top of page
2.4c(ii) “The [Okun] Yoruba and the Peoples of the Niger-Benue Confluence”

    Author’s Note: The focus of this work is on contacts between the Okun Yoruba and other groups over a broad time frame. It was written in 2003, and was intended to be a chapter in an edited volume titled Yoruba Frontiers. It reflects my longstanding interest in the Confluence area (broadly defined) as an area of considerable cultural and economic contact and circulation. However, the work for which the chapter was written has never been published (as of December 2020).

The chapter contains a great deal of information on the period covering the nineteenth century and the turn of the twentieth century, in which slavery, slave raiding, the extraction of slaves as tribute, the slave trade, and the escape/return of slaves are prominent features of the narrative.

The work is reproduced in its entirety here, because any attempt to extract just the slavery-related material runs the risk of producing a lack of coherence and of introducing errors due to the removal of some of the endnotes included in the original. In addition, reproducing the work in its entirety here may be my only opportunity to preserve it for future students and scholars.

For a published work utilising the same material, but focusing on themes and questions designed to stimulate future research, see Ann O’Hear, “The History of the Okun Yorùbá: Research Directions,” in Toyin Falola and Ann Genova, eds., Yorùbá Identity and Power Politics (Rochester, NY: University of Rochester Press, 2006, 111-126.


©Ann O’Hear 2003

Ann O’Hear

The peoples of the Niger-Benue Confluence area include various Northeast (or “O-kun”) Yoruba groups and a variety of others, including Nupe, Ebira, and Igala.[1] In the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, the word “Yoruba” was used to describe the more central Yoruba peoples, a distinction being made, both by Western-educated Nigerians and by colonial officers,[2] between these and the peripheral northeastern groups who spoke dialects of the Yoruba language. At the same period, it is very unlikely that the Yoruba speakers of the confluence area had any notion of a “pan-Yoruba” consciousness that would include them: even a Bunu ex-slave, who returned to the confluence as a missionary in the mid-nineteenth century, differentiated between his own people and the “Yoruba,” though he admitted that their languages were “almost alike.”[3] In the course of the twentieth century, however, the Northeast Yoruba came to claim a connection with the wider Yoruba world, very probably with the intention of counterbalancing their precarious and isolated position as Yoruba speakers and largely non-Muslims in what was, until 1967, the Northern Region of Nigeria.[4]

The Northeast Yoruba (Owe, Oworo, Bunu, Ijumu, and Yagba) have been neglected by academic historians and much of their history is obscure.[5] This chapter concentrates on the Northeast Yoruba closest to the confluence, namely the Owe, Oworo, and Bunu (including Ikiri), using published and other material available to the author to sketch an outline of their interactions with other groups, including the Nupe, Ebira, and Igala. Much more research, however, will be needed before this outline can be satisfactorily fleshed out.

Origins, Contacts, and Connections

It seems likely that the Owe, Oworo, and Bunu have lived near the confluence for a considerable period of time.[6] Their longevity in the area is included in the suggestion that the Northeast Yoruba were the “‘proto-Yoruba,’ indigenous to the land and adhering to a political organization which characterized the whole language group before it became ‘the heritage of Oduduwa.’”[7] For Ade Obayemi, linguistic and other evidence suggests that “the ultimate origins of the Yoruba-speaking peoples are to be located not very far from the Niger-Benue confluence area.”[8] However, while this hypothesis is interesting, it needs a great deal more linguistic and other investigation.[9]

Obayemi has argued that the Yoruba and the Igala were once immediate neighbors to the west of the confluence, noting, for example, surviving Igala settlements on the right (west) bank, including Ajaokuta and Geregu.[10] In contrast, many of the present-day neighbors of the Northeast Yoruba, including the Nupe-speaking Cekpã, Kupa, and Kakanda and the Ebira of the Okene and riverine areas, seem to have been relatively recent settlers on the right bank, mostly, it seems, crossing the Niger and/or Benue in the late eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. This was a period of considerable population movement owing much to the aggression of Nupe and Fulani (Nupe and Nassarawa Emirates) rulers.[11]

The Northeast Yoruba, including the Owe, Oworo, Bunu, Ijumu, and Yagba groups, reveal much linguistic and cultural similarity (along with some variation). According to Eva Krapf-Askari,

A number of cultural traits are more or less common to all the Okun tribes, though differently patterned in each. Thus, in the field of traditional religious belief and practice, there is the public worship of a category of spirits known as Ebora, who are thought of as inhabiting lonely and inaccessible places, especially the tops of the low but steep inselbergs in which the region abounds, and to function as protectors of social groups of varying span; the subsidiary cult of Egungun; the existence of respected and feared women’s possession cults . . . ; the almost complete absence of the traditional Yoruba orisa. (Ogun is honoured by hunters and blacksmiths; Ifa diviners are freely consulted, but seem to be regarded more in the light of skilled fortune-tellers than exponents of esoteric knowledge.) Aside from Ebora and Egungun rites, the most important public ritual is that associated with funerals. . . . As regards political organization, the most noticeable characteristic is a system of promotional title-taking based on wealth, very different from the lineage-hereditary titles and dynastic sacred kingship of the Western Region Yoruba. These title systems, as well as certain other structural features, show a curiously consistent tendency to be arranged in sets of three.[12]

The Northeast Yoruba groups were noted for the use of red cloth for funerals, manufactured in Bunu and traded to the Owe, Oworo, and Ijumu (as well as to the Ebira).[13]

The Northeast Yoruba display some similarities with the wider Yoruba world, as well as some differences. In contrast with most other Yoruba, they lack what has been called “[t]he institution of sacred kingship.”[14] They are organized into “mini-states” that are very different in size from the large-scale kingdoms typical of other parts of Yorubaland, though not much different in size from the Ekiti polities and the old Egba kingdoms. They lack much of the Yoruba pantheon, but they do recognize Ifa, Egungun, and Ogun. They share some linguistic and cultural traits with southeast Yorubaland.[15]

The confluence area (broadly defined) seems to have been one of major cultural and economic sharing, of contact and circulation over centuries. It is suggestive that the area has long been known for brass-working, “the Jukun, Igbirra, the north-east Yoruba and Nupe being acknowledged experts.”[16] Other cultural circulation centers around cloth, as Obayemi reports:

[t]he red cloth used for burials and for the regalia of the masquerades by the north-east Yoruba is called ukpo[17]—the Edo and Igala word for cloth—and Ikiri traditions claim that these were introduced from Idah and later on traded to the Igbirra. The fabrics used in its weaving were scarlet, probably imported by the Europeans to Benin but obtained via Idah.[18]

Obayemi also notes political and religious connections:

The dynasties of the Igbirra kingdoms of Panda and Igu, the rulers of the Alago kingdom of Doma, Attama and Eze of the Nsukka area in north-west Igboland on the border of the Igala, as well as the Oku of Ikiri in north-east Yorubaland claim either that their founding ancestors came from Idah or derive the legitimacy of their offices from the Atta of Igala. Dynasties apart, the clans of the Igbirra [Ebira] Tao (Okene area), the Osomari Igbo south of Onitsha, some clans of the Idoma and Agatu claim migrations from Igala territory.[19]

The personnel behind the Egu-afia of the Igala, the Eku-oba of the Igbirra, [the] Alekwu of the Idoma and the Egun of the . . . Abinu [Bunu] and Oworo share many things. The Igbirra ovopa, the Abinu obakpa, appear to be cognate with the Jukun Abakwa. . . . The Ekwe masquerade, sometimes described as the principal Igala masquerade, is traditionally said to have belonged to the Jukun. The long masquerade, the okula, ouna, iro and okponobi of the Abinu, Oworo, Owe and of some Ijumu towns or the Ewuna of the Bassa Nge all derive from a common tradition.

