The Egba-Dahomey War (1851-1864)

Dahomen Women Warriors during Egba-Dahomey war
Dahomen Azazon Women Warriors

The Egba-Dahomey war, as the name suggests, was a war that broke out between the two neighbouring kingdoms of Egba and Dahomey (now the Republic of Benin) over territorial expansion caused by the quest of the latter to stabilize her economy.


The Egba-Dahomey war was the third of the destructive wars that plagued the Yoruba nation in the nineteenth century, following the Owu-Ife war (1821-1828) and the 1840 Osogbo war.

Background of the Egba-Dahomey War

In the 1820s and 1830s, the old Oyo empire, also called Oyo-Ile, witnessed political unrest which gradually faded her leadership role in Yoruba land. The Dahomey kingdom which was then part of the Oyo Empire seized the opportunity to declare herself independent from Oyo in 1930 but soon discovered that the independence wasn’t worth it because of her extremely low economy caused by her barren northern land where probably only plantain could grow, and the crumbling slave trade at the coast which the kingdom had really depended on for several years.

These unfavourable situations made the Dahomeans reach a conclusion that expanding their territory is the only solution to their economic problems and the only place where this expansion was possible was in the east towards Egbado and Ajase-Ipo which were part of Egbaland, and in the south towards the port of Badagry.

Egba Dahomey Map
A good look at the positions of these kingdoms on a map will show how uncomfortable this expansion would be to the Egbas who instantly opposed the idea, stating the inconveniences it would bring to them. On the other hand, the Dahomeans failed or refused to reason with the Egbas probably because of their desperation to resurrect their collapsed economy. It was on these ground that the disastrous Egba-Dahomey war broke out.

The Outbreak

In 1851, the Dahomean army (which was made up of women), under the rule of King Gezo, marched into the heart of Abeokuta, the capital of Egba land and unleashed havoc on the unsuspecting Egbas. However, the heavily armed Egba army, even though unprepared, was able to repel the attack and killed many of the Dahomean armies while the captured ones were enslaved.

Later, in about 1853, the Egbas revenged by attacking and destroying Lefulefu and Referefe, two towns at the border of Dahomey, with little resistance from their inhabitants.

The efforts of the ‘Amazon women’ (Dahomey women warriors) to defeat the Egba army is a surprising and important aspect of the Egba-Dahomey war that cannot be left out. Due to the fact that women are considered better off catering for the family at home, preparing food in the kitchen or trading at the market, it may then be amusing that Dahomean women instead of men went to war.

But these Amazon women were ferocious, muscular, and highly skilled in torturing and decapitating their enemies. They were trained to endure pain for a very long time. If not for their bosoms, these women whom no one dare underestimates would be completely mistaken for men.

Dahomey Amazon Women Warriors

The Amazon women or ‘N’Nonmiton‘ (which means our mothers) as they were called in Fon language, were even said to be stronger, more skilled and ruthless than the men of Dahomey. Jean Bayol, a French naval officer, who visited Abomey, the capital of Dahomey, in December 1889, said he watched how a young N’Nonmiton-to-be Dahomean girl named Nanisca, who had never had blood stains on her hands, killed a prisoner in cold blood;

“she walked jauntily up to the prisoner, swung her sword three times with both hands, then calmly cut the last flesh that attached the head to the trunk[…] She then squeezed the blood off her weapon and swallowed it.

This indeed shows how brutal the Amazon women warriors were trained to be. But however, they were no match for the Large, well-trained and equipped Egba army. The over 3000 Amazon women, under the command of the Dahomean king, Gelele the son of Gezo, were defeated again in 1864 when they attacked Abeokuta for the second time.

Dahomey kingdom was then forced to sue for peace which thus ended the long time enmity between her and the Egba kingdom. It must be noted that this enmity between Egba and Dahomey had existed before 1851. According to oral history, in 1884, the Egbas, infuriated by the attacks on her communities by the Dahomeans, launched a surprise attack on Dahomey in which king Gezo was almost captured and his precious umbrella and sacred golden stool were seized.

King Gezo of Dahomey| Wikicommons
King Gezo of Dahomey- Wikkicommons

The Aftermath of the Egba-Dahomey War

After the war ended in 1864, the Egbas established their authorities on the disputed lands of Egbado, Ajase-Ipo and the port of Badagry. Also, the town of Ketu which assisted Dahomey during the war was attacked and destroyed by the Egbas.

