Asofeyeje War: War between Ogbomoso and Fulani-led Ilorin army, instigated by Iba Oluyole of Ibadan

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Femi OGUNLANA
Asofeyeje – Aso-fun-eiye-je (fruited for birds to consume) was a difficult war Ogbomoso waged against the Ilorin Fulani-led forces which blockaded the town, at the instance of Ibadan in reprisal against the refusal of Ogbomoso to support the latter during the first Ibadan-Ijaye conflict – Batedo War – of 1844, instead, sending military aids to Ijaiye. The war was sometimes called Ali War because the Ilorin army during the conflict was commanded by Balogun Ali. The hostilities proved gravely to the survival of Ogbomoso as it tested its will and strength to its limit.

Background
The eighteenth century Yoruba country has been aptly described as the century of conflicts in view of the general insurrections that pervaded the land. In the north, south, east and west, war tore the country apart. The invasion from the north was mostly orchestrated by the Ilorin, which had come under the rulership of the Fulani jihadists bent on dipping the Quran and the sword into the sea, a euphemism for overrunning the whole of Yoruba land and by force of arm, and fulanize and Islamize all in their way. A large number of the Yoruba populace already practising Muslims meant nothing to them, they were (and are still) rather propelled by an inordinate ambition bordering on imperialism and expansionism, whose other name is political subjugation. An Emirate with allegiance to Sokoto Caliphate, the epicentre of the jihad, had been foisted on Ilorin, a Yoruba town, and a Fulani emir sitting as usurper on the throne of the town.
Ogbomoso being the direct route towards the sea from Ilorin became the obvious target. Attacks were incessantly launched to breach its defence and penetrate the Yoruba country. They were to no avail however as the brave, resilient Ogbomoso army always stood unshaken like the Rock of Gibraltar. But the jihadists, buoyed by many Yoruba generals including the rank and file, were (and are) unrelenting too, ever recalcitrant in posture. When the Ogbomoso route became impregnable, they switched to the Osogbo route to march over and thus pour into the heart of Yorubaland. The strategy was actually meant to attain two goals in one fell swoop; knowing Ogbomoso would come to the defence of Osogbo, the latter being a subordinate town, Ilorin hoped to launch a surprise attack against Ogbomoso when it had deployed its main army to Osogbo, but this, Ogbomoso was privy to, and so, refrained from deploying its most elite soldiers to the relief of Osogbo thus assistance was sought from Ibadan, which had become a powerful town due to the flocking of wildly and warlike youths into it. The outcome was the crushing defeat suffered by Ilorin. This was in 1840 and the war named the Osogbo War. The defeat dampened the spirit of Ilorin and all it now did was supporting one Yoruba town against another during the widespread internecine wars that subsequently engulfed the country always hoping to gain advantage from it and probably scheming to attain its old dream of becoming the master of the the land up to the sea.

Asofeyeje War
Ibadan and Ijaiye had become two of the most powerful Yoruba states being flooded by warlords who either left their original homes to find outlets for their restless spirits in these two fledgling communities or their homesteads had been deserted due to wars. While at this time, Ibadan was led by Iba Oluyole, Ijaiye was under the iron grip of Kunrumi the Aare Ona Kankanfo. Irreconcilable differences soon elicited conflict between the two powers; Oyo that could have exerted a stabilizing influence had become a shadow of its former self. Glory and self-conceitedness drove Iba Oluyole to begin to obsess after the Alaafin throne, having come from a female lineage himself. But he saw Kunrumi as the only obstacle to his excessive dream and so, provoked Ijaiye to war, with the hope of vanquishing his rival, Kunrumi. War was ultimately declared.
The two requested military aids from Ogbomoso, then under the overlord-ship of Bayewuwon Kelebe, the third of Kumoye sons to rise to the stool as Baale, after Toyeje and Oluwusi. Kelebe held council with his chiefs and they reached the consensus that Ijaiye was the one trying to uphold a just cause and so decided on helping Ijaiye. Only Ogunrumbi, a redoubtable warlord expressed preference for alliance with Ibadan but the majority decision carried the day.
In annoyance, Iba Oluyole appealed to the Ilorin emir to renew hostilities with Ogbomoso, consequently deploying an infantry division and war provisions to reinforce the Ilorin army. Ilorin still nursing animosity towards Ogbomoso and not divested of its imperialistic ambition rose in arms. Its army under the command of General Ali, a reputable warrior marched out and surrounded the town in a siege battle. The town however had a defence wall built by Toyeje and extended by Oluwusi, who succeeded him. The two armies i.e. Ilorin and Ibadan contingents mounted a blockade, which proved effective and a stab at the soul of Ogbomoso; its people were hemmed in, all the gates shut from the inside.
The enemy without were determined to reduce the town by starvation before finishing off the remnants by conquest. Horsemen galloped round the walls to ensure complete barricade. It was a critical period; famine broke out to the extent that parents would put stones in large cooking pots and tell their famished children that food was almost done just to make them quiet for some time. The enemies were aware of the inauspicious situation and created fun out of it. They were plucking and throwing melon fruits over the wall and started singing derisively:
“Enyin ara Ogbomoso, (the people of Ogbomoso)
Be ti po to be e le go to, (as many as you are so is your foolishness)
E npa ranun larin ilu.” (you swarm aimlessly within the metropolis)

Fruit trees ripened in the farms but the farmers could not venture out to harvest them, thus, birds had field days feasting on these ripened fruits, hence, the name – A-so-fe’ye-je (fruited-for-birds-to devour)!

Illustration by Bolaji Ogunlana



Tactical assault to lift the siege and victory
The situation reached an intolerable and alarming level, provoking the Ogbomoso war council to hold desperate meetings. Ultimately, they came up with a tactical offensive to break the siege. For men of valour, Ogbomoso was not in want but why the warlords left the matter to fester so precariously remains unknown. Four divisions were quickly formed each headed by two or three war generals with the mission to come upon the enemies via four different routes in surprise swift attacks. Ogbomoso war commander, Areago Ori Oro, Abese Obiri Yeku and Kuola were to lead a division against the Apake front; Ogunrunmbi and Bammeke were assigned to strike the enemies via Adunin; the Baale (Kelebe) and Lalude were to be at the head of another battalion to fall upon the attackers along Popo route; while Oluya Agbandugu and Lagbedu were to launch an onlsuaght through the Paku path. Their movements were synchronized and furtive, to retain the element of surprise. It proved highly strategic as the enemies were caught unawares; the Ogbomoso warriors fiercely and furiously fell upon them at the different fronts causing great panic among them. They fled in rowdy and precipitate manner, with many of them being slaughtered along the way. That way, Ogbomoso routed them, smashed the expedition and the enemies were dispersed. It is on record that never was such allied army marched against Ogbomoso.
The victory had far reaching effect as the Ogbomoso’s confidence was further bolstered against the Fulani who had been relentless about taking Ogbomoso and violate its sovereignty.


References:
Iwe Itan Ogbomoso by N.D. Oyerinde
The History of the Yorubas by Samuel Johnson

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