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The Frontier States of Western Yorubaland

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Biodun Adediran

4. The Process of Political Centralization

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INTRODUCTION

  • 1 Ìdòwú, Bólájí. Olódùmarè, ch. I.
  • 2 Akínjógbìn, I.A. The concept of origin in Yorùbáland: The Ifę example (1979/80) History Department (...)
  • 3 Ǫbáyęmí, A. The Yorùbá and Edo-speaking people, pp. 209-214; Agírí, B.A. The early history of Òyó, (...)
  • 4 See for instance Òlómólà, G.O.I. The eastern Yorùbá country before Odùduwà. In: Akínjógbìn, I.A. (...)

1As is characteristic of oral tradition, the accounts that describe the ascendancy of migrant dynastic groups and the subsequent emergence of the three western Yorùbá kingdoms based on the Òyò-Ifę model are telescopic, leaving out the details of the struggles which accompanied the experiment in each locality. For instance, it is now fairly certain that the impression given in Yorùbá cosmogony1 that the much-popularized Odùduwà period was not the beginning of Yorùbá history is valid. Rather, the Odùduwà experiment is now taken, in each site where it took place, as the beginning of a new period under a new leadership2 entailing the generation of new ideas which ultimately affected pre-existing realities. On-going research continues to discover data which indicate that the process of state-formation was one which spanned many centuries before the Odùduwà period.3 In different parts of Yorùbáland, ‘states’ which pre-dated the Odùduwà period in the locality have been identified.4 One of the major ideas for which the Odùduwà group became famous was their conception of ‘state’ which in all aspects was more comprehensive than pre-existing political units.

  • 5 Adédìran, ’Bíódún. State formation in Yorùbáland: Towards a working hypothesis. 1980/81 Ife Histor (...)

2The pre-Odùduwà ‘state’ laid emphasis on the territorial factor,5 as land was the most important factor necessary for its preservation. It was ethnically cohesive, being in most cases a settlement or settlements inhabited by kinsmen. On the other hand, the territorial factor was only secondary in the new conception of the state. The new ‘state’ was made up of ethnically diverse settlements, thus the most important factor in its preservation was the ethnic cohesion of the whole area. This task of creating an ethnically homogeneous unit out of many ethnically heterogenous settlements is what is described in the traditions of state-formation in each locality.

  • 6 For an elaboration of this concept, Ibid.

3The new state was conceived as a mode of social arrangement in which all inhabitants within a territorially defined region, ilę (literally land, but more appropriately, kingdom) were integrated and possessed the political and cultural consciousness of a single unit, identifiable, and often identified, by a group name. This new conception of the state, which eventually became accepted all over Yorùbáland, persisted till the beginning of the nineteenth century. Thus, a typical Yorùbá state was made up of many towns and villages, often of comparable sizes. One of these, the capital town where the Ǫba (king) lived, was the central focus of all the inhabitants.6 It has been suggested that within the conceptual framework of a sociologist, the Yorùbá state would be called a ‘family’ in which the Ǫba, as the head, was the ‘father’ and the inhabitants his ‘children’. This observation is buttressed by the use of kinship terms such as baba (father) and ìyá (mother) to describe the king, and ǫmǫ (children) to describe the citizens in such states.

4Western Yorùbá country before the advent of the dynastic groups was inhabited by scattered pockets of lineage groups. But trends towards political centralization had begun before the influx of refugees from Òké-Ǫyán. This was in the fusion of many lineage-settlements to form miniature states or ‘city-states’. Thus on the eve of the emergence of the kingdoms, the inhabitants of western Yorùbáland could be differentiated into two broad classes: landowners, onílę, and tenants who took up residence in the region of each ‘city-state’ after the onílę had settled there. What happened with the incursion of the dynastic groups was therefore not the beginning of the process of political centralization or class differentiation, but the substitution of the new arrivals for the extant land-owning groups as the leading lineage groups or ruling aristocracies.

THE ESTABLISHMENT OF THE KÉTU KINGDOM

  • 7 Verger, P. Histoire du pays de Kétou. (Manuscript)

5It will be recalled that after the separation at Òkè-Ǫyán, the Kétu group made up of Ǫyó and Sóipàsán elements moved southwards under Owé to a place called Àró or Ojú Egún7 (Ògún?). The new settlement was apparently constituted into a ‘city-state’, as were many others founded about the same time. Five people succeeded Owé as leaders of the Àró settlement. The first four, Àsęję (Àjǫję), Ìja, Ęrankíkan and Àgbò were, like Owé, from the Ǫyó section. They would appear to have enjoyed peaceful and uneventful reigns, for nothing is remembered about them other than their names and those of their parents. However, much is remembered about Owé’s fifth successor, Ędę, who was responsible for the foundation of Ilé-Kétu which subsequently became the nucleus of a kingdom.

  • 8 Parrinder, E.G. The Story of Kétu, p. 15.
  • 9 The verse is ‘Ǫmǫ Òkú Onà’. See Verger’s list of kings of Kétu in Parrinder, E.G. The Story of Két (...)

6Surprisingly, the names of Ędę’s parents are unknown, at least in ordinary Kétu narratives. More intriguing is the tradition that the rights of Ędę’s family to the leadership of the Kétu group had been abolished. Parrinder speculates that he belonged to a family different from those of his five predecessors.8 A verse in Ędę’s personal oríkì refers to him as ‘the son of the one who died on the route’. This tends to confirm the tradition that Ędę’s father was among the migrants from Òké- Òyán who died before they could reach Ilé-Kétu.9 Many individuals among the refugees must have died before reaching Ilé-Kétu, so Ędé’s father must have been a very important person for his death to be remembered in Kétu narratives as well as in the documentary traditions. Placing together these bits of information, the man who died en route Ilé-Kétu could be identified with Şóipàsán who died at Àró. Ędé, would therefore appear to be a member of the Şóipàsán element in the group.

  • 10 Aké traditions indicate that the split-off was led by Ako Agbó or Ìka Agbó. Ajísafé, A.K. Ìwe Ìtan (...)

7Furthermore, it would appear that there was a dispute from which Ędé, emerged victorious but for which he fell out of favour with the people from Òké- Òyán. This dispute was probably not unconnected with Ędé succeeded in displacing the Àró leadership, a group loyal to Àgbò Àkòkò, the reigning ‘king’ from the Àró section, left Àró in protest and moved into the Àgbá forest. This splinter group which was probably led by Àgbò Àkòkò himself presumably became the Aké section of the Ęgbá.10

  • 11 Oral Interviews: The Bàbá Ìlú of Dírin, 3/7/78; Alánwà Bámgbósé (100+), Ìlíkímu, 2/10/78; Chief S. (...)
  • 12 Parrinder, E.G. The Story of Kétu, p. 21.

8The emergence of the Şóipàsán element under Ędé was due to a number of factors. Ędé built up a personal following from among the refugees at Àró and the neighbouring settlements. He also embarked on a policy of drawing together various heads of settlements, especially those of pre-existing ones like Dírin, Ìdǫfà, ‘Alálùm ǫn’ and ‘Ímá şáí’ whose help he had enlisted during his conflict with the Óyó group at Àró.11 The oríkì of the Àró royal family talks of struggles in many other pre-existing settlements like Àtàké and Gbógbo, all of which, it would appear, eventually supported the emergence of the new leadership. The success of this policy is shown in the tradition that as many as one hundred families (presumably lineage-settlements) joined Ędé12 Probably, Ędé’s skill in displacing the leadership of the Òyó group was a major factor that aided his personal ascendancy. This would appear to have enhanced his prestige and to have made him ipso facto the leader of any alliance with his contemporaries.

  • 13 Ibid., p. 16, Parrinder doubts that the present Ìdòfà was the one founded by this group; this aris (...)
  • 14 There is an Ìmásàyí which claims ancestral links with Kétu near Ìlaròó. Various other southern Egb (...)

9With the ascendancy of Ędé, Àró became the most important settlement in the region. Ędé himself became the focus of attention of the people in the neighbourhood. Apparently to make the alliance between Ędé and the heads of neighbouring settlements more solid, but possibly also because of fear of overcrowding, as stated in the traditions, it became necessary to found a new settlement for the newly enlarged group. Three suggestions were made on possible areas for settlement. One was that the group should return to Òkè- Òyán; the second was to move southwards, while the third suggestion was to move westwards. This suggests that the alliance at Aró was made up of three interest groups. In fact, when eventually the decision to evacuate Aró was taken, the alliance broke into three, with two of Ędé’s allies leading splinter groups in different directions. Ìdófà moved slightly southwards to found a new settlement which still retains the name,13 while Ìmásàí apparently moved southwards into the Égbádó country.14 The bulk of the people, made up of many Òyó groups still loyal to Ędé, decided to move westwards towards the site of Ilé-Kétu under the guidance of Alálùmǫn.

