The Yoruba Today
(Originally published by Cambridge University Press 1980)
Author's note on the online version
In order to make the text of this book available as quickly as possible, the text alone has been scanned in from the original, omitting the diagrams, maps and photographs. It may be possible to add these in a subsequent version. Also left for future versions are italics and the dots under the letters e, o, and s, as described in the note on orthography below. Yoruba specialists will easily be able to supply them, and non-Yoruba specialists will not be particularly worried by their omission.]
Writing a general book about the Yoruba is a foolhardy enterprise, a fact which is clearer to me now than when I began it. There are two main problems. The first is the sheer mass of material available: the Baldwins' bibliography (1976) has nearly 3500 references, to which I could add a few hundred more. The Yoruba must be unique in Africa in having four universities located in their homeland, all with flourishing history and social science departments deeply committed to the academic mode of production. The second is the degree of diversity. Yoruba settlements range from poor and depopulated rural villages in the savanna to cities the size of Lagos and Ibadan, while a number of comparative studies, particularly those of Peter Lloyd, have revealed the degree of variation in social organisation. Almost any general statement can be countered with contrary evidence from one area or another. On top of all this, the speed of social and economic change in Nigeria during a period of high oil revenues has been very great.
Nevertheless, there is perhaps a case to be made for a study such as the present one. Firstly, underlying the diversity of Yoruba social forms is an increasing cultural and linguistic unity and a common historical experience, particularly in those areas now within Nigeria. Secondly, most of the existing general works on the Yoruba are now rather dated. Forde's ethnographic survey was published in 1951, but is based mainly on sources dating from the 1920s and 1930s. Fadipe's Sociology of the Yoruba, published in 1970, is an edited version of his 1939 thesis. Bascom's excellent 1969 volume in the Holt, Rinehart and Winston series is based on material gathered in the 1930s, and he deliberately excludes discussion of many of the changes which have taken place since. Ojo's Yoruba Culture is a useful source on the relationship between culture and environment, but it remains the work of a cultural geographer. For anthropologists and sociologists perhaps the most useful works currently available are Lloyd's invaluable Yoruba Land Law and Krapf-Askari's Yoruba Towns and Cities, both works of much greater scope than their titles would imply, but both based mainly on work from the 1950s. Since then, a very large number of specialised studies have accumulated, and one of the aims of the book is to draw together some of the threads of this research.
As a consequence, I tend to concentrate on processes rather than detailed ethnographic description. The first two chapters make extensive use of the impressive body of historical material now available. This may seem paradoxical in a book with 'today' featuring prominently in the title, but it can, I think, be justified. First, the upheavals of the 19th century profoundly affected the directions of change in the 20th. Second, the Yoruba themselves have a profound sense of history and frequently relate current social and political developments to historical events. Historical traditions, like myths, are a resource which can be exploited to legitimate or attack the status quo, and this is reflected in the extraordinary number of local histories which have been produced in all areas of Yorubaland. The best of these are works of real distinction, which have proved invaluable to the more recent work of the academic historians, but this does not alter the fact that yesterday's history among the Yoruba has a habit of becoming today's live political issue.
The third chapter combines discussion of settlement patterns and kinship organisation. Here I argue that too much attention has been paid to definitional questions such as whether Yoruba towns are really 'urban' or whether the kinship system is really 'agnatic', and not enough to developmental processes and the economic factors which underlie them. Chapter 4 considers the economy in more detail, while Chapter 5 traces the growing interdependence of local and national politics. Chapter 6 deals with changes in religious belief. So far, the fact that the overwhelming majority of Yoruba are, at least nominally, either Christian or Muslim has attracted more attention from the historians than from the sociologists and anthropologists (Peel being the major exception). And yet it raises some interesting questions. How far have the world religions and Yoruba social life been affected by each other, and have the new religions produced a new set of social cleavages cross-cutting those of social status and area of origin?
These latter variables are central to the final chapter which deals with social stratification. Discussions of stratification based on Marxist or Weberian categories and discussions of ethnic identity stemming from the work of Abner Cohen have been pursued largely in isolation from each other. This is a preliminary attempt at a synthesis which I hope to develop in future.
Many general surveys of this sort start off as by-products of Ph.D. dissertations: this one is no exception. My fieldwork was financed by a Hayter Studentship from the Department of Education and Science, and by a Smuts Studentship from the University of Cambridge. During the course of my fieldwork I was affiliated to the Institute of African Studies, University of Ghana, Legon, and to the Department of Sociology, University of Ibadan. My thanks are due to all these institutions, together with Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, for a period of study-leave during which much of the thesis was written and the present study planned.
Anyone studying the Yoruba is bound to be most strongly affected by the areas in which they work first. For this reason, the towns of Igbeti, Ogbomoso and Igboho loom large in the following pages. l owe a particular debt of gratitude to the following: in Igbeti: Alhaji Buremo Pakoyi, Alhaji Abdulai Akorede, Rev. and Mrs O. Sherrick, Omotayo Sangotowo, 'Dayo Ayinla, Sunday Aderohunmu and Emmanuel Adegun; in Ogbomoso: Yekini Yusuf, Moses Iyanda, Bamidele Adeleru and Dr and Mrs Whirley; and in Igboho: James Adegbola, Joshua Afolabi and Jimoh Balogun. My earliest involvement with the people of these towns was through the Yoruba community in northern Ghana, where I would like to thank Ganiyu Gbadamasi, Joseph Olugboye, Razaki Buremo and Lasisi Lawal.
