The Yoruba people are a dominant ethnic group in modern-day Nigeria. The history of the Yoruba people basically starts in the ancient and legendary city of Ile-Ife.
Mythical Origins of the Yorubas
Amongst the various controversial theories of their origin, two are the most dominant and they are:
The Dispersing Theory
This theory states that the land of Ife was originally inhabited by the Igbos. Then, Oduduwa launched a punitive raid with his armies to drive them out of Ife which was the western part of Modern Nigeria to the eastern part of Nigeria.
The theory further posits that Oduduwa then settled in the land and became the first kingship ruler Ife and after his death, his sons began dispersion to other lands. However, the veracity of this claim is not trustworthy mainly because of the lack of archaeological evidence.
Theory of Original Occupants
This theory is mostly used by the people of this culture. It is rather seen as an autochthonous claim of their origin mainly because they claim that they never dispersed from anywhere but rather, their supreme being (Obatala) fashioned the first inhabitants of the land out of clay.
Height of Oyo Empire
Oyo eventually grew into a formidable military power and prospered up to the end of the 14th century (the 1300s). Then came the dark times which devastated Oyo mainly caused by the Nupe. They sacked and crumbled Oyo to the ground. Although Oyo later overcame them and reinstated their might they had already outlived their era.
Fall of Ile-Ife
The phase of Ile-Ife before the rise of Oyo (1100-1600) is referred to as “the golden age of Ile Ife.” Eventually, Ife started declining in what made them the most popular culture which is Arts.
One of the major things which led to the fall of Ile Ife is the so-called formal education which ultimately led to the abandonment of the arts wherein artisans passed on without replacementsAd, keep reading below
The political structure of the Yorubas
In a bid to avoid the humiliation they got from the Nupes, the Yorubas decided to improve on a more centralized system of Government and so establishment some arms of government. They are:
The Alaafin: Alaafin is regarded as an all-powerful king, although he was a constitutional head.
The Oyomesi: Comprised of seven-member king makers headed by the Bashorun.
The Ogboni: Perform ritual and other spiritual functions. Also, they acted as a check on the Oyomesi
The Are Ona-Kankafo: The military leader of the Yoruba army who mostly lived at the outskirt of the town.Ad, keep reading below
Fall of Oyo
Just like every other empire before it, Oyo finally fell mainly because of internal strifes. Most of the contenders for the throne were in a cutthroat competition for the throne and ended up dismantling the basis of the Alaafin’s power.
Conclusively, the recent history of the Yorubas start with the Yoruba civil wars which devastated much of the Yoruba lands and ultimately birthed contemporary Yoruba states (the likes of Ibadan, Osogbo, Ogbomosho, etc.)
Written by Ogbemudia Peter, student, department of history and international studies, University of Benin, Edo State, Nigeria.