ORIKI , WAR POEMS ,
A Yoruba praise poem or Oriki ,
commemorating the figure of Balógun
Ìbíkúnlé, the great ruler and
commander-in-chief of Ibadan forces
in the nineteenth-century. Ìbíkúnlé
was born in Ogbomoso, a city in Oyo
State, south-western Nigeria, during
the first decade of the nineteenth
century. This was at a time when the
Fulani jihads were beginning to make
incursions into various territories
Ìbíkúnlé joined the Ogbomoso army
and rose to an influential position
within the war council in his twenties.
Observing that Ogbomoso lacked the
numbers to effectively banish the
Fulani jihads, Ìbíkúnlé moved to
Ibadan in the 1830’s. Ibadan
contained the largest concentration of
warriors in Yorubaland at the time
and Ìbíkúnlé aligned himself with an
Ibadan war-chief known as Toki
Onibudo. Through the 1840’s – 1850’s
Ìbíkúnlé had led a series of successful
conquests that made Ibadan the most
formidable power in Yorubaland. An
interesting biography of Ìbíkúnlé can
be found at Ibadan Insider .
The Oriki that follows celebrates
Ìbíkúnlé’s courage, martial prowess,
prosperity and leadership qualities. In
addition to being an accomplished
soldier and commander in chief, he is
also praised for his wealth and
Ìbíkúnlé, the Lord of his Quarters,
The proverbial magnificent doer
The Captain that disgraces men as
would the dearth of money
The Warrior! As regular as the Muslim
A strongly witted man, with
incomprehension comparable to that
of Olódùmarè. (1)
The affluent with enough to spend and
to spare at the brewery.
A reliable military errant,
A challenger of all men.
Owner of farm land at Ògbèré,
Ìbíkúnlé also has a farm at Odò-Ona
A wide expanse of farm land,
Extensive as far as the city wall at
Father of Kuẹjó, owner of a dreadly
Ìbíkúnlé’s backyard is even bigger
than other people’s farms;
His backyard is wide enough a track
for hyenas to race full length
Proverbial big backyard, father of Òjó-
He drove the sojourners of Ará to
Drove Òban people against ’Kogúsì,
Admirable at expeditions, father of
Fierce-striker at war, father of Asípa;
A stockist of bullet and gunpowder,
father of Òsì of Ìbàdàn.
Usually commissioned to subdue the
head of any rebellion.
Father of Orówùsì the Èkerin.
Keeper of inseparable cudgel like
He fought against Aláké’s army and
killed his son;
Ìbíkúnlé fought against lÌgbèin, and
became a terror in captivity
He struck at Sómúyè, struck at Apáti,
Used a short cudgel to drive Alólá
Without stating his case, he had the
judgement against the Ègbá.
Killed Alólá that ordered them to the
Ever winning in every case.
Òbìrìtií, a changer of one’s fateful day.
Had Ègbá heads for erecting a hut at
Also used it for hut making at Òkè-
And as well used it for a hut at
Òbìrìtí – overflowing here and there
like river Òsun Àpara.
When in fighting mood, both eyes and
nose are usually blood red,
Always in bloody mood at the theatres
A really hefty personality.
With strong plump hand and feet of a
Despiseful of the Ìjèbú on his right
Adéyewón their Awùjalè
Also spiteful of the Ìjèbú on his left
It is unlikely he may not mete the
same treatment to Jímbà in Ìlorin,
The man with a disproportionately
longer nose than his mouth.
He killed Ìjèbú and planted Ìjèbú
Planted Ìjèbú as he would plant a post
Planted Ìjèbú facing outwards
Opposite the Corn market.
He was dared to camp in the forest,
Ìbíkúnlé camped in the forest and
He was dared to pitch his tent in the
Ìbíkúnlé pitched his tent in the field,
He ravaged and rent the whole field as
would a cloth.
A man that was forewarned not to call
He marched through the farms of Òla’s
chiefs at Ede. (4)
Òla’s chiefs dare not move anywhere,
Tlmì must stay put in his palace.
His departure gave them relief at
They all in a chorus sighed “Ìbíkúnlé
has been responsible for our
He departed and the Baálè breathed a
sigh of relief;
He said thank God Ìbíkúnlé has at last
His departure made Tlmi to have a
Saying: “I will have my bath today,
Ìbíkúnlé is gone.”
He plans for another expedition while
still executing one
He barely quells a rebellion while he
opens fire in another front.
He planned for Ìjèsà war;
Èfòn was pitching a blockade (5)
Balógun cleared the forest and dug
Ìbíkúnlé pounded and ate away the
yams of the aristocratic Èfòn in an
Pillaged their àpepe yams, pillaged
their alòlò yams
Even the sprouting yam sets of Àrìwò
went completely went in for it too.
Emptied the grain granaries in a jiffy,
And set fire to all their poisons in the
He nakedly entered the house with
An enemy of Kóngò, father of Kéré
He lightningly fought in Lolá’s open
field with the resemblance of an
The elephant hardly ravaged Lolá
Kúejó’s father really plundered the
field in Ìlásè
The warrior! Witty as a European.
When àgbá drums are sounded in
It was always in praise of Balógun.
When they beat the drums in
It was also in praise of Balógun.
When Kínjìn drums are even sounded
It was in praise of no one else but
A lone elephant that rocks the jungle.
Ìbíkúnlé has given up the idea of just
rocking the jungle
He says he is a lone elephant
That rocks the whole world to its
A God-sent for the fulfillment of a
The mission that God gave to Ìbíkúnlé,
he executed the same before his death.