Other debts have accumulated during the writing. Jack Goody supervised the thesis and some of his influence may have spilled over into the present work. Elizabeth Wetton and Sue Allen-Mills of Cambridge University Press have continued to send encouraging letters, despite my endless doubts, revisions and procrastination. But the major debt is to my wife Carla, and the kids, who made it all worth while. They will be as surprised to see the book finished as I am.
Canterbury, September 1978
Notes on orthography, place names and currency
The standard Yoruba alphabet is too well established to be ignored. It includes the letters e, o and s. E and o correspond to the open vowel sounds in 'bet' and 'hot' respectively. S is pronounced 'sh' in some areas, though many Oyo-dialect speakers make no distinction between s and s. Tones have not been marked.
Yoruba orthography rather than the conventional spelling bequeathed by the British has been adopted for place names. Thus I have used 'Igbeti' instead of 'Igbetti', 'Ogbomoso' instead of 'Ogbomosho', 'Ofa' instead of 'Offa', etc.
Before 1972, Nigeria used the old British system of pounds, shillings and pence. Until the British devaluation of 1967, N£1 = £1 sterling. In 1972, a decimal system was introduced, in which ten shillings became one naira (N1), divided into 100 kobo. At the time of writing, N1.00 = (approx.) £0.80 sterling.
The Yoruba homeland is in the south-western part of Nigeria including virtually the whole of Lagos, Ogun, Ondo and Oyo States, and the southeastem parts of Kwara State. In the north-west it extends across the Benin Republic (fommerly the Republic of Dahomey) into central Togo. The main neighbours of the Yoruba are the Edo, Igbo, Igbira and Igala to the east, the Nupe and Bariba to the north, and the Fon, Mahi, Egun, and other Ewe-speaking groups to the west.
This area extends on average about 300 km in from the coast, and contains a number of distinct ecological zones. On the coast itself, covering much of Lagos State and the southern parts of Ogun and Ondo States, is an area of creeks and mangrove forest, which widens to the east where it merges with the river system of the Niger delta. Here, Yoruba-speaking communities are interspersed with Ewe-speaking groups to the west of Lagos, and with Ijo- and Edo-speaking groups along the Bendel State border (Oke, 1972). Fishing rather than agriculture is the main occupation in many of these areas. In the pre-colonial period, towns like Porto Novo, Badagry and Lagos were important ports for the Atlantic trade, and control of the trade routes into the interior was a major issue in the politics of the Yoruba kingdoms. Lagos, the present Nigerian capital, was occupied by the British in 1851. It is by far the largest city in Nigeria, as well as its major port and industrial centre, a fact which has profoundly influenced the development of the Yoruba hinterland.
North of the coastal strip lies the forest, narrow in the west, but wider in the east where it extends as far north as Iwo and Osogbo. A belt of dense rain forest extends through southern Ondo State into Bendel State to the east. The rainfall here is heavy, over 1500 mm a year, and the soils are generally poor. The population density is low. North-west of this is a belt of deciduous forest extending from Abeokuta in the west to Ondo and Owo in the east. Here, rich loamy soils and moderate rainfall, 1150-1500 mm a year, provide excellent conditions for agriculture, and produce the bulk of Nigeria's output of cocoa. In the forest, the rains last from March to late October or early November, though they ease off in July or August. The dry season lasts from November to March.
Further north again, the rainfall decreases to below 1150 mm a year, and the forest shades off into derived savanna, and eventually into Guinea savanna in the north-west. The climate is less humid, while the rains start later and finish earlier. In the dry season, between December and February, the harmattan blows from the north, bringing with it a fine haze of dust and lower temperatures. There is then a period of intense heat in March and April before the onset of regular rain. This is a country of undulating hills and orchard bush. Granatic outcrops jut, often dramatically, from the surrounding countryside and the terrain becomes steadily hillier towards Ekiti and Akoko in the east. In the present century economic development in the savanna has been slower than in the forest. Per capita incomes are lower than further south, and rates of outmigration are generally higher. In the absence of tree crops like cocoa, the savanna farmers produce staple foodstuffs for the markets of the cocoa areas and the large towns.
Estimates of population in Nigeria are always problematic because of the political and administrative difficulties into which those conducting successive censuses have run. According to Okonjo, the 1962 population of the area corresponding to Lagos, Ogun, Ondo and Oyo States, together with the Yoruba-speaking areas of Kwara State, was 9.5 million (Okonjo, 1968). Assuming an annual growth rate of 2.8 per cent, the 1977 population of the same area would have been 14.4 million. According to figures released for the abortive 1973 census, the population of the Western State (i.e. Ogun, Oyo and Ondo States combined) stood at 8.9 million, that of Lagos State at 2.5 million, and that of Kwara State at 4.6 million. The population of Yoruba subgroups in the Benin and Togo Republics, according to Igue and Yai (1973) is approximately 400,000. The Nigerian figures ignore members of other ethnic groups living in Yorubaland, as well as Yoruba migrants living outside, but a figure of 15 million for the Yoruba people as a whole is probably of the right order of magnitude (Tables 1, 2).
The population density varies considerably, the 1962 estimates ranging from 14 per sq. km in Kabba Division of Kwara State and 34 per sq. km in Oyo Division of Oyo State, to 245 per sq. km in Osun Division of Oyo State. The greatest densities are found in areas on the northern fringes of the forest to which refugees fled during the l9th-century wars, particularly in Ibadan and Osun Divisions. Conversely, the savanna to the north-west of Oyo was formerly much more densely populated than it is now, and it is dotted with the sites of abandoned settlements (Babayemi,1971).
