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5.2a Interview with Alhaji Mustapha Magaji Adeyi
Who was the interviewer: Mr. Shehu T. Salami
Date: 20th October 1988
Where the interview took place: Adeyi’s Compound, Okelele, Ilorin
Compound of the informant: Adeyi’s Compound, Okelele, Ilorin
Approximate age of the informant: 80 years
Any other relevant details about the informant: He is Alhaji Mustapha, Head (Magaji) of Adeyi Compound. Adeyi Compound is also leader of all Asudẹ families in Ilorin. They dispersed to various other areas from there.
Whether the informant was completely cooperative or not; and if not, why: He was, but he had to be given a monetary inducement.
Whether the informant wishes his/her name to be withheld: He would be pleased if his name was mentioned.
Names of any other people present at the interview: Dr. E.B. Bolaji and Alhaji Babatunde Ẹlẹsin
The 19th Century : Section 1
1 About what proportion of the population of Ilorin and its hinterland were slaves, in the 19th century? Slaves were numerous. It was like buying vehicles today.
2a Were many slaves used in the army? Yes.
2b What were they used for in the army? They were used for farm work.
3 Were many slaves used on the farms? Would it be true to say that the majority of slaves were used on the farms? Yes.
4a Did some important people have large plantations worked by slaves? Yes.
4b Can you give any examples? Yes. Awolarogun of Okelele.
5 In the 19th century, did slaves working on the farms generally reside on the farms, or in town? Or both? They lived in town.
6 Is it true to say that there were many large plantations/estates around Ilorin, or were there mostly small scattered holdings? Yes, for the wealthy, like (4b above). There were small farms for the poor.
7a Can you estimate how many plantations there were with more than 100 slaves working on them? With more than 30? Not certain, but farms like Lawoyin; Larokun; Aloweru, and Kongbayi in Okelele, all had many slaves.
7b About what proportion of farms had a few slaves, but less than 5? Can’t be sure of number, but such farms as belonging to Dawodu Isalẹ Oja and Daodu Fagba, had few slaves.
8 It has been said that the 19th century Emirs tried to restrict the elite members to small scattered land holdings, so that they could not build up a consolidated power base outside the town—
8a Is it true that they tried to do this? Yes.
8b Did they succeed? Yes.
9a If so, were elite members likely to have several small land holdings? Yes.
9b Did they move their slaves from one to another? Not necessarily. They keep small groups in the farms.
10 Did slaves on the farms work in gangs under an overseer? Yes, they had leaders (Alakoṣo).
11a Did slaves work half the day for the master, then half the day for themselves? Yes, they were given such liberty.
11b Could they sell the produce they grew in their own time? Yes.
12a Did slaves always work in gangs under an overseer? Or did they sometimes work on their own, and periodically bring/send in fixed amounts of produce for the master? Either, but in each case, the interest of the owner was paramount.
12b Which of these was the more common in the 19th century? If a slave did not serve his/her owner, there could be trouble for the slave.
12c Under what circumstances did they work in gangs, and under what circumstances did they work on their own and send/bring in produce periodically? A slave would desire to help another slave and take permission from the owner.
13 If a farmer had just a few slaves, would he and his family work in the fields alongside the slaves? No. Families worked apart from slaves.
14a How much difference was there between slaves working on the farms and small-scale poor free farmers? Slaves were slaves and the freeborn could not be compared to them.
14b In what ways were they different? Slaves manned bigger farms while the farms for freeholders were smaller.
14c In what ways were they similar? [no answer recorded]
15a Were women slaves also used on the farms? No.
15b What kinds of work did they do there? House work; preparing food for the slaves on the farms.
15c Was it the women slaves who carried the produce into the town? No, both male and female slaves.
16 In the late 19th century, it was reported that the war-chief Jimba was the owner of the small village Oko Jimba between Ilorin and Offa, where he had settled his slaves.
16a Is this true? Yes.
16b About how many slaves were there? They were many.
16c Was Jimba Oja also in existence at that time? Yes.
16d If so, what was sold there? By whom and to whom? Buying and selling of slaves, by slave owners to those who needed slaves.
17 In the 1850s it was reported that Balogun Gambari Ali had “a village of 26,000 slaves of his own, all working in irons.”
17a Did he have such a village? Yes.
17b Where was it? On the way to Offa.
17c About how many slaves were there? They were numerous, but number could not be ascertained.
1 Were slaves taught to be Muslims? If masters were Muslims, slaves were taught to be Muslim. It was the same for any other religion since slaves practiced their master’s religion.
2 Did they become good Muslims? Those who were taught to be Muslims, yes.
3a In Ilorin, how many people were members of the bori cult? Pagan Hausa and Fulani.
3b Did many slaves become members? For example, women slaves? Female slaves were members, but not all of them.
3c Did many free born women become members? Muslim women would never have anything to do with such a cult.
