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5.4b(ii) Extended interview on pawnage, Ile Alagbede, Okelele, Ilorin

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

Date: 3 August 1991

Where the interview took place: Ile Alagbẹdẹ, Okelele, Ilorin

Compound of the informant: [presumably as above]

Approximate age of the informant: About 66 years [according to the interviewee]. 


Note by interviewer: The interviewee is actually more than 66 years old. Though he was reluctant to give his exact age (which he might not know, really) the fact that he was born in the reign of Emir Shuaibu says a lot.


In whose reign the informant was born: Emir Shuaibu

Any other relevant details about the informant: Though now permanently resident in Ilorin, Alhaji Salman Akanbi has travelled extensively in Nigeria.

Whether the informant was completely cooperative or not, and if not, why: He was completely cooperative—in fact, he was very enthusiastic.

Whether the informant wishes his/her name to be withheld or not: [no response recorded—presumably he had no objection, as his name has been provided below]

If not, what is the name of the informant: Alhaji Salman Akanbi

Names of any other people present at the interview:

The Alangwa (Bale) of Okelele—Mallam Sanusi

Mr. Ibrahim Bolaji


Pawning (iwofa) in Ilorin Part 1

Note: (a) Only males were given male pawns; female pawns were given only to females. (b) There was also a reluctance to release male pawns. Lenders never wanted active male pawns to be redeemed in time because of the work they did. (c) Whatever the years of service, repayment was always in full.


1 What were male pawns used for? For all types of work, especially farming.

2 What were female pawns used for? Any female activity/occupation, e.g., pot-making, trading, house work.

3 In the 19th century, were there more male than female pawns, or more females than males? There were more male pawns.

4a In the 19th century, which were actually more desired by creditors, males or females? Male pawns.

4b Why? They had the strength which was needed—they could be exploited.

5 In the colonial period, were there more male than female pawns, or more females than males? There were more male pawns.

6a In the colonial period, which were actually more desired by creditors, males or females? Male pawns.

6b Why? Their strength/energy was needed for heavy farm work.

7a Did men ever pawn their wives? No.

7b If no, why not? Pawning is undignified and marriage is sacred. No one would deliberately put his wife through such indignity.

7c If yes, for what reasons did they do this? —

8a Did married women ever pawn themselves? Never.

8b If no, why not? It was not dignifying to do so.

8c If yes, for what reasons did they do this? —

9a Did widowed women ever pawn themselves? No.

9b If no, why not? To do so would be a disgrace to the family. Such women were usually given out to relations as wives, or were allowed to go and remarry.

9c If yes, for what reasons did they do this? —

10a In the 19th century, were there more adult pawns than child pawns, or more child pawns than adults? Young people, and energetic men were mainly accepted and were more in number than children.

10b Why? This is because they were required to work long hours and only those in the prime of life could go through this.

11a In the colonial period, were there more adult pawns than child pawns, or more child pawns than adults? There were more adult pawns.

11b Why? They had the energy which could be exploited for maximum advantage.


Part 2

1a In the old days, were people put into pawn in order to meet religious expenses? Never!

1b If yes, can you give any examples? —

2a Were people put into pawn to meet judicial expenses? No. People could borrow to pay court fines or take up litigation against others, but no-one would pawn for court cases.

2b If yes, can you give any examples? —

3 During the colonial period, were people put into pawn in order to raise the money to pay government tax? Yes. To be arrested for failure to pay tax was considered a big disgrace. Pawning could be resorted to avoid such a disgrace—if efforts to borrow proved futile.


Part 3

1a Were slaves given out as pawns? Yes—when funds were required in an emergency situation.

1a If no, why not? —

1c If yes, how common was it to give out slaves as pawns, and why? It was not a very common practice, but such cases were possible whenever it was necessary to raise funds for immediate use.

Extra question asked by the interviewer, with response

Question: Instead of pawning, why couldn’t a slave owner simply sell one of his slaves to raise funds for emergency periods?

