Olowere of Ise. The foremost Yoruba sculptor

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Olowe of Ise (1875-1937), was the greatest Yoruba carver of the twentieth century. Olowere, now known as Olowe of Ise, was born in Efon-Alaiye, but in his youth, relocated southeast, to Ise, Ekiti. Under the patronage of the traditional ruler, Oba Arinjale-of Ise-Ekiti Kingdom, he began a program of architectural sculptures that established his artistic reputation. He carved hundreds of sculptures over a period of forty years as an active artist. He subsequently received comparable palace commissions from regional leaders throughout Yorubaland. During the lifetime of Olowe, his works were exhibited both in and beyond the African continent. In 1924, a pair of doors carved for the palace of the Ogoga of Ikere in Ekiti, were exhibited in London and acquired by the British Museum. The occurrence consequently launched the recognition of Olowes artistic brilliance, and his works have spread to collections throughout the world.

IKEJI WARRIORS, IJESA/EKITIPARAPO ARMY AND KIRIJI WAR TRIUMPH

Kiriji War was the decisive war that prevented Ijesas and Ekitis from being subjugated by the Ibadan bullies. It was the war that put an end to all manners of wars and semblance of wars in Yorubaland. It is a war that restored the dignity of certain parts of Yorubaland. Kiriji War was a battle for supremacy between Ijesa/Ekiti and Ibadan. It started on 30th July, 1877.
The excesses of Ajele (District Overseer) from Ibadan in Ijesa/Ekiti domain were too much to bear. They terrorize everywhere just because their army is unstoppable and formidable. In 1870s, the Ekitis started grooming a formidable army that will help liberate themselves from the Ibadan dominance; they formed an alliance which they termed Ekiti Parapo (Ekiti Confederation) to challenge the Ibadan hegemony. The Ekitis contacted their Ifa oracle severally and it revealed on each occasions that it was only Ogedengbe Agb’ogungb’oro, Adikakaaka L’oju Ogun, who could conquer the Ibadans and without Ogedengbe, the battle would not be won.
Ekiti Parapo army headed by Prince Fabunmi of Oke Imesi conveyed the message of Ifa to his able warlords, like Faborro of Ido, Famakinwa of Erin, Aruta, Odole Oloyombere, Oluborode of Ikogosi, Aduloju dodondawa, Falowo, just to mention a few. Several rituals were prepared and later Opiliki Asodedero was sent to convey the message of Ifa to Ogedengbe Agb’ogungb’oro.
Ogedengbe was said to be in Igbara-Oke where he was intending to settle down after his exploits to Ekiti, Akoko and Benin Kingdom. Ogedengbe was a-bit reluctant to join the Ekiti Parapo army due to his disappointment from his kindred (Ijesa people). He was persuaded and later joined the Ijesa army with the Ekiti Parapo army in their campaign against Ibadan hegemony. Ekiti people were happy seeing Ogedengbe, the great warrior and his formidable army merged with the Ekiti Parapo army.
Ogedengbe was appointed the “Seriki Meyaki”, making him the Generalissimo of Ijesa/Ekiti Confederates Army. He announced the commencement of the battle. To cut the story short, the Kiriji War was won by the Ijesa/Ekitiparapo Army led by Ogedengbe Agb’ogungb’oro Adikakaaka L’oju Ogun, which led to the ending of Ibadan hegemony in Ekiti and Ijesa fortresses.
Historically, during the inter-tribal wars in Yorubaland, the whole of Ijesa army would not go into combat against an enemy without a warrior from Ikeji firing first shot in order to ensure victory. Then, I was beginning to think that Ikeji warriors are the people behind the triumphs of Ijesas during the inter-tribal wars.
Moreover, Ogedengbe being an Ijesa man, leading Ijesa army, would not dare go to any battle without any warrior from Ikeji firing first shot in order to ensure victory; it means the Ikeji warriors were the people behind Ogedengbe’s accomplishments during the inter-tribal wars in Yorubaland in the 19th Century.
When Ogedengbe led the Ijesa army to join the Ekiti Parapo army in their campaign against Ibadan, Ikeji warrior fired first shot in order to ensure victory, though it was not emphasized; Ogedengbe would not have won the Kiriji War without an Ikeji warrior. So, I cannot but say that an Ikeji warrior won the Kiriji War with his first shot that ensued victory before starting the war. Ijesa/Ekiti Parapo army was only led to victory by Ogedengbe.
The Kiriji War ended on 23th September, 1886 with signing of “Peace Treaty” between the twenty-four Yoruba Obas for the cessation of war among Yoruba people and in Yorubaland.

