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History, Culture and Tradition of Ilorin People, Nigeria

Ilorin is the largest city and the capital of Kwara State in the middle belt in the north central geopolitical zone of Nigeria.

Some of the major towns there include Ajikobi, Warrah Osin, Alannamu, Magaji Ngeri, Oloje, Pakata, Idi-Ape and Oke-Lele.

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The name Ilorin was derived from “Okuta Ilorin”, which means a stone used for sharpening metal. This stone was the one used by the founding father of Ilorin, Ojo Isekuse, to sharpen his metal tools.

Ojo Isekuse was a Yoruba hunter who history claimed was the first person to settle in Ilorin. His settling down there attracted other groups of people who also came down to Ilorin to settle down.

The Okuta Ilorin can be found in Asaju’s compound in Idi-Ape Quarters. The Oyo Empire dynasty was later overthrown by Shehu Alimi who was a descendant of Shehu Usman Dan Fodio. Shehu Alimi carried out a jihad on the Oyo Empire people in Ilorin and exterminated them. As a result of this, Ilorin became a Northern Nigerian Protectorate.

Islamic religion was spread throughout Ilorin when Shehu Alimi, the descendant of Shehu Usman Dan Fodio took over the control of Ilorin.

There is a strong Islamic influence in Ilorin because of the Northern incursion which can is reflected in the mode of greetings and other customs which are deeply rooted in the tenets of Islam.

Christianity is also being practiced in a lot of place because people have migrated into the place from other parts of Kwara State and Nigeria.

Ilorin is made up of different cultures which consist of Yoruba, Hausa, Fulani, Nupe and Barba with the predominant language being Yoruba and Hausa as the second most popular language.

The strong influence of Islam as a religion in Ilorin can be seen in the mode of dressing of most of the inhabitants. The men wear jalabia and wear a turban on their head. The women favor long dresses and wear scarves or a hijab to cover their heads. This mode of dressing portrays them as religious and decent people.

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Popularly known as Ilu Alufa (the town of Islamic Scholars), Ilorin has a rich Islamic culture which has merged with the culture of the place. This can be seen in the traditional folklores and the traditional music of Waka where there is a blending of Arabic and Yoruba together. The folklores and Waka music are a major source of narrating the history of Ilorin which also contains philosophical messages and moral convictions.


Delicacy Enjoyed by the Ilorin People.

The people of Ilorin enjoy Amala with gbegiri and ewedu which is also called Abula. The people love drinking freshly extracted cow milk.

The milk is also used in making a special delicacy called Wara in Ilorin. Wara is made by evaporating or cooking milk got from cow. This can be eaten alone as refreshment or cooked in soup as eaten in place of fish or beef.


Arts and Crafts in Ilorin.

Since Ilorin is an Islamic state, artworks are rarely found there because it does not align with the tenets of Islam. The belief in Islam is that owning and displaying artworks in the house or in public places attracts evil spirit into them.

Crafts on the other hand have been developed in Ilorin to aid the economy and food production. The kind of craft present in Ilorin include blacksmithing where metals are used in carving cutlasses, hoes, arrows and other tools.

Pottery is another craftwork that is big business in Ilorin where the biggest traditional pottery work-shops in Nigeria can be found.

Though it is predominantly a female occupation, men can sometimes be seen assisting the women in some aspects of the work such as digging up of the clay needed for carving the pots.

The other aspects of work in pottery such as drying, pulverizing, sifting, mixing and moulding of the pottery is done by the womenfolk.

The women mould large pots which can be used for setting up indigo dyes and for making Eko in large quantities, also cooking utensils like dishes and pots for fetching water are made so that they can be sold in the market.

The areas where pottery work-shops can be found in Ilorin include Okelele, Eletu, Oju Ekun, Okekura, Oloje, Abe Emi and Ita Merin. Pottery production is synonymous with Ilorin because of the rich deposit of clay found in this region.

The textile industry is also a thriving one in Ilorin where aso-oke is woven in different work-shops in various locations.

They are hand-woven on simple looms and large quantities are made to be sold in the markets. Wearing of Aso-oke is a rich part of the culture of the Yoruba speaking population in Ilorin which can be seen in various colors and lovely designs and they are often worn during important occasions like wedding ceremonies.


Festive Activities in Ilorin, Nigeria

A good number of festive activities take place in Ilorin all year round; one of such festival is the “Yawo Dancers Festival”.

Majority of the festivals that take place there are religiously inclined even though they are traditional festivals.

As a predominant Muslim community, the celebrations of such festivals are guided by the teachings and principles of Islam.

As a result of this, Islamic festivals are celebrated more with a lot of pomp and pageantry there.


Tourist Attractions in Ilorin, Nigeria

There are notable tourist attractions in Ilorin which are famous because of the history surrounding them and their affiliation to the city.

Tourist attractions of note include the museum which is the first to be built in Nigeria and it houses the famous Esie Soapstone Images whose origin remains unknown till today.

Sobi Hill, according to history protected the indigenes during inter-tribal wars in the past, Okuta Ilorin (which the city was named after) is the stone that the founding father of Ilorin used to sharpen his tools in ancient days.

Sobi Hills in Ilorin, Kwara State

Other places of note include the Emir Turbaning Mosque. Alfa Alimi Mosque, Oloje Poultry and Major Crutchley’s Grave.

Ilorin as can be seen was developed as a result of a unique compromise by the various groups that occupy the place. This is evident in the lifestyle of its inhabitant as Yoruba is the most popular language, the leadership system is a blend of Hausa-Fulani emirate system with Yoruba title-holding and a Hausa style of dressing, thus re-uniting the people of Ilorin.

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Ibitola is a Content Developer at InfoGuideNigeria.com. InfoGuide Nigeria is a team of Resource Persons and Consultants led by Ifiokobong Ibanga. Page maintained by Ifiokobong Ibanga. If you need a personal assistance on this topic, kindly contact us.

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