The Ilaje People Of Yoruba Nation
The Ilaje (Omuro) are one of the more than 30 peopled groups of The Yoruba nation. As a coastal Yoruba group, they can be found along the coastline of four maritime states namely; Ondo, Ogun, Delta, Lagos & beyond.
The Ilaje left Ile Ife, their ancestral home around the late 10th / early 11th century led by Ọrọnmakẹn Ọsangangan of the Ọranfe lineage & migrated southwards towards the littoral coastline of southeastern Yorubaland with assurance of the ifa oracle that they would be led to settle in an area of immense wealth and prosperity (Ùwà). Today, they occupy the entire Atlantic shoreline of Ondo State, with a significant proportion of the ilaje also settled on land in the interior behind the coast such as Igbokoda. 75% of the Ilaje LG is riverine.
The Ilaje existed originally in four geo polities unified by Language, History and Customs. They are Ode Ugbo, Aheri, Ode Etikan and Ode Mahin. The three former are Swamps & coastal lands while the last is arable dry land situated behind the others. They are called Ilaje Igbo (those of the land)
Olugbo is the Oba of Ugbo
Amapetu is the Oba of Mahin
Maporure is the Oba of Aheri
Olikan/Onikan is the Oba of Etikan
Olu of Igbokoda
Oronmija of Idi gbengben
Alagho of Odo nla
Maporure of Agerige
Osobitan of Erun Ama
Some of the towns in Ilaje land include; Agerige, Atijere, Awoye, Araromi, Ugbo nla, Otumara, Obe nla, Oroto, Ikorigho, Ogogoro, Igbo egunrin, Mahintedo, Olotu, Ayetoro, Jiringho, Oke Iwamimo, Bowoto, Moluteyin, Ikorigho, Ilepete, Erunna, Oghoye, Ramasillo, Ebute Ipare, Oke Etigho, Seja Odo, Ehin Osa, Ehinmoghan, Abetobo, Womiteren, Ogungbeje and many others.
The location where crude oil was first discovered in Nigeria was at Araromi seaside in 1908 and later at Ogogoro in 1952 well before it was discovered in the old Rivers State in 1956. Today the area produces thousands of barrels of crude oil and natural gas. Some of the fields include; Omuro, Ojumole 1 to 4, Malu, Eko, Parabe, Minna, Ruta, Bella, Obe, Shango, Esan, Ewa, Opolo, Isekelwu, Isan, Ikorigho, Isan West, Ororo, Oloye, Kito oil fields.
Bitumen is also found in huge quantities at Mahintedo, Igbobi and Agerige, with the largest quantities situated northwards in Ikale land.
Being riverine by nature, the primary occupation of the Ilaje is fishing, trading and boat making. An average Ilaje person knows which fish is gotten from fresh water and which is gotten from salt water. There are also seasons when the water in the Lagoon turns salty between April and July when there is heavy rainfall. Despite fishing across several villages at a time, there is no occasion where any Ilaje fisherman loses his way on the high sea. This is due to the fact that when on sea, there is a way one pictures themselves and there are landmarks that helps identify and tell the distance from home like weather condition, wind direction, solar & lunar positions.
At various times of the year, many Ilaje return to their home base to celebrate some of their festivals, which include: Masquerading, Umale, Malokun (Wealth & fertility festival for Olokun), Boat regatta & Epo (Raffia costumed masquerade which was used to scare the people of Ife before the Moremi saga).
Today, many areas of the Ilaje homeland suffers from coastal erosion and constant sea surge by raging waves and rising sea levels leading to wanton destruction of property, all with little to no attention from governmental agencies.
If you want to call the Ilajes’ in a gathering to attention just exclaim; AYEMAFUGE DEDE ILAJE! The response you get is AWAYE!
Ilajẹ Omuro, Aghan agbe n’inọ Ọkọ hẹngwa! (Ilaje Omuro, those that ives in the boat/canoe and paddle/drive)
Ubo ẹri ipa tọ, ilaje gwa to rin (Where the path of river currents flow through, there you will find the Ilaje)
UGHUN HENGWA NÍ ILAJE, ULE NUṢE!