The Yoruba heritage has claimed its history from inception through its conquest in wars and the ability to sustain its experiences during the wars. These wars have added significance to the Yoruba tribe and are passed from one generation to another. Although some Yoruba people in some states still live in the past— that is, they have not forgotten their grievances—often, it leads to conflict. Also, these Yoruba tribes are known for some attributes during wars, which have become general terms used for them. For instance, Ibadan got its popular oriki “Ibadan maja maja, nibi ole ngbe jare oloun” from its actions during wars.
The 21st-century Yoruba indigenes only have access to some of these historical wars through storytelling, and there, they explore the foundational causes of the wars. However, it is important to note that most of these wars in the Yoruba empire are intra-conflicts, which at the time were a result of power tussles, land conflicts, relationship conflicts, and the slave trade, among others.
One such story is the common Ife and Modakeke war of 1835–2000, which according to history was one of the longest intra-ethnic wars in Yorubaland. According to legend, Ifes and Modakekes are the sons and daughters of the same parents. Their ancestors can be traced back to Oduduwa, the Yoruba race’s progenitor.
The collapse of the Old Oyo Empire in the 19th century resulted in a flow of refugees down south, prompting one of the exiled Oyo groups to settle in what is now known as Modakeke. Modakeke has been a town for almost two hundred and fifty years (250 years). It has its own traditional system, which includes a traditional monarch and a chieftaincy hierarchy. It is proud of its demographic, economic, and cultural progress, as well as its contributions to national development in all areas.
The name Modakeke was derived from an Ako (Stork) bird that was commonly seen in the new community. The Ifes discovered the stork chirping a rhyme they called mo-da-ke-ke-ke-ke-ke-ke-ke-ke-ke-ke-ke-ke-ke-ke-ke-ke-ke-ke-ke-ke-ke-ke-. As a result, the residents of Ife chose the name “Ife” for this new settlement, “Modakeke.”
History of Modakeke
Following the Fulani conquest of the Oyo empire, the entire Oyo population was plunged into disarray. The Oyo Empire, which was then one of the most powerful and well-fortified empires, crumbled and never recovered from its former greatness. However, in search of a better life, the people of Ibadan swiftly dispersed across Yoruba territory. Therefore, in 1834, some of them moved to Ile-Ife to start a new life.
The inhabitants of Ife welcomed them warmly, and they coexisted peacefully with the rest of the town. They were quite hardworking, and they began cultivating the area to raise a variety of crops. Oba Akinmoyero, the ruling Ooni of Ife at the time, was exceedingly delighted with them and even took some of their warriors into his army. Ife was able to extend her boundaries to Alakowe, the current border between Ife and Ilesa, thanks to the valour of the Ibadan troops.
Prior to the coming of the Ibadan people, the Ijesas had their domain stretched to the current location of the Ooni of Ife’s Palace, which is still known as Enuwa (Enu Owa). The Ibadan people would later provide the Oba Akinmoyero with a plot of land outside the city walls of Ife as a token of their gratitude for their valour.
History of Ile-Ife
Ife (Ile-Ife) is a Yoruba city in the southwestern part of Nigeria. The city is now located in the state of Osun. Ile-Ife was discovered by Oduduwa, Obatala’s younger brother, whom the supreme God Olodumare sent to build the earth, according to Yoruba mythology.
According to legend, Obatala drank palm wine on his trip to create the earth and became so inebriated that Oduduwa had to take up his task. Oduduwa took Obatala’s three objects of creation, climbed down from the heavens on a chain, threw a handful of soil on the primordial ocean, and then put a cockerel on it to distribute the earth, thereby creating the land on which Ile-Ife would be built. Thus, glass beads made by ancient Ife have been discovered as far as Mali, Mauritania, and Ghana.
Ife and Modekeke Crisis
There have been controversies about the conflict between these two parties, which to date has remained a discussion in the Yoruba lineage. Historians believe that the major causes of their conflict (Ife and Modakeke) were land ownership, payment of land rent (Isakole), the establishment of local government, and the placement of its headquarters, all of which are reflected in cultural identity, economics, and politics. The most prominent causes were the creation of local government and the location of its headquarters.
The Yoruba see Ife as their source, and they regard the Modakekes as their ‘landlords.’ Following the collapse of the Old Oyo empire in the 19th century, the latter migrated to the area. This was the underlying element in the Yoruba ethnic conflict that resulted in the deaths of thousands of people.
History has it that the last incident that led to the crisis erupted as a result of Modakeke residents’ demand for their own local government council. In 1997, the late Sani Abacha’s military regime granted their demand by merging the former Ife North and Ife Central local governments to establish the Ife East Local Government. Ife residents wanted the new council’s headquarters to be in their neighbourhood, but Modakeke residents protested. Despite earlier hinting that Oke D. O. in Modakeke would be the location, the government announced Oke-Ogbo in Ile-Ife as the headquarters.
People of Modakeke quickly protested the “cheating and unfairness,” and a full-fledged “war” occurred, with hundreds of people slain on both sides and hundreds of homes, automobiles, and other properties destroyed.
The killings persisted until 2000, when then-President Olusegun Obasanjo established a commission led by Olabode George to investigate the intercommunal violence. The effort was backed by the state government, which was led by Bisi Akande at the time. The committee proposed that Ife East Area Office be recognized as a local government unit with headquarters in Oke, D.O. in Modakeke and that the town be renamed Modakeke-Ife by adding “Ife” as a prefix to Modakeke.
The committee also proposed that a mobile police training school be established in Ile-Ife, as well as police buffer zones in violent hotspots like Oke Yidi, Odo Okun, Iye Kere, Egbedore, Akrabata, Isale Agbara, and Mayfair/Obande.
History has it that earlier, before the committee proposal, the war was to be ended by the establishment of a British protectorate in Nigeria, led by Governor Carter. However, in 1886, a treaty was drafted and signed as a result of this. Its goal was to bring the Yoruba people together in harmony. This treaty included a stipulation mandating that Modakeke be relocated from Ife soil and reconstructed between the rivers Osun and Oba, with the Ibadans tasked with ensuring that this was done. The treaty’s signatories were unaware of this declaration, which led to the long-running Ife-Modakeke feud. Thus, several attempts to end the war proved abortive.
How was the Ife-Modakeke Conflict resolved?
In March 2000, Nigerian former President Olusegun Obasanjo announced a government-brokered truce and the formation of a 27-member peace committee in an effort to settle the long fight over land rights. In addition, the two towns were subjected to a dusk-to-dawn curfew, and hundreds of armed riot police were sent to enforce the truce.
A peace accord was also struck in February 2009 between Ife and Modakeke. The Ogunsua of Modakeke was elevated to the rank of Oba as a result of this peace deal. Also, the Osun State Government, the Ooni of Ife, Oba Okunade Sijuwade, Olubuse II, and the Ogunsua of Modakeke, Francis Adedoyin, signed the deal.