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2.4a(ii) O’Hear Thesis: Notes Providing References to Material Relevant to Slavery/Dependency in the Thesis

A caveat: my thesis was written in 1983. It was not primarily concerned with slavery but with the reasons for the economic prosperity of Ilorin in the nineteenth century and its decline thereafter. My discussion of slavery and its aftermath in the thesis represents an early stage in my research on forms of dependency, and my treatment of these topics in the thesis was largely based on colonial records and only to  a limited degree on local information gathering. My treatment of slavery and its aftermath in my later published and unpublished works reflects a far broader range of sources.


[page] 6. Mention of various elite slaves in Ilorin.

7. Nineteenth-century prosperity aided by slave capture, use, and sale.

8-9. Early twentieth century: “Metropolitan Districts” created by the British administration. Their largely dependent population endured prolonged control from Ilorin Town.


11-12. Early nineteenth century: Ilorin’s takeover of Old Oyo’s role in “production” of slaves and exportation of them to the south.

29. Profits from slave capture.

31-32. Tolls from gates said to have been submitted to the Sarkin Dogari (an elite slave) who submitted them to the emir.

41-42. Brokerage arrangements with respect to sale of slaves.

46-47. Slave markets in Ilorin including numbers sold. Sale of slaves outside the market place.

55. Sarkin Baraji: a slave military official.

58-61. Ilorin: importance of production, utilisation, and trade in slaves.

63, 68-69. Continuance of trade in slaves to the south.

84-85. Economic blow of British takeover: end of “production” of slaves and trade in them.

89-93. Limited involvement in trade by Metropolitan Districts population during the colonial period.


104-106. Nineteenth century: slave beadmakers from Old Oyo said to have been obtained to teach Ilorin makers. Slaves used by Ilorin lantana beadmaking families in their work.

113. Benin is said to have exchanged many slaves for the beads.


130-133. Nineteenth century: slaves and iwọfa used in production and processing of raw materials. The great majority of slaves continued to work on the land after the British takeover, so it is unlikely that the advent of colonial rule caused a major crisis in raw material supply.


176-179. Generally little craft production in the dependent Metropolitan Districts, with a few exceptions.


Nineteenth-Century and Earlier History of  the “Metropolitan Districts”

202. General lack of traditions of settlement and chieftaincy systems, with certain exceptions.

219-220. Extent of slave/dependent population.

221-230. “Fief-holding” system set up in the nineteenth century. Involvement of important slaves in the system.

230-231. Settlement of slaves in the districts, nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. “Knowing no origin but Ilorin” as an indicator of former slave status.

231-241. Slaves in rural occupations, nineteenth century to turn of the twentieth. Differences between work of male and female slaves. Work of a male agricultural slave. Extraction of foodstuffs from slaves and tenants. Ilorin’s control of the market system. Importance of food production in the districts, and use of these areas as a reserve from which army recruits might be obtained, for the nineteenth-century prosperity of the town.

Period of the Colonial Takeover

241-249. Adoption of the district system. Problems encountered in drawing district boundaries. District heads were appointed mostly from fiefholding families and royal family members.

246-248. Roles of two important slaves—Ajia Ijesha and Adenlolu of Lanwa—in the district system.

249-253. Question of the slaves at the time of the British takeover. Some took the opportunity to flee. Likely the vast majority stayed: factors included (1) British policy and (2) those born in slavery or enslaved in childhood having nowhere to go.

254-262. Renewed outflow to the Metropolitan Districts in the period surrounding the British takeover and the first 30 years of the colonial period—included movement of ex-slaves and followers of chiefs out to the districts, likely encouraged/directed by chiefs.

Colonial Period as a Whole

263-273. Multiple exactions by fiefholders, district heads, and others. Continuance of tribute payments to fiefholders from dependent farmers. This tribute (iṣakole) also included payment in other goods and was rendered as services to both fiefholders and district heads. Bitterly resented by the dependent farmers and in the 1950s, abolition of iṣakole became an important policy of the new commoners’ political party.