In the area of ancestor personification, the Igbirra . . . have a certain pre-eminence as founders of a cycle of these masquerades. The Igbirra . . . are mentioned as having introduced some of the masquerades to the Abinu and Oworo, while the priests to some of these masquerades orders have the clan name Adoga, a name found among Idoma speaking peoples. The powerful women’s cult Ofosi or Ohosi of the Abinu, Ikiri, Oworo, Owe, and some Ijumu towns are all said to derive from Olle in Bunu, the founder being a man who [came] from the Igala-Idoma side of the Niger some centuries ago.[20] The language of this cult is not locally intelligible. The importance of the intermediary position of the Igbirra groups is further marked in the case of the Igala by the fact that the clans performing the ilo (iro among the north-east Yoruba) in the Atta’s burials are . . . clans . . . ultimately of Igbirra origin.”[21]

The Nineteenth Century

In the nineteenth century, the most visible (and decidedly brutal) forms of contact between the Northeast Yoruba and other peoples were the raids and overlordship of the Nupe-Fulani Emirate; other contacts came about  as a result of the population movements provoked by the activities of the jihadists in Nupe and Nassarawa and by trade along the River Niger.[22] The Fulani in Nupe, however, may not have initiated the raids. According to Elphinstone, raids from the Nupe kingdom had already started before the Fulani takeover: “It is largely owing to . . . Majia’s raids that the tribes in the Kabba Division are so mixed. The Yagba, Bunu, Aworo and Kakanda seem to have paid the Nupe tribute unless left sufficiently long without a visit.”[23]

Nupe-Fulani attacks on the Owe may have begun in 1827.[24] An early attack on the Bunu probably took place in 1832.[25] In the

1840s, raids continued. The 1841 Niger Expedition learned of a recent military campaign, a war

with the Bunu, a people between Kakanda and Nufi: some were taken captive, and others driven into the bush or to the opposite side of the river. It is said . . . that there were sent to Rabba last month, 4000 Bunu and Kakanda slaves, 1000 black cattle, and 1000 measures of cowries, being plunder taken from the countries of these people.[26]

Referring perhaps to the same campaign, Meek reported that

Early in the forties of last century Mamudu, Malam Dendo’s son, raided Bunu country and the extreme west of the Aworo district. . . . The Aworos do not appear to have suffered from this early raid of Mamudu. They seem to have united under a strong minded chief—Okpoto of Ika—and possibly Mamudu thought it better to leave them alone. A year or two later however Masaba came in force and reduced all Aworo. . . . Okpoto was retained as paramount chief and the Lukwan Isa—Masaba’s Son—was formally installed at Ika as the Filani ajele.[27]

In the 1860s, Nupe-Fulani overlordship over various peoples of the confluence was reaffirmed:

Between 1860 and 1870 the Nupe Filani under the Emir Masaba had pretty well overrun all that country now called the Kabba Division. The Aworo, Kakanda, Yagba, Bunu, Egbirras[28] and Akokos were all overrun in turn. . . . In many of these raids the pagan Igbona Chiefs joined. It is said that the Olupo of Ajasse helped to raid the Aworo, and the Oloru of . . . Oke Ora the Igbirras.[29]

Although it was mostly the Nupe-Fulani who controlled the Northeast Yoruba and the Ibadan and other Yoruba who operated in Akoko and elsewhere, this was not a cut and dried arrangement. Nupe influence increased in Akoko, Igbomina raided the Oworo, and the names of Ibadan generals are recorded in the traditions of the Northeast Yoruba.[30]

In the final years of Nupe-Fulani hegemony, it appears that raids on the Northeast Yoruba increased again despite their tributary status,[31] while

at the same time large amounts of tribute also continued to be demanded. As a clergyman traveling with Bishops Tugwell and Phillips in 1894 reported,

At Ayeri, a town close to Kabba, the king came to call on us . . . and told us the English king was the ruler of the world, and he besought us white men to come and help him. He said that four years ago, on his coming to the throne, the Nupes came and took away 300 of his people. He told us that oppression has been the rule here for forty years; that at first the Nupes only demanded couriers [cowries?], then farm produce, and that now they will have slaves as well. As all their own slaves are gone as tribute, they have to give their own children, and many, after giving their wives and children for tribute, have left the town and not come back—among others his own brother and cousin; that there are hardly any young people in the country, and that their nation is becoming extinct.[32]

Tribute of various types was extracted, including cowries, farm produce, textiles, soldiers, and slaves. Generally speaking, it seems that cowries and other products were demanded at first, and that slaves became important later when cowries were progressively devalued and when other goods could not meet the value of the tribute desired.[33] The experience of the Oworo may have been typical. Once they had been “reduced” by Masaba and his army, Okpoto had been “retained as paramount chief,” and the Lukwan Isa had been installed as Fulani ajele:

Tribute was fixed as 200 cowries per man. There were no demands for slaves and there was no undue oppression. . . . During the reigns of Umoru and Maliki [1873-95] the Aworos continued to pay the tribute imposed—more reluctantly each year as the demands of Bida became more rapacious. The tribute was raised annually  until it became a poll tax of 10,000 cowries and when the tribe was unable to meet this tax it was invited to send slaves in lieu of cash. In Maliki’s time the demand for slaves had become unlimited.[34]

In some places, such as “Ayeri” (see above), the demands may have been so exorbitant that slave supplies dried up and the overlords had to revert to demands for other types of goods. A chief in Ikiri-Bunu reported to a researcher that “[i]t came to a time when we could not get people for the Nupe to be taken away to Bida . . . [then] they said that we should begin to pay money as well as our locally woven cloth.”[35]

