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Sunday, July 10

History and Origin Of The YorubaLand

The Yoruba people (Yoruba: Àwọn ọmọ Yorùbá) are an ethnic group of Southwestern and North central Nigeria as well as Southern and Central Benin known as the Yorubaland cultural region of West Africa. The Yoruba constitute over 40 million people in total; the majority of this population is from Nigeria and make up 21% of its population, according to the CIA World Factbook, making them one of the largest ethnic groups in Africa. The majority of the Yoruba speak the Yoruba language, which is tonal, and is the Niger-Congo language with the largest number of native speakers.
The Yoruba share borders with the Borgu in Benin; the Nupe and Ebira in central Nigeria; and the Edo, the Ẹsan, and the Afemai in mid-western Nigeria. The Igala and other related groups are found in the northeast, and the Egun, Fon, Ewe and others in the southeast Benin. The Itsekiri who live in the north-west Niger delta are related to the Yoruba but maintain a distinct cultural identity. Significant Yoruba populations in other West African countries can be found in Ghana, Togo, Ivory Coast, Liberia and Sierra Leone.
The Yoruba diaspora consists of two main groupings, one of them includes relatively recent migrants, the majority of which moved to the United States and the United Kingdom after major economic changes in the 1970s; the other is a much older population dating back to the Atlantic slave trade. This older community has branches in such countries as Cuba, Saint Lucia, Brazil, Grenada, and Trinidad and Tobago.


Etymology

As an ethnic description, the word "Yoruba" was first recorded in reference to the Oyo Empire in a treatise written by the 16th-century Songhai scholar Ahmed Baba. It was popularized by Hausa usage and ethnography written in Arabic and Ajami during the 19th century, in origin referring to the Oyo exclusively. The extension of the term to all speakers of dialects related to the language of the Oyo (in modern terminology North-West Yoruba) dates to the second half of the 19th century. It is due to the influence of Samuel Ajayi Crowther, the first Anglican bishop in Nigeria. Crowther was himself a Yoruba and compiled the first Yoruba dictionary as well as introducing a standard for Yoruba orthography.[citation needed]
The alternative name Akú, apparently an exonym derived from the first words of Yoruba greetings (such as Ẹ kú àárọ? "good morning", Ẹ kú alẹ? "good evening") has survived in certain parts of their diaspora as a self-descriptive, especially in Sierra Leone


 Language

The Yoruba culture was originally an oral tradition, and the majority of Yoruba people are native speakers of the Yoruba language. The number of speakers is roughly estimated at about 30 million in 2010. Yoruba is classified within the Edekiri languages, which together with the isolate Igala, form the Yoruboid group of languages within the Volta-Niger branch of the Niger-Congo family. Igala and Yoruba have important historical and cultural relationships. The languages of the two ethnic groups bear such a close resemblance that researchers such as Forde (1951) and Westermann and Bryan (1952) regarded Igala as a dialect of Yoruba.
The Yoruboid languages are assumed to have developed out of an undifferentiated Volta-Niger group by the 1st millennium BCE. There are three major dialect areas: Northwest, Central, and Southeast. As the North-West Yoruba dialects show more linguistic innovation, combined with the fact that Southeast and Central Yoruba areas generally have older settlements, suggests a later date of immigration for Northwest Yoruba. The area where North-West Yoruba (NWY) is spoken corresponds to the historical Oyo Empire. South-East Yoruba (SEY) was probably associated with the expansion of the Benin Empire after c. 1450. Central Yoruba forms a transitional area in that the lexicon has much in common with NWY, whereas it shares many ethnographical features with SEY.
Literary Yoruba, the standard variety learnt at school and spoken by newsreaders on the radio, has its origin in the Yoruba grammar compiled in the 1850s by Bishop Samuel Ajayi Crowther, who himself was a creole from Sierra Leone. Though for a large part based on the Oyo and Ibadan dialects, it incorporates several features from other dialects.


History

As of the 7th century BCE the African peoples who lived in Yorubaland, were not initially known as the Yoruba, although they shared a common ethnicity and language group. By the 8th century, a powerful Yoruba kingdom already existed in Ile-Ife, one of the earliest in Africa south of the Sahara-Sahel.
The historical Yoruba develop in situ, out of earlier Mesolithic Volta-Niger populations, by the 1st millennium BCE. Oral history recorded under the Oyo Empire derives the Yoruba as an ethnic group from the population of the older kingdom of Ile-Ife. The Yoruba were the dominant cultural force in southern Nigeria as far back as the 11th century.
The Yoruba are among the most urbanized people in Africa. For centuries before the arrival of the British colonial administration most Yoruba already lived in well structured urban centers organized around powerful city-states (Ìlú) centered around the residence of the Oba. In ancient times, most of these cities were fortresses, with high walls and gates. Yoruba cities have always been among the most populous in Africa. Archaeological findings indicate that Òyó-Ilé or Katunga, capital of the Yoruba empire of Oyo that flourished between the 11th and 19th centuries A.D. had a population of over 100,000 people (the largest single population of any African settlement at that time in history). For a long time also, Ibadan, one of the major Yoruba cities, was the largest city in the whole of Sub Saharan Africa. Today, Lagos (Yorùbá: Èkó), another major Yoruba city, with a population of over twenty million, remains the largest on the African continent.

