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5.4b(iii) Extended interview on pawnage, Ile Asileke, Okelele, Ilorin

Who was the interviewer: Mr. Ibrahim Bolaji

Date: 5th August 1991


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

Compound of the informant: [presumably as above]

Approximate age of the informant: About 60 years

In whose reign the informant was born: Oba Mamma [the interviewer/Dr. E.B. Bolaji adds a note that Oba Mamma reigned from 1891 to 1896]


Any other relevant details about the informant: Informant is the Magaji of Asilẹkẹ Compound.

Whether the informant was completely cooperative or not, and if not, why: He was very cooperative.

Whether the informant wishes his/her name to be withheld or not: No objection to his name being published.

If not, what is the name of the informant: Alhaji Saadu Manla


Names of any other people present at the interview:

Dr. E.B. Bolaji

Alhaji Saka Asilẹkẹ

Mr. Bashiru Asilẹkẹ

Madam Belawu Mọmọ Joko (the mother of Joko)


Pawning (iwofa) in Ilorin Part 1

1 What were male pawns used for? They were used for whatever type of work the temporary masters (lenders) desired.

2 What were female pawns used for? Mainly for house work. Males did not take female pawns. If they took any, they handed them over to their wives.

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? Males were more desired.

4b Why? Males had more strength for work.

5 In the colonial period, were there more male than female pawns, or more females than males? There were no more pawns during the colonial period.

6a In the colonial period, which were actually more desired by creditors, males or females? No more pawns.

6b Why? —

7a Did men ever pawn their wives? Never.

7b If no, why not? Such a move would destroy the importance of marriage as an institution.

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

8a Did married women ever pawn themselves? No.

8b If no, why not? A woman belongs to her husband, body and soul. She has no right to pawn herself without the husband’s say-so.

8c If yes, for what reasons did they do this? It was not possible for a married woman to pawn herself.

9a Did widowed women ever pawn themselves? No.

9b If no, why not? It was just not the practice. She was either given to a relative as wife, or allowed to go and remarry. Unless a woman was too old to be remarried, she had to abide by the latter or the former. Also Yorubas valued their wives a great deal and would not allow anything to touch them. A child, instead of a wife, could be pawned.

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? Adults and youths between 20 and 25 were more in number.

10b Why? These youths were more preferred, because they had the energy required by lenders to do physical work.

11a In the colonial period, were there more adult pawns than child pawns, or more child pawns than adults? There were no more pawns during the colonial period.

11b Why? —


Part 2

1a In the old days, were people put into pawn in order to meet religious expenses? No, never.

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

2a Were people put into pawn to meet judicial expenses? Yes.

2b If yes, can you give any examples? Can’t think of any particular example right now, but knew that there were such cases.

3 During the colonial period, were people put into pawn in order to raise the money to pay government tax? No.


Part 3

1 Were slaves given out as pawns? No. Slaves could be sold outright, but never put into pawns. Only blood relatives, especially one’s children, were pawned—and only until the repayment was made, and not for ever.

1b If no, why not? Slaves were personal properties whose services could not (by choice or inclination) be transferred to another person.

1c If yes, how common was it to give out slaves as pawns, and why? Slaves were not given as pawns.


Part 4

1a Was a guarantor involved in pawning agreements? Yes.

1b Was this guarantor called onigbowo? Yes. Onigbọwọ.

1c If not, what name was given to the guarantor? It’s the same Onigbọwọ, pronounced Onigbọọ.

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) Yes.

3 Was the work of a pawn regarded as interest on the loan? The pawn was not entitled to any pay. Whatever the pawn did in service, full repayment would still be made. His service was interest.

4 Was the work of a pawn regarded as repayment for some or all of the principal? A pawn’s work was not repayment. Full repayment (the principal) would still be made.

5 Or was the pawn simply a security? Yes. But the position of guarantor was more delicate, because if the pawn ran away, the guarantor would be held. This is why it is said “Ara ko ni ’wọfa; aba ni ’yawo ni [ara?] ni.” Also said: “Ara ko ni ’wọfa bi onigbọọ, abanikowo ni ara ni.” This emphasises the importance of the guarantor.

6a Do you remember any pawning arrangements in which the pawns were given out for a specified period only? Yes.

6b If yes, what was the reason for this? A person in dire need could put someone in pawn for a short while, say three or four months to tide him over for the period.

6c Can you give any specific examples of this? Not really.


Part 5

1a In the 19th century, did pawning of goods occur? Yes. It was practiced

1b If no, why not?

1c If yes, how common was this practice? Though practiced, it was not too common or widespread.

1d And what types of goods were pawned? Whatever type of good was personally owned.

