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Abeokuta is the largest city and capital of Ogun State in southwest Nigeria. It is situated on the east bank of the Ogun River, near a group of rocky outcrops in a wooded savanna; 48 miles (77 km) north of Lagos by railway, or 81 miles (130 km) by water. As of 2005, Abeokuta and the surrounding area had a population of 593,140.
Abẹokuta lies in fertile country of wooded savanna, the surface of which is broken by masses of grey granite. It is spread over an extensive area, being surrounded by mud walls 18 miles in extent. Palm-oil, timber, rubber, yams, rice, cassava, maize, cotton, other fruits, and shea butter are the chief articles of trade. It is a key export location for cocoa, palm products, fruit, and kola nuts. Both rice and cotton were introduced by the missionaries in the 1850s and have become integral parts of the economy, along with the dye indigo. It lies below the Olumo Rock, home to several caves and shrines. The town depends on the Oyan River Dam for its water supply, which is not always dependable.
Sodeke first settled Abeokuta (meaning literally "the underneath of the rock" or indirectly "refuge among rocks") in 1825 as a place of refuge from slavehunters from Dahomey and Ibadan. The village populations scattered over the open country to take refuge among the rocks surrounding the city. Here they formed a free confederacy of many distinct groups, each preserving the traditional customs, religious rites and the names of their original villages.
Due to the fact that Abeokuta was in a key location for the palm oil trade and because it was the so-called capital of the Egbas, Dahomey soon became hostile. In the 1851 Battle of Abeokuta, the Egba, with assistance from missionaries and armed by the British defeated King Gezo and the Dahomey incursion. They again beat back the Dahomey military in 1864.
The 1860s also saw problems arise with the Europeans, namely the British in Lagos, which led to the Egba first closing trade routes, followed by the expulsion of missionaries and traders in 1867. Between 1877 and 1893 the Yoruba Civil Wars occurred, and Abeokuta opposed Ibadan, which led the king or alake of the Egba to sign an alliance with the British governor, Sir Gilbert Carter. This occurred in 1893, which formalized the Egba United Government based in Abẹokuta which became recognized by the United Kingdom. In 1914, the city was made part of the colony of Nigeria by the British.
Abeokuta was a walled town and remnants of the historic wall still exist today. The Ake, the traditional residence of the Alake, along with Centenary Hall (1930). There are secondary and primary schools and the University of Lagos Abeokuta Campus opened in 1984. This campus specializes in science, agriculture, and technology.
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