Archaeologically, the settlement of Ile-Ife showed features of urbanism in the 12th - 14th century era. In the period around 1300 C.E. the artists at Ile-Ife developed a refined and naturalistic sculptural tradition in terracotta, stone and copper alloy - copper, brass, and bronze many of which appear to have been created under the patronage of King Obalufon II, the man who today is identified as the Yoruba patron deity of brass casting, weaving and regalia. The dynasty of kings at Ile-Ife, which regarded the Yoruba as the place of origin of human civilization, remains intact to this day. The urban phase of Ile-Ife before the rise of Oyo, c. 1100–1600, a significant peak of political centralization in the 12th century) is commonly described as a "golden age" of Ile-Ife. The oba or ruler of Ile-Ife is referred to as the Ooni of Ife.

Oyo and Ile-Ife

Ife continues to be seen as the "Spiritual Homeland" of the Yoruba. The city was surpassed by the Oyo Empire as the dominant Yoruba military and political power in the 17th century.
The Oyo Empire under its oba, known as the Alaafin of Oyo, was active in the African slave trade during the 18th century. The Yoruba often demanded slaves as a form of tribute of subject populations, who in turn sometimes made war on other peoples to capture the required slaves. Part of the slaves sold by the Oyo Empire entered the Atlantic slave trade.
Most of the city states were controlled by Obas (or royal sovereigns with various individual titles) and councils made up of Oloyes, recognised leaders of royal, noble and, often, even common descent, who joined them in ruling over the kingdoms through a series of guilds and cults. Different states saw differing ratios of power between the kingships and the chiefs' councils. Some, such as Oyo, had powerful, autocratic monarchs with almost total control, while in others such as the Ijebu city-states, the senatorial councils held more influence and the power of the ruler or Ọba, referred to as the Awujale of Ijebuland, was more limited.
Yoruba settlements are often described as primarily one or more of the main social groupings called "generations":[citation needed]
  • The "first generation" includes towns and cities known as original capitals of founding Yoruba kingdoms or states.
  • The "second generation" consists of settlements created by conquest.
  • The "third generation" consists of villages and municipalities that emerged following the internecine wars of the 19th century.

Government

Oyo Empire and surrounding states.
Monarchies were a common form of government in Yorubaland, but they were not the only approach to government and social organization. The numerous Ijebu city-states to the west of Oyo and the Ẹgba communities, found in the forests below Ọyọ's savanna region, were notable exceptions. These independent polities often elected an Ọba, though real political, legislative, and judicial powers resided with the Ogboni, a council of notable elders. The notion of the divine king was so important to the Yoruba, however, that it has been part of their organization in its various forms from their antiquity to the contemporary era.
During the internecine wars of the 19th century, the Ijebu forced citizens of more than 150 Ẹgba and Owu communities to migrate to the fortified city of Abeokuta. Each quarter retained its own Ogboni council of civilian leaders, along with an Olorogun, or council of military leaders, and in some cases its own elected Obas or Baales. These independent councils elected their most capable members to join a federal civilian and military council that represented the city as a whole. Commander Frederick Forbes, a representative of the British Crown writing an account of his visit to the city in the Church Military Intelligencer (1853), described Abẹokuta as having "four presidents", and the system of government as having "840 principal rulers or 'House of Lords,' 2800 secondary chiefs or 'House of Commons,' 140 principal military ones and 280 secondary ones." He described Abẹokuta and its system of government as "the most extraordinary republic in the world."

Leadership

Gerontocratic leadership councils that guarded against the monopolization of power by a monarch were a trait of the Ẹgba, according to the eminent Ọyọ historian Reverend Samuel Johnson. Such councils were also well-developed among the northern Okun groups, the eastern Ekiti, and other groups falling under the Yoruba ethnic umbrella. In Ọyọ, the most centralized of the precolonial kingdoms, the Alaafin consulted on all political decisions with the prime elector or president of the House of Lords (the Basọrun) and the rest of the council of leading nobles known as the Ọyọ Mesi.
Traditionally kingship and chieftainship were not determined by simple primogeniture, as in most monarchic systems of government. An electoral college of lineage heads was and still is usually charged with selecting a member of one of the royal families from any given realm, and the selection is then confirmed by an Ifá oracular request. The Ọbas live in palaces that are usually in the center of the town. Opposite the king's palace is the Ọja Ọba, or the king's market. These markets form an inherent part of Yoruba life. Traditionally their traders are well organized, have various guilds, officers, and an elected speaker. They also often have at least one Iyaloja, or Lady of the Market, who is expected to represent their interests in the aristocratic council of oloyes at the palace.

