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H I S T O RY OF T H E

Y O R U BA S
Fro m t h e E arli e s t Ti mes t o t h e B egi nn in g o f t he
B ri t i s h P ro t ec t o ra t e

T he R E V . SA M U E L JO H NSO N
Pas t o r o f n

E DI T E D BY

DR . 0 .
JO H N SO N , Lagos

C M S
. . .
( N I GE R I A) B OOK SH OP S
L A GO S
A U T H O R S P R E F A CE

W HAT led to this production was not a burning desire o f the author
to appe ar in prin t — as all w h o are well acquainted with him will
readily admit — but a purely patriotic motive that the history of ,

o u r fatherland might not be lost in oblivion especi al ly as o ur old ,

sires are fast dying out .

E ducated natives of Yoruba are well acquainted with the


history of E ngland and with that of R ome and Greece ,but of the
history of thei r own country they know nothi n g whatever This

reproach it is one of the author 5 obj ects to remove .

Whilst t h e author coul d claim t o be a pioneer in an untrodden


field he can by no means prete n d to have exhaus ted the subj ect ;
,

but he hopes by this to st imulate among h i s more favoured brethren


the spirit of patriotism and enquiry into the hi stories of the less
known parts of the country It may be that oral r ecords are
.

preserved in them which are handed down from fat her to son ,

as in the c as e of the better known R oyal bards in the Metropolis ,

such records though imperfect should surely not be under rated -


.

In the perus al of this feeble attempt the author craves the ,

forbearance of his readers ; he deprecates t h e spirit of tribal


feelings and petty j ealousies now rife among us In recor di ng .

events of what t ranspired g ood or bad failures and successes


, , ,

among the various tribes he has endeavoured to avoid whatever


,

would cause needless o f fence to anyone or irritate the feelings of ,

those Speci a lly interested in the narratives provided only that the ,

cause of truth and of public benefit be faithfully served


, .

With respect to the ancient and mytholo gical period he h as


stated the facts as they are given by the bards and with respect ,

to the History of compar atively recent dates vi z from the time ,

of King Abi odun downwards from eye wi tnesses of t he events


,
-

which they narrate or from those wh o have actually taken part


,

in them He has thus endeavo ured to present a reliable record of


.

events .

He is greatly indebted especially to the honoured D avid K ukom i ,

t h e patriarch of the Ibadan Church ( the now sainted father of ,

the R ev R S Oyeb g d e) K uko m i w as a young man in the days


. . . .

of K i ng Abi odun and it was h i s f o rt un e ( or misfortune) to take


,

part in the wars and other nation al movements of the period as


a common soldier and was thus able to give a clear and reliable
,

account of the sayi ngs persons and events of those stirring times
, , ,

being a cool man of j udgmen t observant an d remarkably , ,

in telli gent .
A U TH O R S’
P RE F A C E

Also to J osiah On i an intrepid trader in those days an active


, ,

and intelligent observer who was well acquainted with almost


every part of the country and took part in some of the most stirring
,

events of a later period .

And last though not least to his highness the venerable Lagunj u ,

the renowned Timi of Ed e so well known all over the country as a


,

gifted and trusty historian of the Yoruba Country .

And to others also who are n o t here mentioned by name .

The histories of all nations present many phases and divers


features which are brought out by various writers in the lines in
,

which each is interested the same method we hope will be pursued


by writers in this country until we become possessed of a fuller
History o i t he Yorubas .

S J O H NS ON
.
,

OY O , 1 8 97 . A fi la Og u n .
E D I TO R S P R E F A C E

A S I N G U LA R misfortune which happily is not of everyday


occurrence b ef el the or i gin al manuscripts of this history in
, ,

consequence of which the author never lived to see in print his


more than 2 0 years of labour .

The manuscripts were forwarded to a we ll known E nglish -

publisher thr ough one of the great Missionary S ocieties in 1 8 99 and


—m i r a bi le d i ct a — nothing more was he a rd of them
The editor who was all alon g in collaboration with the author
had occas ion to vi s it E ngland in 1 900 and called on the ,

publisher but could get nothing more from hi m than that the
,

manuscripts had been misplaced t hat they could not be found , ,

and that he was prep ared to pay for them This seemed to the
editor and al l his friends who heard of it s o strange that one could
not help t hi nking that there was more in it than appeared on the
surface especial ly because of other circ umstances connected with
,

the s o called loss of the manuscripts However we let the subj ect
-
.
,

rest there The author himself died in the foll owing year
.

and it has n ow f al len t o the lot of the editor to rewrite the whole
history anew from the copious notes and rough copies left behind
.
,

by the author .

B ut f o r many years after his death partly from discouragements ,

by the events and p ar t ly f r o m being appalled by the magnitude


'

of the task the e di tor shrank from the undertaking but circum
, ,

stances n o w and again cropped up showing the need of the work ,

and the necessity for undertaking it besides the almost cri m inal
disgrace of allowing the outcome of his brother s many years of ’

labour to be altogether lost N o one w h o has never made the


.
,

attempt can have the faintest idea of the great di f ficulties that
,

attend the e ff orts t o el icit facts and accuracy of statements from


an illiterate people : they are bewildering with repetitions prolix ,

in matters irrelevant while facts germane to the subj ect in hand


,

are more often than not pas sed over they have to be drawn out
by degrees patiently and the chaf f has t o be constantly sifted from
,

the wheat In no sphere of labour is patience and perseverance


.

m ore required than in this I t shows strongly the magnitude of


.

the labours of the original author labours undert aken along wi th ,

the unremitting performance of his substantive duties .

When a ll t h is had to be done with the daily exactions of a bus y


profession and other demands on his time friends wi ll j udge the
, ,

editor leni ently for having taken such a long time t o repair the loss
sustained many years ago S ome chapters had to be rewritten
.
,
x E D ITO R ’s P RE F ACE

some c urtailed ot hers ampli fied a nd new ones added where


, ,

necess ary.

B ut this history has a history of its o wn for apart from the ,

mishap that b ef el t h e origin al manuscripts as above det ai le d its ,

vicissitudes w ere n ot yet over When at las t the task of t e writing


.
-

it was com plete d i t w as forwarded to E n gland by the Appam


,

,

which left Lagos on t he 2 n d of J an uary 1 9 1 6 Th e App am was


, .

at fir st supposed t o be lost b ut was afterwards found i n America


, ,

having been cap t ured by the raider Mo ewe Nothin g w as heard .

of the manuscr ip t s a g ai n f or nearly t wo years when they were at


last delivered t o the pri n t ers B y that time paper h a d becom e
so clear i n E ngland t hat i t was deeme d advisable to wai t till after
the Wa r before printing The m anuscripts w ere next sent bac k by
.

request t o the editor who i n or der to obviate a fut ure l oss under
w
, ,

took to have i t type ritten but i n the meant ime even t ypewriting
m
,

paper beca e di ffic ult t o obtain All these dr awbacks were success
.

ful ly overc om e in the en d as well as the d ifficulties i n p as sin g the


,

work through the press .

He n ow l ets the b ook g o forth to the public in the, hope that i t ,

will ful fil the earne st desire of the orig in al author .

0 . J OH NS ON ,
Ajag be Og un .
C ONTE NTS

PA RT I
TH E PE OPLE C O U N T R Y A ND
, , LA N G U AG E .

I N T RO DU CTI O N . x ix
T HE Y O RU BA L A N G U AG E .

A SK E T C H o r Y O RU BA GR A M M A R xx xi i i

CHAPTE R I
O R IGI N A N D E A R L Y H I ST O R Y

CHAPTE R I I
THE O RI GI N or TE E T R mE S

CHAPTE R I I I
RE LIGI O N

CHAPTE R I V
GO VE RN M E N T

CHAPTE R V
Y O RU BA NAM E S

CHA PTE R V I
Y O RU BA TO W N S A N D VILL AG E S

CHAPTE R V I I
THE PRI N C IPLE S or LA N D LA w

CHAPTE R
A N D CUST O M S
Social poli ty
F acial marks
D iet
D ress
Marr ia ge
Trades and profession s
Lea rnin g .

Wealthy Personages
The I w gf a sys tem
Distrainin g for debt
War
F unerals
xi i C O N TE N TS
PA RT I I
F I RS T PE R I OD
MYTH O LO GICAL K I N G S A ND D E I F I E D H E ROE S
CHAPTE R I —T H E FO UND E RS O F T H E YO RU BA NATI O N
.

O d u d uw a
Qr a fiya n
Aj uan alias Aj aka
S ango alias Ol u fir a n
A ja ka s second reign

S E C O ND P E R I OD
G ROWTH P R O S PE R ITY A ND O PP R E SS I ON
,

CHAPTE R I I — H I S T O R ICAL K I N G S .

§1 . A ga n ju
§2 . Kori
§3 . Olu a so
§4 . On i g b o g i .

§5 . O fin r an

CHAPTE R I I I .
-
T 11 E K I N GS OF QY Q I GB O H O
§1 E g ug i i oju
'

§2 .
Qr o m p g t g
§3 . A ji b o yed e

§4 A b i p a or O b a m Q I O
'

CH A P TE R I V — A S U CC E SS I O N . or D E S PO TIC K I N G S
§1 .
Ob a l okun Agana E rin
A ja g o o
'

§2 .

§3 . Od ar a w u
§4 . K ar an
§5 J a yi t }
§6 . A yi b i
§7 .
Qsi fiya g o
§8 . Oji gi
§9 . Gberu
§1 0 . A m un i w a i ye
§1 1 . On i si le

CHAPTE R V .
—B A S O R U N GA n A A N D H I S AT R O CITI E S A N D

A B I QD U N S PE AC E FU L RE IG N
§1 . Labisi
§2 . A w g n b i oju al i a s O d u b o ye
§3 . A g b ol u a je
§4 . Alaj e ogbe
§5 . Abi odun alias A d eg ol u

§6 . A b i g d un s peaceful reign
C O N TE N T S
THI RD P E R I OD
R E VO L UTI O N A R Y WA RS A ND D I S RU PTI ON
CHAPTE R VI T H E R E VO L U TI O N
.
-

A g l e s urnamed A rog a n g a n

The King s enemies
The rebellion of the Oy o Chiefs

j
The risin g of O o A g unb a m b ar u
Maku

CHAPTE R V I I — T H E RI S E O F T HE F U LA N I S To P O W E R
§1 . The spread of anarchy and fall of Afonj a
§2 . The first attempt t o recover Ilorin B attle of Og ele .

§3 . The second attempt : The Mugh a m ug b a War


§4 . The B attle of P a m g

CHAPTE R V I I I —
C O NS E Q U E N C E S
. O F T HE RE VO L U TI O N
§I . The Owu War
52 The Las i n m i War
S tate of the Capital at thi speriod
.

§3 .

CHAPTE R I X — F UR TH E R D E V E LO PM E N T o r T H E AN A R CHY
.

§1 E vil days for the Capital


.

§2 The t hird attempt to recover Il or i n


. The Kan la war .

§ 3 The vici s situdes of Ikoyi


.

§4 The Gbogun War


.

§ 5 The Pol e; War and d eath of A b u d us ala m i


.

CHAPTE R X — SP R E A D O F T H E AN A R C HY
.

§1 . D evastation of Egba towns and villages


§2 . F oundation of Ab eokuta
§3 . Th e Eg b a d o Tribes
§4 . The founding of Modakeke

CHAPTE R X I — T H E R E V O L U TI O N I N T H E E p o DI S T R ICT S
.

§1 The destruction of the E pos and death of Ojo A m ep o


.
,

§2 The occupation of I ]aye and end of D ado


.

§ 3 How Ibadan became a Yoruba town The Gb a n a m u a n d


. .

Er i i m u Wars
'

§4 The S ettlement of Ibadan


.

CHAPTE R X II .
—W A RS C O N S O LI D ATI O N
F OR TH E A ND
-
BALA N C E
O F PO W E R

51 . The evacuation of Op o m u and Owi wi War .

§2 . The fall of Ilaro and Ij ana


xi v C O N TE N T S
CHAPT E R XI I — (cont i n ued) .

The Om yef un War


The A r a ka n g a or J ab a ra War
The Oni d age and Oke I sero Wa rs
The Iperu War
The fall of Ot a

CHAPTE R XI II —T HE L A S T . OF K AT U N GA
F inal e f forts to throw o ff F ula n i yoke
The E led uw g War

CHAPTE R X IV .
—T HE I NT E RRE G N U M
§1 . Civi l war at A b em g
52 . The destruction of A b em g .

F OU RTH PE RI OD
A RRE ST OF D I S I N TE G RATI ON . I N TE R T RI B AL WA R S
-

B RI TI S H P R OTE CTO RATE '

CHAPTE R XV —T H E NE W C ITY NE W G O VE RN ME NT I L QRI N


.
, ,

C H E CKE D
§1 Prince Atiba early life and h i story
.
,

§ 2 A t i b a s accession

.

§ 3 Conferring of titles
.

§ 4 Th e O s og bo War
.

§ 5 The expulsion of E l ep o f rom Ibadan


.

CHAPTE R X VI .
—F RAT RI C I D AL W A R S
The Osu War Aaye and Ot un
,

The Egbas and Eg b a d os


Ibadan an d I jaye The B a t ed o War
.

Abeokuta an d Ab aka
The Ile B ioku expedition and the end of E l epo
S agaun and Igbo Or a

CHAPTE R XV I I S U B J U GATI O N OF T H E I J E sA S
'
.
-
A ND E KI T I S
S O CIAL RE FO R M S
§1 . The Opin War
§2 . S ubj ugation of the I jes as
§3 . The fir st Da h o m i a n I nvasion of Abeokuta
§4 . The A r a War an d relief of Otun
§5 . Ra ids by minor chiefs of Ibadan
§6 . S ocial reforms
C O N TE N T S X V

CHAPTE R XV I I I .
-
A
G LO R I O U S E N D A N D A G O R Y DAW N or
T wo R E IG N S
The deat h of Kin g Atiba
§1
W
.

§2 . Circumst ances that led to the I ja ye ar


§3 . When Greek meets Greek
§4 . F am ine and the sword
CHAPTE R X I X S E Q U E L S T o T H E I J A Y E WA R
.
-

§1 The Awaye War


.
3 55
§ 2 The
. Iperu War 3 5 6
§3 The I korodu War 3 6 0

§4 The second Da h om i an i nvasion of Abeokut a


.

.
36 1
§ 5 The atonement
.
3 63
CHAPTE R X X — T H E C L O SE A N D T H E O P E N I N G C A R E E RS OF
.

Two H E ROE S
Og un m gl a S adm i nistration 365

§1 .

§ 2 The I g j
b a g campaign 3 6 8
I
.

§3 The
. late O g u n m g l a B a s g r un of bada n 3 7 1

§4 Og ed em g b e and the fall of Ile sa


.
3 77

CHAPTE R XX L —Two AD MI N I ST R ATI ON S O F OPP O S IT E P O LI CI E S


§1 Or owus i s administration 383

.

§2 Ibadan under a Kakan f o


.
38 7
§ 3 An unprovoked war Ado
. .
39 0
§ 4 The Ar g s adm i nistration

.
39 1
§5 The Em ur e War
.
394
CHAPTE R X X I I —A NE W RE I G N A N D E V IL PR O G N O STI C ATI O N
.

§I The end of A D E L U the A L AE I N of Q Y Q


.
396
§2 The n uti expedition
.
4 03
§ 3 The new poli cy
.
4 05
§ 4 Th e civil murder of A i jgn ku the F Qt Q
.
4 07
§ 5 Plot a g ainst the S eriki I ya p o
.
41 0

CHAPTE R XX II I —T H E C O M ME N C E M E N T OF
. T HE 1 6

Y E A RS WA R
§I . The n g fi expedition 41 3
§2 . The first act of war 41 4
Ins urrection a ga inst the A r e and the death of S eri ki I ya p o 4 1 7
.

§3 .

§4 . F urther raiding expe dition on Egba farms 42 0


§5 . The revolt of the E kiti tribes 42 3
CHAPTE R XX I V — CO NF LI C T S I N T H E N O RT H
.

§1 . The celebrated battle of I kiru n or the J al um i War


§2 . The res ul ts of the J alum i War
§3 . The E kiti p ar a p os i

§4 . The beginning of t h e a ct u al conflict


§5 . The A r t; t o the front
xvi C O N TE N T S

CHAPTE R XX V —I BA D A N AT IT S E XT R E MITY
.

§1 .
Home defences
§2 . Closure o f roads and the results
§3 . D istressing episodes .

§4 . N ew developments clouds and sunshine


,

CHAPTE R X X V I F A I I .
-
. U RE S AT R E CO N CILIATI O N

§1 . The A l afi n s efforts for peace


§2 . The A l é fin s mess enger

§3

. The Governor s delegates
§4 . The lion at bay

CHAPTE R X XV II —A RI FT I N . T HE C LO UD
§1 . A t urning point
§2 . R ambling talks of peace
§3 . D esperate movements

CHAPT E R XX V II I .
-
TH E R E V .
J B W O OD A N D
. . THE
AOK . .

§1 . The Visits of the R ev J B Wood to the camps


. . .

§2 . The death of L a t os i s a the A O K . . .

§3 . The vicissitudes of war

CHAPTE R XXIX — T H E I N T E RVE N TI O N O F T H E B R ITI S H


.

G O V E RN M E N T
§1 Measures by Governor Moloney
.

§ 2 The
. I l Qr i n s and peace proposals .

§ 3 The messengers and preliminary arrangements


.

§ 4 The treaty of peace


.

§ 5 The reception of the treaty by the Kin g s and Chiefs


.

CHAPTE R XX X .
-
DI S P E RS AL O F T H E C O MBATA N T S BY SPE C IAL
CO MMI SS I O N E RS
§1 . S pecial Commissioners sent up
§ 2 . The Commissioners at Kirij i
§3 . The Proclamation of Peace and firing of the camps
§4 . The Commissioners at Mo d a kgkg Failure .

CHAPTE R XXX I —DI S T UR BA N C E I N


. E V E R Y PA RT OF T HE
C O UN T R Y
§1 . Ilorin intrigues and the fall of Of a
§2 . R evolutionary movements at I jgb u
§3 . A mild treaty
§4 . The exploits of E san a n d the controversy thereupon
C O N TE NTS xvii

CHAPTE R XXXI I — A B O RTI VE M E A SUR E S


. To T E R MI N AT E
WA R
§1 . The mission of Alvan Millson
§2 . S ubsidiary e f forts of the R ev S J ohnson . .

§3 . The A L AF I N s diplomacy

§4 . Cor1 es p o n d en ce and a treaty


§5 . The A L AF I N 8 measures for peaceand the i ssues

§6 . The 1 1 01 ms at Ilobu
§7 . The conduct of the chiefs at I kirun

CHAPTE R X X X II I —T H E DA R K B E F O R E
. DAW N
Liberation o f the Eg b a d o s
Troubles at Ij ebu
S trained relations with the I b a d a n s
D eath o f A li ku the E mir of I l Qr i n
I jgb u excesses and infatuation
Causes that led to the Ij ebu War
Further causes that led to the Ij ebu War
The I jgb u campaign
E f fects of the Cam pai gn

CHAPTE R XXXI V — T HE E ND O F
. THE WA R
§1 Gove r nor Carter s progress up country

§2 . The return home of the I b a d an s


§3 . The return of Governor Carter to Lagos
§4 Local opinions about the war
Constitution of the Ibadan Town Cou n
.

§5 . cil

CHAPTE R XXX V —T H E E STABLI S HM E N T O F


. THE BR ITI S H
PR OT E CT O R AT E T H E S E Q U E L .

§1 . A b go kut a
§2 . Ibadan
§3 I i s sa
§4 . The E ki t is
§5 . I f g and Mo d a kgke
§6 . I l Qri n

APP E ND I X A
TR E ATI E S A N D A G RE E M E N T S
§1 . A b go kut a
§2 .
QY Q
Ibadan (an agreement)
§4 .
Egba ( boundaries)
§5 . Ab eok uta (railway)
§6 . Ibadan (railway)
x viii CO NT E N TS
A PPE N DI X A —( cont i n ued
)
§7 .
Ij esa ( human sacrifices )
§8 . E kiti
I fe
§ 1 0 B etween E n gland and F rance f o
. r the West Co as t

§ 1 1 Porto N ovo
.

§ 1 2 Proclamation
.

APP E ND I X
§1 . Yoruba Kin gs B a sgr un s etc
, , .

§2 . Ibadan chief r ulers


§3 . Ab eokuta leadi ng Chi efs
§4 . E mirs of Il or i n

IND E X
Map of the Yoruba Coun t ry
g1 . I NT R OD U CT I O N

TH E Yoruba country li es to the immediate West of the Ri ver


N iger ( below the confluence) and S outh of the Quo r r a the
Western branch of the same R iver above the confluence) having ,

D ahomey on the West and the Bight of B enin to the S o u th I t


, .

is roughl y speaking between latitude 6 and 9 N orth and longi ° °


,

tude 2 30 and 6 3 0 E ast


° ’ ° ’
.

The country was probably f irst known to E urope from the


N orth t h rough the explorers of N orthern and Ce ntral Africa for
, ,

in old records the Hausa and F ulani names are used for the country
” ’
and its capital thus w e see in Webster s Gazet teer Y A R R I B A ,

West Africa E ast of D ahomey area


, sq miles pop ulation two , .
,

millions capital K A r U N GA These are the Hausa terms for


,

.

Y O RU BA and for QY Q .

The entire south of the country is a network of lagoons connect


ing the de ltas of the great R iver N iger with that of the V olta an d ,

into this lagoon which is belted with a more or less dense mangrove
swamp most of the rivers whi ch flow through the country N orth
,

to S outh pour their waters .

It will thus be seen that the country is for the most part a t able
land : it has been compared t o half of a pie dish turned ups ide
down R ising from the coas t in the S outh gradu al ly t o a height
.

of some 5 600 ft in more or less dense forest into a pl ai n di versified


-

.
,

by a few mountain ranges continuing its gentle rise in some parts ,

to about ft above sea level it then slopes down again to the


.
,

banks of the N iger which encloses it in the N orth and E ast


,
.

In a valuable letter by the R ev S A Crowther (afterwards . . .

Bishop) to Thomas J Hutchin son E s q Her B ritan n ic Maj esty s


'
.
,
.
,

co ns ul f or the Bight of Biafra and the Island of Fernando Po ,

published as Appendix A to the book entitled Impressions of



Western Africa 1 we find the following graphic description of
,

the cou ntry


This p ar t of the country of whi ch Lagos in the Bight
of B enin is the seapor t is generally known as t h e Yoruba country
, ,

extending from the Bight to within two or three days j ourney to
2
the banks of the N iger This country comprises many tribes
.

governed by their own c hi efs and ha ving their o wn laws At one .

time they were all tributaries to one S over eign the King of Yoruba , ,

including B enin on/the E ast and D ahomey on the West but are , ,

now independent .

