Why Ijebu People Were Never Captured as Slaves

Why Ijebu People Were Never Captured as Slaves

Sunday, July 18, 2021 10:00 am

Oba Sikiru Adetona, Awujale of Ijebuland


By Awe Olufunso

It is on a historical domain that the Ijebus were never captured as slaves, and had never lost a war; except the war they lost to the British Army in 1892. (The great Imagbon or Yemoji war.)

At the time when inter-ethnic wars and slave trade induced conflicts were ravaging the entire nation, and by extension, the West African region, in the pre-colonial era; Ijebus had always remained untouchable, and the few times they had been attacked, their attackers had always met their Waterloo.

The following factors were responsible:



Ijebu had for about two millenniums of their coexistence in their present settlement, remained a sovereign nation without any allegiance to any other people or reliance on other nations for the survival of any form. Not even the old Oyo Empire, Benin Kingdom and the Dahomey Kingdom existed then. Abeokuta was founded just 200 years ago, Ibadan and many other adjoining cities were founded, afterwards, as a result of resettlement, after various inter-ethnic wars.

But the sovereignty was cut short in 1892 by the British invasion during the reign of Awujale Olasimbo Tunwase.

The Ijebus created their wealth and economy through various agrarian and animal cultivations. Intra-ethnic trade was highly encouraged while external trades were supervised directly by the Awujale.  They had their own money, the cowries, and later fabricated their own coins, called Pandoro which later became a legal tender across Africa and Europe.


They created the fear of being supernaturally powerful and invincible amongst other ethnicities. This was made to manifest in their Oriki, hence: Onile ajoji kowo; ajoji t’oba wo ibe lowuro, a di ohun ebo lale. Meaning: Owners of the land where strangers dared not enter; strangers that enter it in the morning will become sacrificial souls in the night.


The entire Ijebu land’s Headquarters, Ijebu Ode and environs were encircled with a large and deep rampart, dug about 1,200 years ago. It was dug to prevent any external aggressions, with strategic positioning of garrison commands around the rampart. The rampart was recently acknowledged by the United Nation’s UNESCO as a world heritage site; being one of the largest human efforts on the planet. It has a total length of 160 kilometres.


Apart from the guards stationed at the various garrison commands around the rampart, Ijebus had no regular Army, apart from the Olorogun and his assistants.  All able-bodied men, and sometimes, women usually form an Army anytime there was the need for one.  The Olorogun would quickly assemble them for training and instructions. This fact was replicated at the great Imagbon war when women with their babies, strapped to their backs, were seen defending their territory against the British Army. This is always replicated till today, anytime and anywhere they found themselves, regardless of the political divisions that have placed them in other states, mostly in Lagos State. Unity has always been one of their greatest assets.


The Ijebus are usually very intelligent and brave people. They used these assets to plans and execute war strategies. They manufactured war gears themselves and used all their might to defend their heritage.


They implore their supernatural knowledge, powers and skills to defend themselves. If you like, you may call it juju.


In those days, one of the most important and largest markets and seaports in the West African region was the then great Ejinrin market and seaports. All the captured slaves from above the region would have to be sold and transported from the Ejinrin market and seaports which is located in Ijebu land. Any Ijebu extraction captured in foreign lands would only surrender to their captors, only for them to raise alarm when they brought them through Ijebu land for either sale or exportation, and Awujale would immediately order his or her shackles broken, and freed.


As at the time when other ethnicities were raiding smaller and vulnerable communities for slavery business, the Ijebus did not participate, therefore, nemesis or karma couldn’t be recorded against them.

Conclusively, the Ijebus are very industrious, self-reliant and a very relevant set of people, as far as the histories of Nigeria and Africa are concerned.

The Colonial Administrators of those days saw them as a very intelligent and well-organised set of people. They, therefore, carved a Province for them, Ijebu Province, with the capital in Ijebu Ode. In all, they carved 24 Provincial/Administrative Headquarters out of the then Northern and Southern Protectorates, during the amalgamation of Nigeria in 1914.


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