The tributary areas also had to supply soldiers to assist the emirate armies on campaign.[36] A further form of tribute was extracted when wealthy and prominent individuals died, as exemplified by the treatment of the chiefs of the Oworo. When Okpoto died (dated to 1854), “[t]he Lukwan proceeded to administer the dead chief’s estate—a form of robbery which added vast sums to the incomes of the Filani chiefs.”[37] The next chief was deposed and replaced by Abba (Aba). When Abba died in 1864, it was recorded that “all his property went to Masaba in Bida.”[38] He

was succeeded by Ajetto (Ajeto), who died in about 1895. Little of Ajetto’s great wealth apparently ever reached his heirs, for the emir in Bida

sent the Benu to administer Ajetto’s estate. As a preliminary offering the Aworos presented 15 slaves, 400 dane guns, a houseful of powder, and three houses full of cowries to the Emir. Administrations then took almost as long as they do now. The Benu spent 3 years over this one, the total fees paid to Bida being just over 10,00 [sic: should read 1,000?] slaves!”[39]

Although these reports clearly illustrate the rapaciousness of the Nupe-Fulani Emirate, the accounts of the death and estate of Ajetto equally clearly reveal the profitability of accommodation with the Fulani, at least during an individual collaborator’s lifetime, if not for his heirs. At Ajetto’s burial, “about 20 slaves were slaughtered. Some of his wives were also slaughtered and others were buried alive. . . . Several little boys and girls were also entombed. . . . Precious stones and other valuables belonging to the dead chief were also buried with him, and si x cases of gin.”[40]

There was certainly resistance to Nupe-Fulani depredations, especially in the early period of Fulani raids. Many of the fortifications in Northeast Yoruba, including those of the Owe settlements and of various towns in Bunu, date back to this early period.[41] And the Oworo under Okpoto united in the face of Mamudu’s raid in the early 1840s, though they were soon “reduced” thereafter. The Owe (apart from Okaba, or Kabba) resisted or revolted under “Ogun Gberi” at some unspecified time.[42] However, among the Owe, Oworo, and Bunu there seems to have been no military resistance of the scale and tenacity of that offered by the Akoko (to the south) in the late 1870s and by the Ijumu, Akoko, and Yagba in alliance in the 1890s.[43]

Accommodation to the Nupe-Fulani was displayed by various chiefs and leaders. It might, however, be active in nature, as in the case of the Oworo chief, Agboshi, who is said to have succeeded Okpoto and, hearing (with regard to the civil war then raging in the Nupe-Fulani Emirate) “that Masaba had had to retire to Ilorin, he decided to throw in his lot with Umoru Maiyaki,” while “Abba chief of Agbaja preferred to remain loyal to Masaba.” Unfortunately for Agboshi, however, “the strife which arose ended in the deposition of Agboshi, on Masaba’s return to Nupe country,” and the accession of Abba.[44]

In Bunu, “up start” chiefs became coordinators and assistant coordinators of tribute collection.[45] No doubt some of these were among the Bunu chiefs who converted to Islam, presumably in part at least as a gesture of accommodation to their Fulani masters.[46] Their accommodation was rewarded. A Bunu informant explains that the Nupe-Fulani had “devised a method of paying our chiefs every month on the basis of their success in persuading villagers to contribute people. It was not easy to stop because by stopping this practice, the chiefs would not have their monthly salary. If that happened, where would they get money to eat?”[47]

The Owe settlement of Kabba and especially its chief (the Obaro) cooperated with the Nupe-Fulani, who used Kabba as the headquarters for their forces.[48] In 1897, when George Goldie and his Royal Niger Company forces entered Kabba, the Obaro did a swift about-turn, transferring his accommodation immediately to the British. As Goldie and his force came through the town, 

the chief and leading people threw themselves on their knees before him, and thanked him for having rid them of their oppressors. . . . this demonstration must be taken for what it is worth, as far as concerns the old chief, who would have welcomed either side impartially. He is known to have received a subsidy for collecting so many slaves and tribute from his own people.[49]

For many people, withdrawal was the only available form of resistance to Fulani raids. Various settlements moved to the tops of steep hills, refusing to come down until well into the twentieth century. Some people withdrew to other “inaccessible places,” “caves and rock-shelters as well as . . . the patches of rain and gallery forest where visibility was limited and cavalry movements difficult.”[50] Others fled across the Niger to the left (east) bank.[51] In the late 1850s, many Bunu people were residing at Gbebe on the left bank, having left their home area to avoid Fulani raids and engage in trade[52] Some towns and villages were deserted, their inhabitants having fled or been taken as slaves. When missionary Obadiah Thomas journeyed to Bunu in the 1870s, he found the “remains of ruinous villages” and noted that his party traveled behind Budan (or Budon: a Kakanda town on the Niger) almost all day before coming across a single small farm village.[53]

Some towns, however, increased in size. Lokoja was founded and became a center of population at the confluence, attracting refugees from its hinterland.[54] Kabba, Michael Mason suggests, also grew: “as an administrative centre . . . it attracted traders as well as soldiers and other clients connected with Nupe over-rule.”[55]

 SeymourVandeleur, however, observing Kabba town in 1897, reported that it was

evidently a shadow of what it has been once upon a time. The mud wall plainly shows the former extent of the town, over a mile from side to the other, but it has been so reduced by raids and slavery for the past century, that now there cannot be more than 5000 inhabitants. It had been a sore tax on the inhabitants, having this war camp of the Fulahs at their very doors.[56]

While this account may reflect the intensification of tribute collection in the late years of the nineteenth century, it is impossible to judge the previous population of Kabba town without earlier reports to consult. And the large space inside the walls may simply reflect the common practice of including farm and pasture land within them.

It is also difficult to assess the overall effect of the Nupe-Fulani raids and collection of tribute in slaves on the population of the area. The account of “Ayeri” in 1894, quoted above, in which the chief claimed that they had given all their own slaves as tribute and now had to give their own wives and children, and said their “nation is becoming extinct,” suggests a large-scale population loss. So does Ade Obayemi, using a number of arguments. First, in common with the chief of Ayeri, Obayemi points out that “tribute in human beings, paid to Bida could not be met by the number of slaves locally owned nor by natural increase.” Second, he argues, population distribution today is uneven, and he suggests that the larger centers, collaborator settlements that were spared the worst ravages suffered by their neighbors, reflect what would have been the normal pre-nineteenth-century demographic pattern. Third, many lineages and sub-lineages are remembered but extinct, some of these being “‘towns’ in some senses of the word.”[57] These arguments are strong, especially the first and the third, but there are also problems. It is impossible to discount Michael Mason’s point that we do not know “either the absolute population or the population growth rate . . . before the twentieth century,” and that we do not know, “even approximately, how many slaves left the area and never returned,” so we cannot come to any conclusion on the seriousness of the long-term effects. There are “[e]ven lower population densities,” Mason goes on to point out, in other areas (he mentions Borgu) “where the factor of invading armies may be assumed to be negligible.”[58] Early British administrators believed that slave raiding had serious effects on population, and the intensification of slave-taking in the last years before the defeat of Nupe by the British may be argued to be confirmation of their beliefs. As C. K. Meek reported:

Towards the end of Maliki’s and the beginning of Abubakr’s reign the Bida Filanis, fully appreciating the Niger Company’s preparations for war, made a final raid on Aworo and it is safe to say that in the Aworo district today there isn’t a single male or female over the age of 30 who has not been a slave at Bida.[59]

Nevertheless, Meek’s account also makes it clear that many of the slaves (especially, it is likely, the newly enslaved) did return to their homes. Other reports of the return of slaves from Nupe to their homes south of the Niger due to British attacks on Nupe from 1897 onward support this conclusion.[60] Reports of the large scale of Bunu cloth production in the early twentieth century suggest that many of the returnees were weavers. Ade Obayemi accepts that escape from north of the Niger might not have been too difficult for the slaves,[61] even before the British attacks on Nupe. However, we are still left without real statistical information from which to draw any adequate numerical conclusions.

