The Kirigi War of 1877: the Longest War in Yorubaland

The Kirigi War of 1877: the Longest War in Yorubaland

Have you ever wondered why Ibadan people eulogize their heroes with pride? Have you also thought about why Ibadanland is the giant of the Yoruba nation? Are you familiar with the song “ogun o ko wa ri, ogun o ko wa ri, iran Ibadan kii se’ru eni kankan, ogun o ko wa ri (the lineage of Ibadan has never been enslaved because we have never been enslaved by war)”? “

Statue of a Balogun in Ibadanland

Ibadan, in the past, was known for its excellent victories in wars. A prominent one was the war of  1840 in Osogbo, where Ibadan played a significant role. Also, part of the victories of the wars fought by Ibadan was Ijaye in 1962. As well as in the northeast of modern-day Osun state, they also clashed with the united armies of Ekiti, Ijesha, and the Fulanis of Ilorin. Ibadan ensured that the allied forces were routed and forced to retreat to their bases. The battle was known as “Ogun Jalumi” (Battle of Waterloo) or the Battle of Ikirun in 1878.

Since Ibadan was known for its ability to clash during wars and be victorious, as well as its stronghold in ensuring that they were never defeated or enslaved in wars, the need to make Ibadan the fortress or giant of the Yoruba nation arose. This, according to history, was the foundation of the popular “kiriji war.”

What is Kiriji War?

The Kiriji War, also known as the Ekiti-Parapo War, was a 16-year civil war, which is referred to among the Yorubas as the longest war in the history of wars. During this war, which started in 1877, all Yoruba sub-ethnic groups supported either the Ibadan or the Ekiti, but mostly the Ekiti. Most minorities, like Ijesha and the Fulanis, joined the folds in the conquest of Ibadan. This was because Ibadan had placed its administrators in other areas of Yoruba land, particularly in Ekiti and Ijesha, causing consternation in both towns, which were not ready, like every other town, to recognize Ibadan as the Yoruba nation’s bastion.

The Ijesha war camp

History has it that the administrators’ treatment of the towns was what led to the refusal of others to accept Ibadan, as their treatments were unfair. They were accused of harassing young males and having affairs with women. The Ekitis and Ijeshas, who could no longer bear the administrators’ immoral deeds, assassinated several of them and waged war on Ibadan. Other Yoruba towns quickly joined the warring parties.

Another reason was that the Ekitis were barred from shipping ammunition through Ibadan’s channels, but they soon identified another route through Ondo, which led to Lagos. Because of the frequent closure of other highways, the British later opened up the Ondo road. As a result, the rivalry between Ife and Oyo settlers at Modakeke, who supported Ibadan, was exacerbated by the Kiriji war.

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The Aare Ona Kakanfo, Obadake Latosa, the military commander-in-chief, had the support of the people of Modakeke, Offa, and Oyo, while the Ekiti Parapo, led by Fabunmi from Oke-Mesi and later supported by Saraibi Ogedengbe, the Balogun of Ijeshaland, had men from Ijebu, Ife, Egba, Akoko, and Igbo.

With all the support and munitions gotten from other ethnic minorities by Ekiti, Ibadan was able to defeat them through its warriors, and they even enslaved these opposing nations, which made Ibadanland the giant of the Yoruba Empire.

Cannons used during Ekiti parapo war

How the Name ‘Kirigi’ was Coined

History has it that the name ‘Kiriji’ was given to the conflict as an onomatopoeic moniker. This was developed from the booming sound of cannons, obtained in large quantities by the Ekitis and Ijeshas under Ogedengbe’s command. They had an advantage against Ibadan because of these cannons.

Therefore, the sound of the corking of the cannon—Kiri—and the sound of the gunshot—Ji—were joined to make it “Kiriji.” At the time, people were familiar with the Kiriji sound, and instead of saying “Ekiti parapo war is here,” they would rather say “Ogun Kiriji ti de o (Kiriji war has started).”

How Did the Kiriji War End?

On September 23, 1892, the battle came to a close, signaling the start of Yorubaland’s union as a single entity.

The end of the Kiriji war was first initiated by Governor Carter of the United States, who began a reconciliation effort between the two rival factions in 1886, but it was fruitless until the British expedition on Ijebu in 1892—this was when Ijebu was defeated by British Maxim guns and seven-pounder rockets.

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Governor Carter was able to bring both sides of the conflict to an agreement in 1892. Governor Carter is claimed to have hiked from Lagos to both sides’ camps in Igbajo and Okemesi, where he persuaded both the Ibadan and Ekiti armies to return to their homes.

After the reconciliation pleas by Governor Carter, the two parties were later forced to sign a treaty in 1893 that effectively converted the powerful Yoruba country into one of Britain’s protectorates in West Africa and Ibadanland as the giant of the Yoruba Empire.

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