A brief history of the Yoruba people.

The Yoruba people are an ethnic group of southwestern and north-central Nigeria, as well as southern and central Benin. Together, these regions are known as Yorubaland. The Yoruba constitute over 60 million people in total. The majority of this population is from Nigeria, and the Yoruba make up 27% of the country's population, making them one of the largest ethnic groups in Africa.

The majority of the Yoruba speak the Yoruba language, which is tonal, and is the Niger-Congo language with the largest number of native speakers. In Nigeria, Yoruba speakers reside in the Southwest region in states such as Oyo, Ogun, Osun, Ondo, Ekiti, Lagos, Kogi and Kwara states. The Yoruba share borders with the Bariba to the northwest in Benin, the Nupe to the north and the Ebira to the northeast in central Nigeria. To the east are the Edo, Esan and the Afemai groups in mid-western Nigeria. Adjacent to the Ebira and Edo groups are the related Igala people found in the northeast, on the left bank of the Niger River. To the southwest are the Gbe speaking Mahi, Egun, Fon and Ewe who border Yoruba communities in Benin and Togo. To the southeast are Itsekiri who live in the north-west end of the Niger delta. They are ancestrally related to the Yoruba but chose to maintain a distinct cultural identity.

Significant Yoruba populations in other West African countries can be found in Ghana, Ivory Coast, Liberia and Sierra Leone. The Yoruba diaspora consists of two main groupings; one of them includes relatively recent migrants, the majority of which moved to the United Kingdom and the United States after major economic and political changes in the 1960s to 1980s; the other is a much older population dating back to the Atlantic slave trade. This older group has communities in such countries as Cuba, Dominican Republic, Saint Lucia, Jamaica, Brazil, Grenada, Trinidad and Tobago, among others.

As of 7th century BCE.

As of the 7th century BCE the African peoples who lived in Yorubaland were not initially known as the Yoruba, although they shared a common ethnicity and language group. By the 8th century, a powerful Yoruba kingdom already existed in Ile-Ife, one of the earliest in Africa.

The historical Yoruba develop in situ, out of earlier Mesolithic Volta-Niger populations, by the 1st millennium BCE. Oral history recorded under the Oyo Empire derives the Yoruba as an ethnic group from the population of the older kingdom of Ile-Ife. The Yoruba were the dominant cultural force in southern Nigeria as far back as the 11th century.

The Yoruba are among the most urbanized people in Africa. For centuries before the arrival of the British colonial administration most Yoruba already lived in well structured urban centres organized around powerful city-states (Ilu) centred around the residence of the Oba. In ancient times, most of these cities were fortresses, with high walls and gates. Yoruba cities have always been among the most populous in Africa. Archaeological findings indicate that Oyo-ile or Katunga, capital of the Yoruba empire of Oyo ( between the 11th and 19th centuries CE), had a population of over 100,000 people (the largest single population of any African settlement at that time in history). For a long time also, Ibadan, one of the major Yoruba cities, was the largest city in the whole of Sub Saharan Africa. Today, Lagos (Yoruba: Eko), another major Yoruba city, with a population of over twenty million, remains the largest on the African continent.

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

Ife continues to be seen as the "Spiritual Homeland" of the Yoruba. The city was surpassed by the Oyo Empire as the dominant Yoruba military and political power in the 17th century.

The Oyo Empire under its oba, known as the Alaafin of Oyo, was active in the African slave trade during the 18th century. The Yoruba often demanded slaves as a form of tribute of subject populations, who in turn sometimes made war on other peoples to capture the required slaves. Part of the slaves sold by the Oyo Empire entered the Atlantic slave trade.

Most of the city states were controlled by Obas (or royal sovereigns with various individual titles) and councils made up of Oloyes, recognised leaders of royal, noble and, often, even common descent, who joined them in ruling over the kingdoms through a series of guilds and cults. Different states saw differing ratios of power between the kingships and the chiefs' councils. Some, such as Oyo, had powerful, autocratic monarchs with almost total control.