We can, nevertheless, make tentative suggestions as to some of the economic effects of raids, tribute collection, and enslavements. One important point, made by Femi Kolapo, is that for all the disruptions, normal economic activity did not cease.[62] Agricultural production continued. In 1858, Emir Masaba even told his Bunu soldiers (no doubt conscripts) “that those persons who wanted to trade must go and trade, who wanted to work farm must do it, and leave war.”[63] Even if the largest part of the produce and products of their work found its way into the Nupe-Fulani coffers, this action of Masaba’s argues for the encouragement of at least some semblance of normal production routines. In any case, warfare was a seasonal affair.

Trade did not cease. Bunu and other traders who moved to Gbebe continued their trading activities, and some of them engaged in the down-river slave trade, in which compatriots of theirs were counted among the merchandise;[64] these traders profited from raids and kidnappings, not unlike the accommodationist chiefs. Even industrial innovation continued. In 1854, at Gbebe, William Balfour Baikie reported from Gbebe that “in one weaving establishment we found that some of our Turkey reds [blankets] had been taken to pieces and the threads, neatly knotted, were now being interwoven with some of their own white and blue.”[65] These weavers could well have been Bunu men or women; many Bunu women were observed by Bunu returnee missionary James Thomas in 1859 in the same town, “making country cloth.”[66] A new source of thread for the famed red cloths had been found.[67]

It seems likely, however, that fairly large numbers of Bunu women weavers (as well as Yagba and others) were taken as slaves to Nupe, where they taught Nupe women of the upper classes to weave.[68] Indeed, cloth production in the Northeast Yoruba and nearby areas may well have been a factor in the Nupe-Fulani depredations south of the Niger, as Colleen Kriger suggests, because of its value in the northern trade.[69] Thus, the profit from Bunu cloth production, whether the cloths were taken as tribute or their makers were taken as slaves, moved north to Nupe. This did not, however, remain true in the early colonial period, when the cloth trade from Kabba and Bunu to Nupe was reported to be thriving, though in the long run the Bunu women may have decided to concentrate largely on the non-luxury segment of the trade.[70]

The cultural effects of the nineteenth-century intermingling of peoples and other events were generally limited and superficial. There appears to be relatively little evidence of cultural borrowing or absorption, though some Bunu are said to have been absorbed by the Bassa-Nge on the east bank, and some Yoruba speakers are said to have been “Igbirralised.”[71] Some limited intermarriage is reported between language groups,[72] but in general the ethnicities, even when scattered amongst one another, remained separate.[73] Obayemi believes that where, as in Oworo, there is evidence of the adoption of Nupe traits, this is “the result of direct copying . . . during the twentieth century.” [74] In this, however, he may not be entirely correct. In 1918, C. K. Meek wrote a report on the “Aworo District”:

When I paid my first visit to Agbaja I found that there was no one holding the position of second headman. The Olu was asked if he would prefer to have the old Aworo title of Lessaw restored or whether he would rather retain the Nupe titles of Yerima, Kpotun etc. The Olu preferred the 2nd alternative and . . . he was backed by all the principal men of thetown.[75]

It seems to me that this account is likely to reflect the adoption of Nupe titles during the period of Nupe-Fulani overlordship, as a further gesture of accommodation by the “principal men,” and as a means to disguise any lack of local legitimacy as titleholders among them. The titles seem to have become entrenched by 1918; and it is difficult to suggest a reason why they might have been adopted after the end of Nupe-Fulani rule.[76]

There are differing opinions as to the extent to which Islam spread from the Nupe-Fulani into the Yoruba-speaking areas near the confluence in the nineteenth century, but it seems likely that its influence did not extend very far.[77] Likewise, the impact of Christianity was not great. Christianity was preached by Church Missionary Society agents at Gbebe and Lokoja; most of them were Sierra Leone “recaptives” or their sons, and two of them were of Bunu origin.[78] While they made some progress among the refugee populations in Gbebe and Lokoja, including Bunu and Oworo, they had little impact inland, although they made preaching tours there. It was the next generation of evangelists, early in the twentieth century, who began to have more success in the Bunu area.[79] The early CMS agents, however, were yet another new group of neighbors that the Owe, Oworo, and Bunu were going to have to deal with, products of the “opening up” of the Niger to Europeans, European trade, and Europeanized Africans, and forerunners of the next imperialist group to arrive in the area, the British.

Politically, the Nupe imperialists had a more immediate impact on the confluence Yoruba groups. A colonial officer even alleged that the area that became Kabba Division was “so devastated and so disintegrated that not only tribal organisation but even village organisation had been well nigh oblitered [sic].”[80] However, as Obayemi has pointed out, the lineage remained “the basic landowning and land-disposing unit,” giving the individual “his social identity and determining his political standing, his religious expression and economic opportunity.” Returned slaves were reabsorbed into their lineages, and where lineages had died out, “known descendants (even on the female line) were persuaded to return and resettle.” All of the “basic institutions of the ancient polities” were retained.[81] And among the Owe, Oworo, and Bunu, group identity was broadened. The introduction, by the Nupe-Fulani for their “administrative convenience,” of overall tribute coordinators or “heads” of the Bunu, Oworo, and Owe peoples was an innovation,[82] albeit one that led to considerable problems. In Oworo, for example, “clashes” occurred after the death of Okpoto between Agboshi and Abba. The olu in 1918, reportedly a cousin of Ajetto, was of obscure origins: “Ajokpa does not know who his grandfather was and does not properly belong to Agbaja at all. Ajetto was also an importee (he belonged to an Aworo village called Kabba) and his election was opposed by the family of Abba.”[83] Controversy over the title has continued.[84]

British Takeover and British Rule

The next imperialists faced by the Northeast Yoruba were the British. Their early contacts were cordial, with some Northeast Yoruba groups asking the British to come and defend them from the Nupe- Fulani.[85] The early results of British intervention against Nupe, first by the Royal Niger Company under Goldie, then by the authorities of the Protectorate of Northern Nigeria (declared in Lokoja in 1900)[86] were positive. Nupe raids and tribute collection ceased. Large numbers of slaves left their masters in Nupe north of the Niger and returned to their homes south of the river.[87] Safety returned to the area, and internal trade increased:

After the fall of Bida Eggan [a Niger port] became a town of very considerable importance. Traders could safely bring in their products not only from the Nupe districts but from Bunu, Kabba, Yagba and Akoko country.[88]

Trade in local cloth flourished. Leo Frobenius, who visited Bida, the Nupe capital, in 1911 described its market, where dealers with great bales of home-spuns come daily in from the Bunu district in the South, an outlying province of the Yoruban territory. The larger portion of the beautiful stuffs used by the Nupé ladies comes from there, and although they themselves can manage the handloom, their own producing power is a mere fleabite to the enormous output of Kabba and Bunu.[89]

Despite Frobenius’s reference to “beautiful stuffs,” on the evidence of the textiles brought back to Europe by Frobenius, as pointed out by Colleen Kriger, much of the Bunu cloth sold in Bida is likely to have been of an inexpensive type, indicating the Bunu women weavers’ strategy of developing (or redeveloping?) a large-scale industry in low-cost products, which continued until the 1960s (despite some competition from the Ebira) and profited from the pax Britannica, which ensured the safety of long-distance trade.[90]

Overall, however, the long-term impact of British rule was less positive for the confluence area. With the development of the railway system, the River Niger lost its importance as a trade conduit; and no major export crop was found. The Yoruba speakers of the confluence and their neighbors, therefore, found themselves in an economic backwater. By 1926, for example, “the Eggan area [was] now but the shadow of its former self. . . . Now there is very little save the town itself, a multitude of native huts on a crumbling sandbank, for most of the trade has gone across the river to Katcha, a market on the Baro-Minna Railway.”[91]

Although the British caused the end of Nupe-Fulani domination over the confluence, nevertheless in many ways they allowed the effects of Nupe-Fulani domination to continue. In their boundary making, the British included the confluence peoples and many of the Northeast Yoruba within the Northern Region, to which the Nupe north of the Niger also belonged. Thus the confluence peoples were further pushed to the periphery, both economically and politically.[92]

Within the area, the British retained much of the political system introduced by the Nupe. Basing their decision on what they considered “the preponderant role of Kabba” during the Nupe period, the British chose Kabba as the capital, and the Obaro as the “Paramount Head,” of Kabba Division.[93] The “Oro of Aworro” also remained important, and in 1918 he was given supervisory authority over the Kakanda, Kupa, and Egga(n) Districts, while the “Baro of Kabba” was to oversee other groups.[94] The Owe and the Obaro are said to have been “despised by the other tribes in the Division for their tame submission to the Fulani,”[95] an accusation no doubt fueled by resentment of Kabba’s dominant position in the area during the colonial period. In 1918, the Ebira were said to be “prolific,” and “spreading over the surrounding districts in search of good farm land, or trading,” while the Owe were said to be decreasing in numbers.[96] The results of this mélange of population change, entrenchment of authority, and economic neglect for the relations between the peoples of the confluence in the twentieth century need to be investigated.[97]


Much of the story of the confluence peoples, Yoruba and non-Yoruba, and their relations still waits to be researched. Much of our present knowledge, together with promising lines of investigation, we owe to the work of Ade Obayemi. We urgently need to follow up his work. Archaeological and linguistic studies need to be expanded. The examination of cultural connections needs to be continued, though with the understanding that connection does not of itself tell us its direction or its type. Oral testimony needs to be collected before yet another generation dies out. The confluence area may have been something of a backwater in the last eighty years, but only in current economic terms; over the long term it has been an important area of cultural and economic contact and circulation. This is a story that needs to be told.


[1]  I would like to thank Kola Odofin, of Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, for locating and photocopying various items in the Nigerian National Archives, Kaduna (NNAK); James Femi Kolapo for providing me with copies of chapters of his thesis and other unpublished or to be published works; and Janet Stanley, Librarian, National Museum of African Art, Smithsonian Institution, for supplying copies of hard-to-find articles.

Eva Krapf-Askari characterized the Northeast Yoruba as the “Okun” people, and in this she is followed by Ade Obayemi. Eva K. Askari, “The Social Organization of the Owe, African Notes 2, 3 (1964-65): 9; Ade Obayemi, “The Sokoto Jihad and the ‘O-kun’ Yoruba: A Review,” Journal of the Historical Society of Nigeria 9 (1978): 61.

[2] In 1918, for example, colonial officer C. K. Meek differentiated between the Oworo of the confluence area and the “pure Yorubas”: “The worship of Shongo is supposed to belong properly to the pure Yorubas and if an Aworo were killed by lightning the tribe would summon Yorubas from Lokoja to come to Agbaja and perform the rites necessary to appease the angry Spirit.” NNAK SNP 10 393p/1918, An Assessment Report on the Aworo (Oworraw) District of the Kabba Division, by Mr. C. K. Meek, Assistant District Officer,” para. 45.

[3] Femi J. Kolapo, “The 1858-59 Gbebe CMS Journal of Missionary James Thomas,” History in Africa 27 (2000): n. 34. Thomas referred to  “my own tribe Eki which is called Bunu” (October 15); “Eki” probably refers to “Ikiri,” a part of Bunu.

[4] Askari, “Social Organization,” 9; P. C. Lloyd, “Political and Social Structure,” in S. O. Biobaku, ed., Sources of Yoruba History (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1973), 209. In 1967 the old regional structure was abolished, and the Northeast Yoruba were included in Kwara State.

[5] Toyin Falola, “A Research Agenda on the Yoruba in the Nineteenth Century,” History in Africa 15 (1988): 216-17; Funso Afolayan, “Towards a History of Eastern Yorubaland,” in Toyin Falola, ed., Yoruba Historiography (Madison: University of Wisconsin-Madison African Studies Program, 1991), 75-77. Much of the published work on the Northeast Yoruba is by Ade Obayemi. I urge that Professor Obayemi’s unpublished papers and research notes be made available to scholars.

