WHO ARE THE YORUBAS?
There is little need to stress the student of Nigerian and African history the importance of the Yoruba people. They number millions and are found not only in their homeland of Western Nigeria. Even, throughout West Africa and as far as Brazil, Cuba and the United States of America where their culture still exerts a strong influence. This culture has produced some of the world’s masterpieces in sculpture. Notably, the bronzes and terra-cottas of Ife and have strongly influenced the art of Benin (Dike, 1964).
The ”Yorubas” are the descendants of Ham who was the third son of Noah. They are the direct ancestors of Cush, the son of Ham, and the black Cushite migrants. Also, settlers that refused to go to Africa with the other descendants of Cush and his son Nimrod. But that rather chose to settle in the ancient Cities of Mecca and Medina in what is presently known as Saudi Arabia. They were there as settlers for thousands of years. They constituted a prosperous powerful, large and respected minority within the larger Arab community.
However, they were eventually driven out of those Arab towns and communities. They were forced to leave them for refusing to give up their religious faith, their deep mysticism, and paganism and their idol worship after Islam was introduced to those places by the Prophet Mohammed in 600 AD. They then migrated to the banks of the great River Nile in Egypt. A place they intermingled with the Egyptian Arabs, the Nubians and the Sudanese of the Nile.
Many remained there, but the bulk of them eventually migrated to what is now known as the north-eastern zone of Nigeria. Once again mingled and bred with the Shuwa Arabs and the Kanuris of the Borno people. From there they eventually migrated down south to the forests and farmlands of what is now known as south-western Nigeria. Making their primary place and location of pagan worship Ile-Ife.
Ife was to the Yoruba gods what Mecca is to the Muslims. The establishment of Ife as the centre of all that is Yoruba was confirmed by Oduduwa himself when he sent his sons out from Ife to other parts of Yorubaland to establish their independent kingdoms (Fani-Kayode, 2011).
However, for the sake of convenience, we shall examine the wars fought by different Yoruba clans in the 19th century that nearly tore the Yoruba nation apart. What instigated and dragged on most of these wars were the internecine conflicts and extended slave raiding. These were the rationalizations the Europeans based their justifications on with the annexation of Yorubaland in 1893.
In the next episode, we shall look at the rise of the Oyo Empire and the events of the time when the Empire was at its apogee.