City-states

The monarchy of any city-state was usually limited to a number of royal lineages. A family could be excluded from kingship and chieftaincy if any family member, servant, or slave belonging to the family committed a crime, such as theft, fraud, murder or rape. In other city-states, the monarchy was open to the election of any free-born male citizen. In Ilesa, Ondo, Akure and other Yoruba communities, there were several, but comparatively rare, traditions of female Ọbas. The kings were traditionally almost always polygamous and often married royal family members from other domains, thereby creating useful alliances with other rulers. Ibadan, a city-state and proto-empire founded in the 18th century by a polyglot group of refugees, soldiers, and itinerant traders from Ọyọ and the other Yoruba sub-groups largely dispensed with the concept of monarchism, preferring to elect both military and civil councils from a pool of eminent citizens. The city became a military republic, with distinguished soldiers wielding political power through their election by popular acclaim and the respect of their peers. Similar practices were adopted by the Ijẹsa and other groups, which saw a corresponding rise in the social influence of military adventurers and successful entrepreneurs. The Ìgbómìnà were renowned for their agricultural and hunting prowess, as well as their woodcarving, leather art, and the famous Elewe masquerade.

Groups, organizations and leagues in Yorubaland

Occupational guilds, social clubs, secret or initiatory societies, and religious units, commonly known as Ẹgbẹ in Yoruba, included the Parakoyi (or league of traders) and Ẹgbẹ Ọdẹ (hunter's guild), and maintained an important role in commerce, social control, and vocational education in Yoruba polities.There are also examples of other peer organizations in the region. When the Ẹgba resisted the imperial domination of the Ọyọ Empire, a figure named Lisabi is credited with either creating or reviving a covert traditional organization named Ẹgbẹ Aro. This group, originally a farmers' union, was converted to a network of secret militias throughout the Ẹgba forests, and each lodge plotted and successfully managed to overthrow Ọyọ's Ajeles (appointed administrators) in the late 18th century.
Similarly, covert military resistance leagues like the Ekiti Parapọ and the Ogidi alliance were organized during the 19th century wars by often-decentralized communities of the Ekiti, Ijẹsa, Ìgbómìnà and Okun Yoruba in order to resist various imperial expansionist plans of Ibadan, Nupe, and the Sokoto Caliphate.

Society and culture

Main article: Yoruba culture
In the city-states and many of their neighbors, a reserved way of life remains, with the school of thought of their people serving as a major influence in West Africa and elsewhere.
Today, most contemporary Yoruba are Christians and Muslims. Be that as it may, many of the principles of the traditional faith of their ancestors are either knowingly or unknowingly upheld by a significant proportion of the populations of Nigeria, Benin and Togo[citation needed].


