How Oyo Empire collapsed

Shortly after Oyo Empire expanded her influence westwards, capturing Port Novo and making Dahomey (present-day Benin Republic) a vassal state pay tributes of 40 guns and 400 loads of cowries and corals regularly to Oyo, of course after phases of wars that made Oyo army a dread to the Dahomeyans, Alafin (Emperor) Labisi appointed a new Basorun (Prime Minister).

To check the Alaafin from becoming too dictatorial, the Prime Minister according to the constitution could pass a vote of no confidence that would turn the Oyo Mesi (Legislators) against the Alaafin and an empty calabash would be handed to the emperor signaling that he was required commit suicide and pave way for a new Alaafin since the Oyo Mesi had lost confidence in his rule.

The Basorun was a high priest controlling all the cults except Sango and Ifa, so this could make him declare that the ancestors and Heavens had lost confidence in an Alaafin. Prior to the appointment of Ga, the unwritten constitution of the empire had been amended from the more ancient style that the Aremo (heir apparent) ruled after an Alaafin passed on.

The new constitution demanded that the heir apparent died with the Alaafin so as to pass on succession without disputes and in a way make the monarchical system a sort of republic. This made Basorun Ga more powerful. Ga became despotic and power drunk and from the slightest accusation that an Alaafin or his Prince disrespected the Oyo Mesi to the accusation that an Alaafin was assuming airs of superiority, Basorun Ga raised five Alaafins to the throne and successively destroyed four of them.

He and his family ruled despotically for twenty years, almost as if they were the Alaafins. By the reign of the fifth emperor, Alaafin Abiodun, the people were fed up of Ga’s dictatorship. On an appointed day, with the support of Are-Ona Kakanfo (Military Commander of Oyo army) Oyabi, the Alaafin and the people broke the jinx of Ga’s powerful magic and rounded up all his family (except Ojo, Ga’s first son) and were seized and killed, Ga himself was burnt to death in his house.

Abiodun’s reign then went on peacefully and lasted from 1774 to 1789, his was a golden reign. However, the center was no longer holding the seams of the Empire together after 20 years of internal imbalance triggered by Ga. Taking advantage of the lawless years, Egba province under the warrior, Lishabi, had proclaimed their independence and migrated towards their present location in Abeokuta. The Egbas had been aggrieved by the oppression of the resident Ilaris (governors) in their three provinces within the empire and the absence of any authority to hold them in check.

When authority was installed by Abiodun, he sent a punitive expedition against the Egbas, but the rocky hills of Abeokuta made the Oyo cavalry failed woefully in subjecting the Egbas. This triggered a domino effect of provinces declaring their independence from Oyo. Even Dahomey had the effrontery to assault Ketu, a westernmost Yoruba district, without fear of the Oyo imperial army. As far as Ewe (in today’s Togo), Oyo began to wane.

But within the city, Abiodun restated law and order but his reign came to an end with his death in 1789 and a new Alaafin was crowned, Alaafin Awole who reigned between 1789 to 1796). Alaafin Awole did not help matters he could have consolidated Abiodun’s effort to keep the empire together, but he did not. Under Awole, Afonja was the Are Ona Kakanfo (Military Commander), though the two of them had vied for the throne.

It was a taboo in Oyo constitution for the Alaafin and Are to live in the same city, so while the emperor resided in the capital, the Are must reside elsewhere, especially a town where enemy threat is imminent. Afonja was also from a royal family but he was slave-born and it was probable this that played against his becoming emperor, though some chiefs of the Oyo Mesi sympathized with him. Afonja’s great-grandfather had been the founder of Ilorin.

Alaafin Awole began to lose the Oyo Mesi’s confidence when he firstly requested Afonja to attack Apomu as part of a yearly military exercise the Alaafin must order the Oyo army to revive its strength, but Awole’s omission was that Apomu was an Ile Ife town and it is contrary to the “Coronation Oath” of the Alaafins who all received their royal swords from Ife and sworn never to raise sword against Ife. Secondly, Awole again ordered Afonja to attack Iwere town, which was a fortified fortress impregnable to Oyo army’s weapons of swords and arrows.

It was a calculated attempt by Awole to get rid of Are Afonja since the Are must kill himself if he ever failed to win any battle (this had also been the secret of the Oyo army’s strength in its heydays, since the Are must fight to be killed or fight to win resulting, making his army fight to the finish without option of retreat).

Afonja sensed this and rather than launch a battle he would not win he refused on the pretext that the town, Iwere, was the maternal home of Alaafin Ajagbo. Ajagbo was Alaafin in 1587 to 1624 and had created the Are Ona Kakanfo, Basorun, Agbakin and Asipa titles, which were military titled except Basorun and Asipa which were administrative. The third reason that Oyo Mesi lost confidence in Awole was trying to introduce Islam into Yorubaland.

Yorubas generally distrusted Islam in the polity and it is unacceptable according to the constitution for the Alaafin to accept the religion because of its male dominance and autocratic nature of the emirs. Note that women make up part of the Oyo Mesi (Legislators) and there were powerful women like Efunsetan Aniwura who had their say in the polity for Oyo was not totally a male dominated society. Besides, the Alaafin was not allowed to wield total power like the emirs did in the north.

