Dipomu system

Palace of Ladapo Ademola II, the Alake of Abeokuta (1951)
Palace of Ladapo Ademola II, the Alake of Abeokuta (1951). The Alake housed women undergoing divorce in his palace from the mid 1920s in the Dipomu system.

Dipomu, in Yoruba language, Di opo mu, meaning ‘catch hold of the post’. Ancient judicial practise in southwest Nigeria in which an offender or anyone who was in trouble sought sanctuary in the king’s palace. A veranda post is usually grabbed to claim the king’s protection. The Dipomu system had been highly effective in divorce cases where many women were known to have gotten protection from their raging husbands who wanted to humiliate them or simply retrieve his dowry. The king has in many cases appeased the husband, assuring him no man can have his divorced wife until she had done the needful. The growing importance of this judicial process has encouraged its regularization in early 20th Century. By 1927, a special building has been erected in the Egba king’s palace to accommodate troubled women who were attended to by wardresses and visited periodically by a committee.

Tope Apoola
Profession: Writer