OGEDENGBE AGBOGUNGBORO

The late Chief Ogedengbe Agbogubgboro, the Generalissimo of Ekiti Army was born at Atorin, a village about twenty kilometres from Ilesha in the now Atakomosa East Local Government areas.

This was his mother’s village; his father’s village was Oke-Orisa which is about the same distance from Ilesha and in the same present day Local Government areas as Atorin. Before Ogedengbe was born, the Ifa oracle predicted that he was going to be the saviour of Ijeshaland. The name given to Ogedengbe at birth was SARAIBI. He was born as a normal child and he grew up at Atorin as a healthy industrous young man.

From the early years of his life, it became clear that he was very strong and surpassed all his mates in acts of valour, whenever he engaged in wrestling with his mates, he always floored them, hence the name “OGEDENGBE”. In adulthood, Ogedengbe engaged in several campaigns against the Ibadan people who were oppressing and attacking the Ijesha people. During one of such campaigns, he was captured and taken to Ibadan.

It was on this occassion the Ibadan people put tribal marks on his face before releasing him. He fought in the Ibadan army until he became a senior military commander and then returned to fight and lead the Ijesha forces. After this, he gathered a large army of Ijesha young men and engaged in several bitter fightings against the Ibadan people.

Ogedengbe exploits also took him to Ekiti and Akoko areas where he sold a lot of them into slavery. This was why he was often referred to as “O soko Ekiti soko Akoko”. He also went as far as the present day Edo state. The Oba of Benin had to appeace him before he desisted from waging war against his domain. He gave Ogedengbe presents of beads, slaves and other valuable articles.

After this exploit, Ogedengbe returned to Igbara-Oke intending to settle down there. This was the time when the Ibadan people engaged the Ijeshas and the Ekitis in a fierce war at Oke-Imesi. The leaders of the Ijeshas and the Ekitis had to persuade Ogedengbe to come and lead them as his unrivalled exploits had become a legend in the whole of Yoruba land. He agreed and went to the battle field to check the inordinate ambition of the Ibadan people.

The fighting went on for about nine years . It was Captain Bower, the then resident commissioner at Ibadan who finally settled the war by a treaty in 1886 (23rd September, 1886) after he had won the war.

It was due to all these attributes that he possessed that made him into a local hero in his town. Ogedengbe subsequently became one of the most important men in the history of Yorubaland, Nigeria and Africa, hence the name ‘OGEDENGBE AGBOGUNGBORO’ meaning ‘OGEDENGBE THE WARRIOR’

It began in the 19th century, a century of revolution in Yorubaland, after the fall of the old Oyo Empire due to political crisis. Ibadan, a new city founded in the 1820s wanted to dominate and rule the rest of the Yorubaland and as result, there were wars among the kingdoms of the Yorubas.In particular the Kiriji war (also known as the sixteen years war) which started in 1877, it involved the struggle for power, influence and survival.The Ibadan on declared ‘a war to end all wars’ on the Egba on Monday, 30th July 1877, the Kiriji war officially begun.

The Ijebu joined and it began to spread. In 1878, it spread to the east, the Ekiti and Ijesa countries became united and formed an alliance known as Ekiti-parapo (the combined forces of the Ijesa and Ekiti) which was led by Ogedengbe of Ilesha . The Ife and Ilorin later joined. Ibadan now had a string of foes that were ready to fight for their independence and also to free themselves from Ibadan imperialism.

The Yorubas

The first obvious answer to this question is that the Yoruba are a nationality, numbering over 25 million, the majority of whom live in the South Western part of Nigeria in West Africa. Obvious as this answer is, it is not wholly explanatory, and certainly, it is not without its own controversy.

