Nineteen miles from Osogbo, the capital of Osun State, in the northeastern part of Obokun Local Government Area, sits Imesi-Ile, on a hilly landscape. The site is believed to have been created sometime in the 11th or 12th century. Imesi Ile is known for two reasons: It was the epicenter of both the Jalumi and the Kiriji Wars among the Yoruba city-states as well as the venue for peace.
It is located on a high hill and is almost entirely surrounded by mountains. The temperature of this semi-plateau is ambient. The people’s hospitability has attracted many settlers. Because of the caves and mountains stretching for several miles, the area was a natural choice for refuge during wartime.
The initial site was recorded to have been settled by the Nupe people of old. Eventually, the original Nupe settlers moved north, leaving a few of their people. The founders of the present Imesi-Ile were the Oloja, the Odunmorun, and the Eye. The Oloja and the Odunmorun patriarchs, being half-brethren from Ondo, are held as pre-eminent till today in Imesi.
The first war was the Ogun Jalumi which ended in ignominy for the Ekiti soldiers. The Jalumi War, also known as the Battle of Ikirun, took place on 1 November 1878. It was part of a larger conflict called the Ibadan War or Ekiti-Parapo War (1877-1893). The forces of Ibadan defeated soldiers from Ilorin, Ekiti, Ila, and Ijesa.
Following this defeat, the Ekitis decided to call on Ogedengbe—a tall, fiery fellow who had been reluctant to lead the Ekiti-Parapo army—and several Yoruba tribes including the Igbomina, the Akoko, the Egbe, the Kabba, and the Oworro (a Yoruba sub-tribe in present-day Lokoja), for support. This reinforcement was a revolt against Ibadan’s ambition to rule over other Yoruba towns following the decline of Oyo Empire.
Attempts at mediation began in 1879-80, but the colonial government in Lagos was under instructions from London and Accra to keep out of the conflict, even though the fighting affected the colony’s economy.
It wasn’t until 1886—through the efforts of Samuel Johnson, the historian, and Charles Phillips, who later became the Bishop of Ondo—that the parties signed a treaty in Lagos with Governor Maloney, which provided for the independence of the Ekiti Parapo towns and the evacuation of Modakeke, to suit Ife. However, Ilorin, one of the allies of the Ekiti Parapo troops, which at the time was pillaging Offa, refused to stop fighting in the north.
After the bombardment of Oyo in 1895 and the capture of Ilorin by the Royal Niger Company in 1897, which established full colonial control throughout Yorubaland, the war ended. There was a peace treaty on 23 September 1886.
It lasted sixteen years. Many historians believe it is the world’s longest intra-ethnic war. It was by far the fiercest intra-tribal war among the Yoruba.
Kiriji got its name from the thunderous sound of the cannon guns which the Ekiti army purchased in large numbers. The guns gave them an advantage over the Ibadan troops.
Imesi-Ile still bleeds from the battles. There are a number of sites which played prominent roles during the war. One of these sites is the Faragbota tree. It is famous because warriors hid behind it for protection. There is also the arms dump, as well as a site where weapons were manufactured.
There is also the spot where Latosa, the Aare Ona Kakanfo of Ibadan, was killed. The Fejeboju stream, said to have turned red as a result of the huge volume of blood that flowed into it, is another remarkable place.
These sites have since become popular attractions during the Kiriji Festival, which is held every September.