Opin War: How Ilorin subjugated the Ekitis

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The Opin war brought a vast stretch of Ekitiland up to Ikole under Ilorin`s rule. This war began as a simple search for a runaway slave called Esu, who escaped from Ilorin to Ekitiland, where he became a marauder against Ilorin traders passing through that territory. The episode began when Esu:

“left Ilorin and settled first at Egbe then at Itagi and finally at Isan, leading a predatory life in those regions, kidnapping peaceful traders, sparing none, and was particularly hard on the Ilorin traders. In that way, he became a person of some importance in those parts; hence the Ilorins were now resolved upon capturing him alive.” (Johnson)*

The pursuit of Esu by Ilorin`s troops involved the ransacking of villages after villages in Ekitiland to fish him out. The search sometimes degenerated to outright plundering. As the troops trailed him from one town to another, plundering worsened. Plundering spread wider and wider caused unbearable hardship everywhere. The intensity and the extent of the plundering forced the victims to put up some resistance which initially resulted in skirmishes. Later it escalated to a full-scale war between Ilorin and the Ekitis. As the war progressed, Ekiti towns fell in rapid succession to the ever-conquering Ilorin cavalry and from that time, became part of the expanding Ilorin Emirate.

At one stage, Esu was trailed to Opin and a siege was mounted against the town by the Ilorin army. Unable to contain the siege or break it, Opin appealed to Ibadan for help and this was given. With this help, Opin held its ground gallantly against the Ilorin cavalry for three years before its defences crumbled and the town was taken by Ilorin. Esu, however, escaped and was pursued to Isan but as the town fell he escaped again to Ikole causing Ikole, too, to be besieged and taken by the Ilorin army.

After the capture of Ikole, the Ibadan contingent, which was assisting the Ekiti withdrew and returned to Ibadan. The Ilorin cavalry, too, could not advance further because of the tropical vegetation of Ekitiland. The capture of Ikole extended the suzerainty of Ilorin from the city wall in Ilorin through the whole of Igbominaland to Eruku on the verge of Yagba territory and from there through the whole Ekitiland now within Kwara state, across the border to Ikole, which is now in Ekiti state. This vast territory became a colony of Ilorin. It remained so from about 1860 till 1896 when the British colonial administration in Lagos intruded and drove Ilorin`s resident administrator, Ajeles, away from Ishan, Ikole and Aiyede.


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