Academic journal article African Nebula

The Political Economy of the Egba Nation: A Study in Modernisation and Diversification, 1830-1960

Academic journal article African Nebula

The Political Economy of the Egba Nation: A Study in Modernisation and Diversification, 1830-1960

Article excerpt


Several works have been done on Egba history since the second half of the nineteenth century. Anna Tucker's Abeokuta or Sunrise within the Tropics and Saburi Biobaku's book, The Egba and Their Neighbours are particularly noteworthy. Pallinder Law's "Government in Abeokuta with particular reference to the period of the Egba United Government" is also of immense contribution to the political history of the Egba. H.B. Harunah's "Evolution of Central Administration in Abeokuta, 1830-1898" is another contribution to the political and military history of the Egba in the nineteenth century. Adebeshin Folarin and Isaac Delano's works were all done on the political history of the Egba. Toyin Falola and Dare Oguntomisin's work on Abeokuta is also a major work on the political and military history of the Egba. Segun Osunkeye's work titled: "Trade and Commerce in Traditional Egba Society " in Abeokuta Home of the Egba, and Harunah's article titled "Lagos-Abeokuta Relations in Nineteenth Century Yorubaland" in The History of The Peoples of Lagos State, are both written on the economic history of pre-colonial Egbaland. To date, most of what have been written on the Egba treats their political, military, or economic history. It is against this background that one is making the attempt to look into the political economy of the Egba nation in both the pre-colonial and colonial periods.

The term political economy was originally used for studying production and trade, and their relations with law, customs, and government, as well as with the distribution of national income and wealth. The term originated from moral philosophy. It was developed in the eighteenth century as the study of the economies of states, or polities, hence, the term political economy. Essentially, the paper will look at the political economy of the Egba vis-a-vis the modernisation and diversification of their body politic in the period under study.

Land and Vegetation

The Egba nation refers to Abeokuta and its environs. It comprised Abeokuta and several adjoining villages in the period under study. The villages of the Egba nation were located in the Egba forest which began on the colony of Lagos in the south and extended to Ketu in the west, to Isoya near Ile-Ife in the north, and to the borders of Ketu in the south-west. The area is far removed from the swampy coast, but directly connected by the Ogun River to the sea and had several routes leading to other Yoruba towns like Ijebu-Ode, Ibadan, Lagos, and Porto Novo in the Benin Republic (Ogunremi, 1982: 64).

Abeokuta, the chief city of the Egba nation, lies on the river Ogun about sixty (60) miles from the point where it enters the lagoon. The stretch of country between Abeokuta and the coast is composed of a series of sedimentary rocks, sand and gravel beds and lining shale dipping to the south, in which resistant beds cap two main belts of hilly land trending west-east. The southern highland between Ota and Ifo is interrupted by a broad flood plain of the river Ogun. The northern belt extends to Abeokuta and forms a marked line of flat topped hills composed of ferruginous grits with a hard ferruginous cap resting on sandy clays (Johnson, 1963: 91).

In terms of ecological zone, much of Egbaland falls within the Guinea zone, although its north-western part is in the sub-Guinean zone. According to Mabogunje and Gleave, the Guinean zone, could be further divided into three (3) sub-regions on the basis of their varying soil characteristics (Mabogunje and Gleave, 1964: 1).

(a) Well-drained soil region in the north-east. Soil here is developed on metamorphic rocks. They are well drained and tend to be finer in the south where they have been formed on fine-grained biotite gneiss and schist. The rainfall of this region is between 45-50 inches and tends to encourage fairly luxuriant growth of trees.

(b) Poorly drained soil region of the south-east. …

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