The unity of this area is linguistic and cultural rather than political. In the pre-colonial period it was divided into numerous independent political units of varying size. Across the centre of Yorubaland a number of powerful centralised states developed: Sabe, Ketu, Owu, Ijebu, Oyo, Ife, Ijesa, Ondo and Owo. In other areas such as Egba, Akoko, Kabba, Ikale and Ilaje, political units remained much smaller. Many areas at some point came under the influence or control of Oyo or Benin, or, in the 19th century, of Ibadan, Ilorin or Abeokuta, but the whole area has never formed a single political unit.
Indeed, the use of the word 'Yoruba' to refer to the whole area is surprisingly recent, dating only from the middle of the 19th century when it was introduced by missionaries and linguists (Law, 1977: 5). It is derived from the Hausa word for the Oyo Yoruba, and they are still sometimes called the 'Yoruba proper' to distinguish them from the other major subgroups. Yoruba-speaking groups in the Benin and Togo republics refer to themselves as 'Ife,' rather than as 'Yoruba' (Igue and Yai, 1973). Individual Yoruba identify with a particular town or area for most purposes, and a 'Yoruba' identity is only important in situations involving members of other ethnic categories such as 'Tiv', 'Hausa', or 'Nupe'.
The justification for treating the area as a unit is therefore based on linguistic and cultural similarities. Many features of social and political organisation are widely shared, and the oba or rulers of most of the large kingdoms claim that their dynasties originated either directly or indirectly >from Ife. The peoples in this area also speak closely related, and, for the most part, mutually intelligible dialects.
Yoruba belongs to the Kwa group of West African languages and is related to Igala, Igbo, Edo, Igbira, Idoma and Nupe among others. Each of these languages is spoken in an area which is roughly wedge-shaped, with the thin end of the wedge in each case pointing to the Niger-Benue confluence (Obayemi, 1976). The glotto-chronological evidence, which has to be treated with caution, suggests that these languages separated between 2000 and 10,000 years ago (Armstrong, 1964). The many local dialects of Yoruba form three main families: North-West Yoruba, spoken in the Oyo, Ogun, Ibadan and northern Egba areas; South-East Yoruba, spoken in the Ondo, Owo, Ikale, and Ijebu areas; and Central Yoruba spoken in Ife, Ijesa and Ekiti (Adetugbo, 1973). The most marked difference is between the North-West and South-East dialect groups. Central Yoruba has features in common with both.
The degree of cultural and linguistic uniformity is increasing. In part this is due to a common historical experience, together with increasing social and geographical mobility. In part it is due to the development of a 'standard Yoruba' dialect. This was based on the Oyo dialect, but has become a lingua franca, used in education and by the media.
On top of these political and cultural divisions the colonial powers imposed their own administrative structure which has undergone several modifications. Nigeria was initially divided into provinces which were subdivided into divisions and districts. In addition to the Lagos Colony, four provinces in Southern Nigeria had predominantly Yoruba populations: Abeokuta, Ijebu, Ondo and Oyo. In Northern Nigeria there were substantial Yoruba-speaking populations in Ilorin and Kabba Provinces. In 1934, Oyo Province was split up, and Ibadan Province created.
In 1951, the country was divided into three regions. The Western Region now included the Yoruba provinces, together with the Lagos Colony, and Benin and Delta Provinces to the east. In 1962, Benin and Delta were detached to form the Mid-Western Region. In 1967 Nigeria was divided into twelve states. The Western Region survived intact as the Western State, apart from the loss of the former Lagos Colony, which now became Lagos State. (The city of Lagos itself had been given a separate status as a federal territory in 1954). Ilorin and Kabba were united to form Kwara State. Finally in 1976 the Western State itself was divided into three new states: Ogun, Ondo and Oyo. The new state boundaries roughly correspond to those of the provinces prior to 1934, the major difference being that the former Abeokuta and Ijebu Provinces are now merged in a single state.
The next section discusses the major cultural and political divisions in each of the new states and in the neighbouring countries of Benin and Togo. For convenience I have adopted the conventional approach of differentiating between Yoruba 'subgroups' on the basis of cultural and political criteria, though there are considerable problems in this. Firstly the cultural and political map of Yorubaland was extremely fluid in the precolonial period, and particularly during the l9th century when some of the oldest Yoruba kingdoms were destroyed and their inhabitants dispersed. Secondly, the administrative boundaries of the colonial and postcolonial periods, which have themselves been changed a number of times, often cut across these cultural and political divisions. Thirdly, the perception of cultural distinctiveness is often more of a function of current politics and competition for scarce resources than of objective cultural and dialectical differences. Since the start of the colonial period one Yoruba area after another has demanded greater administrative autonomy or boundary adjustments, supporting its claims with reference to myths of origin, historical events or cultural differences.
Of the three states created in 1976, Oyo State is the largest, both in area and population. It is also the most homogeneous in dialect and culture. Most of it either formed part of the Oyo kingdom or was settled by Oyo refugees in the 19th century. Within it, four subgroups can be distinguished: Ife, Oyo, Ijesa and Igbomina.
Ife and Oyo occupy a central position in Yoruba history, Ife, as the mythical home of the Yoruba, and Oyo as the most powerful kingdom until the early 19th century. The major Yoruba rulers, together with the Oba of Benin, trace their descent from Oduduwa, the mythical founder of Ife. In some versions of the myth he created the world at Ile-Ife: in others he arrived from outside. The sons (or grandsons) of Oduduwa are said to have dispersed to found the other kingdoms, though how many sons there were and which kingdoms they founded vary from version to version.
