The History of the Yorubas

“Even if I perish in this war I know that you will take care of my children” Yesufu to Prince Atiba, his nephew.

Atiba had nearly lost his life in the Gbodo expedition; his horse was shot dead under him and the Baribas were pressing hard behind him in pursuit. His life-long friend Onipede galloped past him paying no heed to the despairing cry of his friend and master: “Onipede here am I, will you leave me behind to perish?” Onipede notwithstanding this rushed on into the river Ogun and swam across safe to the other side. But when Atiba’s uncle, Yesufu came up and saw him in such straits he dismounted and offered him his horse. Atiba declined to take it, but Yesufu forced him to accept it saying “Even if I perish in this war I know that you will take care of my children.” Yesufu was a powerful swimmer and he assisted both the horse and the rider safe to the other side. Akindero the Lemomu also offered his own horse to be used alternatively with Yesufu’s until they reached home.

Onipede did not wait for him although he was riding on a horse bought for him by the very Prince he now deserted. It was even reported of him that after he had reached the other side of the river, he halted to watch with amusement the distress and danger of his friend battling with the swift current until Yesufu came to his assistance, and that on the Prince’s reaching the other side Onipede came up with a smile and an untimely joke saying “The intrepid warrior that you are, I did not know that a river current would conquer you.” The Prince said nothing, and showed no sign of resentment, but Onipede from that day became a marked man, because it was evident to Atiba that his death would have excited no feelings of sympathy and regret in Onipede.

Rev Samuel Johnson (1921). The History of the Yorubas. Reprint Lagos. CSS Press 2001. Page 277


What we say  doesn’t often matter as much as what we do. Does the story below ring a bell?

A Lesson in Diplomacy:

….the result was a congress held at Ikoyi in which all the principal chiefs were present, and to which the King sent an Ilari.

After a prolonged deliberation they came to an agreement to return to their former loyalty and allegiance. The Onikoyi then asked that the Ilari be called in to bear the good tidings to his master; but when called aloud by his official (Ilari) name “Kafilegboin,”the chiefs all gave a start and were much surprised to hear the name of the Ilari sent to them. “What! Kafilegboin! (i.e let’s have it on stiff). Is that then the King’s intention? A name which implies implacability, resolute determination and inexorableness! Very well then, let the rebellion continue. No one among us can consider himself safe at the hands of the King should we return to our allegiance, since he can send us such an Ilari at a  time as this when he wants to win us back!” The congress was then dissolved.

Whether the King did this intentionally or not, we cannot say; but Yorubas being very diplomatic, and very suspicious of one another, he should have sent one whose name implies conciliation or harmony if he wished to win back the chiefs.

The Rev Samuel Johnson, Bishop of OYO

in his 1897 book “The History of the Yorubas” page 211.

Guess which people were described below?

“Their more generous treatment of fallen foes and artful method of conciliating a power they could not openly crush, marked them out as a superior people in the art of government.”

The Rev Samuel Johnson, Bishop of OYO

in his 1897 book “The History of the Yorubas” page 200.

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