Obafemi Awolowo and the making of Remo (A Review Part 1) as reviewed by Jide Osuntokun
This book was first published in 2009 for International African Institute, London and has now been reissued in Nigeria by a local publisher to commemorate mama chief H.I.D Awolowo’s 95th birthday on November 2010. This is a scholarly work on Chief Obafemi Awolowo and the evolution of modern Remo, a sub-group of the Yoruba in Ogun State. In the past, I would have said a sub-group of the Ijebu but this would probably be unacceptable to Remo Patriots who for more than a century have been asserting their independence from Ijebu-Ode by claiming a separate identity.
This book deals with this story from pre-colonial times to the present. The book discusses the evolution of the 33 kingdoms and settlements of the Remo (Remo-metalelogbon). These kingdoms vary in size and are grouped into North and South. Most of the ones in the north like Ode-Remo, Ogeere, Ipara and Iperu did not always see eye to eye with those in the South like Ofin, Ilara, Ikenne, Ilisan and Makun. Some Remo empire builders claim several towns in the immediate east of Remo as historically belonging to Remo, including Ijesha-Ijebu, Agbowa and Okun-Owa (Itakete). Some even claim Odogbolu and Aiyepe in periods of expansiveness. In their myths of origin, there was no unanimity about where the founding fathers came from but the majority of the Remo kingdoms claimed origin from Oduduwa, the eponymous ancestor of the Yorubas. Others like Iperu even lay claim to a dynastic connection between themselves and Oyo. Ilara for example claimed common affinity and origin with Aramoko in Ekiti and Ilara-mokin in Ondo State. By the 19th century shortly before the advent of British imperialism, Remo land was largely controlled from Ijebu-Ode. There were periods of rebellion against the Awujale but most of the time these rebellions were put down in detail because Remo land always found it difficult to be united against a common foe. In any case, even in relatively modern times, there were some elements in Remo who did not believe in severing ties with Ijebu-Ode.
The subject of this book is therefore the story of the struggle for unity of Remo. In this struggle, there were two external factors that were to influence the development in Remo. These were the attitudes of Ijebu-Ode towards Remo’s ambition and secondly, the attitude of the British who since 1861 were effectively in occupation of Lagos and had gradually extended the boundaries of Lagos to Southern Remo particularly to Ikorodu, one of the important Remo Kingdoms. Some of the leaders in Remo exploited the presence of the British and particularly British missionaries of the Methodist church in their struggle for separate identity from the rest of the Ijebus.
The role of the Methodist church is crucial in the unfolding story of Remo’s struggle for independence. Sometimes this role came indirectly through the creation of a Christian educated elite in Remo and in this regard, the role of a certain Pythagoras Haastrup later known as Ademuyiwa Haastrup was almost decisive. Ademuyiwa Haastrup was born in 1853 to an Ifa Priest and was adopted by Wesleyan Methodist Missionaries and educated in Lagos. His parents originally came from Ofin and he was able to use his connection with royalty in ofin to influence the Akarigbo of Ofin that British influence and Christianity could bring Remo independence and progress. He used his considerable influence with Akarigbo in prevailing on the latter not to support the Awujale who was determined to block the trade-route from Lagos to the hinterland a situation that was later to lead to the defeat of Ijebu-Ode in 1892 without Remo suffering any military attack.
The influence of the Methodist in Remo land was not only limited to the activities of Haastrup alone because even the British Misssionary, Reverend William Fredrick Mellor who had virtually gone native in Remo land and had become a member of Osugbo had considerable influence in Remo and worked very hard to ensure Remo’s independence from Ijebu-Ode.
Remo’s history is characterised by internecine warfare between one Remo town and another leading to migrations, resettlement, coalescence, while retaining the old names in the various places in which they resettled. Thus in many of the Remo towns, one finds more than one ruler. In each settlement which are replications of old destroyed towns, they try to maintain separate identities by retaining their former rulers. Inspite of the attempt to maintain separate identity, there are institutions that provide a semblance of unity and common identity among the Remo people.
These institutions include the titled heads (Obas), Osugbo, Eluku, Oro and later on Egungun apparently signifying Oyo’s influence. Remo by the middle of the 19th century realised that to save itself it must be united. It was in this situation that several towns came together to found Sagamu in the Southern part of Remo land. The kingdoms that came together to found Sagamu following the invitation between 1866 and 1972 of Akarigbo Oduname Igimisoje of Ofin to other Remo towns were Ado, Batoro, Epe, Ibido, Ijagba, Ijokun, Makun, Ofin, Oko, Sonyindo, Latawa and Ipoji. Two other towns were added later namely, Igbepa and Ranmiken. The new settlement of Sagamu was some kind of confederation with each of the settlements maintaining its identity and rulers even though they accepted the Akarigbo of Ofin as overall Suzereign. Some of the important Northern towns like Iperu, Ode-Remo, Ipara and Isara refused to join the people in Sagamu.
The two most important quarters of Sagamu were Makun and Ofin. The author of the book under review claimed that the coming into being of Sagamu may have been influenced by the new Egba settlement in Abeokuta which found strength in the unity of Egba settlements under one ruler. The phenomenon of town consolidation in Yorubaland in the 19th century was not restricted to Remo alone, new towns such as Ibadan, Abeokuta, Ogbomoso, Osogbo, Saki, Oke Odan in Yewa land were either small settlements before receiving large migrations particularly of displaced people in Yorubaland as a result of a century of warfare between 1793 and 1893. Nearer home Remo confederate settlements or towns such as Ago-Iwoye (1830), Ijebu-Igbo (1831) made up of 5 separate settlement Odogbolu (1850) created by 8 towns coming together. Ayepe (1872) by six towns coming together and in Mushin East of Ijebu-Ode came into being as a result of 60 small Idoko villages coming together.
With the centralisation in Sagamu, the Remo people faced the challenge of how to overcome even within Sagamu fissiparous tendencies tearing the settlements apart and the hostility of the Awujale to the settlement. This was because the new settlement constituted an economic challenge to Ijebu-Ode which hitherto controlled the trade route to the coast. The British in Lagos would of course not have Ijebu-Ode disrupt trade between the coast and the hinterland. This was the reason why Governor of Lagos, William Carter signed with the Akarigbo, Oyebajo Torungbuwa in 1894 a treaty declaring Remo land a British protectorate while the Akarigbo was made to cede Ikorodu district to Lagos as part of Lagos colony. Ironically, the Akarigbo was not unhappy about declaration of British protectorate. In fact left to him, he would have preferred to join Lagos as part of the colony. (To be continued).
Book Review, Author: Insa Nolte; Obafemi Awolowo and the Making of Remo: The Local Politics of a Nigerian Nationalist: Book Builders Limited, Ibadan 2010. 421 pp.
Obafemi Awolowo and the making of Remo
May 9th, 2012