However, the victory of the Egbas over Dahomey was backed by certain factors. The first was the ultimate support Egba enjoyed from the British nationals in Egbaland. The British nationals, especially those who had arrived in Egbaland since the 1840s, knew for certain that the fall of Egba would spell a big doom for them, and therefore supplied the Egba army regularly with ammunition throughout the war, and also trained them in the modern strategy of war.

Another factor was the role certain Yoruba kingdoms played during the war in favour of Egba. Yoruba kingdoms like Ibadan and Ijebu were said to have given Egba their ultimate support during the war. But this support was noted to have been short-lived as these kingdoms were involved in protracted conflicts (Ekitiparapo/ Kiriji war and Ibadan-Ijaye war) in the latter years.


  1. E. Ola Abiola; A Textbook Of West African History; 3rd edition; Ado Ekiti; Omolayo Standard Press & Bookshops co. (Nig.) Ltd; 1984
  2. Richard Burton; A Mission to Gelele, King of Dahomey. London: RKP, 1966
  3. Omipidan, T. O. (2021b, March 10). The Kiriji War (1877-1893). highlifextra.
  4. Stanley Alpern; Amazons of Black Sparta: The Women Warriors of Dahomey. London: C. Hurst & Co., 2011

The Owu-Ife War (1821-1828)

Owu-Ife war / Yoruba land map
Map of Yorubaland in the 19th Century

The Owu-Ife war, as its name denotes, was a bloody conflict that broke out between the people of Ile-Ife and natives of the neighbouring town of Owu between 1821 and 1828. Its significance lies in the fact that it was a war that opened the gate of tragedy for other wars in Yoruba land.


Causes of the Owu-Ife War

Owu-Ife war broke out barely four years after the collapse of the Old Oyo empire. On the surface, the war outbreak was the result of a disagreement between two market women over five cowries. The main cause, however, was the hatred which Ife people had created over the years for Owu people over the latter’s policy of using Oyo refugees for forced labour and even selling them off as slaves.

The Owu-Ife war broke out in the wake of 1821 when Owu declared total war on Ife. The people of Ife regarded Owu’s action as a vagrant violation of the land’s tradition and constitution and quickly called on the rest of the Yorubas to condemn Owu for its wilful action. Many towns heeded to this appeal; among them were ljebu and the neighbouring town of Ikoyi.

The appearance of these Ife allies on the battlefield, unfortunately, prolonged the war. When it finally came to an end in 1828, it left Owu in total ruin, a mere devastated village, a position in which it was for many years before it finally disappeared from the political theatre of Nigeria.


Although the war came to an end in 1828, its effects and the destructive fire it lit continued to spread to every part of Yoruba land. Its end also witnessed the arrival of the Fulanis from the north with the intention of fishing in troubled water. The Fulanis’ first encounter with the combined forces of the Yorubas took place in 1840 at Osogbo in which they were defeated. It was this defeat that transformed them from the menacing enemies which they wanted to be to mere supporters of recalcitrant sides.

The Osogbo war brought the Yorubas together but not long after they won the war, they reverted to their inter-tribal wars. One of these wars was the Egba-Dahomey war.


  1. Law, R. (1973). THE OWU WAR IN YORUBA HISTORY. Journal of the Historical Society of Nigeria, 7(1), 141-147. Retrieved March 11, 2021, from
  2. Omipidan, Teslim. (2018). Historical wars in Yorubaland. highlifextra.
  3. Smith, R. (1973). Owu in Yoruba History. By A. L. Mabogunje and J. Omer-Cooper. Ibadan University Press, 1971. Pp. x + 123, ill., maps. 12s. 6d. (Nigerian). Africa, 43(1), 83–84.

Battle of Imagbon: The British-Ijebu war of 1892

Battle of imagbon

Background of the Battle of Imagbon

In 1891, the Ijebu people, dwelling between 50 and 60 miles north-east of Lagos on the Magbon river, set a blockade and charged customs dues on the trade route to Lagos which as at then was a crown colony. The Awujale (traditional ruler of Ijebu) closed down Ejirin market, cutting off Lagos from a source of up-country trade.


The British government persuaded the Awujale several times to open the blockaded route but the Ijebu ruler remained adamant. However, in May, 1891, a British acting governor, Captain C.M Denton C.M.G, together with some Hausa troops (mostly slaves who fled the North to South and were recruited by the British army) went to Ijebu kingdom to convince the Awujale to open the blockaded route and allow the free passage of goods into Lagos.

Battle of Imagbon: The British-Ijebu war of 1892
The Awujale refused at first but after much persuasion and pressure, he agreed in January 1892 on the grounds that he will receive £500 annually as compensation for the loss of customs revenue. Ijebu people were unhappy with this outcome as they did not wish to change their traditional methods and practices, particularly when threatened by foreigners.