The Yoruba are a black people, of Negro stock and they speak a common language, Yoruba, which belongs to the Kwa group of the Niger-Congo language family. Yoruba is a dialect continuum, i.e. it has many dialects, and the dialect at one end of the continuum is not intelligible to speakers at another end of the continuum, which is why the Ondo dialect is not immediately understandable by someone from say, Lagos or Oyo. If you travel from one part of Yoruba land to another, you will notice slight differences in accent, word for items, etc. The Yoruba are a well urbanized group with genius in arts as symbolized in the famous “Ife Bronzes”. The Yoruba people are also found in neighboring Togo, Benin Republic. Because of the slave trade, the Yoruba can also be found in other parts of the world, including Brazil, Cuba, Trinidad, and the United States.

What makes the Yoruba a nationality, or a nation, not a tribe or clan, and how does one then mark a distinction between Yorubaland and Nigeria? To this last question, there is no better answer than the one provided by Obafemi Awolowo in 1947, to which a later section of this presentation will return. For now, it is necessary to answer the question: “Who are the Yoruba?” by focussing on some critical moments in Yoruba history and thought. Let us address these and other issues by focussing on some critical moments in Yoruba history.

The Oduduwa Dynasty and the Founding of the Nation.

Oduduwa is the legendary progenitor of the Yoruba. There are two variants of the story of how he achieved this feat. The first is cosmogonic, the second, political. The cosmogonic version also has two variants. According to the first variant of the cosmogonic myth, Orisanla (Obatala) was the arch-divinity who was chosen by Olodumare, the supreme deity to create a solid land out of the primordial waters that constituted the earth and of populating the land with human beings. He descended from heaven on a chain, carrying a small snail shell full of earth, palm kernels and a five-toed chicken. He was to empty the content of the snail shell on the water after placing some pieces of iron on it, and then to place the chicken on the earth to spread it over the primordial water. According to the first version of the story, Obatala completed this task to the satisfaction of Olodumare. After creating land, he planted the palm kernels, growing a palm tree with sixteen branches – the original sixteen kings of Yoruba land. Obatala was then given the task of making the physical body of human beings after which Olodumare would give them the breath of life. He also completed this task and this is why he has the title of “obarisa” the king of the orisa. When he completed the task of creating land, he called it “Ile Ife” “This wide / large land”. In this version of the story, Ile Ife is claimed as the ancestral home of the Yoruba.

The other variant of the cosmogonic myth does not credit Obatala with the completion of the task. While it concedes that Obatala was given the task, it avers that Obatala got drunk even before he got to the earth and he was unable to do the job. Olodumare got worried when he did not return on time, and he had to send Oduduwa to find out what was going on. When Oduduwa found Obatala drunk, he simply took over the task and completed it. He created land. The spot on which he landed from heaven and which he redeemed from water to become land is called Ile-Ife and is now considered the sacred and spiritual home of the Yoruba. Obatala was embarrassed when he woke up and, due to this experience, he made it a taboo for any of his devotees to drink palm wine. Olodumare forgave him and gave him the responsibility of molding the physical bodies of human beings. The making of land is a symbolic reference to the founding of the Yoruba kingdoms, and this is why Oduduwa is credited with that achievement.

According to the second version of the myth, there was a pre-existing civilization at Ile-Ife prior to its invasion by a group led by Oduduwa. This group came from the east, where Oduduwa and his group had been persecuted on the basis of religious differences. They came to Ile-Ife and fought and conquered the pre-existing Ugbo inhabitants led by Oreluere (Obatala). Obviously, there is a connection between the two versions of the story. The political one may be the authentic story of the founding of Ife kingdom through conquest. However, the myth of creation lends it a legitimacy that is denied by the conquest story; just as it appears that it is lent some credence by the fact that, as a result of the embarrassment it caused their deity, the followers of Obatala are forbidden from taking palm wine. Indeed the second version of the cosmogonic myth also appears to foreshadow the political variant. The claim that Obatala got drunk and the task of creation had to be performed by Oduduwa already has some political coloration which is now explicit in the political version of the tradition.

What is crucial in both variants of the story is the role of Oduduwa as the founder of the Yoruba nation which is why the name cannot be forgotten. Oduduwa is the symbol of the nation, the rallying point for all those who subscribe to the Yoruba identity. The name Yoruba itself, according to historians Smith, Atanda and others, was fixed on us by our northern neighbors and later popularized by colonial publications. Before then, “Anago”, was used to refer to most of the people called Yoruba today. “Anago” also the name by which some Yoruba in the present Benin Republic and others in the new world still use to refer to themselves, A common origin and language, as well as common political and religious cultures made the Yoruba a nation long before any contact with Europeans and the advent of colonialism.

