Iba Oluyole, legendary Ibadan warlord, was never buried with 400 slaves
From Taiwo Oluwadare, Ibadan
Ibadan, capital city of Oyo State, is renowned as a bulwark against external attacks especially against the Fulani jihad in the 1840s. History recorded that Ibadan at that time, resisted invasion from the North, which would have captured some areas of Oyo as tributary towns.
Surrounded by seven hills, which provided the city with an amazing topography and a war camp of Oyo armies, Ibadan, from time immemorial, remained unconquerable with Iba Oluyole, one of Oyo bravest soldiers rose to become the garrison commander of the then Ibadan warriors.
Iba Oluyole was known for his gallant battles against the enemies that won him victories during his reign in Ibadan. It was also his many conquests that made Ibadan the largest city in Sub-Saharan Africa.
History recorded that many Oyo people fled the ancient town to neighbouring towns, due to political crises. This made most Oyo immigrants to settle in Ibadan. Some of these immigrants included Oluyole and other warriors from Oyo town.
Historians described Oluyole as a distinguished, domineering commander of warriors. He reportedly rose to fame as Bashorun, a title he subsequently made more famous by contributing immensely to the growth of the military and economic strength of Ibadan during the city’s formative years.
The legendary Iba Oluyole, who was born in Old Oyo to the polygamous family of Olukuoye by Omoba Agbonrin, a daughter of the Alaafin Abiodun, could be regarded as the founder of the present Ibadan by virtue of his many conquests which ensured the survival of Ibadan city till date.
Historians also maintained that there were several phases of the founding of Ibadan; first, second and third, the currently surviving city.
According to the late Oba Isaac Akinyele, a former Olubadan of Ibadan, the first Ibadan was founded by Lagelu in the 16th century. Ibadan was surrounded by Egba villages like Ido, Ojoo, Ika and Owu town of Erunmu, creating the impression that Ibadan was Egba Gbagura settlement that time.
Corroborating him, Dr. Olubayo Adekola of University of Ibadan, Institute of African Studies, said the first Ibadan was destroyed by Oyo armies due to the unveiling of a masquerade in a market place. This enraged the reigning Alaafin at the period and other Yoruba Obas for what they interpreted as an abomination to the Yoruba traditions.
The second Ibadan also came to an abrupt end during the time of joint rulership of the Owu and Ibadan people in the land. According to Adekola, oral history revealed that Olowu sacrificed Olubadan’s daughter to appease Osun river goddess, a reason Olubadan invited allied army from Iperu camp, as led by Maye Okunade, Ife General and Lakanle, an Oyo leader to avenge the death of Olubadan’s daughter.
Adekola maintained that the present Ibadan survived as a result of the 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.
After the collapse of the old Oyo Empire following various political wranglings that resulted to lack of central authority at the time, Oluyole rose to prominence. He first gained recognition when he was a member of the victorious coalition that won the Owu wars, leading to the collapse of many Egba towns including Ibadan.
During this time, a power vacuum emerged in the vital military and leadership sphere in Yorubaland. Oluyole took up the challenge in successfully defending his new city, Ibadan, against the regrouped Egba, the Fulani and Dahomey.
After the destruction of Oyo-Ile, the capital was moved further South, to Ago d’Oyo. Oba Atiba, the Alaafin of the re-established empire sought to preserve what remained of Oyo by placing on Ibadan the duty of protecting the capital from the Ilorin in the North and North East. Consequently, Oluyole was crowned as the Oloye Bashorun, a title, which made him the military leader of Ibadan and was then simply called “Iba”.
By this time, Iba Oluyole was made Oloye Bashorun to protect the new empire from Egba and Fulani while Oba Atiba crowned Kurunmi of Ijaye as the Are-Ona Kakanfo, an army chief of Oyo Empire to protect Oyo from the West against the Dahomeans, while the center of Yoruba power moved further South to Ibadan, a Yoruba war camp settled by Oyo commanders in 1830.
The former President General of Central Council of Ibadan Indigenes (CCII), Chief Bayo Oyero, described Oluyole as a very powerful warrior and one of the progenitors of present Ibadan, a reason Ibadan in praise, is usually called “home of Oluyole.”