With the growth of the Oyo and Benin empires, Ife's power declined, although it retained some of its ritual importance. The relics of the rulers of Benin were taken to Ife, for burial until the late 19th century, and the Oyo sword of state had to be reconsecrated at Ife before the accession of a new Oyo ruler. In the 19th century many of the Ife towns were destroyed and parts of its territory were taken over by Ijesa and Ibadan (Bascom, 1969a: 30). The capital was sacked twice by Oyo settlers at Modakeke, and conflict between the two settlements continued in one guise or another well into the colonial period (Oyediran,1974).
The ruler of Oyo, the Alafin, traces descent from Oranyan, the youngest son of Oduduwa according to the myths, though the original rulers were probably replaced by Nupe and Bariba dynasties later on (Law,1977: 33). Oyo became the most powerful of the Yoruba states, and some versions of early Yoruba history have clearly been revised to reflect this. Johnson's account, for instance, presents the Alafin rather than the Ifq ruler, the Oni, as the legitimate heir of Oduduwa and, by implication, the most senior of the Yoruba rulers (Johnson, 1921: 8-12, 16; cf. Law, 1973b).
The heartland of the Oyo empire was in the savanna, but in the l9th century wars many of its people fled to the south and east, founding new towns like Ibadan or Ijaye or increasing the populations of the existing ones. Oyo-Ile, the capital, was abandoned and the present town of Oyo was established 120 km to the south. The area south of this, including the site of Ibadan, was previously occupied by the Egba, and after 1840 Ibadan started to carve out an empire of its own, extending from Ibarapa through areas of the present Osun and Ijesa Divisions, to Ekiti in the east. The rulers of towns like Ibadan, Osogbo and Ogbomoso who previously recognised the Alafin's suzerainty, now claim equality with him, symbolised by the right to wear the ade or beaded crown (Asiwaju, 1976b).
The peoples of Ibadan and areas previously under Oyo control speak very similar dialects, though there are slight regional variations. For instance, the Ibarapa towns to the west of Ibadan, including Eruwa and Igbo-Ora, and the Igbolo towns of Osun Division, including Ede, Ejigbo, Ikirun, Oyan and Osogbo, have an identity of their own.
To the north of Ife lie Ijesa and the Igbomina kingdom of Ila. The rulers of both towns, the Owa of Ilesa and the Orangun of Ila, like the Alafin of Oyo, trace their descent from Oduduwa. The other Igbomina towns lie to the north, in Kwara State. Many of them came under Oyo control before the 19th century, but Ila remained independent. Ijesa also had early links with Oyo, but it came under Benin influence in the 16th century (Law, 1977: 127-9). Osogbo was originally an Ijesa frontier town, facing the Oyo outpost of Ede. In the l9th century O>ogbo received a large influx of Oyo refugees and came under Ibadan control. Ilesa itself was captured by Ibadan forces in 1870, and the Ijesa were allied with the Ekiti in the war against Ibadan after 1878.
Economic development in Oyo State is uneven. The south-eastern part which lies within the cocoa belt is more prosperous than the savanna, and Ibadan and Osogbo are the major administrative and commercial centres. Most of the other large towns suffer from economic stagnation and high rates of outmigration, and in the more densely populated areas there is pressure on land. The population is predominantly Muslim, apart from Ife where Christianity and Islam are roughly equal in strength, and Ijesa where Christianity is stronger. With the exception of Ijesa, rates of education are generally low compared with Lagos, Ondo and Ogun States.
The border established by the British between Northern and Southern Nigeria at the start of the colonial period cut across several cultural boundaries. Kwara State contains Ilorin, which is culturally similar to Oyo, the northern Igbolo town of Ofa, the northern Igbomina towns including Ajase, and Omu-Aran, the northern Ekiti town of Obo, and a number of smaller Yoruba subgroups in Kabba Province.
Ilorin, the state capital, was once an Oyo provincial town. At the end of the 18th century it broke away, and in the 1820s it came under the control of Fulani rulers. Like the other Fulani emirates of the Sokoto empire it became part of Northern Nigeria, though it has much in common with its Yoruba neighbours. Its political system was probably closer to the Yoruba than to the Hausa-Fulani model. In the 1950s there was some agitation for union with the other Yoruba in the Western Region (Whitaker, 1967; Sklar, 1963: 351-5) but this had no success.
In the l9th century Ilorin influence extended eastwards into the present Oyun and Igbomina-Ekiti Divisions. The archaeological evidence suggests an impressive early history for this area (Obayemi, 1976: 231), though much of it came under Oyo control in the 16th century and was fought over by Ibadan and Ilorin in the 19th. Ofa was captured by Ilorin in 1887, and was administered as part of the Ilorin emirate in the colonial period.
Further east in Kabba Province lie the Yagba, Ikiri, Abinu, Igbede and Ijumu subgroups (Obayemi,1976: 198). These are usually referred to collectively as the Kabba Yoruba, though the name properly applies only to a single section of the Owe state in the Ijumu area, located around Kabba town itself. This is an area in which hereditary kinship and large centralised polities did not develop (Lloyd,1954; Krapf-Askari, 1965; 1966). Among the Owe the three senior titles rotated among three territorial sections, each in turn divided into exogamous clans based on patrilineal name-groups. In practice the most senior title was held by a single clan in the Kabba section from the 19th century until 1957. Its members persuaded the Fulani and the British that the office was hereditary. In the 19th century this whole area suffered from raids by the Nupe and Fulani. The Fulani and British made Kabba their headquarters, and the name was given to the whole province.