Soon the Oyo Mesi sent the empty calabash to Awole and he had to commit suicide. Awole was not missed for his reign further declined the empire and left the bullying ilaris unchecked in their districts. The center no longer held and even the next Alaafin’s reign were so short as people became disillusioned and in want of effective leadership. Adebo ruled for 130 days, Maku was next and was there for only two months thereafter an inter-regnum lasted in the capital from 1797 to 1803.

Afonja’s influence thus began to grow. Afonja tried to become emperor, but some chiefs opposed this. Thus in 1817, he declared Ilorin also independent just as other provinces were also doing. Afonja had a Fulani adviser, Mallam Alimi, and he encouraged dan Fodio jihadists warriors to support Afonja.

Meanwhile, Fulani/Hausas were popularly used in Yorubaland as cheap labors and servants, they were so popular that looking down the nose upon the northerners continued well into post-colonial years in Nigeria. So with the call to arms, Hausa/Fulani laborers in the Oyo underground economy swelled the ranks by fleeing to Ilorin. Ojo, the only surviving son of Ga, along with the Onikoyi of Ikoyi, which was then the largest provincial town of Oyo hence marched against Ilorin.

The Ikoyi’s were the royal battalion of the imperial army and were also known as Ikoyi-Eso (Guards Battalion). When the war began and Hausa/Fulani ex-laborers roamed the country pillaging and selling their former Yoruba aristocratic masters as slaves to white slave buyers (as happened to Ajayi Crowther and his mother who were sold to Portuguese when their village was sacked by the Muslims later in 1821: read earlier post of Eshu and Christian Devil on this blog), Afonja became displeased with this.

And since he was still suspected of being loyal to Yoruba than Islam, Alimi had Afonja killed and his son, Abdul Salami took Ilorin throne as emir giving allegiance to the Sokoto caliphate. Thus Ilorin became a part of the Sokoto caliphate. There was no central authority anymore in Oyo and a lot of the provinces kept breaking away and the disunity did not give a common cause to the Yorubas to fight and retake Ilorin.

Some Yorubas by this time living in Ilorin had also accepted Islam and thus while Ilorin swelled with a platform for its warriors to fight on in one cause, there was no single cause the Yorubas stood for a united fight. The center no longer held and things badly fallen apart. There was no more cavalry for the Oyo army since horses were before bought from northern trade routes which were now closed because of the war against Fulani/Hausa.

The Muslims finally wiped the Oyo capital city after several futile battles on the side of the decimated Yorubas. Oyo’s new capital was now transferred further south to Ago-Oja and a new Alafin, Atiba, was crowned. But by this time, the Alaafin was struggling to maintain a dignity that was lost. Yorubaland became like the Greek city states of Athens, Sparta, Macedonia e.t.c. as Yoruba city states like Owu, Egba, Ijebu, Ondo and Ijesha begun to emerge, with even facial marks emphasizing their differences.

Civil wars became rampant, famine spread like wildfire and slave hunting, slavery before this time was totally alien to the Yorubas since Oyo did not allow any Yorubas to be traded as slave. The slave coasts were now overcrowded with Yoruba slaves as Hausa/Fulani armies slave-hunted in the confusion of collapsed Oyo.

A new war brewed when Ijebu (whose reputation as businessmen is known even till today) and Ife also began to sell refugees from old Oyo as slaves. Owu and these refugees therefore attacked Ife, the sacred city. This turned Ijebu and Ife against Owu.

The Ijebus were the first to employ the use of guns in any battle and thus completely destroyed Owu town. Owu people fled to Egba for refuge where they remain till today in Abeokuta. Ijebu attacked Egba for harboring Owu and a long bitter war ensued between Ijebu and Egba. However, the larger part of these Owu refugees were civilians.

The Owu warriors and other warriors from other destroyed or sacked provinces rather migrated further south and found a settlement in Eleiyele, thus beginning what today is known as Ibadan. Soon it began to attract other warriors who wanted to restore the old glory and because of its position in the rainforest area, Ibadan began to control palm oil belt which was just beginning to replace the trade in human beings.

But still determined to totally expand the Sokoto caliphate downwards by totally conquering the dying embers of the Yoruba influence, the Hausa/Fulani cavalry relaunched another phase of war as they saw New Oyo and Ibadan rising.

Ibadan knew it could no longer control cavalry which used to be a reckonable force in the Oyo army (Yoruba kings and chiefs still ride horses in celebration today as remnant of the horse tradition proir to these wars) but with the Sokoto caliphate in the north, Ibadan could no longer get horse supplies.Although, Ijebu first used the guns, but Ibadan, through insistent drills, perfected the use of guns in such remarkable ways.

Ibadan infantry soon marched out to meet the jihadists who were pillaging villages and towns with impunity. Finally, a decisive battle was fought in Oshogbo in 1839, led by the dreaded new Are Ona Kakanfo, Balogun Latoisha.

The Ibadan infantry were good marksmen and they plucked the jihadist riders off their horses in such a way that many lives were lost on the side of the Hausa/Fulani invaders and the casualty toll was so high that they fled back up north, ending the prolonged Fulani/Yoruba wars and the incursion of the jihadists in a very decisive victory.

Thus Ibadan emerged as the superpower of the Yoruba states. It was no surprised then that after independence in Nigeria, Chief Obafemi Awolow, an Ijebu statesman, made Ibadan the capital seat of the Western region which is largely Yoruba region of Nigeria.

Oriki Ogun


Ogbeni Oja

Yoruba oriki: A dying cultural genre?

