The Kiriji War, an epic battle fought by the Yoruba for 16 years, is believed to be the World’s Longest Civil War by any ethnic group. The war, according to historians, was the fiercest tribal war among the Yoruba ethnic group of Southwest Nigeria and the Kiriji War, which ended 125 years ago led to the signing of a Peace Treaty on September 23, 1886.
How It All Started
Ibadan, a relatively new establishment had the honour of filling the oversized shoes of the former Oyo Empire as the protector of the Yoruba nation against external attacks. But the military successes and wealth that were raked in by Ibadan in its military expeditions soon posed serious challenges.
Like all global super-powers, Ibadan was said to embark on an expansionist program that extended its reach to much of Yorubaland. It started appointing District Officers known as ‘Ajeles’ to rule the conquered territories on its behalf.
It did not take long for the ‘Ajeles’ to transform into despots. They became corrupt and power-drunk, demanding ridiculous homage and exorbitant tributes.
The Yoruba vassal states of Ijesha and Ekiti revolted and massacred the Ibadan-appointed ‘Ajeles’. A woman, who happened to be a fiancee to a chief in one of the vassal states was raped by Ibadan soldiers, the rapists were later killed. Ibadan warlord demanded for his head and hence, the revolt.
They formed a confederacy called Ekiti Parapo (Ekiti Brotherhood) and declared their independence from Ibadan.
Ibadan knew the dire consequences of allowing such action to go unpunished as it would encourage other conquered territories to declare independence.
Ibadan wanted a centralized political system, with a central economy, a command military structure, a central administration and a forcefully united Yoruba Nation. The other Yoruba subgroups wanted a decentralized structure, where all the federating units would be autonomous and would be able to plan their political future based on their own heritage.
This led to the epic Yoruba war called the Kiriji War in 1877 when the Ibadan police, navy, infantry and artillery soldiers, led by ‘General’ Obadoke Latoosa invaded the entire commonwealth of Yoruba nation, pummeled the sacred institutions, raided the markets and the deepest hinterlands and sought to proclaim a forcefully united Yoruba nation.
Kiriji war is the longest civil war by any ethnic group (1877 -1893) lasting 16 years.
The Major Actors and Causalities
Ibadan was led by its commander-in-chief, Aare Obadoke Latosa, while the Ekiti Parapo army was led by Fabunmi of Oke-Imesi.
The Ibadan army pitched their camp at Igbajo while the Ekiti Parapo camped at Imesi-Ile.
Later, Saraibi Ogedengbe (famously known as Ogedengbe Agbogungboro), the Balogun of Ijeshaland, became the General/Commander-in-Chief of the Ekiti Parapo army, and the appointment greatly influenced the turn of events, as Ogedengbe was a renowned military strategist.
The war got its name (Kiriji) from the thunderous sound “kiriiiiiiiiji” of the cannon guns which the Ekitiparapo purchased in large numbers. The cannon gave them an advantage over the Ibadans. Ekiti Parapo enlisted several Yoruba tribes like Igbomina, Akoko, Egbe, Kabba and the Oworro (a Yoruba sub-tribe in Lokoja, Kogi State).
Lagos, Ijebu and Egba were said to have assisted Ekiti Parapo against Ibadan, seen by all, as a common threat to the Yoruba commonwealth.
Ilara Mokin in Ondo State was said to have been the headquarters of the Ekiti Parapo secret service.
Several Yoruba towns, such as Osogun and Ijaiye, were wiped out in the course of the war. Igbajo barely escaped total destruction.
Eventually, Ibadan found itself fighting on five fronts. First, in the South against the Egba who confined their activities to raids and surprise attacks; secondly, against the Ijebu, in the same south, who pitched a camp against them at Oru under Balogun Onafowokan; thirdly, the main war at Kiriji in the East, where their forces fought a long battle against the Ekiti and Ijesa (Ekiti-Parapo forces) under the command of Ogedengbe; fourthly, at Offa in the north, where they faced the Ilorin Fulani who pitched their camp against the people of Offa (an ally of Ibadan); and finally at Ile-Ife where the Ife people joined the alliance against them in 1882.
However, in spite of Ibadan's disadvantages in the war, these five forces could not effect its defeat. A state of stalemate was reached, from which only the intervention of an outside force could redeem the whole Yoruba Nation.
Header Image Credit: Odua Voice