Response: That would amount to loss of property. It was considered better to adopt a temporary measure like pawning, which, technically, still meant that the slave still permanently belonged to the owner.


Part 4

1a Was a guarantor involved in pawning agreements? Yes. A member of family, a close friend, or a respected citizen could be used as a witness of truth to the agreement (which was verbal).

1b Was this guarantor called onigbowo? Yes,

1c If not, what name was given to the guarantor? —

2 Was it possible to obtain a loan solelyon the word of a guarantor? (that is, without putting oneself or one’s child in pawn) No. The guarantor only served as witness, and someone to bear responsibility for any break in the agreement.

3 Was the work of a pawn regarded as interest on the loan? Yes.

4 Was the work of a pawn regarded as repayment for some or all of the principal? No. Final payment would still be made, the number of years of pawning notwithstanding.

5 Or was the pawn simply a security? Yes—and the longer the period of service before final redemption, the better for the person who kept the pawn.

6a Do you remember any pawning arrangements in which the pawns were given out for a specified period only? No. The pawn must remain until full repayment was made.

6b If yes, what was the reason for this? —

6c Can you give any specific examples of this? None.


Part 5

1a In the 19th century, did pawning of goods occur? No.

1b If no, why not? Because of the problem of carriage and storage. Goods could be damaged and create additional problems.

1c If yes, how common was this practice? —

1d And what types of goods were pawned? —

2a In the colonial period, did pawning of goods occur? No.

2b If no, why not? For the same reasons as above.

2c If yes, how common was this practice? —

2d And what types of goods were pawned? —


Part 6

1a In the nineteenth century, could loans be obtained on monetary interest? Yes.

1b If no, why not? —

1c If yes, how common was this practice? It was widespread.

1d Which was the better arrangement, pawning or loans on monetary interest, and why? For the lender, pawning was better. It gave free service. For the borrower, however, loans on monetary interest was better because it prevented the indignity of forced, free labour.

2a In the colonial period, could loans be obtained on monetary interest? Yes, but it was not very common, because people always wanted to hold to their money.

2b If no, why not? —

2c If yes, how common was this practice? Not common.

2d Which was the better arrangement, pawning or loans on monetary interest, and why? Pawning was more profitable, and therefore very popular.


Part 7

1 In the 19th century, which was the commonest way to obtain a loan? Through pawning, as long as there was the assurance that there was someone to be pawned.

2 In the colonial period, which was the commonest way to obtain a loan? Through interest-borrowing. This removed the suspicion of covert slavery, even though the borrower was still in some measure at the mercy of the lender.

*Note by interviewer: The interviewee referred to the present system of bank lending with interest and opined that this system is nothing more than a take-over of the old system of interest-borrowing.


Part 8

1 Did pawning increase after slavery was abolished? No. Only interest-borrowing had an upsurge.

2a Were there any changes in pawning arrangements later in the colonial period? Since colonialism prohibited any form of slavery, pawning assumed an underground activity.

2b If yes, can you describe them? Arrangements and agreements became more secret to avoid an official charge of enforced slavery.

3a Did pawning increase during the depression (1930s)? Yes.

3b If yes, why? There was scarcity of money, and people needed to have certain essential things like food. They had to find means of getting them.

4a Do you remember people being in pawn during your own lifetime? Yes.

4b If yes, can you give any specific examples? Knew many pawns, most of whom were in villages around Ilorin, e.g., Ejidongari. They are all dead now.

4c With respect to these examples, about how old were you at the time? About 20 to 25 years.

5 About when did pawning decline? During the reign of Emir Abdulkadir.

6 Why did it decline? It declined because of official opposition to any form of slavery.


Part 9 Pawns used in craft compounds

1a Did the lantana beadmakers use pawns? Yes.

1b If yes, can you name any particular beadmaking compounds in which pawns were used? Ile Asinleke, Ile Ologbo, Ile Ladoke—all beadworkers, and all in Okelele, Ilorin.