The oriki is a time-honoured cultural form. But Yoruba youths appear to be no longer interested in it. The Yoruba oriki (cognomen) is a form of cultural expression which is prevalent in Africa.

Among the Yorubas, it is a time-honoured poetic form, a repository of traditional lore, values, virtues and accomplishments. The oriki has been described as a genre used to inspire people, and varies in length depending on whether it refers to a single individual or a clan. It can be sung or drummed.

For instance, the Ooni of Ife is referred to, among other endless titles as “Oonirisa, jingbini bi ate akun,” (Ooni of the gods, plenteous like a tray of akun beads), while the Alaafin of Oyo is called “Iku baba yeye, alase ekeji orisa (“death, father, mother, commander, second in command to the gods). And even animals have oriki in the Yoruba world: the elephant is “eerin lakatabu, ajanaku ti n migbo kijikiji (mighty elephant, spirit who shakes the forest heavily),etc, the lion is “oloola iju, akomolailabe (forest-based circumciser, the one who circumcises a child without a blade), etc.

Usually, every Yoruba family has its own oriki, which extols the virtues of the clan, but some are not always positive in its moral content. See this: omo eluku mede mede, omo imale afeleja, omo akenigbo, keru o ba’ra ona; omo ole yilu baara ko i jeun aaro; omo asalejeje bi eni ti o robinrin ri…etc (son of Eluku; son of the spirit who fights with the machete; son of the one who cries in the forest and intimidates people of the road; son of the layabout who roams town before eating breakfast; son of the one who pets a concubine delicately, like one who has not seen a woman before..etc), which would seem to suggest that the people are war mongering thugs and fornicators.

An Ibadan oriki also describes the place as one where “the thief is justified rather than the owner of the goods,’’ while the Iseyin people are described as “ebedi moko, male’’(ebedi welcomes both the husband and lover), although the latter part has now been cleverly omitted. Some common oriki middle names also include Arike (child meant to be spoilt), Abebi (child begged to be born), Aduke (people will fight over the privilege to take care of her); Ajani (child we fought to have), etc. Interestingly, some mischievous individuals now construct parodies of the oriki genre: “omo badiye ku ata la n lo” (child of when the fowl dies, we quickly grind pepper) etc.

However, the glory days of the oriki seem to be gone, as most Yoruba youths are no longer knowledgeable or interested in the cultural genre. The problem is that many are not really interested in oriki because their knowledge of the Language is shallow. The language barrier is a corollary of the fact that most parents bring up their children in english. To some people, “the world has become sophisticated”.

Oriki teaches us wisdom, but most youths are not interested in oriki because most of them don’t live in their hometowns, and their parents don’t teach them the oriki, perhaps because they feel that it is not important.

“The direction of African studies should be towards African culture. The kind of naming practice which we have dropped actually represents the ideal to which Western communities are trying to aspire.


Dialogue with the Olowu….

“My father was instrumental to Olowu Ajibola’s ascendance to the throne. He was favored but did not want to be king because of Christian beliefs, so he encouraged and supported Oba Ajibola in his bid. The Olowu told me this himself as he liked me very much and was want of telling me lots of stories. Ajibola was the 9th Olowu (in Abeokuta)”. “He (Ajibola) told me sometimes around 1955 about the Aboki masquerade seized at war with the Tapas. The masquerade song goes like this – Elempe, Adamu de! Elempe, Adamu de! – etc etc (Olowu singing). It was the habit of Owu warriors to not only capture their enemies at war; they would also seize their deities (orisha) and masquerades as well!” Owu’s policy was to seize the lands, wives, properties of their conquests, they would even take the children of those who fell to their wrath. Truly, our fore-fathers were really mean in their time, and that’s why they hardly had any friends among their neighbors. I must write a history book about their exploits sometime”.

“There was even a time when Olowu captured an ‘arole’ Alafin, tied him to a stake and fed him on ashes while he sent for his father, the Alafin of Oyo to come and secure his release. I think that Alafin was the great grandfather of the present one”. “In fact, the Etsu Nupe is still in constant touch with the palace up till now (pointing to a photograph on the wall, of the Etsu Nupe and himself with the Owu council members), and Othman danFodio during his jihad actually said that he thought at his first encounter that the Owus were Nupes. All these I had narrated in 1974 when I was doing a series on a German radio.” (Name mentioned but I cannot recollect it – Deutche…).
“Circumstantial evidence reveals that the first settlement of the Owu people is at L’empe, on a high hilltop not far from the Jebba bridge, and about 6km south of the Niger river from which the glistering river could be seen on the horizon”.

“In those days when I was a politician, I was in the entourage of Saraki when he pointed to a vast land on a hilltop in the Empe area, saying that was part of our (Owu) fore-fathers’ land and that he had acquired a sizeable portion of it. He gave me a plot right there and then, revealing that his mother was Owu from Abeokuta like me”. “While sited at Empe, the Olowu used to collect ‘Ishaponle’ (gratuities/taxation) from the Alafins until Sango staged a revolt to free them from the practice”. “Owu-Ipole erroneously tagged ‘Orile-owu’ could not have been the first settlement of the Owus. It was too far south into the forest from the savannah settlement of Old Oyo where the battle between Olowu and Sango took place” “Some modern historians are even postulating that the Yorubas as a whole were originally residing in the savannah area before Oduduwa came to lead them to Ile-Ife!”

