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The Yoruba were one of the most urbanized sub-saharan Africans in the pre-colonial era, and have a history of town-dwelling that goes back to 500 A.D. The wealth of the Yoruba came from controlling the important trade routes between the coast and the hinterland. Trade caravans exchanged the agricultural products of the forest economies, including kolanuts and yam with textiles, metalwork, leatherwork and other goods imported through the Saharan trade.

Several versions of the Yoruba myth of origin exist, the most popular of which revolve around a mysterious figure named Oduduwa. As recorded by one of the earliest Yoruba historians, Reverend Samuel Johnson (an Ọyọ convert to Christianity), Oduduwa was the head of an invading army from the East (a locale often identified with Mecca, the Sudan, or northeastern Nigeria) who established the constitutional monarchic system of government amongst the indigenous population he found. Other versions of the myth posit that Oduduwa was sent down by Ọlọrun Olodumare, the Creator, to fashion the first human beings out of the clay soil of Ile-Ifẹ. Odudua is also the name of an important Earth goddess, the wife of Ọbatala, and some scholars postulate a connection between the semi-mythical founder of the Ifẹ, Ọyọ, and Benin monarchic traditions and the ancient female deity. The name Oduduwa has been translated to mean "the one ("O") who created the knowledge ("odu") of character ("iwa"), signifying the figure's paramount role in establishing Yoruba philosophy, whether mythical or historical. The name is also linked to the literature of the Yoruba geomantic divination system, Ifa. The poetic chapters memorized and chanted by divination consultants (babalawo) during an Ifa session are called "odu". It is also possible that there might be a link between the word "Odu" and its various derivatives, and Vodu, the general word for a deity or spirit among neighboring and culturally allied Gbe-speaking ethnicities, including the Fon, Ewe, Mahi, Mina, and Egun.

In theory, Yoruba city-states largely acknowledged the primacy of the ancient city of Ile-Ifẹ in religious and political matters, and the majority of traditional potentates claim to be descended from emigrants from the hallowed town. Later, the political power of Ọyọ and its dynasty of Alaafins overshadowed the prestige of Ifẹ-derived political legitimacy, and many other traditional leaders claimed political sanction from Ọyọ. The southeastern Benin Empire, ruled by a dynasty that traced its ancestry to Ifẹ and Oduduwa but largely populated by the Ẹdo and other related ethnicities, also held considerable sway in the election of nobles and kings in eastern Yorubaland.

Most of the city states were controlled by monarchs and councils made up of nobles, guild leaders, and merchants. Different states saw differing ratios of power between the two. Some had powerful, semi-autocratic monarchs with almost total control, while in others the senatorial councils were supreme and the Ọba served as a figurehead. In all cases, Yoruba monarchs were always subject to the continuing approval of their constituents, and could be easily compelled to abdicate for demonstrating dictatorial tendencies or incompetence. The order to vacate the throne was usually communicated through a symbolic message, or aroko, of parrots' eggs delivered by the senators.

Although they share a common history and language, the various Yoruba sub-groups created a common united ethnic identity comparatively recently. Before the abolition of the slave trade, some Yoruba groups were known among Europeans as Akú, a name derived from the first words of Yoruba greetings such as Ẹ kú àárọ? ‘good morning’ and Ẹ kú alẹ? ‘good evening’. The terms "Nago", "Anago", and "Ana", derived from the name of a coastal Yoruba sub-group in the present-day Republic of Benin, were also widely used in Spanish and Portuguese documents to describe all speakers of the language. Yorubas in Francophone West Africa are still sometimes known by this ethnonym today. In Cuba and Spanish America, the Yoruba were called "Lucumi", after the phrase "O luku mi", meaning "my friend" in some archaic dialects. During the 19th century, the term Yariba or Yoruba came into wider use, first confined to the Ọyọ. The term is often believed to be derived from a Hausa ethnonym for the populous people to their south, but this has not been substantiated by historians. As an ethnic description, the word first appeared in a treatise written by the Songhai scholar Ahmed Baba, and is likely to derive from the indigenous ethnonyms Ọyọ or Yagba, two Yoruba-speaking groups along the northern borders of their terrority. However, it is likely that the ethnonym was popularized by Hausa usage and ethnography written in Arabic and Ajami. Under the influence of Bishop Samuel Ajayi Crowther, a Yoruba clergyman, subsequent missionaries extended the term to include all speakers of related dialects.