L o n g m a n s G r ee n , Co 1 85 8 .

9
A t t h e t i m e o f wr i t i n g Ed .
-
.
xx I N T RO D U CTI O N
The principal tribes into which this kin g dom is divided are as
follows
The Eg b a d o s : This division includes Otta and Lagos near the
sea coast forming a belt of country on the banks of the lagoon in
,

t h e forest t o Ketu on the border of D ahomey on the West


,
then
the n u on the E ast o n the border of B enin ; then the Egbas of the
forest n ow known as the Egbas o f Abeokuta .

Then comes Yoruba proper northwards i n the plain Ife Ij esha , , ,

I ja m o Ei g H O ndo Idoko I g b o m i n a and Ado near the banks of


, , , , ,

the N iger from which a creek or stream a little below Iddah is


,

called Do or Iddo R iver .

The C hief produce o f this country is the r ed p alm oil


oil m a
,

de from the kernel Shea butter from nuts of the Shea trees ,

ground nuts beniseed a ii d cotton in abundance and ivory— all


,

, ,

these are readily p r o cii r ed f o r E uropean m arkets


,

The present seat o f the King of Yoruba i s A g g other


wise called n after the name of the old capital visited by Clap .

p er t o n and Lander .

A King is acknowledged and his person is held sacred his wives ,

and C hildren are highly respected Any attempt of violence .


against a King s person or of the R oyal family or any act of ,

wantonness with the wives of the Ki n g is punished with death , .

There are n o written laws but such laws and customs that have ,

been handed down from their ancestors especially those respectin g ,

r ela t i ve duties have become established laws


, .

The ri ght t o the throne i s hereditary but exclusively i n the m al e ,

line or the m al e I ssue of the King s daughters ’


.

The Government is absolute but it has b een m uch modified ,

Since the kin g dom h as been divided into many independent states
by slave wars into what may be called a limited monarchy
,

P hy s i ca l f ea t u r es — The country presents generally t w o distinct


.

features the forest and the plain ; the former comprising the
,

Southern and eastern portions the latter the northern central and , ,

western Yoruba Proper lies chiefly in t h e plai n; and has a


.

small portion of forest land The country is fairly well watered .


-

but the rivers and streams a r e depen d ent upon the annu al rains
an impassable river in the rains may become but a dry water course -

in the dry seas on .

There are a few high mountains in the north and west but in ,

the east the prevailing aspect is high ranges of mountains from


whi ch that part of the country derives its name E KITI —a mound
—being covered as it were with N at ure s Mound
,

.

The soil is particularly rich and most suitable f o r a gricul t ure , ,

in which every man is more or less engaged The plain i s almost .

entirely pasture land Minerals apparently do not exist to any


.

appreciable ext ent expect iron ores which the people work them
,

selves and from which they formerly manufactured all their


,

implements of husban dr y and war and articles for domestic us e .


xxii I N T ROD U C TI O N
-
it has been noted — are not unlike the E nglish in many of their
traits and characteristics It would appear that what the one is.

among the whites the other is among the blacks Love of inde .

p en d en ce a feeling of superiority over all others a keen commercial


, ,

spirit and of indefatigable enterprise that quality of being never


, ,

able to admit o r consent t o a defeat as finally settling a question


upon which their mind is bent are some of those qu al ities pec ul iar ,

to them and no matter under what circumstances they are placed


, ,

Yorubas will display them We have even learnt that those of .

them who had the misfortune of being carried away to foreign


C limes s o displayed these characteristics there and assumed such ,

airs of superiority and leadership over the men of their race they
met there in such a m atter of fact way that the attention of their
,

m asters was perforce drawn to this type of new arrivals And


from them they selected overseers Thes e traits will be clearly .

discerned in the narratives given in this history B ut apart from .

the general each of the leading tribes has special characteristics


,

of its o wn thus dogged perseverance and determination C ha racter


ise the I jgb us love of e as e and a quickness to adapt new ideas the
,

Egbas the I jgsa s and E ki t i s are posses sed of a m arvellous amount


,

of physical strength remarkable docility and simplicity of manners


, ,

and love of home .

Among the various families of Yorubas Proper the I b ar a p as ,

are laborious farmers the I l QS are rather docile and weak in


,

comparison with others but the E pos are hardy brave and rather
, , ,

turb ulent whilst the n s of the Metropolitan province are


remarkably shrewd intelligent very diplomatic cautious almost
, , ,

to timidity provokingly conservative and withal very masterful


, ,
.

The whole people are imb ued with a deep religious spirit ,

reverential in manners showing deference to superiors and respect


,

t o age where they have not been corrupted by foreign intercourse


,

ingrained politeness is part and parcel of thei r n ature .

The early history of the Yoruba country is almost exclus ively


that of the QyQ divisi on the others being then too small and too
,

insignificant t o be of any import but in later years this state of


things has been somewhat reversed the centre of interest and sphere ,

of importance having moved sout h w a rds especially since the ,

arrival of E uropeans on the coast .

S uch is the country and such are the people W hose history
, ,

religion social polity manners and customs et c are briefly given


, , ,
.
,

i n the fo llowin g pages .


TH E Y ORU B A L A N G U A GE

T H E Yoruba language has been classed among the unwri tten


Afri can languages The earliest attempt to reduce thi s lan gu age
.

i nto w riting was in the early forties of the last century when the ,

Church Mi s sionary S ociety wi th the immort al R ev Hen ry V enn


, .

as S ecretary organi z ed a mission to the Yoruba country under


,

the leadership of one of their a gents the R ev Henry Town send , .


,

an E nglish Clergyman then at work at S ierra Leone and the ,

R ev S amuel Aj ayi Crowther t h e fir st African Clergyman of the


.
,

al so at work in the same place .

After several fruitles s e f forts had been made either to in vent


n ew ch a racters or ada pt the Arabic which was al ready kn own to
, ,

Moslem Yorubas the R oman character was nat urally adopted not
, ,

onl y beca use it i s the one best acqu ai nted with but als o because it ,

wo ul d obviate the di ffi culties that m ust necessar ily arise if


m i s s i o n ai i es were first to learn strange characters before they could
undertake scholastic and evangeli stic work With thi s as basis . ,

speci al adaptation had to be made for pronouncing som e


words n o t to be found in the E nglish or any other E uropean
language .

The system or rather want of system existing among various


, ,

missi onary bodies in Africa and elsewhere emphasized the need of


a fixed system of orthography It was evidently essenti al for the .

vari ous bo di es to agree upon cert ai n rul es for reducin g i lliterate


l an guages into writing in Roman characters not only because t h is ,

would facili tate co operation but al so because it wo uld render


-

books much cheaper than when separate founts of type must needs
be cast for every separate system (scienti fic or otherwise) that each
body may choose to adapt for one and t h e s a m e purpose .

In this e f fort the Committee of the C M S were ably assi sted


, . . .

by certai n philologic al doctors as Professor Lee of Cambri dge , ,

Mr N or ris of London and notably by Professor Lepsius of Berli n


.
, ,

t o whom was entrusted the task of establishi n g a complete form


of alphab etic system to which all hithert o unwritten languages
coul d be a dapted .

The following remarks are largely derived from the second edition
of Prof Le psius work
.

.

The Professor cons ul ted earlier e f forts that had been m ade in
India and elsewhere t o transliterate foreign ( E astern) characters
into the Roman and out of the chaos then existing he established
,

xx i i i
xxi v TH E YO RU BA LA N G U AG E

on a fir m scientific basis the STA N D A RD A LPHAB E T in whi ch the


Yoruba language is now written Thi s was adopted by the .

C M S in 1 8 5 6 B y t h is system therefore former translations h ad


. . . .

to be trans literated under certain fixed rules .

The number of letters in the S tandard A lphabet is necessari ly


very large as i t was designed to meet the requirements of all
,

nations but wi th diacritic marks on cognate sounds and accents ,

an d the introduction of three characters from the Greek the ,

R oman C haracters furni sh all that is necessary from which every


unwritten langu age can draw .

It is very unfortunate indeed that the sys tem has not been
f ai thfully followed by all for reasons we regard as inadequate and
,

i nconclusive This has provoked the caustic remark of the di stin


.

g ui s h ed phi lologist D r R N Cust that


, . . n o class of man
.
,

kind is s o narrowminded and opinionated as the missionary except



the lingui st F or even in the Yoruba whi ch professed to have
.

adopted Lepsius S tandard certain particulars ( as we shall see)


have been departed from by no means for the better Keen was
, .

the controversy on these points between the E nglish and German


missionaries of the Yoruba Mission in its early days In the .

foll owing pages the style commonly used in the familiar Yoruba

translations is departed from in some important particulars as ,

they present some pec uliar defects which ought to be rectified .

We Shall endeavour to follow Professor Lepsius S tandard Alphabet ’

as closely as possible .

The Professor himself has conceded that shades of sound can


be adapted therefrom to meet special requirements witho ut depart
ing from the princi ples lai d down S ays he in his second edition : .

The exposition of the scientific and practical principles


accor ding t o whi ch a suitable al phabet for universal adoption in
foreign languages might be constructed has (with few exceptions
above m entioned) remained unaltered These rul es ar e founded .

in the nature of the subj ect and therefore though they may admit
,

o f certain carefully limited exceptions they can undergo no change ,

in themselves they serve as a defence against arbitrary proposal s


which d o not depend upon uni versal laws they will explain and
recommend the application whi ch has been made of them already
to a seri es of languages and wi l l serve as a guide in their application
t o new ones .

B ut we have not concealed from the very beginning that it


is not in every person s power to apprehend wi th physiolo gical

and linguistic accur acy the sounds in a foreign language or e ven


those of his own so as to apply with some degree of cert ai nty the
,

p rinciples of our alphabet to a new system of sounds containi n g


THE Y O RU BA LA N G U AG E X X V

i ts own peculiari ties A f ew only of our most distingui shed


.

gr ammarians are possessed of a penetrating insight into the living


organisms of sounds in those very languages they have di scussed
much less can i t be expected of missionaries who are often obli ged ,

witho ut previous preparation to address themselves t o the reduction


and representation of a foreign language that everythi ng whi ch ,

belongs t o a correct adj ud ication of particul a r sounds (frequently


apprehended only with great di ffi cul ty even by the ear) or to
their connection with one another and with other systems of

sounds Sho ul d present i tself Spontaneously to their minds
, .

Certain rul es of transcri ption are imperative for a correct


scienti fic method of proced u re Whatever m ay have been the .

di ffi culties encountered in the ancient written lan g uages so far as ,

the Yoruba an d other un wn t t en languages are concerned the


field lies clear .

The E n g li s h mode of pronouncing the vowels had t o be rej ected


in favo ur of the Italian or continental mode .

The fol lowing rules or principles have been lai d down


.1 The power o f each letter as representing cert ai n soun ds as
handed down from anti quity Should be retained .

.2 The orthography of any language Should never use ( a) the


s ame letter for d i fler en t sounds nor ( b) di f ferent letters for the ,

same sound .

In Vi olation of (a) note the force of the letter g in the E nglish


words gi ve gin of a in man name what of ea in treat tread
, , , ,

of ei in weight height of the consonants ch in archbishop arch


, ,

angel ; of a ng h in slaughter laughter ; also the sound of ch in ,

chamber champagne chameleon where the same letters are used


, ,

f o r di f ferent sounds .

In Vi olation of ( b) note the last syllables in the words atte n t i on ,

omiss i on fas h i on where di f ferent letters are used f o r the same


, ,

sound .

.
3 E very Simple soun d is to be represented by a sin gle Sign .

Thi s is vi olated by writing s h to represent the rushing sound


of s Th i s as we sh al l see below is quite un necessary in the
.
, ,

Yoruba langu ag e Here we find an application of the principle


.

that where a new sound is not found in the R oman al phabetic


sys tem a diacri tical m ark on the nearest graphi c Sign Should be
used A di acri tical m ark therefore over s wi ll more fit ly represent
.

E l
the ng ish sound of s h 1
This is al s o in accordance wi th the
.

s i n and s ki n in the Hebrew and Arabic where the di f ference ,

I t m us t be noted however that in pri n ting



P ublishe rs N ote .
, ,

this work s has been used throu ghout to represen t the sh sound .
xxvi THE YO RU BA LA N G U AG E

between the soft and the rushing sound is indicat ed by diacritic a l


points e g , . .
,

Heb .
in us Arab .

Agai n the letter h is a sign of aspiration ( as the s pi ri tus as per


in the Greek) as in it hit ; at hat ; owl howl etc It wo ul d , , , , .

therefore be unsci entific to accord i t a new meaning altog ether


by such a use o f i t in Violation of rul e 1 .

Apart from thi s is the fact that the letter 3 wi th a di acri tical
'

mark over it has been employed about twenty years previo usl y
by oriental scholars transcribing Indian letters into the R oman .

4 E xplosive letters are n o t to be us ed to express fricative


.

sounds and vi ce ver s a e g the use of ph as f where p is clearly , . .


,

an explosive letter .

5 The last rule is that a long vowel shoul d never b e represented


.

by doubling the Short This method seems to have foun d favour .

with some transcribers there being no fixed system of transcri ption ,


.

T HE A L P H A B ET
In a purely scientific alphabetic system i t would seem more ,

correct that the alphabets be arranged accordi ng to the organ


m ost concerned in the pronunciation of the letters e g all sounds , . .
,

proceed from the fauces and are modified either at the throat , ,

by the teeth or by the lips ; hence they m ay be classified as


,

guttur al dental or labial B ut nothing is gai ned by al tering


, , .

the order which came down to us from remote antiquit y as the


R omans received i t from the Greek and these from the ,

Ph oenicians etc , .

T H E V O WE L S .

The vowels in Yoruba may


be b uilt upon the three funda
mental vowels a i u with the , , , ,

two subsidiary ones e forme d ,

by the coalescence of the first


two a an d i and o by the coal ,

es c en ce of a and u from which


'

we have a e i o and 11 These a r e the recognised principal


, , ,
.

vowels and a r e pronounced after the It a lian method ( ah


'
,

aye ee o
, , but whereas in the E nglish language the
,

Short sound of e is wr i tten eh and that of o as a w thes e sounds .


,

according to the standard system in accordance with rul e 3 are ,

represen ted by a dot or dash under the co gn ate sounds hence we ,


THE Yo RU BA L A N G U AG E xx vi i

have 6; and o A complete representation of the vowels I n Yoruba


.

therefore is as follows — a e e i 0 Q 11 ( pronounced ah aye , , , , , , ,

eh ee oh aw , the o r iginal taking precede nce of the di acri tic


, , , .

N ote that u i s not t o be p rono unced as you but as o o i n food


" ‘ ’
.

N as a li z a t i on The cle ar vowels are capable of a p ec ul i ar.


-

alteration which is produced by uttering the vowel thro ugh the


n asal canal There is no consonantal element brought into
.

play but i t is an al terati on entirely wi thin the vowel N as ali zation


, .

i s very largel y used in the Yor uba and consequently i t s ortho ,

graphy sho uld be free fro in any ambigui ty In the S tandard Alpha .

bet the circumflex is placed over the nasal iz ed vowel t o indicate


such a so un d Unfort unately the Yoru ba as wr itten b y mi s sion
.

aries substit ute the let ter n for this Sign a ca us e of some ambigui ty ,

in wri ting certai n wo rds as A ka n o A ki a a Mo ri n a t u Q b u1 1 eko , , , ,

Where the letter n stands between two vowels and is li ab le to be ,

pronounced wi th the latter e g A ka no A ki n Q la M o: i i na t u , . .


,
~ ~

,
- - -

, _

- -

Q b u ne ko g but following the S tandard Alphabet the words


- - -

should be wri tten Ak ao Qb fi eko j ust as th e Portuguese , ,

names are wri tten S em ao Ad ao Jo ao etc Indeed cert ai n , , , .

secti ons o f the Yoruba tri bes that use nas ali zation very
sparingly do pronounce these words as wri tten Wi t h out any sign
of nasali zation The n therefore is not only unnecessary b ut i t .

is also misleadi ng .

In the f ollowing pages the S tan dard S ystem will b e adhered to , ,

where such ambi g uitie s are li able to occur : but for the sake of
Simplicity and to avoid the unnecessary use of diacriti cal m ar ks ,

n as a n as a l sign ma y be used where i t cannot cause any ambiguity ,

e .
g .
,

When i t precede s a consonant as n je ndao n ko


1 .
, , .

2 When i t Closes a word as Awon B a sor u n Ibadan Is eyin


.
, , , , .

As nasali z at i on is s ai d to be caused by the dropping of a nas al


consonant suc h a limited use of n as a n asal sound m ay be j ustifie d
, .

N o pure uneducated Yoruba man can pronounce a word ending


,

in a consonant he will instinctively add a n i or u t o it There is , .

therefore no closed syllable i n Yoruba n at the end of a word i s ,

p urely nasal .

TH E S YS TE M or C O NS O N A N T S
There are Sixteen di stinct consonantal soun ds in the Yoruba
language each having the same force and power as in the E nglish
,

alphabet ; they are : b d f g h j k l m n p r s t w y , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , .

N o consonan ts are used t o represent a vowel by perverting them


from their legitimate consonantal so unds as h w and y are som e , ,

times used in E nglish .


x xviii THE Yo RU BA LA N G U AGE

Besides the above there are two other sounds not represented
,

in the R oman or in any other E uropean system ; they are ex


plosive sounds peculi a r to the Yoruba and allied tribes form ed by
the li p a n d j aw vi z g b and kp They are regarded as guttural

. .
, ,

modifications of b and p and as t h ey a p p ea r to result from a ,


'

combination of two organs concerned in Speech but the com ,

ponent parts of which are so i n timately connected they are r ightly


represented by two letters though n o t contravening rule 3 , .

As to kp since usag e m akes i t evi dent that the Yorubas never


,

pronounce the letter p but as kp i t is therefore n o t considered ,

necessary to incl ude kp in the Yoruba alphabet as is done in the


Ibo the simple p does perform its duty satisfactorily .

Here we find a fit application of Professor Lepsius rem arks ’

that The general alphabet when applied to partic ul ar lan guages , ,

m ust be capable of simplification as well as of enlargem ent All .

particular diac ri tical marks are unnecessary in those languages


where none of the bases have a double val ue we then wr i te the ‘

Simple base without a di acri tical mark Where two sounds . .

belong to the same base one only of the signs wi ll be wanted


, .

This is well exemplified h ere We t h er ef o r e wri t e p and not kp .

i n Yoruba .

The same may be sai d o f the letter S and the sound sh referred ,

to above The di f ference is indicated in the S tandard Al phabet


.

by a diacri tical mark e g s s (for sh) The Yorub a s can safely


, . .
, , .

dispense with the latter and for t h e sake of Simplicity this ought
,

t o have been done as no di f ference as t o the m eani ng of a word


,

is suggested by the same word being pronounced soft o f h a rsh .

And more also because in some parts o f the country notably the ,

E kun Os i district ( the most northerly) the harsh sound is un ,

pronounceable whatever ma y be written e g s h a ll s h op will


,
. .
, , ,

be pronounced s a ll s op In the E p o dist ri ct on the other hand


, .
, ,

it is j ust the reverse the harsh sound will be pronounced instead


o f the soft ,
thus s a me s on wi ll be pronounced s h a m e s h on
, , .

B ut all over the country women and chi ldr en invari ably use
the softer sound for the same word which if thus used by men is , ,

c onsidered a f fectatio n s except in the Ekun Os i district where the


, ,

purest and most elegant Yoruba is spok en .

S ( for S h ) therefore might have been dropped from the Yoruba


alphabet wi th no harm resulting it is however retained because , ,

over a great part of the co untry a distinction is made between


the two sounds ; apart from the fact that it would often be
r e q ui r e d i n representing the sounds of some words of forei gn ori gi n .

F rom the above modifications therefore we have the Yoruba


alphabet as now used
a b d e e f g gb h i j k l m n o g p r s s t u w y
X X X TH E YO RU BA LA NG U AGE

He therefore proposed to place the tone a ccen ts to the right hand -

side of the vowel instead of over it so as to distinguish a word ,



'

accen t from a to n e a ccen t as is done in the Chinese and other ,

cognate langua es e g wor d accent would be written h é b a


g . . .
, ,

tone accent b a b a , , .

In thi s proposal the professor a grees with the R ev T J Bowen . . .

an Ame ri can Baptist Missionary in hi s Yoruba Grammar and


Di ctionary published in 1 8 5 8 by the S mithsoni an Insti tution .

But Crowther— a Yoruba man— di d not in h i s grammar make any


such distinction He t h inks the existing accents will do wel l
.

eno ugh and for the best of reasons there is no wor d a ccen t in
, ,

Yoruba the tone g overns everythi ng an d E ur opeans cannot speak ,

without a word a ccen t .

The language moreover abounds i n contractions and elisions ,

a whole syllable may be dropped but the tone rem ai ns Th is is .

the crux of di ffi c ulty wi th foreigners trying to speak the language ,

and to what exte nt they are able to overcome this to that extent ,

thei r Yoruba is sai d to be perfect .

CO MBI N ATI O N OF TH E A CC E N T S
AS remarked a b ove there are no closed syll ables in t h e Yoruba ,

language every s yllable must end in a vowel an d every vowel


,

must b e one of t h e three tones represented by the accents Words .

of thr ee or fou r syllables a r e often cont r acted into two the ,

coalesc ence of the tones forming the compound v owels .

The entire scheme of the accents or tones may be thus r ep r e


sented :
I S imple vowels with the varied tones
. . .

a in which the tone is r ai sed : as ka to pic k ; b a to meet ;


, , ,

151 to lick , ,

a in which the tone is even : as pa to kill ; b a to ambush


, , ,

ta to kick , .

a in which t h e tone is depressed


, as t a to buy kit to count , ,

f it to dr aw , .

I I Com poun d vowels in w h ich a single vowel bears more


.

than one tone


A Com pounds o i the raised tone . .

A yan contracted
'
3 i n w hi ch the r ai sed tone is doubled
, , ,

from Ariyan i e cares worries , . .


, .

a in which the r ai sed tone i s combined with the middle e g


, ,
. .
,

K i nl a from K in i l a
-

a form of exclamation -
.

'
6 in which the raised tone is combined with the depressed ,

eg béni from b eh e
. .
,ni s o it is , .
TH E YO RU BA LA N G U AGE xx xi

B Com pounds of the middle t On e


. .

a in . which the middl e tone is combined wi th the rai sed ; e g . .