“Ajaka was the first suitor of Osun before his junior brother married her. Ajaka would travel many a miles both on horseback or sometimes on feet to go and woo her (sings a song about Ajaka travelling to court Osun)”. “Recorded Yoruba history which can be found in the Diaspora took like 4 – 6 generations before they could be written down. This was because the slaves were forbidden from learning how to write, and in many cases, from even bearing children who they could pass the stories to”. “The ‘Alajalu’ festival was recently hosted by me at the palace (pointing to a miniature umbrella relic on the floor of his gallery-office, which was presented to him as host), and we are making arrangements to stage the next edition in Bahia (Brazil)”.

“Obatala was Olowu’s father. He was an enigmatic personality who was by no means inferior or subordinate to Odua (Oduduwa). In fact they were contemporaries or sometimes even rivals. Obatala has also been suggested to be the son of Sekilu. Now, Sekilu is the founder of the Ifa oracle. However I don’t think he was Sekilu’s son but may have been trained by him, thus he became a great Ifa priest and consultant who was apt to travel all over what is now West Africa as far away as Senegal and beyond, consulting for kingdoms and royalties. Obatala was also a farmer who planted cotton (thus ‘Olowu’). He was to meet Iyunade, the 1st born of Odua during one of his visits to the latter’s court where he married her and conceived their child, By the time Iyunade took her son to visit his father’s people, he had acquired his own crown from his grandfather from crying (thus ‘Asunkungbade)”.

“Of course it does not matter what method one uses in these matters. A crown is a crown. Afterall, the Owus were never defeated at Owu-Ipole (Orile-owu), they were besieged for 4 years and starved out of the town”.

“Ajibosin was called ‘omo baba olowu’ (cotton grower’s son) thus giving rise to his title of ‘Olowu’. He went with his crown to Empe accompanied by his palace compatriot and cousin-uncle, Oranmiyan who established his own dominion in a location nearby. It was here that Olowu found out that his father, Obatala, had been a wide and varied traveler journeying as far south as the ocean. Of course, the young Olowu who had never seen the ocean before was extremely fascinated, and promising to emulate his father’s exploit, but this time as a conquering warrior, set out to start attacking neighbors with the aim of annexing them and expand his empire as far south as the ocean!”

“Asunkungbade’s ambition to reach the ocean was invariably achieved by his successors who became one of the 2 ruling families in Lagos. The Oniru family who owned Victoria Island are Owu. In fact up to 75% of original Lagosians are Owu descendants!”

“On their southward conquests to reach the ocean, they advanced to the Old Ibadan. When the Baale of Ibadan got news of their impending coming, he sent a welcoming party to meet them and offered as much land as they cared to take, thus averting a major outrage. Areas in Abadan known as Anlugbua, Ogbere, Agodi, Orita-bashorun are all Owu lands donated by Ibadan. Mapo area was Remo-land which was captured by the Ibadans.”

“Olowu Ajibola told me that the Olowu who led the Owus into Ibadan was his ancestor”. (Contrary claims are that it was an Oba Akinjobi).

“The Baale of Ibadan also presented his daughter, Nkan, to the Olowu for marriage. Unfortunately however, ensuing events necessitated the sacrificing of Nkan for the safety of the Olowu’s entourage, and he embarked on a voluntary exile from Ibadan”.

“It is high time for people who write and research history in Owu-land to close ranks and harmonize their views and efforts so as to convincingly unearth the ancient history of owu for posterity”.

“There are 4 separate Owu settlements in Kwara state, and none of them is even remotely familiar with the events of Owu Ipole (orile-owu) which led to the Yoruba wars, suggesting that these occurred much much later”.

Source: owulakoda


We know Benin history, don’t write it for us – Prince Akenzua tells Ooni of Ife

IN recent times, issues on Yoruba-Benin historical relationship have been nothing but hot and characteristically, disputatious. Controversy seems to trail every account. But no side of the debate would bulge. Prince Edun Akenzua, one of the sons of the late Oba Akenzua of Benin says the main reason for the mistrust by the two ethnic groups is because the Yoruba and Benin approach history from differing perspectives.

According to Prince Akenzua who spoke in an exclusive interview with the Nigerian Compass, in Benin City, Edo state recently, the misunderstanding is like two people describing one thing they both saw but from different view angles. Akenzua, who is the sixth son of the late Omo n’ Oba n’ Edo Uku Akpolokpolo, Akenzua II of Benin explained that why the difference persists is because one appraises history from the standpoint of mythology while the other take the reality option.

Refering to the issue of key figure, Oduduwa or Ekaladerhan in the history of the two races, the royal prince said: “The Benin people know the history of the Ekaladerhan which the Yoruba people do not know… Suddenly they found somebody in their place. They began to see him as god that descended from the sky. They named Oduduwa. And that was the point they started relating with him. But we in Benin know him more than that. We know about his birth; about when he was to be executed and what happened and about his past, generally. The Yoruba did not know that. So when the Yoruba begins to tell the story of Ekaladerhan or Oduduwa, depending on the one they choose to call him, that is just simply from their point of contact with him. But that is not the truth. “

Citing recent newspaper publications on Yoruba-Benin relationship, the Edo Kingdom prince revealed that he was shocked over the hot comments on History of Benin, a recent publication by his elder brother, the current Oba of Benin. According to him, he will, in due time, comment on what the erudite historian, Prof. Joseph. Ade-Ajayi wrote.

