Book 2: Itan - Legends of the golden age.

A TIME OF TROUBLES descends on Yorubaland. From the curse of Aole, the death of Afonja, the fall of Ilorin and the destruction of the old Oyo Empire, a hundred years of discord unfolds. It is a time of violence, slavery, social upheaval and internecine wars that tears the Yoruba city states apart, as warlords such as Oluyole, Ogunmola, Kurunmi and Ogedengbe with their war-boys achieve power and infamy in their various theaters of war from Owu and Ijaiye to Kiriji. Caught up in the mayhem are the author’s forebears, the Warrior from Ife, his son Solesi, the war-boy who came back home from capture and exile, and Baba Mamu who, tiring of war, takes solace in his cocoa farm. The era culminates in the bloody defeat of the Ijebus at Imagbon and the imposition of the British Protectorate over Yorubaland.



A novel of epic dimensions…reminiscent of Chinua Achebe’s African trilogy. Oladele Olusanya paints a wonderful fresco of Yorubaland in a time of hardship and troubles. Fans of historical fiction at its finest will find this novel an engrossing read. Read full book review

- Online Book Club, USA.


Seamlessly continues the epic story of the Yoruba race that was started in “Gods and Heroes.” Thoroughly captivating and fascinating.  A page turner! Read full book review

- Dare Demuren, U.K., author of ‘Behind the mask.’ 


Olusanya deploys a mastery of prose that lays out the stranger-than-fiction recent past of the Yoruba people. Highly recommended! Read full book review

- Femi Olugbile, Lagos, award-winning author of ‘Lonely Men.’ 


Weaves a narrative of suspense, love and loss that is befitting of an epic tale. Read full book review

- Dominic Jones, Dallas, avante garde filmmaker.

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War drums woke up the sleepy village of Ikenne, and young Solesi answered the call. The young man’s wish to become a warrior like his famous father, the Warrior from Ife, was fulfilled. At the first rumor of hostilities with the encroaching Egba, borne on the news of the devastation by the Egbas of the Remo frontier town of Ipara, Solesi became a drummer boy in the hastily formed Remo army. This would be his heroic contribution to the Ikenne war effort. He was only eleven years old. But he lived in a time of troubles in an age of conflict. Therefore, he was old enough. He was ready to be an omo ogun, a ‘war-boy.’

To go to war, Solesi was attired much like the other warriors of his time. He was barefoot. He wore jumpers that reached to his knees. Above this was a dashiki, a short hunter’s jacket. It looked very much like the cloak worn by Obari on his adventure to the sea more than three centuries earlier. Solesi wore a strong belt of deer skin around his waist on which were tied or slung various accoutrements of war. His father, the Warrior from Ife, though skeptical of the rationale for his going off to war, took him to a babalawo. 

‘Gbegbe igbe soko iwaje,’ the babalawo chanted his incantations for Solesi’s safe return from war. ‘You will go. And you will come back.’

Solesi came back from his visit to the babalawo equipped with several amulets and charms that included dyed cowry shells, feathers of birds and the bleached skull of a small rodent. All these were attached or sewed to his jacket. Strapped to his belt on his left hip was his short ada, which was the basic weapon of the Remo fighter of the day, even the old seasoned ones. Some of the older warriors also carried short throwing spears or lances. A few of the men, who were hunters in civilian life, carried the muzzle-loading musket known as ‘saka bula.’

Solesi lustily entered into the spirit of the game of the coming conflict. All the bluster and talk of war coming from the adults around him was like a game in his young imaginative mind. With his friends and play-mates, he had always liked playing the part of ‘war-boy.’ Now he could play it in earnest. And not with make-believe actors his own age, but with grown-up warriors for whom war and the possibility of death was real, not a game in the bushes at the end of which you said to your friends, ‘We are hungry. Let’s go home.’ Solesi entered into his part with fervor. He learnt the special war song of the Ikenne war contingent. He sang this ditty throatily as his two hands simultaneously beat the accompanying rhythm on the small drum that hung low against his belly.


Ko ma si eiye keiye

To le ba adan fo,

A de o,

A kere koro –

Awa omo Ikenne.


There is no bird

Can keep up in flight with the bat

Here we come

Small, but ferocious -

We, the sons of Ikenne.