Moremi ‘s Patriotism and the Survival of the Nation

Upon the death of Oduduwa, there was a dispersal of his children from Ife to found other kingdoms. These original founders of the Yoruba nation included Olowu of Owu (son of Oduduwa’s daughter), Alaketu of Ketu (son of a princess), Oba of Benin, Oragun of Ila, Onisabe of Sabe, Olupopo of Popo, and Oranyan of Oyo. Each of them made a mark in the subsequent urbanization and consolidation of Yoruba confederacy of kingdoms, with each kingdom tracing its origin to Ile-Ife.

After the dispersal, the aborigines, the Igbo, became difficult, and constituted a serious threat to the survival of Ife. Thought to be survivors of the old occupants of the land before the arrival of Oduduwa, these people now turned themselves into marauders. They would come to town in costumes made of raffia with terrible and fearsome appearances, and the Ife people would flee. Then the Igbo would burn down houses and loot the markets. Then came Moremi on the scene – like Deborah of the Old Testament. When no man could dare the Igbos, Moremi asked the Esinminrin river for help and promised to give offerings if she could save her people. The orisa told her to allow herself to be captured and to understudy the Igbo people. She did, and discovered that these were not spirits; only people with raffia for dress. She escaped, and taught her people the trick. The next time that Igbo people came to sack the town, the townspeople set fire on their raffia costumes, and they were roundly defeated. Moremi then had to go back to Esinminrin to thank the gods. Every offering she offered was refused. On divination, she was told that she had to give Oluorogbo, her only son. She did. The lesson of Moremi is the lesson of patriotism and selflessness. The reward may not be reaped in one’s life time. Moremi passed on and became a member of the Yoruba pantheon . The Edi festival celebrates the defeat of the Igbo and the sacrifice of Oluorogbo till today.

The Oranmiyan Adventures, Afonja Treachery, Internal Division, Enslavement and the Fall of the Nation.

Oranmiyan was the last of the Oduduwa offspring. But he was the most adventurous and the founder of Oyo Kingdom. On some accounts, he was the third ruler of Ife as successor to Oduduwa. But he later decided to avenge the expulsion of his father from the East, and so, he led an expedition. After many years on the road, and as a result of disagreement between him and his people, he could not go further. Feeling too ashamed to go back, he appealed to the King of Nupe for a land to found his kingdom. He was obliged, and that land became the nucleus of Old Oyo Kingdom. Oranmiyan, taking the title of Alafin, succeeded in raising a very strong military and effectively expanded his kingdom. His successors, including Sango, the mythical god of thunder, Aganju and Oluaso were also as strong. Peace and tranquility prevailed during the reign of Abiodun, though it also experienced the decline of the army. Awole Arogangan was Abiodun’ s successor and it was during his reign that trouble started for the kingdom. He was forced to commit suicide; but before his death he was said to have pronounced a curse on all Yoruba, that they will not unite and that they will be taken captives.

Afonja was the Kakanfo, the generalisimo of the Army, in the northern Yoruba town of Ilorin, during the reign of Awole and his successor. Afonja refused to recognize the new king, and invited the Fulani who were then leading a jihad to the south, to assist him against the king. They did, but he did not survive himself, because the Fulani, after helping him defeat the Alafin also turned against him. They fired numerous arrows at him and his dead body was stood erect on those arrows as they stuck into his body. The treachery of Afonja marked the beginning of the end of the Oyo empire and with it the decline of the Yoruba nation. Civil war erupted among the various Yoruba kingdoms: Oyo, Ijesa, Ekiti Parapo, Ijaiye, Abeokuta and Ibadan. As this was going on, Dahomey on the west and the Borgu on the north were also posing trouble for the Yoruba kingdoms until the intervention of the British and the imposition of colonial rule.

Oduduwa: Saving history from ethnic propaganda   CHUKWU EKE Lagos, Nigeria

 

I do not know why the Yoruba are so unsettled by the recent claim made by the Oba of Benin to the effect that Oduduwa was a felon expelled from Benin kingdom. The story is not new. The Bini have known and told it before now. I know because I heard it two years ago from a Bini friend of mine. My friendship with the Bini prince has been oiled by my interest in the history of his people.