He claimed that among other commentators, Ade-Ajayi in his article criticised the Oba of Benin for not being a trained historian or adopting enough empirical evidences. But noted that Ade-Ajayi “who claims to be a trained historians has always believed in Youba version of creation” that cannot be proved.

He said that the version of the narative which Ade-Ajayi projects stated that Oduduwa came from heaven with 300 deities.
Akenzua’s observation: “First, I thought that this was funny for reading a professional historian like Ade-Ajayi who would accuse the Oba of Benin of making statements without supporting such statements with documents or empirical evidence, and reasoning that he endorses the Yoruba myths of how Oduduwa dropped from heaven with so many gods is curious. Ajayi did not tell us or other Nigerian the documents that Ooni of Ife has provided to support that assertion. So, I thought that was curious for a professor of history.

“But my worry is that Ajayi who is supposed to display that same academic and empirical prowess and all of that, decides to keep quite anytime the Ooni makes such statements. I am surprised that he is accusing one person for failing to produce evidence to prove his case while supporting another person who made the same mistake – perhaps, in even more bizarre manner.

“You see, in this paper, (raises a copy of Vanguard Newspaper with a pull-out publication on Ooni’s 80th birthday), the interview here was conducted with the Ooni and it is elaborate. For me, what he said is quite interesting. One of the things the Ooni said in this interview was that Olodumare, God Almighty created heaven and earth and in doing so appointed Orunmila to continue with the creation.

“According to him, Orunmila was one who liked palm wine. So, he took one cup and became drunk. And because of his drunkenness, he created the imperfect human being. God now got angry and put him aside and appointed Oduduwa to come around and continue the creation. These are the kind of myth that they want people to believe as fact. We want them to understand that this is quite different from what the Benin is saying. What I am saying is that we should not join myth with common historical fact which happened recently. No sensible person will believe such a thing.
“Well it was very interesting reading it. But to me, it is just a part of Yoruba mythology. Every nation has its own mythology. Therefore I ask: So, when it is an issue of Yoruba mythology according to Orunmila and all that, nobody contests anything with them?

“The Benin also have their own mythology. If you go through the Benin mythology, you will discover why the Benis believed that the Oba owns the land up till white people’s land. But what I also found strange in this last interview by the Ooni is that he gave Orunmila and Oduduwa the same assignment of creating the universe. And I think that was ridiculous.

“Take the newspaper and go through it (he throws it), you will find out that it is full of contradiction. Let me tell you a fact. In 1982, when the Oba of Benin paid an official visit to Ife. A speech of welcome presented by Ooni to the Oba was at that time prepared for the Ooni by Prof. (Sabiru) Biobaku, and I think that the man or people who know this are still alive. He was a former Vice-Chancellor of University of Lagos and a professor of History (like Ade-Ajayi). Part of the speech read: “We welcome Your Royal Highness most heartily back to Ile-Ife, the cradle of our common culture, the origin of your dynasty and ours. Today is really a very good day for us in us and its environs because since you left in 891 AD, we have come to know that your dynasty has performed wonderfully well. I hope that they know what that means because Biaboku is not just an ordinary historian but one of the best Yoruba historians. The records are there for any person who cares to go through instead of shouting and calling others names,” he said

Asked if he read Biobaku’s lines to mean an underscoring that Oduduwa was the Benin prince known as Ekaladerhan, Akenzua said yes. He added that there is an affinity between the royal family in Benin and the one in Oyo kingdom. According to him, the affinity is closer in the sense that Oranmiyan who came to Benin, to give birth to Eweka I, was the one who left Benin and returned to Ife. But by the time he got to Ife, his father Oduduwa or Ekaladerhan may have died.

“It is a long story, but we believe that the Alafin (of Oyo) and his people are our brothers from the same Oranmiyan. And it was not a surprise that in history, you can only talk about Benin empire and Oyo empire. There is nothing like Ife empire,” he said.

Throwing more light, Akenzua said: “I also read in that interview by the Ooni that the Oba of Benin used to be buried in Ife. One will ask: Where do they get all that information? I was surprised when I heard that story in Benin here. The truth of it is that if there is anything out of it, it will be in difference to Ife, which was formally known as Uhe, where Ekaladerhan had lived and Ekaladerhan’s son who became the Oba here (Benin). It was only possible that they may like their body being interred in Uhe or Ife or wherever. But if the Ooni of Ife made reference to it, it does not prove anything. To us it does not prove that Benin is Yoruba or that Yoruba is Benin.”

On the story that the Benin people went to Ife to ask for a king, Akenzua asked, “How can a group of people you do not know before just come to you and demand for a king and you will just give your eldest son to them – to go to the land you don’t know to be their king? Simple reasoning will tell you that it is not true. So when they say that Oramiyan’s son was the first Ooni of Ife, I always ask them: Which one of them?”
Akenzua further dismissed the claim that modern Benin is trying to rewrite history. Describing the allegation as funny, he went on to say: “Tell them that they should stop mixing myth with reality. Benin also have their myth of creation. But when we talk about Ekaladerhan, we are not talking myth. We are talking about something that actually happened. As you will see in this book (raises a book entitled, Ekaladerhan), up to today there are stories and songs done in honour of Ekaladerhan here in Benin. There are villages named after him where he was to be killed. That village is still there for people to see.”