273-280. District heads collected illegal tax and took bribes. Opportunities for resistance were limited, but villagers engaged in covert and anonymous protests. Judicial personnel took bribes, and district heads’ messengers charged large fees to deliver messages.

281-283. Still other officials also engaged in extortion or harassment, including market staff, sanitary inspectors, and forest guards. Fiefholders and others with no Native Authority position profited as baba kekere.

283-291. Various problems for farmers related to trade. Sellers were made to surrender a sizeable part of the produce they brought to market (ar’ọja) to the “market father” for transmission to the district head. All markets were established and controlled by the N.A. and market fees and ar’ọja were collected. Much trade was channelled towards Ilorin, partly through N.A. intervention. This was assisted by the activities of Ilorin middlemen (and women), whose activities were also a major reason for low profitability of trade to producers. An attempt to introduce cooperatives failed.

291-293. Problems caused by taxation. Low incomes of farmers.

294-295. Long distance trade in foodstuffs was in the hands of southern traders. Also some elite members involved in middleman trade.

296-300. Problems of land exhaustion. Failure of attempts by the Agricultural Department to deal with this.

301-306. Generally speaking, little progress in road improvement in the Metropolitan Districts.

306-317. Similarly, little progress in provision of educational facilities in the Metropolitan Districts, in contrast with the southern districts, where numerous mission schools were set up. For various reasons, few mission schools existed in the Metropolitan Districts, and the growth of N.A. schools both there and elsewhere was slow. British officials adopted a cautious approach to education. Funds were lacking. Attendance was generally low, for various reasons, including school fees, lack of jobs for school leavers, obstructive attitudes among N.A. officials, and, where efforts were made to improve attendance, the use of quotas, threats, and even the N.A. police.

317-318. Metropolitan Districts: shortage of funds for development activities, misallocation of funds, obstructive activities of N.A. officials.

318-322. The underdevelopment of the Metropolitan Districts contrasts with the progress of the southern districts. Reasons for the lack of community feelings and community projects in the Metropolitan Districts include heterogeneous origins, recent, scattered, small-scale settlements, and close administrative control. In the 1950s, progressive unions were largely absent or only rudimentary, an exception being provided by three villages in southern Afon District, all probably of pre-Fulani origin.

322-327. General lack of migration to the south from the Metropolitan Districts. Migrants from the southern districts to urban and cocoa-farming areas greatly aided development in their home areas. In the 1950s, in the Metropolitan Districts, only in Afon District was migration to the south becoming significant. General failure to share in the movement to the wealthy areas to the south may have been partly due to ignorance of opportunities. Direct prohibition of migration has been alleged, although some did take place. For Afon District, bonds of dependence to Ilorin may have been weaker. Migration from the more northerly districts was mostly from Akanbi and Igporin, for various reasons. Dependency was dysfunctional to prosperity and development.

Unpublished Paper Accompanying the Thesis and Included in the Digitised Version

     This paper, written by Ann O’Hear is titled “Colonial Government Agricultural Policies, Ilorin,” and dated November 1982. A version of the paper was presented at a meeting of the Historical Society of Nigeria. The paper is a detailed account of the policies and activities of the Ilorin Agricultural Department from its beginnings in the early twentieth century up to the end of the colonial period, making exhaustive use of the colonial records. Later, I was able to add to this something of the voice of the local farmer, through interviews and observation in Ago Oja village, near Ilorin, which were organised by Alh. Saka Aleshinloye, Baba Isale of Ilorin, and which provided me with a good case study of the extent and effects of development efforts both before and after independence from the view of the farmers in one Metropolitan Districts village.

     For the Ago Oja material, see sections 4.2f(i) and 4.2f(ii) in this Archive.

     Much of the material covered in the 1982 paper was incorporated, in somewhat abbreviated fashion, in an article covering a broader time period, “Agriculture in Ilorin during the Precolonial and Colonial Periods,” in Odu (Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, Nigeria), no. 30 (1986): 67‒97. This article also made use of the information obtained from Ago Oja.

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