[6] For Oworo claims to indigenous status, see Daryll Forde, The Yoruba-Speaking Peoples of South-Western Nigeria (Ethnographic Survey of Africa, Western Africa, Part IV) (London: International African Institute, 1951; reprinted with supplementary bibliography, 1969), 74; also NNAK SNP 10 393p/1918, Assessment Report Aworo District, Meek, paras. 23, 39. However, Forde also cites the opinion of McBride that the Oworo were “the earliest known inhabitants of Koton-Karifi Division,” on the east bank, and “were driven across the Niger in the eighteenth century.” C. R. Niven reports that “as far as one can see the probability is that once all the Kabba Province was occupied by Aworos, though whether they were or were not the indigenous inhabitants is impossible to say.” See Niven, “The Kabba Province of the Northern Provinces, Nigeria,” Geographical Journal 68, 4 (October 1926): 296. Niven adds that “[o]n the Kabba side the probability is that the Bunus were the first invaders from the south-west, and that they drove back the Aworos towards the River Niger.” For other stories of origin of the Bunu and of the Owe, see Forde, Ethnographic Survey, 74; O. Temple, comp., C. L. Temple, ed., Notes on the Tribes, Provinces, Emirates and States of the Northern Provinces of Nigeria, 2nd ed., new impression (New York: Barnes and Noble, 1967), 71, 306; K. V. Elphinstone, Gazetteer of Ilorin Province (London: Waterlow and Sons Limited, 1921), 48; Ade Obayemi, “States and Peoples of the Niger-Benue Confluence Area,” in Obaro Ikime, ed., Groundwork of Nigerian History (Ibadan: Heinemann Educational Books [Nig.] Ltd., 1980), 149; Lloyd, “Political and Social Structure,” 209.

[7] Robert Smith, Kingdoms of the Yoruba, 3rd ed. (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1988), 50.

[8] Obayemi, “States and Peoples,” 148.

[9] For the hypothesis and criticisms or caveats, see Smith, Kingdoms, 50, 156; Obayemi, “States and Peoples,” 148, 153; Obayemi, “The Yoruba and Edo-Speaking Peoples and Their Neighbours before 1600 A.D.,” in J.F.A. Ajayi and Michael Crowder, eds., History of West Africa, vol. 1, 3rd ed. (Harlow, England: Longman, 1985), 261-63; Lloyd, “Political and Social Structure,” 208-9, 219-20; Afolayan, “Towards a History,” 77

[10] Obayemi, “States and Peoples,” 151, 152.

[11] See Temple and Temple, Notes on the Tribes, 155, 197; Elphinstone, Gazetteer, 48; Obayemi, “States and Peoples,” 147, 149, 161; S. F. Nadel, A Black Byzantium (London: Oxford University Press for International African Institute, 1942), 19-20, 21. Unfortunately, I did not have access to Y. A. Ibrahim’s manuscript (“The Search for Political Leadership in a Nigerian Community,” Zaria, 1968) on the Ebira Tao when writing this chapter, so my information on this group may be incomplete. For useful maps, see Michael Mason, Foundations of the Bida Kingdom (Zaria: Ahmadu Bello University Press, 1981), viii; and Elisha P. Renne, Cloth That Does Not Die (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1995), 140.

[12] Askari, “Social Organization,” 9-10, and see other references, 10. For similarities and differences among the Northeast Yoruba groups, see also NNAK SNP 10 393p/1918, Assessment Report Aworo District, Meek, paras. 39, 52; Forde, Ethnographic Survey, 74, 75, 79-80; Smith, Kingdoms, 50.

[13] Obayemi, “States and Peoples,” e.g., citing Ibrahim, “Search for Leadership.” See also references to red cloth, below, and note 18.

[14] Lloyd,  “Political and Social Structure,” 208; and Smith, Kingdoms, 50, also Askari, quoted above.

[15] For similarities and differences between the Northeast Yoruba and the rest of the Yoruba world, see NNAK SNP 10 393p/1918, Assessment Report Aworo District, Meek, para. 45; Lloyd, “Political and Social Structure,” 206, 208, 209, 210, 211, 213, 217; Obayemi, “Yoruba and Edo-Speaking Peoples,” 280; Afolayan, Towards a History, 77. For “mini-states,” see Obayemi, “Sokoto Jihad,” 62-63.

[16] Obayemi, “States and Peoples,” 163. See also Obayemi, “Yoruba and Edo-Speaking Peoples,” 271.

[17] This must be a generic word. See, e.g., Obayemi, “States and Peoples,” 164, n. 104.

[18] Obayemi, “States and Peoples,” 164. See also quotation from Baikie at Gbebe, below, on the use of “Turkey reds.” In the twentieth century, wool from red hospital blankets was used. See Renne, Cloth, 146. There was a more widespread movement of cloth ideas around the confluence area (very broadly defined) especially it seems in the nineteenth century, but this may well reflect in part a preexisting pattern of cultural circulation. See Ann O’Hear, “The Introduction of Weft Float Motifs to Strip Weaving in Ilorin,” in T. C. McCaskie and David Henige, eds., West African Economic and Social History: Studies in Memory of Marion Johnson (Madison: University of Wisconsin African Studies Program, 1990).

[19] Obayemi, “States and Peoples,” 149.

[20]  In this case we have an indication of the direction of the cultural influence. This, however, is not a conclusion we can draw in many cases. Neither is the nature of the cultural influence generally. For this latter, see Lloyd, “Political and Social Structure,” 205-6.

[21] Obayemi, “States and Peoples,” 162-63.

[22] The emirate had its center to the north of the River Niger. The Nupe speakers who were the Northeast Yorubas’ immediate neighbors to the south of the river fared variously with respect to Bida. See C. K. Meek’s report on the Kakanda and Kupa groups, in NNAK SNP 10 266p/1918: An Assessment Report on the Kakanda, Kupa and Eggan Districts of the Kabba Division by Mr. C. K. Meek, Assistant District Officer:

The exactions were greatest under Maliki. . . . by the end of Maliki’s reign 3/4ths of what was left of the Kupa tribe had taken up permanent residence in Bida. (para. 40)

[t]he Kakandas admit paying Masaba a yearly levy of 200,000 cowries which was subsequently raised to 400,000. There was never any demand however for slaves and it would appear that Masaba found the Kakanda canoemen so useful for transporting Filani slave raiding expeditions that he considered it advisable to be on friendly terms with the river tribe. Budon moreover was a convenient market for disposing of such slaves as were not required at Bida. (para. 50)

There may well, however, have been Kakanda “Canoe Slaves.” See Paul E. Lovejoy and Jan S. Hogendorn, Slow Death for Slavery: The Course of Abolition in Northern Nigeria, 1897-1936 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1993), 35.

[23] Elphinstone, Gazetteer, 30.

[24] Obayemi, “Sokoto Jihad,” 67, n. 15.

[25] Femi James Kolapo, “Military Turbulence, Population Displacement and Commerce on a Slaving Frontier of the Sokoto Caliphate: Nupe c.1830-1857,” Ph.D. thesis, York University, North York, Ontario, Canada, May 1999, appendix 2, 276.

[26]  Journal of J. F. Schon (Journals of the Rev. James Frederick Schon and Mr. Samuel Crowther), quoted in Kolapo, “Military Turbulence,” appendix 2, 280. See below for traditions of Bunu crossing the river and becoming absorbed in the Bassa-Nge.

[27] NNAK SNP 10 393p/1918, Assessment Report Aworo District, Meek, paras. 27-29.

[28] The Ebira were probably not subdued for long.  See Mason, Foundations, 77. For the Ebira in later years, see ibid., 102-3.

