Ilaro is the headquarters of the Yewa South Local government area of Nigeria, west of Africa. Ilaro town is about 50 km from Abeokuta, the Ogun State capital, and about 100 km from Ikeja, the capital city of Lagos State. Other neighbouring towns include Owode, Ibese, Oja Odan, Pahayi, Idogo-Ipaja, Papa-lanto and Ifo. Ilaro was founded in the 18th century by Aro who migrated from the Oyo town to settle down in Igbo Aje, a little hill situated at the centre of the town from where he and his warriors could sight enemies (mostly slave traders from the neighbouring Benin republic known then as Dahomey) on attack from a long distance. Aro himself was a warrior and a hunter to be reckoned with. Ilaro had her name from "Ilu Aro " meaning the settlement of Aro which later became Ilaro for ease of pronunciation. Ancient Ilaro town was blessed with great farmers, hunters and warriors such as Orona and Osata. Apart from saving the lives of their kinsmen from the hands of the invading Dahomey and other warriors, news had it that Orona with his "Ekun" (Leopard) when he became old and knew that he was going to die entered into the ground and told his people to call upon him whenever there is problem, i.e. in times of war, by just pulling the chain attached to himself and the leopard as at the time of entering the ground. This place where Orona disappeared into the ground with his Leopard today had been renovated and constructed as an emolument for lovers of history and tourists. Close to this monument is the town hall named after the honourable warrior, "’Orona’ Hall". The statute of Oronna and his Leopard are still there for tourists and lovers of history to see. Osata himself was an Ilaro ruler in the 19th century. The dialect spoken in Ilaro is the Egbado dialect. When Ilaro indigenes meet outside home, the shout of “Omo Oluwewun” has the magical effect of unifying the Ilu Aro people. Ilaro of the late 19th and 20th century benefited immensely from the Missionaries. The Missionaries introduced religion and western education to the people of Egbado land. Churches and schools were founded of which the Christ Missionary Church and school was founded as CMS and the first secondary school in Egbado land known as Egbado College Ilaro was also founded. The Ilaro of today is a mixed religion town because of the hospitable nature of the Ilaro people. Thus there are as many numbers of mosques as there are churches. There are also Muslim Missionary training centers of the Ahmadiyat Muslim Mission and the Nawar-ud- deen Missions respectively.
In the ancient days the major occupation of the Egbado people is mostly farming (arable crops and cash crops like cocoa, coffee kola nuts oranges and pineapples.) other farm products include Cassava, yam, okro, rice, banana, plantains and vegetables such as the water leaf, spinach to mention but a few.
The major industry of the Ilaro people for their blessing by nature of very thick forest is the timber Industry. Till date, there are several timber milling industries spread out in the outskirts of the town for the production of planks and ply woods for both local consumption and for exportation.
During the Nigerian civil war, Ilaro as the headquarters of the Egbado land produced brave warriors who fought for the sustenance of the unity of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. Notable of these patriots include Major General Olurin (Rtd), late Major Onifade and the Late Major Ibikunle Armstrong. Apart from warriors, Ilaro also produced the renowned Yoruba literature guru who later became a politician and a delegate to the Nigerian Constitutional conference in 1999 - Prof Afolabi Olabimitan. He authored, Kekere Ekun , his first novel published in 1967. he also authored “Ta lo p’omo Oba? and other literatures. Until his death, He was a member of the “Akomolede Yoruba" group and a former don at the University of Lagos, Nigeria. He had also been the Commissioner for Information and Culture in the then-newly created Ogun State from 1976 to 1979 under Military Governors Saidu Ayodele Balogun and Harrison (“H.O.D”) Eghagha.
Other contributors to the development of Yewa land and Ogun State in general include: The late Chief Akin Ilo, Lawyer Babajide, Lawyer Ajibola, the late Dr. Tunji Otegbeye, The late Chief Dawotola, The late Chief Oladitan, The late Chief Adejumo, The late Chief Onifade, Chief Babarinde, Chief C.K. Ojo,Chief S. A Ibikunle, The late Cornelius Oniyide, Chief David Adeyemi Coker (“Ogboye”), Chief S.O Dada aka “SAKA”, Honourable Olusesan Olatunji , The late Chief Egbeolu, Dr. Ayinde (“S.A.J”) Ibikunle, Rtd Gen. Tunji Olurin, Chief Solomon Abiodun Oniyide, Mrs Iyabo Apampa and Chief Tunji Fadairo (SAN). Others are Otunba Melville Iretiolu Oniyide, Late Professor Olabimitan, Comrade Femi Oke, to mention but a few.