Of the two world religions, Islam is strongest in the west of Kwara State, and Christianity in the east. The population of Ilorin itself is almost entirely Muslim. Though rates of education are lower than in the four states to the south, they are still higher than almost anywhere else in the former Northern Region of Nigeria, and educated Yoruba from these areas are found in large numbers throughout the other northern states.
Benin has been a major influence on the Yoruba subgroups in Ondo State. It established control over Owo, Akure and Ondo in the late 15th century, and by the late 17th century its influence extended to northern Ekiti and Ijesa. Here it came into conflict with Oyo which was making a determined effort to establish its own control over the eastern Yoruba kingdoms. The boundary between the two empires was fixed at Otun (Law, 1977: 129- 31). Benin's main vassal was Akure, though Benin left its Yoruba subjects a good deal of autonomy. Its control over some areas of Ekiti was particularly loose, though it was able to reassert its influence here in the early l9th century (Akintoye, 1971: 27 8; Bradbury, 1973: 49).
In the extreme south of the state, in Okitipupa Division, are the Ikale and Ilaje areas. This is an area of creeks and rain forest. Political centralisation did not develop very far, and in the pre-colonial period there were numerous small independent states. In the colonial period their rulers were in competition for recognition by the British. In Ilaje, for instance, the main conflict was between the Olugbo of Ugbo and the Ampetu of Mahin, both of whom claim an Ife origin, and both of whom claim prior arrival in the area (Barrett, 1977: 15-16). A similar pattern of decentralisation existed in the hilly Akoko area to the north of Owo, in the north-east of the state.
In the central part of the state are the larger kingdoms of Ondo and Owo, in both of which a ruling dynasty succeeded in extending its authority over surrounding settlements (Obayemi, 1976: 224-8). Benin influence is strong in the political systems of both. In Ondo the names of many of the senior titles are similar to those of titles in Benin. The descent group of one of the senior chiefs, the Jomu, originated from Benin, and it is possible that that of the ruler, the Osemawe, did as well. The Ondo traditions trace its descent from a daughter of Oduduwa, one of a pair of twins driven out of Ife with their mother. The ruler of Epe, a small town to the north of the capital, traces descent from the male twin, and the ritual seniority of Epe is still acknowledged in the f)semawe's accession rites. As Ondo expanded it established control over a number of neighbouring settlements, ruled by the Oloja. The process of absorption was not entirely completed, and conflict between the oba and the oloja over their respective rights continues until the present (Lloyd, 1962: 110-11). Centralised states developed through a similar process in the neighbouring Ile Oluji and Idanre areas.
The social organisation of Ondo differs in several ways from that of most other Yoruba kingdoms. Chiefships are vested mainly in title associations rather than descent groups, and there are also differences in residence and landtenure patterns.
Benin cultural influence is, if anything, even stronger in Owo. It is in the extreme east of Yorubaland, bordering on Benin, and at its height it controlled an area extending northwards through Akoko to Kabba. Its former strength is reflected in the palace of its ruler, the Olowo, which is the largest in any Yoruba kingdom (Ojo,1966a: 38-42). The process by which the kingdom was established appears to have been similar to that in Ondo (Obayemi, 1976: 227). An incoming dynasty, possibly from the Idanre area, gradually extended its control over small states with political systems similar to those among the Kabba Yoruba to the north.
Bordering on Ondo and Owo are the Ekiti kingdoms. There are nearly twenty of these. They remained independent of each other in the precolonial period, but they maintained close relations, involving trade and dynastic marriages (Akintoye, 1971: 23 4). The most senior ruler was the Ore of Otun, but the largest kingdoms were Ado, Ikere and Akure. Akure was the area of Ekiti most closely controlled by Benin. In the colonial period it became the administrative centre for Ondo Province, and is now the Ondo State capital.
After 1854, Ibadan destroyed many of the Ekiti towns, and those that survived were placed under the control of Ibadan administrators. The unpopularity of Ibadan rule led to a rebellion in 1876, followed by a long war into which most of the other large Yoruba states were drawn. At the start of the colonial period, two of the most northerly towns, Obo and Otun, were included in Northern Nigeria, but after some agitation the border was redrawn and Otun was included in the south (Akintoye, 1970).
Ondo State includes some of the most prosperous Yoruba areas. The cocoa industry spread to Ondo and Owo in the 1930s and to Ekiti in the 1950s. The availability of land attracted migrant farmers from further west. The population is predominantly Christian, and rates of education are among the highest in the country.
Ogun State and the westem Yoruba
Politically and culturally, Ogun State can be divided into three: Ijebu in the east, Egba in the centre, and Egbado in the west.
Ijebu is one of the oldest of the Yoruba kingdoms. The capital Ijebu Ode lies in the east, Its ruler, the Awujale, claimed authority over the whole kingdom, though Ijebu Igbo to the north and the Remo towns to the west have often asserted their autonomy. The main Remo town is Sagamu, founded in 1872 when a number of smaller settlements came together for defence. As a result there are four crowned rulers in the town, the most senior of them being the Akarigbo. Since 1937 Remo has formed a separate administrative division.
Ijebu is divided by an escarpment running north of the capital (Lloyd, 1962: 136). To the north of this conditions are suitable for cocoa, but to the south the population density is higher and the soils are poorer. Many Ijebu have migrated to other parts of Nigeria, particularly to Lagos and Ibadan, where they have an unrivalled reputation for entrepreneurial skill (Mabogunje, 1967; Akeredolu-Ale,1973). Further south the kingdom extends to the coast. Some areas of Lagos State, around Epe, and Ikorodu, used to belong to Ijebu, but they were incorporated into the Lagos Colony in the l9th century.