[29] Elphinstone, Gazetteer, 19.

[30] J. F. Ade Ajayi and S. A. Akintoye, “Yorubaland in the Nineteenth Century,” in Ikime, ed., Groundwork, 290, 292; E.G.M. Dupigny, Gazetteer of Nupe Province (London: Waterlow and Sons, 1920), 15-17. On Akoko and the “Agge War,” see Michael Mason,  “The Jihad in the South: An Outline of the Nineteenth Century Nupe Hegemony in North-Eastern Yorubaland and Afenmai,” Journal of the Historical Society of Nigeria 5, 2 (1970): 197-98; Kolapo, “Military Turbulence,” appendix 2, 289, n. 53.

[31] Mason, Foundations, 134 and 138, n. 108; Dupigny, Gazetteer, 19-20; NNAK SNP 10 393p/1918, Assessment Report Aworo District, Meek, para. 35.

[32] Seymour Vandeleur, Campaigning on the Upper Nile and Niger (London: Methuen and Co., 1898), 189-90, quoting Rev. C. E. Wating.

[33] Mason, “Jihad in the South,” 205; Mason, Foundations, 77. For the devaluation of cowries, see Paul E. Lovejoy, “Interregional Monetary Flows in the Precolonial Trade of Nigeria,” Journal of African History 15 (1974).

[34] NNAK SNP 10 393p/1918, Assessment Report Aworo District, Meek, paras. 29-30. Dates of reigns are taken from Mason, Foundations.

[35] Renne, Cloth, 210, n. 21. In the reign of Maliki, other places were apparently asked to pay in “money” as well as slaves. See NNAK SNP 10 393p/1918, Assessment Report Aworo District, Meek, para. 40.

[36] NNAK SNP 10 393p/1918, Assessment Report Aworo District, Meek, para. 32; Kolapo, “CMS Journal,” October 15. Similar demands were made elsewhere by Ibadan. “All the subordinate towns in Osun, Ife, Ijesa, Ekiti, Akoko and Igbomina, apart from paying regular tributes, had to support the Ibadan with food, money and men whenever Ibadan was on campaign.” Ajayi and Akintoye, “Yorubaland,” 290.

[37] NNAK SNP 10 393p/1918, Assessment Report Aworo District, Meek, para. 29

[38] Obayemi, “Sokoto Jihad,” 75.

[39] NNAK SNP 10 393p/1918, Assessment Report Aworo District, Meek, para. 34. See also Obayemi, “Sokoto Jihad,” 75-76, quoting Mai Maina, in Part II of A.H.M. Kirk-Greene and P. Newman, West African Travels and Adventures: Two Autobiographical Narratives from Northern Nigeria (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 1971).

[40] NNAK SNP 10 393p/1918, Assessment Report Aworo District, Meek, para. 51.

[41] Obayemi, “Sokoto Jihad,” 69.

[42] Ibid., 75, and n. 44.

[43] Ajayi and Akintoye, “Yorubaland,” 292-93; Mason, Foundations, 105-6, 107, 108; Mason, “Jihad in the South,” 199-200. Akoko had been part of the Ibadan sphere of influence (see note 36, above), but Nupe influence had grown, so the Akoko people were fighting in the late 1879s and 1890s to resist the Nupe.

[44] NNAK SNP 10 393p/1918, Assessment Report Aworo District, Meek, para. 29.

[45] Obayemi, “Sokoto Jihad,” 73. Also see below on the introduction of tribute coordinators.

[46] See note 75, below.

[47] Ibid., 159, quoting T. Moses. [Author’s note, 2020: I am not sure what “Ibid.” refers to here.]

[48] Obayemi, “Sokoto Jihad,” 75; Askari, “Social Organization,” 9; Ajayi and Akintoye, “Yorubaland,” 293.

[49] Vandeleur, Campaigning, 189.

[50] Obayemi, “Sokoto Jihad,” 69, also 81 and n. 68; Renne, Cloth, 16. For similar occurrences in Akoko, see NNAK SNP 10 458p/1917, Ilorin Province Report June 1917, by K. V. Elphinstone, para. 17.

[51] See quotation from Schon’s journal, and note 26, above.

[52] Kolapo, “Military Turbulence,” appendix 2, 282; Kolapo, “CMS Journal,” September 26. When Gbebe was destroyed in a civil war, many fled again, especially to Lokoja. Kolapo, “CMS Missionaries of African Origin and Extra-Religious Encounters at the Niger-Benue Confluence, 1858-1880,” African Studies Review 43, 2 (Sep. 2000).

[53] Femi J. Kolapo, “The Grassroots: Town-Life during the Early 19th Century Nupe Wars,” unpublished ms. On desertion of settlements, see also Ade Obayemi, “An Archaeological Mission to Akpaa,” Confluence (An Academic Journal of the Kwara State Council for Arts and Culture) 1, 1 (June 1978): 60, 61.

[54] Mason, “Jihad in the South,” 208.

[55] Ibid.

[56] Vandeleur, Campaigning, 189.

[57] Obayemi, “Sokoto Jihad,” 82-84.

[58] Mason, “Jihad in the South, 208.

[59] NNAK SNP 10 393p/1918, Assessment Report Aworo District, Meek, para. 35. For early British administrators’ assumptions, see Mason, “Jihad in the South,” 208; also Obayemi, “Sokoto Jihad,” 84, quoting Lugard.

[60] See note 85, below.

[61] Obayemi, “Sokoto Jihad,” 82.

[62] Kolapo, “Grassroots.”

[63] Kolapo, “CMS Journal,” October 15.

[64] Kolapo, “Grassroots”; Kolapo, “CMS Journal,” December 4. For Bunu people among the slaves traded down the Niger, see Kolapo, “Military Turbulence,” 135-36; and “CMS Journal,” July 10, 16, and 26.

[65] Wiliam Balfour Baikie, Narrative of an Exploring voyage up the Rivers Kwora and Binue in 1854 (London: Frank Cass and Co., Ltd., 1966), 268.

[66] Kolapo, “CMS Journal.” July 13 is the date given by missionary James Thomas in his journal: this is incorrect, and Femi Kolapo suggests February 13 as the correct date. Personal communication.

[67] See references to Bunu red cloths, above and below. Also Renne, Cloth, 104-6, 124-26, and 145-46, on men and women weaving these red cloths.

[68] Forde, Yoruba-Speaking Peoples, 77; Nadel, Black Byzantium, 297. Mason (Foundations, 54), refers to “the term bunu, which derives from the Yoruba people of the same name [and in Nupe] suggests both a design and a type of cloth.” This would have been taught to Nupe women by Bunu slaves. For bunu cloth, see also Colleen Kriger, “Textile Production and Gender in the Sokoto Caliphate” Journal of African History 34 (1993): 367, and 366, fig. 1.

