Sokoto Caliphate and Nigeria


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Sokoto Caliphate and the Transformation of Nigeria


Richard Akinjide,SAN


In 1807, Britain abolished the slave trade. She did so in her commercial interest. Machines, then, replaced human labour to a great extent. Palm oil and palm kernel were needed for soap and to lubricate the industrial machines. Britain as an industralised nation, desperately, needed a stable and peaceful market to sell her manufactured goods. She also needed raw materials from Africa. In 1862 the number of European traders in Calabar had grown to above 300. In 1862, Waddell was able to assert, correctly, that "the towns of Calabar, are in fact, a number of republics, each with its own Chief and Council united only by the Ekpo Fraternity." Even, the British Foreign Office recorded that Henshaw Town and Duke Town "lived separately, each under its own laws and government" (F O 84/1527). The City State was the foci of power politics. Consul Hutchinson in his "Impressions of West Africa", 1858, at P. 115 recorded that in 1858, the population of Duke Town was "at least 4000" people, and Creek Town, 3000 people. Charles Livingstone reported in June 1870 to the Earl of Clarandon in London that the Calabar Kings were collecting port dues from European traders (F O 845/1326). In 1831, the population of Duke Town was about 6000. In 1846, when the Old Town jealously maintained her sovereignty, the Presbyterian Mission opened the Hope Waddel School. There was the "Palaver House" - the Parliament where state matters were discussed and laws enacted. "Ekpo" was the executive, legislative and police arm of the state. The King presided. The British admitted that the system was "the most fair and effective instrument of government that was ever devised" in the kingdoms and in the republics.

Diplomatic relations were maintained between the Kingdoms and the Republics on one hand and the United Kingdom and some other European powers on the other.

Consul Hutchinson negotiated and signed with the King of Calabar on January 21, 1856, a treaty abolishing human sacrifices. The Kingdoms and the Republics were accorded by the Europeans full recognition as sovereign states in international law.

In 1817, Afonja of Ilorin was the Are-Ona Kakanfo - the Head of the Army of the Oyo Empire, under the Alaafin of Oyo - Aole (The King). That year, Afonja sent an empty calabash to the Alaafin Aole, thereby signifying that he no longer acknowledged the authority of the Alaafin. Aole had no choice but to accept and in the traditional fashion, he committed suicide, but not before Alaafin Aole uttered his famous curse on the Yorubaland recorded by Samuel Johnson at page 192 of his "History of the Yorubas", 1921.

From Alaafin's palace forecourt, Aole shot three arrows, one to the north, one to the south, and one to the west, saying: "My curse be on you for your disloyalty and disobedience, so let your children disobey you. If you send them on an errand, let them never return to bring you word again. To all the points I shot my arrows will you be carried as slaves. My curse will carry you to the sea and beyond the seas, slaves will rule over you, and you, their masters, will become slaves." Then, smashing an earthenware dish, he shouted, 'Broken calabash can be mended but not a broken dish; so let my words be irrevocable."

The curse seemed to take immediate effect and there had been neither unity nor peace in Yorubaland from then till today.

The Oyo Empire flourished for over three hundred years. Professor I.A. Akinjogbin, the emeritus Professor of History put the situation as follows: "Up to about 1780, the Oyo Empire remained at the peak of its military strength.

Its economy was strong, its external trade in slave export unfortunately expanding, its industries functioning and its craftsmen confident and proud of their workmanship. There were quarrels between the ruling classes as to who would have a greater share of this growing wealth; with the successive Alaafin, apparently on one side, and the chiefs, led by the various Basorun of the period, on the other side. Each side attempted to draw in the ordinary citizens, presenting itself as their champion but it is doubtful whether the common people saw any difference between one group and another. In any case, the quarrels were always fought within the constitutionally laid down procedures - the chiefs would say that the king had been rejected, and the king would meekly take his own life after which a new king, from the same royal family, would be installed.

