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Ogun jíjà refers to warfare that can occur between communities, different people in the same ethnic group, various ethnic groups, regions, countries, religious factions etc. 

The common causes of war in ancient Yorubaland include: 

  1. Boundary dispute
  2. To enlarge one’s region and dominate others
  3. To fight against domination and agitate for freedom when already dominated, commonly carried out by vassal states
  4. To acquire natural resources from other places
  5. Treachery 
  6. Breaking or dishonouring previously held agreements
  7. Historical rivalries
  8. Potential economic gain
  9. Internal disputes over how things should be done leading to civil wars

Meanwhile, weapons such as guns, machetes, knives, bullets, gunpowder, gun pellets, swords, axes, shields, wooden swords, clubs, spears, bows and arrows were used during these wars. 

Warfare techniques included: 

  • Poisoning the enemy
  • Using fire as a destructive force to target enemies but more often their property
  • Digging pits round the enemy camp or the town/village of the enemy
  • Making use of charms and metaphysical powers to attack enemies
  • Using informants and spies to monitor the situation and keep your camp aware, as well as pushing propaganda 
  • Propaganda amongst the warriors, your own people, enemy warriors and regular people from the enemy’s place 
  • Encouraging warriors by whatever means possible. Using nourishing meals, effective training, hyping the warriors with songs and praises from drums like the gangan. Ultimately, anything to ensure the warriors have a positive psyche that is ready and willing to fight.

The general rules of war were:

  1. War is always declared by the King
  2. Drummers on the battlefield are exempt from the war and should NOT be killed whatsoever
  3. All booties of war should be taken to the King’s residence
  4. The Generalissimo or commander in chief must NOT live in the same town with the King
  5. When the signal for the end of the battle is given, it should be promptly followed
  6. The elderly must always be spared
  7. Women, children and the elderly must not be killed in the clash
  8. The commander in chief must not lose battles, if they do, they are not to return home

General warrior titles in Yoruba land include: Balógun, Akọgun, Aarẹ, Sàrumí, Ajagùnnà, Sasọre, Lórò, Ṣorùndí, Bamura, Lẹ́jọ̀kà, Léjòfi, Lọmọfẹ, Òtún Àre, Òsì Àrẹ, Badà. These are general titles, other ethnic compositions have other titles for specific warriors other than those listed above.

What more would you like to know about Ogun jíjà? Should we cover Yoruba wars or popular Yoruba warriors?


Yoruba language at a glance by Akinola Iyiola

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