AFTER THE FALL OF OYO EMPIRE
Oyo Empire reached its climax in 18th century, unfortunately, it began declining towards the end of the century. Political struggle between Alaafin Abiodun and Oyo Mesi over the policy thrust of a peaceful diplomacy against military adventurism of Oyo Mesi for the Empire led to the gradual disintegration of the empire. Although, there were many open confrontations between some political leaders and Alaafin Abiodun, even there was a revolt, in which Alaafin defeated his opponents. We should also remember that Alaafin Abiodun had just ridden Oyo of Basorun Gaa’s intransigence and notoriety. Regardless of Alaafin’s military successes, no respite for the empire, rather an intractable constitutional crisis had been created, as years rolled by, crisis from it hastened the fall of Oyo Empire. After the death of Alaafin Abiodun, the internal crisis in Oyo took a new dimension as the succession rate to the throne was so high, the situation created political instability that weakened the stool of Alaafin. Records show that some Alaafin stayed less than six months on the throne, even there was a period of political interregnum. More worrisome, was the conspiracy and distrust that engulfed the entire Oyo. As Oyo was struggling with the domestic/internal problems, insurrections became the order of the day as people became resentful of Oyo’s hegemony. Yoruba Egba revolted, declared independence under its leader, Lisabi Agbongbogbo Akala. In 1818, Abomey revolted and stopped paying tributes to Alaafin, other sub groups within Oyo Empire joined in the race to become independent. This spirit of independence in the air showed that Oyo’s authority and influence, made posible by political and military power, would soon be gone. The immediate cause of the fall of Oyo was the rivalry between Are-Ona-Kaka-Nfo Afonja and Alaafin Aole. Earlier, Aole had ordered Afonja to attack Iwere-Ile (a Yoruba town and maternal home of Alaafin Ajagbomogun Ileti Are Elemele), the order was not only ignored by Afonja, but created distrust between Aolẹ and Afonja. Within a short period of time the supremacy battle and suspicion (between the duo) resulted in attack on Oyo by Afonja with the help of the Fulanis (under Alimi) the new settlers in Ilorin. Oyo was destroyed and a new location was sought at Ago Oja to form a new Oyo under Alaafin Atiba. Shortly there after, Afonja was killed in a political intrigue that followed in Ilorin. Yoruba lost Ilorin its northern gateway to the Fulani led Islamic administration in Sokoto to Malam Alimi, Usman Dan Fodio’s representative. The destruction of Oyo spelt a doom for entire Yorubaland as there was no more central or unified defense system, more important, there was a radical shift in power in Yorubaland. Four different power blocs emerged (two military powers, one economic power, and a confederate/
multi kingdom power). Besides, several towns and communities were formed to care for hundreds of thousand Yoruba refugees; more pathetic was the social and political dislocations (intra tribal wars) Yoruba witnessed between 1826/
1827 (when Oyo fell) and 1885, when the British led armistice treaty was signed by various warring groups in Yoruba land. The new political powers in Yoruba land were: Ibadan a military power which produced Basorun such as: Oluyole, Oderinde, Ojo, Ogunmola, Latosha etc. Ijaye a military power that revolved around a supreme commander and a dictator Kurunmi. Egba, a confederate political system, based not on military power alone, but on the moral force of Christianity, power of education, and industrialization. These factors made Egba a different political power in Yoruba land. Ijebu an economic power because of its geographical location. A major trade route between Lagos and several Yoruba towns and villages. Ibadan A new Political Power in Yoruba Land. Ibadan (Eba-Odan) meaning by the side of thick forest was initially established by Lagelu an Ile-Ife (commander in chief). For several years, Jagun Lagelu (oro, a pata maja) and his subjects were living together in peace in their first settlement at Awotan, in Apete in the present Ido Local Government Area, until an incident happened. From history, we are told that certain individuals disrobed Egungun in Eba Odan, the Egungun was brought to market where he suffered more humiliation before women and children. In Yoruba tradition, Egunguns are revered dead forefathers. when Sango, the Alaafin of Oyo heard of the incident, he ordered the destruction of Eba Odan. Those who survived the attack ran to a nearby hill, lived on (Oro fruits), much later, when life returned to normal another settlement was formed. Ibadan, from records was attacked on three other times. However, the modern Ibadan was established in 1829, after the fall of Oyo. Refugees from several Yoruba towns and villages came in droves and settled in Ibadan when Oyo was destroyed around (1826/1827), by 1850 the city population had grown to over 250,000 this made Ibadan to become a heterogeneous and the largest Yoruba town; more so, it became a safety net for the war displaced people. Because of its location, population, military exploits under various garrison commanders, Ibadan town became the most powerful, politically, and economically in Yorubaland. In no time, Ibadan filled the political vacuum created by the fall of Oyo. Although, Ibadan is a Yoruba town, it operated a different political system ever known in Yorubaland. Ibadan had no Oba, whose occupant is by inheritance, because of its formation; rather, it created four high offices: two military positions, one civil office, and one office for women leadership. The offices are:
“Iba” or “Baa’le” civil, head of the town
“Balogun” later “Basorun”; head of Ibadan military
“Seriki” second-in-command, military office
“Iyalode” head of all Ibadan women, a powerful office.