  • 15 Oral Interviews: Àró Adétúnjí, Ilé-Kétu, 22/7/78; Agàn Jagunde (100+), Dírin, 8/7/78; Adéşína Clav (...)
  • 16 Of these, only five are now identifiable: Àró (Ìdòfóyí), Alápini (Asùnú), Mèsà (Òdepàtá), Màgbó (Ì (...)
  • 17 Parrinder, E.G. The Story of Kétu, p. 16.

10Before the evacuation of Àró, the Ędé group was reconstituted. Some of the settlements that joined Ędé were given rights to the leadership of the enlarged group, perhaps on account of their connection with the Òyó royal family. Within the Àró group itself, the rights of the pre- Ędé leadership were re-established with the aid of some of the inhabitants of pre-existing settlements who had earlier come to Ędé’s aid to displace them.15 Out of the ‘nine royal families’16 that emerged from this exercise, the Şóipàsán element was only one. Ędé’s displacement of the Òyó leadership was therefore only marginally successful. However, to consolidate his hold on the group, Ędé sent to Òké-Òyán for sacrifices to be made to Şóipàsán,17 indicating that he wished to renew the old links. Furthermore, a vow was taken by all the components of the new group. It was decided that the group should be looked at as one family and the nine royal families as co-lateral branches among which the leadership was to be rotated. The decision was taken at a gathering in a grove which still bears the suggestive name of Òkìtì Ìmùlè ‘the mound of covenant’; and is still re-enacted at the death of an Alákétu, when all heads of the royal families meet at the Òkìtì Ìmùlè to choose a successor. A pact was sealed and a branch of the tree which was on Şóipàsán’s grave at Òké-Oyán was planted on the graves of the four leaders at Aró indicating that the Şóipàsán and the Òyó elements were now fused into one.

  • 18 Ibid., pp. 17-18; Oral Interviews: Alánwà Bamgbósé (100 + ), Ìlíkímu, 2/10/78; Adénbólá Oyelúyì (6 (...)

11The journey from Àró to Ilé-Kétu led to the absorption of many pre-existing settlements by the Ędé group. The process by which this absorption was accomplished is evident in the traditions of some of the settlements. For instance in one of the settlements, the party left behind some people, ostensibly because one of Ędé’s wives was due to be delivered of a child. She was hospitably received until she was delivered of a baby boy. Consequently, Ędéé named the settlement Ìlú ké ǫmǫ ‘the town which cared for the child’; and the child became the head of the settlement. This episode is to be understood as the replacement of whoever was the head of the settlement by a member of the Ędé group. One of the three royal families in Ìlíkímu is indisputably a scion of the Ędé family as borne out in its oríkì:18

  1. Ǫba l’Ędéé
  2. Ędé Ǫmǫ Èkénà
  3. Ędé Òsí k’ęfá Olú
  4. Ní Ìlíkímú
  5. Ędé is king
  6. The child of the man who died on the road
  7. The sixth of the Olú
  8. In Ìlíkímú
  • 19 Parrinder, E.G. The Story of Kétu, p. 18.

12Members of the Aró group founded settlements in places along the route where the topography and ecology were favourable. For instance, at a place where they encamped for a night, the group ‘received hospitable treatment from a swarm of bees’.19 The name Ìrókòyin which Ędé allegedly gave the camp indicates that the foundation of the settlement was stimulated by an abundance of food-crops.

  • 20 Ibid.

13However, at a place called Òpó-méta, the Ędé group met with what was probably the first major confrontation. The group was coming in contact for the first time with people radically different in ethnic composition from those to the east, though Parrinder refers to the inhabitants of these settlements as ‘members of Ędé’s tribe’. It may be recalled that the sixteenth century sub-ethnic differentiation among the Aja led to their rapid expansion eastwards from Tado. At the time the Ędé group was moving westwards, the Mahi and the Fon had already infiltrated into the neighbourhood of Àró. It is therefore not surprising that at the first contact with the Fon at Ópó-méta, communication broke down and there was a clash. The first clash, for instance, arose because the advance-guard failed to observe customary greetings which presumably were unknown to them.20 It took series of negotiations before Ìyá Mépéré, the head of the settlement, was reconciled with the Ędé group.

  • 21 Ibid.

14But more fundamental than the breakdown of communication was the fact that the Fon settlements saw the arrival of the Àró group as the beginning of a fierce competition over scarce resources such as arable land and water. Indeed Ìyá Mépéré did not hide her surprise at ‘finding a large company of men, women and children upon such an unfrequented path’.21

15Ostensibly, because of the inability of the Òpó-métasettlement to support the population, but also probably as a result of the continued opposition of Ìyá Mépéré, the Ędé group decided to move further westwards. On the site of Ilé-Kétu where the group eventually installed itself, it pursued more vigorously the policy of displacing the aboriginal inhabitants. Some of the inhabitants of these settlements fled northwards in protest against the installation of the Ędé group; while others were forcibly made to accept the new leadership.

  • 22 Ibid., pp 19-21. Oral Interviews: Alákétu and chiefs, 15/7/78; Samuel Adébíyì (75+), Ìlómu, Ilé-Ké (...)

16The legend of the origin and meaning of the name Kétu itself recalls some of the battles fought before its foundation. According to one of these accounts, the name Kétu derived from the sacrifice of a man who was a hunchback. As evident from the legend, the sacrifice shows that questions of security were paramount in the minds of the founders of Ilé-Kétu. It was believed that the new town would be as impregnable to enemies as a hunchback’s hump is impossible to break. As added insurance, Ìyá Mépéré was consulted to offer sacrifices and propitiate the spirits of the land which were unknown to the newcomers.22

  • 23 Oral interview: Alákétu and chiefs, 15/7/78. See also Parrinder, E.G. The Story of Kétu, pp. 16 & (...)

17The reasons for the choice of a site among hostile neighbours are intriguing. The suggestion that the choice was made because it was Alálùmǫn’s personal hunting ground23 appears to be an attempt by the Ędé group to legitimize its occupation of the area by claiming it as belonging to a member of the group. This has to be rejected in view of the fact that Alálùmǫn does not seem to have possessed enough mastery of the geographical and demographic nature of the site. The presence of clusters of settlements all over the area raises serious doubts about the claims of Alálùmǫn to the ownership of the land in the area; though it is conceivable that as a hunter he might have known the site.

18In any case, since one of the major factors for evacuating Àró was overpopulation, the choice of the badly watered and agriculturally poor site of Ilé-Kétu is inexplicable.

19It would appear that the Ędé group stopped at the site of Ilé-Kétu principally for fear of fiercer confrontations. Further migration westwards would lead to confrontation with the Fon or the Mahi. Since they had succeeded in winning over the aborigines around the site of Ilé-Kétu after a series of gruelling clashes, the logical choice was to halt there and start to consolidate their gains. More so as by the time of their arrival, there were many nearby settlements owing allegiance to the Ędé group either by right of conquest or by negotiation.

20Thus the area over which the first Alákétu ruled as king was an amalgamation of many settlements of different sizes, ethnic composition and levels of development, held together by compromise. This compromise was the bedrock integrating the indigenous inhabitants into the system of the dynastic group and is re-enacted at the coronation of every Alákétu. Parrinder describes vividly a ritual performed before an Alákétu-elect enters the town to begin the final stage of his investiture ceremonies:

  • 24 Parrinder, E.G. The Story of Kétu, p. 83-84.

... three goats are killed; the blood is sprinkled on the external and internal gates, (of Ilé-Kétu) and on a pole that half closes the path leading up to the gate. The bodies of the three goats are at once taken and cooked, and served as a ritual communion meal in which all adult males in Kétu must share... any man who participates and subsequently plots against the life of the Alákétu would bring evil upon himself.24

  • 25 See Adédìran, ’Biódún. Kings, traditions and chronology in Yorùbáland: The case of the Kétu kingdo (...)

21With the successful installation of the Ędé group at Ilé-Kétu, there began a process of cultural hybridization, resulting in the emergence of a distinct Kétu sub-group and the kingdom of Kétu. Thus, the claims of Ędé’s predecessors to the title Alákétu are not valid, for there was no Kétu and there could not have been an Alákétu before the foundation of Ilé-Kétu, even though the five leaders at Àró (and Şóipàsán) have an important place in the dynastic list between the Kétu dynastic group and their orírun.25

22Generally, the foundation of Kétu is dated to at least three centuries earlier. This is based on the narrative of ancestral migration from Ilé-Ifę discussed in the last chapter, and on the list of kings which compares favourably with those of Òyó and Benin.

  • 26 See discussions in ch. 3 and Ibid.

