chapter  3
15 Pages

The Yoruba Civil Wars and the Dahomian Confrontation

The series of wars in which the Yoruba fought among themselves in the nineteenth century has misled many historians to see Yoruba history in this century in purely military terms. Certainly, in this century, these people fought one another with a frequency and a ferocity that confounded European observers. It seemed to missionaries and British secular agents that the Yoruba were possessed by the demonic spirit and were suffering from psychic disorder to the extent that they were incapable of appreciating the external dangers that threatened them as a people. Prominent among these external dangers were the Fulani Jihad, the megalomania of Dahomey, and the imperial ambition of the British. Throughout the century each tribal group gave its ‘incorrigible selfishness’ priority over the solidarity of the race. Hence the Ibadan, the Ijẹbu, and the Ilọrin were at times prepared to co-operate with Dahomey against the Ẹgba; the Ekitiparapọ, the confederation of Ekiti and Ijẹsha who fought a war of liberation against imperial Ibadan from 1877 to 1893, did not hesitate to invoke the aid of the Fulani rulers of Ilọrin against Ibadan. Indeed, as shown in the last chapter, by the eighties all the important paramount rulers and military leaders of the country had invited the British to intervene in their affairs and thereby put an end to the fratricidal warfare in their society.