A y an from a h ayan a cockroach Q ri from Ori ri a tomb


'
'
-
.
, ,

wh ich the middle tone is combined with i tself e g Ta ni


'

5 in
'

. .
, ,

from Ta h a ni —wh o is it ? - -


a in whi ch the mi ddle tone is combined with the depressed ,

eg .E r u from er ir u Spice ; k er e from keh er e a s creen
.
, , , .

C Com pounds of the depressed t one .

'

a in whi ch the depressed tone is combined with the r ai sed ,

a n u from an i —
'

i n u m ercy ; O t g from Otit e truth


eg . .
, , , .

a in whi ch the depressed tone is combined wi th the mi d dle ,

w
ko from kOri kO a wolf
'

eg . .
, , .


a in wh ich the depressed tone is combined wi th i tself e g , . .
,

Or i contracted from Ori r i black plum



.
,

In this way words of four or five syllables m ay by elision and ,

absorption be contracted int o two or three ; e g afin from


, . .
,

aw efin the p al ace ; hence A l fi fin from A n i a w e fin Lord of the


,
- - -

royal palace .

Q Oni fro m ent wh ich is itself a contraction of Om e ol i i w eni



-

, ,

son of a sacri ficial victim .

The consonants may be dropped the vowels absorbed but the , ,

tones are always preserved ; the first and las t syllables onl y are
e ssenti al the voice c an glide over a ll the interveni ng tones for
,

the s ake of shortness .

This is at once the Chief characteristic and—to foreigners — the


m ai n diffi culty of the Yoruba language In order to avoid such .

complicated tone accents it would be preferable to write out the


words in ful l although the contracted form may be used in
,

k° '

Speaking or rea di ng e g o t i t Q for Ot e korik o for kO



°

, . .
,

Words si milar in form di stin g uished onl y by their tones , .

Words of two syll ables :


the arm I na fir e lo use ,

a pro d igal I na flogging


a scar I na a tattoo m ark
a ri d dl e I di the eagle
somet hin g ground I di the seat
going I di bunch of frui t
a di sh 1 111 a town
a cr as h Im a drum
a fishing net I lu a gimlet
a gui nea fowl -

a secret
X x xl l TH E YO RU BA LA N G U AG E

a rope a mother
an elder puni shment
a cannon a separation
anxiety care
, a cough
a cockroach a state messenger
a hardwood a hook or han gi ng
father the head
quite full Shea butter
g uinea corn black plum
palm oil a post
bark a wi dow
weeds to be busy
corn chaf f a husband
di rt a hoe
the head a spear
of three syllables di stinguished
a rock grass
a shield wolf
a butcher
Words of four syllables .

K dl dkcjl d stealthily
K el g kel g circui tously

K elekol d
'

muddy miry ,

K el ek el e the fox
A S K E T C H OF Y O R U B A G R A MM A R

TH E e f forts we have seen made to produce a Yoruba Grammar on


the exact lines of an E nglish or Latin Grammar represent in our
opinion an honest labour highly commendable indeed i t may be
, ,

but totally in the wrong direction and li ttle calc ulated to el ucidat e
,

the genius of the language On the contrary they go a long way


.
,

to O bscure i t .

The Yoruba belongs to the agglutinated order of speech not to ,

the i n flec t i o n al When therefore parti cles are used to form cas es
.
,

etc i t is mere pedantry to talk of declensions


.
, .

It is a notori ous fact that educated Yorubas find it m uch easier


to read an E nglish book than a Yoruba production —which until
recently are mostly translations With an e f fort they may plod
.

'

through i t but they do not enj oy reading i t and som etim es do


, ,

not even understand it The m ai n reasons for this are


.

1 . The orthography of the language i s still very defective .

2 . The style i n wh ich the books are wri tten This may simpl y .

b e described as E nglish ideas i n Yor uba words the result is O ften


obscuri ty and confusion of thought .

In the Ch urch Missionary Intel ligencer for March 1 88 0 a , ,

missionary to Japan who had experienced a similar di ffi culty


, ,

wrote thus
There is great danger in all use of this language of thin king
, ,

that when we have rendered various E nglish words into Japanes e


we have of necessity expres sed the thoughts which the E nglish
words convey Language may correspond to langu age but the
.
,

thoughts t o which the language is the vehi cle may be as distant


as the poles Our language m ust be idiomatic or the natives will
.

fai l t o see the points on which we are endeavouring to l a y so m uch


stress .

The writer has on several occ as ions read portions of Yoruba .

translations t o inte lli gent but purely uneducated Yoruba men .

They woul d show that they com prehended ( not without an e f fort )
what was read to them by putting pertinent questions but then ,

they woul d add We can understand what you mean to say but
, ,

what you read there is not Yoruba ; i t may be boo k l a ng uag e


( Ed e The rock of st umbling is the desire of translators to
reproduce every word and particle of the E nglish in its exact
equivalent in Yoruba regardless of idiom and thereby obscuri n g
, ,

the sense of the latter .

xxx i i i
xxxiv A S KE T C H OF YO RU B A G R A M M A R

In taki ng up a Yoruba book one is forcibly struck by t h e


di f ference i n style b etween quotations of p ure Yoruba stories ,

hrases or roverbs and the notes a nd observations of the writer


p p ,
.

The forme r r uns smooth and clear ; the latter appears sti f f and
obscure b ecause t h e writer wi th his knowledge of the E nglish
, ,

grammar and language wrote E nglish i deas and idioms i n Yoruba ,

words illus t rating wh at is sai d above


,
.

When such systems are employe d i n writing a Yo ruba Gramm ar ,

s uch a grammar may be useful in teachin g E nglish to Yoruba


boys but that is not a Yoruba grammar
, .

We deem these observations n ecessary bec ause in the following


pages we shall have occ asion to render Yorub a words into E nglish
and vi ce ver s a ; a very literal translation will not be adhered to
when by so doing the sense and force of the language will be
, ,

obscured and Weakened .

WO R DS TH E F O R MATI O N OF

The formation of words in Yoruba appears to be a very simple


process an y c onsonant with a vowel attach ed will form a word
( or three words accor di ng to the vari ation of the tone or accent )
,
"
.

That word wi ll probably be a verb ; it will cert ai nl y possess the


form of one either current or obsolete Th is word will moreover
, .
, ,

be the root of a whole class of words B y p r efix i n g a vowel t o i t .

a noun m ay be formed ; wi th other prefixes also some other


words may be formed from the same root e g to m ake ed a , . .
, , ,

a crea ture ; from whi ch we have el eda creator L a to spli t ; , .


,

Hit a cut
, ela halves of a whole i n a bo undary R d to carry
, , .
,

er u a load ; a l a ri i a carrier ; el er u owner O f a load


, , F e to , .
,

love ; I f e love ; I f eni brotherly love charity


, , , .

Thus verbs are mostly monosyll abl es formed by one consonant ,

and a vowel and nouns disyllables in which the first syllable is


,

a vowel and the second a verbal root The pen ultimate vowel is
, .

sometimes strengthened by a consonant .

Adj ectives are mostly form ed from nouns ( or as nouns ) by pre


fixi n g the conson ant of the verb al root e g di da made or created . .
, ,

li l a fis s ur ed so also from m e to know i m e knowledge mim e


, , , , ,

known .

Adverbs are general ly duplication of the adjective e g di dun , . .


, ,

sweet ; di dun di dun Very sweet ; dara good ; dara dara very
-

,
-

,
-

good .

What is here called a verbal root may be an obsolete word or


one not general ly in use but other words can be formed from i t ,

al l t h e same .

There are some primitive words the ori gin of whose roots has
A S KE TC H OF Y O RU BA G R AMMA R X XX V

been lost e g o m i water ; ina fire ; igi wood ; a § Q clothes ;


, . .
, , , , ,

etc .

With rare exceptions nouns not beginni ng wi th a vowel are ,

either of foreign origi n or onomatopoetic : this latter being very ,

common .

There are O f course except ions to the above rules but these
, , ,

will be foun d to be the funda m e n tal method s of fo rming Yoruba


words .

We cannot within the compass of an introduction give a ,

complete sketch of a Yoruba Grammar but we m ay state that ,

the li nes laid down in Crowther s V ocab ulary O f the Yoruba ’

language and in N otes on the F ormation of Words by the R t R ev .


. .

0 E Vid al the first Bishop of S ierra Leone i f prope rly develop ed


. .
, ,

and full y worked out will prove both very useful and instructive , .

P A RT S O F S P E E C H THE
There are eight parts of speech They a r e as in the E nglish .

Grammar the Article being excepted


, .

The Yoruba language has 11 0 article but when d e fin i t en es s is ,

required the n umeral ka n (contracted from Qka n one ) is us ed for ,

a or a n a n d the demonstrative n e
, t or n i ( that the sai d one) is ,

used for the defi n ite article t h e .

The use of the num er a l o n e i n place O f the article is not unknown


even in E n gli s h The numer a l one i s an indefinite demonstrative
.

when used as the article a n Mason “


.

The word ka n therefore cannot be correctly called an article


simply because it is made t o d o duty f o r it .

In Yoruba books transl ated from the E nglish where the ,

translator endeavours t o render every word and particle into i ts


Yoruba equivalent we O ften fin d these particles used where a ,

pure Yoruba speaking w o uld n o t use an article Hence the


, ,
.

Yoruba of translations often sounds rather quaint .

Literal translations reg a rdless of di fferences of i di om O ften ,

result in ambiguity or nonsense .

In the B ri tish colonies of S ierra Leone and Lagos where the ,

Yoruba element predominates and where the E nglish language is ,

often heard spoken wi th local accents and local idioms the articles ,

are frequently left out where an E nglishm a n would use them ,

e.
g I see
. snake
,
for I saw a s n ake Water full,
for t h e river is full .
,
.

Here the local E n glish sounds rather quaint because the speaker ,

simply expresses his Yoruba ideas in E nglish words without the


article Again we may say in Yoruba O j oko lori aga ( He is
.
, ,

sitting on a chair) 0 nm u k ok o taba (he is smoking a pipe )


No one would ever think of addi n g the particle kan after ag a or
xxxvi A S K E TCH OF Y O RU BA G R AMMA R

ledko t a ba by way of expressing the article a S o also we may say .

M o pade Yesufu u i Od o O sun ( I met J oseph at the River


Osun ) or Mo fil o sf Oja
, ( I am going to the market ) No one .

would use the particle n ci after O sun or Q ja t o in di cate the article


t h e as its E nglish equivalent B ut we can say Qa ri n n a ti de .

( the man is come) MO pade l urin n a ( I m et the man) . .

Q m ed e ka n fid ur o d e o ( a child is waiting for you) MO pa .

ejo kan ( I have killed a snake) In whi ch cases d efin i t en es s is .

required and consequently the particles representing the articles


a,
a n and t h e are used .

These examples are su ff i cient to Show that the articles d o not


exist in the Yoruba language but where d efin i t en es s is required , ,

e quivalents can be found .

We deem these illustrations necessary as in books on Yoruba


Grammar the article forms one of the Parts of S peech .

NOUN
N ouns generally in their Simplest form are formed by p r efixi n g
a vowel to a verbal root as b e to shear a b e razor d é to cover
\ , , ,

( the head ) ; a d é cro wn ; d a to cease ; ed a drought ; se t o


, , , ,

o f fend ese sin S o also the verbals al e going a b e coming from


, .
, , ,

19 t o g o
,
and b e t o com e , .

B ut the prefixes have certain peculiarities of their own Thus .

a prefixed indicates an agent one w h o does a thing e g ke to cut , , . .


, ,

a k e an axe— a n agent for cutting wood


, D a t o break ; ad a .
,
‘ ‘
a c utlass y i m t o file a y i i n a file Or a saw , , , .

0 or Q the sam e as a but rest r icted in their use e


, g I n to bore ,
. .
, ,

olu a gimlet t o grind ; o l d a grinder ; w e to Swim o w e


, , ,

a swimmer d e t o hunt Q d e a hunter , , .

9 prefixed indicates a noun in the concrete e g n) to carry ; , . .


, ,

em) a load ,
mi ; to breathe em i the breath Spi ri t , , .

i prefixed denotes a noun in the abstract e g m o to know ; , . .


,

i m e knowledge ; ri to see ; iriri experience


, , ,
-

The vowels e and u are rarely used .

Gen d er The Yoruba language being non i n flect i ve genders


.
- -

cannot be distinguished by their terminal syllables but by pre ,

fixing the words a h g male and a b o female to the common term , , , ,

and som etimes okon r i n a man and a b i ri u a woman ; e g a kQ , ,


. .
,

e sin a horse stallion a b o esin a mare a k Q mal u a bull abo


, ,
-

,
-

mal d a cow O m c 0k on r i n a b o y i e a man child g m g birin


, .
~

, ,
. .
,
-

a girl .

In on e case the masculine see ms to be formed from the feminine ,

eg
. Iyawo a bride Q kQ iyawo a bridegroom
.
, , ,
-

, .
xxxviii A S K E TCH OF Y O RU BA G R AMMA R

A w gn ti 1 9 ( the men have gone away) The bells are


e ken r i n n a .

ringing— A w g n ag ogo n a n h i

A w g n however is rarely used with .
, ,

things without life When the plural nouns are indefinite that is
.
,

to say without the definite article the demonstrative awon is


, ,

omitted e g Walaha okuta m eji — two tables of stone


C a s e —T here are three c as es the nominative O bj ective and
. .
, , .

, ,

possessive as in the E nglish language ; but in none of them is


,

there a chan ge of form The nominative precedes and the obj ective .

follows after the transitive verb and preposition as usual but in ,

the c as e of the possessive the thing possessed stands before the ,

possessor wi th the particle t i expressed or understood between



them e g Moses book Iwe ti Musa in which the particle t i
, . .
, , ,

is expressed Iru esin the horse s t ai l in which the particle t i


.
,

is understood B ut although the particle ti is not expressed yet


.
,

its middle tone is preserved by lengthening t h e tone of the final


vowel of the thing pos sessed Thus we may say : Iwe ( e) Musa .
,

the book of Moses I r u (u) esin the tail of the horse Qr e( 9 )


.
, .

n r u n the word of God


,
A g b a l a (a ) Ob a the court of the Ki ng .
,
.

Oko Or e( e) mi My friend s f a rm

, .

The so u nd of the added tone is sometimes so slight as to be


al most imperceptible but i t is always there and is one of those , ,

fine points which are so di ffi cult for the ear of foreigners to catc h ,

and the absence of which m arks out their defective accents .

B ut when the noun in the possessive case stands alone the ,



particle t i m ust be expressed e g D avid s Ti D a ud a Moses s , . .
,

,
.
,

T i M us a It is J oseph s Ti Y es uf u u i ’
. .
,

AD J E C T I VE S
Adj ectives are general ly placed after the nouns they qualify ,

as E sin dudu a black horse o m o rere a good child


,
They are , .

placed before the nouns when some special attribute of that noun
is to be emphasized e g agi d i e m e a stubborn child ; a p a n , . .
, , ,

a Slovenly chi ld ; al agbara Qa rin a brave fellow a k e okuta , ,

a very hard stone .

These are really substantives used attributively They m ay .

m ore correctly be regarded as nouns in the construct state and ,

not pure adj ectives e g a brute of a man is a m ore emphatic


, . .
,

expression than a brutish man This Vi ew of showing the .

identity of a substantive wi th an adj ective is clearly shown by


Mason
The adj ective was origin ally identical with the noun which in ,

the infancy of lan guage named objects by naming som e attributes ,

by which they were known .

In course of time the adj ective was developed into a separate


A S K E TCH OF Y O RU BA G R A MMA R xxxi x

part of speech ; the function of whi ch w as to attach itself to the


noun even n ow i t is sometimes di ffi cult t o draw the line between
them as nouns are som etimes used attributively and adj e ctives
,


pass by va r ious stages into nouns .

C O MPA R I S O N O F AD J E C T I VE S
D egrees of comparison cannot be form ed from Yoruba adj ectives .

The words ju and ju lQ whic h are generall y used in Yoruba books


and tran s lations and even stated in som e gramm ars as forming
,

the comparative and superlative degrees are really adverbs ,

signifyi ng a g r ea ter or les s deg r ee th a n and as such m ay give


a co mp a r a ti ve s en s e on ly to the adj ectives to which they are

attached The superlative is really non e xisting it can only be


.
-

gathered from the context The word ju is only used in an el li ptical.

s ense for f u lg when a com parison is being m ade and it often appe a rs ,

in the form of tmesis Ile r e tobi ju ti emi lg Your house is -

larger than mine ; where lg is separated from ju by the words t i


emi , and m ay be omitted wi thout a f fecting the sense When us ed
otherwise i e wi thout an y idea O f com parison ] u is purely an
, . .
, ,

adverb sign ifying too t oo m u ch or to o li ttle e g O g a ju it is


, , . .
,

t o o high ; 0 kere ju i t is too small B ut a comparative idea


, .

can be gathered only from the context and also whether the ,

compari son is between two or m any and it is in that way alone ,

a comparative and a superlative degree can be m ade out If .


we say John is t a ller than all the other boys in the C lass we
, ,

express the s am e relation as to height b etween J ohn and the rest


as if we sho uld say John is th e ta ll es t boy in the clas s
, B ut in .

the former case John is considered a pa r t f r o m the other boys of


the class so that the two obj ects whi ch we have in mind are j oh n
,

and th e o th er boy s i n th e cla s s When the superlative degree is .

used J ohn is considered as o n e of th e g r oup of boys com pared


with each other M a s on .
-
.

This latter sense is what cannot be expressed in Yoruba and


therefore the language cannot be sai d t o possess a superlat ive
degree The s up er l a t i ve i d ea can only be gathered from the context
. .

It would be absurd to thus compare the adj ective tal l :


Positive g a ( tall) comparative g a ju (t o o tall ) ; superlative
, , ,

a ju l g
(more tall than ) whi ch are not adj ectives in the compara

g
tive and superlative sense at all .

T o use words li ke these a ogo j u l Q for the Most High or , ,



O WI i mi b eh e pup e jul g for I am m ost pleased at it is t o Speak ,

vile Yoruba N o pure Yoruba m an uncontaminated wi th E nglish


.

i deas would speak in that way at al l .

As the g eni us of the Yoruba language the working of the ,


x1 A S KE T C H OF YO RU BA G R AMMA R

Yoruba mind its ideas and i diosyncracies do not run in an Anglo


,

S axon channel it is not to be expected that the mode of expression


,

will a gree in every partic ular S ome teachers of the Yoruba .

lan guage often fall into this error in their endeavours to find the
exact equivalent in both lan guages .

TH E FO R M S A ND U SE S OF AD J E CTI VE S
E very adj ective has t wo forms the attributive and the predica ,

ti ve each dependi n g upon the use thereof e g z


, , . .

A high m ountain (attributive) Oke giga , .

The mount ai n is high (predicative) Oke n a g a , .

In Yo ruba the attributive is form ed from the predicative by


,

reduplicatin g the initial consonant wi th the vowel i e g strong , . .


,

p r ed l e a
,
t t r i b lile,; sweet pr ed d un a tt r i b di
. d i
, i n ; hot p r ed , , ,

gbona a ttr i b gb i g b on a ; good pr ed dara ; a ttr i b di d a r a etc


, .
, , , .
, , .

D isyll ables with the vowel u as a rul e undergo no change e g , .

tutu cold dudu black f un f un white etc ( the n bein g purely


, , , , .

nas al ) Although not in use the s a me rule even here may also
.
,

be applied .

PRO N O U NS .

Pronouns are used in the same sense as in E n glish They are .

I Personal I I Relative and I I I Adj ective there is no distincti on


, ,

in genders in any of the forms .

The Personal includes the R eflexive .

I Pers onal Pronouns


. .

( a) N ominative Case .

S ingular Plural
I s t Pers I E m i mo (m e mi ) ii
. We Awa a , , ,

z ud thou I w e 0 ( 9) you eyin e , , ,

O they A g n we
3 r d he she i t h 6 ( )
6 ,
w n , , ,

The full forms (sin g ) emi i w e o n (plural) awa eyin aw en , , , , , ,

are used when emphasis is to be lai d on the person but or di narily ,

the second forms (sing ) m o 0 O (plural) a e w en are used .


, , , , , , .

Those in brackets (m g mi 9 d) are mere provinciali sms for the , , ,

former .

N in the I s t person is used only wi th the incomplete and future


tenses e g h l Q for emi yio 19 or Mo fi l e I am going No 19 for
, . .
, , , ,

E m i yio 1 9 I shall go ,
.

He when used in an indefinite sense is en i as En i ti 0 b a se e


, , , ,

He that doeth it Eni ti 0 b a wa S i i h i n H e who comes here . ,


.
A S K E TCH OF Y O RU BA G R AMMA R xli

(b) Possessive Case .

S ingular Plural
I st Pers . Ti emi O urs ti aw a
2 nd Ti i w e or ti i r e yours ti eyin
3r d Ti o il or ti i r e thei rs ti aw en
It will be observed that the possessive forms are simply the .

nominatives wi th the particle ti ( meaning of) prefixed ; s o that


li terally they are of m e of y o u of h i m etc In ordinary speech , , , .
,

however the vowel of the particle always su f fers eli sion in the
,

singular number but in the plural it is the initial vowel of the


,

pronoun that is eli ded Thus we have .

S i ng
’ ’ ’ ’ ’
. t emi t i w g or t ir e t o fi or t ir e
, ,

P lu r a l : ti wa ti yin t i W Qn
’ ’ ’
.
, ,

The apost rophe mark of elision is g enerally dispensed with in


writing e g we write temi tiwa t i w en etc
, . .
, , , , .

S pecial notice shoul d be taken o f the forms t ir e and tir e in


the 2 n d and 3r d pers singular the di f ference li es onl y in the tone
.

(or accent ) in the 2 n d pers the tone of the fi r st syllable is de .

pres sed the second i s middl e i t is vi ce vers a in the 3r d person


, ,
.

(C) Obj ective Case .

S ingular Plural
I st Pers me mi us we
2 nd thee 0 you yin
3r d him her i t a e
, , , , e, i , 0, e, u them w en
The obj ective case as may be seen consists of fragments of ,

the nominative It is really the terminal syllables of the first


.

second and thi rd persons singul ar and plural The third person ,
.

sin gular calls for special remarks :


I t consists of the whole of the vowels but the particular vowel ,

made use of in each case is that of the transitive verb which pre ~

C edes the pronoun and governs the case e g O p a a (he killed i t) , . .