23Bearing in mind that the move from Òkè- Òyánto Àró took place at about the same time as the occupation of Ìgbòho by the Aláàfin,26 it is possible to suggest a date for the foundation of Ilé-Kétu. The sojourn at Àró, lasting only five reigns (one of which ended prematurely), could not have lasted much longer than that of the four Aláàfin at Igbòho. It would appear therefore, that the foundation of Ilé-Kétu should be dated to the last decade of the 16th century or the beginning of the 17th century, with a preference for the latter date.

FROM CITY-STATES TO KINGDOM: THE FORMATION OF ŞÁBĘ KINGDOM

  • 27 Johnson.S. The History,p. 168; Akínjógbìn. I.A. Dahomey and its Neighbours, pp. 11-12; also oral i (...)

24It is possible to be more definite on the issue of dates in the case of Şábę, the foundation of which certainly did not take place before the eighteenth century. Samuel Johnson records a tradition about one Şábigànná who left Şábę to settle in Òyóterritory during the reign of Ǫbalókun towards the end of the sixteenth century. This Şábigànná does not appear to be the ancestor of the ruler of modern Ìgànná which was founded from Şábę. Current traditions of Ìgànná indicate that it was founded only in the nineteenth century, during the reign of Aláàfin Olúewu. Moreover, the prefix ‘Şábi’ indicates that the foundation took place after the arrival of the Babagídàì group in the Şábę country. Akínjógbìn suggests that the ‘Şábigànná’ of Johnson’s tradition came from Savi the capital of the Aja kingdom of Whydah. It is possible that Johnson mixed up this tradition with that of the foundation of Ìgànná.27

  • 28 Orou, G. Origine de la Dynastie de Parakou. NA 66 (1955) p. 39. Oral interview: Yáì Adìmí (70+), J (...)

25The process of formation of the Şábę kingdom, however, dates back to the seventeenth century, when Ìgbòho broke up and the Aláàfin re-occupied Òyò-Ilé will be recalled that at the time of the break-up; a splinter group moved northwards into the Ìbààbá country and settled near Nikki. This group became acculturated to the semi-nomadic life of their hosts, with whom they organized joint raids into the southern fringes of the Borgu country in the neighbourhood of modern Paraku, Şaworo and possibly as far south as Kìlìbò.28 One of these mixed groups of Yorùbá-Ìbààbá elements eventually penetrated further south of Kìlìbò into what later became the Şábę territory.

  • 29 Lombard, J. Structure de Type ‘Féodal’, p. 79.

26Jacques Lombard speculates that the emigration of this group into the Şábę country was prompted by external factors. According to him, in the fifteenth century the Songhai under Sonni Ali made many incursions into the Borgu country to recruit able-bodied men into their army. This led, in about 1470, to the dispersal of the Yorùbá among the Ìbààbá; one group took refuge around Kandi and became the Mokolé, while the other moved in a south-westerly direction and became the Babagídàí of Şábę accounts.29

  • 30 Ibid., p. 87; Levtzion, N. Muslims and Chiefs, pp. 174-176. On the Songhai empire, see Hunwick, J. (...)
  • 31 George, J.O. Historical Notes, p. 23 suggests overpopulation as the cause.

27This re-construction reflects the confusion in most of the accounts about the Şábę dynastic group. Although from the middle of the fifteenth century, the Songhai conducted occasional forays into Borgu territory, none had significant results, except Askia Dawud’s attack on Bussa in c. 1555/56. As pointed out earlier the Mokolé were a backwash of Òyó refugees who refused to return with the Aláàfin from Ìgbòho to Òyò-Ilé at the beginning of the seventeenth century. If indeed the Songhai were connected with the settlement of the Mokolé around Kandi, this was more likely after the collapse of the empire in 1591 when pockets of Songhai refugees settled in Borgu country,30 and caused series of unrest and population upheavals in that region.31

  • 32 Lombard, J. Structure de Type ‘Féodal’, p. 103; Levtzion, N. Muslims and Chiefs, p. 176; Crowder, (...)

28Şábę traditions suggest that the emigration from Borgu into Şábę territory was caused by an internal factor. According to the accounts, the emigration became necessary at Şaworo when one of the mixed groups of Yorùbá-Ìbààbá elements incurred the wrath of the king of Nikki. The consensus in the accounts is that during a hunting expedition, an Ìbààbá prince was killed and the group decided to withdraw from the reach of the king of Nikki, who at that time was the most powerful of the Ibààbá kings.32

  • 33 Ajúgú and Ǫlá Tà are sometimes cited as alternative names of the same person. See, George, J.O. Hi (...)

29At Kìlìbò, their first settlement, the group decided to move further south not, as it seemed, because they feared the location was not safe enough; but apparently because of a leadership dispute following the death of Àjúgú who piloted them to the site. Ǫlá Tà (Alátà) who succeeded Àjúgú remained at Kìlìbò. The ruling dynasty of Kìlìbò claims descent from him. But a splinter of the Ibààbá element and the bulk of the Òyó left the town under Àlí (also called Sáníba) a son of Àjúgú.33

  • 34 Woro was located between present-day Aláfíà and Kábua.
  • 35 The name derived from the large number of the Óyò who outplayed the Ìbààbá element.
  • 36 Mouléro T. Histoire et légende, pp. 52-57.
  • 37 This aspect is also discussed in Adédìran, ’Bíódún. The formation of Şábe Kingdom in central Bénin (...)

30Soon after Kìlìbò another dispute broke out. The Òyó elements outnumbered the Ibààbá and thought that they should exercise the leadership of the group. The idea infuriated the Ibààbá who accused them of treachery and ingratitude. Thus, when at a place called Woro34 Àlí died under mysterious circumstances and the Yorùbá insisted that the next leader must come from their section, the Ìbààbá left the camp in annoyance, regrouped under another son of Ajúgú called Babagídàí and moved eastwards towards Kábua. The remnant of the group took the name ‘Amùşù’35 and chose as their leader a man called Àkíyò (Akèyó), apparently a member of the Òyó royal family. They however decided to evacuate Woro after giving it the symbolic name of ‘Àtúnrò’ which rightly interpreted means the place where ‘the issue’ was reconsidered.36 Àkíyò was the fifth leader of the Amùşù since they had left Borgu and the tenth since they had left Ìgbòho in c.1600. A total of one hundred years for nine ‘reigns’ during a period of constant migration appears reasonable, and would put the move out of Woro at c.1700. This eventually took the Amùşù to Ilé-Şábé where they imposed themselves, again on account of their large number, on the pre-existing settlements and succeeded in establishing their leadership, with Àkíyò as their first ‘king’.37 The choice of Ilé-Şábé, a hilly place, suggests that the Amùşù were seeking refuge from enemies, perhaps the Ìbààbá element in the original group.

  • 38 Oral interviews: Biau Ezekiel (95+), Òkè Òóhi, Kábua, 29/8/78; Sabi Olódùmarè (70+), Òkè Óòlú, Káb (...)

31The group led by Babagídàí experienced some intra-group squabbles which led to the foundation of one or two settlements by splinter groups. Eventually, the main group settled among the cluster of settlements in Kábua where Babagídàí successfully consolidated his hold and sent out some of his ‘children’ to settle old scores with the Amùşù. An advance party led by Babagídàí himself had an encounter with Sìnìka, the reigning Óòlú of Kábua. The outcome was an agreement which allowed the Óòlú to retain the leadership of the cluster of settlements. Thus when the Babagídàí group arrived in Kábua it was hospitably received. The newcomers settled as a lineage under Babagídàí and continued to acknowledge the rights of the Óòlú as their ‘host’ and as the owner of the land in the region.38 However, sooner than later, a power tussle developed and eventually Babagídàí outplayed the Óòlú and took over political leadership of the city-state.

32Babagídàí embarked on a process of drawing together many settlements originally not under the authority of the Óòlú into Kábua. This act of forcible transplantation of whole lineage-settlements was probably Babagídàí’s first act in the systematic subjugation of the unsuspecting Óòlú who Babagídàí consulted before embarking on some of such acts. Kábua traditions in fact record that the transplantation of Baakǫ, a lineage-settlement originally near the Ópárá river, was a joint venture between Babagídàí and Àdágbá, a son of Óòlú Sìnìka. Certainly the Óòlú’s feelings were assuaged and he was not perturbed, for both Babagídàí’s settlement and the ones transplanted continued to pay their respects and obligations to him.

  • 39 Oral Interview: Biau Ezekiel, Kábua 29/8/78.

33But Babagídàí went further than mere transplantation,39 he negotiated marriage alliances with some of the new settlements. This in itself suggests that the transplantation of the scattered settlements into Kábua was a deliberate policy to build up a personal following and undermine the influence of Óòlú Sìnìka. The cumulative effect of Babagídàí’s actions was that within a short time, he was able to establish himself as a focus of power among the settlements in the neighbourhood.

