The first thing that comes to almost every Nigerian’s mind when Ondo State is mentioned in the same line with the question of ethnicity is Yoruba. Yoruba is the dominant ethnic group in Ondo State, so much so that both can be used interchangeably to represent the people of the south-western state.
Yoruba groups in Ondo State include the Ilaje, the Akoko, the Ikale and the Ondo. These groups speak distinct dialects of Yoruba language, have varying cultural norms and traditions, and have a different history and accounts of origin.
Below we take a look at the different Yoruba and non-Yoruba tribes in Ondo State, where these tribes are found in Ondo State, their history, culture and population estimate.
1. Arogbo Ijaw
The Arogbo are a sub-group of the Ijaw ethnic group, and are found in Ese-Odo and Odigbo local government area in south-eastern Ondo State. They migrated to their present location from the town of Gbaran in the central Niger Delta.
The Arogbo speak the Arogbo dialect, which belongs to the Ijaw dialectical group referred to as Western or Central Ijaw.
Historically, the Arogbo have had trading contacts with neigbouring Ijaw tribes, the Apoi Ijaw and the Egbema Ijaw , and two Yoruba tribes, the Ilaje and the Ijebu.
The Arogbo acted as middlemen in the slave trade, selling captives from the interior to European slave merchants.
The town of Arogbo-Ile is the headquarters of the Arogbo.
Worship of Egbesu, the tribal god of the Ijaw is very strong among the Arogbo.
2. Ijaw Apoi
The Ijaw Apoi, or Apoi Ijaw, or Apoi are a tribe of the Ijaw people found in Ese-Odo local government area of Ondo State, and also in some communities in Edo State. They consist of nine kingdoms. These nine principal ancient kingdoms of the Ijaw Apoi include Igbobini, Okomu, Kiribo/Ikpoki, Inikorogha, Oboro, Shabomi, Igbotu and Igbekebo.
The Apoi trace their origin to a migration from central Niger Delta in present day Bayelsa State. Prior to their arrival at their present location, tribal traditions recall a long period of settlement at Ukomu in what is now Furupagha territory.
The Apoi speak the Western or Central dialect of the Ijaw language, which is also the dialect spoken among neighbouring Arogbo tribe, and also among the Kolokuma tribe of Bayelsa State.
The Kalasuwe of Ijaw Apoi is the leader of the Apoi, and the seat of the throne is in Shabomi.
The Ilaje are a sea-savvy tribe found in the coastal Ilaje and Ese-Odo local government areas of Ondo State. The Ilaje area consists of four geopolitical entities. These include Ugbo, Mahin, Etikan and Aheri.
The Ilaje are said to have left Ile-Ife in the 10th century following a disagreement with the Yorubas led by King Oduduwa, the first king of Ile-Ife.
The Ilaje occupies the longest coastline in Nigeria. Their aquatic skills and ability to quickly adapt have enabled them to conquer their harsh geographical environment and turn it into a big advantage.
The Ilaje speak the Ilaje language, which is considered — albeit controversially, in some corners to be a dialect of the Yoruba language.
The Oronmaken is the paramount ruler of the Ilaje.
The Akoko are a people sharing a very large settlement mostly on rocky terrains on the northern end of Ondo State.
The Akoko people are found primarily in Akoko North-West, Akoko North-East, Akoko South-East and Akoko South-West local government areas of Ondo State, and also in Ijumu local government area of Kogi State and Akoko Edo local government area of Edo State..
There is no single Akoko language. Akokoid languages are really just related dialects with each community speaking their own variant, and some communities, like Oke Agbe having four dialects spoken in different parts of the town.
The main Akoko towns are Oke Agbe, Arigidi, Erushu, Oyin, Igashi, and Uro Ajuwa
There are over a million people in the Akoko region of Ondo State.
Even though majority of Ekiti people live in Ekiti State, Ekiti people are however also found in Ondo and Kwara States.
In Ondo State, the Ekiti are found in the western parts of Akoko North-West local government area. Their major towns include Eriti, Irun, and Ogbagi.
The Ekiti people of Ondo State speak a Yoruba dialect similar to the Ijesha and Igbomina dialects.
The Ondo are a sub-group of the Yoruba ethnic group found in Ondo East, Ondo West and Odigbo local government areas of Ondo State. They speak a distinct dialect of the Yoruba language that’s almost unintelligible, if not totally unintelligible to other Yorubas who are non-natives of the Ondo Kingdom.
The Ondo trace their origin to Oyo. Osemawa, a direct offspring of the Alafin of Oyo is the mother of Ondo. She migrated to the present location of the Ondo people after being sent out by the Alafin.
Ondo town, the capital of the Ondo people is the second largest town in Ondo State.
The Ikale are one of the largest tribes in Ondo State. The Ikale are found in Okitipupa local government area of Ondo State.
The Ikale trace their origin to ancient Benin Kingdom.
The Abodi of Ikale land is the paramount ruler of the Ikale.
The Ikale speak the Ikale language, which is considered in some corners as a dialect of the Yoruba language.
There are over 200,000 Ikale people in Ondo State.