 

On that day I had asked him if, as the Yoruba claim, Eweka —  the first Oba of Bini after the dethronement of Ogiso — was indeed a grandson of Oduduwa. The story he told me varied a little from the Oba’s. In that conceit typical of the Bini, he chuckled sardonically before telling me that Oduduwa escaped from Bini prison and went on to found the Ife dynasty. Is it possible that the Yoruba have not heard this Bini version of Oduduwa story before now?  Or, is it a case of being rattled because the almighty Oba of Benin has lent his voice to it, raising it high to the bookshelves from mere mumbling of village folks. Even if the story is “revisionist”  as they claim, is it so difficult to swallow a little dose of their own pill of historical propaganda from the Bini?  

 

On the face of it, one can easily pitch one’s tent with the Bini in this Oduduwa saga, as Oba Akiolu of Lagos has done. Besides having lesser of the Yoruba sin of making spurious historical claims, the Bini have at least identified Oduduwa with a real name, Ekalederhan, while the Yoruba Oduduwa remains a mythical entity without real name except the descriptive words used for him by the autochthonous Igbo he invaded and colonised.  But the Bini version also fails to achieve a clear historical perspective on the man and how he became the overlord over the natives of Southwest. As for the Yoruba version, it is exclusionist. It then follows that to know, not just the true Oduduwa but the ethno-cultural circumstances of Southwest before him, we must set aside the contending stories of the Bini and the Yoruba and go to reliable oral traditions and books written without tribe in  mind.

 

What indeed is the fact about Oduduwa? To answer this question we need to acquaint ourselves with the political development in Southwest Nigeria at about A.D. 1100.  According to Yoruba oral tradition, the aboriginal inhabitants of Southwest were the Igbo.

 

One morning, when the dews were still heavy on the leaves because the sun had not ascended their sky, they woke up to discover that their land had been invaded by a foreign army. The fight that ensued was fierce. The Igbo were brave, but the invaders had more sophisticated weapons of war. The Oyo and Ife areas which, it seems, did not have dense a population of the Igbo, were the first to fall to the enemy army. Here, in Ife to be exact, they established their headquarters, installed their leader as king,  and, as the Fulani, used the natives against their own in other parts.

 

In the Ekiti areas, where the Igbo were large, coherent, and strong, the invaders were given a good sum for their money. They were held back for a long time by the “Igbo warriors who masqued themselves with raffia,” until they too capitulated, not to the superior fire power of the invaders but to the bottom power of a certain Moremi, who was to the Yoruba what Delila was to the Philistines.

 

Oduduwa was the leader of the invaders.

 

Having conquered the native Igbo of Southwest, Oduduwa appointed his lieutenant as Oba in all the towns and became the overlord of the Southwest. And “the defeat and conquest of the Igbo in Southwest Nigeria was celebrated by the Yoruba at the annual Eid festival.” [See: The kingdom of the Yoruba, Robert Smith, 3rd edition, University of Wisconsin Press.]

 

Writing under the heading, The Igbo origin of Egba Yoruba, Ishaq Al-Sulaiman, an African American researcher, had this to say:

 

Southwest Nigeria marks the location of the present day Igbo tribe. However initially the Igbo were the rulers of the entire South including Southwest which is currently classified as Yoruba territory. The Yoruba first entered the Southwest part of Nigeria as invaders and coloniser of the original Igbo inhabitants.

 

On the spread of the Igbo, Dr. N. A. Fadipe wrote in his book, The Sociology of the Yoruba, thus:

 

It is tolerable certain that the Ekiti people, the greater bulk of Ijesa people and to some extent Ondo belong to this older culture group. It is possible that the group comprises much larger number of tribes than those just specified, which is to be regarded as minimum denotation term for the early wave of immigrant.         

 

 

 What is the meaning of Oduduwa? As I said earlier, the name Oduduwa or Odua for short is an Igbo phrase:  Odudu wa or Odu wa, all meaning  “their leader.”  “Odudu” in Igbo is “one who leads” or “leader.”  “Wa”  in Asaba Igbo and some other Igbo of Delta, Abia, and the Waawa area of Enugu and Ebonyi States is “them.”  The “defeated Igbo of Southwest Nigeria” could have, on identifying the leader of their tormentors, say among themselves: “Nke a bu onyeodudu wa” or “Nke a bu Odu wa.” (This  is their leader).