34Having indirectly outflanked his host, Babagídàí began to encroach directly on the authority of the Óòlú of Kábua. First he abandoned his own obligations to the Óòlú and started to interfere directly in the running of the affairs of the ‘city-state’. Later he started to ask for ‘gifts’, including food and drinks.

35Perhaps it was the inability to cope with the increasing demands of Babagídàí that made Óòlú Sìnìka send to the head of the Jàbàtá city-state to come to his aid; it might also have been an attempt to raise a military alliance against Babagídàí and his allies. Whatever was the main motive, the intervention of Óòlú Kábe of Jàbàtá only further strengthened the power of Babagídàí and extended his influence to Jàbàtá itself.

36According to the Jàbàtá version of the tradition, a large delegation, with food and drinks, was sent to Kábua. At the head of the delegation was Jìmí, a daughter of Óòlú Kábe. Babagídàí accepted the supplies and in addition detained Jìmí. All pleading for the release of Jìmí by Óòlú Sìnìka failed as Babagídàí made the young princess his wife.

  • 40 cf. Ibid., p. 77 and Mouléro, T. Les villages Nago de la sous-prefecture de Savè. ED 14-15 (Sept-D (...)

37The fact that Óòlú Sìnìka could not avenge this act certainly shows that Babagídàí had grown too powerful for him. As the three versions of the traditions claim, it was not until Jìmí was carrying Babagídàí’s third child40 that Óòlú Kábe of Jàbàtá himself led an army to Kábua to rescue his daughter, probably because he had to spend some time preparing for the military confrontation. In any case, the clash between Babagídàí and Óòlú Kábe only ended in a treaty of friendship between the two.

38After this episode, Babagídàí reduced Óòlú Sìnìka to a mere puppet. His next actions completed his taking over of the political leadership of Kábua. He demanded that the Óòlú should surrender his ‘sandals and crown’, the very paraphernalia of his office; the now powerless Óòlú had no option but to oblige.

39All these events are lamented in the oríkì of the Óòlú of Kábua, a part of which runs thus:

  1. Égbá Olúbarà m’ǫjè
  2. Ǫmǫ a f’ogun ş’íló
  3. Ǫmǫ a f’ìkòkò kún ìwòn ìlèkè
  4. Olódó ęlòmírán kò gún
  5. Óòlú à bá p’àgbò f’ólófun òfé
  6. Şé a kò le şe b’ólá ti tó ni
  7. Óòlú àgbà ní fi ’nú jà
  8. Ǫmǫ tan ní yá nu bú ni
  9. Enìkan kìí l’éni l’óyè
  10. Kó gba ilé baba ęni l’ówó ęni41
  1. Hail the Ègbá head of Ìbarà
  2. Offspring of those displaced by war
  3. Who measured beads with pots
  4. In whose mortar no one else dared pound
  5. We could have given a ram to he who loved free meals
  6. Only that we could not do as we pleased
  7. An elderly person does not show his annoyance quickly
  8. As a youth may be prone to
  9. No one dethrones a person
  10. And takes his father’s house as well

40This part of the oríkì speaks for itself. It not only laments the take-over by Babagídàí but also recalls, with a nostalgic feeling, the power and wealth of the pre-Babagídàí Óòlú. Other verses in the oríkì suggest that Àdágbá succeeded Sìnìka as Óòlú and that it was during Àdágbá’s reign that Babagídàí took over the leadership.

  • 42 Mouléro, T. Histoire et légende, pp. 57-60. Oral interviews: Justin Yáì (head of the Amùsù), 10/9/ (...)

41Meanwhile, the Amùşù were also attempting to establish their ascendancy in Ilé-Şábę. Their advent into the region was accompanied by prolonged clashes with the indigenous inhabitants. These clashes arose mainly because of the opposition of the preexisting groups to the imposition of the Amùşù as the leading group in the area. In order to suppress this opposition, the Amùşù attempted to divide their ‘hosts’. They suggested a political partnership with the Ęhìnòkè group and offered their head, Jagun, the continued leadership of the city-state. This attempt to placate the Ęhìnòkè failed as the Jagun refused to be bought over. Consequently, there was a renewed series of clashes after the Amùşù forced Jagun and his allies to accept their own leader, Àkíyò, as the head of the Ilé-Şábę city-state.42

  • 43 See discussions in ch. 2.
  • 44 On the ritual significance of land in political authority see Goody, J. Technology, Tradition and (...)

42There was a brief spell of peace during which the Amùşù made progressive attempts to consolidate their hold on the lineage-groups in the area. Àkíyò took the royal name Ǫlá Mùşù and quickly took steps to legitimize the displacement of the Ęhìnòkè. It will be recalled that the basis of political authority within the city-state was precedence in settling in the region;43 the Ęhìnòkè group, as the first to settle in the area, had exercised that right. One of the immediate steps taken by Ǫlá Mùşù was to take over the rituals of the earth by performing certain important sacrifices, using two of his own children. This conferred on the Amùşù the distinctive praise-name of ǫmǫ onílèimplying that the Amùşù had taken over ritual control of the land in the area, legitimizing their leadership in the vicinity of Ilé-Şábę.44

  • 45 Oral interview: Justin Yáì, Ilé-Şábę, 10/9/78.

43Thenceforth, hostility from the indigenes of Ilé-Şábę abated and the future looked bright for the Amùşù. Indeed Ǫlá Mùşù’s immediate successor took the royal name Ǫlá Yìmó (this reign is clean) apparently to signify that his reign would be less chaotic than the preceding one. The third leader of the Amùşù in the area, Ǫlá Yǫngé actually took a practical step to demonstrate the ascendancy of the Amùşù over the other lineages in the vicinity. He used a white head tie as a symbol to distinguish himself from the various other lineage heads,45 i.e., the Ba/Baba.

  • 46 The verse is: A sǫ òtítò gba òdì aiyé (he who tells the truth to the annoyance of everybody). Oral (...)
  • 47 Oral interviews: Òfín Àwódìò (100+), Jàlúmòn, Ilé-Şábę, 25/8/78; Aiyédùn Omítókí (100+), Pàáko, Il (...)
  • 48 Mouléro, T. Histoire et légende, pp. 63-64.

44But the spell of peace ended soon after Ǫlá Yǫngé. A crisis had been brewing towards the end of his reign. Reflections of renewed clashes are still recalled in various lineage traditions of Ilé-Şábę A verse in the oríkì of the Ęhìnòkè lineage talks of one long-drawn-out conflict in which the Jagun, as an elder statesman, interceded but was humiliated by the two disputing parties.46 The traditions of the Jàlúmòn recall another of these battles called the Ebùrù war during which the reigning Amùşù king (possibly Ǫlá Yǫngè) had to take refuge outside the city-state until the chaos subsided.47 The version of the tradition recorded by Father Mouléro48 narrates that during the ‘war’, the Amùşù king actually conceded the throne of Ilé-Şábę to the head of the Jàlúmon. The Amùşù tradition itself records that there was a series of clashes with one Òdú who instigated the lineage-heads in the Ilé-Şábę region, primarily to settle an old score.

45From all indications, it appears that after the settlement of the Amùşù in Ilé-Şábé, the issue over which they had taken a ‘decision’ at Àtúnrò resurfaced. The whole episode of the Ebùrù war, the flight of the reigning Amùşù king, and the concession of the throne to the Jàlúmòn lineage, hint of a situation in which the rights of the Amùşù to the leadership of Ilé-Şábę were hotly contested by the leading lineage-families in the region at the instigation of an external party.

  • 49 Oil Yobì whom Father Mouléro included in his king-list was probably a pretender to the throne. The (...)

46After Ǫlá Yǫngè, there appears to have been an interregnum during which the head of the Jàlúmòn lineage was indeed the de facto ruler of the Ilé-Şábę city-state.49 However, principally with the aid of the Jàlúmòn and a few other lineage heads, the Amùşù succeeded in quelling the chaos and in appointing a new leader who took the name Ǫlá Òjòdú to symbolize the victory over Òdú. Ǫlá Òjòdú’s reign is particularly significant because it was during this period, or shortly after, that the Babagídàí group from Kábua took over the leadership of Ilé-Şábę from the Amùşù.

  • 50 Skinner, E.P. The Mossi of the Upper Volta. Stanford (1964) and Ryder, A.F.C. Benin and the Europe (...)