Breach of Agreement

However, this agreement did not last long. A white missionary was denied access to pass through the Ijebu kingdom and was sent back. The British government was provoked by the action of the Ijebus and authorized the use of force on their kingdom. Britain gathered troops from Gold Coast (Ghana), Sierra Leone, Ibadan, and Lagos (the Hausa troops nearly 150).

Colonel F.C. Scott C.B was the commander of the troops of 450 men gathered by Britain. On the 12th of May, 1892, the captain and his men, including some carriers, sailed up the Lagos Lagoon and landed at Ekpe. When they got to Leckie, another set of carriers (about 186 in numbers) were recruited.

On the Ijebu side, 8000 men with old rifles would be fighting the British. The British underestimated the fighting prowess of the Ijebus and this gave them a hard time penetrating into the interiors of the Ijebu kingdom.

Course of the Battle of Imagbon (British-Ijebu War)

On the first day, the British army razed down four villages with some of their men sustaining fatal injuries. The next day, they proceeded to Atumba and gunned down the Ijebus with machine guns. Britain lost 12 men, a Briton and 12 Africans. Every Ijebu villages they came across was burnt to the ground. The Ijebus were losing the battle but were determined to prevent the British army from crossing the Yemoyi river.

The goddess of the Yemoyi river was said to have taken human sacrifice in order to prevent the intruders (British) from crossing. The river was dug deeper to make it impenetrable by all means for the British army. However, the British army managed to cross the sacred Yemoyi river and unleashed havoc on the Ijebus. They proceeded to the village of Imagbon.

The Ijebus had lost over 900 men while Britain lost only 56 men and have about 30 wounded. The Ijebus were still determined to fight on but shortly afterwards, the Awujale surrendered and conceded defeat. The British union flag was later raised above Ijebu Ode.

Captain Scot warned his men against pillaging which some didn’t heed to especially the Ibadan irregulars who were later deprived of their arms. The toll gates in Oru built by the Ijebus were destroyed and some of their shrines were also torched.

This war is known in history as the Battle of Imagbon, British-Ijebu war and 1892 Ijebu Expedition.

The British troops were awarded The East & West Africa Medal with Clasp dated ‘1892’. Today, one of these medals can be found in the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge. Ijebu kingdom was later annexed to the colony of southern Nigeria.


  1. Gbola Gboyega, (2019). Operation Danasungbo: An Account of British/Ijebu War of 1892.
  2. Roddy Owen – A Memoir by Bovill and Askwith
  3. Colonel Scott’s Report London Gazette No 26303 dated 1st July 1892

How The People of Ara-Ekiti Committed Mass Suicide To Avoid Enslavement in 1855

Ara Suicide

As at 1850, Ara was one of the most powerful towns in Ekiti with a settlement spaning as big as that of Ijaye in Egbaland. In August 1855, the people of Ara (also called Ara-Ekiti) committed mass suicide to avoid getting enslaved by Ibadan.

The mass suicide was initiated by the leader of Ara town, Alara Elejofi, who (with the help of his first son) destroyed his properties, killed his family and himself. Many other households in the town replicated this act, and when the Ibadan army arrived with their wide array of weaponry, they turned back at the gory sight of dead bodies that littered the town.

Earlier, the people of Ara had rebelled against their former Alara (ruler) because of his bad governance and the grevious offences he had committed against his townspeople. He was exiled. It was during his exile that Chief Elejofi took over the rulership of the town.


The exiled Alara was not willing to let go of his throne and thus sought help from Ibadan. His request was granted because Ibadan, which as at then was gradually filling the vacuum created by the fall of Oyo, was hungry for towns to shove under its administration. The Ibadan army had just returned from an expedition in Ijebu-Ere and with their help, the deposed Alara returned to Ara and was fearfully accepted.

Shortly after Ibadan restored the deposed Alara of Ara, its army attacked Ikoro, another town in Ekiti, because they prevented Ibadan army from foraging on their crops, and also because there were rumours that Ikoro was planning to attack the Ibadan army.

During the attack on Ikoro, some other towns in Ekiti, including Ara-Ekiti, tried to defended Ikoro. The restored Alara prevented his townspeople from joining the fight against Ibadan, hence another unrest ensued in the town. Ibadan eventually defeated Ikoro and went ahead to punish the towns that helped Ikoro during the war, including Ara.