The Ijebu myths of origin describe several groups of immigrants, the last of which was led by Obanta, the first Awujale. The usual claims of an Ife origin are made, though the ruling dynasty may also have come from Benin or Okitipupa (Lloyd, 1962: 139; Obayemi,1976: 223). The earliest Portuguese sources, dating from the early 16th century, describe the capital as already being a large city.
As in Ondo, the ruling dynasty in Ijebu probably extended their authority over existing small states, and there are a number of other crowned rulers in addition to the Awujale. Ijebu remained independent of both Oyo and Ibadan, and at its height it was the largest Yoruba kingdom apart from Oyo itself. During the l9th century the Ijebu benefited from the shift in the slave trade to Lagos. They acted as middlemen on the trade route between the coast and the interior, and control of towns like Ikorodu on the shortest routes between Lagos and Ibadan was bitterly contested (Phillips, 1970). The exclusion from Ijebu of outsiders aroused the hostility of European merchants and missionaries in Lagos. In 1892, the British launched an invasion (Smith, 1971b) and occupied the capital. After the end of Ijebu independence, both Christianity and Islam started to spread rapidly, along with western education.
A number of features of Ijebu social structure are unusual. The settlement pattern is more dispersed than in other areas, and the cognatic elements in the kinship system more pronounced.
To the west of the Ijqbu lie the Egba, and their largest town, Abeokuta, is now the Ogun State capital. Until the 19th century, Egbaland extended far beyond the present boundaries of Egba Division, to the present town of Oyo in the north-east. This area contained a large number of small towns which formed three loose confederations, each under a crowned ruler: Egba Alake under the Alake to the south and west; Egba Oke Ona under the owsle to the south; and Egba Agura under the Gbagura to the north-east. The Alake was the most senior of the three rulers, though the degree of political centralisation was not very great. Effective control in many towns lay with the senior officials of the Ogboni cult.
This lack of centralised authority probably made it easier for Oyo to establish control over Egba, perhaps from the second half of the 17th century onwards (Law, 1977: 138). The Alafn either appointed resident administrators or sent his messengers to collect revenue. In a revolt at the end of the 18th century 600 of these officials are said to have been killed. Egba unity and independence were short-lived, and most of the Egba towns were destroyed in the 1820s in the aftermath of the Owu war. The survivors regrouped at Abeokuta in the south-west of Egbaland, under the leadership of a man called Sodeke (Biobaku,1957).
The groups of refugees from each of the old towns retained their own identity and political leadership in Abqokuta. They spoke different dialects and remained largely endogamous (Lloyd, 1962: 231). Eventually there were four crowned rulers in Abqokuta, representing the three major groups of Egba and the Owu who had joined them. But throughout the l9th century it was coalitions of war leaders, Ogboni officials and the chiefs of the trading associations who held real power. It was only during the colonial period that the authority of the Alake was consolidated.
Abeokuta was the first Yoruba town to receive missionaries, in the 1840s. In 1850 the population had perhaps reached 100,000, including 2000 Saro - emancipated slaves of Yoruba origin who had returned from Sierra Leone. Many of the Saro were educated, and under their leadership there were attempts to modernise the administration, first in the 1860s and again after 1898 (PallinderLaw, 1974). Education was first introduced in the 1850s, and Egba produced many of the first generation of Yoruba literates. There were innovations in land tenure, and sales of land had become common by the 1880s. The cultivation of cocoa spread rapidly at the end of the century. Despite its early start in Abeokuta, Christianity was not as successful as in Ondo or Ekiti. Islam had already reached Abeokuta, which developed a reputation as a centre of Islamic learning. In the kingdom as a whole, the two world religions are now roughly equal in strength.
To the west of Egba and Oyo are a number of other subgroups, extending over the border into the Benin and Togo Republics. They fall into three groups: the larger kingdoms of Sabe and Ketu; the Egbado, Ohori, Ifonyin and Awori to the south; and the Idaisa, Isa, Ifq and Manigiri to the northwest. According to Igue and Yai (1973) Yoruba settlement of this area took place in three phases. In the first, a number of kingdoms were founded which claimed an Ife origin. Of these only Ketu and Sabe survive. Others like Ifita and Iloji were destroyed during, or even before, the 19th century. The second phase consisted of colonisation by Oyo, Ketu, Egba and Awori migrants from the 18th century onwards, particularly in the Egbado and Ifonyin areas. In the third, the destruction of some of the older states led to a diaspora and the formation of the more isolated groups to the northwest.
Though they now lie mainly outside Nigeria, Ketu and Sabe share historical links with both Oyo and Egba. Ketu is now divided in half by the border. It is one of the older Yoruba kingdoms, and according to Asiwaju (1976b: 14-15) its foundation involved the expulsion or incorporation of an existing Fon population. There are still Fon villages near the capital. The relationship which developed between Oyo and Ketu is still unclear. According to Oyo sources, Ketu was a subject kingdom: according to Ketu sources it remained independent (Law, 1977: 141-2). Certainly relations between the two were friendly, with exchanges of gifts. Ketu control extended to neighbouring subgroups, and some of the Ohori and Egbado settlements claim a Ketu foundation.