Oyero said Ibasorun Oluyole (meaning Oluyole, the Bashorun of Ibadan) from 1820s relocated to Ibadan from the old Oyo kingdom as a result of war: “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.
“He died in 1850 and many wars were fought and won against Egba and after Oyo settled in Ibadan. He was one of the warriors who fought early in present Ibadan which origin is traced to the 1820s. One can say he established the foundation of Ibadan on which succeeding leaders built military power upon. We can also say he established an Ibadan Empire and took many lands which today have become part of 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 Daily Sun visited Iba Oluyole’s compound in Oja-Oba, Ibadan, a modern structure had been built upon his tomb.
The family head, Alhaji Nureni Adebayo Akanji, who debunked the claim that the late Oluyole had 400 slaves buried with him, said Iba Oluyole’s corpse was exhumed in 1956, about 100 years after he died:
“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.
“It is not possible to bury 400 slaves on this small piece of land. Although he might be buried with “Abobaku” (members of a lineage that are destined to die with their traditional leaders voluntarily) and these people should not exceed four. Insinuating that 400 people were buried with the late Oluyole is an over-statement”
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: “Even Alaafin at the peak of his glory could not be buried with 400 slaves. It is rather farfetched.”
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 and prevented them from usurping the seat of Alaafin’s re-established empire in Oyo.
In spite of the present day’s perception of traditional worship of deities as ignominious and archaic, Iba Oluyole descendants still worship deities bequeathed to them by their forbears.
According to the family head of the Iba Oluyole’s compound, there is a big stone in the compound called “Oke Malaiku” brought from Oyo by Iba: “If anyone brings evil charm for evil purpose in the compound, on stepping into the compound, the person will fall and get injured and the charm will become impotent.
“If you have seen Iba’s statute at Beere, he holds a weapon called Obe. It was given to him by the Portuguese when he was on a war expedition in Lagos. Obe is made of bronze with its top carved like 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 also had 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 weapons are still potent. During his lifetime at war, he did fight by using 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 dry up so he could walk on a dry land with his horse, like the biblical Moses had done while freeing the Israelites from the stronghold of the then King Pharaoh”.
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 with a rod in her hands for people to worship her and receive blessings from her. By the time she returns to the netherworld, 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 these ourselves when we were young.”
Speaking on Okebadan festival, 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:
“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 Ife left Ibadan after thee Gbanamu war.”
But the former CCII president debunked his position. According to him, Okebadan is not celebrated to commemorate Lagelu but the historic mountain that served as a refuge for soldiers during Lagelu era in the then Ibadan. 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.
“The real history is this, when they settled here in Ibadan, Ife, Ijebu were the dominant clans but the Oyo speaking resented high handedness, a reason they hired armies from Oyo to take over the rulership of Ibadan which led to 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, the Ose-Meji was brought by Ife.”
Speaking about some cultural heritage of Ibadan, Akanji listed names of some clothing materials such as Esiki (a traditional robe) similar to Oyo: “We have all sorts of caps like Abeti Aja and others. We also have works of art used to portray the significance of our traditional phenomena. Like we have a sculpture in London Museum called Eredele.
It sits with a baby on her back. Food also has significant value as well. As sons and daughters of Oyo, Amala made from powdered yam is our favourite food with ewedu and gbegiri and the two become Abula soup. We also love pap made from maize, moinmoin and akara both made from beans and so on.
“These foods have values and they were taken fresh unlike today’s foods which are prepared with preservatives that make them less nutritious or toxic to body. In those days, our forbearers did not depend on Hausa before they ate as there were lands for plantations. That is why the fathers of that time, started life at 70 because they were still very strong and youthful at that age. But today, the reverse is the case.”
Speaking in the same light, 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 hairs. Also, we have traditional drums like Dundun, Sekere and Bata.
“Ibadan culture is similar to Oyo speaking people. The Oyo speaking people are basically in present Oyo and Osun states 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 Ife, Igbomina, Ekiti, Owo and Akoko. Owo and Akoko dialects have been watered down by Benin people from Edo State. As a result, when Owo or Akoko speak, Oyo hardly understand what they say.”
Oyero observed that Yoruba have deviated from their rich cultural values due to the advent of civilization.
He cited paying obeisance to an elderly person as a particular example and advised that we should learn to respect our culture as a people weaned of their culture are dead and poised to lose collective relevance.