Ijesa people are said to have migrated from Ile Ife, the cradle of Yoruba people, to build their Ilesaland (which is one of the oldest Yorubaland) in its present-day location in Osun State. According to tradition, Owa Ajibogun or Owa (“King”) who was one of the 16 sons of the deity Oduduwa founded Ilesha. The standard version of tradition among the Ijesa themselves traces the origin of the Ijesas state to a younger son of Oduduwa called Obokun (Owa’s ancestor), in commemoration of an occasion on which he fetched sea water to cure his father’s blindness. Obokun then settled in what was to become Ijesaland. He found, like other founding heroes, pre-existing political structures including a confederacy of five towns in the Obokun area. Obokun himself is so central to the Ijesas that they call themselves Omo Obokun (Children of Obokun).
Samuel Johnson, the great Yoruba Historian also averred: “There is also a legend that when the nations began to disperse from Ile Ife and members of the Royal Family were appointed kings and rulers in diverse places, a young and brave scion of the house was appointed the first Owa or king over the Ijesas, but he returned to the Alafin and complained that his territory was too small, and his subjects few, the sire thereupon ordered a large bundle of sticks to be brought to him, and these sticks he converted into human beings for the Owa, in order to increase the number of his subjects. Hence to this day the Ijesas are often termed by their neighbours ” Qmo igi ” (offspring of sticks !)”
The Ijesha people used to have a big territory but lost some portions of it to their neighbours during various conflicts and wars of the nineteenth and preceding centuries. The state was ruled by a monarch bearing the title of Owa Obokun Adimula of Ijesaland. The state of Ilesa consisted of Ilesa itself and a number of smaller surrounding cities. The people of Oke-Ako, Irele, Omuo-Oke speak a dialect similar to Ijesha.
Some of the popular towns of the Ijesa are Ibokun, Erin Ijesa, Ipetu Jesa, Ijebu Jesa, Esa-Oke, Ipole, Ifewara, Ijeda,Iloko, Iwara, Iperindo, Erinmo, Iwaraja, Idominasi, Ilase, Igangan, Imo, Eti-oni,Iboku, Erin-Ijesa, Ibodi and many others.