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5.2c Interview with Anonymous Informant 1
Who was the interviewer: Dr. E.B. Bolaji and Alhaji Tunde Ẹlẹsin
Date: 2nd November 1988
Where the interview took place: Ile Agbogi
Compound of the informant: Ile Agbogi, Apata-Olowo area, Ọmọda, Ilorin
Approximate age of the informant: Over 75 years
Any other relevant details about the informant: He enjoyed talking about Ilorin issues to patient listeners.
Whether the informant was completely cooperative or not; and if not, why: He was, after assurance that he would be compensated, which he was.
Whether the informant wishes his/her name to be withheld: Yes
Names of any other people present at the interview: Mr. Ibrahim Audu; Morufu Gidado
The 19th Century : Section 1
1 About what proportion of the population of Ilorin and its hinterland were slaves, in the 19th century? There were many slaves, but the predominating number of inhabitants were free born. Many of the slaves were captured in wars; many others were bought.
2a Were many slaves used in the army? Yes; all leaders had to deploy slaves to fight in wars.
2b What were they used for in the army? The brave ones fought in wars; others carried loads, others still provided food for the horses, put up tents and prepared food.
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, slaves were used on farms, and the more the number of slaves, the bigger the farms.
4a Did some important people have large plantations worked by slaves? Yes.
4b Can you give any examples? They were the people considered as rich at that time. One of them was JAMUROGO the Balogun Ajikobi.
5 In the 19th century, did slaves working on the farms generally reside on the farms, or in town? Or both? Both.
6 Is it true to say that there were many large plantations/estates around Ilorin, or were there mostly small scattered holdings? There were some large farms, but not only slaves were employed on the farms.
7a Can you estimate how many plantations there were with more than 100 slaves working on them? With more than 30? (Both) about 50 farms.
7b About what proportion of farms had a few slaves, but less than 5? They were many; but some holdings had more iwofa than 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. The elite had many farms and the Emirs did not interfere with them, since it was mandatory for them to give part of their harvest to the Emir every year.
8b Did they succeed?
If so, were elite members likely to have several small land holdings? They had large farms where they kept their slaves. All titled men had their own farms.
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, mostly according to seniority but the children of their owners were in supervising authority.
11a Did slaves work half the day for the master, then half the day for themselves? The slaves could not work for themselves. Only the iwofa could do that.
11b Could they sell the produce they grew in their own time? They had no private time. The only thing they could sell was whatever they stole from their owners.
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? Slaves worked under leaders who were loyal to their masters. Slaves worked in gangs when necessary.
12b Which of these was the more common in the 19th century? Working under chosen and loyal leaders.
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? They worked in gangs when owners needed them for specific assignments that necessitated grouping.
13 If a farmer had just a few slaves, would he and his family work in the fields alongside the slaves? Yes. This would not mean any change in status, for “a slave knows himself as a slave and an iwofa knows himself as such.”
14a How much difference was there between slaves working on the farms and small-scale poor free farmers? The difference between enslavement and freedom.
14b In what ways were they different? A freeborn could sell the proceeds of his farm, a slave had no farm of his own.
14c In what ways were they similar? Just as slaves worked the farms, so did the poor free farmers.
15a Were women slaves also used on the farm? Yes.
15b What kinds of work did they do there? Planting, harvesting and carrying of harvests to town.
15c Was it the women slaves who carried the produce into the town? Male and female slaves, and even members of the owner’s family.
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? There were many slaves, but his relations also lived there.
16c Was Jimba Oja also in existence at that time? Yes.
16d If so, what was sold there? By whom and to whom? Yams, maize, cotton, guinea corn, etc. Slaves came to sell these items, but were always followed by owners’ people.
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.” (Response) Only slaves who tried to escape, or did but were caught were put in irons. It was not common to maltreat slaves.
17a Did he have such a village? Yes, but the slaves were not that many in number. Also they were not shackled.
17b Where was it? On the way to Osi.
17c About how many slaves were there? There were many, but one could not be definite about number.
1 Were slaves taught to be Muslims? Yes.
2 Did they become good Muslims? Yes. Most slaves adhered strictly to the teachings/injunctions of their owners, even on religious matters.
