After the Fulanis systematically captured Ilorin (in about 1836) and made it their territory, they proceeded to sack the old Oyo Empire circa 1835. Not satisfied with their victory, they attempted to further extend their rule into the heart of Yoruba land. Thus in 1840, they set to capture Osogbo, a Yoruba town.
The Fulanis, under the command of Ali (the Hausa balogun of Ilorin) laid siege on Osogbo. Realizing the fulanis of Ilorin were too strong for the Osogbo army, Osogbo chiefs summoned the Ibadans for help. Immediately, Ibadan sent an auxilary army to Osogbo under the command of Obele (alias Mobitan) and Alade Abimpagun.
This auxiliary army could not stop the Fulanis of Ilorin, so another contingent was sent to Osogbo under a more experienced leader. Still, the Fulanis of Ilorin won every encounter and gained more ground. When Ibadan realized that the Fulanis of Ilorin were becoming more powerful and a bigger threat to the entire Yoruba land, they sent a larger and stronger force under Balogun Oderinlo to crush the intruding forces of Ilorin.
When Balogun Oderinlo and his men arrived at the battlefield, they realized that things had become worse than they thought. They could not show their faces in the open field for the fear of Ilorin warriors and their horses, and for about 20 days after their arrival at Osogbo, they could not fight outside the town thickets.
Oderinlo suggested that Elepo, a brave Ibadan warrior, was badly needed at the war-front. Elepo had been rejected by the war-chiefs of Ibadan for his actions at the late Agbamaja expedition. As soon as the message from Oderinlo reached Ibadan, the Bashorun wanted to send Elepo to Osogbo but could not go against the orders of other war-chiefs. The Bashorun sent a cow to Elepo instead and advised him to pray for victory at the warfront.
On the battlefield, Ibadan army could not attack the Ilorins during the day because Osogbo was practically a plain land; the Ilorins had horses which was a huge advantage in such terrain. They decided to attack at dusk when the Ilorins would no longer be able to use their horses. At noon, the well-prepared Ibadan army left the gate of Osogbo for the battlefield. They were to keep a strict watch and arrest anyone suspected to be a spy.
About a mile from the Ilorin camp, they halted and arranged the order of the attack. The Osogbo army and the auxiliaries sent earlier were to hold the center of the battlefield. Chiefs Abitiko and Labuju were to command the right wing while Balogun Oderinlo with the rest of the Ibadan war-chiefs were to form the left wing of the army.
The Ilorin camp was then attacked at midnight. The watchword was “Elo ni owo odo?” (How much is the ferry fare?). The reason this watchword was chosen was because the river Osun had to be crossed in entering Osogbo from the south, and anyone who could not tell this was likely to be an enemy.
Stampede ensued in the Ilorin camp as Ibadan army set it on fire. The Ilorins could not lunch the slightest resistance; they fled as they were smoked with Ibadan guns. Ibadan was victorious! Some Ilorin war-chiefs were captured in the attack, the prominent ones were:
- Jimba – head slave of the Emir
- One of the sons of Ali, the commander in chief
- Chief Lateju
- Ajikobo – Yoruba Balogun of Ilorin.
The first two were released while the last two (Lateju and Ajikobo), being Yoruba by birth, were regarded as traitors and executed. This was a huge victory for the whole of Yoruba land. After the Osogbo victory, Ibokun, an Ijesa town not far from Osogbo was taken by the Ibadans for being an ally of Ilorin.
- Johnson, Samuel; The History of the Yorubas; Lagos; CSS Limited; 1921; pg. 80-81
- Danmole, H. O., & Falola, T. (1985). IBADAN-ILORIN RELATIONS IN THE NINETEENTH CENTURY: A STUDY IN IMPERIAL STRUGGLES IN YORUBALAND. Transafrican Journal of History, 14, 21–35.
- Okogba, E. (2018, September 29). The Battle of Osogbo 2018. Vanguard News. https://www.vanguardngr.com/2018/09/the-battle-of-osogbo-2018/
- Tribune (2021, January 30). The wars Yoruba fight. Tribune Online. https://tribuneonlineng.com/the-wars-yoruba-fight/