Monday 24 October 2022


After brilliantly warding off six consecutive but abortive attempts to invade it, Ilorin moved out of its shell and mounted a counter offensive. The offensive eventually shattered the Oyo empire and resulted in the establishment of both MODAKEKE and present day IBADAN. ABEOKUTA too, was founded by Egbas who were dislodged from Ibadan by Oyo refugees who survived ravages caused by the Ilorin cavalry.

IIorin was victorious in nearly all its expansionist wars. Few ended in tragedy and one of the tragedies caused a protracted hostility between Ilorin and OFFA. The protracted military hostility against Offa by Ilorin hampered the commercial interest of the British colonial administration in both Lokoja and Lagos. This gave the colonial Government an excuse to intervene and militarily subjugate Ilorin ultimately in 1897.

              (1) THE PAMO WAR

The Pamo war was the first external war Ilorin participated in. IT WAS NOT AN ILORIN WAR, as such, but a war between IKOYI and an ALLIANCE  comprising OGBOMOSHO, EDE and IWO. Ilorin’s participation in the war was queer because two different contingents of troops from the town fought simultaneously on the opposite sides of the battle line. SOLAGBERU leading a contingent of his own followers from OKESUNA joined the Ogbomosho side to besiege Ikoyi. Abdulsalami’s cavalry, on the other hand, came in later, on Ikoyi’s invitation, to break the siege and liberate the town.

The war was caused by disaffection between TOYEJE and the ONIKOYI. It was a by-product of the OGELE WAR between Ilorin and the Yorubas which ended in a disaster for the Yorubas. The defeat was, however, attributed to Toyeje’s military incompetence and used as a pretext to remove him as commander of the Yoruba army. Onikoyi was, therefore, chosen to lead the next military expedition by the Yorubas against Ilorin. That expedition, too, which Onikoyi led ended in a similar catastrophe for the Yorubas.

Toyeje, however strongly suspected that his removal as commander of the Yoruba army was instigated by the Onikoyi. He, therefore, resolved to punish the Onikoyi for it whenever opportunity availed itself to him to do so. The failure of the fresh expedition led by the Onikoyi provided the desired opportunity for vengeance. It disgraced him, resuscitated Toyeje’s popularity and aggravated their mutual disaffection. The animosity between Onikoyi and Toyeje,  “at length broke out into an open war, each of them being now independent, and neither would submit to the other.”

The forces led by Toyeje encamped at Pamo, a strategic road junction on the main road from Ogbomosho to Ikoyi. There, a very fierce battle took place and Ikoyi was hemmed in on all sides. So great was the pressure on the town at a stage that a surrender to Toyeje by the Onikoyi seemed imminent. Just at that critical moment, the Onikoyi was advised to quickly declare allegiance to the Emir of Ilorin and solicit help from him to lift the siege. This he did and for it he received the Emir’s prompt support. It was ASEGBE, the ILARI of the OLOFFA (who himself was a fugitive within the besieged Ikoyi), that muted the idea.

However, before Oba ABDUSSALLAMI sent in troops to assist the Onikoyi, he tried to persuade Solagberu to pull his own troops out of the siege and return to his Okesuna quarters in Ilorin. The plea was intended to avoid the ugly and unpleasant situation of Ilorin fighting Ilorin. THRICE the Emir sent emissaries to Solagberu with this plea but they were rebuffed each time.

The Emir then by-passed Solagberu and directly appealed to his troops at the battle front, urging whoever among them was faithful to SHEHU ALIMI to return immediately to Ilorin. Those who took advantage of this appeal were welcomed into safety in Ilorin. Those who adamantly remained with Solagberu risked dire consequences. The Emir's cavalry eventually arrived at the war front to confront Kakanfo Toyeje's troops and lift the siege laid on Ikoyi. In the resultant battle, the cavalry: "completely routed the Kakanfo’s army. Solagberu fled back to his quarters at llorin, and the Yorubas were dispersed." (Johnson)

Having been so rescued by the llorin cavalry, the Onikoyi pledged allegiance to the Emir of llorin and pleaded with the Emir for the fugitive Oloffa who was in Ikoyi to return to Offa. The Emir accepted this plea and the Oloffa was allowed to return to his domain accordingly. The Pamo war thus ended on a happy note for both the Onikoyi and the Oloffa by the grace of Oba Abdulsalami.