The pre-colonial Yoruba living in the savannah region between the forest and the Niger river were pressed further south by conflicts with the Sokoto Caliphate, a militant Muslim empire founded by the Fulani Quranic scholar Uthman Dan Fodio. After usurping power in the Hausa city-states of northern Nigeria, the Sokoto Caliphate also seized power in Ilọrin, one of the northernmost Yoruba towns, and ravaged Ọyọ-Ile, the capital city of the Ọyọ Empire. After losing the northern portion of their region to the cavalry-dependant Sokoto Caliphate, the Ọyọ for the most part retreated to the latitudes where tsetse flies made horses unable to survive. The Caliphate attempted to expand further into the southern region of modern-day Nigeria, but was decisively defeated by the armies of Ibadan, a newly-founded Yoruba city, in 1840.

Oduduwa Father of a Nation

According to Samuel Johnson the origins as obtained by oral tradition are as follows.He then gives his own critics of the story.For those who would like to do futher research, I refer you to pages 1 through 5 of his book.

Lamurudu one of the kings of Mecca had 3 principal offspring. Oduduwa the ancestor of the Yoruba's. and the Kings of Gogobiri and Kukawa who later had offsprings that became Hausa's. The time of Lamurudu's reign is not dated but is obviously some time after Prophet Mohammed(S.A.W) .The story is that Crown Prince Oduduwa was an idol worshipper and he converted the great mosque in Mecca to a temple.However he also had a priest whose son was Braima. Braima was Moslem but also sold idols because his father was a priest in the temple. There was a stage at which there was to be a 3 day hunting festival and during the festival Braimah then destroyed the idols. When this was found out he was supposed to be sentenced to die but being the child of a chief priest there was a civil war.Lamurudu got killed and Oduduwa then had to flee with his folowers. Of interest to the reader is Braima's defense during his trial which according to Samuel Johnson and to anybody who has a bible similar to the reply Joash gave to the Abrezites when Gideon was accused of a similar act. This is in Judges 6 verses 23 to 28. Ask the idol who did it? The reply was Can he Speak? then Why do you worship things that cannot Speak?

Anyway according to the history, Oduduwa fled east with his followers while the Kings of Gogobiri and their followers went East.However in the Yoruba's of Southwestern Nigeria by William Bacsomb who is American but observed the Ogboni in the 30's the direction may have been the other way. Anyway after 90 days travel they arrived at Ile Ife and there they met Agboniregun other wise known as Setilu the founder of Ifa oracle. The Gogobiri's and Kukawa's are identified as mordern day Nupe's hence the similarities in tribal marks between these groups. Samule Johnson never made any mention of a chain from heaven or whereever. He however said since the Yoruba's are not of Arabic source the migration must have been somewhere in the East but not Mecca.

The many Idols Yoruba culture is still associated with may be evidence of either a migration from Saudi arabia as the historic account has it, with retaining the Idolatory which Saudi Arabia was well renowned for globally before the advent of Islam. There is also of note, a link between Yoruba sculpture and Egyptian sculpture.


The Yoruba language has borrowed words including several Arabic words which also point toward the Yoruba origin from Saudi Arabia.

These words include-

Al lafia = 'Health' in both Yoruba and Arabic

Al Barka = 'Blessings' in both languages

Alubosa= 'Onion' in both languages

Yoruba names are also common in Egypt, where many of the same names are found in use, which point to either a common ancestorship or inter-migration of peoples.

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