A chain with the thickness of a palm
tree is incapable of stopping an
Any creeper that aims to obstruct the
elephant from crossing the road
Will surely follow the elephant in its
Balógun! my unending respects for
I will never charge you for a liar for
Alárá that took you for a liar.
Obìrìtí! the result was the subsequent
despoliation of his town.
Ìkogùsì that took my father’s words
Onílelolá! his town was thus in
complete ruins. (6)
Ajerò-Ajàká that took your words for
Arowoló! his town became a
completely deserted place. (7)
Balógun! Olùgbàyà! I implore thee (8)
The smoke screen has often spread
round the jungle.
Balógun I beseeech thee, Olùgbàlà
The climbing rope has often retrieved
the palm tree.
The sole of the feet has always led the
The city has always been surrounded
by the town fortification wall.
The nursing mother usually ties the
shawl for carrying the baby securely
round her and the baby.
You outwit them all in town
Master in battlefield
Terror in the battlefield.
Terror in battlement.
There is no deity that can excel Ogun
Others are just full of mere affront.
Without his leadership, they cannot
move an inch
Without his accompaniment they
cannot confidently march on,
If Ìbíkúnlé, Lord of his quarters is no
They cannot even challenge the jackal
to a duel.
Europeans may stop sailing and
Ìjèhú may even boycott coming with
If the Europeans stopped sailing and
Ìjèhú ceased to come,
The inexhaustible stock of gunpowder
of Ìbíkúnlé, Lord of his quarters, is
there for our everlasting use.
Whoever dares the elephant dares
Whoever dares the buffalo dares its
Whoever dares the matchet-carrying
Desires a free invitation to go to
Ìbíkúnlé is in the opposite direction
and one fails to clear the way,
Maybe the man desires to join
Ondugubóyé in heaven.
Ògbàràgàdá, the man,
Who broke asunder Kúrunmí’s
defence gate in an instant.
What a lamentable thing! all sighed
for sympathy with echoes of the
honey·bee Ìbíkúnlé has let down the
cargo – he is no more
Ìbíkúnlé lie is gone with his name and
left his title.
The father of Kuejo has left with his
from “Praise Poems as Historical Data:
The Example of the Yoruba Oriki”,
Africa 44, p331-349 (1974)
Two War Songs of King
PRAISE-POEMS /TAGS: KING MPHANDE ,
SOUTH AFRICA , WAR, ZULU
Two war songs relating to King
Mphande, Zulu king (1840-72), (see
Praises of King Mphande ). Half-
brother to both Shaka (1816-28) and
Dingane (1828-40), Mphande was
regarded as too weak to be a threat
when Dingane assassinated Shaka in
1828 and seized the throne. Mphande
eventually takes revenge on Dambuza
by refusing to join him in arms
against the Boers at the battle of
Maqongqo in 1840, which eventually
leads to Mphande becoming installed
He was rejected by Ndhlela (1)
He was rejected
He was rejected by Ndhlela
He was rejected
The goat of Dambuza and Ndhlela. (2)
Bird of the air,
Watcher over the land, cub of the
Nawazi and Company start no longer.
Abandon your beer pots, O King. (4)
Recorded & translated by James
late 19C Zululand, & held in the James
at the Killie Campbell Africana
The poet’s name is unknown.
: AKAN , WAR POEMS
The Akan peoples of Ghana include
the Ashanti, Fanti, Akim, Akwapim
and Asen. One distinct style of Akan
oral poetry are the poems recited by
the masters of ceremonies to
paramount chiefs. These poems
remind the chief of the clans historical
enemies and the victories in war that
his predecessors attained.
The master of ceremony performing
the poem half covers his mouth with
his left hand whilst pointing a sword
in his right hand to the chief in front
of whom he stands.
He is one who hates to see an enemy
He delivers old and young from the
ravages of war
He is one of whom armies of enemies
He is bulletproof: when you fire at
hime you waste your ammunition
He is so powerful as to be able to
bring the divinations of priests to
He catches priests and snatches their
bells from him
He is not to be challenged. If anyone
dares him, the one is sure to lose his
He cannot be caught and decapitated
at the battle front
He is like the tough trees, as well as
the old, wet half dead tree neither of
which can be cut
Between each poem drums and horns
play an interlude whilst the master of
ceremonies prepares their next verses.
In Akan society musical horns made
from the tusks of elephants are played
for paramount chiefs, and it is only
the chiefs that will have such
In this verse of praises for
Amaniampong, the founder of the
state of Mampong Ashanti, dialogues
appear between a father and son and
also between what appears to be a
rival of Amaniampong who confesses
his failure to defeat his enemy to his
wives (I may be mis-interpreting this,
any readers of this site with
knowledge of Akan history are
welcome to write-in to correct me!).
He is the one!
O father wake up.
What is it my child?
It is the Toucans crying. (1)
You are a good boy to mistake the
horns of Amaniampong for the crying
of Toucans. (2)
Don’t be too quick to shoot at a great
Before you can fire, he snatches your
He says: Help! Help!
He says: Akosua, Adwoa!
Quick get me my torch.
What is it she asks?
He replies, is it not what happened the
other day that has happened once
Again? This child is really a child!
When I was a mighty one, I could not
The mighty one could not overthrow
The entangling one could not
Aku that eats the snails of small
Poems collected by Kwabena Nketia,
from “Akan Poetry”,
Black Orpheus 3, p5-27 (1958)
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