HOW AFONJA (YORÙBÁS) LOST ILORIN TO ALIMI (FULANIS)
HOW AFONJA (YORÙBÁS) LOST ILORIN TO ALIMI (FULANIS)
After the death of Aláàfin Adebo, an interregnum followed his short reign but for how long, it is not known; after which Aláàfin Majotu was placed on the throne.
Oyo-Ile (Old Oyo Empire) was at this time in the greatest disorder, wars and rumors of war being the order of the day. The tocsin of war resounded from every quarter, and the new Aláàfin found himself incapable of coping with the situation.
As a continuation from our previous published blogpost, Aare Kakanfo of the ancient Oyo Empire, Aare Afonja, rebelled against Alaafin Aole Arogangan. With the support of Asamu the Basorun and the Owota, a powerful Eso they eventually sent an empty covered calabash to Alaafin Aole Arogangan—for his head! A plain indication that he was rejected.
Afonja entered a military alliance with a Fulani advisor, sorcerer and mercenary by the name of Shehu Al-Salih Janta (known as Alimi). He invited Alimi and his Jama into his ranks.
The Epos, imitating the Kakanfo at Ilorin organized a military band which they called Ogo Were (i.e. the Jackals) at the head of which was the Aresa but with what object in view, it was not known.
Kakanfo Afonja received the news with mixed feelings of jealousy and suspicion; he sent and enquired of Toyeje Akanni the Baale of Ogbomoso his Otun i.e. commander of his right, what he understood by that movement.
Toyeje Akanni nicknamed “Alebiosu” (He who shines like the moon) didn’t respond the way the Kakanfo wanted as there was already frictions between the two of them due to how Kakanfo Afonja is tolerating and using Alimi and his “Jama” as army against his fellow Yorùbá leaders.
War was in consequence declared by the Kakanfo against the Epos, and several towns in that province were taken, only Ogbahagbaha and Iwo amongst the principal towns escaped. Ilobu and Ejigbo amongst the Ibolos were also taken, and the Ogo Were suppressed.
Afonja was now the sole power in the kingdom; the Aláàfin and the capital (Oyo-Ile) were left to manage their own affairs by themselves. The Jamas were increasing in number and in rapacity, to the utter distress and ruin of the country.
When there was no war in hand they usually scattered themselves all over the land plundering the people and committing outrages. They would enter any house, make it their headquarters, from which they would pillage the neighborhood and surrounding districts.
They fed upon the cattle of the house and led the rest away at their leisure and pleasure. Knowing the consequences to themselves and to the town if they were to attack these marauders, the country folk became rather disinclined to rear up any cattle or poultry to feed these thieves; every one helped himself and family to whatever remained of their livestock, so that at one time there was not a single livestock to be found in country towns.
To further illustrate the gross licenses of these Jamas, slaves who had deserted their masters often returned to the same town, and even to the very house as a Jama, making their former master’s house their headquarters for their rapine: masters who were kind to them formerly were now repaid by protection against the rapacity of their comrades; unkind ones were now treated with heartless revenge.
These fellows were not regarded now as slaves but as the Kakanfo Afonja’s servants. Thoughtful men were now apprehensive of the evils to the nation which the unrestrained licenses of these Jamas portended, but no one was bold enough to remonstrate with the Kakanfo, or even to appeal to him against their rapacity.
Baale of Ogbomoso, Toyeje Akanni Alebiosu was the commander of the right wing of the Kakanfo’s arm while Fagbohun the chief of Jabata, was the commander of the left wing of the Kakanfo’s arm. Fagbohun singly took it upon himself to challenge the Kakanfo concerning the excessiveness of Alimi and his Jama by virtue of his office since Baale Toyeje Akanni were no longer in good terms due to the same issue. Chief Fagbohun incurred Kakanfo Afonja’s displeasure for his boldness.
In order to get Fagbohun into his grasp, Afonja summoned all the provincial Baale to him at Ilorin, but Fagbohun having got wind of his intention escaped back to his town. Most of the baale didn’t heed the kakanfo’s summon.
But Afonja perceived his error when it was too late. Haughty and passionate, his very egotism and trust in his Fulani friends was the cause of his fall. Fortune had carried him to such a high pitch of glory, he thought his fall was impossible; besides, he had unlimited confidence in his Jamas, and was not aware of their growing disaffection and disloyalty towards himself.
Kakanfo Afonja thought he could put them down whenever he liked, and was sometimes very severe with any act of insubordination, openly threatening them with suppression and annihilation. This threat only served to increase their disaffection.
Too late, he saw what Fagbohun, Toyeje Akanni and other chiefs had warned him against. He failed completely to check their ambition, rapine and lawlessness. His threats and warnings were not heeded. Long impunity had increased the Jama’s boldness.
At last, the Kakanfo was resolved to give effect to his threats and to disband the Jamas, but he miscalculated his own strength. By the death of his brother Agbonrin, and his head slave Lasipa he had lost his mainstay for these were men of power.