Solesi carried and played the small drum called omole. It had a leather strap that went tround his neck, leaving him free to beat the goatskin leather of the drum with his short, curved drumsticks. It also allowed him to leave the drum and reach for his weapon of war if need be. For he carried his short sword which had been specially made for his small stature by Lanipeku, the town blacksmith. This he strapped to his left hip with a leather throng so that it was within easy reach of his right hand. He also had a bow strapped to his back. His quiver of arrows hung over his left shoulder. He was primarily a young musician in the service of the ibalogun of Ikenne who led the older warriors who were the real fighters. His job was to play his drum to stir up the blood of these older men and to make these otherwise placid men defy arrows and lances launched at them as they dashed forward to grapple with the enemy in the thick of battle. He practiced playing his drum every day with the other omo onilu, drummer boys, who were mostly teenage boys. Although they were all older than him, Solesi’s musical skills shone above everyone else’s and he became a star in this special group. And indeed, for the discerning and musically inclined, it was a thing of beauty whenever they practiced, to hear Solesi expertly weave the rapid rhythm of his omele‘sstaccato sounds in and out of the heavy thuds of the big iya ilu and gangan as the older warrior-musicians. It was he who set the pace for the bigger drums. The other drummers beamed at him with pride. They were all proud of Solesi’s expertise and skills with the small drum.

But though everyone knew that he was only a drummer boy and not an active combatant, Solesi fancied himself a warrior. Thus, he carefully honed his fighting skills by practicing with all the different weapons of war he could lay his hands on. He begged and borrowed several of these from the older men – swords, daggers and spears, even a musket which he begged an old hunter to teach him to load, aim and shoot. Although he already considered himself a great shot, he practiced with his bow and arrow every chance he had. He was keen to show everyone what a great shot he was. In this of course, he was right. For even his commander Awoniyi said that Solesi had been well taught by his father, the Warrior from Ife. Awoniyi was a cynical old warrior who had gone off with some of his friends from Ijebu-Ode to fight on the side of Kurunmi in the just concluded Ijaiye war. Solesi glowed inside. He was glad that the war games he had constantly played since he was little more than a toddler had paid off. He told himself he was ready to go to war.

Soon, the day came when the order came from the Remo commander-in-chief in Shagamu for the men of Ikenne to march out to meet the enemy waiting for them at Iperu. As they set out, Solesi was in the front, in the middle of a column of drummers that led the Ikenne auxiliaries as they trudged out of the town. Solesi himself would remember that day clearly until his dying day. It was early in the morning and it was late in the rainy season. It was just after dawn. Women were already on the way to the stream to fetch water, their earthenware pots balanced delicately on their heads as they swayed their hips in rhythm. Old Kuteyi was stretching his legs in front of his hut as usual. It was a most ordinary looking day. The sun was just as bright as Solesi could remember. The air smelled of unharvested young corn in the field. At first, the group of men and boys were quiet as they marched out of town, not looking back as they left the last hut behind. Maybe some of them thought of the wives they had left behind. And their children? Would they ever see them again? 

Then the older warriors started to talk in low whispers about the enemy they were about to face. The Egbas were feared and respected as a warlike people by the Remos. The town of Abeokuta had been founded around the same time as Ibadan following the dissolution of the Oyo Empire. Following frictions with the Ibadans after the Owu war, the Egbas had fled en masse to establish their famous city of refuge under the rock. They named their new town Abeokuta – under the rock. The population of the new town grew rapidly with more Egba war refugees streaming in, pushed out of their old dwellings and ancient towns by the Ibadans. But like their oppressors, the Ibadans, the Egbas of Abeokuta soon became known for their propensity for war. Their appetite kindled, they never tired of being involved in one conflict or the other. And their constant foe seemed to be Ibadan, their old nemesis. Perhaps, they never forgave the fact that the site on which Ibadan was founded had once been farms and hamlets that belonged to the ancient Egbas.

The men also talked about the Dahomeans, the fearless and warlike race who were neighbors of the Egbas to the west. One of the older men brought up the legend of the female warriors of Dahomey. These were the famous ahosi, who he said were braver than their men and even more ruthless in battle. These women warriors gave no quarters and killed all their prisoners. According to him, these women had only one breast which they exposed in battle. But woe betide any foe that attempted to strike at that one exposed breast, for he would not live to tell the tale. The ahosi wore their war girdle low around their belly. But they were never harmed, so strong was their charm. The men told each other the story of how one of these female warriors had been captured by the Egbas. She had broken her chains, grabbed a sword from one of her guards and slew him with one stroke. Then, she fell on the same sword, killing herself before the rest of her captors could react. The legend of the female warriors of Dahomey infested Solesi’s imagination for the rest of the way on that march to Iperu. What was real, and what was to be believed? He was only a boy and he believed all the stories told by the grown men, who of course knew more about these things. Solesi grew fearful. He would dream later all his life about these mythical female warriors with one breast. Omoge olomu kan, he called them.




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