Nigerian Tribune- Tuesday, September 06, 2011
Osogbo War of 1840 Revisited
Written by Adewuyi AdegbiteTuesday, 06 September 2011
The Fulani Jihad, led by Sheik Usman Dan Fodio that began in 1804 in Sokoto, and spread gradually to Hausaland and down south of the River Niger, had telling effects, not only on Northern Nigeria, but virtually the whole of modern Nigeria. The cause, course and effects have been well documented by scholars, particularly historians. One lasting effect is the spread of Islam. Other consequences include restructuring of political setting and tribal maps in some parts of modern day Nigeria, including Yorubaland.
Ilorin and its region, which were on the northern fringe of Oyo Empire was sacked by Fulani elements domiciled in that nascent town in 1823 and it therefore, became a satellite of the Sokoto caliphate and a base from where the Jihadists attempted to penetrate, subjugate and Islamise Yorubaland.
Revisiting the Osogbo war of 1840 becomes imperative because many historical works on this aspect of the 19th century Yoruba history have ascribed or attributed the feat to debar the Fulani marauders from penetrating Yorubaland solely to the efforts of Ibadan warriors. Of importance among these wars is the Osogbo war of 1840 under discourse. That supposed feat and Ibadan’s role in subsequent battles during the Yoruba internecine wars had led many scholars to also refer to Ibadan as the successor state to the ‘erstwhile’ Oyo empire. In addition, positions of some scholars have been the basis for Ibadan’s clamour for superiority over not a few Yoruba towns, but the Alaafin of Oyo, the sovereign of the old Oyo empire, which was mere distortion of history and tradition.
Contrary to the above, efforts would be made to show that Fulani elements from Ilorin were repelled by combined Yoruba forces, drawn from all supporting towns of Oyo power, in line with defence arrangement perfected by Yoruba leaders led by Alaafin Atiba, at the new capital, Agodoyo around 1837.
Some of the classical literatures on Yoruba history related to the above topic include Iwe Itan Ibadan (History of Ibadan) by Isaac B. Akinyele (1911), History of the Yorubas by Samuel Johnson (1921), Iwe Itan Ogbomoso (History of Ogbomoso) by N.D. Oyerinde (1934), etc. These are some of the classical works by non academic historians from where modern historians drew their conclusions. A painstaking study of these works showed that topical issues like collapse of Oyo empire, Ibadan imperialism, etc, were inventions modern historians.
As an example, Oyo empire can not be said to have collapsed before 1893, in line with British conquest of Sokoto in 1903 and Benin in 1897, etc. What really happened was that the empire declined and its power waned. Research has shown that after the victory of the Ilorin over Yoruba forces during the Eleduwe war of 1835, Emir Shitta sent Ilorin forces to sack Oyo Ile and loot the palace. Consequent upon the attack, Oyo Ile was deserted and has been in ruins ever since. Logically, Oyo empire would have fallen if the Fulani had been able to overrun the whole of the empire as she did to Ilorin and Hausaland where emirs were imposed on conquered territories. However, that was not the case.
Invariably, remnants of the ruing dynasty at Oyo Ile, led by its scion, Abiodun Atiba transferred the capital to Ago Oja and restructured the political/military organisation to safeguard and halt the decline of the empire. Politically, Oluyole a warrior and ruler of the nascent Ibadan was installed Basorun. That was contrary to the tradition at Oyo Ile, which made the Basorun to domicile in the capital. Also, another warrior of note, Kunrunmi of Ijaye, and then head of Ijaye was made the generalissimo or Aare Onakakanfo of the empire. Militarily, a defence pact was made, which made it obligatory for Ibadan to defend the empire from attack from North-eastern and eastern part, while Ijaye was to lead other towns like Iseyin, Saki, Okeho and so on to defend the empire from Dahomey invasion. Ogbomoso another bulwark was mandated to protect the empire from the Fulani invasion from the North.
It should be noted that all the wars credited to Ibadan forces, either against Ilorin, Ijebu, Egba, Ijesha, Ekiti, etc, were in line with this arrangement.Those wars were to protect the remnant of the empire on one hand and to bring back the breakaway satellites into the fold, on the other hand.
Another fact worth knowing is the composition of the Ibadan warriors. It composed of warriors from major Oyo supporting towns or satellites. For example, Ope agbe, Ogunmola, Delesolu Abayomi Lajubutan, Ali Iwo, Ibikunle, Mosaderin, etc migrated to Ibadan from Ogbomoso area. Equally, Mohammed Latosisa went to Ibadan from Ilora and Ajayi Ogboriefan from Ejigbo, etc.
Besides, all Yoruba towns sent their forces to fight along Ibadan during wars such as Osogbo, Jalumi, Ofa, Kiriji, etc. That was the practice at Oyo Ile and this they maintained until 1893. Equally, it was Adeyemi 1 that the warrior reported to after the wars and his quota of the war booty was sent to him as the sovereign. Vividly, like in Oyo Ile, there were over ambitious functionaries of government in the mould of Basorun Gaa, Edun of Gbogun and Afonja of Ilorin, etc who usurped the power of the Alaafin and insubordinated to him like Ogunmola, Latosisa, etc.
That did not mean that Oyo empire collapsed and Ibadan took over. Subsequent events during the course of the wars and the roles played by theAlaafin until the signing of treaty of protectorate with British colonialist by Alaafin Adeyemi in 1893, buttressed the fact of survival of the Oyo empire.
Adegbite wrote in from Ogbomosho.