5.2b Interview with Alhaji Yusuf Olore
Who was the interviewer: Dr. E.B. Bolaji and Mr. Shehu T. Salami
Date: 28th October 1988
Where the interview took place: Ile Olore, Okelele—Angua Ibagun, Ilorin
Compound of the informant: Ile Olore, Okelele
Approximate age of the informant: 96 years
Any other relevant details about the informant: He was an enthusiastic informant, though, like all others, he expected to be given financial compensation—which he was. His name is Alhaji Yusuf Olore, and he is the Baba Salẹ Oloogun Enia Dudu (the Baba Salẹ of Native Herbalists). Alhaji Yusuf is the Atẹle Olore (the official second-in-command to the Magaji). He is a fine man with deep knowledge of local Ilorin history. He spoke about the reigns of the following Emirs—Mama, Shuaibu, Abdulkadir, as well as the present Emir, Zulu Gambari. He said he was still small during the reign of Oba Mama, but knew a bit of what happened in Ilorin at the time.
Whether the informant was completely cooperative or not; and if not, why: [see above].
Whether the informant wishes his/her name to be withheld: He had no objection whatever.
Names of any other people present at the interview: (1) Mr. S.A. Azeez; (2) Baba Magaji
The 19th Century : Section 1
1 About what proportion of the population of Ilorin and its hinterland were slaves, in the 19th century? The slave population was much less than that of the freeborn.
2a Were many slaves used in the army? Yes, especially those who had been warriors before.
2b What were they used for in the army? Cooking, washing/cleaning the clothes of warriors, taking care of horses used in wars.
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, especially by the wealthy.
4a Did some important people have large plantations worked by slaves? Yes.
4b Can you give any examples? Yes—(1) Ladeyọ, (2) Akanji Larokun, (3) Karibuje.
5 In the 19th century, did slaves working on the farms generally reside on the farms, or in town? Or both? On the farms.
6 Is it true to say that there were many large plantations/estates around Ilorin, or were there mostly small scattered holdings? Yes, there were many large farms, with slave labour.
7a Can you estimate how many plantations there were with more than 100 slaves working on them? With more than 30? Cannot be specific, but some like Karibuje; Oja Adio; Asegbe (Oke Moro) had many slaves.
7b About what proportion of farms had a few slaves, but less than 5? Not too many, because a poor man could only afford to buy a 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? No, they did not stop people owning large farms. The Emir was not interested in farms, because the rich people used their slaves to serve the Emir, and all slaves were called “Ẹru Oba” (the Emir’s slaves).
8b Did they succeed? [not applicable] 9a If so, were elite members likely to have several small land holdings? (for 9, see 8 above) [not applicable]
9b Did they move their slaves from one to another? [no response recorded]
10 Did slaves on the farms work in gangs under an overseer? Yes, they worked under recognised leaders.
11a Did slaves work half the day for the master, then half the day for themselves? No, but they enjoyed a good life.
11b Could they sell the produce they grew in their own time? They had no personal farms/holdings.
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? They had leaders, but even when they worked without supervision, they were totally responsible to their owners.
12b Which of these was the more common in the 19th century? Working in gangs.
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? Fighting wars was a constant preoccupation, and slaves were always under supervision. If a slave found a means of buying his freedom, then he could work independently.
13 If a farmer had just a few slaves, would he and his family work in the fields alongside the slaves? Yes.
14a How much difference was there between slaves working on the farms and small-scale poor free farmers? Slave farms were much bigger and more numerous.
14b In what ways were they different? Slave farms had larger yield.
14c In what ways were they similar? Both slaves and small-scale farmers engaged in the actual physical work.
15a Were women slaves also used on the farms? No.
15b What kinds of work did they do there? No actual physical farm work.
15c Was it the women slaves who carried the produce into the town? Yes, this was the only connection with the farms. Male slaves were also engaged in bringing farm produce to the town.
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? Many, but can’t be definite.
16c Was Jimba Oja also in existence at that time? Yes, and it is still in existence today.
16d If so, what was sold there? By whom and to whom? All types of foodstuffs. People came from the surrounding villages to trade there.
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? There were many villages, not just one.
17c About how many slaves were there? No specific number. They were shared into many of the villages under him, like Elemere, Alagbẹdẹ, Yeregi, Apoya, Olugbile, Marafa.