Following the reference to his generation of the Benin royal family court seeking to rewrite history, Akenzua, a London-trained linguist, psychologist and journalist, laughed. He alleged that the Ooni of Ife was quoted in an interview as saying that the present Oba of Benin holds an incorrect position in the tale of the Yoruba-Benin history while his predecessor, the late Oba Akenzua II presented a differing, correct account which the current generation is trying to put aside. The prince said that is not true. “For me, since he did not say the version of the account that is correct and the one that is not, we will not be too forward. But one would have expected that in discussing a situation like this, that would have been an appropriate time for him to come out with what he said Oba Akenzua said and the other statements that is not correct so that people can know which one is the truth. But according to this newspaper, Oba Akenzua made that statement when he was going to commission WADECO, a car company probably owned by the Ooni in Ife. My father was very happy that a new company is coming to Benin. It is very unlikely that my father will take that occasion and be talking about history of Yoruba and Benin. I have the privilege of being a private secretary to my father. I am aware that all the speeches he made everywhere, the records are available. So we are waiting. Whenever the Ooni publishes what my father said at a time, we will be able to relate it to what we have here. But until that is done, that statement by the Ooni will be looked into.”

Origin of Ibadan land

Going by the historical accounts in the outline history of Ibadan by late Oba Isaac Akinyele, Ibadan was founded in the 16th century at a time when there was no title of Aare Ona Kakanfo. This timing coincided with the period when some eminent adventurers migrated out of Ile-Ife to found their own settlements according to the respected Ife historian, the late Chief (DR,) M.A. Fabunmi, the Odole Atabase of Ife.

Ibadan by then was surrounded by Egba villages like Ido, Ojoo, Ika and Owu town of Erunmu. This location gave the impression that Ibadan was one of the Egba Gbagura settlements. The first Ibadan was destroyed by the Oyo Army as a result of the unfortunate incident during Egungun festival when the secret of the masquerades was exposed. In Yorubaland, it was an abomination for women to look an Egungun in the eye because the Egunguns were considered to be the dead forefathers who returned to the earth each year to bless their progeny. When the news reached the then Alaafin of Oyo, he commanded that Eba Odan be destroyed for committing such abominable act.

Lagelu was by now an old, frail man; he could not stop the destruction of his city, but he and some of his people survived the attack and fled to a nearby hill for sanctuary. On the hill they survived by eating oro fruit and snails; later, they cultivated the land and made corn and millets into pap meals known asoori or eko, which they ate with roasted snails. They improvised a bit by using the snail shells to drink the liquefied eko. Ultimately, Lagelu and his people came down from the hill and founded another city called Eba’dan. Before the death of Lagelu, he and his children left Oke-Badan Hill near Awotan Market and migrated to “Ori-lyangi” which was later renamed Labosinde market. During the reign of Basorun Oluyole, the name was changed to Iba-Market and had remained so till today. The second settlement witnessed the influx of Yoruba tribes from different parts of Yoruba land such as Isheri, Owu, Ijebu, old Oyo and Ife.

The influx of people changed the character of the town. One of the most important migrants was the Owu group led by Olowu Akinjobi after the destruction of Owu town by the allied army made up of Ijebus and the Ifes as a result of slave trade conflict at Apomu. The reigning Olubadan gave her only daughter (NKAN OMO OLUBADAN) out in marriage to Olowu to strengthen the friendship between the Owus and Ibadans but Olowu Akinjobi sacrificed Olubadan’s daughter to appease the goddess of River Osun. Consequently, the Olubadan invited the Allied Army from their camp at Iperu led by Maye Okunade, an Ife General, and Lakanle, an Oyo Leader, to avenge the death of Olubadan’s daughter. The Olowu committed suicide to escape being captured by the Ibadan army. The battle shattered the great Owu kingdom into pieces till today. Some of it remains in the mother town which is the present Orile-Owu in Osun State, while others are in Ogun State, known as Owu Abeokuta, etc.

Thus marked the end of the second Ibadan. Thus, Ibadan was again re-peopled around 1820 not by the original founders of the town but by the allied Army consisting of Egbas, Ijebus, Ifes and the Oyos. Maye Okunade from Ife became the Baale assisted by Labosinde as Baba-Isale and Lakanle as leader of the Oyo group. The Oyos and Ifes settled at Oja-Oba, the Ijebus around Isale-Ijebu and the Egbas at Yeosa. The Egbas resorted to Ibadan which proved to be the rallying point of the Yorubas and later the bulwark of their defence against the Fulanis. However, as a result of interclass among the settlers, the Egbas withdrew in a body from Ibadan to Abeokuta led by Sodeke, in 1830. Between 1830 and 1833, the political supremacy of the Ifes was shattered after “Gbanamu” war between the Ifes and the Oyos around 1833. The Ife Army was defeated by the strong Military power of the Oyos in Ibadan.