1 Where did the slaves come from? From Hausaland, especially Kano.
2a Were slaves brought down from the north? Yes.
2b Were these slaves bought by Ilorin people, or were they bought by traders from the south? All the people who had money bought slaves, no matter where they came from. Some bought female slaves to serve as wives.
3 In what markets in Ilorin were slaves sold? In Seriki Gobir place in Gambari area.
4a In what houses in Ilorin were slaves sold? In Mejidadi Compound in Okelele. Those who wanted to sell slaves hawked them.
4b Is there a house (or houses) called
Ile Aluweru? Ile Alowoẹru
Ile Aroworeru? X
Ile Arowoteru? X
4c Where is this house? Oke-Apomu.
5 Is it true to say that the trade in slaves in Ilorin was especially important towards the end of the 19th century? It was very important.
6a What happened to the slave traders in Ilorin after the slave trade ended? The white people put a stop to the trade, but the traders were not pleased.
6b Did they go into other kinds of business? Yes
6c If so, what? Trading, especially in women’s (native) cloth called Kijipa, which these traders took to Kano for sale.
1 What proportion of slaves in and around Ilorin were women? About 2/5.
2 What tasks did women slaves perform? Making thread for weaving, shredding melon. Domestic chores, in short.
3 Were slave women used for domestic tasks so that free wives could go into purdah? Yes.
4 What were women slaves most valued for? (1) for domestic work (2) for carrying farm produce to the town.
5 Which cost more, a male slave or a female slave? A male slave. Because a male slave was more useful for physical activities.
6 Which were more in demand, male slaves or female slaves? Male slaves.
1 What was the name for “concubine” in Ilorin? Ọrẹ (friend).
2 Were concubines always slaves? No: slaves were not used as concubines by free men. Slaves could have concubines among themselves.
3 What was the status of a concubine who had borne a child to her master? Olowo jere (slave owner profited). Unless such a slave bought her freedom, she, together with such a child, would still be a slave.
4 What was the status of a concubine who did not give birth? She was barren, and was either dropped or retained, depending on what the man concerned wanted.
5 What was the status of the children of concubines? Thy were looked upon as ọmọ ale (offspring of concubines). If the man had other child, they could not inherit property.
6 Was there any special name for such children? Children of slaves would be named Alheri, Nagode.
7 What was likely to happen to daughters of concubines? They could be claimed or not. They did not have the status of legitimate children.
8 In the 19th century, did concubinage increase or decrease over time? It was not prevalent. Most people were averse to having slave concubines.
9 What happened to concubines in the 20th century? They became more numerous in number.
10 Are there still concubines today? Yes.
11 If so, for what reasons do women become concubines today? Greed; desire to secure a means of livelihood; as a means of obtaining money to take care of their children.
1 What was the attitude of a master to his slave? Hard-hearted owners used their slaves badly. They were very common. Some were very good to their slaves.
2 What was the attitude of a slave to his master? Obedience and affection if the owner was good; fear and hatred, indifferent attitude if owner was cruel.
3 To whom would a master marry his slave
3a if it was a male slave? A hard-working, faithful slave.
3b if it was a female slave? A well-to-do person.
4 Were household slaves considered as of higher status than farm slaves? Yes.
5 Did slaves become junior members of the family of their owner? Yes, if such slaves bought themselves out of slavery.
6 What was the status of the child of a slave, if that child was born
6a in the master’s house? (answer to both 6a and 6b) the child would still be a slave.
6b on the farm?
7 Was there any special name for such children? Yes, but such names were chosen by the parent(s).
8a In the 19th century, did many slaves gain freedom through murgu payments? Yes.
8b Is murgu a Hausa word? Yes. What word is used in Ilorin for murgu? [question mark—presumably “don’t know”]
8c What other ways were there in which a slave could be given or gain his or her freedom? If the owner considered himself/herself wealthy enough, slaves could be freed in homage to God’s assistance.
9 Were slaves owned by families, or by individuals, or both? Only well-to-do individuals.
10 Did women as well as men own slaves? Yes, both.
11a How could people tell the difference between a slave and a free person? Slaves had distinguishing cultural/tribal marks.
11b For example, were slaves given any distinguishing marks? Yes (tribal marks).
11c Did they have a different accent from free people? Yes, their tribal languages.
11d Did they behave in any way differently from free people? Yes.
11e Did they retain their old religion? No, they followed the religion of their owners.
11f Did they retain the customs of their home areas? At first; they were gradually absorbed into the culture of their new environment.
11g Did they retain the dances of their home areas? Yes.
Section 7: The Colonial Period
When the British arrived, it is said that in many places there was a large slave exodus—that many slaves departed.
1 Was this true of Ilorin? Yes.
2 What proportion of the slaves left Ilorin and its districts? They were many.
3 If a large number left, what were the effects of this
3a in the town? [same answer to both in the town and in the districts] The removal of slave labour led to labour disorganisation, the creation of a vacuum in domestic labour.