, ,

Mo p é é ( I cal led him ) Wen t ee (they bent i t) A b O 0 (we covered


, ,

i t) etc Where the verb ends in a nasal sound the vowel is also
, .

nasal e g O kan a (he n ai led it) A fun i i (we gave him ) etc

.
,
. .
, , ,

The tone of the pronoun in the obj ective case is influenced by


that of the verb whi ch governs it when that of the verb is raised
the Obj ective m aintains the middl e tone e g 0 l d 9 (he twisted , . .
,

it) Mo kit a ( I picked i t) and vi ce ver s a when that of the verb is


,

middl e that of the obj ective is raised e g 0 se é (he d i d i t)


, , . .
, ,

0 pa 5 (he ki lled i t) 0 kan mi (i t aches m e)


. Agai n when the
, .

t one of the verb is depressed th at of the pronoun is rai sed , ,


x lii A S KE TC H OF Y O RU BA G RAMMA R

e .
g mi (it touched m e) Mo ka a ( I counted it) A
.
, O kan , , p é w en
(we called them) .

T H E RE F LE XI VE
The word tik ar e incorporated wih the personal forms is used , ,

to in d icate t h e R eflexive I t is placed between the nominative .

a n d possessive cases eg , . .
,

S ingular Plural
1 st Pers E m i t i ka r a mi Awa t i ka r a w a
.

z ud I w e t i ka r a r e Eyin t i ka r a yin
3r d Oh t i ka r a r e A w g n t i ka r a w g n
The harsh r is generally softened into I so that instead of tikare
we say tikala but in a flowing s p eech the l i s dropped O ff altogether
and the two a s blended and lengthened ’
so we often hear
E m i tik a mi Ori t i kfi r e Awa tik a w a

.
, ,

I I R elative Pronouns
The R elative pronoun who whose whom wh ich what or that , , , , ,

in Yoruba is the simplest i n any language It consists solely


, .

O f the particle t i and is used for every number gender person or , ,

case e g I who called thee E m i ti o p é Q The man wh o m I


, . .
, “ ,
.

saw Oko n r i n t i mo ri The birds wh i ch flew Aw en eiy e ti w en f O


, .
, .

I I I Adj ective Pronouns .

These are (a ) Possessive ; (b) D emonstrative ; ( c) Di s t ri b u


-

tive ; (d) Indefini te ; and (e) Interrogative .

( a) Possessive S ingular Plural


My mi Our wa
thy re your yin
his her i ts r e their w en , ,

N o te — Like adj ectives they come af t er the nouns they qualify , ,

eg . My king Qb a mi your children aw on em g yin their cattle


.
, , , ,

aw en eran os in w on -
.

— S ingul ar
( )
b D emonstratives z Plural
this i e y e i i these w g n yi i w g n yi
y i y y , , ,

that mi eyi n i n a those w enni iwonni , , ,

N o te — The Simple forms yi u i w g n yi w enn i are used with the


.
, , , ,

nouns t h ey qualify e g This man l u ri n yi that book iwe u i


. .
, , , ,

these children aw en om o de w enyi , those houses ile w enn i ‘

, .

B u t when the nouns a r e not expre sed the forms wit h a vowel s
,
.

prefixed are used e g This is not good eyi kO dara this very one
, . .
, , ,

eyi yi these are not ripe i w g n yi kO p en ; those are very good , ,

i w g n n i dara me N a refers to somethin g spoken of or understood


. .
A S K E TC H OF Y O RU BA G R AMMA R xliii

( c) D istributive
each o l uku l u ku , en i ka n ka n
every en i ka n , or gbogbo
either en i ka n
neither si en i ka n ko

N ote —The Yoruba use of the dist rib u tives is rather idiomatic .

E ach is olu ku lu ku but when used in the sense of one by one


,

it is en i ka n ka n F or every one
. the Yoruba is g bog bo i e , . .
,

all e g it touches every one of us ( In Yoruba) It touches all o f


, . .
, .


us Gbogbo w a li o kan
,
E ither of them is one of them
.
, .

E ither O f us may g o Okan ninu w a l e 10


, .

(d) Indefinite
All On e
Any O ther
Both Anot h er
Cert ai n On e another
ara won
E ach oth er
di e S everal pup e
s p s l op s pup s S ome . d i e ( 3 f ew )
pup e Op e , S uch bayi
ko S i en i kai n Whole Qt t gbogbo ,

The Yoruba language 3 very defective in disti nctive terms


expressive of the indefinite pronouns On e word m ust do servi ce .

for di f ferent terms in whi ch there is a shade of di f ference of


meaning e g , .

Gbog bo is used for all whole , .

P up Q o r dp e for m any m uch several , , .

En i ka n for certain one , .

N on e is expressed by there is no one .

( e) Interrogative :
Wh o ? Tahani ? contracted t o t an i ?
Whose ? T i t a h a n i ? contracted to tit an i ?
Wh ich E wo wo ?
Whom Tani ? emi ti ?
Wh at Kini
N ote — The n i n kini is often converted or rather softened into
l i n speech What sh al l we do ? Kini awa yio se ? is softened
.

into Ki l a 0 se ? ’

VE R B S
V erbs are transitives and intransitives There are no auxiliary .

verbs as known in the E ngli sh and other languages cer t ain


parti cles are used to m ark out the m oods tenses and other forms , ,
X II V A S KE T C H OF Y O RU BA G R AMMA R

for which au xiliary verbs are used conse quently the verb t o be ,

as an auxili ary is wanting .

I n the E ngli sh l anguage there are six auxili ary verbs vi z , .


,

be have shall will m ay do each of them m ay be used as the


, , , , ,

pri ncipal verb and also as an auxiliary to other verbs when they
,

help to form the m oods and tenses ; but the particles that are
u s ed in Yoruba for such purposes are not verbs and cannot be ,

used as such and therefore cannot be correctly term ed auxili ary


,

verbs as som e compilers O f Yoruba grammars have tried to make


out F or example the particle ti placed before a verb denotes a
.
,

completed action e g Aj ayi ti I Q Aj ayi h as or had gone The


, . .
, , .

par ticle y i o in the same way points out a future tense ; e g Aj ayi . .
,

yi o l g Aj ayi will go T h e n as al a prefixed to any verb shows an


, .

i ncomplete action as Aj ayi fil e Aj ayi is going , .

There being n o auxiliary verbs as such the Passive V oice ,

cannot be formed in the usual way the fi r st or thi rd person plural ,

of t h e verb transitive is used for the passive voice e g A snake is , . .


,

killed will be A pa ej o kan or We n pa ej o kan Or i f we say , .

The snake was killed by Joseph the Yoruba will be A ti o w o


Yesufu pa ej o n a which is literally We by the hand of Joseph ,

kill ed the snake but usually the active transitive is preferred


, ,

vi z Yesufu li 0 pa ej o 1 1 51
.
,
It is Joseph that killed the snake , .

As was O bserved above the maj o ri ty of Yoruba verbs in their ,

simplest form consist of m onosyllables —a consonant and a vowel ,

eg
. . ka to pick h é to count r d to buy lg t o go wa to come
, , , , , , ,

s u n to sleep e tc They are non i n flect i ve and do not Show any


, .
-

di stinction in number or person .

Disyllabic verbs are almost invari ably c ompound words


resolvable into their component parts ; t h ey m a y be a verbal ,

root compounded wi th a preposition a noun or an adverb ( some ,

roots however have become obsolete) e g B awi to scold from


, , ,
. .
, , ,

b a with and wi t alk


, ,
D ahun to answer from d a to utter
, .
, , , ,

o kun a voice D ap e t o mingle from d d to pour or mix and


,
.
, , , ,

p g ,
together S u n ku n to weep
. from s un to Spring and ekun , , , , ,

tears .

S o m e are transitives others intransitives , .

The noun or pronoun governed by the transitive verb is i n


variably placed between the component parts e g Bawi to scold ,
. .
, , .

0 b a mi wi He scolded m e , .

Pade to close 0 pa i l eku n de He closed the door


,
.
,
.

Here the m i is placed between the b a and the wt It is not . .

0 bawi mi for He scolded me but 0 ba m i wi , .

S o also i l ekun is placed between p a and d e not 0 pade i l ekun , ,

but 0 p a i lekun d e for He closed t h e door .


xl vi A S K E TCH OF Y O RU B A G R A M MA R

j g or h i or jeki implyin g permission e g J e ki o 1 9 or ki 0 10


, , , . .
, ,

let him g o .

L e implyi ng permission
, 0 l e 1 9 he ma y go .
, .

M d or M a se impl yi ng prohibition (authori tative)


, .

M a h a implying permission ( authori tative) e g Mah a 1 9 be goin g


, , . .
, ,

Y i o often contracted t o 0 Sign of the future e g Yio 1 9 he , ,


. .
, ,

Wi ll go E m i 0 1 9 I will go .
, .

A t i or u i a ti softened into la ti implying an intention e g


, , ,
.

Ati 1 9 to go Lati j eun to eat (intending to)


, .
, .

N or n g Si gn of incomplete action e g E m i fil e I am going


, , . .
, ,
.

Ojo fi r O i t is raining , .

T i a Si gn of the past tense e g


, 0 ti 1 0 he has gone , . . .

F rom these particles the Moods and Tenses are formed .

M OO D S
The Indicative S ubj unctive Potential Imperative Infin itive
, , , ,

and the P a r t i ci p a l Moods can be well expressed in Yoruba an d ,

all but the first can be formed by the use of one or other of the
above particles .

The Indicative is the verb in i ts Sim plest form e g l g to go , . .


,
.

E m i 1 9 I went, Ojo s a re Ojo ran .


, .

The S ubj unctive is formed by p r efixi n g the conj unction bi (if)


before the subj ect of the verb wi th or without the particle ,

b a e g Bi emi 1 9 or Bi emi b a 1 9 If I were to go


,
. .
, Bi emi b a , .

f e 1 9 If I wish to g o
, .

The Potenti al is formed by adding the particle l é before the


verb e g E m i l é 1 9 I may go ( lit I am able to go)
, . .
, , . .

The Imperative is formed by the permissive sign J e ki e g , .

J e ki emi 1 9 Let me go [B esides the di rect forms 19 (go thou )


, .

9 1 9 (s o y el l -

The In finitive is formed by adding the particles a ti or la ti before


the verb e g A t i lg to go L a ti m g to know
, . .
, , .
,
.

The Participle is formed by p r efixi n g the particle fi (01 n g) to


the verb e g nlg going ; a coming
'

. . .
, , .
,

T E NS E S
There are only three tenses in Yoruba ; properly Spea king the ,

preterite the incomplete and the future


, , .

An action j ust done is a completed action and is therefore past


one doing is incomplete consequently what may be considered ,

present m ay be merged in the completed action and is therefore ,

taken as preterit e or in the incomplete a s the sense m ay re quire


, ,
.

The simple verb is always expressed in the past indefinite or


A S KE TC H OF Y O RU BA G R AMMA R xl vi i

preterite tense e g Mo 1 9 I went Mo w e I washed 0 r erin , . .


, , , .
,

he laughed or laughs O j oko he sat or Sits , .

The c omplete tenses past or prese nt are expressed by p r efixi n g , ,

the particle t i before the prete ri te e g MO ti w e I have o r had


.
, . .
, , ,

washed 0 ti 1 9 he has or had gone


.
, .

The incomplete tense is formed by p r efixi n g the particle fi (or ri g) t o


the verb e g E m i fiw e I am washing E m i fir eri n I am laughing
, . .
, , .
, .

The future t ense is formed by placin g the particle y i o (c ontracted


t o 0) before the verb e g E m i yio w e I shall wash E m i o 19 , . .
, , .
,

I shall go Awa o maha y e We Sh al l be rej oicing


.
, .

The future complete ( or second future) tense is forme d by


adding the particles in dicating the future and the complete tenses
t o the verb e g E m i y i o t i w e I Shall have washed . E m i 0 t i lo
.
, , .

I sh a ll have gone .

AD V E R B S
Adverbs are used in the same way as in the E nglish to modi fy ,

or limi t the meaning of a verb an adj ective or another adverb , , ,

and are generally placed after the words they qualify e g O S QI Q , . .


,
'

daradara He Spoke well 0 soro j QjQ I t is very di ffi cult After


, .
, .

an intransitive verb they com e di rectly after the verb as 0 mi n , ,

fanfan He Slept soundly 0 sure tete He ran swiftly B ut


, .
, .

after a transitive verb they come after the noun or pronoun


i n the obj ective case e g Mo m e Yesufu daj u daj u I know , . .
,
-

Joseph well 0 l e w en s ehi n s eh i n He drove them far back


.
-

, .

Adverbs of manner quality and degree are mostly formed by a


reduplication of the word ( especially an adverb or a verb) e g , . .


,

O 5 91 9 daradara He spoke very well 0 duro sin sin He sto od , , ,

firmly Da ju d a ju evi dently Mo f eran r egi di gi di I love him well


.
, .
, .

Adverbs o f tim e place and quan tity are used i n the same way ,

as in the E nglish and call for no special remarks We m ay note , .


,

however that in these words of more than one syllable not


, ,

onomatopoetic in or igin are capable of being resolved into thei r


elementary parts — usually into a particle ( a preposition) and a
noun e g, . .
,

Ni g b a g b og b o a lway s can be resolved into n i ( at ) igba ( time)


, , , ,

gbogb o ( all ) i e at all times , . .


, .

N i g b o se wh en can be resolved into n i ( at or in ) i g b a (time)


, , , ,

t i (whi ch ) 0 s e (it happened) i e at the time when i t happened


, , .
,

i e when
. .
, .

Ni h i yi h er e u i (at ) i ki n (here) y i ( this ) at this place


, , , , , .

Loke up wa r ds n i or li ( at ) oke (the top)


, , ,
.

Ni b o m i r a n els ewh ere u i ( at) i bi (place) omi r a n (another) at


, , , , ,

another place .
xl viii A S K E TC H OF YO RU BA G R AMMA R

B ut there is also a use O f adverbs pec uliar to the Yoruba lan


guage an onomatopoetic idea is often connected with it and
, ,

consequently i t is always formed to s uit t h e word it qualifies and ,

thus intensify the idea conveyed by the word A form that is .

a pplicable t o one verb or adj ective may not be applicable t o


another and t h erefore adverbs O f degree or quality can n ot be
,

enumerated F or instance : .

The adverb g Og Or O can only apply to height as O g a g Og Or O , ,

It is very high A reduplication of the word can further intensify


.

the idea 0 g a g Og Or O gogoro It is very very high In the sam e


, , , .

way the word g b ag ad a can only apply to something of a huge


si ze and a reduplic a tion of it g b ag ad a g b a g a d a intensifies the
, , ,

idea Also the word r ep et e or r ap at a rapata implies not onl y a


.
-

large Size b u t also a massive o n e one in wh ich the Space covered


, ,

is much more than the height .

Apart from intensifying the ideas other qualities can also be ,

expressed by the character of the adverb made use of in other


words the adverbs often suggest some other ideas inherent in the (

quali ti es they describe although they cannot be s o expressed in


E nglish e g we may say 0 p dn f O O It is bright red
,
. .
,
Here the , , .

adverb f O O besides being aptly applyi ng to what is red also


, ,

suggests the wa r m t h of the colouring S O also 0 p dn r or O It is .


,

deep red ; O p en r o ki r o ki i e I t is bright red almost yellow , . .


, , .

In the last two examples r or d and r a ki r aki refer simply to the


depth of the colouring 1
.

On e or t w o more illustrations will develop the above ideas



fully In the matter O f length we may say 0 gun t i i n u t unu
.
, ,

It is very long Thi s can only apply to a long road the idea of
.
,

distance being impli ed O gun g b Or Og b e r g It is very long This .


-

,
.

conveys an idea of a long pole or a rope or a serpent or the like , ,


.

S o also with respect to height we m ay say 0 g a f i o f i o It is very , , ,

high This can only apply t o something on the top of a great


.

height or the top of a high O bj ect —as a tree standing on the


, ,

gr ound 0 g a ti a n ti a n It is very high This can only apply to


.
-

, .

an obj ect at a gr eat height not connected with the ground as a , ,

bird flying at a great height .

In all these examples the adverb very is used t o qualify the ,

adj ectives in E nglish no other ideas being conveyed ; in this ,

respect the Yoruba is more expressive .

PR E P O S IT I O NS
Prepositions are particles placed before n o un s o r pronouns to
Show their relation t o other words in the sentence .


1
S ee Vidal s N otes t o Crowther s Yoruba Grammar ’
.
A S K E TCH OF Y O RU BA G R AMMA R xlix

In Yoruba they are mostl y monosyllables e g S i n i fun de ,


. .
, , , , ,

etc as O 1 0 s i ile He goes into the house 0 w a n i O ko He is


.
, ,
.
,

in the farm 0 kd ile f u n B aba He has built a house f o r the


.
,

father D uro d é mi Wait for me


.
, .

Words of more than one syllable when used as prepositions are


capable of being resolved into their component parts e g O n b O ,
. .
,

leh i n mi He is coming behind me


, Here the preposition l ehi n is .
,

resolvable into li ( at ) and ehi n ( the back) 0 w e leti ile He is .


,

near the house let i is resolvable into I t ( at ) and et i the ear or , ,

the edge that is within the hearing or at the edge of the hous e .

U nder V erbs we have already considered those pec uliar forms


compounded wi th prepositions .

C O N J U N CTI O N S
Conj uncti ons are particles which serve to connect words or
sentences ; they are copulative and disj unctive .

Copulative .

A t i and or both
, A l i Baba a ti o m g Both father and son
. The ,
.

initial a m ay be omitted e g Tiwo tir ef or ati i w o ati i r e ,


. .
,

( you and he ) .

on and or both 0 l g t o fi ti Om g He left both himself and


, .
,

child It m ay be noted that on is never used to copulate


.

pronouns o f the I s t and 2 n d persons .

B i if , Bi 0 je se 9 11 1 9 If he would be a child (This is used


. . .

for a n o b edi en t ch i ld ) .

N i t or i because

N ito r i t emi Because of m e
, .
,
.

Nje then Nje o yio 19 ? Then will you g o ?


, .

D isj unctive .

S ug bgn but 0 de ile s ug ban ko b a mi He called but did no t


, .
,

meet me at hom e .

T a b i or E m i tabi i w e I or you
, .
, .

B i h oge unless B i ko s e p e o j uba r e U nless he pays re g ard to


,
.
,

A dialthough Adi o ii n gbogbo r e Although he hears i t all


, .
, .

A m gpe idiomati c for be i t known ,


.

I N TE R J E C T I O NS
Interj ections are any form O f exclamation or ej ac ulation ex
pressing Some emotions of the mind Any words m ay be used .

for the purpose b ut Very few convey any meaning apart from,

the tone in which they are expressed .

E xclam ations of surp rise : Y é O pa em O hep a


E xclamations of disgust : SO Si y g
A S K E TCH OF Y O RU BA G R AMMA R

I t is rather curi ous that t ri bal peculi ari ties are marked i n some
forms of exclamations .

F avour ite expressions of n s H a Kinla l E m ed e Gbaga


dari 1
Favourite expressions of E gbas a n d I jeb us : H ere or herek el
h ep a ri p a l p a y en t i w a
The usual exclamation in law courts for silence is Atot o
li t enough of your noise !
,

Ka g b o h un l li t let us hear the sound of a (single) voice


, .

The tone of voice thrown into the exclamation in particular


marks the expressions of grief surpri se admiration or contempt
, , .

We close this porti on wi th the exclamati on usually addressed


t o kings K a b i yes i
-
May long life be added I
N U M E RA L S
N umerals in Yoruba although formed on a de finite plan yet
, ,

are more or less compli cated ; the t one (or accent ) plays an i m
po rtant part in them .

All numerals refer to some noun (person or thing) expressed or


understood They are Cardinal and Ordinal or S erial
. .

The Cardinal has three forms vi z ( )


1 simple
, . enumerati o n

( )
2 numeral ad jectives and ( )
3 nu m is m atics To these may be .

added a d verbs of number and of time .

1 S IMPLE E N U M E RA TI O N
Eji lelo g un
Et al elo g un
Er i n l elog un
E d g gb g n
Eri n d i l g g b g n
E t a d i l og b gn

E ji d i l g g b en
Qka n d i l gg b g n
n sn

A r u nd i lo n i
Oi i
A r un d i l a d g t a
Ad e ta
A r un d i l g g et a
Og g t a
Ar un d i l a d g r i n
Ae i n
Ar un d il eg er i n
Og g r i n
Ar un d i la d o r un
Ad g r un
A SKE TCH OF Y O RU BA G R AMMA R li

S IMPLE E N U M E RATI O N — C on t i n u ed .

Ar u n d i l eg er un E g b a ji
Qg g r u n Ed eg b a t a
Igba Eg b a t a
Q d un r u n E d eg b a r i n
I r i n wo Eg b a r i n
E d eg b et a E d eg b a r u n
Egb eta Eg b a r un
E d eg b er i n 2 0 , 000 Eg b a w a or
Eg b er i n l kan i e one bag (of . .

E d eg b er un cowries ) .

Eg b er un Higher numbers as
Eg b aw a etc being S O many bags . .

Eg b ed o g un
2 . Q U A N TITATI VE OR N U M E R AL AD J E CT I V E S
O kan Twent y nine Mokan d i l eg b en
-

M éji Thirty n gn
M et a Thirty five -

Ma r un di l o g o ji
M erin F orty Oji
M ar t i n F orty fiv e -
M a r un d i l a d et a
M et a F ifty At a
M ej e Fifty five
-
Mar un d i n Q t a
M ejg S ixty Ot a
M esan S ixty five
-

Ma r u n d i l a d g ri n
M ewa S eventy Ad e riu

M dka n l a S eventy— five Ma r u n d i l g g er i n


M ej ila E ighty Q g er i n
M et al a E ighty five -
Ma r un d i l a d er un . .

M er i n l a N ine ty A d er un
Med o g un N inety five -

Mer i n d il o g un On e hundred Qr i I n

M et a d i lo g un On e hundred and ten A d ef a


Meji di l o g u n twenty Qg g f a
M o ka n di l o g u n t h irty A d o je
Ogun forty Og o je
M eka n l el o g un fifty Ad e
Mej i l elo g un Sixty Qg ejQ
Met a lel o g un seventy A d g s a n
M er i n lel o g u n eighty n san
M ed eg b en ninety
M er i n d i l eg b g n Mew a d i n i g b a
M et a d i l g g b en
Two hundred Igba
Meji d i l g g b en etc etc .
, .

3 N U MI S MAT I C S
.

n e cowry O Oka n l
Three cowrie s
w cowries
o E éji 1 F our
1
L i t one money two monies cowry shells being used for m oney
, .
lii S KE T C H OF YO RU BA G R AMMA R

N U MI S MATIC S—C ont i n ued


F ive cowries A arun E -
ed eg b et a
S ix E era Egb eta
S even E eje E -
ed eg b eri n
E igh t si c Eg b er i n
N ine E esan E ed sg b er u n
-

Ten E ewa E g b er un
E leven O Oka n l a -

Eg b sf a
Twelve E éji l a -
E eje-
ed eg b
Thirteen E et a l a E g b eje
F ourteen E er i nl a E sd s n i Q -

F ifteen E ed o g u n 138 1) l .

