A new poem sent to us by Amore David Olamide, in praise of Lisabi Agbongbo-Akala the military organiser and farmer who led the Ẹ̀gbá revolt against Ọ̀yọ́ Empire in Yorubaland between 1775 and 1780.
Although ruled by their own Alake (“king”), the Egba Forest lay within the territory of the Ọ̀yọ́-Yorùbá empire and the Ẹ̀gbá initially paid tribute to the Aláàfin (traditional ruler) of Ọ̀yọ́ for protection. The Aláàfin’s representatives in the Ẹ̀gbá towns began to oppress the locals, demanding excessive tributes. Lisabi, a farmer, organised a militant movement under the guise of a traditional mutual aid society which provided collective support for its members in heavy work such as clearing land and gathering in the harvest. In reality, the farmers mutual aid society was a miltary organisation that united and armed all the Ẹ̀gbá towns.
The civil war which erupted in Ọ̀yọ́ around 1775 provided a suitable opportunity for Lisabi to launch a massacre of the local Ọ̀yọ́ forces and the military organisation he had established were successful in defending against Ọ̀yọ́’s reprisal attacks. Having won independence for the Ẹ̀gbá people many honour him by calling themselves the children of Lisabi.
When Lisabi appears in a ruthless manner
He had the appearance of flying debris.
When Lisabi comes out in the open,
Those who knew Laakaye in his prime
Would notice a persona between Ọṣìmọlẹ̀ and Agbògbò àkàlà (1)
Those who knew Ògúnbámidélé in his days (2)
Would behold the spécifique of a warrior in Lisabi
Whenever he hopped like a panther.
When Lisabi arises during his reign
He was armed with three swords.
One of them is corroded
One is unaccounted for
The last one was what he used to decapitate the perpetrator.
Native of Itoku,
You, whose cheeks puff up in anticipation of battle,
a hot bean fritter that sears the throat of disparagers
You who undressed the piety at the confluence.
They say Akaribgo the Emperor of Remo
Did not have your chutzpah
When you caught them off guard
and befuddled them at the frontline.
They say Ọlọ́yọ̀ (4)
Whose directives were beyond question
Couldn’t withstand your heroism
When you subdue his troops.
A belligerent in Òwu
Who shielded the town from upheaval.
A fire-breathing dinosaur in Aké
A cannon of lightning in Òkè ọnà
The owner of a gunshot during the day.
Whose imprint lies in Máwùkọ́.
The day people decide to understand your hegemony
You said you’re the masterpiece of gugudu drum,
The enigma of the smithy
Indefinable and unknowable.
You said you’d become an herbalist’s mausoleum
And the diviner shoulder bag.
Magical tricks pervade his entire body
He who keeps cities under his surveillance
He who hacked down feuding combatant
Lisabi did not become extinct
He only concealed himself from being seen.
by Amore David Olamide
- Ọṣìmọlẹ̀: A praise-name for Ògún, Yorùbá god of blacksmiths and warfare. More poems about Ògún can be found here.
- Ògúnbámidélé: A warrior in Ire.
- Jagunjagun: Meaning warlord.
- Ọlọ́yọ̀: The Emperor of the Oyo Empire.