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5.4b(iv) Extended interview on pawnage, Ile Alawo (Alawọ), Okelele, Ilorin

Who was the interviewer: Dr. E.B. Bolaji and Mr. Ibrahim Bolaji

Date: 9th August 1991


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

Compound of the informant: [presumably as above]

Approximate age of the informant: About 100 years

In whose reign the informant was born: Oba Mamma

Any other relevant details about the informant: He is the oldest man in the compound.

Whether the informant was completely cooperative or not, and if not, why: He was cooperative after his initial fears were allayed.

Whether the informant wishes his/her name to be withheld or not: He had no objection to his name being mentioned.

If not, what is the name of the informant: Mallam Oseni Saidu


Names of any other people present at the interview:

Mallam Adisa Kosija

Mallam Kuranga Ayuba


Pawning (iwofa) in Ilorin Part 1

1 What were male pawns used for? All sorts of jobs—farming, housework; the occupation of the people to whom the pawns were given.

2 What were female pawns used for? Whatever the female (only females were given female pawns) mistresses did: or whatever they asked the pawns to do.

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

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

4b Why? Because they had more strength for physical work.

5 In the colonial period, were there more male than female pawns, or more females than males? There were no more pawns, except those who might practice the system in secret.

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

6b Why? It was forbidden to engage in any form of forced labour.

7a Did men ever pawn their wives? Occasionally, in some places. A man could pawn his wife if he needed money but had no guarantor, and there was no property to pledge. It was rare to do so, but it happened.

7b If no, why not? —

7c If yes, for what reasons did they do this? If the borrower had no child to pawn, or the lender did not accept the risk of a guarantor.

8a Did married women ever pawn themselves? No.

8b If no, why not? She would not be able to redeem herself. [A further response is noted:] A husband was expected to help pay his wife’s debts, instead of her pawning herself.

8c If yes, for what reasons did they do this? If she became widowed and no one wanted her in the family of her late husband.

9a Did widowed women ever pawn themselves? Yes, under some circumstances.

9b If no, why not? —

9c If yes, for what reasons did they do this? If a woman had no one else to look after her—either from the late husband’s family or outside, through remarriage. In this situation, she would have to do a lot of unofficial work to be able to redeem herself.

10a In the 19th century, were there more adult pawns than child pawns, or more child pawns than adults? There were adult pawns, but the children were more in number.

10b Why? Youths were supposed to have more physical strength than men advanced in years.

11a In the colonial period, were there more adult pawns than child pawns, or more child pawns than adults? There were no more pawns or slaves—except in secret, perhaps.

11b Why? It was forbidden to engage in any form of slavery or forced labour.

[Added response, from the interviewer or possibly one of the interviewers] But, note that even legislation was not enough to eradicate slavery or pawning. It was God who did it; through civilisation.


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? If the father, or an elder brother/sister had a case and there was no money, a child could be pawned.

3 During the colonial period, were people put into pawn in order to raise the money to pay government tax? Not at all. One could do manual labour to obtain money, or even borrow in order to be able to pay a levy or tax.


Part 3

1 Were slaves given out as pawns? No. Slaves could be sold, but not pawned. A slave could not serve in two places.

1b If no, why not? It was impossible to give out a slave as a pawn, and still have the advantage over double-service for the slave.

1c If yes, how common was it to give out slaves as pawns, and why? —


Part 4

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

1b Was this guarantor called onigbowo? Yes, or onigbọọ (shortened form).

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) It happened, but rarely.

3 Was the work of a pawn regarded as interest on the loan? It was merely a bonus for the lender.

4 Was the work of a pawn regarded as repayment for some or all of the principal? The lender was not concerned over the assessment of work done by a pawn. Full repayment would be made.

5 Or was the pawn simply a security? Yes.

6a Do you remember any pawning arrangements in which the pawns were given out for a specified period only? No. Only repayment would dictate how long a pawn would serve the lender.

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

6c Can you give any specific examples of this? —


Part 5

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

1b If no, why not? —

1c If yes, how common was this practice? Not very common, except the properties were very valuable.