Some notable Ilaro family names include: Abatan, Adebowale, Adekanbi, Adejumo, Adeleye, Adelu,Adeniran, Adeolu, Ademola, Adenle, Adeoti, Adeoniye, Adetona, Adewale, Adeyemo, Adeyori,Agbokeye, Ajayi, Ajibawo, Ajibode, Ajibose, Ajuwon, Ayodeji, Akano, Akinlade, Akintola, Akintunde, Akinwumi, Anifowose, Apaokade, Ayan, Bada, Babarinde, Babarimisa (Babarinsa) Coker, Dada, Dawotola, Eebo, Edun, Efuniyi, Egebeolu, Ewulo, Fadairo, Fadipe, Fagbenro, Fafunmi, Fafunwa, Ibikunle, Idoleru, Ilo, Ilori, Itulola, Jooda, Kumoye, Keke, Konigbagbe, Liadi, Matanmi, Mubo,Popoola, Ogundeji, Ogunleye, Ogunkeye, Oje, ojebiyi, ojekunle, Ojelade, Ojo(Ago-Isaga),Ojo, Oke, Oke Olabimitan, Olakanmi, Oladitan, Olatunji, Olubiyi, Olurin, Onifade, Oniyide, Oniyilo, Orobiyi, Otegbeye, Popoola, Sanu, Salako, Sekoni, Tella, Tetede and Mabosanyinje.
Ilaro town had a very good romance with the missionaries from Europe in the 19th and the 20th centuries respectively. History had it that the likes of the Late Lord Lugard, Late Mary Slessor visited the Ancient Ilaro town. Many missionaries lived the whole of their life as Chaplains and as medical doctors in Ilaro town and in remembrance of this, the longest street in Ilaro to date is named Leslie Street after J. Leslie.
Ilaro is blessed with schools where both primary secondary and tertiary education can be obtained. The schools include: Primary Schools: The CMS School now known at the Christ church primary school, The local Government Education Authority (LGEA) Primary School, The United Africa Missionary Church and School (UAMCS), The Nawar-ud-deen Primary School, The Methodist Primary School, The Ahmadiyat Primary School and the Ansar-ud-deen Primary School.
Secondary schools: Egbado college Ilaro now known as the Yewa College Ilaro, The Anglican Grammar School, Ilaro, founded in September, 1979, The Emmanuel College of Commerce founded by the late Chief Dawotola which was later handed over to the Ogun State Government and named Emmanuel College, Baptist High School, Orona High School named after the warrior “Orona” and first principal led by Chief S. A. Dada. And Itolu High School, Ilaro.
Higher institutions of learning include: The Egbado Teachers Training College, Ilaro, and The Federal Polytechnic Ilaro, also founded in September, 1979.
There are several privately owned pre-primary education and kindergarten school located and spread within the Ilaro town. The Federal Polytechnic, Ilaro also has the Polytechnic Staff Primary and Secondary schools.
The Ilaro people has very rich cultural heritage. The Ilaro people are the originator of the “Bolojo“and the “gelede” dance. The language of communication at these dances is songs known as “EFE” which is mostly composed to correct ills done by people in the neighbour hood. One wouldn’t know that one is being monitored at every bad step one took until a visit to a Bolojo dance performance or the gelede dance stand when specific songs will be composed and rendered to one’s hearing. The Bolojo dance are usually held at the Oronna hall or at venues for annual programmes such as the independence anniversary, children’s day celebrations etc. The gelede dances are usually held in the market square and usually during the summer time to enable each and every one both young and old indigenes of Ilaro to participate. Other festivals include The Egungun Masquerade festival, which in most cases usually last for three months with almost a daily dance and magic performance at the Egungun play ground in the “Ago Ishaga “ area of Ilaro town., The Oro Festival, The Ogun festival, The Sango festival and the Igunuko festival.
