< Back
5.4b(vi) Two shorter interviews on pawnage, one with Dr. E.B. Bolaji’s mother, the other with his father. See 5.4b(vii), Excerpt from letter, for reference to the interviewees. Interviews conducted by Dr. Bolaji. No date

Informant 1—Madam Salimotu Ashabi, Bale Ibagun’s Compound, Okelele, Ilorin. Age—over 70 years

Q1.Could a borrower return a loan before the dead-line agreed on with the lender in order to redeem a pawn?

A.Yes, even if such a loan was returned the second day. The most important thing was to return the loan and redeem the pawn. Of course, the lender would not be too happy, since he/she would be losing the pawn’s free service. But once a loan was repaid, the pawn must be returned.

Q2.Could a man/woman who owned slaves, but had no children of his/her own pawn any of his/her slaves?

A.No. This was considered unworthy. Such a person could sell any of the children of any of his slaves to obtain needed cash. In any case, whoever was not wealthy could not own slaves, even if such slaves were inherited from parents.

Q3.What led to pawning people?

A.(1) There was very little wealth then and people needed to spend money on essential things or during emergencies. They were prepared to pawn to obtain money. (2) There was very little civilised behaviour which would make people shameful of pawning their children as at now. (3) Uncontrollable children needed to be disciplined. One of the best ways was to pawn such children so that life outside could subdue them. There were no welfare institutions then.

Q4.When did pawning decline?

A.(1) People were finding it easier to provide for their own needs. (2) People were becoming more enlightened and reluctant to bring dishonour on their families. White men had by then taken over the administration.

Q5.What were pawns engaged in?

A.(1) The temporary master’s occupation—leatherwork, farming, trading etc. (2) Whatever the master wanted the pawn to engage in.

Q6.Did you have pawns in your family?

A.No, but I saw many pawns when I was young.

Q7.Could money be borrowed without the use of pawns or payment of interest?

A.Yes, if there is a respected guarantor; or if the lender is a friend, a member of the family (however distant a relation), or a close neighbour.

Q8.Could a married woman pawn herself?

A.No. That would debase her marriage. If a married woman was in debt, it was her husband’s duty to pay it. This is why it is said “If a woman trades at a loss, it is her husband who will pay” (Bi obinrin ba ṣe owo ti ko pe, ọkọ rẹ[?] ni yio san a).

Informant 2—Mallam Yaya Mobolaji Ishọla. Address—Bale Ibagun’s Compound, Okelele, Ilorin. Age—over 80 years

Q1.What is pawning?

A.Pawning is offering a human being as security during the process of obtaining a loan.

*Only a well-to-do person could be approached for borrowing and pawning.

Q2.How widespread was pawning in your youth?

A.It was very widespread, because it was the only way to borrow money at that time. It preceded borrowing on monetary interest which came into vogue only after the decline of pawning.

Q3.What sort of agreement was made for borrowing through pawning?

A.After proposing to borrow a specified sum, a borrower in the presence of a guarantor agreeable to the lender, would promise to repay the loan at a specified period, or stated month or year. Borrower would then offer a child to the lender to serve him for the period and until the loan was repaid in full. The lender, in the presence of the guarantor, would promise to return the child on the repayment of the loan.

Q4.What happened to a pawn if the borrower died before repayment of the loan?

A.Responsibility shifted to the borrower’s family, and they must honour the verbal agreement to redeem the pawn.

Q5.What happened if a pawn died while still serving?

A.It would be considered an act of God. There would be no litigation, but the lender too would be expected to cancel the loan.