IbadanInsider History: Maye Okunade the Leader of Ibadan
Thanks for always following our posts from Ibadan Insider. In keeping with our policy of bringing you the best of Ibadan stories, We are starting a series on Chronicles of the leaders of Ibadan. The first part of the series will range from the 1820s to around 1950. EveryWednesday, we will talk about the leaders of Ibadan, the noteworthy things that happened in their tenure and how those things helped shaped the attitudes of the natives of the city today. Our primary source will be Iwe Itan Ibadan authored by former Olubadan of Ibadan from 1955-1965, Oba Isaiah Babalola Akinyele (1882 – 30 May 1964), but we will also be looking at other sources to give a more balanced version of events. it is noteworthy that history has never been straightforward to be condensed into a few paragraphs but here at IbadanInsider we have simplified it down a coherent story that you can enjoy. Today we bring you the story of Maye Okunade the first ruler of Ibadan after 1820
MAYE OKUNADE (around 1820- around 1833)
After the war that destroyed the Owu kingdom, a war which arose as a result of Olowu Akinjobi’s sacrifice of the Olubadan’s daughter to appease the goddess of River Osun. The various armies who had helped the Olubadan to sack Owu decided to stay back in Ibadan. Initially, the leaders of those armies had planned to use the city as a garrison for their forces and a base for their campaigns of war and terrorism, but when people from other surrounding towns and villages as well refugees from various towns decimated by war nearby saw that some order had been imposed in the new city, they decided to come and help develop Ibadan further.
According to Historians, around 1820, The Ife had the highest population and the strongest warriors. So, the leader of Ibadan had to come from their ranks. The Ife warriors appointed their leader, a brave and powerful warrior named Maye Okunade as the new leader of Ibadan. It is noteworthy that even though the Ife were the dominant group in Ibadan at that time, there were also the Ijebu, the Oyo and the Egba all fighting for dominance in the city. Maye, Ege, Labosinde, Oro, Sigunsin and Ogidi were the chiefs that came from Ife and Ijebu. Oluyedun, Oluyole, Babalola, Oderinlo, Opeagbe , Lakanle, Toki, Olupoyi and Onibudo were the leaders of the Oyo and Osun faction. Lamodi was the Leader of the Egba faction.
After Maye became the Baale, He appointed Labosinde, a fellow Ife man as his Baba-Isale (like a sort of deputy), Lakanle became the leader of the Oyo group. The Oyos and Ifes settled at Oja-Oba, the Ijebus around Isale-Ijebu and the Egbas at Yeosa. Because the town was dominated by warriors who at the time of their settling in the city had little interest in politics, there was no ordered arrangement of chieftancy titles. Other than the Baale and his Baba Isale , each faction just sort of did its own thing and listened to its own leaders.
Because of this lack of unity, and as is to be expected from a highly militarized and highly factionalized regime, Maye’s tenure as leader of Ibadan was anything but peaceful. The crime rate was high, and open and bloody faction wars which led to street fights between were common. It was in one of those infamous street fights that Lamodi, Leader of the Egba was killed, and most of the Egba living in Ibadan at the time withdrew in a body from Ibadan to Abeokuta led by Sodeke, in 1830 to join the rest of their people in Abeokuta. However before Lamodi was killed, He also killed Ege, one of Maye’s most trusted lieutenants, and even Maye suffered some attack. It was at this point that the Ijebu were also driven out of Ibadan so that the city belonged to the Ife and the Oyo alone.
As had been said earlier, the Ife were the dominant group in the city, and the Baale was one of them, so they began to maltreat their Oyo counterparts. Baale Maye Okunade himself didn’t help matters with his open partiality towards with his Ife comrades. If an Ife man wounded or killed an Oyo man in an argument or a fight, the Ife man went scot-free or only got a mild punishment, if the reverse happened the Oyo man would be severely punished or even killed. Around 1833 the Oyo faction became angry and decided they had had enough of Maye’s tyranny. Their leaders came together and swore an oath to end Maye Okunade’s rule once and for all.
A few days after this oath, there was a terrible fight between an Ife and an Oyo man in the current day Oja’ba. Baale Maye heard about it from his palace and came to try and separate the two combatants. However the two fighters refused to listen to him. The Baale angrily approached the two men, drew his sword and cut off the Oyo man’s head. The news spread like wildfire among the Oyo who had been bolstering their numbers with refugees from various towns around Oyo Ile that have been destroyed by the Fulani. it started a massive and extremely bloody street fight started and many members of the Ife faction were killed and driven out of the city. Maye, himself, seeing that the fight was lost, fled the town to Ilugun. The Oyo war chiefs destroyed his house and shared his property among themselves.
Though the Oyo generals had ended the Ife domination over Ibadan once and for all, they realized that Maye was a fearsome and a very popular warrior who could easily gather an invasion force and destroy them; they decided to sue for peace. They sent messengers to beg him to return to the city, promising him that he would be welcomed with open arms if he did so. But Maye refused and was reported to have said: “I am coming with my invasion force to teach you all a lesson. When I defeat all of you, I will use every last one of you as a sacrifice.”
Maye went to Ife and gathered an army. He also went to the Ijebu and to Abeokuta, promising them that he will restore Ibadan back to them if they helped him defeat the Oyo generals. With this large force, He laid siege to the city of Ibadan at a place called Gbanamu. When the Oyo Generals saw the force that Maye had gathered, they became afraid and sent a message to Kurumi, the ruler of Ijaye and future Aare Ona Kankanfo for help. In order to ensure that Kurumi could not refuse, they told him that Maye had threatened that once he destroyed Ibadan, his next act would be to destroy Ijaye too. By this time there was already widespread panic in Ibadan and many of the townspeople were already fleeing the town.
Kurumi gathered his forces and set off for Ibadan. He arrived in Ibadan on a Friday, and he promptly ordered the Ibadan generals to start the attack on the enemy. The Ibadan generals were however reluctant citing the Yoruba belief that anything done on Friday would fail. Kurumi was very incensed by this and is reported to have said: “You cowards! What do you mean today is not a good day? Is there a day you people don’t put food in your mouths?” with that, the Ibadan forces fell on Maye’s forces at Gbanamu and killed most of his army commanders. In the end, Maye himself was captured by the Oyo soldiers. As his captors were about to kill him he was reported to have said:
“You young soldiers, don’t do this by yourselves , I want to see your leaders.”
So the young soldiers sent a message to the leaders, but Kurumi and the other Oyo generals sent a message back, that Maye should be killed by the soldiers. And that was how the life of Maye Okunade, first Baale of Ibadan ended
Akinyele, I.B.(1951) Iwe Itan Ibadan ati die ninu awon Ilu agbegbe re bii Osogbo Iwo ati Ikirun
Origin of Ibadanland Article retreieved from http://macosconsultancy.com/Ibadan.html on 31/08/2016 at 11 am