                (2) THE ESIELE WAR

ADEGUN, the Onikoyi, died later in another war and two cousins engaged themselves in a desperate tussle to succeed him. The two cousins were SIYANBOLA, the son of Adegun and OJO, the son of Adegun’s predecessor on the throne. Ojo went to Oyo in accordance with the tradition to have the title conferred on him by the Alaafin. As soon as he left for Oyo, Siyanbola usurped the throne. The Alaafin ignored this usurpation and conferred the title on Ojo who thereafter set for home with the determination to punish Siyanbola for the usurpation.

The usurper realised that he could not withstand Ojo’s onslaught so he “fled from the town with all his party to Ilorin" (Johnson) to pledge, allegiance and seek the Emir’s protection and assistance to retain the Ikoyi throne. Being the son of Adegun, the Emir’s late friend, he won the Emir’s heart and got the desired support.

Ojo who was not aware of this development underrated Siyanbola's military might. So when he reached Esiele which was the last town before Ikoyi on his way from Oyo, he decided to have a rest there. But a week after this, the Ilorin horses came against Esiele to espouse the cause of Siyanbola, and they had seven days of hard fighting.

The Ilorin cavalry did not prepare for a war that would last so long. It therefore, retreated to prepare adequately. When the cavalry returned, it put Esiele under siege hopeful that the sieged would surrender quickly but Esiele held out for a long time, being heroically defended by its Balogun KURUNMI, and another notable war chief, DADO. However, brave as the defenders of Esiele were, their courage failed them at last, and they fled. Ojo was slain and according to Rev. Samuel Johnson," Siyanbola having now no rival, obtained the title of Onikoyi from the Emir of Ilorin, and returned with those of his party who went with him to Ilorin to reoccupy the town. Thus, Ikoyi was re-peopled but no longer as a vassal state of Oyo but of Ilorin." (Johnson)

         (3) THE GBOGUN WAR

Victories at war, coming in rapid and unbroken succession broadened Ilorin’s sphere of influence and extended its territory deep into the heart of Yoruba-Iand, leaving Gbogun as the only town of significance in the Ikoyi zone that was not enveloped by that sphere of influence. EDUN, the chief of GBOGUN, who had by this time become the reigning Aare Onakakanfo, was disturbed that Ilorin’s sphere of influence extended so dangerously close to him. In that circumstance:

"Ikoyi being already a vassalage of Ilorin and a neighbouring town, Edun regarded her as an enemy and insisted that it should be deserted at once or he would take her by surprise."

Siyanbola, the Onikoyi took the threat seriously, knowing fully well that Edun, the greatest Yoruba warrior at that time, was an obstinate man of his words. The Onikoyi, therefore, ran to Ilorin, once more, to apprise the Emir of the latest threat to Ikoyi as a vassal of Ilorin.

The Emir immediately despatched an army to Ikoyi not only to defend the town but also to subdue Gbogun and bring it, too, under Ilorin's sphere of influence. On the orders of the Emir,

"Gbogun was soon besieged by the Ilorins and desperate battles were fought, the defenders fighting heroically and could not be overwhelmed until at last the city was reduced by famine and thus Gbogun fell the last of the powerful towns of the Yorubas.

Having lost the battle, Edun, the Aare Onakakanfo, fled. He was pursued by the Ilorin cavalry, overtaken and killed at GBODO. The fallen warrior's head was taken off, raised upon a pole and carried in triumph to the camp and from thence to Ilorin.

The head was presented to the Emir and buried inside the palace at Ilorin. The fall of Gbogun brought the whole of the northern province of the Oyo empire under the vassalage of Ilorin.


The first Oshogbo war occurred after the sack of Oyo-IIe and was deliberately instigated by Ilorin to satisfy its territorial aggrandizement. The intention was to bring Oshogbo under llorin’s suzerainty and thereby secure an effective foothold in the eastern territory of the Yoruba nation. Oshogbo at that time was the most prominent Yoruba town south-east of llorin which was yet to be overrun by the Ilorin cavalry.

After necessary preparations, Ilorin’s troops set off on the expedition, and when they reached Oshogbo, a siege was laid on the town as planned. They were confident of victory as: The command this time was entrusted to their brave and experienced general, ALI, the Hausa Balogun of Ilorin.”