S ixteen Eer i n d i lo g un E ed eg b e
-
s an
S eventeen cowries Eet a d ilo g u n Eg b es an
E ighteen E eji d i l o g u n Egb a di n Qg er u n
N ineteen O Oka n d i l o g u n Eg b aw a
Twenty O k Ow o E g b g kan l a
Twenty five -

E en a E g b éjil a
Thirty On n w o Eg b et al a d i n Qg e r un -

F orty Ogoj i Eg b et al a
F ifty A ad e ta -

Eg b er i n l a
S ixty Ot a E g b eed o g un
S e venty A a d er i n -
E g b eji d i l o g un
E ighty Qg g r i n din Qg Q r un -

N inety A a d g r un -

E g b eji d i n l o g u n
O n e hundred Qg Q r un Eg b a i i
1 1 0 cowries A ad ei a -

Eg b et al el og un
1 20 Qg e f a din Qg Qr un
1 30 A a d o je -

Eg b sd s g b on
1 40 O g o je E g b et al el e g b gn
1 50 A ad e -
din
gg e r u n
1 60 Qg élQ Eg b a t a
1 70 A ad gs an
-
E d eg b a r i n
1 80 Q g es a n Egb a r i n
1 90 E wa d i n i g b a E d eg b a r un
2 00 I gb i wo E g b a r un
210 E w a l er u g b a E d eg b a i g
220 Og u n l ug b a Eg b a i c
2 30 Og b g n w ol er ug b a Egb as an
2 40 Ojul u g b a Eg b awa ( Oke kan)
2 50 A a d ot a l er u g b a
-

E -
e d o g un

2 60 Q t al ug b a Er i n d i lo g un
2 70 A a d er i n l er u g b a
-

Et ad i lo g un
2 80 Qr i n lug b a E ji d i l o g u n -

2 90 A a d o r u n l er u g b a
-

t md il o g un
3 00 O d u n r un Egb a g un ( Oke m eji )
4 00 I r i n wo
li v A S KE T C H OF Y O RU BA G R AMMA R

A D VE R B S OF —
T IM E C on ti n ued
S even times E rin —mej e S eventy times Igba a d g r i n -

E ight Erin m ejQ -


E ighty Igba Q g er i n -

N ine Erin m esan -


N inety Igba a d g r un -

Ten Erin m ewa -


Hundred Igba Qg g r un -

The sam e to nineteen times . Thus Erin is prefixed to all


Twen ty times Igba ogun -
the numerals but the m ultiples ,

Thirty Igba g g b g n -
of ten take Igba b efore them .

F orty Igba ogoj i -


N ot e Erin is usually
.

Fifty Igba ad eta -


softened to ee e g eeka n eem eji ,
. .
, ,

S ixty Igba Qg g t a -
a n d so forth .

AN ALY S I S OF T HE N U M E R AL S
F R O M one to ten di f ferent t erms are used then for 2 0 30 2 00 and
, , , ,

4 00 ; the rest are m ultiples and compounds Thus 1 1 1 2 1 3 .


, ,

and 1 4 are reckoned as ten plus one plus two plus three and , ,

plus four ; 1 5 to 2 0 are reckoned as 2 0 less five less four less , ,

three less two less one and then 2 0


, , , .

In the same way we continue 2 0 and one to 2 0 and four and , ,

then 3 0 less five less four and so on to 30 and so for all , ,

figures reckoned by tens .

There is no doubt that the digits form the basis of enumeration


t o a large extent if not entirely S O Five ten twenty i e the
, .
, , , .

digits of one hand of t wo and the toes included and their , , ,

m ultiples form the di fferent stages of enumeration .

Beginning from the first m ultiple of 2 0 we have ogo]1 a co n t r a c ,

tion of ogun m eji i e two twenties Qg g t a three twenties


, . .
, ,

Qg er i n four twenties
, Qg gr u n five twenties and so on ,

to ten twenties when the new word I g ba is used .

The intermediate numbers ( 30 having a d istinct;terminology) ,

5 0 7 0 90 1 1 0 1 3 0 to 1 90 are reckoned as : 60 less ten


, , , ,
80
less ten a hundred less ten and so on to 2 00 .

The fi g ures from 2 00 to are reckoned as multiples of 2 00


( 4 0 0 however
, which is 2 0 x
, 2 0 the S quare of all the di gits has a , ,

distinct terminology I ri n wo or E ri n w o i e the elephant of , , .

fig ur es — meaning the highest coined word in calculation the rest ,

being m ultiples) .

Thus we have Egb eta a contr action of Igba m eta i e three ,


-

, . .
,

t wo hundreds Eg b eri n from Igba merin f o ur t w o hundreds


- - -

, ,

Egb er i n five two hundreds , and so on to Egb aw a


-

ten two hundreds -


which in its turn forms the b a sis of
still higher calculations .

Th e intermediate figures Of 3 00 5 00 7 00 900 to , , , ,

are reckoned as 1 00 less the m ul ti ple above them vi z Od un r un , .


, ,
A S K E TCH OF Y O RU BA G R AMMA R lv

contracted from Qr i i n di n n i i r i n wo i e 1 00 less than 4 00



- - -
. .
, ,

Qr i i n din n i egb eta 1 00 less than 600 Or un di n n i eg b eri n



- - - - - -

, ,

1 00 less than 8 00 ( 7 00) and so on to


B y a system of contraction elision and euphoni c assimilation , , ,

for which the Yoruba language is characteristic the long term ,

Or i i n din n i ( Egb eta or Egb eri n and so on ) is contracted t o Ed e



- -

or Od e e g Ed egb et a
, . .
Ed egb er i n
, Ed egb er un (900)
and so on .

B ut the m ultiples of 2 00 do not end with ten times ,although


that figure is the basis of the higher calculati ons i t goes on to ,

the perfection ( or m ultiple) Of the di gi ts vi z twenty times (two ,

hundr ed) thus we have Eg b ekan l a that is Igba m ekan l a , , ,

1 1 two h undreds
-
E g b ejil a twe lve two hundreds ,
-

and so on to twenty two hun dreds or E gb a ji that is twice two -

, ,

thousand
With this ends the m ul tiples of 2 00 The intermediate figures .

of are rec koned the same way as before ,

vi z
. 1 00 less than the next hi gher multiple .

As al ready mentioned Egb aw a (or Egba) forms the basis


, ,

of still hi gher calc ul atio n s ; the multiples of E gba are Egb a ji ,

two t wo t h ousands -

Eg b a t a three t w o thousands ,
-

Egb a ri n four t w o thousands


,
on to Egb a w a ten two
-

t housands which in its t urn forms the basis of th e highest


calculations .

The intermediate fig ures of


onwards are reckoned as less than the m u ltiple above them .

The more familiar t er m s f o r and however are Egb e


'

do g un or fifteen two hun dr eds and Eg b ed g g b en 2 5 two hundreds


,
-

, ,
-
.

F or those figures beyond the contracted for m s which a r e


generally used are Okan l a (for Eg b a m oka n l a ) 1 1 two thousands -

Ejil a Et al a on to Eg b a g un i e 2 0 two thousands i e forty


,
'

, . .
,
-

, . .
,

thousand .

S u mm a ry — Thus we see that wi th n umbers that go by tens


five is used as the intermedi ate fig ure— five less than the next
higher stage I n those by 2 0 ten is used as the interm ediate
.
-

, .

In those by 2 00 1 00 is used and in those of , is used , .

The figure that is made us e of f or cal c ul ating indefinite n umbers


is Eg b a w a and in money c alcul ation especi ally i t is termed


,

l kan i e one bag (of cowries)


, . .
, Large numbers t o an indefi n ite .

amount are S O many ba gs or rather bags i n S O many places .


C H APTE R I

O R IGI N A ND E A R LY HI S TO R Y

The origin of the Yoruba nation is involved in obscurity Li ke .

the early history o f most nations the commonly received accounts


are for the most part purely legendary The people being u n .

lettered and the language unwri tten all that is known i s from
,

traditions careful ly handed down .

The N ational Histori ans are certain famili es retained by th e


King at Oyo whose Offi ce is hereditary they also act as the King s ’
,

bards d rummers and cymbalists it is on them we depend as


, ,

far as possible for any reliable i nform ation we now possess ;


b ut as m ay be expected their accounts often vary in several
,

i m p Or t a n t particulars We can do n o more than relate the


.
.

traditions whi ch have been uni versally accepte d


The Yorubas are s ai d to have Sprung from L am ur ud u one of
the kings of Mecca whose o ff sprin g were —Od ud uw a t h e ancestor , _

of the Yorubas the Kings of Go g o b i ri and of the Kukawa two


, ,

tribes in the Hausa co untry It is worthy of remark that these .

two nations notwithstan di ng the lapse of tim e Si nce their separa


,

tion and in spit e O f the di stance from each other of their respective
localiti es still have the same di stincti ve tri bal marks on their
,

faces and Yoruba travellers are free amongst them and vi ce vers a
,

each recognising each other as of on e blood .

At what pe ri od of tim e L a m ur u d u reign ed i s unknown but .

from the accounts given of the revolution among h i s descendants


an d their di spersion i t appears to have been a considerable tim e
,

after Mahomet .

We gi ve the accounts as they are related :


The Crown Pr inc e O d ud uwa relapsed into idolatry during his
father s reign and as he wa s poss essed of great influence he drew

, ,

many aft er him Hi s p urpose was to transform the stat e religion


.

into paganism and hence he converted the great mosque of the


,

city into a n i d o l tem ple and this Asara h i s pri est who was hi mself
, , ,

an image maker studded with idols , .

3
4 TH E H I S TO RY OF T HE Y O RU BA S


Asara had a son called Braima wh o wa s brought up a Moham
m e dan D uring his minority he was a seller of his father s i dols
.

an occupation wh ich he thoroughly abhorred but whi ch he was ,

obliged to engage i n But i n O f fering for sale h i s father s handi


.

work he usually invited buyers by c alling out :


, Who would
purchase falsehood ? A premonition t h i s of what the boy will
afterwards becom e .

B y the influence of the Crown Prince a royal mandate was issued


'

ordering all the m en to go out h unting for three days before the
annual celebration of the festi vals held in honour of these gods .

When Br ai ma was old enough he seized the opportuni ty of on e


of such absences from the town of those who might have opposed
hi m to destroy the gods whose presence had caused the sacred
mosque to become desecrated The ax e with which the i dols
.

were hewed in pieces was left han ging on the n ec k of the c hi ef i dol ,

a huge thing in human shape E nquiry being made i t was soon .


,

discovered who the iconoclast was and when accosted he gave , ,

repli es which were not unli ke those whi ch Joash gave to the '

Abiezrites who had accused his son Gideon of having performed


a Similar act (see J udg es vi 2 8 S ai d Braima Ask that huge
, ,

i dol who di d it The men replied
. Can he speak ? Then , ,

sai d Brai ma Why do you worship things which cannot speak ?


He was immediately ordered to be burnt ali ve for this act of gross
im piety A thousand loads of wood were collected for a stake and
. ,

several pots of O i l were brought for the purpose of firing the pile .

This w a s Signal for a ci vil wa r E ach of the t wo part i es had .

powerful followers but the Mohamm edan party whi ch was h itherto
,

suppressed had the upper hand and vanquished their opponents , .

L a m u r ud u the King wa s Sl ain an d all his c h ildren wi th those wh o


,

sympathi zed with them were expelled from the town The Princes .

wh o became Kings of Go g o b i ri and of the Kukawa went west wards


and Od u d uwa eastwards The latter travelled 9 0 days from
.

Mecca and after wandering about finally settled down at Ile


,

I f e where he m et with A g b On i r eg un ( or S et i lu) the founder of the


-

Ifa worsh ip .

Od ud uw a and his children had escaped wi th t wo i dols to Ile


I f e S ahibu being sent with an army to destroy or reduce them
.

to submission was defeated an d amongst the booty secured by


,

the victors was a copy of the Koran This was afterwards pre .

served i h a temple and was not only venerated by succeeding


generations as a sacred relic but is even worshipped to t h is day
,

under the name of I di signifying S om ethi ng tied up


, .

S uch is the commonly received account among this intelligent


although unlettered people But traces of error are very apparent
.
6 THE H I STO R Y OF THE Y O RU BA S

originated from them as also are t h e i n h a b i t a n t s of Y a ory U pon -


.

the whole the people of Yarba are nearly of the sam e descri ption
,

as those of No o f ee ( N upe) 1

In the nam e L a m u r u d u ( or N a m ur u d u) we can easily recognize


a dialectic modification o f the nam e N imrod Wh o this N imrod .

was whether N imro d surnam ed the strong the son of H a s o fi l


, , ,

or N imrod the mighty hunter of the Bible or whether both ,

descriptions belong to one and the sam e person we cannot tell , ,

but this extract not only confirms the tradition of their origin but
also casts a Side light on the legend Arabia is probably the .

Mecca of our tradition I t is known that the descendants of .

N imrod ( Phoenicians) were led in war to Arabia that they settled ,

there and from thence they were dri ven by a religious persecution
,

to Africa We have her e also the origin of the t erm Yoruba


.
,

from Yarba their first perm anent settlem ent in Africa Yarba
, .

is the sam e as the Hausa t erm Y a r r i b a for Yoruba .

It is very curious that in the history of Mahom et we read of


a Similar fli ght of his first converts from Mecca to the E ast Coast
of Africa ( the first Hegira) due also to a religious persecution ; ,

this fact will serve to Show that there is nothi ng im probable in


the accounts as received by trad i tion Again that they emi grated .
,

from U pper E gypt to Ile I f e m ay also be proved by those sculpt ures


com monly known as the I f e Marbles several of which may be ,

Seen at Ile I f e t o this day s ai d t o be the handiwork of the early


,

ancestor of the race They are altogether E gyptian in form. .


Th e m ost notable of them i s what 1 5 known as the Op a Qr a fiya n ,

( Qr a fiy a n 5 sta f f) an obelisk standing on the sit e of Qr a fiya n s


’ ’

supposed grave havi ng characters c ut i n it whi ch suggest a P h o eni


, :

oian origin Three or four of these sculpt ures may n o w be se en


.

in t h e E g yp t i a n Court of the B r itish Museum showing at a glance


'

t h at they are among kindre d works of art .

F rom t hese statements an d traditions whether authentic or ,

my thologic the only safe deductions we can m ake as to t he m ost


,

probable origin of the Yorubas are :


1 That they sprang from U pper E gypt or N ubia
.
,
.

2 That they were subj ects of the E gyptian conqueror N imrod


. ,

wh o wa s of Phoeni cian origi n and that they followed him in his ,

wars of conquest as far as Arabia where they settled for a tim e ,


.

H o w subj ects term themselves C hi l d ren or o ffspri ng of their

V ide N a r r a ti ves of T r a vels a nd D i s cover i es by Maj or D enh am


1
,

and C apt C l a p p er t o n 1 8 2 6 App endix X I I S ec I V


.
, . . .

A T r op i ca l D ep en d en cy by Flora L S haw ( Lady Lu g ar d ) 1 905


'

,
.
, ,

pp . 2 2 7— 2 2 8 .
O R IGI N A N D E A R LY H I S T O R Y 7

sov ereigns is t o o well known in this country as we Shall see in the


-

co urse of this history .

3 That from Arabia they were dri ven on account of their


.
,

practising there their o wn form of worshi p which was either ,

pagani sm or more li kely a corrupt form of E astern Ch ristianity


( wh i ch all owed of image worshi p— s o di stasteful to Moslems ) .

Again the nam e of the pri est Asara is also a peculiar one
,

i t is s o m uch li ke A n a s a r a a term which Moslems generally


applied to Ch r ist i ans (which signi fies followers of the N azarene
as t o m ake i t probable that the revolution spoken of was in con
n ec t i o n rather with Mohamm edanism and the corrupt form of ,

Ch risti anity of those days .

Lastly the sacred relic called I D I from its being bound up and
,

pres erved and which is supposed to have been a copy of the


,

K o r a n is probably another error


, Copies of the K o r a n abound .

in this country and they are n o t venerated thus and why Should
, ,

this have becom e an obj ect of worshi p P The sacred book of th e


party O pposed t o them On e can hardly resist coming to the
conclusion that the book was not the K o r a n at all but a copy of ,

the Holy S criptures in r o lls the form in which anci ent m anuscri pts
,

were pres erved The K o r a n being the only sacred book known to
.

later generations wh ich have l ost all contact wi th Christianity


for centuri es after the great emigration into the heart of Africa ,

i t is natural that their hi stori ans Should at on ce j um p to the


conclusion that the t hi ng bo un d up wa s the K o r a n It might .

probably then be shown that the ancestors of the Y orubas haili ng ,

from U pper E gypt were either Coptic Christians or at any rat e


, ,

that they had som e knowledge of Ch risti ani ty If so i t might o ffer .


,

a solution of the problem of h o w it cam e about that tra ditional


sto r i es of the creation the deluge of E lij ah an d other scri ptur al
, , ,

ch ar act ers are current amongst them and in di rect stori es of our ,

Lord t erm ed son of Mo r em i


, .

B ut let us continue the story as gi ven by tra di tion Od ud uwa .

and hi s sons swore a m ort al hatred o f t he Moslems of their country ,

and were determined to avenge themselves of them but the form er


d ied at Ile I f e before he was powerful enough to m arch again s t
them Hi s eldest son Q kan b i commonly call ed I d eko ser g a ke

.
, ,

al s o di ed there leaving behind hi m seven pri n ces and p ri ncesses


,

who afterwards becam e renowned F rom them sprang the various .

tribes of the Yoruba nation Hi s fir s t born w as a princess who.


-

was m arri ed to a p r i est an d becam e the mother of the famous


,

Olowu the ancestor of the Own s


, The second child was also a .

princess wh o becam e the mother of the Al a ket u the progenitor ,

of the Ketu people The third a prince becam e king of the


.
, ,
TH E H I S TO R Y OF TH E Y O RU BA S

B enin people The fourth the Orangun becam e kin g of Ila ; the
.
, ,

fifth the On i sa b e or king of the Sab es the sixth Olup op o or king


, , , ,

of the Popos the seventh and last born Or a fiya n wh o was the pro , ,

genitor of the Yorubas proper or as they are better distin g uished ,

O vos .

All these princes becam e kin gs who wore crowns as disti ngui shed
from those who were vassals wh o di d not dare to wear crowns ,

but coronets called A ko ro a high crowned head g ear embroi dered


,
- -

wi th silver .

B ut i t m ay h e rem arked that the Olo wu s father was a commoner ’

and not a prince of the blood and yet he becam e one of the crowned ,

heads The following anecdote will ex plain how this cam e about
. .

The Yoruba princesses had ( and still have) the liberty of


choosing husbands according to their fancy from any rank in life
the King s eldest daughter chose to m arry her father s pri est for
’ ’

whom S h e had the O lowu .

This young prince was one day playing on hi s grandfather s ’

knees an d he pulled at the crown on his head ; the indulgent


,

parent thereupon placed i t on the child s head but li ke som e Spoiled ’

children he refused to give i t up when requi red and so i t wa s left


, ,

with him the gran dfather putting on another The child had the
, .

'
crown on his head until he fell asleep in his m other s arms when ,

she took i t o ff and ret urned i t to her father but the latter told her ,

to keep i t for her son as he seem ed so anxious to have it H ence the


,
.

right of the Olowu to wear the crown li ke his uncles The sam e .

ri ght was subsequently accorded to the A la ket u i e the pro g eni tor , . .
,

of the Ket u people .

It was st ated above that Qr a fiya n wa s the yo ungest of Od u d uwa s ’

grandchildren but eventually he becam e the richest an d most


,

renowned of them all How t hi s cam e about is thus told by


.

tradition
On the death of the King their grandfather his property was , ,

unequally divi ded among his children as foll ows


The King of Benin inherited hi s money (consisting of cowry
shells) the Oran gun of Ila h i s wi ves the King of Sab e h i s cattle
, , ,

the Olu p op o the beads the Olowu the garments an d the A la ket u ,

the crowns and nothing was left for Qr a fiya n but the land S om e
,
.

assert that he was absent on a warli ke expedition when the partition


wa s made an d so he was shut out of all movable properties
,
.

Qr a n y a n was however satisfied with his portion which he pro


, , ,

c ee d ed forthwith t o turn t o good account with the utmost skill .

He held his brothers as t enants li ving on the lan d whi ch wa s his


f or r ents he recei ved money wom en cattle beads garm ents and , , , , ,

crowns which were h i s broth ers portions as al l these were m ore


,

,
O R IG I N A N D E A R LY H I S T O R Y 9

or less dependent on the soil and were deri ving sustenance from
,

i t And he was the one selected t o succeed the father as King in


.

the di rect li ne of succession 1


To his brothers were assigned the
.

various provinces o ver wh ich they ruled more or less independently ,

Qr a ii y a n himself being placed on the throne as the A L AF I N or Lord


of the R oyal Palace at Ile I f e .

Accordi ng to another account Qr a fiya n had only a bit of rag ,

left him contai ning earth 2 1 pieces of iron and a cock The whole
, , , .

surface of the earth was then covered with water Qr a fiy an lai d .

his portion on the surface of the water and placed on i t the coc k , ,

whi ch scattered the earth with his feet the wide expanse of water
becam e fil led up and the dry land appeared everywhere His
, .

brothers preferring to live on dry land rather than on the surface ‘

of the water were p ermitted to do s o o n t h ei r paying an annual


tribute for sharing with their younger brother hi s o wn portion .

It will be noticed that both traditions attribute the land to



Q r a fiy a n hence the common saying A lafin l oni i le ( the A lafin

is the lord of the land) the pieces of iron representing underground


treasures and the cock such as subsist on the land
, .

The former account seems more probable the latter being li ttle ,

else but a travesty of the story of the creation or the flood B ut .

it is f ai r t o mention that the more generally received opinion is ,

that Qr a fiya n becam e more prosperous than his brothers owing t o


the fact of his li ving virtuously they being given up to a life of
,

unrestrained licentiousness and being also by far the bravest of


them all he was pr eferred above them and was seated on the
,

ancestral throne at Ile I f e which was then the capi tal of the Yoruba
country .

The A lake and t h e Ow a of Ile § a are sai d to be nearly related t o


the A L AF I N the former was s ai d to be of the sam e m other wi th
one of the earliest Al afin s This woman w as called Ejg who after
.

war ds t ook up her abode wi th her youngest son until her death :
.

hence the common saying Ejo ku Ake Ejg di ed at Ake 2


.