Some times the Alaafin would use his prerogative to choose a Basorun, that he thinks would be more friendly towards him, only to discover that between one Basorun and another, there was no difference in their relationship with the Alaafin. The point being made is that, in spite of all these events, the economic conditions within the empire were good, life was safe, trade routes ran in all directions, some citizens were indeed noted to be fabulously rich and some of the

Alaafin embarked on prestige projects."
1793 - 1893 were the darkest years in the history of Yorubaland. Two things, acc-ording to Professor Akin-jogbin, happened bet-ween 1816 and 1824, which irrevocably changed the history and fortunes of the Yorubaland. First, in 1816, the jihad, which had been raging in the Hausa Kingdoms since 1804 was extended to NUPE (Tapa) next door to Yorubaland and the newly converted Nupe lost no time in declaring war against the Akoko and Akoko-Edo in eastern Yorubaland. Second, Afonja in 1817 invited Alimi, the Muslim itinerant preacher to Ilorin. The Professor put the sequence of events as follows: "Afonja in 1817 invited Alimi, the Fulani itinerant Muslim preacher to Ilorin. Alimi was not new in Yorubaland, for from about 1813, he had been going round such northern Yoruba large towns as far as Ikoyi and Ogbomoso. He had lived for three years in Kuwo, Solagheru's town, and was intending to settle there when Afonja heard of him and decided to invite him to Ilorin. He must therefore be presumed to have known Yorubaland fairly well and also to have been conversant with the on-going Fulani jihad. Afonja was not a Muslim and the invitation could have been conceived solely as a means of strengthening his military might with the charms that the Muslim preacher was expected to prepare. However, for Solagheru, who had earlier been invited by Afonja also from Kuwo and who might have known Alimi there, Alimi's arrival could be seen as an important addition to his jama'a at Oke-Suna. There is indeed a distinct probability that Solagheru might have influenced Afonja's invitation of Alimi to Ilorin, although the aim is not clear."

"A number of discerning citizens clearly saw the danger in the new scenario, but so afraid of Afonja were most of them that they did not dare to tell him. Two persons however took courage. The first was Fagbohun, the Commander of the left flank of Afonja's army, who thereby incurred his wrath and had to flee to avoid being executed. The second person was Agborin, Afonja's younger brother, but so confident was Afonja of his own ability that he again brushed the warning aside. Frustrated, Agborin committed suicide."

After dan Fodio was proclaimed Commander of the Faithful he swore to the disinterestedness of his intentions, saying: "If I fight this battle that I may become greater than my fellow or that my son may become greater than his son, or that my slave may lord it over his slave, may the Kabbir (infidel) wipe us from the land."

There was no imperial army and no central bureaucracy. Islam was the cement.

Alimi died about 1823. Afonja was Alimi's benefactor but that did not stop Abdulsalam, Alimi's successor, from overthrowing and usurping Afonja's rights. According to Johnson's History of the Yoruba, Abdulsalam became the ruler of Ilorin and heir of the whole of the Igbomina and what is now known as Oshun (Epo) area which Afonja had kept under his authority since 1797. Thus those who had led the rebellion, according to Professor Akinjoghin, finally lost the revolution. Abdulsalam sent for a jihadist's flag from Sokoto which he served as Emir of Yoruba, under the Emirate of Gwandu and according to Johnson's History, he then declared a Jihad against the whole of Yorubaland.

A new Oyo was established in the present site by Alaafin Atiba in 1837. Johnson recorded three attempts up to 1831 to retake Ilorin from the Fulanis. The first was the Ogele War, the second was the Mugbamugba War and the third was the Kanla war. About 1836, Oyo Ile, the original imperial capital was abandoned. But it is still today part of the Oyo State.

