IBADAN, THE CITY THAT DEFENDED THE REALM (PART II)
About 857 kilometers away from Ibadan, an empire had formed itself and was expanded furiously. The Fulani Empire was taking territories through mass killings, land seizures, government toppling, starvation and slavery. The mode of leadership of the new empire was ruthless and totalitarian. It was interested in fertile lands and converts to the Islamic faith. The custodians of this empire were the Fulani tribesmen who go on dominating other tribes and ruling over them. Once the Fulanis had their eyes on the Atlantic Ocean shores in Lagos. Into that ocean, they vowed to deep the Qur'an. Between the ocean and Sokoto, the seat of the Caliphate was the fledgling city of Ibadan. Different civilizations, different political structure. They were the opposites of one another.
Once the news reached Ibadan of an invading force whose infantry consists of men with Tukulor and Berber origins. The City of Ibadan continued with her business. Fell Ilorin in 1824, then Old Oyo - the seat of the Yoruba empire. The Fulanis were at the doorstep of Osogbo about 100 kilometers from the City of Ibadan. The message was dispatched from the Yoruba emperor Alaafin who had run for dear life and abandoned his own cavalry to be added to the enemy armory. Ibadan city rulers summoned a war council meeting. The situation was assessed. It was a go.
Now let me explain to you what was coming for the Yoruba people and what was at stake. The Fulanis had a large cavalry possibly many thousands strong. The battle techniques of the Fulanis were of good standard. They had subdivisions; the archers, the infantry armed with spears and swords, the cavalry which did the work of the modern battle tanks. The cavalry smashed through the enemy lines from Gobir [or Sokoto] to the gates of Bornu. A guerilla detachment had removed Afonja, the Chief of Defense of the Oyo military in Ilorin in 1924 -5 years before the founding of Ibadan by some free men. The Ilorin force had been bolstered by a reinforcement from Sokoto for further expedition into the Yoruba hinterland.
The Ibadan Army had no cavalry. It was a general belief that having a cavalry meant a tendency towards expansionism and empire building. Ibadan was not interested in that sort of political nonsense. Protecting the new-found political doctrine, internal defense and occasional obedience to the empire powers in Oyo were her business -pro tempore. The forests of the region required less of horses as there weren't too many open fields of battle.
However, the Ibadan Army had a background understanding of tactics that would prove pivotal to the coming war. In 1840 around hamartan, the musketeers lined themselves up and behind them were the gunners who trained to hit the target bulls eye and a few archers. Knives and swords were a common weapon for Yoruba soldiers. Such was the arrogance of the Ibadan war council that only two brigades were sent to the Ataoja [King of Osogbo]. The brigade commanders matched their armies up to Osogbo. Brigadiers Obele [alias Mobitan] and Alade Abimpagun arrived at battle front and took charge of the situation. They were surprised. Fatally routed by the Fulanis, they called for reinforcement. Major-General Oderinlo was sent but still there situation was an Islandiwana situation. For 20 days, both armies maintained a stalemate. The Fulani cavalry were too strong to be soundly defeated in one fell swoop.
Elepo was another Major General who was a tactical commander but was under suspension for misconduct at an earlier war. His suspension was revoked as requested by General Oderinlo under emergency rules. Elepo was dispatched to war front by a decision grudgenly taken by the army high-command who still had a second thought about him. The Prime Minister of the Oyo empire or Bashorun had come from Ibadan City and he doubled as Lord Protector of the city. He was also chairman of the war council. Yet he had to subject the decision on Elepo to vote.
General Elepo arrived the Osogbo front lines and assessed the possibilities. He too saw a Pyrrhic victory. The best possibility. The Forest tribes didn't use cavalries to do their battles. Horses were rear and an open field charge, no matter the battle formation, was an operation doomed to failure. But he had an idea.
Photograph source: tukool.com
Ojo Aderemi, President of the University of Ibadan Students Union (2017/18 session) can be reached via email email@example.com and his articles appear on his website platinumderemi.com
Follow him on twitter @oj_deremi
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