Ibadan Insider History: Oluyole, Bashorun Of Ibadan
Hello,Thanks for joining us once again on Ibadan Insider History. We apologize for not being able to bring it to you last week. Now that we are back, it is time to bring you another of Ibadan’s iconic leaders. The leader we are talking about today is Oluyole and his story is an extremely interesting read.
After the death of Lakanle, his deputy Oluyole became the leader of Ibadan. This Oluyole would go on to eclipse all the people who had led Ibadan before him and so much that in popular culture Ibadan is till referred to as Ile Oluyole (The House of Oluyole) nearly two centuries after his rule. Ibadan Insider History will go into what made Oluyole such an icon. Because of his legendary status, the narrative of Oluyole is so long that we will have to divide it into a three article series. Part 1 will be on his personal life and early influences, Part 2 will be for the wars and rebellions during his leadership and Part 3 will be his influence on the Ibadan City State
Oluyole, Bashorun of Ibadan about 1840- about 1850
Two things contributed to Oluyole’s legendary status. The first was that in 1840, mere months after Lakanle’s passing, the Fulani, not content with their dominance of Ilorin, decided that they needed to conquer the Yoruba nation and make sure there was no challenge to the Al-Quran’s authority as far as the sea.Thus the Fulani raised one of the largest invasion forces in their history and attacked south in a war known as the Eleduwe war. It took a large combined Yoruba army made up of leaders like Kurumi of Ijaye, Oluyole of Ibadan and Timi Bamgbaiye of Ede to stop them. The Fulani were beaten back, but at a great cost to the Yoruba nation. Oyo Ile, the once mighty seat of the one of the largest empires in Africa was destroyed and Alaafin Oluewu , his crown Prince Adeyanju and his great ally Eleduwe, king of the Ibaribas were killed. The remaining citizens of Oyo Ile moved to the current site of Oyo town (it was known as Ago Oja when it was first founded). They then installed Atiba as the Alaafin. With Oyo’s imperial might gone, the two remaining strongest city states were Kurumi’s Ijaye army and Oluyole’s Ibadan army. Atiba the new Alaafin thus appointed Oluyole as Basorun and Kurumi as the Aare Ona Kakanfo. Moreover Oluyole and Atiba were distant cousins as they could both trace their lineage to Alaafin Abiodun.
However it would be a great disservice to the Oluyole to say that he became powerful by having the fortune of being in charge during a series of fortitutious events. Therefore the second thing that made the man an icon was his own qualities. Let us go back a bit and talk about the Bashorun himself.
Iba Oluyole was born in Oyo, the son of Ajala Olukuoye one of the descendants of a former Bashorun of Oyo, his mother was Agborin the daughter of Alaafin Abiodun of Oyo. So he was royalty from birth. However because of the Fulani menace, his family was among many families who lost their fortune and became poor, forcing the young Oluyole to apprentice himself to a blacksmith. It is said that he even worked as an itinerant musician/entertainer for some time much to the consternation of his parents. After a while of trying his hands at different things, the restless Oluyole decided he wanted to be a warrior, so he joined a band of hired guns in Ipara. it was during his time of fighting for hire that he came to Ibadan. In Ibadan, he became the Aareago under Oluyedun, the son of Afonja, the leader of Ibadan after Maye. Oluyole proved himself so capable that Oluyedun came to trust him and he became the leader of his troops, so that when Oluyedun became the Aare Ona Kakanfo, he appointed Oluyole as his third in command (note of course, Chieftaincy in Ibadan at the time was not as organized as it is today, the leader of the city pretty much had the power to appoint whoever he wanted to whatever position he wanted, even if said position already has an occupant.)
This combination of the quiet dignity of a royal, the irresistible charm of an entertainer, and the skills and smarts of a mercenary warrior/ street hustler, combined to make Bashorun Oluyole the great leader that he became. For one thing, He knew how to read people and to charm people, evidenced by the way he was able to first of all, rise within the ranks of Oluyedun’s army in a relatively short period of time and how he was able to turn Lakanle’s fellow chiefs against him and topple the latter. It was a skill he would use to great effect as the leader of Ibadan. Whenever one of his chiefs grew strong enough to question his authority, Oluyole would curry the favour of the other chiefs and get them to turn against said chief, until the said chief was killed or forced out of Ibadan (we will look at some of these chiefs who rebelled against Oluyole and were either killed or forced out of Ibadan as we go on in this narrative).
Like Lakanle and Maye before him, Oluyole’s rule of Ibadan was not peaceful. Infact his rule remains to this day one of the bloodiest periods in Ibadan history. The Bashorun fought wars from the beginning to the end of his rule. He also quelled rebellions at home on a continuous basis. It was said that Oluyole’s rule over Ibadan was so bloody that almost all the chieftaincy positions under him changed hands like two or three times (in a period of little more than ten years), with many of his chiefs either dying in wars with other towns, or being killed off/ forced out of the city with in purges engineered by the Bashorun himself. The price Ibadan had to pay for its military dominance was bloody wars and bloody rebellions at home.
The first major campaign Oluyole fought was the Eleduwe war that brought him to power. That war would also lead to a series of smaller wars and rebellions in his tenure as the leader of Ibadan. The next part of our series, Oluyole the leader of Ibadan, will focus on these wars and rebellions.