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5.2e Interview with Anonymous Informant 3
Who was the interviewer: Alhaji Tunde Ẹlẹsin
Date: 11th December 1988
Where the interview took place: Ile Olodo
Compound of the informant: Ile Olodo, Okelele, Ilorin
Approximate age of the informant: c. 72 years
Any other relevant details about the informant:
Whether the informant was completely cooperative or not; and if not, why: He was, after a tip (of money).
Whether the informant wishes his/her name to be withheld: Yes
Names of any other people present at the interview: a relative of the informant
The 19th Century : Section 1
1 About what proportion of the population of Ilorin and its hinterland were slaves, in the 19th century? There was a large population of slaves. The proportion to free born inhabitants cannot be ascertained.
2a Were many slaves used in the army? Soldiers themselves were responsible for capturing slaves. [doesn’t answer the question]
2b What were they used for in the army? The slaves were not used for fighting 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. Most slaves were used for farm work and threading at the weaving looms.
4a Did some important people have large plantations worked by slaves? The period of wars did not encourage large-scale faming. Everything was unsettled. But Balogun Gambari, for example, had a substantial farm and slave-holding.
4b See 4a
5 In the 19th century, did slaves working on the farms generally reside on the farms, or in town? Or both? They lived in the areas reserved for them in the compounds of their owners (security perhaps, since independent living could lead to revolt).
6 Is it true to say that there were many large plantations/estates around Ilorin, or were there mostly small scattered holdings? Most of the farms were small holdings. Large farms could only thrive in a stable atmosphere, which was absent.
7a Can you estimate how many plantations there were with more than 100 slaves working on them? With more than 30? I do not know if there were farms with such numbers of slaves.
7b About what proportion of farms had a few slaves, but less than 5? Most farms had small groups of slaves only.
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? Since there was farming only on a small scale, the Emir did not need to pressurise the elite members. Also, the Emir’s household was supplied with food fom the barns of his chiefs and leading citizens.
8b Did they succeed?
If so, were elite members likely to have several small land holdings? Only enough farms for subsistence only.
9b Did they move their slaves from one to another? Since most slave-owners had mere housefuls, they moved such slaves from place to place when necessary.
10 Did slaves on the farms work in gangs under an overseer? Yes
11a Did slaves work half the day for the master, then half the day for themselves? The slaves were fully engaged by their owners and had no time to do independent farming
11b Could they sell the produce they grew in their own time? [not applicable here, given the answer to 11a]
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 worked under prescribed authority and did not work unsupervised.
12b Which of these was the more common in the 19th century? [see above]
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? [see above]
13 If a farmer had just a few slaves, would he and his family work in the fields alongside the slaves? No, slaves and free born did not work together.
14a How much difference was there between slaves working on the farms and small-scale poor free farmers? A slave is a slave, and a free born remains so.
14b In what ways were they different? Free born farmers worked on their own. They could occasionally borrow slaves from owners for a fee
14c In what ways were they similar? [no answer recorded]
15a Were women slaves also used on the farm? No, or very sparingly.
15b What kinds of work did they do there? To harvest cotton.
15c Was it the women slaves who carried the produce into the town? No. But occaionally, women slaves could be so used if it was established that long stay had killed any desire to run awayl
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? Very many.
16c Was Jimba Oja also in existence at that time? Yes.
16d If so, what was sold there? By whom and to whom? Nothing was sold there. [It was a market (ọja). See responses of other informants]
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 right-hand side of the road to Igbona Compound.
17c About how many slaves were there? Many, but [to give] a particular number would be a mere guess.
1 Were slaves taught to be Muslims? They were not given formal induction into any religious teaching.
2 Did they become good Muslims? No.
3a In Ilorin, how many people were members of the bori cult? Very few.
3b Did many slaves become members? For example, women slaves? No, they did not join the cult.
3c Did many free born women become members? Yes, especially women of Hausa origin.
1 Where did the slaves come from? Slaves were brought mainly from Omu Aran and Offa areas.
2a Were slaves brought down from the north? Except Jebba, I do not know of anywhere else in the north.
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? Ode Balogun Gambari (in the front of Balogun Gambari’s Compound).
4a In what houses in Ilorin were slaves sold? (1) Ile Seriki Gobir (2) Ile Balogun Gambari
4b Is there a house (or houses) called
Ile Aroworeru? Yes
4c Where is this house? In Agbaji (Abayawo area of Ilorin town).
