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5.3d(ii) Interviews on Ajia Ijesha

Two interviews on the Ajia Ijesha family were conducted by Dr. E.B. Bolaji on the same day in late 1989, with two separate informants. These two interviews, transcribed below, include any personal details given by the informant concerned, the questions (provided by Ann O’Hear) that the informants were asked, and the replies they gave. The interviews were recorded in writing at the time by Dr. Bolaji, and they were transcribed by Ann O’Hear in April 2020 from Dr. Bolaji’s handwritten report (part of which was in somewhat fragile condition). Comments/clarification added by Dr O’Hear in 2020 are given in square brackets.


First interview

Who was the interviewer: Dr. E.B. Bolaji

Date: 7 November 1989

Where the interview took place: Ile Ajia Ijesha

Comppound of the informant: Ile Ajia Ijesha, Ita Kure, Ilorin

Approximate age of the informant: about 70 years

Any other relevant details about the informant: The historian of the family

Whether the informant was completely cooperative or not, and if not, why: He was cooperative, after the usual “present” of cash to the family

Whether the informant wishes his/her name to be withheld or not [crossed out]: Yes.

Names of any other people present at the interview:

1.Pa Abu Abdullahi

2.Pa Ahmadu Ismaila

3.Pa Abdulkadir Atanda

4.Mr. Isa Aremu

5.Mr. Toyin Abubakar

6.Mr. Saka Abubakir

7.Dr. S.A. Ajia

Questions and responses:

1.Have you ever heard of the Ajia Ijesha? Yes.

2.Is there still an Ajia Ijesha today? Yes.

3.If so, what is the name of his compound, and where is it? Ile Ajia Ijesha, Ita Kure, Ilorin.

4.Where did the first Ajia Ijesha come from? From Ilesha.

5.In the 19th century, was the Ajia Ijesha a warrior? Yes.

6. If so, what can you tell me about his military exploits? Ajia Aliyu, the 1st Ajia Ijesha fought in the Offa war (called Ogun mugba mugba, around 1833). He also fought in the Orimope war.

7.Under whom did he fight? He was a war leader himself. He represented the Emir who did not go to war.

8.Was Ajia Ijesha originally a slave title? Not it was never a slave title (See below)

9.If so, whose slave was the Ajia? He was not a slave.

10.If not, whom did the Ajia follow? The Emir.

11.Did holders of the Ajia Ijesha title become District Heads in the colonial period? Yes.

12.If so, where? In Asa, especially Owode and Ọttẹ. His domain extended to Ballah.

13.Did the Ajias Ijesha own any land outside Ilorin? Yes.

14.If so, where?At Ita Ajia (now at Ero Ọmọ, present site of the offices of Kwara Express transport service); also at Airport Road, and in Owode area.

15.Do they still own that land today? Yes, the lands are now inhabited by their own people.

No. 8 – Additional notes [written down by Dr. Bolaji].The first Ajia Aliyu had a senior sister who was a wife to late Emir Abdulsalam. She was instrumental to Aliyu’s coming to Ilorin from Ilesha where the Ilesha/Ibadan war was raging. Her fear for her brother prompted her to seek permission from the then Emir to bring her brother to Ilorin (Abdulsalam had not yet become Emir then). When Aliyu arrived at Ilorin, he attended Quranic School with Abdulsalam. So, when Abdulsalam became Emir, he made Aliyu an Ajia.

Part of the Oriki of Ajia Ijesha says “Bawa n bako” meaning “one who called himself slave, but was never captured in war.”

After he was made Ajia by Emir Abdulsalam, all visitors to the Emir must first see Ajia Ijesha. The position is still the same today as the Ajia Ijesha is the one who ushers visitors into the Emir’s presence.

Personal Note [by Dr. Bolaji]

Ann, please note the asterisked testimony [see below], given by a man who did not want any information about him[self] recorded. He asserted that the Ajia Ijesha was a slave title and that the Ajia was a slave to the Emir. His testimony to questions 5 to 9 is at variance with the other testimony recorded on 7th Nov. 1989. He would not provide answers to questions 11-15 [he did provide some answers, but they were not very informative]. I have attached his testimony for only one reason—that there may be the possibility that any of the Ajias could be slaves originally, but that in line with oral traditional patterns in non-literate societies, no family now wants to be identified with any but a very illustrious past. Reluctance to give true identity may have all sorts of interpretations too—fear, personal vindictiveness, a desire not to rock any family boat by giving any contradictory story to any usually given by any family etc. You have quite a choice.


Second interview: questions and responses

1.Have you ever heard of the Ajia Ijesha? Yes.

2.Is there still an Ajia Ijesha today? Yes, at Ita Kure.

3.If so, what is the name of his compound, and where is it? Ita Ajia Ijesha, Ita Kure.

4.Where did the first Ajia Ijesha come from? Ijeshaland.

5.In the 19th century, was the Ajia Ijesha a warrior? Emir’s slave.

6. If so, what can you tell me about his military exploits? As Emir’s slave, he stood as emissary to particular noblemen. The Emir could send him to these. His main duty was to attend to the Emir.

7.Under whom did he fight? Did not fightwars.

8.Was Ajia Ijesha originally a slave title? Yes.

9.If so, whose slave was the Ajia? The Emir’s.

10.If not, whom did the Ajia follow? ---

11.Did holders of the Ajia Ijesha title become District Heads in the colonial period? No.

12. If so, where? ---

13.Did the Ajias Ijesha own any land outside Ilorin? Yes.

14.If so, where? Not known.

15.Do they still own that land today? Yes, as is typical of many notable Ilorin families.

[for further information on the informant involved in the second interview, and the circumstances of the interview, please see 5.4a Follow-up questions on concubines and Ajia Ijesha, in this collection]