The Kiriji War, which is also known as the Ekiti-Parapo War, was believed to be the longest inter-ethnic civil war in the history of man. It was a sixteen (16) year-long civil war between the Yoruba peoples (1877-1893), mainly between Ibadan and the combined forces of Ekiti and Ijesha. The war was unarguably the most protracted war, the last that plagued the Yoruba nation. During the war, all the subethnic groups of the Yoruba either supported the Ibadan or the Ekiti.
‘Kiriji’ was an onomatopoeic name given to the war, derived from the thunderous sound of the earth-like vibrations that accompanied the use of the cannons, the Ekitis and Ijeshas. Such weapons were first used in the region.
On the other hand, the name, Èkìtì-Parapo, comes from the name given to the armies of Eastern Yoruba and means “Ekiti Union” in the Yoruba language. It is said that the Eastern Yoruba confederacy purchased a large number of cannon guns which produced the thunderous sound and it indeed gave the Eastern Yorubas an advantage over the Ibadans.
The remote cause of this war has been the fall of the Oyo Empire, while the immediate cause has been the dominant role of the Ibadan military presence on Yoruba cities. The civil war was an attempt to stop the Ibadan city-state’s expansive activities, seeking to replace the Oyo Empire as Yorubaland’s dominant region. Ibadan also wanted a single Yoruba nation similar to the Oyo Empire, while the Ekiti wanted a loose city confederation that had existed in the Ekiti region.
The final straw that cracked the camel’s back was the way the cities were treated by the administrators. They were alleged to harass young men and have sexual affairs with the women. Most of them were killed and declared war against Ibadan by the Ekitis and Ijeshas who could no longer bear the unethical actions of the administrative. Many Yoruba cities are fast taking sides in the fight.
The Oyo Empire which had dominated the region for 500 years left a gap in the government of Yorubaland. Many city-states, which were previous provinces of the empire, rose up to replace the dominant Oyo Empire, including Ibadan. Ibadan had won the 1840 Osogbo War and the Battle of Ijaiye in 1862 and had grown in immense power, almost rising to that of its predecessor.
Egba and Ijebu joined with the Ekitis and Ijeshas and invaded Ibadan from the south while Ekiti and Ijesha’s joint armies, aligned with the Fulanis, invaded Ibadan in the north. Ife also joined the Ekitis and Ijeshas side in battle. Ibadan engaged five fronts alone. Ibadan clashed with the supporters of Ekiti, Ijesha and Ilorin’s Fulanis in the northeast of modern-day Osun state on November 1, 1878. Defeated the coalition troops and pursued them back to their bases. Throughout tradition, this battle was known as ‘Ogun Jalumi’ (Waterloo Battle) or Ikirun Battle of 1878.
Ibadan had stationed its administrators in other parts of Yoruba territory, especially in Ekiti and Ijesha, which upset both towns that were not prepared to recognize Ibadan as the Yoruba nation’s stronghold, like any other area.
Not only did the Kiriji war inflict desolations and disorder to the Yoruba territory, but there was some significant progress brought about by the war, which we can regard has positive impacts of the Kiriji war, among others, are: increased trading activity with the Europeans; it enabled foreign observers to make it through the coasts; increased Yorubas’ demand for European goods in exchange for their resources; improved and strengthened the river, this also helps us understand the nature of Yoruba’s political power; leaders’ negotiating ability; individuals’ unbound determination and dedication to cultural freedom; the Yoruba peoples holiness of immemorial customs and traditions
Perhaps a prosperous country could have built up such an overwhelming army. The war was waged without any foreign borrowing. Equally, the war had never witnessed the conscious killing of children and women. It appears to be the height of the Yoruba culture civilisation. Battle loots were captured, young men were captured as captives, and attractive young women were also abducted, so on both sides, they set battle conditions that could be considered to be equal to the United Nations Convention on War Prisoners which came more than 150 years later.
With the Intervention of the British government, the war ended unofficially with the men later returned to the negotiating table and the signing of a peace treaty in 26 September 1886 which gave independence to the Ekiti union. Although the war still existed around the Ijebu region, which did not end until the British captured Ijebu during the British-Ijebu War. Sir Robert Lister Bower urged all warring sides to withdraw, as each had been seriously defeated during the war. Incapable of avoiding British colonization, Southern Nigeria was later proclaimed a British Empire protectorate.
In order not to analyze this war out of focus, it is pertinent we communicate that it was not the entire Yoruba land that participated in the war, the Oke Oguns and the Egbados have not involved themselves in the war.