Ilesa, the traditional capital of the Ijesa nation, is located in Osun State and strategically positioned in the heart of Ijesaland, South West, Nigeria.
Ijesa, a dialect in Yorubaland, is used to identify the unified people known as the Ijesas that occupy six local government areas of Osun State namely: Ilesa West, Ilesa East, Atakumosa West, Atakumosa East, Obokun and Oriade local governments.
Ilesa: meaning ‘Ile ti a sa’ (a homeland we chose), like most Yoruba speaking towns and villages, in and outside the shore of Nigeria, has Ile-Ife as its ancestral home.
The name Ilesa, meaning ‘a homeland we chose’, shows the doggedness and resolute determination of the Ijesa people to go headlong into achieving whatever they want and ensure that they succeed.
Ilesa in history, is the capital of the first Local Council in Nigeria (Ijesa/Ekitiparapo Council), named by the British Colonial Administrator on June 21, 1900, comprising the present day Ondo and Ekiti States of Nigeria.
Historically, Ilesa was founded by Owaluse, a grandson of Ajibogun Ajaka, Owa Obokun Onida Arara, the most accomplished son of Oduduwa, the progenitor of Yoruba race
The traditional ruler of Ilesa and Ijesaland by extension is titled ‘Owa Obokun Adimula’, while the current Owa Obokun of Ijesaland, is Oba (Dr) Gabriel Adekunle Aromolaran 11.
As attested to by Rev. Williams Howard Clark in 1854, who was claimed to have said ”for its cleanliness, regularity in breath and width, and the straightness of its streets, the ancient city far surpasses any native town I have seen in black Africa”. Ilesa is a well-planned ancient city that has link routes that no town of its size can lay claim to in Yoruba land.
The ingenuity of the founding fathers of Ilesa is obvious in the well planned layout that makes it relatively impossible for motorists to be locked up in a traffic jam because there are a lot of link routes that could be taken as alternate routes to get to one’s destination.
Ilesa, for ages, has had a lot of magnificent buildings, because the natives are known to be adventurous, industrious, hardworking and widely travelled.
In fact, there is hardly a community in Nigeria where you will not find the Ijesas and they are indeed making waves in whatever human endeavour they may choose to engage in, even outside the shores of Nigeria.
Unlike what obtains in towns in Osun State, it may interest you to know that most of the magnificent buildings in Ilesa are built from mud bricks made from God endowed clay soil.
Like earlier mentioned in reference to merchandize, the Ijesa people are versatile in commerce and are predominantly traders and farmers.
They have cut a niche for themselves as the architect of ‘Osomaalo’ meaning, ‘I will only squat to recover my money’, an appellation they derived from their subtle way of introducing their textile materials to their customers only to come around to use force to recover the debt owed them by unsuspecting customers when they failed to observe the agreed installmental payment.
It has to be explained that the Ijesa trader, called Osomaalo, does not actually intend to choose to punish themselves by squatting, instead of sitting conveniently, to recover debts owed them, but the experience of those who had had their buttocks glued to seats whenever they go for such debt recovery had served as lesson to them, hence the need to squat rather than sit only to have their buttocks glued to their seats.
As a land of commerce, Ilesa is known to have large deposits of gold in commercial quantities and other minerals in considerable proportion.
Apart from being major producers of farm produce such as cocoa, kola nut, plantain, yam among numerous others, Ilesa is a major collection point for the export of Cocoa.
An Ijesa chief distinguishes himself from other chiefs in Osun State with their traditional round-neck bead as against the dangling ones used by chiefs from other parts of the state.
Traditionally, Ilesa people are known for their preference for pounded yam and egusi soup (melon mixed with vegetable) meal, the best drink is fresh palm wine while the traditional costume for men is flowing gown (agbada) over buba and soro with women wearing buba over wrapper with headgear.
Ogun, (god of iron), masquerade, ‘Uyi Arere’, festivals are traditional celebrations that attract indigenes and foreigners to Ilesa during their celebrations.
However, most outstanding of them all is the Iwude Ogun, in which the sitting Owa Obokun would visit all traditional chiefs in Ilesa with the prayer for peaceful coexistence amongst the people of the town.
It also involves visitation to notable shrines by the monarch to offer prayers to their ancestors, for peace to reign in his kingdom.
Iwude celebration has been modernized to attract tourists, involve the youths and remove the toga of idol worshiping that it was known for because the Ijesas are at the fore front of the propagation of Christianity and Islamic religion as it manifests from notable religious leaders that are Ijesas.
Prominent among such are: Ajagbemokeferi, a renowned Islamic scholar, Prophet T. Obadare of the World Soul Evangelistic Ministry, Prophet Fakeye of Cherubim and Sheraphim Church, Ayo Ni O, all of blessed memory.
Others include Pastor Enoch Adeboye, the General Overseer of Redeem Christian Church, Pastor W. F. Kumuyi of Deeper Life Church, Pastor S. K. Abiara, Gen. Evangelist of Christ Apostolic Church Worldwide, to mention but few.
With the modernized Iwude festival that lasted thirty days, various innovations such as beauty pageant, football match competition, traditional games competition, traditional wrestling, traditional music ministration, all introduced to add colour to the festival, youths, ijesas of diverse religion, friends of the ijesas and tourists now join in the celebration of the festival.
The festival provides a rare opportunity for all and sundry to come face-to-face and exchange pleasantries with the chief celebrant of the occasion, the Owa Obokun of Ijesaland, even as they offer prayers for another year of fruitful blessing.
Apart from commerce that the Ijesas are noted for, their courage in protecting their territory was made manifest in the great Kiriji war, led by the warlord, Ogedengbe Agbogun Gboro, Atiponpon loju ogun.
However, despite the passion the Ijesas have for commerce, those who are not close to them will not know that they have a way of enjoying themselves during their leisure hours after all an adage says “all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.
They do this by listening to and dancing to music that is peculiar to them, known as Adamo music,which is a traditional Ijesa genre of music with distinct features.
Ilesa is home to the International Breweries Limited, Obafemi Awolowo Teaching Hospital Complex, Wesley Guild, the famous Ilesa Grammar School, Osun State College of Education and many cottage industries.
Apart from the Ijesas, Ilesa is home to other people across the globe because of their readiness to accommodate people that are industrious and innovative.