The Ow a of the I jesas claim ed to be one of the younger brothers


but his pedigree cannot now be traced ; the term brother
being a very elastic one in Yoruba and m ay be applied t o any
relative far or near and even to a trusty servant or to one adopted
,

1
The reason assigned for thi s was that he wa s born in the “

purple that i s t o say born a ft er the father had becom e King


, .

This was at one tim e th e preva i ling cust om for the Ar em o O y e ,

i e the first born from the throne t o succeed the father


. . , , .

2
E jo means a palaver The phrase then m eans a case deci ded
.

at A ke i s final .
I O THE H I S TO R Y OF TH E Y O R U BA S

into the family .


l
In olden times when there was uni versal peace
throughout the country before the commencem ent of the d es t r uc
,

ti ve int ertribal wars which broke up the unity of the kingdom


an d created the tribal independen ce thi s relationshi p was ,

acknowledged by the Ow a paying a yearly tribute of a f ew heads


of co wri es m ats and som e products of his forests to the A L AF I N
,
,

wh ile the latter sent him presents of tobes and vests and other ,

superi or articles well worthy of him as an elder brother .

That the A L AF I N the Alake and the Ow a were chi ldren or


, ,

grandchildren of Qr a fiya n seems probable from the fact that to


this day none of them is considered properly installed until the
sword of state brought from Ile I f e where Qr a fiya n wa s buried is
placed i n h i s hands .

Qr a fiya n was a nicknam e of the prince his proper nam e being


Od ede . He wa s a m an of great physical powers H e fir st .

obtained renown as a mighty hunter and i n process of tim ehe


also became li ke N imrod a mighty conqueror
, , .

T h e exp edi t i o n ag a i n s t M ecoa —Wh el r a fiya n wa s suffici ently


'

strong he set o ff for an ex pedition against Mecca to wh ich he


summoned his brother s t o avenge the deat h of their great grand


,
-

father and the expulsi on of his party from that city He left
, .


Adim u one of his father s trusty servants in charge of the royal
treasures and the charms with a strict inj unction to observe the
,

customary worship of the national gods I D I and OR I § A 05 1 .

This is an o f fice of the greatest importance pertaining to the


King himself but how slaves or high servants are often entrusted
w i th the duties of the master himself is well known in this country -

as we shall see in the co ur se of this h istory .

It is sai d that the route by which they cam e from Mecca


and whi ch occupi ed 90 days wa s by this time rendered impassable
,

owi ng to an arm y of black ants bloc king up the path an d hence , ,

Qr a fi y a n was obliged to take another rout e which led through the -

N upe or Tapa Country All his brothers but the eldest j oined
.

him but at Igangan they quarrelled over a pot of beer and di spersed
,

refusing t o follow his lead The eldest brother c a lculating the


.

distance through the Tapa country lost courage a n d went eastw ar d


prom i sing t o make his attack from that q uarter should his brother
Qr a fi y a n be successful in the West Qr a fiya n pushed on until
.
2

he found himself on the banks of the R iver N iger .

The Tapas ar e sai d to have opposed his crossing t h e ri ver and ,

as he could not force his way through he was obliged to remain ,

for a wh i le near the banks and afterw ards resolved to retrace his
,

1
A fuller account will be found under The ori gin of the I jes a s .

2
The geography of our histo ri ans may be excuse d — E D .
O R I GI N A NO E A R LY HI S T O R Y I I

steps To return however t o Il e I f e was too humiliating to be


. , ,

thought of and hence he consulted the King Of Ibariba near whose


,

t er r 1 t o r y he w as then encam ping as to w here he should m ake his


residence Tradition has i t that the King Of Ibariba m ade a
.
,

charm an d fixed i t on a boa constrictor and advised Q r a ri yan t o


follo w the track of the boa and wherever it rem ai ned for 7 days
and t hen disappeared there he was t o bui ld a town Qr a fiya n
, .

and his ar m y followed his di rections and went after the b o a up to


the foot O f a hill called A J AKA where the reptile remained 7 days ,

and then disappe a red According t o instructions Qr a fi y a n halted


.

there and built a town c al led O Y O A J AKA


,
This was the .

anci ent city O f Q Y Q m arked in a n c1 en t m aps as E y eo or Katunga


( the latter being the Hausa t erm f Or Oy Q) capital of Y a r r i b a (see
Webster s pronouncing Gazett eer) This was the E yeo visited

.

by the E nglish explorers Cl a p p er t o n and the Landers .

Qr afi ya n rem ai ned and prospered in the new home his d ecen d a n t s ,

spread E ast West and S outh west they had a free com m uni c a
, ,
-

tion W1 t h I l e Ife and the King O ften sent t o Adim u for whatever
was required by h i m out O f the royal treasu r es f o r the new ci ty .

In process O f tim e A di m u m ade h imself great because he was


not only the worshi pper O f the national dei ties but also the ,

custodian and dispenser O f the King s treasures and he was ,

commonly designated Adi mu Ol a i e Adim u O f the treasures . .


,

or Adim u l a i e Adim u i s becom e we a lthy


. . .

B ut this Adi mu wh o became O f S O m uch consequence from h i S '

performing royal functions wa s originally the son of a woman


condemned to death but being found at the tim e O f executio n
,

to be in the way Of becoming a mother she was tem porarily


reprieved until the child wa s born Thi s chi ld at its birth was
, .

dedi cated t o the perpetual service of the gods especi ally the ,

go d Q b a t al a t o whi ch his mother w as t O have been sacri ficed


'

, .

He was sai d to be honest faithful and devoted t o the King as to ,

his o wn father and therefore he wa s loved and trusted


, .

When Adi m u wa s announced to the Kings and Princes all


ar ound as the person appointed by the King to t ake charge O f

the treas ures and to worship th e nation al deiti es during his


,

absence i t w as generally as ked And wh o 1 5 this Adi mu ? The


,

answer comes n Ol uw ig n i the s o n of a sacri fici a l vi ctim :


t his is contracted to w ni ( Oluwo being the term for a sacrificial
victim ) S O in subsequent years when the seat O f government
.

was remo ved permanently to OY O but not the N ational D eities ,

Adim u became suprem e at Ile I f e and h i s successors to t his day


have been t erm ed the Ol o r i sas i e high pri ests or fetish worshi ppers . .

to the King and people O f the whole Yoruba nation The nam e
, .
1 2 THE H I STO R Y OF THE Y O RU BA S

Adimu has since been adopted as the agnomen and the term c g ni ,

as the title of the Kings or more properly th e high priests O f


I f e t O t h i S day the duties of the o ff ice being not local or tri bal
O
, ,

but national .

According to another account after the death of Q kan b i


'

, ,

Qr a fiya n having succeeded and assumed the command emigrated


to O kO where he reigned and where he died and the seat of ,

government was removed thence in the reign of S ango to Qk or O ,

i e the afores ai d an ci ent Ci ty of Q Y Q


. .
, .

Qr a fiyan m ay have actually di ed at O ko but h i s grave with an ,

O belisk over it is certainly shown at Ile I f e to this day It is a .

custom among the Yorubas — a custom O bserved to t h is day— to


pare the n ai ls and Shave the head O f any one wh o di es at a con
s i d er a b l e distance from the place where they would have him

buri ed These relics are taken to the place O f interm ent and there
.
,

decently buri ed the funeral O bsequi es being scrupulously O bserved


,

as if the corpse itself were buri ed there Hence although ( as we have .

on probable grounds assum ed) Qr a fiya n may have di ed at Oko and ,

the art O f emb al ming lost Or unknown his relics could thus have ,

been taken t o Ile I f e wher e t o thi s da y he i s S upposed to have been


buri ed A m ore romanti c account of his death however will be
.
, ,

gi ven i n Part I I O f this history .

As the Yorubas worshi p the dead and have the belief that ,

prayers O f fered at the grave of deceased ancestors are potent to


procure t emporal blessings all succeeding Yoruba Kings on thei r
,

access ion and before coronation are expected to send t o perform


acts of worship at the grave O f Od u d u w a and to receive the benedic
tion Of the pri est The sword Of j ustice known as I D A OR A N Y A N
.

( Q sword) is to be brought from Ile I f and ceremoniously



an an s e
r y
placed i n their hands wi thout thi s being done th e Kin g has no ,

authori ty whatever to order an ex ecution Qr a fiya n s desc endants .


i n proces s O f tim e were divi ded into fo ur distinct famili es known ,

by their distincti ve dialects and forming the four provinces O f ,

Yoruba proper V i z the E kun Otun E kun Os i I l Q and E p o


. .
, ,

pro vin ces The E kun Otun and E kun Os i or ri gh t and left i e
.
, .

E astern and West ern provi nces ar e the towns lyin g to the E ast
and West O f the Ci ty O f Q Y Q .

1 The E kun Otun or West ern provin c e included all the towns
.

along the right bank O f the Ri ver Og un down to Ib er e kodo Igana ,

being the chi ef town The oth er important towns ar e z— Saki


.
,

Oke h o Is eyi n I w a w un E ruwa Iberek odo etc In this provinc e



.
, , , , ,

two distinct dial ects ar e spoken t h e people inhabiting the outer


most borders are known as I b ar a p as and ar e d istinguished by a
nas al twang in their speech .
I 4 THE HI STO R Y OF TH E Y O R U BA S

over the E p o district but also over a large area of the country as
,

well I t has a mixed population including every tri be of the


.

Yorubas .

I ja ye formerly an Egba town becam e peopled by n s chi efly


from the E kun Os i ( Ikoyi ) dist ri cts .

A ll these i ncluding hundreds O f i mport ant towns wi thi n the


area are peopled by Yorubas proper or d s as they are generally
"

c alled and constit ut e the more im portant portion o f Yoruba proper


, .

The Egbas who were f o r the most part Off shoots Of these and
,
-

formerly li ving in hamlets and vi llages independently of one another


have through the exigenci es of thes e wars collected themselves
from 1 5 3 hamlets or townshi ps to form one town Ab eokuta , .

A further account of this wi ll be gi ven i n i ts place All th es e .

are reckoned as descendants of Qr a fiya n .

B y the advent also O f the whit e m en from the coast the centre ,

O f li ght and ci vi li zation has removed to the south so that the


,

E pos m ay soon cease t o be the weeds of the country as they ,

m ay r ecei ve the i nspi rati on Of ci vi li zati on from th e south instead


of from the north as hi therto .
C HAPT E R I I

TH E O R IGI N OF TH E T R IB E S
A LL the various tribes O f the Yoruba nation trace their origin
from O d u d u wa and the city Ile I f e In fact Ile I f e is fabled as .

the spot where God created man white and black and from , ,

when ce t hey dispersed all over the earth We have seen in the .

previ ous chapter which are the principal tribes that sprang from
O d u d u w a s seven grandchil d ren vi z The Yorubas proper from

.
,

Q r a fiya n the Beni ns Ilas Ow u s Ketus S ab es and the Popos


, , , , , , .

S ome of the other tribes were offshoots of o n e or other O f thes e as ,

we shall see further on S ome authentic tradi tion will be gi ven


.

relative to the f o r m a t i o n o f some of the m


'

An important fact which must also be borne in m ind is that the ,

country was not altogether unpeopled when O d u d u w a an d his


party entered i t from the E ast the probabili ty is that the abori ,

gi n a l inhabitan t s were conquered an d absorbed at leas t at the ,

central if not at the remote provinces of the Yoruba kingdom .

In ancient patriarchal times the king O f a country was ,

regarded as the father or progenitor of h i s people Thi s view will .

to some extent explain what would otherwise appear t o be a


marvell ous (if n o t impossible ) instance of fecundity in any one
king e g O r a fi ya n peopling so vast a region as that attributed
, .

t o him in s o Short a time— the more warlike the king the more
, ,

extensive h i s domini on and the m ore numerous i t would seem his


, , ,

progeny .

In fact We may almost take it as proved that as Qr a fiya n and



his army as well as his brothers pushed on their conquests in
, ,

every direction the princes and the war lords were stationed in
,
-

va ri ous parts to hold the country and from them Sprang the many ,

provincial kings O f various ranks and grades n o w existing .

This als o accounts for t h e tradi tion that the Yoru ba sway once
extended as far as Ashanti and included the Gas O f Accra for the ,

G as say that their ancestors came from Ile I f e; and the constitution
O f the G a language is s ai d t o be more li ke Yoruba than like F anti ,

the language Of the Gold Coast and the area in which that language
,

is spoken is strictly limited And cert ai nly until comparatively


.
, ,

recent times the Popos and D a h o m i a n s pai d tribute reg ularly to


Q Y Q as their feudal head it is cert ai n therefore that the generals , ,

and war lords O f Q r a fi ya n pushed on far beyond the limits of the


-

Yoruba country as now known an d althou gh i n places remote fr om


,

1 5
1 6 TH E H I STOR Y OF TH E Y O RU BA S

the centre as the Benins and Seki r i s in the east and the Popos
, ,

D a h o m i a n s and Gas in the west the Yoruba language is not ,

spoken yet the knowledge of i t exis ts among the ruling chiefs


,

and the pri estly caste who still maintain their connection with Ile
I f e the place of their common origin
, This Vi ew wi ll also to some .

extent explain the mutual understandi ng and bond of sympathy


existing between the I fes E ki t i s and allied families as remnants , ,

O f the largely diluted aboriginal elemen ts still having m a ny t h ings

in co mmon and their natural antipathy— more or less to the


,
-

n s or Yorubas Pr o per .

I t is also worthy Of remark that all the p r i n ci p a l rulers O f the


country to Show the validity O f their claims must trace their
, ,

relationship by one way or another to the A L AF I N O F Q Y Q who is the ,

direct descendant O f Qr a fiyan son and successor of Od u d u wa the , ,

founder ; which Simply implies that the children and O f fspring Of


the conqueror are the chief rulers over the di f ferent parts Of the
conquered territories .

YO R U BA PR O P E R

Q was already di stinguished as a brave and war like


r a fi ya n -


prince during his father s lifetime and he probably owed his ,

succession to this fact as was usual in those stormy times On , .

his accession t o t h e throne when he set out from Ile I f e on his ,


.

famous expe di tion to Mecca to avenge the death O f his gr eat


grandfather he was certainly accompanied b y his conquering
,
'

hordes and if we trace his route from Ile I f e northwards to the


banks of the N iger whence he turned westward to the borders of
,

the B a r i b a s and then t o the ancient O Y O (E yeo) whic h he founded


, , ,

and where he settled and from wh ence he Spread southwards ,

towards the coast we shall see that the people embra ced in this
,

vast regi on vi z with the If es in the east the N ige r on the north
the B a ri b a s on the west as well as the D a h o m
,
.
, , ,

i a n s and the ,

E g b a d os on the south are those known as the Yorubas Proper , ,

or as they are generally termed by the other tribes the Q Y QS ,

and are t h e s o called descendants of Q r a fiya n and the cream of


-

his conquerin g army These then constitute Yorubas Proper


. .

We have stated in a previous chapter how they are divided


into four distinct provinces but there has always been among them ,

a bond of sympathy and union apart from what they have in ,

common with the other tribes They have always retained .

their loyalty— more or less — to the successors of Q r a fiya n their ,

common father even wh en the revolution ary wars left the country
,

no longer united under one head as in the days of S ango down t o


those of A b i g d un
THE O R IGI N OF TH E T RI BE S 7

TH E E GE A S
'

The Egbas are a small o ffshoot Of the Yorubas Proper wh o ,

occupy the south —eastern districts O f that province They origin .

a lly occupied the area bounded by certain imaginary lines drawn ,

say from I jay e t o m eet the Ogun R iver at Olokemej i and along
, ,

it to its mouth and another from the same point via Ibadan to
,

the west O f J eb u R em Q down t o the coast They li ved in hamlets .

and vi llages for the most part independently of o n e another and ,


,

never under one rule All t h e principal famili es of the E gb a s trace


.

their origin from Q yQ hence the common saying E gbas w h o have


,


n o t their root in Q y Q are slaves i e belong to the conquered ,
. .
,

abori gin al population Most O f the chiefs sprang from the E sg s .

of n I t would seem then that during the wars Of conquest a


.
,

number O f these warli ke EsQS under the leadership O f the King s


half brother was detached from the m ai n army carrying their


-

, ,

arms to those regions where they subsequently settl ed in the ,

immediate neighbourhood O f the Ow us Ab eokuta as we now know .


,

i t O f course had n o existence then E ach O f what is n o w c al led


, .

the townships was a separate vi llage or hamlet with its own


chief they were loosely grouped into three di visions but rather ,

independent of one another but a ll acknowledging t h e King s ,

brother ( the Alake ) as their P R I M U s They were .

1 E gba A gb eyi n These were the E gbas proper and nearest


. .
,

the Ij ebu R es The principal town s were Ake the chief tow n
.
, ,

Ij eun Kemta I p oro Igbore etc


, , , , .

2 E gba Oke O n a i e those situated near the banks O f the


. . .
,

Ri ver Od o Q n a O ko the chi ef town Ikereku I kij a Idomapa


.
, , , ,

Od o Podo etc,
Their chief is call ed the Q si l e
, . .

3 E gba Agura or Gb a g u r a these were situated near the Q y Q


.

districts and indeed they cont ai n gen ui ne n s in large numbers


, ,

and gener al ly they partake O f their characteristics largely hence ,

they are ni ck named Os among E gbas -


The principal towns .

were : Agura th e chief Ilugun Ibadan I f a y e Ika Q jQ I l aw g , , , , , , ,

et c .

Th e Egbas were 011 the whole few in number and occupied a ,

li mited terri tory thi s can very well be proved by the fact that ,

after a period O f more than half a century they have been ,


compelled by stress O f circumstances t o live together wi thin one


wall and in spite O f large accessions from other tribes they still
, ,

form but a single large town S ituated as they were then far from .
, ,

the centre O f life and activi ty they were li ttle tho u ght O f They ,
.

had no separate king because all the principal chiefs and


distin g uished personages were O ffice bearers O f the A L AF I N hence ,
1 8 THE H I S TO R Y OR THE Y O RU BA S

the common saying E gba kO l olu gbogbo nwon ui n se bi Qb a


, ,

( Egbas have no King they are all O f them like masters ) Olu w a
,

I Qy Q (T h e King is at Qy Q )

I t may be noted that every child .


,

born t o a reign ing Alake must have an Q yQ facial mark and that
is S O t o t h is day In early times the Alake ranks among the
.

j unior members O f the R oyal F amily f o r t h at reason there has


never been a distinct royal family a mong the E gbas The chief .

rulers in each di vision were usually elected (by divi n ation ) from
any one O f the 1 5 3 townships an Ikij a man f o r instance has been
ki n g O f It esi an Ij eun man an Alake etc as we Sh all see in the
,
"
, .
,

Appendix In this respect also the Gb a g u r a s di f fer from the


.

others .

In later times at Ab eokuta one J i b ed e a wealthy trader and


, , ,

traveller who vai n ly endeavoured to Obtain the Primacy O f Ake


, ,

left children and grandchildren w h o eventually attained the


cove t ed position w hich was a singular instance O f more than one
,

member O f a family becoming an Alake but then they were ,


1

all born in di f ferent townships .

The Q si l e is sai d t o be an unfortunate title bec ause more than ,

any O f the other divisions the Oke O n a people were more pr one to ,

slaughter human vi ctims everytime the O s i l e entered the Ogboni


house he must walk on the blood O f a mal e victim and when he
, ,

comes o u t o n that of a female Also that O si l es never die a natural


death when their excesses became unbearable they were usually
stoned to death hence the appellation of their chief town OkO ,

a pelti n g stone F or that reason the Egbas were reluctant


.

to resuscitate the title at Ab eokuta until Governor M cC a llum


of Lagos in 1 8 97 on the occasion of the Queen s D iamond Jubilee

ordered the E gbas and others t o reorganise their government and ,

fill up vacant titles .

S ince the destruction O f the City O f Ow u (as we shall see below )


and the unification O f the E gba villages the Owu s have domiciled ,

amongst them Hence the s o —called F O U R U N I T E D K I N G S O F T H E


.

E GBA S : although Ow u is not E gb a .

TH E I J E B U S

The origin of the I jeb us has been variously given o n e account


makes them spring from the victims O f fered in sacrifice by the
King O f Benin to the god O f the ocean hence the term Ij ebu
,

from I je ibu i e the food O f


-

, . .
, the deep T h e I jeb u s themselves
.

The ca s e O f Gb a d eb O son O f O ku ken u occurre d subsequently t o


1
, ,

the est a bli s h ment of t h e British Protectorate .


TH E O R IGI N OF TH E TRI BE S 1 9

clai m to have descended from Ob a nita as they say O f themselves -

, ,

Og et i el e er u Q b a n i t a
, i e Og et i ele 1
servants of O b a n i t a
, . .
, , .

But wh o was this Ob a nita Tradi tion says he also was a victim
-

O f sacrifice by the O lowu o r King O f Ow u It was said that the .

Olowu o f fered in sacrifice a human being where t w o roads cross



this was termed B b Q n i ita a sacri fice o n the highway the
- -

, , .

vi ctim bei n g mangled and left for dead he however revived at , ,

night and crawled away into the forest where he subsequently


, ,

recovered an d sur vived He lived on fruits on the chase and


.
, ,

then did a bit of farming With an access O f population being , ,

the O ldest man met in those parts he was regarded as the father , ,

and subsequent generations call him their an cestor and 5 0 the ,

Ij ebu tribe was formed and the term Eb g n i t a ( a sacrifice on


,

the highway ) was converted to Q b a n i t a ( a king on the high


way) T here was really nobody O f that name A forest is still
. .

shown near the vill a ge O f A h a where he is annually worshipped ,

from whence he w a s s u pposed to have ascended into heaven .

I t is rather curious that both accounts should have made them


descended from victims O f human sacrifices T his latter account .

is reconcilable with the former which says they are the food of ,

the deep for the populatio n O f which E b g n i t a was the head may
,

have been largely augmented by the victims O f the ocean so as to


give the nam e I je—ibu t o the whole O f them .

There are also other important facts and curious coincidences


connected with the I jeb u s which have strong bearings on this
tradition o f their origin .

1 O f all the Yoruba tribes with the exception O f the I f es


.
,

they were the most addicted to human sacrifices which they ,

practised up t o 1 8 9 2 when the country was con quered by the


E nglish The victim also usually O f fered to O b a n i t a annually
.

was always a human being but this was never killed ; he was , ,

however always acted upon in some way or other unknown (by


,

magic art s ) that he a lways became demented an d left t o wander ,

about Sheepishly in the Aha F orest until he perished there This , .

is no doubt due t o the fact that the ancestor E b g n i t a himself


, , ,

when a vi ctim was not killed outright


, .

