IBADAN: From a warrior city to a business hub

Located on seven hills with an average elevation of 200 metres, 160 km from the Atlantic coast, lay one of Nigeria’s most populous cities.

Record has it that at Nigeria’s independence, the city was the largest and most populous city in the country and third in Africa after Cairo and Johannesburg. Welcome to the city of Ibadan, Oyo state, southwest Nigeria.

According to local historians, the city of Ibadan was founded by Lagelu in 1792. During this period there was unrest in the Yoruba land and the city was created as a camp for warriors coming from Oyo, Ife and Ijebu who were fighting at that period.

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The presence of hills of varying heights was strategic in making Ibadan a warrior camp. Hills offered them a defense advantage of being able to see their enemies before they could sight them.

Thus Ibadan began as a kind of military city and remained so until the last decade of the 1800s.

‘idi Ibon’ or ‘gun base’ was the nickname given to the great city because of her unique military character. So great was their military might that the city succeeded in building a large empire from the 1860s to 1890s, spreading over much of northern and eastern Yoruba land.

The city of Ibadan was ruled by warriors, unlike other Yoruba cities which had traditional kingship institutions then. It’s only natural, coming on the heels that the city was not inhabited by ‘regular civilians.’

Ibadan provided safe haven in war time, expanding further when refugees began arriving in large numbers from northern Oyo, following raids by Fulani warriors.

After losing the northern portion of the region to marauding Fulanis, many Oyo indigenes retreated deeper into the Ibadan environs.

Fulani Caliphate attempted to expand further into the southern region of modern day Nigeria, but was decisively defeated by the armies of Ibadan in 1840, which halted their progress.

The new city became prosperous and grew into a commercial nerve centre. It is only natural, since security and business go hand in hand.

Ibadan grew into an impressive urban center, so much that by the end of 1829, Ibadan dominated the Yoruba region militarily, politically and economically.

Colonial masters in 1893 took Ibadan as part of the British protectorate after the Baale of Ibadan, Fijabi, signed a treaty with the British acting governor of Lagos colony.

Takeover by the British, helped advance Ibadan into strong economic standing. Ibadan recorded a boom in rubber and cocoa trade and became the main producer in Nigeria’s western region.
European and Levantine firms, as well as traders from Lagos and northern part of the country besieged Ibadan.
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Cocoa boom led to the building of the first skyscraper in tropical Africa. The building fondly called cocoa house stands at a height of 105 meters and was built from proceeds of cash crop commodities, especially cocoa, from Ibadan.

Those were the glory days, when agriculture was the main means of Nigeria’s foreign exchange.
With its strategic location on the railway line connecting Lagos to Kano, the city became a major trading outpost in cassava, cocoa, cotton, timber, rubber and palm oil.

Can Nigeria revive the glory of Ibadan? Can cocoa house be revived? Are great things possible? Yes, we can.

With good vision, dedication and God’s help we will. Recently, Nigeria’s railway system has been revived. It was instrumental in cocoa glory days in Ibadan. So what are we waiting for, bring back the glory.

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