1c And what type or types of work did pawns do in these beadmaking compounds? They were used in all areas of beadmaking. They were given free food (apart from accommodation) or a feeding allowance.

2a Did the leatherworkers use pawns? Yes.

2b If yes, can you name any particular leatherworking compounds in which pawns were used? Ile Alawo, Ile Ladimeji, Ile Gbogun, Ile Ladaride—all in Okelele.

2c And what type or types of work did pawns do in these leatherworking compounds? All aspects of the leather-making industry.

3a Did the butchers use pawns? Yes.

3b If yes, can you name any particular butchers’ compounds in which pawns were used? All known butchers’ compounds.

3c And what type or types of work did pawns do in these butchers’ compounds? All aspects, from treating to selling meat.

4a Did the male weavers use pawns? No.

4b If yes, can you name any particular weaving compounds in which pawns were used? Weaving was not a popular occupation during the period of pawning.

4c And what type or types of work did pawns do in these weaving compounds? — (they were not used)

5a Did the asude workers use pawns? They never used pawns. They sought help from their own people.

5b If yes, can you name any particular asude compounds in which pawns were used? None.

5c And what type or types of work did pawns do in these asude compounds? —

6a Did the potters use pawns? Yes.

6b If yes, can you name any particular potters’ compounds in which pawns were used? Ile Karebu, Ile Alabẹrẹ, Dada—all in Okelele.

6c Were pawns used at Ebu Dada? Yes.

7 Can you name any other crafts (apart from those mentioned above) in which pawns were used? Farming was the only other activity which pawns were used for.

8 Why did people put their children as pawns into craft compounds? Many people felt that a crafts family would afford their offspring [the chance] to acquire a trade, an occupation in life. Whatever time was spent in a craft family was not considered as time lost or wasted. The trade learnt became a personal legacy.

9a Are there any craft compounds in which pawns are used nowadays? None that I know of.

9b If yes, can you name these compounds? —

9c In these compounds, what are the pawns used for nowadays? —

9d Why do people put themselves in pawn nowadays? There are no more pawns today. The practice has been overtaken by modern means of obtaining required funds, e.g., lending/borrowing with interest, which has not been legally prohibited.


Part 10 (The informant’s own compound)

1a Were pawns ever used in your own compound? Never.

1b If yes, what for? —

1c Did the number of pawns used in your compound increase after slavery was abolished? —

1d Do you remember pawns being used in your compound in your own lifetime? —

1e If yes, about how old were you at the time? —

1f About when did they stop using pawns in your compound? —

1g Why did they stop using them? —


Part 11 (The informant’s own compound nowadays)

1 Are pawns being used in your compound nowadays?  No.

If the informant answers yes, there are pawns nowadays in his/her compound:

2 What are these pawns used for? —

3 How many pawns are there in your compound nowadays? —

4 Why do people put themselves in pawn nowadays? Pawning is out of practice.

5 Please explain the details of the present-day pawning contract/agreement. If it is still possible, then there will be a guarantor; the amount to be borrowed will be stated; a pawn will be given, and accepted, with the understanding that he/she will work until full payment is made.

If the informant says no, there are no pawns in his/her compound today:

6 Please explain who does the various types of work that need to be done in your compound. The children of the family and relatives.

7 For example, who does the house work and the cooking? Servants are not engaged. The children of the family do all the house work. The females cook.

8 If it is a craft compound, do you have apprentices? Apprentices are usually children of the family, or relations.


Note by the interviewer: There are no pawns in the family or compound, so the following questions do not apply.

If the informant says yes, there are pawns nowadays in his/her compound, can you ask at least one of the people in pawn:

9 Are you a pawn?

10 What kind of work are you doing in this compound?

11 Why did you become a pawn?

12 Please explain the details of the pawning contract/agreement.

Name (if the pawn wishes to give it):

Gender:

Approximate age