47Before the accession of Òjòdú, Babagídàí had extended his influence to Ilé-Şábę by exploiting the civil strife in the region. Two major attempts appear to have been made. The first attempt was the conflict with Òdú which can be identified with an unsuccessful attempt by Babagídàí to impose his eldest son, Biau Olódùmarè on Ilé-Şábę. According to the Amùşù, the attempt failed because of the opposition of the lineage-heads in Ilé-Şábę. The Babagídàí accounts however insist that it was the lineage-heads themselves who sought the aid of Babagídàí against the Amùşù. Such instances of a people inviting a powerful individual in their neighbourhood to come and aid them during a period of political crisis are commonplace.50 What is certain, however, is that the intervention of Babagídàí did not meet with the approval of all the lineage-heads. Consequently, Biau was recalled to Kábua and tipped by Babagídàí as his successor to the leadership of that city-state, while the Ilé-Şábę lineages regrouped under Ǫlá Òjòdú.

  • 51 Mouléro, T. Histoire et légende, p. 79.

48The second attempt however culminated in the imposition of Yáì Olúkòíbí as head of Ilé-Şábę. Although the Amùşù stoutly resisted this second attempt, they were flushed out of Ilé-Şábę,51 this time with the aid of virtually all the lineage-heads in the region. It was not an easy task however. Some of the lineage-heads vacillated in giving their support to Yáì. Apparently, after the failure of the first attempt, those who had initially solicited the aid of Babagídàí felt reluctant to try a second time. But eventually, all those who showed some ambivalence in giving Yáì their support were persuaded to drop their opposition and join him against the Amùşù whose leadership had become increasingly harsh.

49In the choice of Yáì for this second attempt, Babagídàí demonstrated a clear sense of foresight. Yáì, as his second name, Olúkòíbí, (meaning two Óòlú merged into one) implies, was Babagídàí’s first son from Jìmí, the Jàbàtá princess. Like all sons of Babagídàí, he could count on the co-operation of members of the group in time of trouble; but only Yáì had the added advantage of being able to get sympathy from the pre-Babagídàí lineages. One expects however that Yáì’s personal qualities would have further buttressed his choice, for had he been a nonentity, Babagídàí would certainly not have put him up, his maternal connections with Jàbàtá notwithstanding.

  • 52 Oral interview: Òkunl Ǫlá Dáwódù (75+), Kìlìbò, Ilé-Şabę, 11/9/78.

50Fortunately traditions give a clear portrait of him. He was a powerful man whose appearance was enough to instil fear into men. A verse in his personal oríkì talks of a ‘bat being capable of making noise only at night!’. From narratives which accompany the oríkì, this appears to be a reference to some of the early challenges which Yáì faced but which he quickly put down.52

51Whatever other strategies he used, Yáì certainly found his ability to enlist the support of the lineage-heads a great advantage. The collusion of most of the pre-existing lineage-heads with him was undoubtedly a fatal wound to the resistance of the Amùşù to the Babagídàí take over.

  • 53 See Mouléro, T. Les villes, p. 35 ff.

52With the successful installation of Yáì at Ilé-Şábę, the Babagídàí group had achieved political leadership over all the Şábę region. Apart from the three city-states, Kábua, Jàbàtá and Ilé-Şábę, members of the group had taken over political leadership in virtually all existing settlements in the region. Instances of how members of the group took over the leadership of many Şábę settlements were recorded by Father Mouléro and are still recollected faintly in the traditions of some of the settlements.53

53In spite of the widespread influence of the Babagídáí group, there was no centralized government and therefore no kingdom. Ilé-Şábę, Kábua and Jàbàtá remained autonomous foci of power and authority. If any of the three had the advantage over the others, it was Kábua, where Babagídáí himself had concentrated his power and where his eldest son, Biau Olódùmarè, had been tipped to succeed him.

54However, it was Yáì who transformed the city-states into the single political unit that later became known as the kingdom of Şábę. After his initial success over the Amùşù in Ilé-Şábę, Yáì became the most influential member of the Babagídáí group. This was of great advantage in the task of integrating the three city-states into a single political unit with himself as the head and Ilé-Şábę as the centre.

  • 54 For fuller discussions of this see Adédìran, ’Bíódún. Kinship and political authority in pre-colon (...)
  • 55 Abraham, R.L. Dictionary of the Hausa Language. Stephen Austin (1949) pp. 50 & 317. It may be reca (...)

55The fundamental factor in this was that the working arrangement within the Babagídáí group was based on kinship.54 The group was a ‘close group’ of individuals supposedly related by blood; the head of the group was regarded as the father of all the members. It was probably because of this that the first leader of the group took the name, Babagídáí, which is an Hausa term meaning ‘father of the compound’.55 Whoever became the leader of the group was invariably recognized as the father of all its members and deserving their respect and obedience. Precedence of birth was a major criterion in the choice of a leader; the eldest living member of the ‘family’ was expected to succeed to the leadership. This is the main reason why Babagídáí had wanted to impose his eldest son, Biau Olódùmarè, at Ilé-Şábę and why, when he failed, he tipped him as his successor in Kábua.

  • 56 Oral interviews: Şabì Olódùmarè, 29/8/78 and Biau Ezekiel, 30/8/78, Kábua; Ǫba A. Akànní, Oníşábę (...)

56But the failure of Biau at Ilé-Şábę and the relative ease with which Yáì took over the city-state must have impressed on Babagídàí that, for the preservation of the group, Yáì was a better choice than Biau. Thus, although that choice was traditionally unethical and abnormal, Yáì became Babagídàí’s preferred successor. Babagídàí insisted that Biau and other leading members of the group go and install Yáì at Ilé-Şábę,56 perhaps to ensure that Yáì’s elder brothers physically demonstrated their approval of the plan and their loyalty to their brother. The fact that the crown and sandals used in that ceremony were those which Babagídàí himself had seized from the Òòlú of Kábua indicates that the mantle of Babagídàí as head of the group had passed to Yáì. This action created a situation of co-leadership in the group. Since he was alive, Babagídàí could not abdicate as the ‘father’ of the group. His intention in getting Yáì installed was apparently to confer legitimacy on his choice. By doing this, Babagídàí prevented the disputes that could follow his death and ensured that the headship passed to Yáì rather than to Biau.

57As head of the Babagídàí group, Yáì was theoretically the head of all the settlements in which members of the group were heads. He was the coordinator of the activities of all those who claimed descent from Babagídàí. As soon as he was installed, he took steps which led to his practically asserting political authority in the other city-states. He visited his maternal grandfather at Jàbàtá and later proceeded to pay homage to his father at Kábua. The two visits were certainly more than mere ‘courtesy calls’. They were physical demonstrations of his taking over as the focus of power and authority in the region.

58Jàbàtá traditions remember that during the period he spent in the ‘city-state’ he was initiated into the mysteries of Odùduwà. Likewise, in Kábua, Yáì performed rituals which legitimized his leadership of the Babagídàí group and as such made him the final consenting authority to the political affairs of Kábua and all other settlements headed by members of the Babagídàí group.

  • 57 Oral interviews: The Oníşábę and chiefs, 21/8/78; Biau Ezekiel, Kábua, 29/8/78. See also, George, (...)

59It is clear therefore, that the advent of the Babagídàí group in the Şábę region and the imposition of Yáì in Ilé-Şábę was the foundation of a kingdom and not a dynastic change. The crucial factor to be considered in this regard is the origin of the name ‘Şábę’ which itself arose from the clash between the Babagídàí group and the Amùşù.57 The fight with Òdú is recorded in the oríkì orílę of Şábę as a ‘fight which everybody heard of (Ìjà Òdú Àwúsìn). This suggests that it was an important battle in the socio-political development of the Şábę as a group. It was with Yáì’s installation and visits to both his maternal grandfather and Babagídàí that the pre-existing foci of authority became united.

60If it is accepted that the break up of Woro took place about 1700, the foundation of Şábę by Yáì could be dated to about 1750. Babagídàí at the time of his installation at Kábua was a youth, full of vigour; but at the time of the conquest of the Amùşù at Ilé-Şábę he was already very old. In any case, the fact that Yáì who became the first Oníşábę was born only after the conquest of Jàbàtá by Babagídàí, suggests that a period of fifty years between the break up of Woro and the establishment of the Babagídàí group in Ilé-Şábę is reasonable.

MILITARY INSECURITY AND THE FOUNDATION OF ÌDÍÀŞÁ

61At about the time of the installation of Yáì as Babagídàí, a similar process of political centralization was taking place among the various ‘city-states’ in the Ìdáìşa region to the south of the Şábę country. The group that initiated this process was one of those that migrated into the Ęgbá forest during the demographic upheaval at Òkè-Ǫyán in the sixteenth century.

  • 58 Oral interview: Albert Àbíssí (70+), Aàfin, Dassa-Zoumé, 20/9/78 and various documents in the pala (...)