This was followed with the destruction of Erunmu, Ikija, Ojoo and other Egba and Owu villages. Olowu was captured and killed in Erunmu and was buried at the confluence of Odo-Oba and River Osun. This incidence forced the Owu settlers to Abeokuta to join the Egbas on December 25, 1834. After the fall of Erunmu, an Owu vassal town, the Oyo War chiefs returned to Ibadan with the rest of the people who joined the war as volunteers. “At a public meeting held to consider their future course, the war Chiefs resolved that as they now intend to make Ibadan their home, they should arrange for settled government and take titles”.The above historical events became necessary to correct the impression created by many writers that Ibadan was founded in 1829.
The present crop of Ibadan rulers did not gain control of Ibadan Administration until after the Gbadamu war with Oluyedun as the first Oyo-Ibadan Baale followed by Oluyole who was later installed Basorun by Alafin Atiba in 1839 after Eleduwe war that marked the total collapse of the Old Oyo Empire. However, the republican system of Obaship was firmly established in 1851, when Oyesile Olugbode succeeded Opeagbe as the Baale of Ibadan and Ibikunle became the Balogun, Sunmola Laamo became the Otun Baale while Ogunmola was installed ‘the Otun Balogun’. The innovation became a regular feature whereby, there evolved two separate Chieftaincy lines namely: Baale line and Balogun Isoriki line. The Baale title gave the holder mainly the civic responsibility while the Balogun line comprised of war Chiefs held purely military titles.

According to Rev. Johnson, “a strong government thus emerged not only because Ibadan continually engaged in warfare but partly because those who flocked to Ibadan completely identified themselves with the new town”. The Traditional Council (Igbimo Ilu), before the advent of the colonial administration was the supreme organ of State while in the exercise of power, the Baale was the Chief Executive. Its membership was made up of High Chiefs from both Baale line and the Balogun line, and council decisions on most issues were final. Among the most important issues deliberated upon were; Diplomacy, War, Custom, Duties, Appointment, Promotions and Discipline of Chiefs, Military and Security. The Council had no staff of its own, rather, it relied on those of the ruled for administrative functions, on the masses for mob actions (e.g. the devastation plundering of compounds of offenders). The Council had no treasury; the wealth of the state was kept in the private purses of political elites.

Ago that became Oyo and Oyo empire

The ancient Oyo Empire, established by the Yoruba people, controlled a wide area between the Volta and Niger and rivers by the mid seventeen century. The capital of the state was moved from old Oyo (Katunga) in 1930s and the Alaafin (Lord of the palace) of Oyo kingdom still reside in the city. Population: (1995) 250,100. The modern town of Oyo, seat of the Alafin, lies on the site of an earlier settlement named Ago. For centuries the capital of the Oyo empire lay 130 km north of this town on a site that is today completely depopulated, but about 1837 this town, Old Oyo, was abandoned. The Alafin and his followers moved south and settled at the small Egba township of Ago. The new site lay south of direct Fulani pressure but the Alafin’s personal acquaintance with Ago also probably played an important part in its selection as the new capital. A northern quarter of the present town, between the Awerintu and Ishowin streams, appears to lie on the actual site of Ago. The Alafin went to great lengths to make his new capital resemble Old Oyo: apart from the toponymic change and multiplying the town’s area several fold he founded a small religious precinct on the outskirts of the town dedicated to the Yoruba God, Shango. Today he is remembered by one of the grandest buildings in the town, the Atiba Hall, which lies adjacent to the town’s main market and the Alafin’s palace.

The Oyo Alaafin is an integral portion of the Yoruba nation that descended from the historical figure, Oduduwa or Olofin. According to historians, the Yoruba arrived in their present homes in waves from the ancient Meroe of the east of Sudan. Ile-Ife was their first principal centre of civilization. Oranyan (the first Alaafin) was the son of Oduduwa: all of them, met indigenous population that they conquered and assimilated. In different monarchial tradition as they arrived in waves from their original homes in the Sudan, they instituted various kingdoms: Oyo, Ife, Ijesa, Ijebu, Owu, Owo, Ekiti, Ondo, Ketu etc.

As the arrow head of Oyo people and the head of their monarchy referred to as Alaafin, the exercise of power saw him (Oranyan) as touching Ife, Edo Kingdom and eventually Oyo. A fighter and a warrior, the administration of his kingdom came to a bloom under his sons: Dada Ajuwon, Ajaka, Sango, Afonja, Aganju (with regent Iyayun, a female, when the monarch died and before Kori came of age to rule) and Oluaso.

Ajaka enjoyed two terms on the throne before and after Sango. Sango had several distinctions as a monarch:

He shifted the capital from Oko in the vicinity of Ogbomoso to old Oyo on the famous tributary of Nigeria River, called River Moshe.
He established the hegemony of the Alaafin over the Owu near Ogboro and in conflict; the later fled to Iwu Ogbere i.e. an area between Ife and Ijebu.
Sango was the product of intertribal marriage between a Nupe lady and the Alaafin.
He extended the area of Oyo Empire and so was able to exercise power over stretches of Rivers Niger and Ogun;
Particluarly, Osun and Oya waterways were named after his deified wives. They represent viable religions and deities over a wide range of Yorubaland.
Aganju was noted for erecting one hundred and twenty high rise gables and installing bronze and brass pillars as a way of enhancing the beauty of the Oyo-Ile palace.

Oluaso was suave, princely and blessed with about ten twins. Handsome and wealthy, he was the Solomon of the Alaafin monarchy. Allowing for historical telescoping of areas of events forgotten or badly remembered, bards could trim the issues to ensure intelligent presentation. But the areas thus covered could nearly approximate about 100A.D. to 1500A.D.

The Igboho period 1500-1600
Arising from the friction of the time of Sango and Nupe, when Onigbogi had dispatched the 70 Eso to Ita-Ibidun war, Etsu Jubrila of Nupe descended on the city and drove Onigbogi to Gbere in Bariba country near Saki. The unsuccessful introduction of Ifa also caused disaffection. Ofiran who succeeded his father moved other people to Kasu and the deity of Ife and Egungun were decently organized. The later was introduced from Nupe. The corpse of Onigbogi was rearranged in Saki. One item of importance was Sokia, an official with a coat of mail Sokia ti iwo ewu irin.

