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The economic history of pre-colonial Nigeria will be incomplete without considering the contribution of the Emure-Ekiti people and by extension Ekiti state. Unfortunately, this contribution is largely known for lack of research documentation. Rather, many researchers on Ekiti have focused mainly on the political, religious, social, artistic and, most especially, the educational experiences of the people. Very few researchers have done a commensurable work on Emure-Ekiti economic background during the pre-colonial period. This study aims at examining the structure of the economy of the pre-colonial Emure-Ekiti people in the South Western part of Nigeria and to establish the fact that there was an already existing dynamic and productive economic system in Emure-Ekiti before the era of colonial rule. The study adopted the use of both primary sources and secondary sources for research methodology. The study made use of historical research design in gathering information from scholarly texts and archival documents which formed our secondary source while a survey design using the instrumentation of in-depth interviews was used to gather information that formed our primary source. The study also adopted the use of simple percentage aggregate method and diagrammatic models for data analysis. The study however made the following major findings: that the predominant economic activity in pre-colonial Emure-Ekiti was agriculture – that is to say, a great number of the natives relied on agricultural activities which included fishing, hunting, livestock farming, food cropping etc. for their livelihood and sustenance; and they also diversified into some craft works/industrial activities such as blacksmithing, leather work, bead making, wood carving, sculpture etc. and trade to serve as auxiliary means of livelihood amongst others. The study concluded that indeed Emure-Ekiti had a productive and viable economy though the technologies used were actually crude in nature before the coming of the colonial masters.

Keywords: Pre-colonial, Economic Activities, Appraisal, People



1.1              Background to the study

Emure-Ekiti people were engaged in a number of economic activities which included agriculture, trade and craft work in the pre-colonial period. However, agriculture had pre-eminence and it was the hub around which other economic activities revolved. The Emure-Ekiti people cultivated food crops such as yam, cassava, groundnut, maize, plantain and banana. Other agricultural activities included animal husbandry and also fishing. Fishing activities were undertaken mainly by Emure-Ekiti people that resided close to Ose River and Odo-Ope-Ifa which runs through Emure-Ekiti (Bamidele, 1995).

The pre-colonial Emure-Ekiti economy was also highly diversified; the majority of the people were farmers while others were traders and hunters, and traditional doctors known as babalawo or onisegun. In addition, the Ekiti people had various industries like pottery, weaving, carving, blacksmithing and others which supported the economy. Crafts and industrial activities were mostly undertaken by both pre-colonial Emure-Ekiti men and women as part-time hobbies though some other people undertook crafts fully as their major source of income. While the men were engaged in blacksmithing, the women were involved in mat making, cloth weaving, bead making, pottery and the processing of various food crops (Bamidele, 1995). These mats were made for household decoration and also for sale.

Due to the geographical location of Emure-Ekiti, the people were very good in craft works. This is because they were located in the tropical rain forest region. With the favourable features of this geographical region, there was the presence of different types of wood. These woods enable the Emure people to flourish in their craft industry. The products of these crafts industries included traditional drums, mortars and pestles etc. Some of these sculptural products were seen in the Oba’s palace (Elemure of Emure-Ekiti). Ekiti, being in a hilly and forest zone, had plenty of game, and this made hunting an indispensable and respected occupation in the pre-colonial period. Hunting occupations were strictly for the men in the pre-colonial Emure-Ekiti. When an animal was killed, half of the killed animal went to the Oba, while the other half was kept by the hunter for his family consumption (Ogunleye, 2004).

Emure-Ekiti, a town in the present Ekiti state in the South Western region of Nigeria greatly flourished in economic activities during the pre-colonial period. Agriculture was one of the major economic activities that the people engaged in. Emure men were predominantly farmers, hunters, and wood carvers, while their women engaged in trading activities. The practice of their agricultural activities were initially undertaken with predominantly traditional basic implements such as stone before the coming of iron which gave birth to cutlasses and hoes (Ogunleye, 2004). When the Europeans came in the 19th century to Emure, the Emure people came under colonial rule and with this coming, they gradually changed from the conservative method of their farming activities to a new form of mechanized farming (Ogunleye, 2004).

The agricultural economy of Emure-Ekiti was not a mere subsistence economy, for there was an exchange of both food crops and other items in long distance trade before the advent of the colonial rule. This means that it was not the Europeans that taught the Emure-Ekiti peasant farmers agriculture but they only added impetus to an already growing agricultural economy. The Emure-Ekiti people also traded with neighbouring villages around them. Though there was self-sufficiency in food production, the people engaged their surpluses with their neighbours for items which they did not produce in sufficient quantities or which they did not produce at all. The women also helped to facilitate exchange activities in neighbouring and distant markets. Items traded with were mostly crafts products which included mats, beads, drums and baskets. Food crops such as yam, cocoyam, plantain, banana etc were also exchanged for goods. In the pre-colonial Emure-Ekiti village, trade by barter was the means of exchange; later cowries were introduced before other forms of exchange were introduced by the Europeans (Oguntuyi, 2006). Hence, there was no economic isolation because there was a long-range communication for economic and socio-political reasons. This made the Ekiti economy of the pre-colonial era very dynamic and productive.

It is important to note that the Emure-Ekiti people already had well structured agricultural activities and well organised trade or commercial associations before the advent of the Europeans whose main contribution, however, was their encouragement of production for export. This work addresses the structure of the Emure-Ekiti economy in the pre-colonial period and also the social and political structure in a bid to fully understand the intricate workings of the economic practices undertaken by the people.