Each of the war was lost by the Yoruba largely because of what Johnson called: "the want of foresight and vaulting ambition of the rulers". Professor Akinjogbin agrees with Johnson and is amazed how in the face of the danger which they all saw, the leaders kept thinking in terms only of their own selfish interest or their own importance and could not combine to fight a common enemy. Johnson on page 197 - 222 and R. Lawrence in his "The Oyo Empire" PP. 284 - 299, give many instances of these changing alliances, quarrels among the Yoruba leaders and the consummate political game of the Fulani rulers of Ilorin. Karl Maier in his "This House Has Fallen" at P. 232 - 233 put it bluntly: "Internal divisions have often opened the door to external manipulation. Such divisiveness dates at least to the demise of the old Oyo empire at the beginning of the nineteenth century. By the early nineteenth century, Oyo was facing pressure from the Fulanis in the north and from the Dahomey kingdom to the west (in modern-day Benin). Dahomey's powerful slave-trading king, Gezo, fielded imposing armies led by thousands of female warriors. The power of the king of Oyo, the Alafin, collapsed when his army commander, Afonja, rebelled and captured the town of Ilorin with the support of the Fulanis pushing south on their Islamic jihad. Afonja's revolt convinced Yoruba provincial kings to the south that they too could rebel. For the rest of the century Yoruba land was beset by nearly continuous civil conflict that degenerated into slave- raiding wars. For a good part of the nineteenth century Yorubas sold Yorubas into bondage. If they had united, they probably could have defeated the Fulanis and retaken Ilorin, but they opted to fight each other instead. The wars only came to an end when the British governor of the Lagos Protectorate, Sir Gilbert Carter, used a combination of diplomacy and military muscle to force a pan-Yoruba peace treaty. The legacy of those wars has continued until today.- - - -"

The struggle in South Africa started in 1897 and they only released Mandela from prison on February 11, 1990. The Ibadan Wars: Fulanis Defeated in Oshogbo. First, Ibadan was founded in 1828 -1835 by brave and tested soldiers. During the same period, roaming Oyo soldiers occupied Ijaiye under Dado and Kurunmi Alaafin Atiba founded New Oyo (Ago-Oja) in 1837 These leaders saw their mission as continuing the war of resistance against the Fulani until the last were completely driven out of Yorubaland. Alaafin Atiba shared their detennination and resuscitated old titles and bestowed them on the rulers of the new towns. Kurunmi of Ijaiye became the Aare-OnaKakanfo with responsibility to defend the western part of the old Oyo Empire against threats from Gezo, the King of Dahomey. Oluyole of Ibadan was so successful that the Fulani army was defeated in 1840 in Oshogbo thereby recovering some of the lost Yoruba towns. It was morale boosting. The victory encouraged the Ekitis to invite the Ibadan to help them drive out the Fulanis from Ilorin who had been threatening Osi, Otun, Aisegba, Ikole and Itaji. The Ibadan acceptance led to the Ibadan expansionist wars as stated by S.A. Akintoye in his "Revolution and Power Politics."

The Ibadan Expansionist Wars took place between 1840 - 1878. Emeritus Professor Akinjogbin in his "Wars in Yorubaland, 1793 - 1893: An analytical categorisation" puts it thus: "By 1865, Ibadan had grown to become the strongest political force in Yorubaland. In those 25 years, virtually all the Oyo speaking areas, the Ife Kingdom, the Ijesha Kingdom, the whole of Ekiti, Akoko and Yagbe, came under what has been called The Ibadan Empire from which the Fulani invaders had been driven out".

So successful was Ibadan that the Ijebu Kingdom and the Egba State constantly suspected, not without reason, that Ibadan might want to take them over as well and become "Master of the whole world". What an hyperbole!

How the Ibadan Empire, which for all practical purposes succeeded the defunct Oyo Empire, has been scholarly traced in three works: Samuel Johnson: History of the Yorubas, J.F. Ade Ajayi and R. Smith: Yoruba Warfare and Professor Bolanle Awe: Oxford PH.D. thesis (1964) - "The Rise of the Ibadan Empire".

The leaders of Ibadan during these era, stemming the Fulani calvary drive and their expansionist onslaught, were Oluyole (Bashorun). Ibikunle, the (Balogun); Oderinlo, (the Balogun); Ogunmola; (the Otun); and Oshundina, (the Osi).

The Ijaiye War fought between 1859 -1862 could rightly be classified in effect, as part of the Ibadan expansionist wars. Kurunmi of Ijalye was the Are-Ona-Kakanfo - the Commander of the Army of the Oyo Empire.

