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Ibasorun Oluyole, a legendary Ibadan warlord

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•How he was buried with 400 slaves in 1950 and
•Why Ibadan would have fizzled without Oluyole

Ibadan is located in south-western Nigeria about 128 km inland northeast of Lagos and 530 km southwest of Abuja, the federal capital, and is a prominent transit point between the coastal region and the areas to the north. Ibadan had been the centre of administration of the old Western Region since the days of the British colonial rule, and parts of the city’s ancient protective walls still stand to this day.

Ibadan with a special topography is tucked around seven hills, a feature that made the city a bulwark against external attacks especially against Fulani jihads’ attack in 1840 from capturing Oyo tributary towns from the North. However, talking about Ibadan history, a war camp of Oyo armies without mentioning Iba Oluyole, the garrison commander of the then Ibadan warriors is incomplete.

Iba Oluyole was relevant due to his gallant fight at war front which won him victories during his reign in Ibadanland an event that can explain how Ibadan is the largest city in Sub-Saharan Africa.

According to late Oba Isaac Akinyele, former Olubadan of Ibadanland, the first Ibadan was founded by Lagelu in 16th century. Ibadan was then surrounded by Egba villages like Ido, Ojoo, Ika and Owu town of Erunmu an impression that Ibadan was Egba Gbagura settlement this time.

According to Dr. Olubayo Adekola of University of Ibadan from Institute of African studies, the first Ibadan was destroyed by Oyo armies due to the unveiling of a masquerade in a market place and this enraged the reigning Alaafin at the period and other Yoruba Obas for what they termed as an abomination to the Yoruba traditional norms. The second Ibadan also came to an abrupt end during the time of Owu and Ibadan conjunction rule in Ibadanland.

Oral history revealed that Olowu sacrificed Olubadan’s daughter to appease Osun river goddess, a reason Olubadan invited allied army from Iperu camp led by Maye Okunade, Ife General and Lakanle, an Oyo leader to avenge the death of Olubadan’s daughter.

According to Adekola, the present Ibadan was heralded as a result of decline of the Oyo empire which gradually started as early as 1754 with the dynastic intrigues and palace coups sponsored by the Oyo Prime Minister Bashorun Gaha and other anomalies that ensued afterward that led to collapse of old Oyo.

Historians describe Oluyole as a distinguished, dominating army commander from Oyo. He reportedly rose to fame as Bashorun, a title he subsequently made more famous, and contributed immensely to the military and economic strength of Ibadan during the city’s formative years, a period which also had its fair share of tumult and uncertainty.

The legend was born in Old Oyo to the polygamous family of Olukuoye by Omoba Agbonrin, a daughter of the Alaafin Abiodun.

President of Central Council of Ibadan Indigene (CCII), Chief Bayo Oyero described Oluyole as prowess in war and one of the progenitors of present Ibadan, a reason why Ibadan in praise, is usually called ‘home of Oluyole’.

Chief Oyero said that Ibasorun Oluyole from 1820s relocated to Ibadan from the old Oyo kingdom as a warrior. “By 1836, he assumed the leadership of Ibadan. Ibasorun is a title of Oyo heritage and that is how he was able to assume the title”.

Oyero also said:”He died in 1850 and many wars were fought and won against Egbas and after Oyos settled in Ibadan. He is one of the warriors fought early in present Ibadan that started in 1820s. One can say he established the foundation of Ibadan on which later leaders build military power upon. We can also say he established an Ibadan empire and took many lands which today have become Ibadan”

But there is a long standing controversy surrounding the death of Oluyole. Four hundred slaves were said to have been buried with him.

When SWM visited Iba Oluyole’s compound in Oja-Oba, a modern structure had been built upon his tomb.

According to the family head of Iba Oluyole’s compound, Alhaji Nureni Adebayo Akanji, Iba Oluyole’s corpse was exhumed in 1956, about a hundred years after he died.

His words: “This house was demolished and reconstructed in 1956. That year, we saw strange things like white snake and bottled wine though people drank the wine but we returned the white snake to his grave”.

He continued “It is not possible to bury 400 slaves on this small piece of land. Although he might be buried with “Abobaku” (people that are destined to die with their traditional leaders voluntarily) and these people should not exceed four. 400 people are over-statement”

Chief Oyero corroborated him. He explained that it was only the Alaafin who must be buried with his first son and that was what caused Ijaiye war between Kurumi of Ijaiye and Basorun Ogunmola of Ibadan between 1859 and 1862. “So, even Alaafin at the peak of his glory cannot be buried with 400 slaves. It is rather farfetched” he said.

