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4.2d(ii) Letter to Dr. Ibrahim Gambari, 22 October 1982

History Department

Kwara State College of Technology,


22 October, 1982

Dear Dr. Gambari,

I would like to thank you very much for allowing me to take up your valuable time recently, for a discussion of my thesis on the economic decline of Ilorin under the colonial government. As I mentioned, I am interested in rounding off my thesis with an examination of the economic effects on the great families of Ilorin of the imposition of colonial rule; since, as you rightly pointed out, the wealth of the important families should serve as a major indicator of the general prosperity of the town. Thanks to the suggestions you gave me during our discussion, I have been able to refine my questions, which I have listed below. I would be most grateful for your further comments on them.

I would also be most grateful for your assistance in arranging an audience with the Emir or his representative, and an interview with a representative of the Gobiri family. I hope to go to Britain in late December, and stay there until next September, in order to complete the writing of my thesis, and these interviews would be most valuable to me in this endeavour.

The questions I have drafted are as follows:


Pre-colonial period.

1 In the pre-colonial period, did the Emir levy taxes on the caravan trade?

2 How were these taxes collected? (eg. caravan tolls?)

3 Was it necessary for newly-arrived long distance traders to apply for permission from the Emir before engaging in trade in Ilorin?

4 Did the palace actively engage in long distance trade? For example, I recently came across a thesis in which it was said that the Emirs controlled most of the firearms in Ilorin; does this mean that the Emirs were engaged in and controlling the firearms trade?

5 How many retainers and horses did the Emir himself keep before the colonial period?

6 How many horsemen and footsoldiers were kept under the command of the Sarkin Baraji?

7 What were the costs involved in keeping horses—eg. grooms, feeding, health care, etc.?

8 In Ilorin, how long could a horse normally be kept alive?

Colonial period—economic effects.

1 In the early colonial period, when the caravan trade was still continuing, did all caravan taxes have to go direct to the colonial government?

Did all taxes on the cattle trade have to go direct to the colonial government?

2 Did all the tax money collected from the townspeople have to go direct to the colonial government, which then paid back a proportion of it in salaries?

3 Did the Emir still have to support as many retainers and horses as before, but on a reduced income?

Or, was he forced to reduce the numbers of retainers and horses kept?

For example, how many retainers and horses were kept by the Emir in the 1920s, 30s and 40s?

4 In the early 20th century, according to Colonial Government Reports, Ilorin families were said to have sent large numbers of dependants out of the town to settle on the farms.

Was this true?

Did it affect the palace?

How did it affect the other chiefly families?

Were the people sent out because it was no longer economically possible to keep as many retainers as before?

5 Did this sending out of dependants lead to extra foodstuffs being brought in to the palace?

If so, was the palace able to profit from this by engaging in the foodstuffs trade, either local or long distance?

6 In what way did the colonial government interfere with the revenue previously obtained from the Emir’s market?

7 What extra expenses did the Emirs have after the beginning of the colonial period? For example, were any extra demands made on them by the colonial government?

Were any extra demands made on the Emirs by retainers or chiefs?

Decline of the “lantana” bead industry.

The industry and trade in lantana beads declined to virtually nothing by the 1930s (because, for example, of the importation of European goods and changes in fashion). If the major families of Ilorin had previously been profiting from this trade, then its decline must have added to their loss of income. Thus, I would be interested in finding out the answers to the following questions:

1 Did the Emir exercise any control over the production of beads?

For example, did he/could he limit the numbers of beads produced, in order to keep up their value?

Did he levy the chiefs in beads?

2 Did the palace control or profit from the trade in beads in any way?

For example, did the Emirs ever send beads to the Oba of Benin?

Once again, Sir, I would like to express my gratitude for your interest and assistance.

Yours sincerely,

Ann O’Hear