Bashorun Gaa (or Gaha) was a notable nobleman and leader of the military in the old Oyo Empire during the 18th century who reign as the Prime Minister of the Old Oyo Empire.
He held the post during the reigns of 4 consecutive imperial Alaafins, and was instrumental to the military conquests during their time.
Bashorun Gaa was an integral part of the Old Oyo Empire’s royal politics. No story of Oyo-Ile would be complete without a mention of his name.
Bashorun Gaa was instrumental to the military conquests during his time as a Prime Minister of the Old Oyo Empire during the 17th/18th century.
ong>The reign of Bashorun Gaa
Bashorun Gaa being the head of the Oyo Mesi (the Oyo council of Kingmakers) became too powerful during that period supervising and executing the death of four Alaafins in quick succession. He was said to be so powerful he could turn to any animal at will.
He was Bashorun from 1750–1774 and was believed to have grown up during the reign of the 9 Alaafins. They were terrible kings and this could have affected his view of the office.
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.
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.
Bashorun Gaa, unconstitutionally hijacked all the political power and machinery of Oyo kingdom.
All the homage, respects and the material benefits meant for the kings were diverted to his personality. This was a great crime against the royal political system and great assault to the gods of the land and the past ancestors.
He was also said to have been a crime instigator. He was fond of aiding, abetting and covering the crimes committed by the people of his household.
The history recorded the serial killings committed by his sons and head slave. The criminals were protected by him and even punished those who reported the crime.
Bashorun ordered the massacre of the family members of one of his wives who was alleged to have attempted to poison him.
He was however poisoned by the last Alaafin he killed, Alaafin Majeogbe. The poison left him weak, paralyzed and vulnerable.
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The end and death of Bashorun Gaa
Bashorun Gaa’s end was believed to have came during the reign of Alaafin Abiodun who ruled from 1774–1789.
Alaafin Abiodun’s plot against Bashorun Gaa so he could have a peaceful and tyrant free reign, and also to have a revenge for his only daughter, Agbonyin. murdered by Bashorun gas.
While a version of the story states that Bashorun Gaa killed the girl for a ritual, another version states that Gaa needed a deer and when he couldn’t get any, he ordered his men to kill Alaafin Abiodun’s daughter, Agbonyin (who was forcefully married to him) because she had 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 and Alaafin Abiodun and his co-plotters succeeded in extinguishing the fear Bashorun Gaa had instilled in the people of Oyo-Ile.
In 1774, hundreds of angry people of Oyo-Ile were said to have stormed Gaa’s compound and killed all members of his household. Only his eldest son, Ojo Agubambaru had survived the attack and fled to a faraway land called Bariba in this version of the story.
Another version stated that his children fled Oyo for places like Egbado (Yewa), Badagry, Cotonou in Dahomey, all main locations where their father had contacts and that Ojo Agubambaru later came back to Oyo Ile to take the throne but was betrayed.
Bashorun Gaa himself was dragged out and tied tied to a stake at Akesan market and Alaafin Abiodun ordered that every citizen cut a pound of flesh from his body and drop it in a huge fire in front of him.
He was made to smell the odour of his own flesh, his nose was not allowed to be cut and flesh from the left part of his chest was excluded too (to prevent him from dying quickly).
The remains of his body were later burnt in fire to prevent his re-incarnation.
It must be noted that the death of the all-powerful Bashorun Gaa affected the Old Oyo Empire in some ways.
Firstly, it decreased the military and political strength of the Empire; this was due to the destabilization of the Oyomesi after Gaa’s death; the Oyomesi were supposed to act as a check to the Alaafin but instead became his puppet, and left him with absolute authority to rule the Empire.
Secondly, the political unrest the old Oyo Empire witnessed after Gaa’s death made some kingdoms under her auspices (like Dahomey) declare their independence.
All these were undoubtedly among the factors that led to the subsequent fall of the old Oyo Empire in 1836/1837.