One of the characteristics of empire builders in the past was the insatiable quest for expansion of their territories until they encounter a stronger and superior force. That was exactly what happened to the ambition of Fulani to extend their rule to the Atlantic ocean in 1840.
The fire of their hunger for a vast land was extinguished at Oshogbo by the Ibadan warriors in 1840.
After the capture of the seven Hausa Kingdoms by Usman Dan Fodio, who replaced the Hausa Kings with flagbearers whom he gave emir title in 1809, the Fulani or the Jihadists were still hungry for more territories. It was not a surprise that they looked Southward for expansion. The Jihadists were convinced that the Yoruba living in the Savana, down to the rain forest, that is swept by mangrove, sea and lagoon were atheists who must be Islamised and given a ticket that would give them passage to paradise.
In their inner minds, however, they knew they were not on proselytising course, but usurpation enterprise in neighbouring communities that they falsely believed had soft and weak rulers who could be over thrown and made vassals of the caliphate in Sokoto.
During the Jihad in the North, some Fulani who had been educated in Quranic knowledge and theology had migrated southward and settled among indigenes of such areas as harmless and innocuous mallams who were out to educate those who were not impervious to religious knowledge from a strange land.
One of such Mallam migrants was Alimi, who settled in Ilorin and was embraced by the Yoruba who were his hosts. Just as his mentor, Dan Fodio, Alimi had large followers of Fulani extraction who came with him to Ilorin. It was not long before, the leader of Yoruba in Ilorin, Afonja, who was the Generalissimo of the Yoruba army, became allies. The large/contingent of Fulani was to become auxiliary soldiers fighting wars for Afonja. Thus, Afonja relied on Fulani mercenary despite that an Ifa priest had earlier warned him of the dire consequences of relying on auxiliary for the prosecution of the war.
Auxiliary, Machiavelli in The Prince said were dangerous and unreliable as soldiers for either defence or attack in a war. Mostly, they betrayed and despoiled those who relied on them.
By the middle of the 18 century, the Oyo empire had reached its Zenith and was one of the largest and best organised in Western Sudan. Internal crises from different parts of the territory rocked the empire. The revolt of the Generalissimo, Afonja, was one of the crises. It dealt a devastating blow on the empire as Afonja demanded independence and freedom from Oyo, Ile, Katunga. With the collusion of Mallam Alimi and his supply of auxiliary to fuelAfonja’s ambition, Ilorin was politically several from Oyo Ile. It was at this period that Bashorun Gaa too, who could be described as the Prime Minister of Oyo Empire became so powerful that he installed five Alaafin and saw to the demise of four. Thus the empire squabble was gradually crumbling.
Afonja who thought that he had found a reliable and dependable ally in Mallam Alimi was later disappointed. He never knew that Alimi had an agenda of taking over Ilorin from the unsuspecting Afonja, who appeared to be completely ignorant of the saying that power is never given a la carte. To his regret, Afonja found out that the auxiliary soldiers who aided him in his fight for independence became a scourge.
They were lawless, committing abominable crimes with reckless abandon. Soon, Mallam Alimi and Afonja clashed in an inter-ethnic and Afonja was killed in the fierce battle. After the rebel Generalisimo was killed, Ilorin became a vassal territory of the caliphate. In 1835, the rampaging Fulani Jihadists sacked the old Oyo Empire.
With the conquest of Ilorin and old Oyo Ile, thirst still burning in Fulani’s throats, they journeyed southward, raring to capture Yoruba territory down to the sea. Their next target was the flourishing Yoruba town, Osogbo. In 1840, the Jihadists laid siege to Osogbo. When the power that was in Osogbo realised that they could not lift the siege, they sent a message to Ibadan for assistance. On arrival at Osogbo, the first military contingent Ibadan sent saw the futility of attacking the war camp of Fulani in the daytime because the Jihadists had horses which the Ibadan army did not.
The Ibadan troops sent another message of a herculean task confronting them and the futility of attacking the Fulani.
It was the Save Our Soul (SOS) message, sent back to Ibadan that made the town to send a larger and stronger military contingent to Osogbo under the command of a war veteran, Balogun Oderinlo. On arrival at Osogbo, Oderinlo did a reconnaissance of the whole area.
He believed the Jihadists were not impregnable. At this point in time, Abdulsalami, the son of Alimi, was the emir of Ilorin, while Ali was the commander-in-chief of the Fulani army sent to subdue Osogbo as the first major step in the Jihadists’ march to the sea, overrunning the Yoruba towns and settlements.
Another belief of Oderinlo that helped the Ibadan army win the war his resolve to make the attack on Fulani troops a night affair. That, to Oderinlo, would deny the Jihadists the use of mounted horses in the fight. Horses could not be used or ridden at night as horses can see properly at night. In the preparation, Ibadan soldiers were given a password, Elolowodo. If a person spoken to could not give a correct response, Egbaaji, he or she would be picked up as an enemy.
On the night of the attack on the Fulani war camp, comprehensive reconnaissance of the site and neighbourhood were carried out. On the zero hours, Ibadan troops moved with an uncommon confidence, and determination to put an end to the effrontery and mess that Fulani aggressors had become. That exactly was what the brave warriors from Ibadan did.
It was a Molotov affair (Lagidi) a local Incendiary was used to set the Fulani war camp on fire. Caught unaware, Fulani soldiers fled in different directions into the waiting hands of the gallant Ibadan troops who inflicted maximum injuries on the confused Jihadists, stunning them with telling ferocity that could make a valiant soldier buckle and collapse.
Many Jihadists were massacred, several were taken prisoners of war. Among the captured Ilorin troops were: Jimba, the head slave of the emir. The Commander-In-Chief of Ilorin Army Ali’s son was taken prisoner. Yoruba who was working for the success of the emirate, Chief Lateju and a War Chief, who also worked for the Fulani, Ajikobi were also captured the Ibadan army, thus routed the Fulani and put an end to their dream of overrunning the Yoruba territory to the coast. Negotiation and payment of reparation followed, Jimba and Ali’s son were released, while the two Yoruba men were executed for treachery. Ibadan warriors, after their victory over the Jihadists, attacked Ibokun, an Ijesha town, that was not far from Osogbo and rampaged it. Ibokun was alleged to have given the Fulani subtle support for their incursion into Yorubaland.
That was how the Ibadan Warriors stepped Fulani aggression against Yoruba.