62According to the official account,58 the group was led by one Jagun Ǫlófin (Aláàfin ?) who migrated into the Ìdáìşa country from a place simply called ‘Ęgbá’ where he had settled after a dispute at Ǫyó-Ilé. Another dispute at ‘Ęgbá’ led Jagun Ǫlófin to migrate westwards in the company of two other princes. One of these two founded Kétu while the other founded Şábę. Jagun Ǫlófin sojourned with the founder of Şábę for a while before moving to Ìdáìşa.

  • 59 For fuller discussions see Adédìran, ’Bíódún. Idáìşa: The making of a frontier Yorùbá state. Cahie (...)

63This official account is a comprehensive version of two traditions of migrations into the Ìdáìşa country, those of the Lemon and the ‘Ęgbá’. To understand the sequence of the events, it is necessary to distinguish between them.59

  • 60 Oral interviews: Alálę. Balémq (100+), Alálę Christophe (80+), James Ajùdá (80+), Lémon-Tre, 17/9/ (...)
  • 61 Although no record of this is kept in Kétu, and the name of the Alákétu has been forgotten in Idáì (...)

64The Lemon group was one of the sixteenth century migrant groups which moved into western Yorùbáland. The group settled as the Èhìnòkè in the Şábę region. As a protest against the installation of the Amùşù in Ilé-Şábę, this group moved again into the Ìdáìşa country where under the leadership of one Jagun, it founded a new settlement called Èpò.60 It should be noted that the title of the head of the Ęhìnòkè in Ilé-Şábę is Jagun. The name ‘Èpò’ was given to the new settlement in the hope that it would be abandoned as soon as the problems in Ilé-Şábę were solved. Shortly after the foundation of ‘Èpò’ the ‘Ęgbá’ arrived and were received by Jagun who invited them to settle, beside the Lémǫn. Before their arrival in the Ìdáìşa country, the Ègbá had passed through Ilé-Kétu where they were well-received by the reigning Alákétu who gave them a guide to pilot them through the Mahi country.61

65With the settlement of the Ęgbá Èpò was constituted into a ‘city-state’ under Jagun. When Jagun died, he was succeeded by Ìwásę also from the Lémǫn section. This sparked off a protest from the Ęgbá who thought that succession to the leadership should alternate between the two major component sections rather than follow the unilineal system based on kinship relations to the Jagun. To prevent the camp from breaking up, the Lemon agreed to alternate the leadership with the Ęgbá The crisis thus subsided.

66However, the Èpò alliance did not last much longer, for the attitude of the Ęgbá soon caused dissension. Shortly after the succession dispute was resolved, there were raids on the Èpò ‘city-state’ from neighbouring Mahi settlements. At the same time the Ǫyó apparently under the intrepid Aláàfin Òjígí launched a series of campaigns against the Mahi in the region. Ìwásę suggested the evacuation of Èpò for a hilly location. The Ęgbá probably because of their ancestral connections with Ǫyó-Ilé, wanted an alliance with the Ǫyó and a direct confrontation with the Mahi. They pointed out that the Èpò camp was too large to be accommodated on any of the hills in the region and that an open confrontation with the Mahi was only a question of time. But Ìwásę went on with his plans. This provided fuel for the already smouldering embers of crisis; a handful of non-conformists among the Ęgbá took the initiative and demanded a break up of the camp. When this failed to materialize, they precipitated a coup d’etat in which Ìwásę was displaced and Şàgbóná, a member of the Ęgbá section, took over the leadership. Consequently, the Èpò settlement broke up. Ìwásę led his sympathizers to the south-east and settled them on the rocks around present day Lémǫn-Tre where his descendants have continued to rule since. The remnant group at Èpò, composed of the bulk of the Ęgbá and a splinter from the Lemon section regrouped under Şàgbóná. This latter group moved northwards into the region of present-day Dassa-Zoumé where they successfully installed themselves and became the Jagun dynastic group.

67The region of Ìdáìşa was and still is a very hilly area in which there were many pockets of semi-independent settlements. This fact is expressed in the saying that ‘forty-one hills make Ìdáìşa’. Yaka, where the Ìjeùn settled after displacing the autochthons in the area was just one of the many settlements, though it was a fairly extensive one. It was there that the Jagun group under Şàgbóná came to settle.

68In their new settlement, the first major problem that faced the Jagun group under Şàgbóná was competition from the Ìjeùn. The details of these struggles are not now remembered, but in the end, the Jagun group successfully displaced the ìjeun and established itself as the focus of attention among the settlements in the vicinity.

  • 62 Oral interview: Àbíssí Albert (70+), Ààfin,) Dassa-Zoumé, 20/9/78.
  • 63 See Parrinder, E.G. Yorùbá-speaking peoples in Dahomey, p. 126.

69The Jagun version of the traditions62 emphasizes the fighting strength of the group as the major factor that aided its ascendancy. The ascendancy of a militarily superior group among scattered settlements raced with problems of political stability is not strange, but this does not entirely explain the issue among the Ìdáìşa, especially as the Ìjeun group was itself militarily powerful. Indeed, the enthronement ceremony of the Jagun as the political head of Ìdáìşa indicates that its ascendancy was not as easy as the tradition portrays it and that three major attempts were made before the Ìjeun could be displaced. At a stage during the ceremony, the Ìjeun bring out a stool for the Jagun-elect to sit on. The Jagun-elect attempts to sit on it on two occasions but is prevented. On the third occasion, he overpowers the Ìjeun and their leader invites the Jagun-elect to take the seat.63

  • 64 Mouléro, T. Histoire du peuple d’Idacha, pp. 5-7.
  • 65 Oral interview: Idòkú Àpàkí (80+), Ìsàlú, Dassa-Zoumé, 17/9/78. See also Mouléro, T. Histoire du p (...)
  • 66 Oral interviews: Ìdòkú Àpàkí (80+), and Àbájèní Honoré (80+), Ìsàlú, 17/9/78.

70The account of the episode recorded by Father Moulero64, which is still recollected in bits in various Ìdáìşa settlements, suggests a complicity of events. According to this account, the Jagun group was a relatively large and well-organized one made up of many valiant warriors. When it arrived at Yaka, it settled among the Ìjeun instead of setting up its own settlement. Before then, the Ìjeun were regarded with general hatred because their social policy discouraged interaction with other groups in the area.65 For example, they forbade intermarriage with any of the pre-existing groups and despised all heads of settlements in the vicinity. On the other hand, the Jagun quickly made friends among the non-Ìjeun. Many settlements subsequently transferred their allegiance to the Jagun group. Therefore, the displacement of the Ìjeun was easy. The Jagun constructed beautiful huts and invited the Ìjeun to abandon their old huts for the new ones.66 As soon as this transfer was completed, the Jagun refused to acknowledge the rights of the Ìjeùn as their hosts. In fact, they began to portray themselves as independent of the Ìjeùn and this drew protests from the latter. In the resultant clash, the Jagun and their allies emerged victorious and took over political leadership at Yaka.

Figure 3. Dynastic migrations in western Yorùbáland from c. 1550

  • 67 Parrinder, E.G. The Yorùbá-speaking people in Dahomey, p. 126.

71The hut-changing episode was a clear demonstration of the ability of the Jagun group to combine tact with strength. Such skilful displacement of the Ìjeùn could have further endeared the Jagun to all pre-existing settlements in the neighbourhood. It, however, had a more fundamental significance. Since the basic criterion for the exercise of political authority within a ‘city-state’ was precedence in settling, the trick of changing the new huts for old ones had the effect of legitimizing the leadership of the Jagun at Yaka. After taking over the old huts, the Jagun could claim precedence over the Ìjeùn in the region and could therefore lay claims to political authority over all groups under the Ìjeùn. What option did the Ìjeùn have other than to hand over power to the Jagun? It is, in fact, the final handing over that is re-enacted when, during the enthronement ceremony, the Ba-Ìjeùn, head of the Ìjeùn, invites the Jagun-elect to occupy the royal stool saying ‘I give you a seat’.67

72Thus, the necessary springboard for the take off of a new and more extensive aristocracy in the Ìdáìşa region was laid with the installation of the Jagun at Yaka. The oríkì of the group records how it eventually brought the diverse settlements in the Ìdáìşa region under its leadership.

73Part of the oríkì reads thus:

  1. Ǫmǫ Olóyìnbó èkę gbó
  2. Ękę gbó s’ìlękę d’ęyo
  3. Ǫmǫ agúnpopó ní’lé oní ’lé
  4. Awàràkàkà ewé àgbǫn
  5. Ędè wàràkàkà l’ónàa Kęrę
  6. Ǫmǫ ǫti kan àbó wè mu
  7. Ǫmǫ aríję òmumu l’ákòko
  8. Òwúrò k’ędun kì nmólę
  1. Princes usually grow fat
  2. Hence strings of beads quickly break on their necks
  3. They can impose themselves on anybody in the town
  4. Tough like coconut fronds
  5. Tough like Ędę trees on the road to Kęrę
  6. Sour wine, yet must be tasted
  7. Once they become princes they must be accepted
  8. They are like smoke which cannot be suppressed.
  • 68 Verses 4 & 5 of the oríkì.
  • 69 Verses 3, 6-8.
  • 70 Oral interviews: Bara Georgewin (1004), Bara Maurice (85+), Bara Bacco (80+), Eşępá, Dassa-Zoumé, (...)

