The history of the Ijesa people with their capital at Ilesa reflects, like the history of Ijebu and Oyo, the advent of a founding hero with Ifè affiliation. The foundation traditions of the Ijesha, as of the other major kingdoms of the region, take the form of a dynastic migration from lIe Ife, the sacred centre of Yoruba mythology.
This historic town is one of the oldest settlements in Yorubaland. According to tradition, it was founded by Owa Ajibogun or Owa (“King”) who was one of the 16 sons of the deity Oduduwa. The standard version of tradition among the Ijesa themselves traces the origin of the Ijesas state to a younger son of Oduduwa called Obokun (Owa’s ancestor), in commemoration of an occasion on which he fetched sea water to cure his father’s blindness. Obokun then settled in what was to become Ijesaland. He found, like other founding heroes, pre-existing political structures including a confederacy of five towns in the Obokun area. Obokun himself is so central to the Ijesas that they call themselves Omo Obokun (Children of Obokun). The Head of the Sovereign Family is also known as Owa-Obokun of Ijeshaland.
Ilesha traditions hold that the site of Ilesha was already occupied by scattered settlements of an aboriginal population, the most important being identified with today’s Okesa, the long street running west-east along Ilesha’s spine, whose leader is regarded as the ancestor of Ogedengbe, The Obanla of Ijeshaland.
An old Yoruba community, Ilesha was an important and major military centre in the campaigns against Ibadan, 60 miles (97 km) west-Southwest in the 19th-century Yoruba civil wars. A leading member of a confederacy known as the Ekitiparapo meaning ‘Ekiti together’. This combined forces of the Ijesa and Ekiti was formed to fight for the independence of their people. The The town has a memorial to Ogedengbe, an Ileshan warrior-leader, The Generallissimo of the Ekiti-Parapo Army (The Yorubaland Kiriji War of 1877-1892), who died in 1910. This is because he played a vital role during the kiriji war of the 19th century, which prevented Ilesa and other towns from being conquered and dominated by Ibadan and other powerful regions.
Ilesha was the capital of the Yoruba Ilesha kingdom of the Oyo Empire towns in Osun State. In 1817 a long series of civil wars began in the Oyo Empire in which hundreds of people died; they lasted until 1893 (when Britain intervened), by which time the empire had disintegrated completely.
Ilesha, formerly a caravan trade centre and the home of “OSOMALO” (Osómáalò – a term used to describe Ijesa traders in colonial Nigeria) is today an agricultural, commercial and processing city situated in a region in which cacao, kola nuts, palm products, and yams are produced. There is a sawmill, and alluvial gold is found and mined.
Modern Ilesha is a major collecting point for the export of cocoa and a traditional cultural centre for the Ilesha (Ijesha) branch of the Yoruba people. Palm oil and kernels, yams, cassava, corn (maize), pumpkins, cotton, and kola nuts are collected for the local market. Local industries manufacture nails and carpets, and the town has a brewery; there are also a recording company and a publishing firm, and the Supreme Oil industry at Ilesha. Several prominent quartzite ridges lie east of Ilesha, and gold mining is an important activity in the area, i.e The Iperindo Gold field.
Ilesha is a classic – though hardly a typical – example of that ethnographic celebrity, the Yoruba town: a large, nucleated settlement that is the centre of a kingdom and itself the primary residence of an overwhelmingly agricultural population. Even when it was largely derelict owing to war, in 1886, Ilesha’s population was estimated to be between 20,000 and 25,000 and a figure of up to 40,000 may be appropriate for the height of its growth before the sack in 1870. Though this is not as large as the largest Oyo-Yoruba towns of the nineteenth century, its considerable size was not due,as theirs was, to very heavy recent immigration under the impact of the wars.
The following was an observation and description made of the eastern Yoruba country by Rev. J.B Wood, who travelled through it in the 1880:
“It is hardly possible to think of the sufferings which have been endured by the Ondos without a feeling of deepest pity and sympathy. The sufferings of the Ijeshas have been greater than those of the Ondos, and still they continue. Town after town in the Ijesha country is passed which has but the merest handful of a population, as compared with what it was formerly.”
Ilesha is today one of the main cities in Nigeria and the site of several teacher-training colleges. Near the Market Square (Ereja Square) are places of interest such as the traditional king’s palace (Afin Adimula), the Oba-Ala palace, Ogedengbe cenotaph, the central mosque, and the principal park. Population (2004 estimate) 593,900.
Ijeshaland is rich in GOLD (Largest deposit in Nigeria) – Igun, Itagunmodi etc; FELDSPAR – Erin Ijesa, Igangan; MARBLE – Esa Oke, Ijeda, Iloko; TIN ORE – Imesi Ile; KAOLIN – Iperindo; TALC – Ilesa, Iperindo; and MICA – Ilesa, Iperindo.
Ijesaland is also the home of the famous and beautiful ERIN IJESHA (OLUMIRIN) WATERFALLS, a lavish acrobatic display of nature and a proud Tourist Attraction Centre. The Waterfalls has Seven Levels and the seventh level is the peak of the falls, it hosts a settlement where many of its inhabitants have lived for years such as the Fresh Water Prawns. Only few visitors can climb beyond the second level. The breeze at the falls is cool and refreshing, the water flows among the rocks and splashes down with great force to the evergreen vegetation that surrounds it. This amazing waterfalls is definitely one of the many wonders of the world.
In Ijesaland, there are also archeological tourist attraction venues such as KIRIJI WAR MUSEUM – Imesi-Ile; AGIRIGIRI SHRINE – Ijebu-jesa; OGUN SHRINE – Ipole; OSUN SHRINE – Iponda; OWA-OBOKUN MILLENNIA PALACE – Ilesa; OBANLA PALACE – Ilesa.
Ijeshas prided themselves enormously on their national dish, pounded yam (iyan), and their vehicle registration plate is LES for Ilesha, Osun (Ilesha).
Annual rainfall is heavy, of the order of fifty to sixty inches, occurring mostly from late March to early November, with peaks in June and September.
MAP OF ILESHA (ILESA)
Ilesha (m) surrounded by neighbouring towns and cities within 25km radius.
SOURCE: http://www.britannica.com and various other sources.