The battles which ensued were, however, terrible, putting to test both the valour and experience of the two armies. In each of the battles, llorin was victorious, and when the ATAOJA of OSHOGBO found the Ilorins too strong for his army, he sent to Ibadan for help. The help came. A contingent of lbadan troops under the leadership of one OBELE, alias MOBITAN, and ALADE ABINUPAGUN, arrived and joined in the battle. This reinforcements made no difference, as it could not help Oshogbo to repel the advancing Ilorin cavalry. They put up a manly fight but still the Ilorins were gaining ground after every battle until the besieged and their auxiliaries were confined to the thickets surrounding the town which in all Yoruba towns were reserved for the purpose of defence. The Ibadan contingent thereupon sent an express report home to the BASORUN that they would soon be over-powered and the town taken if timely aid was not forthcoming."

The Basorun fully appreciated the consequences of a defeat for the combined Oshogbo/Ibadan forces in this war. He knew that with Oyo gone, if Oshogbo fell, the next target obviously would be Ibadan. He therefore resolved to take no chances or to leave no stone unturned in order to ensure victory over Ilorin this time. He ordered further reinforcements to be sent immediately to the war front at Oshogbo, consequently, “Balogun ODERINLO now marched out with the whole of the Ibadan mighty men save ELEPO and the Basorun, the former having been rejected by the war-chiefs for his actions at the late AGBAMAJA expedition.”

Again, even with all these reinforcements, the Yoruba army was no match for the Ilorin cavalry under the experienced leadership of ALI, the ageing Balogun Gambari. So grave was the situation for Oshogbo that: “When the Ibadan army arrived at the seat of war and saw the situation, they had some misgivings as to the probability of success without the aid of Elepo, their champion. They could not show their face in the open field for fear of the Ilorin horse, and for about 20 days after their arrival at Oshogbo, they also could not fight outside the town thicket.”

As the Ilorin army mounted further pressure on the besieged troops, the Oshogbos became more and more bewildered. To find solution to the problem, “Again and again, they held councils of war, and at length they fixed a day for the venture. Still they were afraid to attack the llorins during the morning hours, Oshogbo being practically in a plain, the Ilorin horse might have the advantage of them with disastrous results: from prudence, therefore, they resolved to make the attack in the afternoon, as they might be able to hold on until dusk when Ilorins would no longer be able to use their horses to advantage, or if defeated, the shades of night would assist them in their retreat. "

This cowardly design by the Oshogbos was translated into action. The combined Yoruba army took off for the battle front well after mid-day, moving very slowly to avoid being noticed by the Ilorins and to ensure that they did not get within sight of the Ilorin army until it was night. So, when they were, “About a mile from the llorin camp, they halted and arranged the order of attack.”

At last, hiding under the cover of darkness in the night, the combined Yoruba armies encircled Ilorin’s troop. Yet, they delayed launching of the attack until the thin hours of the night when llorin troops were expected to have gone asleep. The decision to delay attack till dead in the night was informed by the fear that mere darkness alone would not give them sufficient advantage over the more experienced and superior llorin army. Finally,

“About midnight the llorin camp was attacked on all sides.” Thus, the llorin army woken from sleep was made to battle with THREE forces, each formidable in itself, namely, SLEEP, DARKNESS, and the YORUBA ARMY. With these three forces to battle with, the Ilorin army required sound experience, courage and good leadership to break the encirclement and create a passage for retreat.

Naturally, the army was panic-striken in the face of such a surprise attack at such odd hours of the night. Yet, “ALI, the commander-in-chief, was calm and resolute; he ordered his horse to be saddled, and gathering around him a goodly portion of his cavalry they dashed through the ranks of Ibadan army: these quickly making way for them to gallop through without daring to oppose them."

During the consternation which resulted from the attack, a few notables in the Ilorin army were captured. They included Jimba, Adamu (the son of Balogun Gambari), Usman, the ageing Balogun Ajikobi, and a few others. When Balogun Ali noticed that these men were missing, he ordered the retreating army to go back and rescue as many of the captives as possible. Both Jimba and Adamu with some others were rescued. But Balogun Ajikobi was not found. He was later taken to Ibadan by the Yoruba troops and from there to Oyo for the Alaafin to decide his fate.

Ilorin, thus, tasted real defeat for the first time, not because it had a superior opponent to contend with but because it was grossly negligent by not making contingency arrangement for possible night attack by the enemy. This defeat suffered by the Ilorin army at Oshogbo significantly slowed down the pace of military activities by the army and 

 “saved the Yoruba country, as such, from total absorption by the Fulanis as a tributary state.”

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