The system that produces Olubadan (formerly known as Iba) consists of two lines: the Otun and the Balogun. Each line has 23 steps on the rung for a would be Olubadan to climb before appointed. Vacancy is created when the occupant dies, becomes incapacitated or removed (which happens seldon) the next in rank moves a step up. The journey to Olubadan office is very long and enduring. Otun line is for the civil office, while Balogun is for the military leadership. However, most senior title holder from either lines can become Olubadan, when the stool becomes vacant. Iba or Baa’le was the political head of Ibadan, the office was opened to the next in rank or second in command whenever the occupant died. The is practice is still same even (with Olubadan throne) to date. Balogun (later changed to Basorun by Alaafin Atiba, but installed by Iba on the orders of Alaafin) and Seriki were the two prominent military leaders in the land (and to date) are opened, not by inheritance, but to the next in rank. Other high and middle level military titles were:
Otun (General, right division);
Osi (General, left division);
Ekerin, Elarun, Ekefa (head of fourth, fifth, sixth divisions).
Interestingly, these titles though, no longer in military format or structure still exist in Ibadan political system/
arrangement; even, with several reforms, structural and administrative changes Ibadan had witnessed as a city over the years. The fourth political office is that of Iyalode, the leader of Ibadan women. At inception, there was Traditional Council (Igbimo Ilu) membership was drawn from both Otun line (civil) and Balogun line (military) to help Iba with day to day administration. Over the years, several administrative and political reforms had taken place in Ibadan, the most prominent were 1936 creation of Olubadan office, and 1976 when Olubadan became a permanent member of Western State Council Obas and Chiefs.
There are other several titles by household or compound, the most common is Mogaji the family head. The High Chiefs and Mogajis carried out the civic duties which enabled the indigenes accessed the land and to exercise their civil rights. Ibadan, under the leadership of Oluyole played a major role in Yoruba land. Oluyole was a grandson of Alaafin Abiodun (through Agbonyin, Abiodun’s daughter).
He fought several wars, which he won:
Ibadan versus Ijebu
Ibadan /Owu war
Ibadan /Egba war
Ibadan/Egba war was a game changer in the post Oyo politics in Yoruba land, his defeat of the Egba at Ipara led to the take over of several Egba towns including Ibadan. Consequently, Oluyole became Areago of Ibadan, later he took the Osi Ona-Kaka-Nfo title, second to Kurunmi the Are-Ona-Kaka-Nfo (Generalissimo) of Yoruba land. The leadership of Ibadan over Yoruba did not come by accident, rather, it came as Ibadan checkmated the rampaging Fulani warriors after the fall of Oyo. Yoruba had lost Igbomina; Ekiti and Akoko at this time were under threat. Ogbomoso, Ede, Iwo, axis were under attack even Osogbo had been defeated, occupied by Fulani. In fact, the entire Yoruba land was under Ilorin Fulani siege. Ibadan would not allow the onslaught to continue, by 1840, Ibadan soldiers defeated and pushed Fulani warriors back to Ilorin. However, the only regret was Ibadan did not follow through to Ilorin. This military success stopped further Fulani attack on Yoruba land throughout 19th and early 20th centuries the period that covered British annexation of Lagos from 1860 through the creation of Southern Protectorate British’s political design meant to promote, protect, and to preserve the commercial interest of Royal Niger Company; the creation of Northern Protectorate and the amalgamation of January 1, 1914, leading to the formation of Nigeria. Ibadan was not done with wars yet, because it engaged in many more wars in Yorubaland in order to establish its supremacy. One of such war was Ibadan/Ijaye war of 1860-1861. We should remember that Atiba, Oluyole and Kurunmi were trio who fought the Eleduwe war during Alaafin Oluewu, to liberate Yoruba from the Fulani in Ilorin. At the war front these three warriors became covenanted friends. At the end of the war their friendship became even stronger especially so, when Atiba succeeded Eluewu as the new Alaafin. Unfortunately, their friendship later turned sour when Alaafin Atiba changed an age long tradition in Oyo by abolishing the practice of Aremo from dying with Alaafin. Kurunmi became enraged with the change in custom and tradition of Oyo, vowed not to recognize any