1 Were slaves taught to be Muslims? Yes, but some kept rigidly to their pagan practices.
2 Did they become good Muslims? Yes, those who accepted Islam did with total devotion.
3a In Ilorin, how many people were members of the bori cult? Only the Hausas, because it was their cult. It still is.
3b Did many slaves become members? For example, women slaves? Only Hausa slaves.
3c Did many free born women become members? Can’t say, because the Yoruba, by tradition, did not join the cult. Only Hausas did.
1 Where did the slaves come from? From wherever wars were fought, and those defeated were captured—Yorubaland, from up north, etc.
2a Were slaves brought down from the north? Yes, just as slaves were taken up north for sale.
2b Were these slaves bought by Ilorin people, or were they bought by traders from the south? They were bought by Ilorin people.
3 In what markets in Ilorin were slaves sold? In front of the Emir’s palace – they had middle men, called Onidilali, like those selling livestock
4a In what houses in Ilorin were slaves sold?(1) Ile Lakanla in Okelele; (2) Ile Eleru in Ọmọda.
4b Is there a house (or houses) called
Ile Aluweru? X
Ile Aroworeru? X Ile Olowoẹru [same as Ile Eleru? See 4a]
Ile Arowoteru? X
4c Where is this house? [see 4a?]
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? They lost their source of wealth.
6b Did they go into other kinds of business? Yes.
6c If so, what? Buying and selling of foodstuffs; trading in general merchandise.
1 What proportion of slaves in and around Ilorin were women? About 1/4.
2 What tasks did women slaves perform? Buying for resale; all house work; cloth-weaving.
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? House work.
5 Which cost more, a male slave or a female slave? Male slaves—because of their physical superiority.
6 Which were more in demand, male slaves or female slaves? Male slaves.
1 What was the name for “concubine” in Ilorin? Friend.
2 Were concubines always slaves? No. Slaves were not used as “friends.”
3 What was the status of a concubine who had borne a child to her master? She could not be legally married/attached to the father of her child. She would still be a slave, if there was any association at all.
4 What was the status of a concubine who did not give birth? Just a friend without rights or claims.
5 What was the status of the children of concubines? If born by a free woman, the status would be above slaves, but there would be no rights; if born by slaves, they would be slaves.
6 Was there any special name for such children? No. The father would give whatever name pleased his fancy.
7 What was likely to happen to daughters of concubines? They could be given out in marriage, and for a dowry, by the father. Choice of husband was his.
8 In the 19th century, did concubinage increase or decrease over time? It was not a common practice.
9 What happened to concubines in the 20th century? The number increased.
10 Are there still concubines today? Yes; very prevalent in the society.
11 If so, for what reasons do women become concubines today? Love of money in the main.
1 What was the attitude of a master to his slave? He was in total control and would direct as he pleased.
2 What was the attitude of a slave to his master? Slaves must of necessity/compulsion [give] respect and obedience to the owner.
3 To whom would a master marry his slave
3a if it was a male slave? Anyone he liked.
3b if it was a female slave? Anyone who could pay whatever dowry or compensation demanded.
4 Were household slaves considered as of higher status than farm slaves? They had the same status. Only a slave’s behaviour or performance could earn preferential treatment.
5 Did slaves become junior members of the family of their owner? Yes, when a slave had lived with a family for a long time and had children. Such children would be looked upon as members of the family. [However] Such slaves, or their descendants, were expected to be of good conduct always, or they would be told the story of their origin as slaves.
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 a and b—such a child was still a slave.
6b on the farm?
7 Was there any special name for such children? Such children would bear normal names, but would not bear any special family name or cognomen.
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? Ra ara (buy one’s freedom).
8c What other ways were there in which a slave could be given or gain his or her freedom? A slave who was of exemplary character, and who had many children, could be given freedom.
9 Were slaves owned by families, or by individuals, or both? Only by individuals.
10 Did women as well as men own slaves? Both.
11a How could people tell the difference between a slave and a free person? (1) Slaves carried loads whenever out with the owner; (2) Slaves sat apart from free persons.
11b For example, were slaves given any distinguishing marks? No, only the names they bore would be different.
11c Did they have a different accent from free people? Initially; after some time they spoke the local dialect of Yoruba.
11d Did they behave in any way differently from free people? None, but for the constraints of slavery. Men and women still behaved like individuals.
11e Did they retain their old religion? Yes, though many later became Muslims.
11f Did they retain the customs of their home areas? For a period, until they were absorbed into the stronger Yoruba culture.