74The group which teamed up with the Jagun against the Ìjeun readily accepted the new leadership; a few others subsequently submitted because of the strength of the Jagun,68 while the Jagun group took it upon itself to subjugate many others.69 For instance, the Ìfìtá state, which like the Ìjeùn exercised a considerably high level of political authority in the pre-Jagun era was quickly brought into the orbit of the Jagun. The subjugation of Ìfìtá was perhaps the most dramatic after that of the Ìjeùn. Ìfìtá accounts70 recall that with their success over the Ìjeùn, the Jagun group became unruly and started to lord it over the others. This extended to Ìfìtá where the reigning king attempted unsuccessfully to curtail the excesses of the Jagun. According to the accounts, the Òòlú of Ìfìtá had the exclusive use of ‘sandals’ as the symbol of his political authority. After displacing the Ìjeùn, the leader of the Jagun group started to use ‘sandals’. The Òòlú of Ìfìtá ‘advised’ him to stop using them, but instead of accepting this, the Jagun seized the Òòlú’s sandals and continued to use his own.

75Indeed after the displacement of the Ìjeùn, the Jagun became the most important group in the region of Ìdáìşa and Yaka became something like a magnetic field into which were drawn the inhabitants of various other settlements. The installation of the Jagun group in Yaka coincided with a series of military campaigns by the Fon of Dahomey against the Mahi in reaction to the growing influence of the Ǫyó in the Ìdáìşa region.

  • 71 Akínjógbìn, I.A. Dahomey and Its Neighbours, pp. 88-89. Akínjógbìn, I.A.
  • 72 Ibid., pp. 98-99.
  • 73 Asongba, Romain. Les réalités tribales à Dassa-Zoumé. Ęgbá-Kòkú. (Octobre 1975) p.2.
  • 74 Palau-Marti, M. Notes sur les rois de Dasa, p. 199; Gbaguidi, B. Origine des noms des villages, Ce (...)

76During her incursions into Dahomey and the coastal Aja states early in the eighteenth century,71 Ǫyó made free use of Mahi territories and presumably made alliances with the Mahi. The establishment of a Yorùbá dynastic group in the region was therefore distasteful to Dahomean authorities who at that time had as king the intrepid Agaja. Apparently to forestall the establishment of an Ǫyó satellite on Dahomey’s northern corridor, Agaja launched a series of attacks on the territory.72 The first of these was in the middle of 1731 and lasted till March of the following year when Agaja withdrew hastily. The campaigns led to the destruction of many settlements; many of the survivors fled into the region of Yaka and negotiated alliances with the new aristocracy. Şàgbóná exploited this opportunity to bring the various settlements into a permanent alliance with the Jagun group as the only focus of power and authority.73 The close link given in the traditions between the installation of the Jagun and the origin of the group name Ìdáìşa bears out the belief that belonging to a common group in the region began with the ascendancy of the Jagun group and the establishment of Igbó-Ìdáìşa as the new seat of the Jagun.74

  • 75 Oral interviews: Albert Àbíssí, Aàfin, Dassa-Zoumé, 20/9/78; Alàlè Albert (90+), 20/9/78.
  • 76 Asogba, R. Les réalités tribales, p. 2.

77During the enthronement ceremonies of a Jagun as head of the ‘forty-one hills’ of Ìdáìşa, the stages of the ascendancy of the Jagun and the political integration of the diverse groups in the region are re-enacted.75 First, the Jagun-elect ‘gets lost’ and people over the whole area covered by the kingdom engage in a frantic ‘search’ in remembrance of the pre-dynastic era when all the scattered settlements suffered from lack of adequate collective leadership and made ‘searches’ for a capable leader. The second ceremony involves a ritual bath and the initiation of the king-elect into some cults in a chamber, Ilé-Ìta (the local Ògbóni Ilèdì) by two representatives of the non-Jagun groups: the Ba-Ìjeùn and the Ológun. With that bath, the Jagun-elect assumes a new person and becomes a ‘perfect being’ with all his past imperfections washed away. At the last stage of the ceremonies, the king-elect is publicly proclaimed leader of all the groups in the region with the head of each pre-Jagun group coming out to demonstrate his submission to the Jagun.76 This last stage also involves the taking of ‘royal names’: one to be given by his kinsmen and the other collectively by the non-royal groups. By taking the two names, the new Jagun is made to realise that he is no longer a member of either group but a balance between the royal and non-royal interests in the region.

CONCLUSION

78With the installation of the three dynastic groups in western Yorùbáland, there emerged political units which were territorially larger than the pre-dynastic ‘city-states’. None of these political units in Kétu, Şábę and Ìdáìşa was, at the time of the installation of a common leader, ethnically homogeneous enough to be regarded as a kingdom. As indicated at the beginning of this chapter, a kingdom is not just a collection of people occupying cognate settlements, it is a mode of arrangement in which all inhabitants within a territorially defined region are socially integrated and possess the consciousness of a single unit. In western Yorùbáland, the development of such single corporate bodies on the ability of each dynastic group to consolidate its hold by grappling with emergent problems in its sphere of influence.

Notes

1 Ìdòwú, Bólájí. Olódùmarè, ch. I.

2 Akínjógbìn, I.A. The concept of origin in Yorùbáland: The Ifę example (1979/80) History Departmental Seminar, University of Ifè, pp. 65-80.

3 Ǫbáyęmí, A. The Yorùbá and Edo-speaking people, pp. 209-214; Agírí, B.A. The early history of Òyó, pp. 6-11

4 See for instance Òlómólà, G.O.I. The eastern Yorùbá country before Odùduwà. In: Akínjógbìn, I.A. & Èkémodé, G.O. Yorùbá Civilisation, op. cit.

5 Adédìran, ’Bíódún. State formation in Yorùbáland: Towards a working hypothesis. 1980/81 Ife History Seminar.

6 For an elaboration of this concept, Ibid.

7 Verger, P. Histoire du pays de Kétou. (Manuscript)

8 Parrinder, E.G. The Story of Kétu, p. 15.

9 The verse is ‘Ǫmǫ Òkú Onà’. See Verger’s list of kings of Kétu in Parrinder, E.G. The Story of Kétu, p. 100. Oral interviews: Alákélu and chiefs, 15/7/78; Àro Adétúnjí (80+), Máyingbín, Ilé-Kétu, 22/7/78; Alánwà Bámgbósé (100+), Ìdí-Ìsà, Ìlikímu, 2/10/78.

10 Aké traditions indicate that the split-off was led by Ako Agbó or Ìka Agbó. Ajísafé, A.K. Ìwe Ìtan Abéokúta, p. 10; George, J.O. Historical Notes, p. 70.

11 Oral Interviews: The Bàbá Ìlú of Dírin, 3/7/78; Alánwà Bámgbósé (100+), Ìlíkímu, 2/10/78; Chief S.A. Osánle (75+), Ìdófà, 2/6/78; Àro Adétúnjí (80+), Ilé-Kétu, 22/7/78.

12 Parrinder, E.G. The Story of Kétu, p. 21.

13 Ibid., p. 16, Parrinder doubts that the present Ìdòfà was the one founded by this group; this arises from his mistakingly locating Àró near present Ìmèkǫ.

14 There is an Ìmásàyí which claims ancestral links with Kétu near Ìlaròó. Various other southern Egbádò settlements notably Ìbarà, Ìbórò, and Ìléwó claim to be split-off from Kétu.

15 Oral Interviews: Àró Adétúnjí, Ilé-Kétu, 22/7/78; Agàn Jagunde (100+), Dírin, 8/7/78; Adéşína Claver (110+), Dágbajìn, Ilé-Kétu, 8/7/78.

16 Of these, only five are now identifiable: Àró (Ìdòfóyí), Alápini (Asùnú), Mèsà (Òdepàtá), Màgbó (Ìsokùn) and Mèfù (Ìlému). The traditions of these five indicate that each had its origins in the demographic upheaval at Ókè-Óyán.

17 Parrinder, E.G. The Story of Kétu, p. 16.

18 Ibid., pp. 17-18; Oral Interviews: Alánwà Bamgbósé (100 + ), Ìlíkímu, 2/10/78; Adénbólá Oyelúyì (60+), Ìlíkímu, 4/7/78.

