British-Ijebu War: How a Christian missionary caused the expedition of a great kingdom
In 1892, the refusal to allow a British missionary enter Ijebu led to a war.
The British-Ijebu war otherwise known as the battle of Imagbon is one of the keynote events in the colonization of Nigeria.
In the year 1891, the Ijebu tribe put a blockade on the trade route from the interior of Lagos. The Ijebus who were located east of Lagos on the Magbon river, did this to charge customs from Lagos which at that time was a crown colony of the British empire.
The ruler of the Ijebu kingdom, the Ajuwale also shut down the Ejirin market which denied Lagos traders from making any trade up country.
The British government was obviously not too happy about all these and persuaded the Ajuwale to open the blockade. The traditional ruler refused to do so on several scenes occasions.
Things would change in May 1891. Captain C.M Denton, a British acting governor took with him troops mostly made up who were from the North but ran to the South and joined the British army, to meet with the Ajuwale.
The plan was to convince him to open the blockade so that there could be free passage of goods to Lagos. After much persuasion, the Ajuwale agreed in January 1892. The kingdom of Ijebu would receive £500 as compensation annually for the loss of custom duties which served as revenue.
Unfortunately, this deal didn’t last too long. In the same year, a white missionary was denied access to Ijebu kingdom. This act pissed off the British authorities. There was an order to use force on the Ijebu kingdom.
Under the leadership of Colonel F.C Scott C.B, 450 soldiers made up men from Ghana, Sierra Leone, Ibadan, Lagos and Northern Nigeria advanced to the Ijebu kingdom.
On May 12, 1892, sailed from the Lagos Lagoon to Ekpe where they met another 186 men.
Meanwhile, on the Ijebu side, 8,000 men were ready to do battle with the British. The first day of hostilities was difficult for the British. They had underestimated the Ijebu warriors. Still the British were able to raze down four villages. A few of their men sustained injuries.
The following day they moved to Atumba and used the machine gun to kill many Ijebu warriors. On their side, they lost 13 men, a British fighter and 12 Africans.
The Ijebus desperate not to lose the war dug the Yemoyi river deeper to make it hard for the British forces to cross. It was even rumoured that the Ijebus offered a human sacrifice to the river goddess.
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This didn’t stop the British forces from crossing the river. They went to the village Imagbon and continued to do battle.
At the end of the war, the British lost 56 men and the Ijebus lost over 900 men. The Ajuwale surrendered and the British flag, the Union Jack has raised shortly after.
Unlike most British expeditions in Nigeria, Colonel F.C Scott C.B ordered his men not to pillage the Ijebu kingdom.
The British-Ijebu war is also known as the 1892 Ijebu expedition.