The Ibadan-Ijaye war broke out in 1861 between Ibadan and Ijaye over who to succeed the old Oyo empire as the political head of Yorubaland. The two rebelling towns sprang up from the ruins of the Old Oyo empire which was destroyed in 1836 by the Fulanis. Ibadan, Ijaye and the new Oyo, also called Oyo Atiba, succeeded the Old Oyo empire after its destruction. According to Latisosa, a Balogun of Ibadanland, “the war was a feud among three brothers over how to share common properties.” The three brothers, Ibadan, Ijaye and Oyo-Atiba failed to reach conclusion on who should succeed the Old Oyo as the political head of Yorubaland.
In 1855, Ibadan being the largest and the most populated of the three towns convened a meeting with the other towns to carve out the best way of restoring the fading unity and dignity of the land. At the meeting, the Alafin of the new Oyo (Oyo-Atiba) was said to be the most senior among the three towns, and as a result of this, other towns in Yorubaland should pay tribute to the new Oyo. Finally, Yorubaland has another head therefore proposing peace among some Yoruba towns like Ijebu and Egba.
In the same atmosphere, the Ijayes, Egbas and Ijebus raised some doubts on the policies of the Ibadans. Kurumi of Ijaye suspected that Ibadan’s intention was to create an empire of her own and not to set up the leadership of the New Oyo (Oyo-Atiba). This suspicion rose as Ibadan continue to accept annual tribute from her own subjects while she encouraged those of Ijaye to send theirs to the Alafin.
The last straw that broke the camel’s back was the succession issue to the throne of Oyo-Atiba after the death of Atiba in 1859. Ibadan supported the idea that Atiba’ son should succeed him so as to ensure the continuation of the Ibadan tribute policy. Kurumi of Ijaye opposed this claiming it was against the tradition of throne succession in Oyo. Kurumi’s opposition was supported by the Egbas and the Ijebus. Ibadan saw this as another attempt to bring an end once more to the unity of Yorubaland and vowed to prevent this by all means. Ibadan didn’t want Kurumi, the then Are-Ona-Kakanfo, to become another disobedient Afonja, and it was on this ground that the Ibadan-Ijaye war broke out.
The war was fought in the forest between Ibadan and Ijaye. The Egbas joined the war on the side of Ijaye in order to prevent Ibadan form becoming a colossus in Yorubaland. The Ijebus also joined the Ijaye side in order to foil Ibadan’s attempt of creating enmity between them and Remo in order to secure a route to the coast. Later on, the Fulanis also joined the Ijaye to punish Ibadan from preventing them to spread Islam in Yorubaland.
The Ibadan army camped at Ilora, 13 miles north of Ijaye while the Ijaye forces, led by Ogunbonna of Abeokuta, camped at Olokemeji on the River Ogun. The Ijaye, Egba, Fulani and Ijebu forces set a blockade to cut Ibadan off from the supplies from the British in Lagos. Ibadan retaliated by blockading Ijaye from food supplies. The British merchants in Lagos lobbied the Remos of Sagamu and the Ikorodus to smuggle ammunition from Lagos to Ibadan. The support Ibadan received from the British made her brought the Ijayes on their knees in 1862 following Kurunmi’s death in 1851. The cause of his death is still unknown, but however, it is believed he committed suicide. Other towns supporting Ijaye retreated immediately. The Egbas were displeased with the actions of the Remos and Ikorodus and sought to punish them, but the British army prevented this by defeating the Egba army. The Egbas avenged this in 1867 by expelling all British missionaries in Egbaland and burned the printing house of Iwe Irohin, the first newspaper in Nigeria by Rev. Henry Townsend. The Ijebus also punished the British by not allowing any British nationals to enter Ijebuland. This was the foundation of the Battle of Imagbon (1892) also known as the 1892 Ijebu expedition.
* A Textbook Of West African History: E. Ola Abiola- May 1974
* Ajayi, S. Ademola; The Ijaye War of 1860-62: A political cankerworm of early Baptist missionary enterprise in Yorubaland, Nigeria; 2007