Igboho was founded by Egungun-oju. Here four Obas were buried and the city as Oyo capital subsisted from the middle of 16th Century to about 1600.

Oromopoto’s reign was remarkable for his investment in military resources to cope with the imperial aspirations of the next century. The employment of organized horsemen and foot-men in military formation which he copied from the kingdom’s northern neighbours was the asset of the nation. Under Ajiboyede. The Nupes led by their King Lajuo invaded Igboho and the patriotism of Osi Efa Ahanlapa saved the people. He encountered the observance of Bere, a national festival which include national thanksgiving and propiation to the gods and their ancestors. She was the last of the Kings buried in Igboho.

Abiipa had been instructed by his father, Egungun-Oju, to return the people to Oyo Ile. This was why he was called Oba-moro because the negative antics of the Oyo Mesi to remain in Igboho was deflated and Oyo Ile re-settled in about 1590.

Imperial period, the son of Oba-Moro was Obalokun; whose reign recorded the following:

a. The arrival of the first white man.

b. The sending of envoys to Portugal and France.

c. The introduction of common salt.

The first political agent, “Ajele” was sent to Ijala, near Ilaro. Ajegbo the next Oba succeeded his father Obalokun. He was war-like and launched several military expeditions. He expanded the empire to cover. Weme in the Popo country. Ile Olopa, Onko and Ikereku, his maternal town. Under him the first Aare-Ona kakanfo, Kokoro-gan-gan of Iwoye was appointed. He led the Eso and everybody in war.

Ojigi was another Oba of this period who demonstrated both military and administrative prowess assisted by his Basorun, Yau Yamba, the empire expanded in all directions while the economic buoyancy of the period of Abiodun Golden Age had commenced. Dahomey was conquered and ports secured in the south. Under Onisile, great cultural advances were made. Beads were used on “Sekere: instead of cowries. He was a great warrior and the calvary grew under him. Gaha succeeded Yamba, his father, as Basorun and four Obas were liquidated by him before Abiodun Adegolu (1774-1789), got rid of him. Commerce and Agriculture boomed under Abiodun and the nation assumed its greatness. He kept a zoo of wild lions and elephants.

Under Awole the empire suffered some strain and the Egbas got their independence in 1796. This period to 1837 saw the empire’s greatest trails: the loss of parts of the empire, the loss of trade, the coming of the jihadist Muslims, the coming of the white men and the revolution that forced the population to move to the south to originate Ibadan, Abeokuta, Ijaye and Ago-d-Oyo.

At the height of the empire, the provinces, though fluid, were Ekun Osi, the metropolis and the areas around; the Ekun Otun the western side of the River Ogun: the Ibolo areas and Epo; Egbado, Yewa, parts of Dahomey and Southern Nupe.
A good constitution, buoyed by the Alaafin, Oyo Mesi, the Aare-Ona Kakanfo and the provincial kings.
Control of calvary, trade routes and successful agriculture.
Contacts with the northern neighbours and the ports on the south.
There was peace and good government.
Islam has crept into the country from the time of Oyo Igboho and in Oyo Ile, the trend has escalated with the Afonja’s intransigence and Ilorin’s invitation to Sheik Al-Salah. Oyo City, too was basically converted to Islam. The fall of the Empire in the first half of the nineteen century was as a result of interplay of social forces that zeroed in on it.

The Wars were pamo, Mugba, Kanla, Abodo and Elewure. The best men from Saki, Ede,Ogbomso, Ibadan and Ikoyi were involved in the great exploits. The Egbas moved from Ibadan area to Abeokuta. Epo Region of Akeetan, Iseke, Apaara, Aguo Idode Ojongbodu were bursting at the seams from the population from the north and were eventually transferred by Atiba to populate Ago-d-Oyo.

Afonja allowed the foothold of the Jihadist and made the sacking of Oyo “Ile irreversible, but he lost his hegemony to the Fulani of Ilorin. The British explorer visited Oyo Ile in 1821 and Olewu fell in Eleduwa war in 1837. Oyo city thereby dissolved and re-emerged in the South near Ibadan and Ijaye in 1839.

Oba Atiba, the son of Abiodun was the greatest human and political factor in the period referred to above. His sons, Adelu and Adeyemi reigned after him. He enlarged Oyo. Enlisted the new energies of Ibadan and Ijaiye, thus bracing up bravely the Oyo monarchy.

The pacification of Captain Bower from 1893, the Kiriji Wars and the rise of Ibadan, the liquidation of Ijaye between 1861-1863 involved in great wars and great men like Adeyemi I, Luyole, Ibikunle, Ogunmola, Kurumi Ajadi, Toyeje of Ogbomoso, Bamigboye of Ede and Aare Mohammed Latosa. The Osogbo War of 1840 had put a stop to the south-ward advancement of the Jihadists and this with the coming of the Christian Missionaries of the Anglicans, the Methodist and Baptists benefited the town including other Yoruba towns. From early 1900s modern-government has taken root. Captain Ross nurtured its growth.

Oyo city today is the centre of a flourishing civilization from its inception under the children of Atiba Adelu, Adeyemi I, Agogo Ija, Ladigbolu, I, Adeyemi II, Ladigbolu II and Adeyemi III.

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