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5.3a Notes on questions for Series II, sent to Dr. E.B. Bolaji in July 1989

I have transcribed here the substantive portions of the notes on questions for Series II, which I sent to Dr. Bolaji in July 1989, together with the questions themselves. The notes on questions represent the state of my research as of July 1989, before Dr. Bolaji and his assistants conducted their follow-up interviews on plantations and their interviews on elite slavery. The notes guided my construction of the interview questions.

Follow-up questionsfor last year’s informants (or, if they are unavailable, for elderly members of the same families) [see Series I]

I am still looking for information on size of plantations, and I thought more information might possibly be obtained by asking them specifically about the plantation-owning families they named. Please thank them for me for their cooperation last year. And don’t worry if you don’t get numerical answers—I will be happy with whatever you get, including “don’t know”!

Elite Slaves: [I sent the following]

(a)Notes on ajias, to give you some idea of the material I have at present, and on which I am trying to base my questions:


Questions on ajias. If you can improve on or add to these questions, please do! I’d like if possible to have responses to each of these questions from 2 informants.

(b)Notes on some other slave titles, and on a couple of titles which have been alleged to have had some slave connection;


(c)Questions on these titles. Again, if you can add to these questions, I’d be grateful. 2 responses to each would be useful.

Notes on Ajias.

Peter Lloyd says [in The Political Development of Yoruba Kingdoms in the Eighteenth and Nineteenth Centuries (London, 1971)] that

1. ajia in Ilorin was a title given to slaves who had distinguished themselves in war,


2. most of the more famous 19th century ajias were slaves of the emir.

This seems to be true in some cases, e.g.

(a)Ajia Ijesha, who together with Balogun Alanamu, drove away the Ogbomosho men from Owode area, and re-settled it, was a slave of one of the emirs.


(b)Ajia Atikekere, who controlled Shao, was also an emir’s slave.

But it doesn’t seem that ajias were always slaves., e.g.

Ajia Bonde  (Ogbonde? Ogunde?). The holders of this title were Fulanis, followers of Balogun Fulani. One holder of the Ajia Bonde title actually became a Balogun Fulani (the 7th B. Fulani). An Ajia Bonde in the early 20th century was Waziri of Ilorin. The title appears in an early-colonial list of free titles. So it doesn’t look as if these people were slaves.

And certainly not all the major ajias were attached to emirs:

Balogun Gambari also had ajias—Apparently one ajia (or succession of them) of particular importance:

In the reign of Abdusalami, a certain Ajia Gaju accompanied Balogun Gambari Ali to Igbomina and they brought that area under Ilorin rule. Ajia Gaju is said to have been a Fulani. According to one report, when he died he was succeeded by Ajia Ameda, who was no relation to him (though another report suggests that Ajia Gaju had descendants), and was a Fulani from Lafiagi. When Ajia Ameda in turn died (about 1850?), having no heir he chose his Nupe follower (not his slave, it is said), Mohomma Opele as Ajia. When Mohomma Opele died, he was succeeded by his son Abdulahi. He in turn was succeeded by his brother Aliu, who died in 1904. Members of the Opele family became District Heads of Omu-Isanlu.

Abdulahi Omo Opele is referred to as a chief of staff of Balogun Gambari. In the Ta’lif  [for which, see, e.g. H.O. Danmole, “The ‘Ta′līf akhbār al-Qurūn min umarā′ bilad Ilūrin’: A Critique,” History in Africa, vol. 11 (1984): 57-67], an Ajia is listed as one of the “wazirs” (chiefs) under Gambari. In 1916 the District Head of Omu-Isanlu, Abdulkadir Opele, was referred to as a follower of Balogun Gambari. In 1917 the Ajia Opele was also listed as a follower.

So certainly the Ajias Opele were under Balogun Gambari. And from the foregoing, it doesn’t sound as though they were slaves. Yet, the title Ajia Opele doesn’t appear in the early-colonial list of free titles referred to earlier.

Even though these particular titleholders were under Balogun Gambari, they could be commissioned as warriors by the emir: e.g.

(a)In 1878 [?] Emir Aliu sent Abdulahi Omo Opele to command the army in the Jalumi War (in which he was defeated at Ikirun by Ogboriefon).

(b)In 1896 the Ilorin army attacking the Lagos detachment at Odo Otin is said to have had as one of its commanders a certain Ajia Ali—perhaps Aliu, successor of Abdulahi?

There are some references to ajias in 20th century Ilorin politics:

1.In 1907, 3 powerful chiefs orchestrated an uprising. They were Balogun Ajikobi, Magaji Gari and Ajia (sometimes referred to as Ajayi) Ogidiolu, who was said to have been a slave of the emir. He is also said to have been fiefholder of Offa and Ajasse. I wonder if he was a member of any of the Ajia families already mentioned, or another?

2.In 1936, the “Idiape Crisis” or “Are-Olufadi Dispute” took place. This was a major confrontation between the Magaji Are family and the Balogun Fulani family. Each one was egged on by two powerful “aides” of the emir. On the Olufadi side were Umaru Sanda and Olokoba Ita-Ajia; on the Are side were Ibrahim Jagun and Alhaji Office (the Chief Scribe). It seems likely that all of these 4 were from elite slave baba kekere families attached to the emir; and specifically that Olokoba was from one of the Ajia families.

Notes on Some [Other] Slave Titles.

Sarkin Dogari(Dongari). A high ranking slave official of the emir’s household. Described by 19th century visitors as “prime minister,” “most important personage of the kingdom,” etc. He may also have been the jailer and chief executioner, though some sources name another important slave as the executioner. Did he have military functions?

Balogun Afin(also known as Adinimale). Described as the head of the emir’s slaves. Any military functions?

Sarkin Baraje(Baraye, Barade). Described as “thief catcher,” chief bodyguard to the emir, head of the emir’s security. It is said that he led the emir’s section of the army and controlled 250-300 horsemen. Now the head of the palace swordbearers?

Are Ogele. A slave of the emir, who helped Ajia Ijesha and Balogun Alanamu drive out the Ogomosho people from what is now Owode and part of Afon District. He was given land (as owner or caretaker?) around Ogele.

Other titles which it is alleged to have been in some way connected with slave status:

Magaji Gari.

1.A thesis by Mustain [Ivan B. Mustain, “A Political History of Ilorin in the Nineteenth Century,” M.Phil thesis, University of Ibadan, 1978] states that in an interview the emir said his ward was administered by 2 slaves, the Magaji Gari and a subordinate, the Galadima. Is there any other evidence of this?

2.A student’s dissertation tells of 2 groups associated with the Magaji Gari title. One is the Kuranga lineage, the other is the lineage of the present Magaji Gari. Two or three members of the Kuranga lineage held the title in the past. The lineage of the present Magaji states that Kuranga was a slave, not a son, of Wawu the first Magaji. Is this just an attempt to discredit the other lineage?

2.Galadima Gari. According to the Mustain interview cited above, this was a slave title. But it is on the early-colonial list of free titles, where, it is said, it was originally of importance, as numbers of slaves, presents, etc. were connected with the title. What is the truth of the matter?