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4.3c(ii) Interview with Alhaji Imam Idiaro, Ile Ongaari (Oni Gaari), Ilorin, 8 September 1988: Extracts from the interview

Many of my questions were on saddlery, as Ile Ongaari is traditionally a saddlemakers’ compound. But Alhaji Imam noted that his forefathers, like himself, were also Islamic teachers, and this led him to show us his charms.

One of these is a charm to prevent a slave from running away; it is the same charm that is used to prevent a wife from running away.

I asked Alhaji Imam about the information given to me the previous day, by Madam Nafisatu (interview 7 September 1988), that a slave wife could use a charm against a free wife. He replied as follows: In the old days, chiefs or whoever had money, if they went to buy a woman slave, and, when they came home, they didn’t treat her well, the slave would put a spell on the chief. The spell would circulate around the chief’s family.

I also asked various questions about a major early settler in the neighbourhood, Magaji Seeni. Ile Ongaari were given their land by Magaji Seeni. He was first there. He gave Balogun Alanamu family their land [Balogun Alanamu was a major warchief and is still head of the ward in which Ile Ongaari and Magaji Seeni’s compound are located]

Alhaji Imam told me that Magaji Seeni had a male slave who was an alfa. He maltreated the slave and the slave put a curse on him. Now if you go to Magaji Seeni’s compound, all is wretched. They are not progressing. [Later he took us into Magaji Seeni’s compound, very close to Ile Ongaari: it looked very down at heel, though there were remains of a large entrance, an indication that the family had been important in the past.]

I also asked several questions about horsekeeping in the past, including the use of slaves. Alhaji Imam proffered the following information:

Ile Ongaari kept horses in the old days. Members of Ile Ongaari were warriors—they also used charms in war.

Balogun Alanamu compound kept up to 50 horses, after the British arrived.

It took 5-6 people to look after a horse:

One to collect the grass;

One to chop the grass into short pieces, for easy digestion;

One to clean the horse;

One to wash it;

One to exercise it.

Those looking after horses were mostly slaves, caught at the war front.