It is quite unfathomable that in the long and rich historical accounts of Ibadan, the story of the famous Warlord and Aare Ona Kakanfo, Kurunmi could be left out.

Back in the 19th Century, Kurunmi was a famous Warlord who had his empire situated at Ijaye, 20km away from what is the present day Mokola. Samuel Johnson once famously reffered to Kurunmi as the "Greatest soldier of his age". Kurunmi’s life was one that was filled with various controversies. His powerful reign and possession of mysterious supernatural power is an interesting folklore one cannot simply hide from history.

Kurunmi (meaning death has impoverished me) grew up as a young warrior together with Oluyole of Ibadan and Prince Atiba before the latter became Alaafin (King of Oyo). Upon Atiba anscension, Kurunmi was installed as the Aare Ona Kakanfo due to his proven valor in battles and defense of Yorubaland. To prevent any political friction, Kurunmi moved from Oyo to settle down in Ijaiye and it was there that he established an ascendancy of his own; he was King, General, Judge, Jury, Executioner, even Gladiator who ensured that every refugee either submits to his will or quits the town. He was claimed to be arrogant and stubborn but among his people, he is a very revered figure. One particular legend has it that Kurunmi domesticated all the gods in his compound and turned them into captives whom he alone had the right to consult and whom must always be at his beck and call. In matters of court, he was said to have exercised sound judgment and fairness. Kurunmi was however often referred to as a war mongerer in several historical accounts, it was said that he invaded many towns and annexed them as his own and that his many conquests are responsible for his 300 wives and a thousand slaves which he possessed in his lifetime. Ibadan however remains his only foiled invasion attempt.

Before his demise, Alaafin Atiba, has requested that his son Adelu, be installed as the next king of Oyo, a proposition which didn't please Kurunmi as he had his own candidate from the neighboring town of Kishi. Ola Rotimi wrote later that the tradition then was that a prince must die with his father which meant that Adelu should have been buried with Adetiba but the Kingmakers had been "bribed". Adelu subsequently became the Alaafin according to his late father’s will and in his disapproval, Kurunmi's refusal to pay homage to Adelu resulted into a colossal rivalry which then led to what turned out to be the biggest and bloodiest war in the history of the Oyo kingdom. In his bid to preserve the culture of his fathers, Kurunmi went toe to toe with the prince and eventually died in the process.

Even Kurunmi's death is a mystery and an interesting debate among Yoruba historians till date. Many say he committed suicide out of shame and frustration by plunging into River Ose while another account has it that he was killed by enemies and then buried by the Ose River while yet another claims he was killed in the war and was brought home for burial with the small exception that he has no burial site.


Countless novels have been written about this enigma, most notable being the aforementioned Ola Rotimi's staged play titled Kurunmi. The life and times of this great warlord is also one of the most adapted stories in the Yoruba movies industry. In honor of his place in history, Ijaiye, his ancestral home, was commemorated as a memorial to preserve his memory for future generations. In days gone past, many would visit the community to get to grip with the stories they have been regaled about the man; some to see the house he was born in and others his full military regalia amongst other artifacts.
These days however, the place is a shadow of the resplendence it once had. The once proud tourist attraction now lay in dilapidation and obscurity while the people are disconnected from the world around them. The rich cultural significance of the Ijaye community has now been replaced by a nonchalance from both the government and the general public. The inhabitants of the township and what remains of Kurunmi’s legacy now live in isolation having been cut off from all civilization. The Kurunmi house is in shambles and reflecting its age with nothing to show its significance in ages past. Despite the efforts of the inhabitants of this community to preserve his history by building a modern museum, they have not being able to finish because of lack of fund and worse but not the worst, the community is not even listed as one of those tourist centers to visit in Ibadan.

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