This is the history, culture and tradition of Ilaje People of ondo State, Nigeria. The people of Ilaje are a very versatile, dynamic set of individuals. Ilaje is located in Ondo State and the people are mostly located along the coastline.
Ilaje land shares boundaries with Ikale by the North, Ijebus by the West, Itsekiri by the East, Atlantic Ocean by the South with the Apoi and Arogbo Ijaw to the North East.
Tracing their origin, Ilages were stated to have left their ancestral home in Ile-Ife during the 10th century to come and settle down and make themselves homes at the coastline of Ondo State. Known for their adaptation and abilities in the water, the people were able to cope with their environment quite well.
The people of Ilaje have a very rich tradition and culture that has survived all these years and we shall take a look at the way they have grown over time.
As stated earlier, the people of Ilaje are resourceful and dynamic and it shows in the various activities they do which include the following:
Living near water and in the riverine areas coupled with their great skills in and around water, the people of Ilaje are great fishermen.
The Ilage people are such great fishermen that they are able to easily differentiate between fishes caught from fresh water and those caught from salt water. Also another great skill of an Ilaje fisherman is that they can never lose their way when on sea. Due their occupation, they tend to fish across various villages and despite fishing in unfamiliar waters easily find their way home.
They make use of various land marks they see on their way to tell how far they are from home. These land marks include how the wind blows and its direction, how the sun and moon are positioned during the day and night and the weather condition at the time of their trip. All these help the fishermen stay on course on the right path which helps them from getting lost.
There are some people in Ilage land that have practiced farming. A few Ilage people have been known to live in areas not surrounded by water. Such people have not been known to be successful in farming probably because they are naturally meant to be fishermen.
The leaves them with little produce that can only be enough for private consumption with none left for sale.
Though this activity is hampered by the absence of a saw mill, workers are still able to transport woods in canoes across to nearby towns to cut their wood.
Apart from the activities above the people of Ilaje are also involved in mat making, canoe making, net making as well as trading.
This various activities done by the people of Ilage further illustrate their versatility as well as their resourcefulness.
Through the white missionaries that arrived in Ilage land, a lot of people took up the religion of Christianity. There were people who as Christians worshiped with the Cherubim and Seraphim Church of Zion, which was situated its headquarters in Ugbo Nla.
Apart from Christians from Cherubim and Seraphim Church, there were other Christians who were Anglicans and also those people who were Jehovah witnesses.
Ilage land is made up of various towns and they include Ugbo, Aheri, Mahin and Etikan. Ugbo is the major town in Ilage land and is ruled by OLU-UGBO of Ugbo town.
Mahin town is ruled by the Amapetu of Mahin, Ekitan town is ruled by the Onikan of Ekitan while Aheri is ruled by the Maporure of Aheri town.
Despite the fact that the people of Ilaje can be found at various places along the coast line, they still find time during the year to all come together back in Ondo State to take part as celebrate different festivals.
Some of the festivals celebrated includes Malokun which is a fertility festival meant for the goddess of the sea. The Epo which is a festival of masquerades in outfits made of raffia. The Umale festival which involves masquerades and there is also the Regatta festival.
Going by their main occupation and source of lively hood, fish is mostly eaten by the people and is most part of every meal. A favorite is also pounded yam and unripe plantain which are taken a lot.
Ilaje land and its aquatic environment has attracted a lot of interest from tourists gradually making the area a traveller’s delight.
Due to its fast growing markets, the town has attracted traders from within and outside Nigeria. Traders from African countries like Ghana, Togo, Cameroun, Gabon and Benin have visited the markets in Ilaje town.
There have been calls by people to the government to tap into the potential of the town to further boost its tourism potentials. The fact that it is not far from a major city like lagos combined with it is lovely aquatic environment provides a great opportunity to set up and improve its facilities and boost its tourism potential.
The government of Ondo State has now seen the great opportunity the town possesses for a good tourism center and has started implementing plans of improving and upgrading facilities in the town.
The Ondo State government has set out to improve the road network of the town as well as provide power and clean source of water.
Ondo State has been seen and recognized as an oil producing state mainly due to the amount of petroleum found in Ilaje land.
Apart from petroleum, there are still other mineral materials that are available and found in Ilaje land, they include quartz, glass sand, tar sand, salt, palm oil, clay, maize, poultry products, vegetables, raffia, okra, banana, maize, timber, cassava, fish and more.
Though there are some people that believe the lands in the area are not fertile and suitable enough to support large scale crop production, on the other hand there are those who strongly disagree with this opinion and believe that the lands and the nature of the environment is quite okay to support the production and growth of salt and rice.