I want to react to the statement that “Ilorin and it’s region, which were at Northern edge of Oyo empire was sacked by Fulani elements domiciled in that town in 1823 and it therefore, became a satellite of Sokoto caliphate and a base from where the jihadists attempted to penetrate, overpower and Islamise Yorubaland”. There is no doubt that this is the position of Samuel Johnson in his work, The History of the Yoruba published in 1921. Nonetheless, the position is debatable.
Further research into Ilorin history has shown that there was no deliberate attempt by Fulani to conquer Ilorin or use it as a base to penetrate and Islamize Yorubaland. Fulani hegemony in Ilorin is circumstantial. Sheik Alimi whose son, Abdusalam led the uprising against Afonja was said to be an intinerant preacher who crisscrossed towns like Igbon, Ikoyi, Ogbomoso and other towns in that region. He was invited to settle at Ilorin by Aare Afonja in order to serve as his spiritualist and adviser. As a preacher, he played a significant role in the spread of Islam in the northern Yorubaland. Nonetheless, he was not in Ilorin to fight a jihad. Being a Moslem cleric and an influential one for that matter, he was influential in Ilorin and had large followers. He was about the only confidant of Aare Afonja and leaned more on Alimi’s followers for his military support. By this, he alienated his Yoruba comrades and followers.
The coup that led to the death of Afonja was orchestrated within than without. This is why he was deserted by Yoruba elements within and without. Abdulsalam, the heir of SerikiAlimi who led the coup enjoyed the support of all. This is why upon becoming the leader of the Fulani, committed as later the whole town, established an all-encompassing government as against one man show of Afonja. For instance, four Balogun were chosen, Yoruba had two while Fulani and Hausa had one a piece.
It is also clear that Alaafin Oluewu’s efforts to regain the throne did not enjoy the support of leading Yoruba elite both military and civil because, one, they believed Afonja deserves the fate that befell him. Two, leading Yoruba soldiers were friends of Sheik Alimi children especially Abdulsalam and Shitta. These leaders included Oluyole, Atiba, Kunrunmi, Obas like Adegun, Oniikoyi, and others. Very few obas and leaders were aware of the danger posed by the Fulani elements on Ilorin throne to Yorubaland. However, there is little they could do in view of the stand of the leading warriors. Johnson recorded the grand conspiracy of these military men to lead Alaafin Oluewu to the slaughter slab at Eleduwe war in 1835 which they accomplished.
One other thing to note is that Ilorin expansionist campaign was based more on the quest for protection of its newly won independence from Oyo, economic survival, than Islamization campaign. This is because, in spite of her failure to penetrate Yorubaland at Osogbo in 1840, Islam still gain ground in Yorubaland. The fact is that Yoruba’s accommodative nature is second to none. However, they have the ability and mechanism to stop the excesses of any foreigners on their soil. This is the context of the tolerance of Fulani hegemony in Ilorin, and defeat of Ilorin at Osogbo and Jalumi at various times could be understood.
More so, light has to be shed more on the Fulani ascendency in Ilorin, research on this should not be based entirely on Islamic tradition and documentation. Researchers have to go to the grassroots to interview people in the suburb of Ilorin like Shao, Afon, Egbejila, Ganmo, and Jebba. Danmole and Falola among other scholars had done a great job on Ilorin history but Fulani invasion on Yorubaland which excluded towns like Jebba and Shao that probably predated Ilorin and nearer to Hausaland than Ilorin that still have her Yoruba tradition and culture intact despite being within emirate system call to question the veracity of the claim of Johnson quoted above. Furthermore, historians like Professor Banji Akintoye and Jide Osuntokun are still much around to do more work on this.
Well done sir
Good afternoon sir. My name is Tony Ademiluyi, a freelance journalist and writer based in Lagos. I enjoy your column. Please keep it up and may your pen never run dry!
Enjoy the rest of the week and stay safe.
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