 

Anybody whose mind has not been foreclosed by ethnic bias must see this meaning more tenable than “knowledge of  how to behave,”  which some Yoruba meta-historians postulated as the meaning of Oduduwa.

 

The next question to consider is whether the Igbo colonised by Oduduwa and his people in the Southwest were of the same stock as the Igbo of Southeast and Southsouth. I was asked this question by the writer, Akin Adesokan, who is now living in the United States of America.

 

He traced his ancestry to the autochthonous  Igbo of Southwest but asked me if I thought his Igbo ancestor were of the same ethno-cultural makeup as my own Igbo of Southeast. My answer was “Yes” — “because , in the first place  in the absence of written records going back to the childhood of the world when the Igbo emerged as a culture, scholars have been persuaded to treat linguistic relationships as providing by far the most dependable evidence of historical connection.”  Thus wrote the erudite professor of history and the first indigenous awardee of doctorate degree by the University of Ibadan, Professor A. E. Afigbo.  I am convinced that I have been able to provide such linguistic connection between the Igbo of Southwest and the Igbo of Southeast and Southsouth.

 

But if the Yoruba think otherwise, I will still refer them to their friend, the poet and philosopher, Odia Ofeimum. In a thought provoking article he wrote recently, he had said among other things that “the Igbo and the Yoruba speak the same language apart from the borrowed words”  (the words brought in by Oduduwa). Unless they think also that the poet lied.

 

In addition, the Igbominas who are among the Southwest towns that retain their Igbo name, have another name – Omu Ara. They say it is in honour of their founder, a woman named Omu. `Omu’ in Igbo means `one who gives birth’ and by implication `woman’. In Ekiti State, there is still a town that celebrates New Yam Festival like their brothers in Southeast. These are besides the fact that the Igbo and the `Yoruba belong to the same language group – kwa.

 

Even the word “Yoruba”  metamorphosed from a derogatory phrase the Igbo had used for  the Oyo people. Before Oduduwa and his Oba put the whole Southwest to rout, the Oyo, who thought they were enjoying Oduduwa’s civilisation, would call the Igbo “bush people.”   The Igbo,  to pay them back their  insult, would call them “Oyo, Oru Oba'” (Oyo, slaves of the Oba). That is how the name Yoruba came about.

 

From the foregoing it is clear that the Oduduwa children have deliberately revised and falsified the history of Southwest Nigeria for the sole aim of covering the Igbo root of most Southwesterners, thereby denying Nigeria the long-sought-for unity. What unity could we not achieve if the Oduduwa people had not denied a larger population of Southwest people the  knowledge of their blood affinity with the Igbo of the Southeast. Would we not be having a real handshake across the Niger? But truth is like smoke which nobody buries and celebrates victory for a long time. It must surely show itself indomitable.

 

It is on this understanding that I think the The Comet Newspaper deserves our pity for the editorial they wrote on Monday, May 11, 2004. That editorial epitomised how lowly a people could go to falsify and revise history without recourse to any oral or written evidence. The writer must be one of the die-hard Yoruba Igbophobists, whose education has not purged them of the fear of the Igbo. Besides its glaring Igbophobia, the editorial was empty.

 

For instance, while it conjured up all the ancient city states under the sun and even those in Mars and claimed Yoruba affinity with them, it never mentioned Igbo. The only place it mentioned Igbo in brackets was as a disclaimer. It said that those the Oduduwa people invaded were “Ugbo” (not being able to discover that Igbo Ukwu arts had existed for more than four centuries before Ife/Benin, that Ife/Benin diffused from Igbo Ukwu and not the other way round.

 

My last words: history is no longer “myths that have no proofs but only can be believed by those who wish to believe them.” History, oral or written, must be backed up by related disciplines of archeology, linguistics, and anthropology. 

Yoruba and Benin Kingdoms: The missing gap of history By Kunle Sowunmi

THE statement credited to Oba Erediauwa Omonoba Uku
Akpolokpolo, that the Yoruba race originated from
Benin Kingdom, was very rich in details and calls for
re-examination by historians of high repute from all
the Nigerian Universities and recognised institutions
not from uneducated and bias sources of chambers or
shrines of some Obas or traditional rulers as
presently being envisaged or contemplated. The
statement from Ooni of Ife disputing the fact of Oba
of Benin was not strong enough.