He had offended all the powerful chiefs in the kingdom including both his Otun Aare, Baale Toyeje Akanni of Ogbomoso and Osi Aare Kakanfo, Fagbohun the chief of Jabata and even his former friend and ally Solagberu of Oke Suna, by his high-handedness, lofty airs and haughty spirit.
Fearing lest these Jamas should attack him suddenly if he were to delay their destruction, he sent a private message to the Onikoyi and other powerful chiefs in the country inviting them to make their appearance in Ilorin suddenly, and to assist him in annihilating these Jamas.
But the secret was divulged to the Jamas, and they, losing no time, being headed by Alimi the Fulani priest and friend he invited into his ranks rose up against him before he could obtain help from abroad. Solagberu, professed neutrality so he was not involved at all.
The Kakanfo was closely besieged in his quarters, but he fought with his characteristic bravery. When he found himself overwhelmed by numbers, he dispatched Bugare his head slave to solicit the aid of Solagberu; but Solagberu detained him, saying, “Your Master has hitherto looked down upon us as his menials, and why does he now require our aid ?” This treachery, Solagberu lived to regret.
The great Kakanfo was disappointed on all sides. As neither Bugare nor Solagberu made an appearance, he could not hold out till the Onikoyi’s arrival; he was compelled to fight within the walls of his house; but when the house was set on fire, he rushed out again into the streets surrounded by his faithful few.
The insurgents surrounded them, charged again and again, but could not break their ranks, Afonja himself in the midst of them was fighting most desperately, surrounded by the corpses of some of his faithful attendants.
Seeing the day was lost, some of his followers became disheartened and deserted him, but the rest chose to die with him. Kakanfo Afonja of Ilorin fell indeed like a hero.
So covered was he with darts that his body was supported in an erect position upon the shafts of spears and arrows showered upon him. So much dread had his personality inspired that these treacherous Jamas whom he had so often led to victory could not believe he was really dead; they continued to shower darts upon him long after he had ceased fighting.
They were afraid to approach his body as if he would suddenly spring up and shake himself for the conflict afresh; not till one of them, bolder than the rest cautiously went near and placed an arrow in his hand and they saw he could no longer grasp it, that they believed he was really dead! His corpse was taken up and burnt to ashes.
The crafty Alimi his treacherous friend took his helpless children and family under his own protection, alleging that it was a misunderstanding that led to the civil fight between himself and his old friend, in which the latter unhappily lost his life.
Ever since that day the Fulani Emir, from Alimi’s “Gambari” family and lineage, armed with a flag and staff of authority from the Sultan of Sokoto, has ruled Ilorin. Afonja’s house was rebuilt, and the remnant of his people were permitted to occupy it, but the government of the town passed over to the conqueror, Alimi and his descendants till date.
Alimi and his family took the throne for themselves and consequently the Oyo Empire, and by extension the Oduduwa nation, lost Ilorin to the Fulani and to the sons of Usman Dan Fodio.
Afonja of Ilorin’s family, however, are highly respected at Ilorin to this day. Thus passed away one who will always be remembered in the annals of the Yoruba country as the leader of the revolution which ended in the dismemberment of the Yoruba country.
The late Afonja was a native of Ilorin. The city was built by his great grandfather, Laderin, whose posterity bore rule in her in succession to the fourth generation. Laderin the founder, was succeeded by Pasin, his son, a valiant chief who opposed the renowned Basorun Gaa when he was in the zenith of his glory.
Fearing his rising power, Gaa drove him out of Ilorin and he escaped to Ola. He sent an army after him there which reduced the town and Pasin was taken and slain. Alagbin the son of Pasin succeeded his father, and in turn handed the government to his valiant son Afonja with whom the rule ended.
Ilorin is sometimes spoken of as Afonja’s Ilorin. This is because he was the most renowned of her rulers, and not only so, but also because it was he who made it into the large city it now is.
There were several towns and villages around at no very great distance from Ilorin e.g. Kanla, Oke Suna, Ganma, Elehinjare, Idofian, Oke Oyi, Ibare, etc. Most of them this restless warrior captured one by one and resettled them around Ilorin so as to make it into what it has become today.
Ilorin now passed into the hands of foreigners, the Fulanis who had been invited there as friends and allies. These being far more astute than the Yorubas, having studied their weak points and observed their misrule, planned to grasp the whole kingdom into their own hands by playing one chief against another and weakening the whole.
With Ilorin out of the picture, Ogbomoso became the gateway to the South-West from the North, the baale then; Jaiyeola Kelebe (1833-1847) anticipated the invasion of the Northerners so he fortified “the city of the brave” with Ogun O Jalu (War cannot subjugate); a charm of invincibility.
Kakanfo Toyeje fought Ogele war, Mugba Mugba war and battle of Pamo amongst other to stabilise the Yorubaland due to the invasion of Alimi and his “Jama”; a Fulani army determined to invade the Yorubaland.
Alimi became the first emir of Ilorin as the Yorùbá city was added to Sokoto caliphate even till date. Alimi’s son Abdulsalam succeeded his father as emir of Ilorin and they were determined to put the whole Yorùbá nation under the Sokoto caliphate, but the brave Yorùbá warriors resisted the invaders.
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