Beautiful Nigeria: The Historic City Of Abeokuta

Nestled inland, directly north of sprawling Lagos, the regional capital of the Ogun State can be found surrounded by great swathes of yam fields and maize farms, swaying wooded savanna and palm oil plantations.

An historic location on the important trade routes between the coast and the heart of West Africa led to previous inhabitants raising adobe fortifications around the old town, many of which can still be seen today.

Abeokuta is the state capital of Ogun State in southwest Nigeria. It is situated on the east bank of the Ogun River, near a group of rocky outcrops in a wooded savanna; 77 kilometres (48 mi) north of Lagos by railway, or 130 kilometres (81 mi) by water. As of 2006, Abeokuta and the surrounding area had a population of 449,088.

Geography And Economy

Abẹokuta lies in fertile country of wooded savanna, the surface of which is broken by masses of grey granite. It spreads over an extensive area, being surrounded by mud walls 18 miles in extent.

Palm oil, lumber, natural rubber, yams, rice, cassava, maize, cotton, other fruits, and shea butter are the chief articles of trade. It is a key export location for cocoa, palm products, fruit, and kola nuts.

Both rice and cotton were introduced by the missionaries in the 1850s and have become integral parts of the economy, along with the dye indigo.


In 1817, the Oyo Empire dissolved into civil war. Refugees displaced by the collapse of Oyo joined with the Ijebu in their war against the Owu in southern Yorubaland, which had broken out around the same time.

Following the fall of Owu in around 1822, the leading Ife and Ijebu generals returned to their respective homes, but the rest of the armies that had allied with the Oyo refugees were invited by the Ijebus to Ipara, which they made their headquarters for further attacks against several towns in the region.

This group then turned their attention to waging war with the Egba, a loose confederacy of towns that had been established by Yoruba migrants in the 13th century and were spread throughout the forested land between Ipara and Ibadan.

The group conquered and destroyed many of these towns, eventually settling in one of the villages that had not been completely destroyed, Ibadan, which they used as their headquarters for additional conquests.

At least a handful of Egba groups had by this point joined the group of marauders, and they too were living at Ibadan.

Conflict between the various groups arose, and in one incident, an Egba chief named Lamodi shot an Ife chief named Ege to death with a pistol at a public meeting before himself being killed in the ensuing commotion.

Fearing Ife reprisal, most of the Egba population withdrew as a group to an encampment about 3 or 4 miles distant on the other side of the Ona River.

Here they enlisted Sodeke to be their leader and migrated to a hilly area known as Olumo Rock, where they established the town of Abeokuta around 1830 at what was then a small farming village.

By 1825, Olumo Rock was already a place of refuge from Ibadan and Dahomey slave hunters; people were scattered throughout the landscape, taking shelter among the rocks surrounding the settlement.

The Egba who established Abeokuta were soon joined by other Egba refugees and a substantial number of Owu who had escaped their captors.

It became a busy metropolis and home to the majority of the Egba. However, the various groups of Egba did not fuse into a single community; rather, Abeokuta functioned more as a “federation of communities within a town wall than a community in its own right”.

Because Abeokuta was in a key location for the palm oil trade and because it was the so-called capital of the Egbas, Dahomey soon became hostile. In the 1851 Battle of Abeokuta, the Egba defeated King Gezo and the Dahomey incursion. They again beat back the Dahomey military in 1864.

The 1860s also saw problems arise with the Europeans, namely the British in Lagos, which led to the Egba first closing trade routes, followed by the expulsion of missionaries and traders in 1867.

Between 1877 and 1893 the Yoruba Civil Wars occurred, and Abeokuta opposed Ibadan, which led the king or alake of the Egba to sign an alliance with the British governor, Sir Gilbert Carter.

This occurred in 1893, which formalized the Egba United Government based in Abẹokuta which became recognized by the United Kingdom.

In 1914, the Egba lands were incorporated into the colony of Nigeria by the British, with Abeokuta as the provincial capital.

A Short Introductory Expose Of The Egbas In Egba Dialect By A Native Speaker

In 1918, an uprising took place, the Adubi War, which was related to the levying of taxes and the policy of indirect rule by Sir Frederick Lugard, the British Governor-General.

This was the only internal threat to British control of Nigeria during the course of the First World War.

The Abeokuta Women’s Revolt, led by the Abeokuta Women’s Union (AWU), took place in the 1940s. It was a resistance movement against the imposition of unfair taxation by the Nigerian colonial government.

In 1976, Abeokuta became the capital of the newly created Ogun State.

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