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History Vella

The untold story of Bashorun Gaa- The tyrant

Preamble

the story of Bashorun Gaa of
the old Oyo Kingdom is not a new story;

However for the sake of
those that are not familiar with the story, I shall
briefly tell it.


Bashorun Gaa of sad memory was the head of
‘Oyomesi’, the legislative arm of the kingdom, but
he was so extra-ordinarily powerful with
supernatural powers of fetish. History has it that
Gaa had the power to change from human-being to
any wild animal of his choice.
Intoxicated with awesome power, Gaa was
removing and installing kings at will. He would reel
out orders side by side with the king and any king
that wanted to assert his authority would be dealt
with by Gaa’s Army.

Bashorun Gaha (or Gaa) was a notable
nobleman and leader of the military in the old
Oyo Empire during the 18th century. He held
the post during the reigns of 4 consecutive
imperial Alaafins , and was instrumental to the
military conquests during their time.
Renowned for his juju prowess, he deposed or
was responsible for the death of 3 up to 3 Alaafin

The story just begin!! Bashorun gaa !!

The Old Oyo Empire was one of the
strongest if not the strongest in the
Yoruba mythology.
Oyo-Ile as it was called then (not the
modern day Oyo) has a lot of stories
surrounding it, being the choosen
place for many of the Yoruba gods
and warriors, likewise kings and
people of great reputation.

This brings us to the story
surrounding Bashorun Gaa and his
reign as the Prime Minister of the
Old Oyo Empire.

When Alaafin Labisi took over the throne from
the previous (late) Alaafin, Onisile, in 1750, he
appointed Gaa as his Bashorun, the head of
Oyomesi (7 hereditary kingmakers). During
Alaafin Labisi’s reign, the old Oyo Empire, also
known as Oyo-Ile, became so powerful and
earned the respect of other kingdoms in
Yorubaland.
History has it in profile that Alaafin Labisi
collected tributes from faraway kingdoms of
Dahomey , Popo and Ashanti even though his
reign was very short, and more than half of the
kingdoms and villages in Yorubaland (over
6000) fell under the political umbrella of Oyo-Ile.
This thus made the old Oyo Empire a political
and military colossus in Yorubaland.

The unwritten Constitution which
gave Bashorun (prime minster) a
final say on the nomination of the
new Alaafin and the control of the
kingmakers was so great that the
Bashorun ’s power rivaled that of the
Alaafin himself. This of course was
an open opportunity for
Bashorun Gaa to have absolute
control of the political machinery of
old Oyo kingdom of his time in his
palms.
Power drunk, Bashorun Gaa became
a classical tyrant during the Yoruba
pre-colonial era breaking the support
he had among the people against
tyrant kings. The one who fights the
tyrants became a feared tyrant
himself.

THE ATROCITIES AND CRUSHING OF GAA AND THE OLD SYSTEM

Shortly after he became the Bashorun, he
murdered two of Alaafin Labisi’s best friends
which made the heartbroken Alaafin committed
suicide. After Alaafin Labisi’s demise (in 1750),
Awonbioju became the new Alaafin of Oyo-Ile,
but Bashorun Gaa, who was noted to rebel with
any Alaafin that refused to dance to his tune,
truncated the reign of Alaafin Awonbioju which
only lasted for 130 days. He was put to death
on the orders of Bashorun Gaa.
The reign of Agboluaje (Alaafin Awonbioju’s
successor) was a bit longer because he danced
to the tune of Bashorun Gaa. But also like his
predecessors, Alaafin Agboluaje lost his dear life
to Gaa’s treachery. The fourth Alaafin to rule
‘ under’ Bashorun Gaa was Majeogbe
(1772-1773) who also died from the
overzealousness of Gaa. But before his death, he
succeeded in poisoning Gaa who as a result
became paralyzed. Bashorun Gaa’s end actually
came during the reign of the fourth Alaafin
‘ under’ him, and that was Alaafin Abiodun
(1774-1789). Immediately Abiodun mounted the
throne, he began to plot the death of his
treacherous Bashorun in order to have a peaceful
and tyrant-free reign. The desperation of Alaafin
Abiodun to kill Bashorun Gaa rose when he
murdered his only daughter named Agborin. It
was said that Bashorun Gaa was in need of a
deer (Agborin) and when he couldn’t get any, he
ordered his men to kill Alaafin Abiodun’s
daughter, Agborin, for she bear a similar name.
The furious and heartbroken Alaafin Abiodun met
clandestinely with the Onikoyi and the then Are-
Ona-Kakanfo, Oyabi from Ajaseland, on how to
send Gaa to his grave. Alaafin Abiodun and his
co-plotters succeeded in extinguishing the fear
Bashorun Gaha had instilled in the people of
Oyo-Ile. They also arouse the people’s anger on
Gaha whose fame and power at that time had
seriously began to wane due to his paralysis.

Aare Onakankanfo through his mystical power,
uncovered the decoy, reverted Gaa back to a human
being and disarmed him completely. The
Generalissimo handed Gaa back to Alaafin for
appropriate sanction and the king who was still
bitter about the misconduct and abuse of office and
power of Gaa, recommended that Gaa be sentenced
into instalmental killing.
Contrary to established myth there is little evidence
that Gaa’s fall came about through a popular rising
of the supposedly oppressed masses across the
empire. Finally coming against an Alaafin, Abiodun,
who matched the increasingly aged Bashorun in wit,
cunning and ruthlessness, Gaa fell to a well crafted
and concealed conspiracy whose success rested on
an alliance of the Royal princes with the provincial
kings, subject to the capital, and who also provided
the bulk of its military muscle.
The uprising in Oyo itself would have failed had not
the provincial chiefs led by Oyabi, the Aare ona
kakanfo or head of the imperial army marched on
the capital for the first time in Oyo’s history. Seeing
that the officer class and imperial staff – the Eso
where well represented in the capital as were many
ordinary soldiers, it seems the need for outside
intervention which in the end proved crucial to the
royal party’s triumph would suggest a lack of real
support for the royal cause within Oyo or significant
support for the Bashorun.
Whatever the reason there is a broad consensus
that the resistance by Gaa and his supporters in the
City was ferocious and only put down after intense
and savage fighting. Again the strength of the
resistance against what were clearly overwhelming
odds implies men fighting not just for their lives but
for something they felt was worth laying them down
for. Gaa’s family and supporters were slaughtered
across the breath of the empire.

angry people of Oyo-Ile stormed Gaa’s
compound and killed all members of his
household with little resistance from his men.
However, Ojo Agubambaru, Gaa’s eldest son,
survived the attack and fled to a faraway land
called Bariba. Bashorun Gaa himself was
dragged out and incinerated publicly at Akesan
market. The people believed that Gaa will
reincarnate if he is not burnt completely to
ashes. This marked the end of the overzealous
and power-drunk Bashorun Gaa who
consecutively killed four Alaafins. Bashorun
Gaa’s death gave birth to a popular saying- “ Bi o
laya ko seka, sugbon bi o ba ranti iku Gaa ki o so
oto ”. This is translated as- “ If you are brave,
venture into wickedness, but if you remembered
Gaa’s death, adhere to the truth”. Alaafin Abiodun
later ruled in peace, but also committed suicide
in 1789 after attacking the town of Ijaye and
Popo which earned him tons of criticisms.

By Victor Aluede G.y

Aluede G.y Victory is a history
enthusiast an a mediapreneur living in Aboru,
Lagos. He studied arts at skills click foundation, he is an alumni of Rehoboth college Aboru, Lagos.

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