The Ijaiye War was fought on two major issues. First, Adelu's succession after Atiba in 1858 was supported by Ibadan but opposed by Kurunmi. Second, the issue of giving the Alaafin more territory to increase his income, particularly in Oke-Ogun to which Kurunmi said no; because the Are did not recognise Adelu as the Alaafin.

The first disagreement was a constitutional issue, namely, that the Aremo should die with the Alaafin, his father. Ibadan argued that the practice should stop in that new era has dawned. Kurunmi said that the practice was sacred and should continue.

Behind all these disagreements was the true central issue: who was the most powerful military power in Yorubaland: Ibadan or Ijaiye? That was the unsettled and unspoken issue and Ibadan was determined to settle that once and for all. These have been well documented by eminent historians particularly, Ajayi and Smith; I.A. Akinjogbin, Bolanle Awe, S. Johnson to mention a few. "The Rise of the Ibadan Empire" by Professor Bolanle Awe, Oxford, 1964 is particularly brilliant. The Egbas allied with Ijaiye against Ibadan.

Kurunmi lost the war. Ijaiye was annexed to Ibadan. The Ibadan Empire became undisputed and total to the extent that the Alaafin though untouched, was at the mercy of Ibadan.

Palm Oil and Crude Oil: The Niger Delta and the Sokoto Caliphate.

Oil began to fan the flames of turmoil in the Niger Delta more than a century ago, so stated Karl Maier in his book "This House Has Fallen". I owe a lot to him in what now follows.

The oil was not the crude oil but the thick oil derived from boiling palm nuts.

The Atlantic slave trade and the New World plantations had furnished the capital needed to embark on the industrial revolution and now the Europeans needed to lubricate their machinery. Palm Oil emerged as the pioneer commodity in Africa's commercial modern relationship with the developed world - the export of the cheap raw materials. The Niger Delta was the biggest source of palm oil in Africa. The Delta Chiefs and the Liverpool traders were the dominant players.

The Africans kept a tight grip on the trade as middlemen by preventing direct contact between the Europeans and the actual producers of palm oil in the hinterland. The Africans were wealthy and shrewd men who amassed wealth from the trade with the Portuguese in the fifteenth century and later with the British.

While the British commercial companies operating there were squabbling, each underrating the other in order to under cut the other in hope of gaining greater market share, the African middlemen demonstrated strict discipline in fixing prices.

It was at this crucial moment that three men stepped into the scene. The three of them put their indelible imprimatur on the history and the fate of Nigeria - for better and for worse. They were:

(a) Major George Dashwood Goldie Taubman

(b) Major Edward Hewett and

(c) Major Fredrick Lugard.

Goldie in June 1897 raised 2000 (Two thousand) strong black soldiers. Lugard arrived the Delta in the spring of 1898 after serving the East India Company and East African Company in India and East Africa respectively as their soldier/employee. Mercenary? Lugard was the first governor of the North from 1900 -1906. He went to Hong Kong and returned to Nigeria in 1912 and two years later became Governor-General after the amalgamation of the Northern and Southern Nigeria. But then, the difference between the North and the South had hardened too much to be easily eliminated.

Lugard was a short, wiry, masterful, austere thirty-three year old, the Resident and Chief representative of the Imperial East Africa Company. He was a freelance imperialist - euphemism for mercenary, a captain in 1891. He drove the French out of Uganda with maxim guns ruthlessly. Before Uganda, Lugard served the East India Company in India as a Captain.

Karl Maier explain the purpose of Lugard's 1914 amalgamation as follows:

"The joining was not for the purpose of nation building. The simple reason was that the north's colonial budget was running at a deficit and only a link with the profitable South could eliminate the needed British subsidy."

When it came to name the new protectorate, Goldie's influence was so powerful that Goldesia, reminiscent of Rhode's Rhodesia, was considered along with Niger Sudan and Negretia. London finally settled for Nigeria which was coined by Flora Shaw, Lugard's then mistress, in an article in The Times of London. Lugard later married her.

  • Being excerpts from a lecture delivered by the former Attorney-General of the Federation, Chief Richard Akinjide at the University of Ibadan's Sultan Bello Hall Distinguished Lecture 2001.


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