I was fascinated by the different versions of
uncoordinated folk stories we were told about the
origin of the Yoruba. As a Yoruba man from Abeokuta I
was told Oduduwa was the first man created by God just
like the Bible said Adam and Eve were the first to be
created by God.

The Bible says Cain the only surviving child of Adam
and Eve went to another city called Nod to marry his
wife. The question is who created the wife, the wife’s
parents or the family of the in-law if any. Just like
I asked in my innocent mind as a student in the
primary school then who created Oduduwa and how did
Oduduwa marry his wife? My Teacher never told me the
answer. We were even told Oduduwa was the son of
Lamurudu from far East in Saudi Arabia and that some
of ourYoruba cousin can be found in Uganda. Many
conflicting stories which are very difficult to prove
or binding on history.

These are some of the missing gaps of history.

Oduduwa had sixteen children we were told and the
eldest was Orangun of Ila and the Egbas in Abeokuta
were descendants of the female child of Oduduwa named
Alaketu. None ever disputed the fact that Oranmiyan
the last born of Oduduwa also ruled the Benin Kingdom.
Why did Benin allowed the last child of Oduduwa to be
made a king over them or his descendants, if there was
no blue blood connection? Oba of Benin gave a
detailed account of fact of history that are very
difficult to dispute.

The Yoruba share so many things in common with the
Edo’s in names and culture, which must be the reason
why it is very difficult to dispute the version of
Omonoba Uku Akpolokpolo

Again, to the Bible, Adam and Eve never told or shown
Cain the only surviving child the Garden of Eden where
God created them, just like Oduduwa never shown the
place and real evidence how he was created by God.
Archeologically, the Yoruba race is not more than 2000
years meaning other tribes existed before the Oduduwa
appearance. None availability of any other serious
fact to negate this lend credibility to Oba Benin’s
version.

Two versions of history

Both version of History from Oba of Benin and Yoruba
agreed that Oramiyan the last son of Oduduwa returned
to Ife from Benin after he installed his son, Eweka
the first as Oba of Benin. He met his father Oduduwa
who was very advanced in age and blind, more also all
properties had been shared and distributed among his
fifteen brothers and sisters. Alternatively, seven
brothers according to Oba of Benin, Oduduwa was at a
dilemma on what to do because he assumed Benin Kingdom
would be enough as Oranmiyan’s inheritance. Both
version of history agreed that the name Benin meant
“the land of the annoyed” because Oranmiyan left the
place in annoyance. Again, Oba of Benin was right on
this.

Oduduwa found an easy way out. He gave Oranmiyan his
staff as symbol to show his brothers and sisters to be
able to collect ten percent of revenue derived from
yearly harvest through out Yoruba land. With this,
Oranmiyan was able to collect over 150 percent of all
the returns throughout the uncoordinated kingdom.
Oduduwa also grudgingly agreed to allow his last son
Oranmiyan to be king at Ile Ife after his death. The
reason for this was unknown as this was against the
custom and tradition of giving priority to first child
or son who was Ila of Irangun. On the other hand,
could it be said that Orangun was too afraid to
challenge his junior brother or Oranmiyan was indeed
the senior? This is something the present Orangun of
Ila should explain.

Oduduwa was primarily a priest and voodoo man. It is
said until today that it is only one day that is free
of ritual worship in Ile Ife and the day is never made
public. Oduduwa took vacation just for one day. In one
of the ritual ceremonies where nobody was allowed to
be seen outside, a foreign woman of no means of
tracing her background was captured and was to be used
as scarifices for the gods. She was later spared
because she was found to be pregnant beside, it was
against ritual requirement. The child from the woman
was dedicated to the gods and act as a servant to
assist Oduduwa in his day-to-day ritual and voodoo
job. The child was named Ooni: meaning “this is Spared
One”

After the death of Oduduwa his son, Oranmiyan was
invited to take over the job of his father, which was
primarily ritual and voodoo, as well as traditional
ruler of Ile Ife. Oranmiyan refused because he had
succeeded in building an economically viable place at
Oyo Ile with administratively sound method of
government around the Oyomesi council in chief and it
would be degrading to leave this and move to Ile Ife
to be involved in daily ritual sacrifices.