1d And what types of goods were pawned? All types of personal possessions which were of value.

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

2b If no, why not? —

2c If yes, how common was this practice? Fairly common.

2d And what types of goods were pawned? All types of valuables owned by the borrower could be used.


Part 6

1a In the nineteenth century, could loans be obtained on monetary interest? Yes. It was popular, though not as common as pawning.

1b If no, why not? —

1c If yes, how common was this practice? It was not very common.

1d Which was the better arrangement, pawning or loans on monetary interest, and why? To the lenders—pawning, because it provided them free labour which was more profitable than mere interest.

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 very common, as the only means left to obtain money for use at critical times.

2d Which was the better arrangement, pawning or loans on monetary interest, and why? Monetary interest payment was better. It is a system that is still practiced today.


Part 7

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

2 In the colonial period, which was the commonest way to obtain a loan? Either through pawning personal belongings (not human beings), or through interest-borrowing like promising to pay about 2 naira extra on 5 naira borrowed at a particular period. This type of agreement involved three people—the lender, the borrower, the witness.


Part 8

1 Did pawning increase after slavery was abolished? No. Both slavery and pawning were prohibited at the same time.

2a Were there any changes in pawning arrangements later in the colonial period? The only change was its prohibition.

2b If yes, can you describe them? —

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

3b If yes, why? People had to find a means of obtaining the things they required.

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

4b If yes, can you give any specific examples? When I wanted to marry, it was done.

4c With respect to these examples, about how old were you at the time? Less than 30 years.

5 About when did pawning decline? When the white men came.

6 Why did it decline? The white men forbade it.


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 Asileke in particular.

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

2a Did the leatherworkers use pawns? Yes.

2b If yes, can you name any particular leatherworking compounds in which pawns were used? Ile Alawọ.

2c And what type or types of work did pawns do in these leatherworking compounds? Any work relating to leather-making.

3a Did the butchers use pawns? Yes.

3b If yes, can you name any particular butchers’ compounds in which pawns were used? Ile Elesan, Ita-Adu; Ile Alhaji Dangana (Okelele); Ile Eleran Awodi (Balogun Gambari Ward).

3c And what type or types of work did pawns do in these butchers’ compounds? All aspects of the trade, including selling.

4a Did the male weavers use pawns? Yes

4b If yes, can you name any particular weaving compounds in which pawns were used? Pakata Ile Asọ (Ipata area).

4c And what type or types of work did pawns do in these weaving compounds? Pawns were used for all aspects of cloth-making/weaving.

5a Did the asude workers use pawns? Yes, but the rich ones.

5b If yes, can you name any particular asude compounds in which pawns were used? Ile Asude, Okelele; Pataki area of Ilorin.

5c And what type or types of work did pawns do in these asude compounds? The same smithing which they [members of the compound] engaged in.

6a Did the potters use pawns? Yes—only pawns carried clay from the clay pit.

6b If yes, can you name any particular potters’ compounds in which pawns were used? Ile Baraje; Ile Olagbo; Ebu Dada; Ile Alawọ —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? Herding; bricklaying (mud houses); house-roofing.

8 Why did people put their children as pawns into craft compounds? Pawns were not necessarily given into crafts houses. It was wherever people could get money to borrow.

9a Are there any craft compounds in which pawns are used nowadays? Not any more.

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? No more pawns.


Part 10 (The informant’s own compound)

1a Were pawns ever used in your own compound? Yes, in the past.

1b If yes, what for? We were farmers; we used the pawns for farming activities.

1c Did the number of pawns used in your compound increase after slavery was abolished? There were no more pawns after slavery was abolished.

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? I was about 20 years old.

1f About when did they stop using pawns in your compound? When civilisation increased.

1g Why did they stop using them? The white leaders forbade it. People were becoming more civilised and more aware.


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? There are no more pawns.

4 Why do people put themselves in pawn nowadays? Pawning belongs to the past.

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. Children of the family and servants.

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

8 If it is a craft compound, do you have apprentices? In our compound, we are beadmakers, and we have apprentices.

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