2 They were before the conquest the most exclusive and


.
, ,

inh ospitable of the whole O f the tribes V ery few if any out .
, ,

siders were ever known t o have walked through the country with
impunity under any circumstance whatever ; not a f ew O f those
wh o attempted t o do S O were never seen nor heard o f an y more

I
A 11
untranslatable word an onom atopoei c expressi on for ,

whatever is im mense and m agni ficent .


20 THE H I STO R Y OF TH E Y O RU BA S

Commerci a l transactions with outsiders were carried on in the


fronti er or in the borders O f neighbouring towns .

And i f the latter account of their origin from the Own


victim be the correct one it is very singular indeed that it was
,

mainly due to the I jeb u s with their firearms that the Ow us owed
their fall and complete annihilation as an independent state to
t h is day A full account o f this will be given in due course
. .

The King O f the I jeb us is known as the A w uja le His o ri gin .

w as thus given by authentic tradition the event wi th which it is ,

connected having occurred within authentic history :


There were form erly t w o important towns call ed Ow u Ipole
and Is eyin Od O in a di strict between the Ow u s and Ifes ; they were
'

settlements from the city of Own an d Is eyin respectively A .

quarrel once arose between them o n the matter O f boundaries ,

and the dispute having be en carried on for many years developed ,

into an Open fight and both the O lowu and the n ni of I f e


,

(both being interested parti es ) were unable to put an end to the '

strife Messengers were now sent t o the Kin g at OY Q wh o s en t out


.

a special Ilari and a large number Of attendants t o p u t an end to


the strife The person O f an Ilari being inviolable he c ame and
.
,

settled down bet ween the t w o contending parties in the midst of ,

the disputed plot and thus compelled them to keep the peace
'

, . .

The Ilari was named A g b ejai l e or A la jai le ( an arbiter of landed


di spute ) This term was subsequently softene d down to A w ii j e
. a l l
.

This event occurred during the reign Of King J A Y I N .


As it was customary to pay royal honours to the King s mes

s en g ers out of courtesy this Il ar i was accorded royal honours


,

in due form and he rem ai ned there permanently an d became t h e


,
'

King O f that re gion over the I jeb u s who up to that time had -

no tribal ki n g O f their o w n and rather held themselves aloof


from their neighbours S ubsequently he removed t o Od e
. .

The A w ujal e ranks after the n provi ncial kings such as the
Oni koyi Ola i a Ar esa A s eyi n
, , , .

O R IGI N O F T HE I J E§ A S AND E KI T I S

Two accounts are gi ven O f the origin of the I jesas both m ay


practically be regarded as in the main correct so far as they are not ,

really contra di ctory ; for i t would appear that the I jesas O f the
present day are not the same people or rather not the descendants , ,

O f the abori ginal inhabitants O f that province

The first account relates to the earli est period w


.

hen the Yorubas


have j ust entered into and subdued the country and the A LA F I N S
, , ,

l
An Ilari ti tle at n to this day .
22 T HE H I S T OR Y OF TH E Y O RU BA S

the Ij esas there extremely simple peaceful and unwarlike ( probably


, ,

the remnants and d escendants of the Ol d sacrificial victims ) whilst


at home they endured much Oppression from their Ow a that ,

they there and then conceived and carried out the idea O f sett ling
on the spot at once making i t their home and O f reducing into
, ,

subj ectio n t h e aboriginal inhabitants .

These O bj ects were easily enough accomplished but they spared


the principal chief a kindly O l d gentleman w h o had an extensive
,

garden plantation He was called. O b a Ila i e Okra king , . .


, ,

from his Okra plantation and he was placed next in rank to the
,

chief O f the marauders That nickname is continued to the present


.

time as a title and is conferred on the most distinguished


chief after the Ow a O f I l eea I t would appear then that although
.

the term I je§ a is retained by the p eople O f that district and those ,

who are ignorant O f the origin O f the term take some pride in it ,

yet it is evident that the present inhabitants are not all O f them
the descendants of the aboriginal settlers the food O f the gods , ,

but are largely from t h e E ki t i s by admixture ; the pure type


I jesas are n o w and again met with at Ile sa and neighbourh ood .

This fact is further shown by the want of homogeneity amongst


the principal chiefs O f Ile sa at the present day for when the town ,

was growi ng the settlers did cast about for help they sought for
,

wiser heads to assist them in the building up and the management


of their country e g from the Os
, . . or Yorubas Proper they had
the O dole from I r eh e the E s a w e from Qr a the S aloro from n
, ,

— all
( the ancient city ) and the
, S o r u n d i also from the same city
these came with a large number O f f o llOVvers from the Ondos the , .


Loro and the S alosi from Ij ama in the O ndo district from the
,

E ki t i s the Arapat e from Ara the Le i


, a from I t a je and
,

lastly the Ogboni from the white c ap chiefs O f Lagos the


, ,

only one privileged to have on his headgear in t he presence of the


Owa The O w a himself is as we have seen a j u n ior member of
.
,

the royal house O f Q Y Q .

I t is also said that wh en the town O f Ile sa was to be laid out a


special messen ger was sent to the A L AF I N to ask for the help of
one O f the p ri nces to lay out the town on the same plan as the
ancient city O f O Y O That prince ruled f o r some years at Ilesa
. .

TH E E KI TI S

The E ki t i s are among the aboriginal elements O f the country


absorbed by the invaders from the E ast The term E kiti denotes .

a Mound and is derived from the rugged mountainous feature O f


,

1
O ften miscalled O banla by young I jesa s outside I l eea .
THE O R IGI N OF THE TRI BE S 23

the country I t is an extensive province and well watered includ


. ,

ing several tribes and families right on t o the border O f the N iger ,

eastwar d T hey hold themselves quite di s tinct from the I jesa s


.
,

especia lly in poli tical a f fairs The E kiti country is divided into .

1 6 districts each with its own O w a or Ki n g ( O w a being a ge n eric


,

term amo n gst them ) O f which four are supreme vi z , .

1 The Ow Or e O f Otun
.
3 The E l ew i O f A d d .

The Aj er o O f Hero The E lekOl e O f Ikole


'

2 .
4 .

The followin g are the minor E ki ti kings


5 . A lara of Ara 1 1 . O m a O ke O f Igbo O d o

6 . Al aye O f E a A b aye 1 2 . Ol e of d
7 . A ja n p a n d a of Akure 1 3 . Ol o m u w o O f Om u w o
8 . A l a t u n O f n tu m 1 4 . O nir e of I r é
Ol o jud o of M O

9 . 1 5 . A r i n ja l e O f I s e
1 0 . Ata O f Ai yede 1 6 . O n i t a ji O f I ta j i
'

The Orangun O f Ila 1 3 sometimes classed among them but he is ,

on ly E ki ti in sympathy being O f a di f ferent family


, .

An Ij esa account O f the O w a o f Ilesa and some O f the principal


E ki ti kings
The O l o fin A l afin ) king O f I f e had several c h ildren grand ,

children and grea t grandchil d ren ; a mo n gst them were t h e kin g


, ,

of A d o or B enin the King O f QyQ the Os o m o w e O f O n do ( from a


, ,

daughter ) the Alara O f A r a the Aj ero o f Ij ero the Alaye o f E a


, , , ,

the Ow o r e O f Otun the Orangun O f Ila the A r eg b a O f Igb a


, , ,

the O w a Aj aka of Ilesa When the Q lQ fin became blind from Old


.

age he was much depressed in min d from this cause e fforts were
put forth to e f fect his cure all O f which proved fruitles s when a
, ,

certain man came forward and prescribed f o r him a sure remedy


which among ot her ingredients contained salt water He put the .

case before his children but none made any e f fort t o procure some
,

for him save his youngest grandson This was a very brave and .


warlike prince w h o bore the title O f E s i n ki n amongs t the King s
household warriors a title much allied t o that O f the K a ka nf o
, ,

He was surnamed A ja ka i e o n e w h o fights everywhere ( o n


, .
,

account O f his proclivities ) being fond O f adventures He vo lu n


'

teered to g o and fetch some wherever procurable .

Having been away for many years and not heard O f the aged ,

sire and every one else despaired O f his ever coming back S O the
King di vided hi s property amongst the remaini n g grown u p -

children Although the Alado (ki n g O f Benin ) was the eldest yet
.

the Ol e was the most beloved and t o him he gave the land and , ,

told him to scour it all over and settle nowhere till he cam e to a,
24 THE H I STO R Y OF THE Y O RU BA S

slippery place and there make h i s abode ; hence the term d


,

( slippery ) and hence d s are such sli ppery customers 1


After they had all gone and settled in their respective locali ties ,

a ll unexpectedly the young adventurer turned up with water from


,

the sea The monarch made use Of it as p er prescription and


regained his sigh t Hence the I jes as who subsequently became his
subj ects are sometimes termed O m o Ob o kun chil d ren of the ,

bri ne procurer .

Ha vi ng distributed all his property he had nothing left for A jaka


h e therefore gave him a sword lyin g b y his side with leave to attack
an y O f his brothers especially the Alar a or Alad o and possess
-

, ,

himself O f their wealth b u t s h o ul d he fai l t o retire back to hi m


,
'

hence the appellation Ow a Aj aka Onida r ah a r ah a (Ow a the


ubiquitous fighter a man with a devastating sword)
, .

The Ow a A jaka sett le d a little way from hi s grandfather and on ,

one occasion he paid him a vi sit an d found him Sitting alone ,

wi th his crown on his head and— out of s heer wantonness— h e cut


O ff some O f the fringes with hi s sword The o ld man was enraged .

by this act an d swore that h e would never wear a crown with


,

fringes o n.
1

The A r eg b a je was one of those who had a crown given to him ,

but the Ow a Aj aka paying h i m a visit On one occasion saw it


, , ,

and took it away a n d never returned it hence the kings of Igbaj e


,

never wear a crown t o this day .

The Owa also attacked the Ol oju d o and defeated him a n d took ,

possession Of his crown but he never put i t on On every public .

oc casion however it used to be carried before him This continued


, .

to be the case until al l the tribes became independent .


The Q wa s mother when married as a young bride was placed
, ,

under the care of the mother O f t h t ey e hence the A L AF I N of ,

O Y O O ften regarded the Owa as his own son .

The O rangun Of Ila and the Alar a of A r a were his brothers O f


,

the same mother .

The Q wen i of I f e was not a son Of the Ol efin but the son of a ,

female Slave of his whom he Of fered in sacri fice The O lo fin kept .

the boy always by h i m and when he sent away h i s sons this li ttle
, ,

boy took great care O f him and managed his household a f fai rs well
until h i s death : hence the Ol ey e on succeeding the fat h er authorised
t h e boy to have charge O f the palace a n d the city and he sent to ,

notify his brothers O f thi s appointment S O whenever it was .

asked who was in charge O f the house the answer invariably was
_

1
O nly those wi th fringes on are reall y crowns .
TH E O R I GI N OF TH E T R IB E S 25

Om e Oluw e ni ( I t is the son of the sacrificial victim ) This .

has been contracted to the term Qw en i .

The Owa and h i s brothers used to pay the A L AF I N annual visits ,

with presents of firewood fin e locally made mats kola nuts and


,
-

bitter kolas ; the Ow er e O f Otun with sweet water from a cool


spri ng at Otun— this water the A L AF I N first spills on the ground
as a libation before performing any ceremonies The ot h er E ki ti .

Kings used a lso to take with them suitable presents as each could
a f ford and b ri ng away lavish presents from their elder brother
, .

This Aj aka subsequently became the Owa O f the I jes as .

T H E O ND O S

The custom of ki l ling twins prevailed all over the country in


early times it has died out all over the greater part o r it S O long
ago that no one can say precisely wh en or by whom a stop was put
,

to it But it happened once upon a time when the practice still


.

pr evai le d that one of the wives O f the A L AF I N ( King Aj aka ) gave


bir th to twins and the King was loth to destroy them he thereupon
, ,

gave orders that they should be removed —with the mother — to a


remot e part O f the kingdom and there to remain and be regarded
as dead .

S o S h e left with a large number O f friends and retinue t o the sit e


O f the present O d e Ondo then sparsely peopled by a tribe named
,

Idoko and there settled hence the term Ondo signifying the
, , ,

S ettlers The people of the district knowing who the strangers


.

were yielded t hem ready Obedience and the strangers becam e rulers
, ,

O f the di stri ct .

Probably it was from thi s time infanticide received its death


blow— i n Yoruba Proper at least It is s ai d t o linger still at Akur e
.

and the adj acent regions but as a rule in ancient times whatever
, , ,

the custom set or discount enanced at the Metropoli s the e f fect ,

thereof was r a pidly felt all over the country .

The Ondos are sometimes classed among the E ki t i s but that is


hardly correct although lying at the border O f the E ki t i s they ,

are really a mixture Of d s and I d o kos a nd t h eir sympathy is ,

with all .
C HAPTE R I I I

R E LIGI ON

THE Yorubas originally were entirely pagans Mohammedanism .

which many now profess was introduced only since the close O f
the eighteenth century T hey however believe in the existence
.
, ,

of an A LMIGHTY GO D him they term O L O RUN i e L O RD of H E A V E N


, , . .
, .

They acknowledge Him Maker O f heaven and earth but t o o , ,

exalted to concern Himself directly with men and their a ff airs ,

hence they admit the existence of many gods as interme d iaries ,

and these they term Or i sa s .

We may note here that the term Qle r un is applied to G O D alone


and is never used in the plural t o denote Or i ea s Kings and the .

great ones on earth may sometimes be termed Ori eas (gods )


by w a y o f eulog y we a r e al s o familiar with the co m mo n expression
, ,

Oyinbo ekej i O r 1 § a i e whi te men are next t o th e g ods (i e


. .

in their po w ers ) but the term O loru n is reserved for the GR E AT GO D


alone .

They also beli eve in a future state hence the worship O f the dead , ,

and invocation O f spirits as O bserved in the E g fig u n festi val a ,

festival in which masked individuals persona t e d ead relatives .

They have a belief a lso in a future j udgment as may be inferred


from the f ollo wing adage Oh un g b ogb o ti a se l a i y e li a O

, ,

de i d en a O run ka (Whatever we do on earth we shall give an


account thereof at the portals Of heaven ) .

They also believe in the doctrine O f metempsychosis or trans ,

migration O i souls hence they a fii r m that after a period o f time


, ,

deceased parents are born again into t h e f amily of their surviving


children It i s from this notion that some children are named
.

” ”
Babatunde i e father comes again
, . .
, Y et u n d e i e mother .
,
. .
,

comes again .

O BJ E CT S OF W O RS H I P
1 .
— Originally the Kori was the only O b ject O f worship
T h e K or i ,
.

It consists of the hard shells of the palm nut strung into beads ,

and made to hang from the neck to the knees In modern times .

i t is no longer regarded as an O bj ect O f worship by adults but little ,

children go about with it t o the market places begging for alms .

The O bj ect O f worship is then worn by one O f their number who ,

goes before his companions followin g behind h i m shouting the


, ,

26
RE LI G ION 27

praises O f the ancient god Kori In this way they parade the .

market places and sellers before whom they halt to Sing m ake
, ,

them presents O f money ( cowries ) or whatever they may happen to


be sell ing usually articles O f food Thus the little children
, .

perpetuat e the memory and worship O f this deity hence the ditty ,

I b a ma Si
ewe Kori a ku 0 , .

(B u t for little children Kori had perished ) .

In later times heroes are venerated and deified O f these S ango , ,

a O risa Oko may be mentioned as the chief


, , The origin O f .

their wors h ip will be noted hereafter .

2 . 01 i s a l a —T O Or i ea l a are ascribed cr eative powers


_, . He is .

regarded as a co worker with Ql er u n Man is supposed t o have


-
.

been made by God in a lump and shaped as he is by Ori sa la Its , .

votaries are di stinguished by white beads worn round the neck ,

and by their using only white dresses They are forbidden the .

use O f palm wine S acrifices O ffered by them are n o t to be salted


. .

A lb i n o es dwarfs the lame hunchbacks and all deformed persons


, , , ,

generally are regarded as sacred t o this god ; hence they are



designated En i O ri ga ( belonging to the god ) being regarded as ,

specially made S O by him .

Or i sa la is the common name of the god known and worshipped


by di f ferent townships under di f ferent appellations e g i t is ,
. .
,

called O ri sa Ol u o fin at I w efin ; Or i eakO at OkO Or i s a ki r é at I kire


Ori sa gi y a n at E jigbo ; Or i s a eg u i n at E g ui n ; Or i sa r o w u at Ow u
Ori sa ja ye at I ja y e and Ob a t a l a at O b a .

— The O r i
3 . 0 r i .
(head ) is the universal household deity
worshipped by both sexes as the god O f fate I t i s believed that .

good or ill fortune attends one accordi n g to the will or decree of ,

this god and hence it is propi tiated in order that good luck might
be the share O f its votary The r epresenti n g image is 4 1 cowri es
.

strung together i n the shape O f a crown Thi s is secreted in a .

large co f fer the lid of which is O f the sam e form and material
, .

I t is called Ile Or i ( O ri s house ) and in size is as large as the owner


'

can a f ford to make it S om e usually contain as much as 6 heads


.

O f cowries and the manufacturer who is generally a worker


,

in leather receives as his pay the same amount of cowri es as is


used in the article manufactured .

As the Kori is the children s g o d S O the Ori is exclusively ’

worshipped by the adults After the death of its owner the image
.
,

O f O ri with the coffer is destroyed and the c owries Spent , .

4 . O g u n — This is the god of war and all instruments made O f ,

iron are consecrated to it hence O gun is the blacksmiths god ' ’

.
,

The representing image is the Silk cotton tree specially planted ,


28 T HE H I S TOR Y o r TH E Y O RU BA S

beneath which is placed a piece of granite on which palm Oil i s


poured and the blood Of sl ai n an imals — generally a dog .

.
5 E s u or E l eg b a r a —S atan the E vil On e the author of all
.
, ,

evil is O ften and Specially propi ti ated O ff erings are made to i t . .

The representing image is a rough lateritic stone upon w h ich


libation s of palm O i l are poured I t is superstitious ly believed that
.

the vengeance O f this god could be successfully invoked upon an


o f fender by the name O f the person being called b efore the image
while nut oil is being poured on it The ima g e of a man with a .
,

horn on i ts head curvi ng backwards carved in wood and orn a ,

m en t ed wi th cowri es is often carried by its devotees to beg with


,

O n pub lic highways Passers b y wh o are so disposed may give


.
-

each a cowry or two or handfuls of corn bean s or an y product


, , ,

O f the field at h and as he or she m ay choose


, This curved headed .

fi g ure is called Qg e Eleg b a r a — the devil s club ,



.

S ep en a or the sma ll pox is generally be li e ved to b e one O f


t h e demons by which thi s lower world is in fested and has its special ,

devotees The representing i mage is a broo m made fro m the


.

branches of the bamboo palm stripped of its leaves and besmeared , ,

with camwood J O invoke i ts vengeance parched corn or beniseed


'

is usuall y thrown hot upon the im age and then it is beli eved the ,

epidemic wi ll spread But they cert ai nly have a more di rec t


, .

means O f sprea di ng the disease .

Persons dying of t h is plague are buried only by the devotees of


this god who a ccount it as their special right to bury such corpses
, ,

being vi ctims Of the ven g eance of their god F or a propitiation .


,

they often demand from the relatives of the victims 5 head


O f cowri es a tortoise a snail a fowl a pigeon a goat an
, , , , , ,

armadillo a ground pig camwood shea butter a quantity O f


, , , ,

pa lm Oi l two kinds of beads green and yellow called respectively


, , ,

Ot ut u and Op on together with all the e f fects O f the deceased


, ,

which are regarded as theirs by le gi tim ate right The corpse is .

buri ed either in the bush or by the si de of a river , .

The following anecdote w as related by a devotee He was .

c o n fir m ed — said h e i n his be lief in the exi stence O f the gods an d as


-

helpers in the government of the world fro m the followin g incident .

S aid he ,
A young man on ce fell into a swoon and having revived , ,

he related the vision which he had seen He said he saw the GR E AT .

G OD sitting on a throne covered with a fl owing garment attended


, ,

on His right and left by Ori s a la and Ifa his counse llors beh ind
him was a pit into which the condemned were cast Ogun and .

S ep ena were mi nisters of his vengeance to execute j ustice upon


O f fenders Ogun arm ed with
. swords (o r daggers ) went out
d aily to slay vi cti ms his food being t h e blood of t h e sl ai n S ep ena
,
.
30 THE H I STO R Y OF TH E Y O R U BA S

I t is considered a crime to touch an E g ug un dress in public ,

and disrespectful to pass him by with the head uncovered E ven .

a boy E g ii g un is considered worthy O f being honoure d by his


( supposed ) surviving parents he salutes them as elderly people ,

wo u ld do and promises the bestowal o f gifts on the family


, .

In every town there are several A la g b as or head priests O f E g fig un


out of them a president is elected at whose house all the others ,

meet on Special occasions .

The individual w h o fills the highest rank in the E g fig u n worship


is the A la p i n i one O f the seven great noble men O f OY e ( the OY e
,

M E S I ) He resides always in t h e royal ci ty of OY e There can


. .

be but one A l a p i n i at a time and by virtue of his O ffi ce he must be


,

a m on or ch i s Thus qualified he shares with the eunuchs in a ll


.
,

their privileges and at the same time enj oys the li o n s s h a r e in the
,

E g fig u n department .

In a large town every quarter has its own Alagb a in whose


,

house a special apartment is dedicated to the E g fig u n worship ,

where all the E g fig un dress in that part o f the town are kept until
req u ire d f o r use on special occasions or at the annual festivals .

E g fig u n s are generally wors h ipped with a kind O f cake made


of beans and palm O i l ( Qlele) in the month of F ebruary after the ,

bean s harvest in January and the E g fig un anni versary is us u ally


held in the month of May or J a ne These festiva ls are lucky .

tim es f o r the men for on these occ as ions the women are m ade to
, ,

spend largely t o feast deceased relatives while the food is ,

consumed by the m en in the A la g b a s department The number



.

of fowls and goats killed and devoured at such times is simply


prodi gious S uch is the force of habit engendered by blind
.

superstition that although in reality the women are no longer


,

deceived as regards these alleged visits O f their dear departed


, ,

yet they make their O f ferin gs with cheerfulness and with a sure ,

expectation of blessings .

It has already been noted above that the Yorubas be lieve in a “

future state I t can not be considered too far fetched to say that
.

this periodical re appearan ce of the dead as symboli zed in the


-


E g ii g u n mystery is a n embo di ment of the idea O f the R esur
rection although that doctrine a s taught by Christianity can no t
,

be said t o be identical with what they hold and practise but this
festival is usually O bserved with all the zeal and fervour with which
Christians celebrate the Christmas and Paschal festivals .