In the 18th and 19th centuries, Ketu was attacked by Dahomey. It was finally destroyed, and its population deported, in 1886. The capital was resettled after the defeat of Dahomey by the French in 1892, but by then a boundary had been agreed between the French and the British. Areas under Dahomey control at the time passed to the French. The town of Meko in Nigeria had previously been part of the Ketu kingdom, but after 1868 it gave allegiance to the Alafin of Oyo. In the colonial period, the powers of the Alaketu were curtailed to a much greater extent than those of the Onimeko. The harsher taxation and administration on the French side of the border led to the widespread emigration of entire villages into Nigeria. This happened not only in Ketu, but also in the Sabe, Ifonyin and Ohori areas (Asiwaju, 1976b: 141-7). The British did little to stem the flow.
The Sabe kingdom lies almost entirely within the Benin Republic, though there are a few Sabe settlements in the Wasinmi area of Nigeria (Igue and Yai, 1973: 6). It formerly extended further to the east, and at its height the capital alone had a population of 80,000 (Asiwaju, 1973). Like Oyo, it extends into the drier Guinea savanna: in Johnson's account of the origins of the Yoruba kingdoms, the Onisabe was the grandson who inherited Oduduwa's cattle (1921: 8). It claims an Ife origin, though the original ruling dynasty was replaced by migrants from the north, the omo Baba Gidai. They are usually said to have been of Bariba origin, though Igue and Yai (1973: 18) argue that they were Yoruba. All the same, Bariba cultural influence on Sabe has been strong.
In the l9th century, Sabe was attacked by both Dahomey and Ijaye. It became a subject kingdom of Dahomey in 1884, and avoided the fate of Ketu. In Sabe, as in Ketu, the French administration greatly weakened the power of the traditional rulers. The Onisabe was exiled from 1902 to 1913, and the office was officially abolished in 1933, a state of affairs which lasted for twenty years.
South of Ketu, and to the south and west of Egba, lie four other subgroups: the Egbado, Ohori, Awori and Ifonyin. Much of this area came under Oyo control in the 18th century because of its strategic importance on the trade route to the coast. In the l9th century it formed a buffer zone between Egba and Dahomey, and because of their vulnerability some towns welcomed the arrival of colonial rule (Folayan, 1974). Like Ketu, the Ohori and Ifonyin areas are divided by the Nigeria/Benin border. In some accounts, an 'Anago' subgroup is listed as well (e.g. Asiwaju, 1976b: 18-19), though the area which it is said to occupy largely overlaps with that of Ifonyin. In others, 'Anago' and 'Ifonyin' appear to be synonymous, while according to Igue and Yai (1973) 'Anago' refers to the entire Ohori-Ifonyin-Awori area. In the French literature, 'Anago', 'Nago' or 'Nagot' are frequently used as generic terms for all Yoruba-speaking groups, whether in Togo and Benin or further afield. In dialect, the E,gbado are close to Oyo, and the Ohori to Sabe and Ketu. The Awori and Ifonyin dialects are also closely related.
The Egbado towns lie entirely within Nigeria, in the eastern half of Egbado Division. The oldest of them, including Ilobi, were founded from Ketu. Others like Ilaro and Ijanna were founded by Oyo in the 18th century to secure the trade routes. Early rulers of Ilaro, the Olu, included sons of the Alafin, and were appointed for three years at a time. Later, Oyo control was tightened even further with the appointment of the Onisare of Ijanna, a slave of the Alafin, as the effective governor of Egbado. With the collapse of Oyo power, encroachment by Egba and Dahomey began, and the Egba destroyed Ilaro and Iganna in the 1830s. The main settlements of the Awori extend into Lagos State, and include Ado, Igbesa and Ota. Some of the towns claim early links with Benin. In the early l9th century, the Awori played an important role in trade, controlling the routes to Lagos and Badagry (Agiri, 1974), though this was threatened by the growth of Egba in the north. Ota was destroyed by the Egba in 1841, and the majority of the people in the Ota area are now Egba settlers.
To the west of the Awori lie the Ewe-speaking Egun and the town of Porto Novo, once an Oyo tributary. The population of Porto Novo contains a substantial Yoruba-speaking minority, the Ajase, who are nearly all Muslim and who speak Oyo Yoruba (Igue and Yai,1973). Many others in the town are bilingual, and intermarriage between the various ethnic groups appears to be common. According to Parrinder, this was once a Yoruba settlement before the arrival of the Egun (1947: 124), but the present Yoruba population is descended >from Yoruba who settled there in the 18th and l9th centuries.
The towns in the Ifonyin area have a varied origin. Ipokia and Itakete were apparently both founded by Awori from the south east. Others like Ifonyin and Ihunmbo were founded from Oyo, perhaps around 1700 (MortonWilliams, 1964b: 31), to secure the route to Porto Novo. Ifonyin, like Ketu, was divided by the border, and provided problems for the French colonial administration. There was an uprising in Itakete in 1905, the result of grievances which included forced labour, taxation and the excesses of the police. In Ifonyin there was dissatisfaction with chiefs installed by the French. A large number of people moved across the border, and Ifonyintedo in Nigeria is now larger than the parent town of Ifonyin (Asiwaju,1976b: 143- 4).
Also divided by the border are the Ohori, one of the most isolated of all the Yoruba subgroups. Most of them are located in a marshy depression between Ketu and Ifonyin. The Ohori of Ipobe and Ije claim an Oyo origin. Others claim to have come from Ketu (Asiwaju, 1976b: 16). The area provided a refuge for a variety of groups from the 18th century onwards (Igue, 1976: 93). Some of these were never assimilated into the Ohori kingdoms. In 1914 there was a full-scale rebellion against French rule (Asiwaju, 1974). Ohori-lje was completely destroyed. Many of the Ohori fled into Nigeria, and those that remained behind have since lived in dispersed settlements. The government used force in this area again as recently as 1964, after Ohori opposition to a vaccination campaign (Igue, 1976: 95).