 Religion

The Yoruba are traditionally a very religious people, and are today, pluralistic in their religious convictions. The Yoruba are one of the more religiously diversified ethnic groups in Africa. Many Yorubas can be found in different types of Christian denominations, Many others are Muslims, as well as the traditional Yoruba religion. Yoruba religious practices such as the Eyo and Osun-Osogbo festivals are witnessing a resurgence in popularity in contemporary Yorubaland. They are largely seen by the adherents of the modern faiths, especially the Christians and Muslims, as cultural rather than religious events. They participate in them as a means to celebrate their people's history, and boost tourist industries in their local economies.
Christianity
The Yorubas were one of the first groups in West Africa to be introduced to Christianity on a large scale. Christianity (along with western civilization) came into Yorubaland in the mid-19th century through the Europeans, whose original mission was commerce. The first European visitors were the Portuguese, they visited the Bini kingdom in the late 16th century, as time progressed other Europeans- such as the French, the British, and the Germans followed suit. British and French were most successful in their quest for colonies (These Europeans actually split Yorubaland, with the larger part being in British Nigeria, and the minor parts in French Dahomey, now Benin, and German Togoland). Home governments encouraged religious organizations to come, and to Christianize the so-called "animist" Africans. Roman Catholics (known to the Yorubas as Ijo Aguda, so named after returning former Yoruba slaves from Latin America, who were mostly Catholic, and were also known as the Agudas, Saros or Amaros) started the race, followed by Protestants, whose prominent member- Church Mission Society (CMS) based in England made the most significant in-roads into the hinterland regions for evangelism and became the largest of the Christian missions. Methodists (known as Ijo-Eleto, so named after the Yoruba word for "method or process") started missions in Agbadarigi / Gbegle by Thomas Birch Freeman in 1842. Henry Townsend, C.C.Gollmer, and Ajayi Crowther of the CMS worked in Abeokuta, then under the Egba division of Southern Nigeria in 1846.
Hinderer and Mann of CMS started missions in Ibadan/Ibarapa and Ijaye divisions of the present Oyo state in 1853. The Baptist missionaries-Bowen and Clarke concentrated on the northern Yoruba axis-(Ogbomoso and environs). With their success, other religious groups- Salvation Army, Evangelists Commission of West Africa (ECWA) became popular among the Igbomina and other non-denominational Christian groups joined. The increased tempo of Christianity led to the appointment of Saros and indigenes as missionaries, this move was initiated by Venn, the CMS Secretary. Nevertheless, the impact of Christianity in Yoruba land was not felt until fourth decade of 19th century, when a Yoruba slave boy, Samuel Ajayi Crowther had become a Christian convert, linguist, whose knowledge in languages would become a major tool and instrument to propagate Christianity in Yoruba land and beyond. Today, there are a number of Yoruba Pastors and Church founders with large congregations, e.g. Pastor Enoch Adeboye of the Redeemed Christian Church of God, Pastor David Oyedepo of Living Faith Church World Wide also known as Winners Chapel, Pastor Tunde Bakare of Latter rain Assembly, Prophet T. B. Joshua of Synagogue of All Nations, William Folorunso Kumuyi of Deeper Christian Life Ministry and Dr Daniel Olukoya of the Mountain of Fire and Miracles Ministries.
Islam
Islam came into Yorubaland centuries before Christianity and before the first Europeans ever set foot in Yorubaland. Yorubas first came in contact with Islam around 14th century, as a result of trade with Fulanis of the Malian Empire, during the reign of Mansa Kankan Musa. Hence, why Islam is traditionally known to the Yoruba as Esin Male or simply Imale i.e. religion of the Malians. In fact, Islam was practiced in Yorubaland so early on in history, that a sizable proportion of Yoruba slaves taken to the Americas were already Muslim. Some of these Yoruba Muslims would later on stage the Malê Revolt (or The Great Revolt) which was the most significant slave rebellion in Brazil. On a Sunday during Ramadan in January 1835, in the city of Salvador, Bahia, a small group of slaves and freedmen, inspired by Muslim teachers, rose up against the government. Muslims were called Malê in Bahia at this time, from Yoruba Imale that designated a Yoruba Muslim.
According to Al-Aluri, the first Mosque was built in Ọyọ-Ile / Katunga in 1550 A.D. although, there were no Yoruba Muslims at the time, the Mosque served the spiritual needs of foreign Muslims living in Ọyọ. Progressively, Islam started to gain a foothold in Yorubaland, and Muslims started building Mosques: Iwo town town led, its first Mosque built in 1655 followed by Iṣẹyin, in 1760; Eko/Lagos got its first mosque in 1774; Shaki, 1790; and Oṣogbo, 1889. In time, Islam spread to other towns like Oyo (the first Oyo convert was Solagberu), Ibadan, Abẹokuta, Ijebu Ode, Ikirun, and Ede, all already had sizable Muslim communities before the 19th century Sokoto jihad. Several factors contributed to the rise of Islam in Yoruba land by mid 19th century. Before the decline of Ọyọ, several towns around it had large Muslim communities, however, when Ọyọ was destroyed, these Muslims (Yorubas and immigrants) relocated to newly formed towns and villages and became Islam protagonists.
Secondly, there was a mass movement of people at this time into Yoruba land, many of these immigrants were Muslims who introduced Islam to their hosts. According to Eades, the religion "differed in attraction" and "better adapted to Yoruba social structure, because it permitted polygamy", which was already a feature of various African societies; more influential Yorubas like (Seriki Kuku of Ijebu land) soon became Muslims with positive impact on the natives. Islam came to Lagos at about the same time as other Yoruba towns, however, it received royal support from Ọba Kosọkọ, after he came back from exile in Ẹpẹ. Islam, like Christianity also found a common ground with the natives who already believed in a Supreme Being Olodumare / Olorun. Without delay, Islamic scholars and local Imams started establishing Koranic centers to teach Arabic and Islamic studies, much later, conventional schools were established to educate new converts and to propagate Islam. Today, the Yorubas constitute the second largest Muslim group in Nigeria, after the Hausa people of the Northern provinces. They are mostly Sunni Muslims, with small Ahmadiyya communities.

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