The Ondo Kingdom, in its pre-colonial setting, comprised the area which lies on latitude 7°6′ north, and 4°50′ (7 degree, 6 minutes and four degree, fifty minutes) east, in the tropical rain forest belt ofNigeria. It was bounded in the north by the modern Akure and Obokun Local Government Areas; in the south by Ilaje/Eseodo Local Government Areas, and part of Ijebu in Ogun State; while in the east it is bounded by Owena River, beyond which is the Ifedore Local Government Area, and in the west by “Ooni River”. In the south the land is low-lying and borders on the creek area of the Ilaje/eseodo, but rises gradually towards the north, Ode-Ondo itself being 290 meters above sea level.
The kingdom covers an area of 4,060 km² and the population is 275,917 (1991 Census) of which a large majority live in Ode-Ondo the capital of the kingdom. Ondo lies in the humid tropic with tropical rain forest and the south-east wind throughout most of the year. During the months of December, January, February, the cooler dry continental air from the north prevails. The rainy season proper lasts from March or April until December. The kingdom is covered with forest and contains valuable timber, mostly Mahogany, Opepe, Afara, Obeche, Olofun, Iroko etc. with a big forest reserve of over 1000 square kilometers. An annual average of timber extraction is almost 23 x 105 cubic meters. The whole area is cut up by a number of clear streams running into four rivers – Owena, Ufara, Oluwa and Ooni, which flow southwards into the creeks. In the north, there are considerable granite outcrops said to be of volcanic origin.
The Ondo are keen farmers, raising food crops, such as yams, cassava, maize, cocoyam, rice and beans, among others. Cash crops include cocoa (the most important of all, covering a large portion of arable land), rubber, coffee, kolanuts and palm produce. There has been a decline in food production following the expansion of cocoa plantation in the kingdom. The effect of this is that the Ondo have had to depend to a large extent on their neighbours for foodstuffs. An extensive timber extraction from the forest was a source of wealth to the people. Local industries and crafts include blacksmith, gold- and silver-smith, bricklaying, carpentry and shoe making. The people also trade in merchandise. At the inception of colonial rule, Ondo Kingdom comprised thirty-three towns, villages and hamlets with capital at Ode-Ondo. Most of them were large towns before they were scattered by internecine wars.
THE ISHAN TOWN
After many years of settlement at Ode-Ondo, the people had spread out, probably as a result of population pressure on the land available or as a means of satisfying the adventurous spirit of some of them. In this way, new towns were founded, and the same type of administrative system which operated at Ode-Ondo was introduced in each of the towns. The towns founded in the first wave of emigration from Ode-Ondo are referred to as Ishan (emigrants). They are Odigbo, Igbindo, Ore,Igbado, Igburowo, Ilunla, Ajue and Araromi. All these towns and villages bear similarities to Ode-Ondo in their customs, chieftaincy titles and tribal marks.
It is significant to note that, in the colonial period, when they were struggling for autonomy, some of the towns denied historical link with Ode-Ondo, claiming to have come directly from Ile-Ife. Of more recent foundation were Oke-Igbo and Aiyesan. Oke-Igbo were a product of internal strife between Osemawe Arilekolasi and the Ondo people in the middle of the nineteenth century. Following his tyrannical rule, Osemawe Arilekolasi was told to “go and sleep” (that is, to commit suicide), but before he died, the Oba sent for his chief slave, a man called Ago who stationed near Oni River, an outpost of the Oba on the road to Ile-Ife, and told him to attack the people and avenge his death. Ago recruited warriors from Ile-Ife, and with support of other slaves at Ode-Ondo laid waste the kingdom. He drove the new Osemawe, his chiefs and the people into exile. In the meantime, the Ifes who fought with Ago had settled at the outpost near Oni River where they founded Oke-Igbo.
But by the 1870s, during the reign of Oba Jimekun a message was received from Governor Glover who was then the Governor of Lagos, to the effect that people who had fled the town during the war with Ago should return. Oba Jimekun must have subsequently re-established his authority over the whole kingdom including Oke-Igbo.
Source By: Mr. Allen AKinrinlola