5 Is it true to say that the trade in slaves in Ilorin was especially important towards the end of the 19th century? Yes.
6a What happened to the slave traders in Ilorin after the slave trade ended? Slave traders were (obviously) not happy about the ending of the slave trade.
6b Did they go into other kinds of business? Yes.
6c If so, what? Trade in clothes and cattle.
1 What proportion of slaves in and around Ilorin were women? A high proportion—in fact, majority of the slaves were women.
2 What tasks did women slaves perform? Yarning (owu riran) and weaving. [owu riran translates as “spun thread” so presumably “yarning” = spinning]
3 Were slave women used for domestic tasks so that free wives could go into purdah? Very many female slaves were used for domestic tasks.
*4 What were women slaves most valued for? They were very serviceable indeed. In fact, those who owned them enjoyed them more than housewives.
5 Which cost more, a male slave or a female slave? Male slaves were more costly.
6 Which were more in demand, male slaves or female slaves? Male slaves were more in demand.
Note on section 4, number 4, by Dr. E.B. Bolaji
The answer here is an example of how an ordinary question is ignored, and an unexpected answer/information given. If women slaves were more submissive, is this a natural conditioning arising from their helpless situation? Or were housewives so complacent as tolose the submissive nature that their religion (Islam) enjoins in all their dealings with their husbands?
1 What was the name for “concubine” in Ilorin? Female friend, male friend, or “onitiju” (one who reacts to one [me?] with respect, consideration and affection).
2 Were concubines always slaves? No. Free born women could be also.
3 What was the status of a concubine who had borne a child to her master? She became a wife, or was looked upon as one.
4 What ws the status of a concubine who did not give birth? She was still a slave. She became a wife when formal intention of marriage was given by the owner.
5 What was the status of the children of concubines? They were accepted if publicly acknowledged. Even then they were referred to as Ọmọ Ẹru (children of slaves).
6 Was there any special name for such children? No, other than the derogatory (malicious) name Ọmọ Ẹru.
7 What was likely to happen to daughters of concubines? Nothing. They were fully accepted if their behaviour was creditable.
8 In the 19th century, did concubinage increase or decrease over time? There was little evidence of concubinage. People could buy slaves and turn them into women.
9 What happened to concubines in the 20th century? Bonded women became many.
10 Are there still concubines today? Yes.
11 If so, for what reasons do women become concubines today? To satisfy need for materialism; for greed; to satisfy certain physical emotions that are long denied.
1 What was the attitude of a master to his slave? Provision of sustenance—food, secondhand clothes, accommodation, etc. There were varying degrees of kindness and attention.
2 What was the attitude of a slave to his master? To obey the master implicitly; to be faithful to the master in all things.
3 To whom would a master marry his slave
3a if it was a male slave? To relations.
3b if it was a female slave? To his offspring or relations.
4 Were household slaves considered as of higher status than farm slaves? Not really, though house slaves were in most casaes more in number—for effective control.
5 Did slaves become junior members of the family of their owner?No, unti the advent of white men.
6 What was the status of the child of a slave, if that child was born
6a in the master’s house? Answer to a and b—In each case, he/she became a child of the household and had a claim over property of the father/owner.
6b on the farm?
7 Was there any special name for such children? No, they were given only family names.
8a In the 19th century, did many slaves gain freedom through murgu? Yes.
8b Is murgu a Hausa word? What word is used in Ilorin for murgu? [no answer recorded]
8c What other ways were there in which a slave could be given or gain his or her freedom? Good behaviour could earn freedom.
9 Were slaves owned by families, or by individuals, or both? Mainly by individuals who had enough money to buy them.
10 Did women as well as men own slaves? Yes.
11a How could people tell the difference between a slave and a free person? Behaviour, manner of dressing were ways of distinguishing them.
11b For example, were slaves given any distinguishing marks? Yes, facial marks, whatever the owner thought fit.
11c Did they have a different accent from free people? Yes, because they came from areas different from Ilorin.
11d Did they behave in any way differently from free people? Very much so.
11e Did they retain their old religion? No. They were guided by the preference(s) of their owners.
11f Did they retain the customs of their home areas? No.
11g *Did they retain the dances of their home areas? Not really, since they did not live in large groups from within the same culture.
