day, the raging Odo Oba (River Oba) would not allow Olowu and his army to cross until a human sacrifice was performed to appease the angry river. The chosen sacrifice was Nkan. The Olubadan was infuriated at hearing of Nkan’s death; he sent an emissary to inform the Alafin of Oyo. Yoruba kings and rulers such as Alake of Egba, Agura of Gbagura, Ooni of Ife, Awujale of Ijebu and others formed a formidale coalition with Eba’dan against the powerful Olowu of Owu. After the defeat of Owu, many, if not all, of the warriors that participated in the coalition refused to go back to their towns and cities. They began attacking the neighboring towns and hamlets, and also marauded across Eba’dan thereby making the indigenes to fear and dread them. Finally, they took over the political landscape of Eba’dan and changed its name to Ibadan, as we have come to know it. Ibadan grew into an impressive and sprawling urban center so much that by the end of 1829, Ibadan dominated the Yorùbá region militarily, politically and economically.
The military sanctuary expanded even further when refugees began arriving in large numbers from northern Oyo following raids by Fulani warriors. After losing the northern portion of their region to the marauding Fulanis, many Oyo indigenes retreated deeper into the Ibadan environs. The Fulani Caliphate attempted to expand further into the southern region of modern-day Nigeria, but was decisively defeated by the armies of Ibadan in 1840. The Ibadan area became a British Protectorate in 1893 and by then the population had swelled to 120,000. The British developed the new colony to facilitate their commercial activities in the area, and Ibadan shortly grew into the major trading center that it is today.