Yesterday 23 September was an anniversary of the end of the Yoruba civil wars which snowball effect started sometime in the mid 1700s. These wars are important to Yorubas everywhere, including the diaspora because they were the catalyst for many ancestors being ripped away from the homeland in slavery . Due to violent unrests from the mid to late 1700s when the Oyo Empire became shaky right up to the late 1800s many years after Trans Atlantic Slavery was meant to have ended, so much so it became possible to photograph some of the fighters.
Akinade Owoade writes:
September 1893 marked the end of what could have made the beautiful Yoruba Homeland go the way of well advanced, but extinct civilizations like the Aztecs’, Mankurians’, and a host of others in a bloody implosion. Death came knocking on every door across the land. To the heart of the Middle East, to North Africa, to Brazil, to the Caribbeans and the Americas, the sons and daughters of the Kaaroojiire lands were scattered by the effects of the World’s longest civil war!
The Yoruba homeland was caught in the crossfire of the Islamist and European imperialist ambitions. Like a cancer, some of Oyo citizens who had become Moslems turned on their own homeland, carrying out slave raids alongside their Fulbe friends.
After much resistance, the Old Oyo, capital of the Yorubas, caved in setting in motion mass displacement and migrations away from the old capital. These migrations helped Ibadan enjoy a swell in population, for many Oyo warlords resided in that city.
Ibadan coalesced into a strong republic which tried to forcefully unite the Yorubas under her against all odds, the Ibadan method at doing this created a lot of disaffections, the Ibadan tax collectors were mean and corrupt, this suffering brought the affected together under the same umbrella called the Ekiti Parapo coalition which was promptly joined by the Ijeshas and all the Ekitis.
The Fulanis in Ilorin capitalised on this chasm to try to get rid of the biggest threat to their quest of dominating the whole of Yoruba Land from Jebba to the Atlantic! Ilorin joined the war on the Ekitiparapo side, the Egbas and Ijebus also stood up in the South, Ife, which is the spiritual capital also stood up against the formidable behemoth of the Yorubas, what followed was almost two decades of bloodshed on the road to a mutually assured destruction!
The war raged on for sixteen whole years, the longest civil war ever fought among men! the seas were filled with vessels conveying the unfortunate to their place of sickening servitude, the desert filled with caravans taking men to their places of emasculation, those who remained on the homeland remained in fear and scarcity.
Countless efforts went into resolving the debacle hanging over the existence of the Yoruba civilization, so great was the carnage that even the Sultan of Gwandu sent an emissary to the Camp of the Fulanis of Ilorin and the camp of the Ibadans in a bid to end the strife, no sooner had they left did hostilities resume. The Apena of Eko (now called Lagos) also came to the hinterland to help stop the war among the sister states to no avail.
The Alaafin has a special way of resolving difficult warfares all over Yorubaland, this is by sending the double faced axe of Sango – The third Alaafin of Oyo and a much revered ancestor of the Yorubas, to the warfront, it is a way of saying “Our mutual father, Sango, will strike anyone who continues this madness dead!”
But Alas! this failed to work too as there was an irreconcilable disagreement on who to leave the battlefield first, thus, the war raged on! Then the Alaafin began to look to the British to salvage what was left of the homeland. Letters were sent to the British to help end the war as the Portuguese backed Dahomey army was also on a murderous march towards the capital in new Oyo, and have gotten to Iseyin!
The capital was left virtually defenseless as the Ibadans had their hands full fighting the Fulanis, the Ekitiparapo, the Ife, the Egbas and the Ijebus, formidably and flinching from none!
The British involvement helped hasten the disarmament process of the belligerents, the disagreement on who to leave the battlefield first reared its head again but was surmounted after much consultation, threat of force, and appeals.
A peace treaty was signed in the year 1886, and the signatories were the Alaafin Adeyemi I; Ibadan’s Balogun Ajayi Ogboriefon; the Ooni of Ife, Derin Ologbenla; Seriki Ogedengbe of Ijesha; the Owa of Ijesha, Oba Agunloye; Agbaakin of Ibadan, Fajinmi; Awujale of Ijebu, Aboki; Balogun of Ijebu, Onafowokan
On the 23rd of September, the former belligerents gathered on the battle grounds to plant trees to commemorate the narrow escape from self extermination and the continuous peaceful togetherness among the Kaaroojiire people, the tree selected for this commemoration was the Phoenix Peregun tree which blossoms afresh every new year. Thus ended what could have ended the Yoruba race!