Mineral resources found in Ilaro include Phosphate and lime stone. Ilaro soil is mostly loamy and humus, rich in manure and elements that supports the growth of Cocoa, Cashew, Pawpaw, plantain, Oranges, pine apples, Kola nut, maize, Sugar canes, bananas, potatoes and vegetables at plantation and mechanized levels.
Rivers such as the "Odo Ela" , "Odo Ogburu", "Odo Yewa" and "Odo Oniru" major rivers in Ilaro which serves a twofold purpose of grazing /watering the rich farmlands of the Egbado people and also damed to produce portable drinking water to the entire inhabitants of Ilaro. The Ilaro people have their farmlands located in : Oke Ela, Igo Igbin, Oteyi, Gbokoto, Abobado, Apakoso, Ona Egbo, Igbeji, Iwoye, Olute, Igbo Adaaro, Ebute Igbo Iro, Oke Ibese, Iweke, Igbo ewe, Ijado, Ilobi, Eredo, Olorulekan, to mention but a few.
A visit to Ilaro will not be complete without the taste of "Idobesi Apara" and "Oso". Ilaro people welcome visitors as well as their sons and daughters back home with Apara, Oso and Eko. To the Ilaro people the kola and the bitter kolas are meant for occasions such as the worship of Ogun (Kola), Child naming ceremony (Orogbo). Elder family members are usually called "Ogboni". Thus it is usual of ilaro people to say "Ba mi ki Ogboni e O." meaning extend my greetings to your dad or the leader of your family. The Ilaro family is mostly extended in nature. The old / ancient part of the town still has these extended families housed, fenced and named as Iga. Thus, it is popular in Ilaro to have compounds named as Iga Bada, Iga Keke, Iga Babolu, Iga Ekerin, Iga 'Modeolu etc. A thing of interest is the fact that these extended families have specific / unique emblem for recognition as character, art and craft, trade, chieftaincy title or eligibility to the Ilaro Kingship sit (Heirs to the throne).
Some streets and areas in Ilaro include, Oke Ibese, Ona Otun, Ago Isaga, Iga Bada, Iga keke, Ona osi, Iga 'Modeolu, Iga Ekerin, Iga Bada, Ikere Olodi, Isale Idi Iroko, Sabo, Ileba, Railway station, Leslie Road, Library area, Orita baba wosila, Oke Ogburu, Isale Ogburu, Ona Egbo, Ona Nla / Ona Ola, Idi Araba, Udoji road, Oke Oyinbo, Oke Ela, Gbokoto, and, Iga sawo.
Social amenities in Ilaro town include: Hospitals government owned and privately owned, government owned dispensaries, Public library, Electricity, Pipe born water and very good road network linking the town with other towns and even neighbouring country, Republic of Benin. There are quite a number of hotels of quality spread over the town.
In January, 2009, Governor Daniel commissioned the Ilaro International stadium. The stadium is capable of hosting international and national sports competition. The Ilaro town is also blessed with banking industries which serves the needs of individuals, farmers and business men.
Industries in Ilaro town include: The local fufu and gari processing industries, the Timber/Plank making industries , the local Aso oke weaving industry, paint industry and Cement industry located some few kilometers from the Ilaro town a few minutes walking distance from the Ibese town.
Means of transportation is mainly by road. However there is a locomotive railway line linking the town to Lagos and Abeokuta via Ifo junction and also to the terminus of the Lagos-Ifo rail trunk line “Oko-Idogo”.
Ilaro is the seat of the Olu of Ilaro who also doubles as the paramount Ruler of Yewa land. The Olu Ijana of Ijana town, The Oni Igbeji of Igbeji town, Oloja of Oja Odan, The Oni Idogo of Idogo Ipaja, Oni Iwoye of Iwoye town, Olu of Eredo, Olowode of Owode and others are some of the kings in Egbado land which His royal highness the Olu of Ilaro rules over.
*Based largely on information from wikipedia and other sites and then adapted for use on the Egba-Yewa website by Barrister Abimbola Ajala in 2010