3a In Ilorin, how many people were members of the bori cult? It was a taboo for Muslims to join secret cults. The Yorubas who still practiced their ancient rites joined the Ogboni Cult. The Bori Cult belonged to the Hausas.
3b Did many slaves become members? For example, women slaves? Slave women’s lives were conditioned by the instructions of their owners, so that if any of them joined the cult, it would not be to the knowledge of their owners.
3c Did many free born women become members? Yes.
1 Where did the slaves come from? Many were captured in the various wars; many others were brought from Hausaland.
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? Traders took their wares to the south for sale, or barter. Often times, traders sold their goods and bought slaves for sale at home in Ilorin.
3 In what markets in Ilorin were slaves sold? In the markets of Jimba or Balla.
4a In what houses in Ilorin were slaves sold? Ile Eleni (Ọmọda area) and Ile Kannike (Gambari area).
4b Is there a house (or houses) called
Ile Aroworeru? Yes
4c Where is this house? Isalẹ Gunniyan.
5 Is it true to say that the trade in slaves in Ilorin was especially important towards the end of the 19th century? Yes it was, as it was the best means of labour on the farms.
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? General trading; trade in cattle from the north, etc.
1 What proportion of slaves in and around Ilorin were women? About one third.
2 What tasks did women slaves perform? Planting of crops; cooking; spinning cotton; pounding yam flour; grinding corn; sweeping; washing of clothes.
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? Domestic work.
5 Which cost more, a male slave or a female slave? A male slave.
6 Which were more in demand, male slaves or female slaves? Both.
1 What was the name for “concubine” in Ilorin? Orẹ (friend).
2 Were concubines always slaves? No.
3 What was the status of a concubine who had borne a child to her master? She achieved a new status—that of a wife. She would cease to be a slave.
4 What was the status of a concubine who did not give birth? She would remain the same. The only possible change in status was to be discarded.
5 What was the status of the children of concubines? They became proper children. If the concubine was a slave she became a free woman and the children would be free.
6 Was there any special name for such children? Yes—such as Kabido or Alheri (meaning, literally, “I have seen good”: mo ri ore)
7 What was likely to happen to daughters of concubines? They were still slaves. If they were not sold, they were usually given to favoured male slaves as wife, to multiply.
8 In the 19th century, did concubinage increase or decrease over time? Slavery and concubinage were two different social phenomena. Masters were always free to have sexual dealings with their slaves.
9 What happened to concubines in the 20th century? They were either retained or discarded.
10 Are there still concubines today? Yes. In fact it has increased, since there is no more fear of being beaten in public as was the practice in the past.
11 If so, for what reasons do women become concubines today? Greed; financial problems, etc.
1 What was the attitude of a master to his slave? He was king over them, and could give orders, with expectation of instant obedience.
2 What was the attitude of a slave to his master? The slave feared and obeyed the owner.
3 To whom would a master marry his slave
3a if it was a male slave? To another slave.
3b if it was a female slave? Anybody the owner so preferred.
4 Were household slaves considered as of higher status than farm slaves? They were of equal status.
5 Did slaves become junior members of the family of their owner? No. Only a female slave who had children for the owner. An owner could free any of his 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—If the child belonged to the owner, the child became free, whether born in the farm in the master’s house.
6b on the farm?
7 Was there any special name for such children? Yes, like Kabido and Alheri.
8a In the 19th century, did many slaves gain freedom through murgu? No, money was scarce to come by.
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? Good conduct; becoming the mother of the owner’s children. Oras a mark of religious piety to gain God’s acceptance.
9 Were slaves owned by families, or by individuals, or both? Both.
10 Did women as well as men own slaves? Yes.
11a How could people tell the difference between a slave and a free person? Slaves performed most of the chores.
11b For example, were slaves given any distinguishing marks? Yes, several types (no examples given).
11c Did they have a different accent from free people? Non-Yoruba, older slaves, had a different accent.
11d Did they behave in any way differently from free people? Yes.
11e Did they retain their old religion? They were compelled to follow the religion of their owners.
11f Did they retain the customs of their home areas? No.
11g Did they retain the dances of their home areas? No. They had to adopt the custom of the people amongst whom they lived.
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 very many.
3 If a large number left, what were the effects of this
3a in the town? Answer to both a and b—In both town and districts, iwofa became more numerous.