The Yoruba subgroups further to the west, the Idaisa, Isa, Manigiri and Ife, are interspersed with peoples speaking other languages-Ewe dialects to the south and Bariba and Kotokoli to the north. In the case of the Ife, this is the result of Yoruba colonisation of an area inhabited by other groups. In the case of the Idaisa and the Isa it is the result of the break-up of older Yoruba polities. There are still small hamlets on the sites of the former capitals of Ifita and Iloji, near Dassa-Zoume and Savalou.
It may be, as Parrinder suggests, that the whole of the central Benin Republic was once inhabited by Yoruba-speaking groups called the Sa. The names Sabq, Savalou, Idaisa, Isa and Tchaouru all appear to be derived from this root (1947: 126). The present location and composition of these western groups is the result of three sets of factors: the collapse of the ancient kingdoms and the dispersal of their inhabitants; the encroachment of other ethnic groups from the south and west; and the later arrival of other Yoruba-speaking groups from further east. In the Idaisa kingdom round Dassa-Zoume, for instance, the population consists of groups originating from Ifita, Oyo, Sabe, and Ketu in addition to the Ewe-speaking Mahi (Igue and Yai, 1973: 18). The ruling dynasty originated from Egba in the 17th or 18th centuries though other titles still survive from before their arrival. Similarly, the Isa in the Bante area came from Iloji, Oyo and Pesi in Togo, while the Manigiri near Bassila left Sabe at the time of the Baba Gidai invasion. Kingship in these areas appears to be defunct, and they now consist of small autonomous villages.
The most westerly group of all, the Ife, form a number of enclaves from Djakulou in the Benin Republic to Atakpame in Togo. The majority are in Togo, where they form 40 per cent of the population of the Atakpame area. The earliest Yoruba settlers arrived from lfita in the early l9th century, and they were later joined by refugees from Idaisa and Sabe (Igue and Yai, 1973: 22).
The present boundaries of Lagos State correspond to the limits of the Lagos Colony at the end of the l9th century. The eastern areas, around Epe, were originally part of the Ijebu kingdom. The central areas are mainly occupied by Awori, while Awori and Egba are interspersed with Egun and other groups towards Badagry in the east. As much of the state lies on or close to the coastal network of lagoons and creeks, the population is often extremely mixed. This was true of Lagos itself, even before its growth as a trading port in the 18th century.
The earliest inhabitants of Lagos Island were Awori Yoruba, but by 1700 (the date is uncertain) it had become a Benin colony, and continued to pay tribute until 1830. The ruling dynasty probably originated from Benin though the myths are contradictory. The most senior chiefs, the akarigbere also claim a Benin origin. The idejo or white cap chiefs claim descent from the Yoruba iounder of the town, and are regarded as the owners of the land. Their political role increased in importance as land values rose. The main ritual officials, the ogalade chiefs, came from Benin, while the war-chiefs orabagbon have mixed origins (Cole, 1975: 16-24). In the reign of Kosoko they were the most influential chiefs in the town.
Lagos grew rapidly with the shift in the slave trade to the east in the late 18th century, and it was the slave trade which brought the British into Lagos politics. A long series of dynastic disputes culminated in the deposition of Oba Akitoye in 1845, by his nephew Kosoko, a leading slavetrader. Akitoye gained the support of the British at Badagry by the promise that he would abolish the trade in Lagos if he were reinstated. The British expelled Kosoko by force in 1851. After ten years of consular government (Smith, 1974) Lagos was annexed as a British colony and a governor appointed.
The population of the new colony included four distinct groups: the Yoruba indigenes, the Europeans, the Saro and the Amaro. The Saro were emancipated slaves from Sierra Leone, originally of Yoruba origin, while the Amaro had returned from Brazil and Cuba. The Saro were the closest to the Europeans in their level of education, Victorian life-style and occupations, though some of them did establish links with their home towns. After 1890, the growing number of Europeans in Lagos and the increasing level of racial discrimination meant that the interests of the Saro and the indigenous Lagosians increasingly coincided (Cole, 1975: 73-104).
The city of Lagos has long since spread from the island itself to the adjoining areas of the mainland. In the colonial period it became the capital for the whole country, as well as its major port. It has since become its major industrial centre as well, much of the industry being located at Ikeja to the north which is now part of the rapidly growing conurbation. Green (1974: 288-9) estimates that in the fourteen years up to 1967, 750,000 people moved to Lagos from other parts of the country. The population was then over a million, and growing at 10 per cent a year. The present population of Greater Lagos is unknown, but is certainly over two million.
The result of this expansion is that the indigenous Lagosians form an increasingly small proportion of the population - 27 per cent in 1963 (Baker, 1974: 104). Much of the city consists of elite suburbia, commercial or administrative areas and houses rented by migrants. But some parts of it still resemble Yoruba towns elsewhere, with groups of relatives clustered in the same or in adjoining houses which they own jointly. This is still true of parts of Isale Eko, the oldest and most densely populated part of Lagos Island, despite slum-clearance programmes (Marris, 1961). But because of its status and rapid growth, Lagos exerts a major influence on the social and economic life of the rest of the country, and the nature of this influence will become increasingly apparent in the following chapters.
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