11g Did they retain the dances of their home areas? For a while; later they followed the customs of their masters.
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? Answer to both a and b: They created a labour vacuum and erstwhile slave masters had to readjust to life without slaves.
3b in the districts?
4 Or, did many of the slaves stay? Those who left were more than those who stayed at Ilorin.
5 If so, why did they stay? They were well-treated by owners. They looked on themselves as members of their owners’ families.
6 What happened to the slaves who stayed? They were free, and were absorbed into the society.
7 In what way did their situation or status change? They took part in family activities with their former owners as free men.
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? Yes.
8b If so, why? Because of past humane treatment, perhaps.
9 Did the ex-slaves bring/send in less produce after the colonial period had begun? Yes, those who brought in produce brought only small quantities.
10 Did many of the slaves enter into murgu arrangements with their masters after the colonial period had begun? No, they did not need it since colonial laws forbad molestation or continued enslavement.
11 How did the ex-slaves gain access to farming land? They paid isakọlẹ(land dues) to landowners to obtain land. Farm produce could also be given from time to time in appreciation.
Section 8: The 1950s
1 For what reasons did people join the Ilorin Talaka Parapo
1a in the town? Answer to both a and b—because of suffering from self-seeking politicians.
1b in the districts?
2 Do you think it was largely because they were influenced by people in the Action Group, or not? No, because the Talaka Parapo was a party of ease, of regard for individuals.
3 Why was it that people in the districts had to get permission from the NA before they could open a market? Before party politics, only Native Authorities could establish/found markets.
4a Who were the leaders of the “Afin Parapo”? Those living in Afin area for the development/advantage of their area.
4b Who were the members of the “Okemale” Parapo”? People of Okemale area, for their own benefit.
4c Who were their respective leaders? Maito and Adebimpe for Okemale.
4d Why did they split off from each other? Because of self-seeking interests.
4e What different views did the two groups hold? They had different views on leadership, as well as the priorities of the party.
Section 9: Iwofa (iwọfa)
1 Can you explain what is meant by iwofa? Any person given in bondage or servitude as guarantee or security for a loan.
2 Why did people become iwofa? Because their parents/relations needed money to carry out certain projects.
3 What special circumstances might lead a person to put his/her child or himself in pawn? Dire need of money. For example, if three children in a family were old enough to marry, and there was no money, the youngest could be given out as iwofa to obtain money for the other two.
4 Were iwofa usually male, or both male and female? Both male and female.
5 Would a man put his wife in pawn? Not at all.
6 Would a person put his slave in pawn? No, a slave in such a position was considered sold. Slaves would never be returned.
7 Was it usually a child who became iwofa? Yes.
8 Could a child gain any advantages from being iwofa? Yes, such a child would become very wise to the ways of life.
9 Was the iwofa a security for the eventual repayment of a debt, or did the iwofa’s service actually repay the debt? A security only.
10 Was any interest charged on a debt when the creditor had been given an iwofa? No. Iwofa and owo ele (money with interest) were different from each other.
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 iwofaagreement? Iwofa could be more convenient.
13 Why did they prefer this [whichever] one? A loan could be paid back at convenience since only the sum borrowed would be paid back, whatever the length of time.
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? No. In Ilorin, children were given out to obtain money for personal/family use, not to buy freedom. Such children returned home after the loan was paid.
15 In the olden days, did a scarcity of cowries lead to more people being put in pawn? Yes, because as currency, it was very much in demand.
16 Why would a creditor want an iwofa? What were the advantages of this system for the creditor? Whatever service was performed by the iwofa was free and something of a bonus since the sum lent out would still be paid back in full.
17 When the slaves were freed at the beginning of the colonial period, did this lead to more people becoming iwofa? The laws against slavery also affected pawning. So pawning was not prevalent; it was practiced under the cover of domestic servants.
18 If so, why was this? The colonial masters frowned at any form of enforced service or enslavement.
19 Is there any iwofa system nowadays? No, not any more. People, young and old, are too civilised for that.
20 If not, then when did the system die out? [answer to 20 is given in 21]
21 Why did the system die out? During the advent of white colonial rulers.
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? In Angua Ajikobi in Pakata area of Ilorin.
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? He fought in the wars of Orimope, Ogun Ọfa (Offa War) and Ogun Ọyọ Ile.
Why is he remembered as a great warrior? Because he was courageous, and because he served the Native Authority faithfully.