The KIRIJI war, which lasted for about 16 years, was a revolt against Ibadan’s desire to rule over other towns in Yoruba country following the decline of Oyo empire. This write-up serves as a living pathway to the rediscovery of one of history’s most chilling story of brutal repression by a once dominant and awe-inspiring Ibadan Empire and the heroic resistance of a people against a superior force, that was later brought on its knees, through share determination, bravery and valour.The Yoruba Civil War was mainly between Western Yoruba (Ibadan and its allies like Offa, Modakeke and all Oyo forces on Ibadan’s side) and Eastern Yoruba (Ijesa, Ekiti, Ife and other Yoruba dominions like Igbomina, Akoko, Egbe, Kabba and the Oworro, Lokoja- Kogi State). Ibadan was fighting on four other fronts, making it five fronts, during this civil war period.
The first encounter between Ibadan and the Eastern Yoruba forces was tagged ‘Ogun Jalumi’ (battle of waterloo) which ended in ignominy for the Ekiti soldiers. The Jalumi War, also called the Battle of Ikirun, was a battle that took place on 1st of November, 1878 in the north east of present day Osun State, Nigeria. It was part of the larger conflict named the Ibadan War or Ekiti-Parapo War. The forces of Ibadan defeated in detail a force of rebellious Yorubas including soldiers from Ilorin, Ekiti, Ila and Ijesa.
It was this defeat that prompted the Ekiti to call on Ogedengbe, a tall, fiery fellow, with shooting eyeballs of Ijesa stock, who had been reluctant to lead the Ekiti-Parapo, having had his military training in counter insurgency and infantry at Ibadan, and was wary of leading his people against his benefactors.
Ogedengbe subsequently agreed to lead the Ekiti Parapo War, which also enlisted several Yoruba dominions like Igbomina, Akoko, Egbe, Kabba and the Oworro, a Yoruba sub-tribe in Lokoja, Kogi State. Also, Lagos, Ijebu and Egba were said to have assisted Ekiti Parapo against Ibadan; seen by all as a threat to their commonwealth. The Ekiti War generals held several nocturnal meetings where war strategies were reviewed and perfected. Ilara Mokin in Ondo State was said to have been the headquarters of the Ekiti Parapo secret service.
The war was long and bitter; an epic war between two powerful Yoruba confederate armies of mainly Western and Eastern Yoruba cities. Before Ibadan’s encounter with the Eastern Yoruba forces, it had already become involved in another war over trade with Egba and Ijebu in 1877. During the period, Ibadan traders on their way from Porto Novo with firearms were attacked by the Egba. Ijebu also declared war against Ibadan in 1877 and this gave the Ekiti and the Ijesa their chance. Ijesa and Ekiti took advantage of this war and declared their independence in 1878. This revolt against Ibadan’s rule in 1878 started with the massacre of Ibadan officials in Ijesa, Igbomina and Ekiti.
Ibadan fought on five fronts. In the south were the Egba who confined their activities to raids and surprise attacks; also, against the Ijebu in the same south, who pitched a camp at Oru under Balogun Onafowokan; the main war at Kiriji in the east, where their forces fought a long battle against the Ekiti and Ijesa (Ekiti-Parapo forces) under the command of Ogedengbe, the Seriki of Ijesa; Offa in the north, where they faced the Ilorin Fulani who pitched their camp against the people of Offa; and finally at Ile-Ife where the Ife people joined the alliance against them in 1882. There had long been friction between the Ife and the Oyo settlers at Modakeke. These animosities were strengthened by the war during which Ife itself was sacked by the Modakeke and their Ibadan allies, and Modakeke was sacked by the Ife and Ekiti.
The Ibadan and Ekiti-Parapo forces faced each other at Kiriji, a few miles east of Ikirun. With time, the Ekiti Parapo gained advantage over Ibadan; which resulted from the help they received from Ekiti Saro merchants, the most important factor was the supply of breech-loading rifles, much more accurate than the arms being used by the rest of the Yoruba. Defeat began to set in on Ibadan in these wars not only because the Ekiti-Parapo were better equiped but also because it had to fight on five fronts; also possibly because none of the Oyo forces on Ibadan’s side actually wished them well. Partly, this was due to the sufferings being experineced under Ibadan’s control and as a result of the arrogant attitude of Are Latosa who under normal circumstances, as head of the town, would not have gone to the battlefield. He was eventually killed at Kiriji.
Despite the odd against Ibadan, having to fight on five fronts, it was still undefeatable along the line. Stalemate was reached and only with the intervention of an outside force could the image of the whole Yoruba country be redeemed.
Before the war ended, attempts at mediation started as early as 1879-80. Alafin of Oyo and the Oni of Ile-Ife were involved, but neither was trusted by the other, and Ife later joined in the fighting. The Lagos government was under instructions from London and Accra to keep out of the conflict, even though the fighting was having serious effects on the economic life of the colony.
After 1885, some of the main protagonists of the war were themselves getting tired of it. Ceasefire was arranged in 1886 through the efforts of Samuel Johnson, the historian, and Charles Phillips, later the Bishop of Ondo. The parties signed a treaty in Lagos with Governor Maloney which provided for the independence of the Ekiti Parapo towns and the evacuation of Modakeke, to suit Ife. This proved impossible to carry out. Ilorin refused to stop fighting in the north where it was besieging Ofa. Thus the war dragged on, and the forces refused to disband.
In 1893, Carter was able to set off on a tour around Yoruba land, making treaties with Oyo and Egba, and finally persuading the Ibadan and Ekiti Parapo forces to disperse. The Egba opened the road to Ibadan, and allowed the start of railway construction. After two final incidents, the bombardment of Oyo in 1895 and the capture of Ilorin by the Royal Niger Company in 1897, effective colonial control was established throughout most of Yoruba land.