I read with delight the article written by Hon. (Barr.) Femi Kehinde, published in a national newspaper on the history of Yorubaland.
To be candid, the article was rich and engaging. It was a refreshing discourse which must have helped to educate many readers as well as remind several others about the pre-eminent position of Ibadan, especially from the early 19th century, in the scheme of things in Yorubaland.
The article achieved this by focusing on an Ibadan son, Adebisi Sanusi Giwa, who took advantage of the emerging capitalism and post-world war prosperity and tapped into it by becoming an entrepreneur and a philanthropist. The import of this rich historical piece on the ability of Nigerians to achieve success by leveraging on local potentials (agricultural, human, and material resources) should not be lost on the discerning.
However, there are some inconsistencies in the piece which, for the sake of posterity, should not go uncorrected.
Firstly, the part of the article which says that Adebisi died in 1838 is obviously an error. Moreso, another part of the write-up says that he died on June 21, 1938.
Secondly, the article says that Adebisi was born in 1882 in Ibadan during the reign of Aare Latoosa, the Baale of Ibadan. It is thus difficult to reconcile this with another part of the write-up which says that Adebisi ‘moved to Ibadan with his paternal half-brother – Alabi – and settled in Aremo, in the household of Lanase’.
Thirdly, the article says Shittu was deposed in May 1925 but again goes on to state that after the foundation of Mapo Hall was laid in June 1925, Alaafin Ladigbolu left a message with Shittu (already deposed) that Adebisi must see him in Oyo. There is something incongruent with the narrative here.
Fourthly, and most importantly, the writer notes that the reigning monarch of Ibadan in 1925, Baale Shittu Aare, was “in May 1925 deposed by the Alaafin of Oyo, Oba Shiyanbola Ladigbolu, for ‘disloyalty and having an unsatisfactory attitude’”. Here, the impression that is created in the minds of readers is that the Alaafin had the power to depose an Ibadan monarch. However, according to the available facts, this was not so. It is in line with this that I do not think it is fair, given the prevailing circumstances then, to ascribe the power which deposed Shittu (or Situ) to the Alaafin.
Clearly, Ibadan was the most powerful Yoruba state in the 19th century but the British, for some reasons, in a brazen, unexpected and unfair reversal of the power status, deliberately placed Ibadan under Oyo. The new Oyo Province, which was headquartered in Oyo, was created by the British upon the amalgamation of the Northern and Southern protectorates in 1914. Capt Ross was later appointed as the Oyo Resident.
As at the time the British arrived, Ibadan was clearly and unambiguously stronger than Oyo, as Oyo had virtually lost control over the empire. Samuel Johnson, in his ‘The History of the Yorubas’, noted that during the reign of Alaafin Amodo (1825 – 1831), ‘none of the principal towns now paid tribute to Oyo or acknowledge the authority of the king. He was virtually king of the capital only’. Compare this to the power of Ibadan, which was growing in leaps and bounds. In fact, an Ibadan empire had emerged by the 1870s, which included (in the words of Jide Fatokun, ‘Ibadanland – Facts and Figures) ‘areas not originally under old Oyo, viz Ijesa, Ife and Ekiti areas’.
The growth of Ibadan was meteoric and unparalleled. Just a few years after the present Ibadan was founded, Ibadan had grown so powerful and was protecting the entire Yorubaland against external attacks. By 1840, Ibadan forces decisively defeated the Fulanis at the Osogbo war and forced them to retreat.
Effectively, Ibadan had become the successor state to Oyo. If the Ibadan people had been power-drunk, they could have easily annexed or absorbed Oyo in the years after the Osogbo war. This was revealed by Rev. J.B. Wood, who wrote that ‘after what I saw and heard, I should not be surprised if the Ibadans, before very long, make war and destroy Oyo and have a Yoruba king in Ibadan; their policy is clearly an aggressive one’ (Atanda – The New Oyo Empire, Indirect Rule and Change in Western Nigeria 1894 -1934). The same altruistic attitude to power made Ibadan rulers drop the title of ‘Olubadan’ in preference for the ‘less intimidating’ title of ‘Baale’. The ‘Olubadan’ title would later be reinstated in 1930.
Without any argument, it was the British, through Ross, who sought to extend Alaafin’s powers over Ibadan. In the words of Atanda, “the only obstacle which Ross saw in the way of extending the power of Alaafin was Ibadan…by making it the seat of the Resident since the beginning of the British rule, Ibadan had been recognized as the defacto if not the dejure ‘Head of Yorubaland’.”
It was under this unjust arrangement that the Alaafin began to meddle in the affairs of Ibadan, of course to the great consternation, dismay, and displeasure of the Ibadan chiefs. It was very strange that the Alaafin, who before then had no authority over Ibadan’s rulers, had become an interloper. As if this British-compelled subordination was not enough, the Treasury of the Ibadan native administration was made to pay half of Alaafin’s salary (which was £4,500).
Baale Situ suffered greatly under this unfair and strange arrangement and was deposed in 1925 just like Baale Irefin, Situ’s predecessor, whose tenure (1912-1914) coincided with when the unfair treatment of Ibadan started. Baale Irefin penned a petition against Ross to the Governor General complaining about Alaafin’s interference, as well as the meddlesomeness and high-handedness of Ross. This matter was later turned against Irefin, using his own chiefs, by Ross. Irefin was eventually but sadly deposed.
Incidentally, Professor Adesina Olutayo C., in his 2006 work on the same Sanusi Adebisi Idikan, titled ‘Adebisi Sanusi Giwa, (?–1938): The Life and Career of an Ibadan Entrepreneur and Community Leader’, incidentally wrote about Baale Situ’s ‘tribulations under the British Resident, Captain Ross’.
In conclusion, and from the foregoing, it is unbalanced and one-sided to say that the Alaafin deposed Baale Situ. The beleaguered Baale was deposed by Capt Ross, the British Resident whose advocacy of Oyo paramountcy, according to J. Lorand Matory in his ‘Sex and the Empire’, ‘seems strongly connected to his personal friendship with the crown prince, Ladigbolu, who ascended the throne in 1911’.
It should be noted that this rejoinder is not done with a view to slighting or promoting any traditional authority. As we continue to draw lessons from our history to guide the future, this is only part of the efforts to set the records straight for the sake of posterity and equity.
- Kazeem Adeleke sends in this piece from London.