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COVID-19 Unrest: Combating Insecurity and Unrest during Pre-Colonial Times in Yorùbá Land

Egungun Image Omenka Online.

The reality of the Corona Virus Pandemic is here and like a nightmare, a lot of Nigerians are still trying to keep their sanity during this trying period. The restrictions/ lockdown in most affected states (Lagos, Ogun, and Abuja) is taking a toll on the mental health of Nigerians. Many people currently engage in different activities in their houses to stay sane.

The recent activities of armed robbers, petty thieves, and the infamous “One Million Boys” are almost throwing places like Lagos, and Ogun into a state of anarchy and lawlessness. Residents of affected areas in these states have organized themselves into Vigilante groups to wade off any incoming attacks.

This sudden duty to protect their environs is taking a toll on the mental health of most residents, not to mention the risk they are exposed to.


How did it get this bad?
During the Pre-colonial times in Yorùbá land, there were several uprising and turbulent periods, but never has the tranquillity of an entire community been threatened, or held ransom without the traditional heads of the villages or towns taking stringent actions to combat any form of lawlessness. Before the formation of the Police or any security outfit, each community and village in Pre-colonial Yorùbá land had always protected its citizenry and borders against any internal and external assault in its own traditional and civic way.

In pre-colonial times, the Oba of Eko (Lagos) also known as the Eleko of Eko governed the traditional structure of the political system of Eko (Lagos). One of the important arms of his government are the group of Chiefs, the fourth in the hierarchy are the “Abagbons”, with the “Ashogbon” their supreme commander. Apart from informing the Eletu Odibo whenever an Oba dies, they are also in charge of protecting the territory and borders of Eko against domestic and external attacks.

Each sub-group of the “Abagbons” has their local regiment with a captain (Balogun) that oversees every street/district in Eko. In certain situations where they will need to fight with the use of both Military, and Spiritual force, they handle the military and combat aspects, while another class of the traditional arm of the government, the “Ogalades” governed by their head “The Obanikoro” -A Third Class chief, the Spiritual Priest, and Physician of the Oba. The Obanikoro would carry out spiritual cleansing and needed sacrifice if the disturbance is sort of a supernatural attack.

Different traditional professional guilds and religious guilds/cults such as the Oro, Egungun, and Elegba took it upon themselves to protect the land by coming out unannounced.

Despite being religious guilds, they enforced discipline and security in the land, especially the Oro Masquerade that can be summoned whenever something bad is happening or about to happen in the land.


Another important and powerful traditional institution that has always played of enforcing law and order in the land; both Physical and Spiritual is the Ogboni Society. The Ogboni was once described as a civic and law enforcing body that checkmate the Oba and ensure discipline and peace in the land. They step in when there are chaos and anarchy in the land.

In 1833, the Ogboni rebelled against their Apena, Chief Ajasa who made terrible mistakes because he got power-drunk and his quest of having it all got the best of him. The Ogboni beat their drums, jeering his downfall. In anger, Ajasa entered the Ogboni house and tore the Ogboni drums, this act considered as a sacrilege was the downfall of Ajasa.

Throughout Yorùbá land, 142 Ogboni leaders arrived in Lagos each bearing two Ogboni staves, the 142 Ogboni leaders publicly disowned Ajasa and declared him a persona non-granta of the land. This action marked the end of the political career of Chief Apena Ajasa. This shows the extent the Ogboni would go in restoring order even if it is one of their one.

All through Yorùbá land, different age groups, either religious, traditional, or civil have stepped up in protecting the land during the period of unrest. Either through physical means or supernatural means. Lands and borders have always been protected.

The Guild of local farmers and hunters called the ‘Agbekoya’ were responsible for revolting and protecting the interest of the farmers and the people in South Western Nigeria between 1966-1969.

Their similar mandate would later form the basis for the formation for the Oduaa People’s Congress, who had a more militant objective of protecting the interest of Yorùbá land.

No matter how bad it gets, no Yorùbá land or no state in Nigeria shouldn’t be held ransom by anyone or group of miscreants, not to mention a state that has a sitting effective Governor or a Traditional Ruler. We live in trying times, the tax-paying citizens deserve peace and protection of their lives and properties at all cost.

All Lives Matter.
Let us have all hands on deck and make sure there is peace and security in the Land. God Bless Nigeria.

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