1.2              Statement of the problem

A lot of literature abounds on the political, educational, artistic, religious and social experiences of Ekiti people. The works were written mainly by the European missionaries, Yoruba scholars, culturists and traditional chiefs. A large number of the publications were written in the colonial and early post-independence periods. Most of these publications, which reflect the cultural and social dynamics of the Yoruba generally, can be grouped into “local history”, “oral traditions”, “ceremonies”, “archaeology” and “social anthropology” (Biobaku, 1973).

Many of the publications were also written in Yoruba language (Biobaku, 1973). But, while these publications sufficiently cover and represent the Ekiti people’s “conventional” history, as observed above, they neglect, almost totally, the economic history of Emure-Ekiti and by extension Ekiti; forgetting that the people were one of the largest producers of cocoa and other agricultural products which were part of the backbone of Nigeria’s economy before the “oil boom” (This is Ekiti, 1997).

Some hasty and casual references on the economy which also abound in some government official publications, usually as booklets and pamphlets, do not in any way focus on Emure-Ekiti economy. Generally, the publications are limited in scope and therefore very inadequate for understanding the economic history of Emure-Ekiti. It is therefore very necessary to examine the economic activities in pre-colonial Emure-Ekiti.

1.3       Objective of the Study

The study is set out specifically to do the following:

1.      To examine the pre-colonial economic activities of the Emure-Ekiti people

2.      To give detailed economic history of Ekiti people such as land tenure, agriculture, trade and local industries from around 1900 to 1960.

3.      To examine the political and social structures of the Emure-Ekiti in the pre-colonial period and the influences they exerted upon pre-colonial economic activities.

4.      To examine the nature and organization of craft works and industries in pre-colonial Emure-Ekiti.

5.      To identify the relevance of Agriculture, trade and industry in the substance of pre-colonial Emure-Ekiti.

1.4       Research Questions

The following research questions were posed to guide the study;

1.        What was the nature of the economic activities of the pre-colonial Emure-Ekiti people of Western Nigeria?

2.        What is the economic history of Emure-Ekiti people with regards to land tenure, agriculture, trade and local industries from around 1900 to 1960?

3.        What was the prevalent political and social structure of the Emure-Ekiti in the pre-colonial period and the influences they exerted upon pre-colonial economic activities?

4.        How was the nature and organization of craft works and industries in pre-colonial Emure-Ekiti?

5.        Was there any relevance of Agriculture, trade and industry in the sustenance of pre-colonial Emure-Ekiti?

1.5              Significance of the Study

This research, undertaken as an exposition of the economic activities of the Emure-Ekiti people in the pre-colonial period, is meant to enlighten the people about the various economic practices of the Emure-Ekiti people as well as their social and political structure that sustained their economic activities. In time past, the economic history of the Emure-Ekiti people has not been sufficiently brought to light and following this realization, this project fully intended to complement these works and undertake further exposition of all the economic activities of the pre-colonial Emure-Ekiti people. Works such as Taiwo Ogunleye’s, Agricultural Development in Emure-Ekiti, Imolayo Mojisola’s, Agriculture in Yoruba Land and Oshola Bamilede’s, The Emure-Ekiti People, mainly focus on the exposition of economic activities of Emure-Ekiti people and Yoruba land in colonial period without adequate attention being paid to pre-colonial period. It is in the light of the above that this project seeks to focus on the Emure-Ekiti economic structure before colonialism.

There is paucity of literature on the Emure-Ekiti economic history, unlike the situation with respect to Ibadan, Oyo and Ijebu, where scholars have done more comprehensive work on the economic and political history.

There is an urgent need to document the economy of Emure-Ekiti, since there are no serious written records, as stated above, on this. It is very important to address this situation, particularly because the present generations of Emure-Ekiti do not have the accurate understanding of their place and achievement as regards the economic development of Nigeria. This work should serve as a reference source for future students of economic history of Nigeria and particularly of Emure-Ekiti.

This research intends to correct certain widely held misconceptions that seem to portray Emure-Ekiti’s economy as static and primitive, and, with available record, show how the Emure-Ekiti society was economically dynamic with clear contributions to development in Nigeria through their various economic enterprises. The study is also being carried out to open the avenue for further researchers on the Emure-Ekiti colonial economy; thereby enriching the literature on the Emure-Ekiti economy.

This study is therefore important, because it shows the adaptive capacity, entrepreneurship contribution of Ekiti people to the economy of Nigeria during the colonial period and will also add to the existing body of literatures and would help other researchers in this area of study.

1.6       Scope and limitations of the Study

This study intends to be a thematic as well as theoretical evaluation of economic activities in Emure-Ekiti in the pre-colonial period. This study will cover the whole of Emure-Ekiti, which is presently the headquarters of Emure Local Government in Ekiti state and is divided into Oke-Emure, Odo-Emure Ogbontioro and Idamudu. The study would cover these places which constituted the whole of Emure-Ekiti in pre-colonial period.

            This study will also cover all aspects of economic life of the people during the pre-colonial period including agriculture, trade and industry. The study is limited to the population targeted for response and information gathered from other related literatures. Some of the limitations of the study were lack of financial resources to reach out the vast amount of the targeted population of the Emure-Ekiti people, lack of a more representative portion of the target population and unwillingness on the part of few respondents to provide relevant information unless they were tipped.

1.7       Definition of Key Terms

Sociological: The Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary (9th edition) defines sociological from the word sociology is the scientific study of the nature and development of society and social behavior.

Appraisal: The Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary (9th edition) defines appraisal as judgement of the value, performance or nature of somebody or something.

Pre-colonial: Pre-colonial simply means the period or era before colonialism.

Economic activities:   These are activities that are connected with the trade, industry and development of wealth of a country, an area or a society (Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary, 9th edition)

People:  People, according to the Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary (9th edition) is used to refer to all the persons who live in a particular place or belong to a particular country, race, etc.

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