During this period, Chief Elejofi had again taken over the rulership of Ara and held on to it for some months before it eventually crumbled due to starvation, and to avoid being enslaved by Ibadan, the people of Ara-Ekiti committed an unprecedented mass suicide. This incident is quite similar to the mass suicide of Igbo slaves off the U.S. coast in 1803.

The town of Ara was left deserted for many years before some of its exiled descendants returned home. Ara suicide remains one of the most disturbing chapters in the history of Ekiti and the entire Yoruba land.

Note: The image used above is not related to any of the historical events in this article. Thanks for reading,

  1. Nigeria: Ara – Kingdom On Clay; This Day Live, All Africa
  2. Some Hints About The History Of Ara-Ekiti – Ijero Kingdom Facebook page
  3. Ara Suicide – Litcaf
  4. The History Of Ibadan, The City Of Heroes – Teslim Opemipo Omipidan, highlifextra

Why Sunday Igboho Defended Modakeke During Ife-Modakeke War in 1997

Sunday Igboho
Sunday Adeniyi Adeyemo (Sunday Igboho)


Sunday Igboho, as popularly known, was born Sunday Adeniyi Adeyemo on the 10th of October, 1972 in Igboho, a town in the Oke-Ogun area of Oyo State. He is a politician, businessman and an influential grassroots mobiliser. He trended on the internet in January 2021 when he gave a week ultimatum to Fulani herdsmen in Ibarapa to vacate the land after the killing of Dr. Aborode.



The Ife-Modakeke war/conflict, spanning across the 19th, 20th and 21st, is the oldest intra-ethnic conflict in Yorubaland and the whole of Nigeria. The indigenes of Ife and Modakeke belong to the Yoruba ethnic group; the sociocultural and political systems of the two communities are similar and their geographical distribution largely overlaps yet they have engaged in a protracted conflict for more than a century.

The Modakeke people are generally considered strangers, tenants, and migrants in Ile-Ife. The history of Modakeke has it that they migrated and settled in Ife after the collapse of the Old Oyo empire in the 19th century.

Two distinct groups of people were thus created: the original settlers and landlords (Ife) and the migrants/tenants/refugees (Modakeke). These categorizations form the remote causes of the conflicts between the two groups. There had been seven major wars between the Ife and Modakeke, that is 1835-1849, 1882-1909, 1946-1949, 1981, 1983, 1997-1998, and 2000.


Fast forward to 1997, another war broke out between the two communities which left many people missing and dead. The conflict which lasted till 1998 is one out of many series of conflicts that plagued both communities. As at then, Sunday Igboho was living in Modakeke. In an interview with Nigerian Tribune, he said, “I had been in Modakeke since 1985; that was where I learnt a vocation, got married and gave birth to children.”

It was during this conflict that people got to know Sunday Igboho, prior to then, he was a mechanic who specialized in repairing motorcycles. When asked about his role in the Ife-Modakeke crises, Sunday Igboho said, “that was where people got to know me and I do not believe that should be counted against me at all. If anyone says because I said I have not killed before and they refer to Ife-Modakeke crisis, it will be unfair because that was a war.”

“A person that wanted to kill me and razed my property is bent on killing me, so if one killed while defending himself, I don’t think it is a crime. May God forgive us, but it will be unfair for anyone to judge me based on a story they do not know the full details.”

“I lived in Modakeke and the Ile-Ife people said they wanted to send Modakeke people packing from their lands. That was where these people have lived all their lives. How can you suddenly rise to send them away? That was where my father lived and built a house; that was where I lived. So, I had to rise in defence of my home.”

“Our house was burnt down during that crisis. So, should I have folded my arms while my father’s house was burnt and lose everything? People just shout Sunday Igboho, Sunday Igboho — Who can say he saw me in a public fight?”

After the conflict ended in 1998, another one broke out in 2000 which left over 10 people dead and 50 people missing within three days. The killings continued until when the then president, Olusegun Obasanjo, set up a committee, led by Olabode George, to look into the intra-communal crisis.

Thanks for reading.


  1. Elugbaju, Ayowole. (2018). Ife-Modakeke Crisis (1849-2000): Re-thinking the conflict and methods of resolution. Journal of Science, Humanities and Arts – JOSHA. 5. 10.17160/josha.5.8.483.
  2. Akanle, Olayinka. (2009). Ife–Modakeke conflict. The International Encyclopedia of Revolution and Protest: 1500 to the Present.. 10.1111/b.9781405184649.2009.00742.x.
  3. Nigerian Tribune (2018, March 24). 2019: I inherited powers to command guns from my father —Sunday Igboho. Tribune Online.