3b in the districts?
4 Or, did many of the slaves stay? Yes.
5 If so, why did they stay? Some had children for their owners and became part of the household. Some were treated like offspring. These stayed behind.
6 What happened to the slaves who stayed? They fused with their owners’ families.
7 In what way did their situation or status change? They were no longer subject to forced labour. They were treated with consideration.
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? Muslims normally kneel down, but it is always a sign of great respect and an acceptance or recognition of a person’s superiority.
9 Did the ex-slaves bring/send in less produce after the colonial period had begun? It was never like when they were slaves.
10 Did many of the slaves enter into murgu arrangements with their masters after the colonial period had begun? [question mark]
11 How did the ex-slaves gain access to farming land? They were given land for farming, and each year they paid isakọlẹ, in recognition of the rights of the real owner.
Section 8: The 1950s
1 For what reasons did people join the Ilorin Talaka Parapo
1a in the town? To ease the hard conditions of life.
1b in the districts? Most people believed in the sincerity of its leaders.
[it seems that both of these answers apply to town and districts alike]
2 Do you think it was largely because they were influenced by people in the Action Group, or not? Yes. They accepted Awolowo (leader of the A.G.) as a man of truth.
3 Why was it that people in the districts had to get permission from the NA before they could open a market? The N.A. had authority over land.
4a Who were the leaders of the “Afin Parapo”? The royalty and civil servants.
4b Who were the members of the “Okemale” Parapo”? The people of Okemale.
4c Who were their respective leaders? Sule Maito was leader for Okemale.
4d Why did they split off from each other? Each sought power for its followers.
4e What different views did the two groups hold? Members of Afin Parapo had more power than those of Okemale Parapo, because their members were in authority in the Councils.
Section 9: Iwofa (iwọfa)
1 Can you explain what is meant by iwofa? Borrowing money and giving a child in return until such money is paid back.
2 Why did people become iwofa? Because of the need to borrow money.
3 What special circumstances might lead a person to put his/her child or himself in pawn? Being in debt that needs urgent repayment, having to pay a dowry on the wife of an offspring, being involved in other ceremonies needing heavy spending.
4 Were iwofa usually male, or both male and female? Both. Males were given to male lenders, and females were given to female lenders.
5 Would a man put his wife in pawn? Never.
6 Would a person put his slave in pawn? Yes.
7 Was it usually a child who became iwofa? Able-bodied, healthy adults could be too.
8 Could a child gain any advantages from being iwofa? Yes. A good master could allow an iwofa to work for himself/herself for some gain.
9 Was the iwofa a security for the eventual repayment of a debt, or did the iwofa’s service actually repay the debt? Security. Period of bondage terminated on the day the debt was repaid.
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, but not as widespread as iwofa sise (bonding)
12 If so, which did they prefer, to borrow money on interest, or to make an iwofaagreement? To make an iwofa agreement was preferable.
13 Why did they prefer this [whichever] one? The lender would have someone to work instead of his money, which would still be paid back in full.
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, because people needed money for various reasons all the time.
16 Why would a creditor want an iwofa? What were the advantages of this system for the creditor? The free labour from the iwofa was a bonus.
17 When the slaves were freed at the beginning of the colonial period, did this lead to more people becoming iwofa? Yes.
18 If so, why was this? Money was scarce and life had to go on, with all that needed to be provided for.
19 Is there any iwofa system nowadays? No, only paid labour.
20 If not, then when did the system die out? It died with the advent of colonial masters.
21 Why did the system die out? Colonial legislation forbade it. Also, more enlightenment led to finding other means of obtaining money e.g. hiring out as labourers.
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? Ile Ọmọdada in Itamerin 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 following wars—Orimope, Ogun Offa, Ogun Ile Baruba.
Why is he remembered as a great warrior? He was very brave and had a lot of strength.
Additional Information on Ọmọdada
During the wars, he had this special oriki –
“Mọ wọlẹ; too ba wọlẹ oọ balẹ jẹ
(Do not enter into the house; if you do, you will spoil the house)
Mọ ku sile, too ba ku sile, ọ bale jẹ”
(Do not die at home, if you do, you will spoil the house)
Drummers today still greet his descendants with the above oriki.