19 Parrinder, E.G. The Story of Kétu, p. 18.

20 Ibid.

21 Ibid.

22 Ibid., pp 19-21. Oral Interviews: Alákétu and chiefs, 15/7/78; Samuel Adébíyì (75+), Ìlómu, Ilé-Kétu, 4/7/78.

23 Oral interview: Alákétu and chiefs, 15/7/78. See also Parrinder, E.G. The Story of Kétu, pp. 16 & 19.

24 Parrinder, E.G. The Story of Kétu, p. 83-84.

25 See Adédìran, ’Biódún. Kings, traditions and chronology in Yorùbáland: The case of the Kétu kingdom. Africa Zamani Nos 18-19 (1987) pp. 74-87.

26 See discussions in ch. 3 and Ibid.

27 Johnson.S. The History,p. 168; Akínjógbìn. I.A. Dahomey and its Neighbours, pp. 11-12; also oral interviews: Şábigàná Adégòkè Adìgún and chiefs, 19/2/78; Chief Ayìndé Òjédòkun (70+), Ìgànná, 19/2/78.

28 Orou, G. Origine de la Dynastie de Parakou. NA 66 (1955) p. 39. Oral interview: Yáì Adìmí (70+), Jagun Kìlìbò, 5/9/78.

29 Lombard, J. Structure de Type ‘Féodal’, p. 79.

30 Ibid., p. 87; Levtzion, N. Muslims and Chiefs, pp. 174-176. On the Songhai empire, see Hunwick, J.G. Songhay, Borno and Hausaland in the sixteenth century. In: Àjàyí J.F.A. and Crowder, M. History of West Africa, pp. 285-301.

31 George, J.O. Historical Notes, p. 23 suggests overpopulation as the cause.

32 Lombard, J. Structure de Type ‘Féodal’, p. 103; Levtzion, N. Muslims and Chiefs, p. 176; Crowder, M. Revolt in Bussa: A Study of British ‘Native’ Administration in Nigeria 1902-1935. Faber (1973) pp. 32-33.

33 Ajúgú and Ǫlá Tà are sometimes cited as alternative names of the same person. See, George, J.O. Historical Notes, p. 23; cf. Mouléro, T. Histoire et légende, p. 54.

34 Woro was located between present-day Aláfíà and Kábua.

35 The name derived from the large number of the Óyò who outplayed the Ìbààbá element.

36 Mouléro T. Histoire et légende, pp. 52-57.

37 This aspect is also discussed in Adédìran, ’Bíódún. The formation of Şábe Kingdom in central Bénin Republic. African Marburgensia, Vol. XVI/2, (1983) pp. 60-74.

38 Oral interviews: Biau Ezekiel (95+), Òkè Òóhi, Kábua, 29/8/78; Sabi Olódùmarè (70+), Òkè Óòlú, Kábua, 30/8/78.

39 Oral Interview: Biau Ezekiel, Kábua 29/8/78.

40 cf. Ibid., p. 77 and Mouléro, T. Les villages Nago de la sous-prefecture de Savè. ED 14-15 (Sept-Dec. 1969) p. 31.

41 Collected from Madam Ìwòléògún (80+) and three female oríkì chanters, 2/9/78.

42 Mouléro, T. Histoire et légende, pp. 57-60. Oral interviews: Justin Yáì (head of the Amùsù), 10/9/78 and Old Àjé (head of Èhìnòkè), Ilé-Şábę, 8/9/78.

43 See discussions in ch. 2.

44 On the ritual significance of land in political authority see Goody, J. Technology, Tradition and the Stale in Africa, pp. 63-66.

45 Oral interview: Justin Yáì, Ilé-Şábę, 10/9/78.

46 The verse is: A sǫ òtítò gba òdì aiyé (he who tells the truth to the annoyance of everybody). Oral interview: Olú Àjé, Ilé-Şábę, 8/9/78.

47 Oral interviews: Òfín Àwódìò (100+), Jàlúmòn, Ilé-Şábę, 25/8/78; Aiyédùn Omítókí (100+), Pàáko, Ilé-Şábę, 27/8/78.

48 Mouléro, T. Histoire et légende, pp. 63-64.

49 Oil Yobì whom Father Mouléro included in his king-list was probably a pretender to the throne. The name does not appear in the Amùşù and Babagídàí lists. He could, however, be the same as Ǫlá Yongè.

50 Skinner, E.P. The Mossi of the Upper Volta. Stanford (1964) and Ryder, A.F.C. Benin and the Europeans 1495-1897. Longman (1969) pp. 4-5.

51 Mouléro, T. Histoire et légende, p. 79.

52 Oral interview: Òkunl Ǫlá Dáwódù (75+), Kìlìbò, Ilé-Şabę, 11/9/78.

53 See Mouléro, T. Les villes, p. 35 ff.

54 For fuller discussions of this see Adédìran, ’Bíódún. Kinship and political authority in pre-colonial Yorùbáland; the example of Şábę. In: Abórìsàdé, A. (ed.) The Role of Traditional Rulers in Nigeria. University of Ifę, Press (1984) pp. 66-76.

55 Abraham, R.L. Dictionary of the Hausa Language. Stephen Austin (1949) pp. 50 & 317. It may be recalled that the Boko to which the Babagídáí group belonged have elements of Hausa culture.

56 Oral interviews: Şabì Olódùmarè, 29/8/78 and Biau Ezekiel, 30/8/78, Kábua; Ǫba A. Akànní, Oníşábę and chiefs, 21/8/78.

57 Oral interviews: The Oníşábę and chiefs, 21/8/78; Biau Ezekiel, Kábua, 29/8/78. See also, George, J.O. Historical Notes, p. 25; Couchard, A. Notes sur le Cercle de Savè, Bordeaux (1911) p. 30.

58 Oral interview: Albert Àbíssí (70+), Aàfin, Dassa-Zoumé, 20/9/78 and various documents in the palace. See also Mouléro, T. Histoire du peuple d’Idacha, pp. 4-5.

59 For fuller discussions see Adédìran, ’Bíódún. Idáìşa: The making of a frontier Yorùbá state. Cahiers d’Etudes Africaines 93: xxlv-l (1984) pp. 71-85.

60 Oral interviews: Alálę. Balémq (100+), Alálę Christophe (80+), James Ajùdá (80+), Lémon-Tre, 17/9/78.

61 Although no record of this is kept in Kétu, and the name of the Alákétu has been forgotten in Idáìşa, the Alákétu in 1978 said that at his coronation he received a delegation from Idáìşa, who claimed that their ancestors were Kétu. In Idáìşa, they are referred to as Ikòor Amònà(messenger or guides) of the Ęgbá. Morel, A. Un exemple d’urbanisation en Afrique. Cahiers 14: iv (19) p. 729 however mistakes them for the Màmàhún. Oral interviews: Apo Gbegnon (50+) and Zomehun Albert (70+), Ìsálú, Dassa-Zoumé, 15/9/78.

62 Oral interview: Àbíssí Albert (70+), Ààfin,) Dassa-Zoumé, 20/9/78.

63 See Parrinder, E.G. Yorùbá-speaking peoples in Dahomey, p. 126.

64 Mouléro, T. Histoire du peuple d’Idacha, pp. 5-7.

65 Oral interview: Idòkú Àpàkí (80+), Ìsàlú, Dassa-Zoumé, 17/9/78. See also Mouléro, T. Histoire du peuple d’Idacha, p. 5.

66 Oral interviews: Ìdòkú Àpàkí (80+), and Àbájèní Honoré (80+), Ìsàlú, 17/9/78.

67 Parrinder, E.G. The Yorùbá-speaking people in Dahomey, p. 126.

68 Verses 4 & 5 of the oríkì.

69 Verses 3, 6-8.

70 Oral interviews: Bara Georgewin (1004), Bara Maurice (85+), Bara Bacco (80+), Eşępá, Dassa-Zoumé, 15/9/78.

71 Akínjógbìn, I.A. Dahomey and Its Neighbours, pp. 88-89. Akínjógbìn, I.A.

72 Ibid., pp. 98-99.

73 Asongba, Romain. Les réalités tribales à Dassa-Zoumé. Ęgbá-Kòkú. (Octobre 1975) p.2.

74 Palau-Marti, M. Notes sur les rois de Dasa, p. 199; Gbaguidi, B. Origine des noms des villages, Cercle de Savalou. ED 8 (1952).

75 Oral interviews: Albert Àbíssí, Aàfin, Dassa-Zoumé, 20/9/78; Alàlè Albert (90+), 20/9/78.

76 Asogba, R. Les réalités tribales, p. 2.

Table des illustrations

Légende Figure 3. Dynastic migrations in western Yorùbáland from c. 1550
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