|•||Founding of the Ondo Kingdom||c.1510|
|•||Extension of British power over Ondo Kingdom||1899|
The Ondo Kingdom is a traditional state that traces its origins back for over 500 years, with capital in Ondo City, Ondo State, Nigeria. The kingdom survived during and after the colonial period, but with a largely symbolic role. The ruler as of 2010 was Oba Adesimbo Victor Kiladejo, the 44th Osemawe, or traditional ruler.
The Ondo people are one of the largest subgroups of the Yoruba people. There are three different origin stories of the Ondo kingdom. Firstly,the tradition of Ondo town which is highly celebrated to this day claims that Ondo was founded by a wife of Oduduwa, the progenitor of the Yoruba who had migrated from Mecca to Ile-Ife. Oduduwa's wife, Pupupu, gave birth to twins, which were regarded as unlucky and resulted in her exile with her twins. She moved southward until she came to the current location of Ondo City. Pupupu became the first ruler of the Ondo Kingdom in the 16th century and her descendants wear the crown today. Historian Samuel Johnson accounts a similar story but that Pupupu was the wife of Ajaka, the grandson of Oduduwa. A final origin myth contends that Ondo was founded by people from the Kingdom of Benin during the reign of Ozolua.
A military coup removed Pupupu in power and appointed her son, Aiho (or Airo in some versions) as the ruler. Aiho established the basic political structure for the Ondo state linked largely to his royal lineage and built the royal palace The royal lineage revolves largely around four different houses, each founded by one of Aiho's sons (although one house died out because of a lack of male heirs). From these different lineages, an Osemawe, or primary monarch for the Ondo kingdom, is selected. The current Osemawe is Oba (Dr.) Victor Adesimbo Ademefun Kiladejo and in 2010 the Kingdom celebrated its 500th anniversary.
The Ondo Kingdom retained independence from other regional powers until the 19th century when pressure from expanded European contact and crisis in Yorubaland caused political crisis. With the expansion of the Atlantic slave trade and large-scale population displacement in Yorubaland, the political life of the Ondo Kingdom changed. Prior to the 19th century, Ondo was unusual in the region for their council system and or the relatively open land tenure principles. The council system rotated leadership amongst houses and there was some significant political status given to women, who had their own council which consulted with the men's council (a role disputed by others). The Ondo land tenure principle was that all land was property of the king, but that any man could farm it as long as he obtained permission from the leader of the nearest community. However, with increasing pressure related to population movement in Yorubaland and increasing relevance of the slave trade, much of this changed. Political and economic power changed from hereditary lineage and access to land holdings to be focused primarily on slaveholdings. The result was large-scale conflict in the Ondo Kingdom from 1845 until 1872, a period with rapid regime change, wars with other regional powers, significant violence, and change of the capital city three times. During this period, worship of Orisha spread widely, leading to human sacrifice (often of slaves) in order to try to end the disorder.
When Christian missionaries started to enter Yorubaland in the latter half of the 19th century, Ondo was a large, forest-based kingdom. However, missionaries largely focused on the other areas in and around Yorubaland rather than Ondo. This may have been because some missionaries thought that the Ondo were socially lower than other Yoruba tribes, perhaps because their custom of concubinage was unacceptable in the Christian tradition. However, in 1870, John Hawley Glover, the administrator of the British Lagos Colony, began focusing efforts on the kingdom of Ondo, largely to create alternative trade routes to Lagos. In 1872, Glover helped negotiate a peace treaty between Ondo and Ife who had been hostile for a number of years, which allowed expanded trade between Lagos and Ondo. Missionary operations began in 1875 throughout the Ondo Kingdom.
The Osemawe of Ondo made an agreement on 20 February 1889 with the governor of the British Lagos Colony by which free trade was guaranteed between Ondo and the colony, and disputes would be referred to an arbitrator appointed by the governor for resolution. In 1899 an order in council was issued to extend the Lagos protectorate over Yoruba land, making Ondo formally subject to the British crown.
Ondo state in Nigeria
The kingdom survived under colonial rule and subsequent independence, and the coronation of the 44th Osemawe, Oba Victor Adesimbo Ademefun Kiladejo, on 29 December 2008 was a major event, attended by many dignitaries.
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- HOPE AFOKE ORIVRI (30 December 2008). "Ondo stands still for 44th Osemawe". Nigerian Compass. Retrieved 14 September 2010.