Cononial thugs invaded Yorubaland.

Yoruba civilization thrived on the aforementioned structure, concepts and ideals for many years until the scramble of western European nations for African land and scarce natural resources and geo-political power over one another, of all the western powers, France had acquired and colonized vast area of the north and west of Africa. The British empire in a bid to safeguard its interests and to combat the growing influence of the French in Africa. They arrived on the shores of Yoruba land in 1851 looking to gain a foothold in the lucrative coastal Yoruba city of Eko and in ten short years Eko had become a part of the British empire, they then sought to consolidate and expand their new colony, and thus began the conquest of the Yoruba and every other ethnic group within their purview. The subjugation of the Yoruba people was in full swing, the British imperial invaders resorted to all sorts psychological manipulation tactics to dominate the people of the colony, tactics that included but were not limited to; distortion of Yoruba history, demonization of the spiritual system, destroying the image of self, eroding Yoruba culture and debasing the language. As British imperialism and influence spread across Yoruba land so did the erosion of the way of life, the introduction of radical individualism which is a by-product of capitalism to a society where collectivism was an integral part of life, ruined the fabric of Yoruba society; ubuntu "I am because we are" working in the best interest of and for the greater good of the community. The introduction of radical individualism created competition among people of once harmonious communities and made enemies of kinsmen.

By the early part of 20th century all Yoruba land and all neighboring lands and ethnic nationalities had come under British domination, they perfected a system of indirect rule of the colony by removing monarchs that refused to play by their rules and replacing them with obsequious ones that would rule under British supervision and do as they were told. The British crown did with their colony as they saw fit, they exploited their subjects and scarce resources, when the colony had expanded and had become to big and to expensive to be administered in separate parts the colonizers decided join all the parts together to form one easier to manage colonial contraption, and in 1914 an administrative colonial entity designated as Nigeria was created for more effective and efficient exploitation and plunder. Completely taking away the fundamental right of the Yoruba to self actualization and self determination, the boundaries of this new colonial entity were drawn without any consideration for the already existing natural boundaries therefore separating people of the same ethnic groups, this entity consisted and was made up of disparate and different ethnic groups that did not share the same language, history, culture, philosophies, ways of life and value systems. The Yoruba were subsumed by this colonial entity designed to strip them of their identity and replace it with a new artificial one, the disparate, multi ethnic and heterogeneous nature of the contraption meant that it required a unique form of administration one in which each group was allowed a level autonomy to manage and develop their respective regions, it was so right through to the movement of independence after the weakening of European influence in Africa as a result of which many nations got independence from their European colonizers including the entity called Nigeria in 1960.

Under the system of autonomous self rule, the Yoruba western region flourished under the astute, visionary leadership of Chief Obafemi Awolowo who was the Premier of the region he implemented a brand of democratic socialism, he introduced free primary education and free health care, established the first television service in Africa, established a highly lucrative cocoa export industry which became the mainstay of the region's economy. The prosperity of the region would attract people from the other regions and from neighboring countries. However, this was short lived because of political unrest brought about by a disgruntled section of the entity which led to military takeover of the government, cancellation of autonomous self rule and a brutal civil war all between 1966-1970. After the civil war ended the military and political elite decided to carry on with the new system of over centralized federal power, they then proceeded to write a series of decrees vesting all powers solely on the president of the contraption and made it so that any one not approved by them could not be president.

Under this new system of over centralization, the colonial entity began on a path of deterioration, as the years went by things got progressively worse, to the detriment of all the various peoples within the entity, none more so than the Yoruba. Unemployment was rife, corruption brought about by prebendalism was the order of the day, neglect and infrastructural decay was commonplace and complete developmental stagnation. It was a dire situation, out of desperation people engaged in all sorts of criminality and debauchery, this entity began to corrode the culture and way of life of the Yoruba.


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