Note on section 6, number 11g, by Dr. E.B. Bolaji
I wonder if, initially, slaves would not be dominated by their native culture. This may, of course, gradually give room to the culture ofarea of sojourn or enslavement.
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? Majority of them.
3 If a large number left, what were the effects of this
3a in the town? Answer to a and b—A lot of social disorganisation occurred. Slave owners, having lost their means of sustenance, were at a loose end.
3b in the districts?
4 Or, did many of the slaves stay? Yes, many still stayed behind, though not as many as those who left.
5 If so, why did they stay? Many could no longer locate their home areas; many others, especially women, already had children and new lives.
6 What happened to the slaves who stayed? They lived as best they could, depending on individual enterprise.
7 In what way did their situation or status change? They became free citizens like the free born.
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? Mainly to remind the world of their former status as slave owners.
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 answer recorded]
11 How did the ex-slaves gain access to farming land? Depending on the good conduct of each, former owners gave ex-slaves land for farming. Some owners employed the ex-slaves on wages.
Section 8: The 1950s
1 For what reasons did people join the Ilorin Talaka Parapo
1a in the town? Answer to a and b—People were subjected to a lot of hardship and thought established politicians did not serve their interests. They saw the T.P. as a way out.
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 thought that members of the A.G. were closer to them and were more sincere.
3 Why was it that people in the districts had to get permission from the NA before they could open a market? The native law required it.
4a Who were the leaders of the “Afin Parapo”? Late Buari Ẹdun.
4b Who were the members of the “Okemale” Parapo”? Late Alhaji Sule Maito.
Note on 4a and 4b: Questions not directly answered, despite prompting.
4c Who were their respective leaders? Buari Ẹdun and Sule Maito respectively.
4d Why did they split off from each other? They were dominated by love of money.
4e What different views did the two groups hold? Though they professed to work for the interest of the common people, they , in reality, sought personal power and material (monetary) benefit.
Section 9: Iwofa (iwọfa)
1 Can you explain what is meant by iwofa? Iwofa is a person given out in service (usually for a specified period) in exchange for a loan of money.
2 Why did people become iwofa? Because of pecuniary/financial difficulties.
3 What special circumstances might lead a person to put his/her child or himself in pawn? If a father was in great want, especially when there was very pressing need for money, e.g., burial, building a house, etc.
4 Were iwofa usually male, or both male and female? Both male and female.
5 Would a man put his wife in pawn? No. That would be socially abhorrent.
6 Would a person put his slave in pawn? Yes.
7 Was it usually a child who became iwofa? Not necessarily; adaults too could be iwofa.
8 Could a child gain any advantages from being iwofa? Not really.
9 Was the iwofa a security for the eventual repayment of a debt, or did the iwofa’s service actually repay the debt? The iwofa was usually a security for payment of a loan.
10 Was any interest charged on a debt when the creditor had been given an iwofa? No. Borrowing with interest started only after the institution of iwofa was abolished.
11Apart from the iwofa system, could people also borrow money on interest in the olden days? No. Rich people always preferred iwofa.
If so, which did they prefer, to borrow money on interest, or to make an iwofa agreement? Iwofa agreement was preferred.
13 Why did they prefer this [whichever] one? Iwofa could be used for whatever the master desired.
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 th eir 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? [the only response is a question mark]
16 Why would a creditor want an iwofa? What were the advantages of this system for the creditor? The services performed by the iwofa could not be quantified. This was a major advantage.
17 When the slaves were freed at the beginning of the colonial period, did this lead to more people becoming iwofa? Pawning came with slavery.
Note 17, by Dr. E.B. Bolaji: A discordant note; conflicts with 18.
18 If so, why was this? Pawning started when there were no more slaves who were a source of wealth.
19 Is there any iwofa system nowadays? No.
20 If not, then when did the system die out? Cannot be certain.
21 Why did the system die out? It became irrelevant in a society where people could serve as houseboys, housegirls, etc. for direct cash.
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 Ita Merin area of Ilorin.
1c Did he serve under one of the major chiefs? Yes, under Balogun Ajikobi.
1d Can you tell me anything about his career, for example:
What wars did he fight in? He fought in Ogun Oremope (Oremope War).
Why is he remembered as a great warrior? He fought bravely in a war which was specifically against him and Balogun Ajikobi.