Aremo chosen as Alaafin in Oyo. Alaafin Atiba died in 1859, his son Aremo Adelu became the new Alaafin, Kurunmi refused to recognize Alaafin Adelu. Ibadan did not only recognize Adelu as Alaafin, but supported Oyo, this created enmity between Ibadan and Kurunmi of Ijaye. Earlier, Alaafin Atiba had made some far reaching administrative changes in Oyo, he divided Oyo into two sections, Kurunmi headed the (west) and Balogun Oluyole in Ibadan led the (east). These changes, regardless, created more problems than it solved, because Kurunmi of Ijaye engaged in supremacy battle with Alaafin on who controlled upper Ogun towns and villages around Saki. Since the matter was not resolved before Alaafin Atiba’s death, Kurunmi saw his death as an opportunity to establish his control over Oyo West; without delay, he declared war on Oyo in 1860. Ibadan war machine under Ogunmola came in support of Oyo, routed Kurunmi Ijaye/Egba alliance (forces); more so, killed all his sons. When Kurunmi saw the direction of the war that he was running against time, more important, there was no how he could have upper hand in the war; rather than being captured, Kurunmi committed suicide and Ijaye was destroyed by Ibadan army. Although, Oyo/Ibadan alliance paid off, yet, the war created more troubles and crises in Yorubaland for two more decades there was no peace in the land. Again, another Yoruba town with its power and influence went out of existence in Yorubaland. The Ibadan/Ijaye war had just established Ibadan military superiority in Yorubaland, more important, the future role Ibadan would play in the politics of the region. Ibadan was not done with wars in Yoruba land, rather, it had just begun. Prominent Ibadan leaders of 19th century were:
Iyalode Efunsetan Aniwura.
Between 1860 and 1885 Ibadan engaged in five different wars simultaneously. In 1877, Ibadan went to war against Egba/Ijebu for attacking Ibadan traders, when coming from Port-Novo. The Ijesa/Ekiti seized the moment, in 1878, attacked despotic Ibadan Ajeles (viceroys) in their territories; Ibadan declared war on Ijesha and Ekiti.
The conflict between Ibadan/Ijesha & Ekiti went on for sixteen years, the worst war in Yorubaland.
Ogedengbe the Seriki of Ijesha army, Fabunmi of Oke-Imesi, and Aduloju of Ado-Ekiti held Ibadan down as Ibadan engaged in other wars with the Egba, Ijebu, Ilorin and the Ife. The Ibadan/Ijesa & Ekiti parapo war got to its peak at Kiriji, near Ikirun.
As these wars raged on in Yoruba land, no attempts were made to caution the warring groups, unfortunately, the leaders (Obas) in Yoruba land then were suspicious of themselves, enmeshed in bitter rivalry. The Church (CMS) and other religious organizations that should have played the role of peace-makers looked the other way. Sad to say, Lagos colonial administration stood aloof as entire Yorubaland was on fire. In 1884, events changed, partition of Africa was under way, British, which had more investments in the region than other rivals did not want the French or the Germans to have an upper hand.The realities on the ground made British stepped up, abandoned its lookwarm attitude, actively involved in resolving the internal strife in Yorubaland. Through the Church Missionary Society (CMS) and Lagos colonial administration, reconciliation began among the warring Yoruba groups (Ibadan, Ijesha/Ekiti, Egba, and Ijebu). At a time, Lagos Governor Maloney went to Ikirun in 1885 during the Kiriji War between Ibadan and Ijesa/Ekiti alliance to find permanent solution to the crisis on hand. Finally, the combatants in the crises were tired of several decades of wars.
Through negotiations undertaken by the Church, which was spearheaded by Samuel Johnson, Charles Phillips, and Lagos Governor Maloney in 1886, peace gradually returned to Yorubaland as the warring groups sheathed their swords. At a time, Governor Carter had to use force on some Yoruba groups to open trade routes earlier closed. According to (Ayandele, 1967) the military onslaught on Ijebu in 1892 to open trade route and the attack on Oyo in 1895, the defeat of Ilorin by the Royal Niger Company in 1897 subdued entire Yorubaland. Thereafter, the history of Yorubaland changed by 1900 and even beyond. Ibadan maintained its influence and dominance on Yoruba, for years, it became the political and administrative headquarters of Yorubaland. Even, if today’s politics have changed the dynamics of Yoruba nation, Ibadan will always be remembered for its roles in shaping, and creating a new Yoruba nation in the 19th century.