[69] Colleen Kriger, “Textile Production in the Lower Niger Basin: New Evidence from the 1841 Niger Expedition Collection,” Textile History 21, 1 (1990): 53. For trade to the north in bunu cloths, see Kriger, “Production and Gender,” 367, and n. 14.

[70] See below.

[71] Obayemi, “Sokoto Jihad,” 83, and n 74; Obayemi, “States and Peoples,” 152, citing Y. A. Ibrahim.

[72] NNAK SNP 10 393p/1918, Assessment Report Aworo District, Meek, para. 39.

[73] According to C. K. Meek, in NNAK SNP 10 393p/1918, Assessment Report Aworo District,

Tribally the [Aworo] district is divisible into two halves inhabited by the Aworos and Bassanges respectively—the former occupying the country to the north, the Bassanges that to the south of Lokoja. In addition there are scattered settlements of Hausas, Igbirras, and Nupes, and there is a Bassa Komo village near IKEYA. (para. 8)

[T]he tribes of the Kabba Division can roughly be divided into 2 classes, the “Nupe” tribes and the “Yoruba” tribes, these terms being used generically, not to indicate a common origin so much as a common civilization and a common language group—the former living in round houses, observing the same institutions as the Nupes and speaking Nupe or a language affiliated to Nupe, the latter living in oblong houses, observing the cruder Southern customs of peoples forced to live in the hills or thick bush, and speaking languages which, when not actually dialects of Yoruba, are at least closely allied to Yoruba. The Aworo are one of the Yoruba, the Bassanges one of the Nupe group. (para. 22)

[74] Obayemi, “Sokoto Jihad,” 86.

[75] NNAK SNP 10 393p/1918, Assessment Report Aworo District, Meek, para. 74.

[76] See below for lack of legitimacy among the olus of Oworo; also above on “upstart” chiefs.

[77] Mason (“Jihad in the South,” 206-7) believes that “the impact of the nineteenth century jihad . . . caused . . . numbers [of Muslims] to swell to important proportions.” However, Obayemi (“Sokoto Jihad, 76, n. 48) argues that the “entry of Islam into the O-kun districts date[s] effectively from the first and second decades of the twentieth century.” Others tend to agree that conversion to Islam was not widespread in the nineteenth century. According to Renne (Cloth, 210, n. 24), “During the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries when Nupe hegemony prevailed, some Bunu chiefs became Muslims although the majority of the people retained traditional beliefs. Although Muslim worship is not common in Bunu today, some people, particularly in Northern Bunu (Kiri) are practicing Muslims.” Temple and Temple (Notes on the Tribes, 72) reported in the second decade of the twentieth century that the Bunu were “a pagan people, amongst whom Muhammadanism is penetrating.” Niven, in 1926 asserted, of Kabba Province as a whole, that [m]ost of the natives are animists” (“Kabba Province,” 298). Mason (“Jihad in the South,” 207 and n. 4) records that returned slaves had become Muslims (“In nearly every village which I [Mason] visited in Kabba Division, I was informed that ex-slaves, returned from the north, had become Muslims”), but it is likely that many of these people did not return until 1897 or later.

[78] Kolapo, “CMS Journal,” “Missionaries,” and “Military Turbulence,” 135-36.

[79] Kolapo, “Missionaries”; Renne, Cloth, 159-60, 165-66, 225, nn. 8 and 9. The major period of conversion to Christianity among the Bunus came in the early 1930s, “in the wake of the Omi Mimo revival movement” and encouraged by CMS agents. Renne, Cloth, 164-66.

[80] NNAK SNP 10 490p/1918, Ilorin Report no. 86, for Half Year 1918, by Resident K. V. Elphinstone, para. 9.

[81] Obayemi, “Sokoto Jihad,” 85-86.

[82] Ibid., 72-73, 76. More thorough-going political changes were introduced by the Nupe-Fulani in the Afenmai area, further south. Mason, “Jihad in the South,” 207, quoting a British colonial administrator.

[83] NNAK SNP 10 393p/1918, Assessment Report Aworo District, Meek, para. 57, also para. 29; Obayemi, “Sokoto Jihad,” 72. On these chiefs, see also above.

[84] Obayemi, “Sokoto Jihad,” 72 and n. 32.

[85] Obayemi, “Sokoto Jihad,” 84 and n. 78; for the appeal made by the ruler of “Ayeri,” see above.

[86] For

British campaigns against the Nupe-Fulani Emirate, see Mason, Foundations, chapter 7.

[87] Ibid., 150; Lovejoy and Hogendorn, Slow Death, chapter 2.

[88] NNAK SNP 10 266p/1918: Assessment Report on Kakanda, Kupa and Eggan, Meek, para. 28. Eggan had been a trading center of great importance in the nineteenth century, at least up to 1890, when Mockler-Ferryman visited it (cited in Marion Johnson, “Cloth on the Banks of the Niger,” Journal of the Historical Society of Nigeria 6, 4 [June 1973]: 363, 364).  In 1897, however, “[t]he attitude of Eggan . . . towards the Royal Niger Company was not considered quite satisfactory. Bida spies and ajelai were apparently being harboured in the town. The town was accordingly burnt down and the Rogan Moman Lafiya deposed.” Assessment Report on Kakanda, Kupa and Eggan, para. 27.

[89]Leo Frobenius, The Voice of Africa, trans. Rudolf Blind, vol. 2 (New York: Benjamin Blom, Inc., 1913), 415.

[90] Kriger, “Production and Gender,” 396. For Bunu textile production in the twentieth century, see Renne, Cloth.

[91] Niven, “Kabba Province,” 292.

[92] Mason, “Jihad in the South,” 208.

[93] C. O. Akomolafe, “The District Head System in Akoko, 1914-1935,” Odu n.s., no. 18 (July 1978): 32-33.

[94] NNAK SNP 10 133p/1919, Ilorin Province Report Annual 1918, by K. V. Elphinstone, Resident, para. 25.

[95] NNAK SNP 10 490p/1918, Ilorin Report no. 86, for Half Year 1918, Elphinstone, para. 13 (report from Sydney Smith). When Michael Mason was conducting research, he was told that the Owes were “still regarded as collaborationists for serving the Nupes.” “Jihad in the South,” 204, n. 7

[96] NNAK SNP 10 490p/1918, Ilorin Report no. 86, for Half Year 1918, Elphinstone, para. 13 (report from Sydney Smith).

[97] One example of conflict between groups is to be seen in the competition between the Ebira and the Bunu women weavers. Both Bunu and Ebira informants told Elisha Renne that Atta Ibrahim “forbade” the Ebira to buy aso ipo cloth (used for burials), “on the grounds that the Bunu people and their cloths were causing undue death among the Ebira.” The Bunu “had a particular economic monopoly which Atta Ibrahim effectively broke by insisting that henceforth the Ebira people use an Ebira-woven white cloth (itaogede) for burials.” Renne, Cloth, 146.

< Back
bottom of page