Alhaji Akanji maintained that the factor responsible for Oluyole’s rise to the position of Ibasorun was his loyalty to Alaafin Atiba. He said he fought against Fulani from overcoming the seat of Alaafin’s re-established empire in Oyo.

Meanwhile, in spite of the present day’s perception of traditional worship of deities as ignominious and archaic, Iba Oluyole descendants till today still worship deities bequeathed to them by their father.

According to the family head of the Iba Oluyole’s compound, there is a big stone in the compound called Oke Malaiku, it was brought from Oyo by Iba. “If anyone brings evil charm to do evil in the compound, on stepping into the compound, the person will slip and get injured and the charm will become impotent.

“If you have seen Iba’s statute at Bere, he holds a weapon called Obe. It was given to him by Portuguese when he was on war expedition in Lagos. Obe is made by bronze and its top made into a cross. One cannot carry it with one hand but we wonder how he did carry it with one hand. We have kept it because many of his things have been stolen”, he said.

“He also has a weapon he used during Gbanamu war, it is called Olupopo. Iba used this to strike enemies dead during the war. The powers in these weapon are still potent. During his lifetime at war, he did fight with genies about 77, a strategy he used to overcome his enemies because no incantation or enchantment can influence the genies. He did command river to go dry to walk on a dry land with his horse”.

He said the family was just building a house as a shrine for Yemoja deity. According to him, the Yemoja comes out once in a year, clad in white clothe with a rod in her hands for people to worship her and receive blessings from her adding that by the time she returns, rain will start to fall.

“We have other deities like Osa-Oko, Sango and Ogun. They all have rooms where they were worshiped before the house was demolished in 1956. We used to see this ourselves when we were young”, he said.

Reacting to Okebadan festival as popular festival in Ibadan, Chief Akanji said it is a shrine in Awotan near Apete in Ido local government. According to him, Okebadan festival is no longer relevant with present day Ibadan.

He said “remember Lagelu, from Ife aborigine heralded first Ibadan and this is third Ibadan. The present Ibadan indigenes are from Oyo and its tributary towns and all Ifes have left Ibadan after Gbanamu war”. But speaking contrary to this, CCII president debunked his claim. According to him, Okebadan is not celebrated to commemorate Lagelu but the historic mountain that served as refuge during Lagelu time.

He added that it is not true that all Ibadan indigenes from Ife aborigines have been displaced after Gbanamu war that ensued in 1833. “They are still in Ibadan as bonafide indigenes but are not obliged to occupy leadership position. “One of their sons is the priest of Okebadan (Aboke). They are even claiming that they should be the one becoming the next Olubadan”.

He continued “the real history is this, when they settled here in Ibadan, Ifes, Ijebus were dominant but the Oyo speaking resent high handedness, a reason they hired armies from Oyo to take over the rulership of Ibadan through Gbanamu war. So, the present Ibadan from Ife are still playing very important role in Ibadan leadership for example, all crowned Olubadan must go to the shrine of Ose-Meji at Oja-Oba brought by Ifes” he said.

Speaking on cultural value of Ibadan, Chief Akanji said that Ibadan cultural values border on wearing clothes like Esiki (a traditional robe) similar to Oyos. “We have all sorts of caps like Abeti aja and others. We also have work of art used to portray significance of our traditional phenomena. Like we have a sculpture in London museum called Eredele. It sit with a baby on her back.

Food also has significant value as well. As sons and daughters of Oyos, Amala made from powered yam is our favorite food with Ewedu and Gbegiri and the two becomes Abula soup. We also love pap made from maize, MoiMoi and Akara both made from beans and so on”.

“These foods have values and they were taken fresh unlike today’s food which are with preservatives which makes them less nutritious or toxic to body. That time we did not depend on Hausas before we eat as there were lands for plantations. That is why the youthfulness of those fathers started at 70. But today, the reverse is the case”, he said.

Speaking in the same light, Chief Oyero said “most of what we do in Ibadan is what is common to Oyo people like Egungun festival and the kind of food we eat and the way we dress especially women, the way they plait their hair. Also, we have traditional drums like Dundun, Sekere and Bata”.

He continued “Ibadan culture is similar to Oyo speaking people. The Oyo speaking people are basically in present Oyo and Osun State of Nigeria and even Kwara state. We are identified with tribal marks and we all share the same dialect as you can’t compare Oyo dialect to Ifes, Igbominas, Ekitis, Owos and Akokos. Owos and Akokos dialects have been watered down by Benin people from Edo state. As a result, when Owos or Akokos speak, Oyos hardly understand what they say”.

Chief Oyero observed that Yorubas have deviated from their rich cultural values due to advent of civilization saying especially paying obeisance to an elderly person. He advised we should learn to respect our culture saying that people without a culture are dead and poise to lose collective relevance.

 

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