2a In the colonial period, did pawning of goods occur? Yes.

2b If no, why not? —

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

2d And what types of goods were pawned? Personal goods.


Part 6

1a In the nineteenth century, could loans be obtained on monetary interest? Yes, with a definite agreement on how much the interest is. This system persists today.

1b If no, why not? —

1c If yes, how common was this practice? It was widespread, as at now also.

1d Which was the better arrangement, pawning or loans on monetary interest, and why? Pawning was more preferable. This was because borrowing on interest added to the burden of repayment.

2a In the colonial period, could loans be obtained on monetary interest? Yes.

2b If no, why not? —

2c If yes, how common was this practice? It was widespread, but not as popular as it was in the pre-colonial period.

2d Which was the better arrangement, pawning or loans on monetary interest, and why? Paying interest was better. This was the new system in the colonial period.


Part 7

1 In the 19th century, which was the commonest way to obtain a loan? By pawning.

2 In the colonial period, which was the commonest way to obtain a loan? Obtaining a loan with interest payment. A guarantor was still required.


Part 8

1 Did pawning increase after slavery was abolished? No.

2a Were there any changes in pawning arrangements later in the colonial period? There was no more pawning. The colonial masters themselves forbade it.

2b If yes, can you describe them? —

3a Did pawning increase during the depression (1930s)? No more pawning.

3b If yes, why? —

4a Do you remember people being in pawn during your own lifetime? Pawning was pre-colonial. Money was so scarce that if an older child wanted to marry, the younger one would be pawned to obtain money for the ceremony.

4b If yes, can you give any specific examples? Can’t remember any.

4c With respect to these examples, about how old were you at the time? No example given.

5 About when did pawning decline? When the colonial masters came. It was during the reign of Emir Mamma.

6 Why did it decline? It declined because of official legislation against it. Since the government frowned at it, people were afraid of being punished for contravening the law.


Part 9

1a Did the lantana beadmakers use pawns? Yes.

1b If yes, can you name any particular beadmaking compounds in which pawns were used? Ile Asilẹkẹ, Ile Yita, both in Okelele.

1c And what type or types of work did pawns do in these beadmaking compounds? All aspects of beadmaking.

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 Gbogun (in Okelele).

2c And what type or types of work did pawns do in these leatherworking compounds? They were sent on all sorts of errands. If a pawn desired, he would learn the trade and prosper in the future.

3a Did the butchers use pawns? Yes.

3b If yes, can you name any particular butchers’ compounds in which pawns were used? Seriki npawa; Ita-Adu Dangana.

3c And what type or types of work did pawns do in these butchers’ compounds? All sorts—from fetching feed (grass) for the animals (cattle) to butchering and selling.

4a Did the male weavers use pawns? Yes.

4b If yes, can you name any particular weaving compounds in which pawns were used? Oke-Imọle.

4c And what type or types of work did pawns do in these weaving compounds? All aspects of cloth-weaving, from shuttle-coking [?] to threading, to weaving.

5a Did the asude workers use pawns? Yes.

5b If yes, can you name any particular asude compounds in which pawns were used? Ile Arẹmọ; Ile Sọfura (blacksmithing); Balogun Gambari area.

5c And what type or types of work did pawns do in these asude compounds? They ran errands; they were also engaged in all aspects of smithing done in the compound.

6a Did the potters use pawns?

6b If yes, can you name any particular potters’ compounds in which pawns were used? Dada: Karebu; Abẹmi (soup pots mainly here).

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.

8 Why did people put their children as pawns into craft compounds? People were not pawned only with crafts families—the deciding factor was wherever money could be got, even getting money from a woman with means. To such people would pawns be given.

9a Are there any craft compounds in which pawns are used nowadays? No, none.

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 pawns today.


Part 10 (The informant’s own compound)

1a Were pawns ever used in your own compound? Though they had a lot of pawns in the past, they don’t, anymore.

1b If yes, what for? —

1c Did the number of pawns used in your compound increase after slavery was abolished? No.

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

1e If yes, about how old were you at the time? About thirty years.

1f About when did they stop using pawns in your compound? At the advent of the colonial masters.

1g Why did they stop using them? White men said they did not want to hear any more about pawning. It had to stop, and it did.


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? None.

4 Why do people put themselves in pawn nowadays? There are no more pawns. The system is dead.

5 Please explain the details of the present-day pawning contract/agreement. —

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. Our children; our wives; and we ourselves.

7 For example, who does the house work and the cooking? Our wives.

8 If it is a craft compound, do you have apprentices? Yes.

Note by interviewer: There is not a single pawn in the family nowadays, 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