Oranmiyan gave a condition that he must be buried at
Ife to symbolise his right to Ife thrown. It was on
condition of this that Ooni the son of the slave
woman that was captured and dedicated to gods that was
assisting Oduduwa continued the work of Oduduwa at
Ife. This is the reason why ALafin of Oyo will never
accept Ooni of Ife as a king or a superior in any
Yoruba gathering of Obas.

Ooni’s assumed superiority was a British creation
because the King of England assumed a king at Ife, the
cradle of Yoruba, must be superior to all Obas just
like the British did in Abeokuta by imposing Alake’s
superiority over other Obas at Abeokuta. In case of
Egbas, Sorunke who led the Egbas from Ibadan to the
present Abeokuta was from Oke Ona, where Oba Tejuoso
is the King. This is the reason why there is conflict
between Alake and Osile till date.

Oranmiyan was buried at Ife and not at Oyo, which is
the reason for the Opa Oranyan at Ife till today. Ooni
was not a true son or direct descendant of Oduduwa and
his title was not recognised. Ooni was just his name
which became his title. Ooni like other Yoruba Obas
paid duties to Oranmiyan during and after the death of
Oduduwa.

This practice stopped after the Oyo Empire was
destroyed. It is rather difficult to accept the Ooni’s
version as against the Omonoba Polopolo. Oranmiyan
was a belligerent person. A war hero and where his
brothers and sister refused to give the yearly ten
percent duty as agreed with the staff of Oduduwa he
would use force. He later appointed his
representatives in each of the kingdoms of Yoruba to
monitor the returns, thus the creation of Oyo Empire
that led to the end of the kingdom Oduduwa created
which was not properly coordinated. The new empire
grew with amazing rapidity throughout West Africa and
was like the Ghana or Shonghai Empire of the medieval
history in the south of Sahara. Oyo Empire started
slave trade to weaken opposition.

An administration like the British

Oranmiyan’s administration was the best in Africa and
could be likened to the British system of
Administration during the colonial government. The
empire expanded up to the present Benin republic.
Those who escaped the control of Alafin are the
Yorubas living in Benin Republic, which was formerly
Dahomey, On the East side, Oranmiyan never bothered
Benin Kingdom because of his son, and his son never
looked for him. At least there was no record of
history of any transaction between father and son.
Benin Kingdom continued to progress and Oyo Empire
continued to expand to the west coast. In Lagos, there
could not be a clash, it was a place of reunion for
Edo’s and Yoruba it was said Eko, which is Lagos, and
in our local dialect is a Benin word.

Oyo Empire later suffered from over expansion and some
local hero started to emerge to challenge the
authority of the Oyo kingdom or that of the Alafin of
Oyo. Among them was the Lisabi Agboagbo Akala who
liberated the Egbas from Oyo Empire to create a
fearless Egba Kingdom.

Lisabi was never a king. In fact, he was murdered by
the Alake of Egbaland because of his popularity. Egbas
as a kingdom with its own National Anthem “Lori Oke
ati Pele” was merged with Nigeria by the British
Empire after 1914. In addition, Lagelu emerged from
Ibadan, Ogendegbe from Ijeshaland and Shou of
Ogbomosho and Ilorin through the deserter Chief of
Army Staff of Oyo who was killed by Alimi a Fulani;
thus, the end of Oyo Empire. The attack from the
Sokoto Caliphate from the North finally nailed the
coffin of the Oyo Empire.The collapse of the Oyo
Empire led to the Yoruba Wars. The present Oyo town
has nothing to do with Old Oyo town, it was just a new
creation to symbolise the memory of the Old.

The Egbas and Ijebus took over the control of
southwest towards the Atlantics because of lucrative
slave trade and closeness to the white man. The
emergence of western civilisation further weakened the
Old Oyo empire, the empire collapsed and the ruminants
of it can still be found at the old site. The irony of
it is Alafin of Oyo in the present Oyo town
continued to live in the memory of his ancestors’
glory of the Old Oyo empire.

In conclusion, Ooni who is not a direct son or
descendants of Oduduwa cannot be considered viable in
this discussion, but Alafin of Oyo must examine his
place in history and that of his senior brother
Orangun of Ila the first son who had disappeared into
history because he never challenged Oranmiyan. The
abdication of the thrown is a loss of right. However,
can a son be greater than his father? or can a river
be greater than its source? The source of Yoruba from
Benin is very authentic than Saudi Arabia or Lamurudu,
which cannot be traced, in Saudi Arabian history.

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