3b in the districts?
4 Or, did many of the slaves stay? Yes, many stayed and were absorbed into the society.
5 If so, why did they stay? Some did not know where to go. Many others did not want to leave the benevolent life they enjoyed.
6 What happened to the slaves who stayed? They were absorbed into society as free men. They had the opportunity to take up any vocation.
7 In what way did their situation or status change?
8 It is said that in the 19th century, when elite families kept up large households, they wanted more work/produce out of the slaves, but after the colonial period began, they wanted more the recognition from their slaves.
8a Is this true? No.
8b If so, why? [no answer recorded]
9 Did the ex-slaves bring/send in less produce after the colonial period had begun? Yes.
10 Did many of the slaves enter into murgu arrangements with their masters after the colonial period had begun? No, not many of them.
11 How did the ex-slaves gain access to farming land? They were given land to farm, but most of the time, on a temporary basis.
Section 8: The 1950s
1 For what reasons did people join the Ilorin Talaka Parapo
1a in the town? [same answer to both in the town and in the districts] So that life could be easier for them. So that they could have a say in their own governance.
1b in the districts?
2 Do you think it was largely because they were influenced by people in the Action Group, or not? Yes. They considered the A.G. closer to the common people.
3 Why was it that people in the districts had to get permission from the NA before they could open a market? The Native Authority owned the land, and there was a law making it mandatory to obtain official approval to use such land.
4a Who were the leaders of the “Afin Parapo”? People of Aafin area.
4b Who were the members of the “Okemale Parapo”? Okemale people.
4c Who were their respective leaders? The groups had leaders like Maito, Dende Alatare, Adebimpe.
4d Why did they split off from each other? Their philosophies were different.
4e What different views did the two groups hold? Both claimed to champion the poor people’s cause, but leaders of the Afin Parapo were hegemonic: their intention was to sustain the status quo—the leadership of the Fulani group.*
[note written by Dr. Bolaji at the end of question 4] *Question 4—not really helpful answers. But the people of Afin really represented areas within and surrounding the palace (and those who claimed to be related to them by birth). The Okemale is the rest of indigenous Ilorin.
Section 9: Iwofa (iwọfa)
1 Can you explain what is meant by iwofa? Whenever a person wanted to borrow money, he/she would take a child to the borrower where the child would remain until the money was repaid.
2 Why did people become iwofa? They became iwofa when their parents needed money and gave them out as security.
3 What special circumstances might lead a person to put his/her child or himself in pawn? When in serious and embarrassing financial problems.
4 Were iwofa usually male, or both male and female? Both male and female.
5 Would a man put his wife in pawn? No, this would be against the institution of marriage and God’s wish.
6 Would a person put his slave in pawn? No, a slave would react against this and would look for a means to escape.
7 Was it usually a child who became iwofa? Yes, only children.*
[note added by Dr. Bolaji] *Just a thought--?Would this be because children would not be sensitive to servitude because of their tender years, and would be less prone to feeling a sense of indignity?
8 Could a child gain any advantages from being iwofa? No.
9 Was the iwofa a security for the eventual repayment of a debt, or did the iwofa’s service actually repay the debt? It was a security for debt.
10 Was any interest charged on a debt when the creditor had been given an iwofa? No.
11Apart from the iwofa system, could people also borrow money on interest in the olden days? Yes.
12 If so, which did they prefer, to borrow money on interest, or to make an iwofa agreement? Whichever would serve an immediate need.
13 Why did they prefer this [whichever] one? Immediate interest dictated line of action.
14 In other parts of Yorubaland it is said that in the olden days people were put in pawn to obtain money for the redemption of their relatives from slavery. Was this true in Ilorin? Yes.
15 In the olden days, did a scarcity of cowries lead to more people being put in pawn? Yes, it could have been.
16 Why would a creditor want an iwofa? What were the advantages of this system for the creditor? An iwofa was like a slave who could be used for any labour without question.
17 When the slaves were freed at the beginning of the colonial period, did this lead to more people becoming iwofa? [no answer recorded]
18 If so, why was this? [no answer recorded]
19 Is there any iwofa system nowadays? Not any more in Ilorin
20 If not, then when did the system die out? Everyone became a Muslim.
21 Why did the system die out? Same answer as above.
1 I have heard that there was a slave in Ilorin called Dada (or Omo Dada?) who became a great warrior.
1a Is this true? Yes.
1b If so, where did he live? At Okekere, beyond Ọmọda.
1c Did he serve under one of the major chiefs? Yes.
1d Can you tell me anything about his career, for example:
What wars did he fight in? Can’t remember.
Why is he remembered as a great warrior? He was a fearless, dogged fighter, and his offspring were also prominent.