This anniversary is the time O f re u nion among absent friends


an d relatives The town then puts on its best appearance the
.
,

str eets are everyw here cleaned and put under repairs an d the ,

citizens appear abroad in their holiday dress .


R E LIG I O N 31

The celebration is usually preceded on the eve of the festival by a


vigil termed in Yoruba I ku n l e or the kn eeli ng because the ,

whole night is spent i n kneeli n g and praying i n the grove set apart
for n i g u n worship invo ki n g the blessings and the a i d O f the
,

departed pa r ent The blood O f fo wls and anim a ls O ffered in


.

sacrifice is al so poured on the graves of the ancestors .

On the morning O f the festi val the whole O f the E g fig u n s ,

including a ll the p I i n ci p a l forms accompanied by the A l a g b as


and minor priests form a procession to the res idence of the chief
ruler O f the town ; they there receive the homage of the chi ef ,

and in turn gi ve him and th e other chiefs and the whole to wn their
blessings they then Spend about three hours doing honours
to the chief playing and dancing to thei r peculiar music and after
,

receiving presents they di sperse t o continue the play all over the
town each confining hi mself more or less to his own quarter O f the
,

town .

The festi val is contin ued f o r seven da ys and on the eighth day , ,

there is another gathering at the Chief A la g b a s and the festi vi ties ’

are brought t o a close with games sports and a display O f m a gi c , ,

t ri cks .

For three weeks to a month lesser E g ug u ns may still be seen


,

ma king their appearance thes e as a rule belong to poorer dist ri cts ,

which wer e backward in their preparations for the annual feast .

E veryone however still keeps to the sam e rul e O f seven days


, ,

appearance and disappearing li kewise on the ei ghth day after a


grand display .

T H E A DA M U O R I S A AN D TH E G EL ED E .

In imi tation of the E g fig u n s som e littoral tri bes adopt similar


,

forms O f repres entation of their departed dead such are the


A d a m uor i sa amo ng the A wo r i s and the Gel ed e among the Eg b a d o
,

tribes .

The A d a m uo r i sa is som etim es called Ey e; the former term


signi fies the god wi th the nasal twang—o n account O f the arti
fici a l voice they a f fect and the latter Ey e simply m eans d
, , ,

being an imitation or parody O f the Oy e system O f E g fig un w orship .

But w hereas the E g fig u n s appear annually at a fix ed peri od O f ,

the year vi z at the fe as t O f the fir st frui ts in June thes e are used


, .
,

as a part of the funeral O bsequies of a Chi eftain or well to do citizen ,


- -

w h o can a f ford a carni val in connection wi th his funeral rites The .

e ffigy of the departed is set up in state in the house the imm edi ate ,

relati ves are dressed in their very best and all hold horse tails in
.
,
-

their hands to dance with The play lasts for one day only and
.

generally ends with a big fe as t .


32 TH E H I S TO R Y OF THE Y O RU BA S

The Gel ed e is also a human being in a mask the head O f which


is exquisitely carved in wood and made to represent that O f a ,

ma n or woman with all their tribal marks and som etimes any of
t h e l o w er a n imals such as the alligator They are more generally .

of a female for m wi th carvi n gs of pl ai ted h ai i and m agnificent


, ,

busts ; they are elaborately or fantasti cally dressed bedecked ,

wi th a wealth O f female ornaments of nati ve manufacture such as ,

ear ri ngs bangles beads etc with j ingles on their ankl es they
-

, , , .
,

danc e and move maj estically treadi ng h eavily to the rhythmic ,

sound of drums and other m usical instruments .

They are much b es m i r ed wi th ch al k and c a mwood presenting ,

rather a f ri g htful (if harmless) appearance .


8 Or o
. The Or O s y stem is al so s ai d by som e to have been
.

borrowed from the red monkey called f ji mer e It co n s i s t s o f a .


l

flat piece of no n or stick wi th a lon g string attach ed to a pole


, , .

This when whi rled swi ftly in the air produces a shrill sound which
is called Aj a Or O ( Or O s dog) A larger kind whi rled with

.

t he hand gives a deep bass tone This is the voice of the Or O .

himself Amongst t h e I jeb us and the Egbas Or O is much more


.
,

sacred a n d important than the E g iI g u n and is the ex ecutor of


criminals The Egbas pay homage also t o another g od called


.

Ol o g b oi jeu n wh o is personated by a m an under a mask wi th a


,

drawn Sword in his hand .

Other gods O f the sam e class are the Igis ( trees) also personified
by h uman beings masked and carrying an ima g e on the head
, .

S om e of thes e are male figures with branchi ng horns on which ,

are carved figures O f monkeys snakes and other animals Others , .

are female fi g ures whi ch are called Ef u n g b a rok u - -


.

Am ongst the d s ( Yorubas Proper) the people of Is eyin


and Jabata are the p ri ncipal Or O worshippers S even days are .

set apart annually f or its worshi p E xcept for a few ho u rs during .

which they are permitted to procure provisions wom en are kept ,

i ndoors throughout the day On the seventh day even this sm all
.

indulgence is not al lowed but they are ri gi dly shut up the entire
,

day It is certain death for any one O f them to be found without


.

and this penalty is exacted whatever may be the title or wealth '
, ,

or position of r es p ect a b i li t y o f any wom an who ventures to have


a peep at the Or O .

f f a —This I s the great consul t in g oracle I n the Yoruba country


and was introduced at a late period b y King O N I G B O GI who was ,

s ai d to have been dethroned f o r havi ng done S O .

Another tradition says i t was introd uced into t h e Yoruba country


by one S et i lu nati ve O f the N upe country wh o was born blind
, ,
.

Th is was about the period O f the Mohammedan invasion .


R E LI GI O N 33

S et i l u

parents regretting their misfortune in having a blind son
s ,

were at first O f doubtful mind as to what course they s hould


pursue whether to kill the child or spare its life to becom e a burden
, ,

on the family Parental feelings decided them to Spare the child


. .

I t grew up a pec uliar child and the parents were a stonished at hi s


,

extraordinary powers O f di vination At the early age O f 5 he . ,

be g an to exci te their wonder and curio s ity by foretelling wh o


wo ul d pay them a visit in the course O f the day and wi th what
O bj ect . As he advanced in age he began to practise sorcery and ,

m edicine At the comm encement of h i s practice he used 1 6 small


.
,

pebbles and imposed successf ully upon the cred uli ty O f those wh o
flocked to him in their distress and anguish for consultatio n From .

thi s source he earned a comfortable li velihood Finding that the


, .

a dherents were fast becoming S et i lu s foll owers and that even ’

respectable pri ests di d not escape the general contagion the ,

Mohammedans resolved to expel S et i lu out of the country This .

being e f fected S et i l u crossed the r i ver N iger and went to B enin


-

, ,

staying for a while at a place called Owe thence to Ado S ub s e , .

quently he migrated to Ile I f e and finding that place more suitable ,

for practising his a r t h e resolved to m ake i t his permanent residence


, .

He soon becam e f am ous there also and hi s perform a nces S O ,

impressed the people and the reliance placed in him was S O


,

absolute that he had little di ffi culty in persuading them to aboli sh


,

the tribal marks on their faces such m arks of distincti on n o t being ,

practised in N upe S et i lu s o wn country ,



.

In process of tim e palm n uts pi eces O f iron and i vory balls ,

were successively used instead O f pebbles At the presen t day .


,

palm nuts only are used as they are consi dered more easily pro
p i t i a t ed the others req uiri n g costly sac ri fices and even hum an
,

blood .

S et i l u initi ated sever al O f his followers in t h e m ysteries of


Ifa wo rship and i t has gradually become the consulting oracle
,

of the whole Yoruba nation I n order to becom e an Ifa pri est .


'

a long course of serious study is necessary To consult Ifa in the . ,

more common and ordi nary way 1 6 palm nuts are t o be shaken ,

together in the hollow Of both hands whi lst cert ai n m ar ks are ,

traced wi th the index finger on a flat bowl dusted with yam flour ,

or powdered camwood E ach m ark s uggests to the cons ul ting


.

priest the heroic deeds O f som e fabulous heroes which he duly ,

recounts and so he goes on with the m arks in order until he hits


, ,

upon cert ai n words or phras es which appear to bear upon the m atter
of the appli cant before him V ery O ften answers are given much .

after the m anner O f the ancient oracle at D elphi .

Ifa wa s really m et in this country by the Yorub as for ODU DU WA ,


34 TH E H I STO R Y OF TH E Y O RU BA S

met at Ile I f e but the wors hi p Of i t was Of ficially recog


S et i l u ,

n i z e d by K I N G O F I R A N son O f O N I G B OGI .

1 0 S a ng o — S ango wa s the fourth King O f the Y O R U BA S and


. .
,

was deified by his friends after h i death S a n go ruled over all the s .

Yorubas including B enin the Popos and D ahom ey for the worship , ,

of him has continued in all these countries to this day ,


.

It is related of him that being a t yrant he wa s dethroned by his


,

people and expelled the country Finding himself deserted not


, .

only by his fri ends b ut also by his beloved wi fe OY A he committed


, ,

suici de at a place called Koso His tragi c end becam e a proverb .

and a b y word and his faithless fri ends were ashamed on account
-

O f the taunts cast upon the nam e a n d fam e O f the unfortunate

King T o atone for their base action in deserting h i m a s well as


.
,

t o avenge the insults on his m emory they went to the B ariba


country to study the art O f charm making and also the process -

O f attracting lightning u on their enemies houses


p .

On their retu r n home they put to practi ce with a vengeance the


lessons they had learnt From the t o o frequent c o n fla g r a t i o ns.

which were taking place as well as deaths from lightning strokes ,


.

suspicions were aroused an d enquiries wer e set on foot Then , .

S ango s friends said that the catastrophe was a ttributable to the


late Ki n g taki ng vengeance on his enemi es on account O f the


indigniti es they h a d heaped upon his memory B eing appealed .

to t o propitiat e the o f fended Ki n g in order that h e may stay his


,

vengeance upon the land his fri ends O f fered sacri fices to him as ,

god an d hence these intercessors became the M e gb a (advocate)


,

and priests O f S ango and to this day their descendants hold the
sam e O ffi ce .

The emblems of worship representing S ango are certain smooth


stones shaped li ke an axe head commonly taken for thunder bolts .

They are supposed to be hurled down from the heavens when the
god wo uld kill any on e wh o has incurred his displeasure .

The following is the process to b e gone through a t the i n itiation -

of any on e into the myst eri es O f S ango worshi p z— The pri ests
demand a ram a water bird called Osin a tortoise a snail an
, , , ,

armadi llo a large rat called O kete a toad a tadpole the Otu tu
, , , ,

and n n beads the red tail O f a parrot a guinea fo wl shea butt er


, , , ,

salt palm O i l the flesh of an elephant venison the t et e (greens)


, , , ,

the leaves of the evergreens called E t i p efi el a Qd ii d u n and i p er eg un , ,

tree a smal l knife called a b e egu (the devi l s razor ) a white -


countr y cloth O f 1 0 breadths a mat called fafa (mats made O f the ,

pith of bamboo palm bran ches ) together wi th 7 heads O f cowries


cowry shells) as carriage fee .

The leaves are bruised in a bowl O f water and with the infusion ,
R E LI GI O N 35

the candidate is to purify himself He is then seated on a mortar .

and shaved The birds and tortoise are killed and their hearts
.

taken out and these wi th slices O f the flesh O f all the animals
,

above m entioned are p ounded together wi th the evergreens


-

and a ball is made of the compound The candidate n o w submits .

t o incisions on his shaven head and the b a ll of po unded articles


is rubbed into the wounds Th e neophyte n ow becom es a recog.

n i s ed devotee O f S ango .

Important ceremoni es are perform ed when a house is struck


by lightning The inmates are n o t allowed to sleep i n any house
.
,

but i n booths or blacksmith s shops until the s o called thunder’

,
-

bolt i s dug up and removed from the premises A garland of palm .

leaves is generally hung up at the entrance O f the devoted house to


forbi d any but S ango pri ests to enter A watchman is kept on .

th e premises at the expense O f the su f ferers from the di vine visita


tion and i t is the duty O f this m an to ward o ff trespassers from
,

what is now regarded as sacred ground till the ceremonies shall ,

have been perform ed and the o f fended god appeased With the
, .

sole exception O f the great King the A L AP I N of OY e all the pro , ,

vi n ci a l kings and rul ing chiefs in whose to wn the catastrophe

happe ns to take place are bound to repair to the spot to do


,

homage to S ango wh o is sai d to pay a visit t o earth


, .

S uch occasions are greatly prized by the worshi ppers who swarm
to the place in numbers wi th their B ay ani a sort of crown made O f ,

cowri es and they are all to be entertai ned at the expense of the
,

su f ferers and also by the neighbours .

The king or chief coming to pay his respects t o S ango is to


recei ve 1 1 heads O f cowri es a goat an d a slave in three payments
, ,
.

In the case O f a poor house a m ember of the fam i ly is sei ze d


,

i f n o t quietly gi ven up and has to be ransomed at a consi derable


,

sum which must be pai d a n d the above m entioned articles pro


,

cured before the cerem ony can be perform ed Then all bei n g ready
, .

the priests having now assembled the tete (g reens ) eti p g fig la , ,

together with the evergreens Qd i l d un an d p er eg u n are br uised in


'

a bowl O f water and wi th this they p urify themselves before


,

entering the house They are preceded by one holding an iron


.

instrum ent ( the divining rod) wi th which a search is made for the
spot where the bolt is believed to have entered the ground After .

some pretence they arri ve at a spot in which one O f their number


had previously buri ed one of these sharp stones Here the groun d .

is ordered t o be dug with a show O f solemnity and O f course the


, , , ,

thunder bolt is found and exhum ed with well sust ai ned marks of
-
-

pi ety and re verence .

Thus the common people ar e deceived and imposed upon an d ,


36 THE HI S T O R Y O F T HE Y O R U BA S

very f ew besides the pri ests are awar e Of the tricks systematic al ly
played upon their cred uli ty .

The concluding ceremony still bears hardly on the poor su f ferers .

T hey are required to give over a son to the pri ests to be initiat ed
in the mysteries Of the cult and further t hey are to pay som ething
in order to O btain p er m i s s ron to rebuild their houses Hence an .

accident O f this kind means great calamity to any one and heavy ,

debts ar e incurred The unfortunat e su f fer ers already deprived


.

of their all ( much or little) by this sudden stroke of i ll fortune ar e -

O ften obliged to put their chi ldren to service in order to rais e

money su ff i cient to meet the demands O f the greedy worshippers


of this heartless god The fines Obtained are shared between the
.

king or head chief and the town authorities but the articles
,

purchased for the performance of the ceremon i es are perquisites


which are appropriated by the pri ests alone .

This descent of S ango on earth is never done but with a view


to Show his displeasure on persons wh o are guilty of perjury
and lies The town for a while is as it were placed u n der an
.

interdict and durin g that brief period the worshippers of the god
,

are allowed to seize with impunity whatever they ca n com e at in


the public s treets in t h e vicinity of the catastrophe such as ,

sheep goats poultry and things of greater 01 less value


, , .

S an g o worshippers ar e forbidden to touch the lar g e white beans


called S és e b ecause it is used f or counteractin g the evi l e f fects
,

of the a g encies employed in attracting lightning on people s
houses .

O f S an g o s faith ful and beloved


1 1 a. This w a
. s the nam e
wif e S he alone Of a ll his wives accompanied him in his flight
.

towards the Tapa ( N upe) country his mat ernal home But courage .

fai led her at a place called Ira her native town whi ch she was ,

never t o see any m ore should love f o r her husband p revail to


make her resolve to share w ith him in his destiny B ut the prospect .

of making her hom e among entire strangers in a strange land among


a people speaking a strange tongue and O f leavi ng parents and ,

home for ever so overpowered her that she hes itated t o procee d
,
.

As s h e co ul d not for very Sham e return to OY e she remained at '

Ira and hearing that her husband had committed suicide ,

she summed up su ffi cient courage to follow hi s example .

S he also was deified The river N iger is sacred to her and


. ,

hence that river is called all over Yor uba land OD O OY A after
her nam e As thunder and lightni n g are attributed to S ango
. ,

so tornado and violent thunderstorms Ten d i n g trees and levelling ,

high towers and houses ar e attributed to a They si g nify her .

displeasure .
38 TH E H I STO R Y OF THE Y O RU BA S

the accused t o a cave supposed t o be inhabi ted by a demon called


Polo In this cave O ri sa O ko practised his sorcery In cases
. .

where an accused wa s innocent he would return with him i f ,

otherwise then his head is thrown out to those awaiting a decision


, .

P O l O the demon ex ecuted the guilty The fame O f Ori sa O ko .

spread and numbers resorted to him in t aking oaths His oracle .

was regarded as infallible and appeals to him were final


, .

After his death his followers practised his methods takin g


,

the precaution to secrete a strong m an in the cave to act the part


O f the supposed Polo .

B ut a stri king exposure soon brought the practice into disrepute ,

and i t w a s abolishe d It happened thus A man was accused


, .

and as usu al wa s taken t o the cave but he proved to be a far


,

stronger man than the supposed P 010 and the resul t w as that he ,

killed the count erfei t demon and threw his head out of the cave
,

to those wh o were eagerly waiting for the decision O f the g o d .

The representing image is a fife made O f i vory or a flat pi ec e O f


iron 5 or 6ft in length Similar t o what is given as a Sign O f
.

acqui ttal t o those in whose favour the g o d had decided .

The E R UG U N mystery is O f a kind similar t o that O f the Ori sa O ko


worshi p It also was practised in a cave by the si de O f a mount
.

called the Er ug fin mount .

The above are the principal gods worshipped by the Yorub a s .

There are besides many inferi or divinities to wh om O fferings


are m ade In fact the whole number O f gods and goddesses
.

acknowledged is reckoned at 4 0 1 Propi tiatory sacrifices are


.

also O f fered to whatever in nature is a we inspirin g or magni ficent -

such as the Ocean huge rocks tall trees and high mountains T O
, , ,
.

the last named especi ally O f ferings are made for the procreation
O f children .

M O HAM M E D A N I S M as wa s O bserved above was introduced ,

towards the close of the eighteenth century ; i t numbered very


f ew adherents up to the tim e when the F ulanis by stratagem ,

seized Il e rin and overran the northern provinces as we Shall ,

find related in the second part of this history The towns in .

the pl ai n were Swept with fire and the Sword with the alternati ve ,

O f the acceptance of the Koran and submission to the F ulanis


,

the southward progress of the conquerors however wa s stopped , ,


.

at Osogbo where the I b a d a n s met and crushed them and in the


, ,

direction O f the I jeea and E kiti provinces the forests and mount a in ,

fastnesses O f fered insurmountable O bstacles to these intrepid


horsemen wh o could neither fight on foot nor engage in a bush
,

warfare hence Mohamm edanism prevailed chiefly in the north ,

but latterly i t spread southwards by peaceful means ch iefly b y ,


RE LI G ION 39

traders and i ti n era n t me n di cant preachers It is n o w embraced .

by thousands as i t appears to be a su p erior form O f reli gion t o the


,

paganism O f their ancestors .

C H R I S T I A N I TY Christianity w a s introduced by the Church


.

Missionary S ociety in 1 8 43 first into Ab eokuta via Badagry , ,

and from thence t o Ibadan in May 1 8 5 1 and also to I ja y e O n , .

January 1 0 1 8 5 2 the C M S removed their base from B adagry


, , . . .

to Lagos From Ab eokuta mission stations were plante d at the


.
,

O ke Ogun and Eg b a d o districts from Ibadan missions were planted ,

at I w o Modak ek e I f e O eo g b o and I l eea Missions were established


, , , .

also at OY e and Ogbomoso before the I jaye wa r broke out in 1 8 60 ,

which put a stop t o the progress O f missions all over the country .

The i ntertribal wars which followed and w h ich convulsed the


gre a ter part O f the country and devastated large area s prevented
, ,

i ts growth northwards but at Ab eokuta where i t was first planted


, ,

it grew s o rapidly that at the time o f the British occupation ,

Christi an adherents could be numbered by thousands ; schools


had been established and evangelistic work amo n g the surroundi n g
,

ki n dred tribes systematically undertaken and was bei n g vigorously


carried on .

'

The B i b l e i n the vernacular wa s the m ost po t ent factor in the


Spread of the religion The sincerity O f the co n ve rt s and th e
.
,

firm hold the religion has attained have been fully tested by ,

several bloody persecutions endured for the faith through w hi ch ,

they cam e out triumphant .

The f orces organized for hom e defence chiefly against the


Da h o m i a n attacks contained a compact body O f Christi ans under
their own capt ai n the esp r i t d e co rp s existing am on g them and the
, ,

invariable success which always attended their arms won f or them ,

the respect and admiration O f their pagan rulers and countrym en ,


.

Th is contributed not a li ttle to the cessation O f persecutions and the


increase O f their number .

The establishm ent O f the British protectorate saw the mission ,

established at I jeb u where i t has since been spreadi ng phenom enally


,

and also i n the Ij esa and E kiti provinces It is self propagating .

by m eans O f the people learning to read the B ible in their O wn


tongue T O God be the praise
. .
C HAPTE R I V
G OV E RN M E N T
THE entire Yoruba co untry has never been thoroughly organized
'

into one complete gover nment in a modern sense The system that .

prevails is that known as t h e F eu d a l the re moter portions have


'

always lived more or less in a state of semi independence whilst -

loosely acknowledgin g an over lord The king of B enin wa s one -


.

of the first to be i n d ep er dent O f the central government and was ,

even better known to for eigners wh o frequented his ports in early


tim es and wh o knew nothi n g O f his Over lord in the then unexplored
,
-

and unknown int erior .

Yoruba Proper however was completely orga ni zed and the


, , ,

descri ptions here gi ven refer chi efly to i t With som e vari ations .

most O f the smaller governm ents were generally m odelled after i t ,

but in a much simpler form and solely in their dom estic a f fairs ;
,

foreign relations so far as then O bt ai ned before the period O f the ,

revolution were entirely in the hands O f the central governm ent


at d (E yeo or Kat unga) It Should be remembered that the
.

coast tribes were of much less importance then than n o w both ,

i n p o p u l a t i o n and in i ntelli gence


,
light and ci vili zation with the
Yorubas came from the north wi th which they have always
ret ai ned connection through the Ar abs and F ulanis The centre O f .

life and acti vity of large populations an d industry was therefore


,

in the interior w h ilst the co ast tribes were scanty in n umber


, ,

i g norant and degraded not only from their distance from the
centre O f light but also through their demorali zing intercourse
,

wi th E uropeans and the transactions connected with the oversea


,

Slave trade .

This state O f thin g s has been som ewhat reversed since the la t ter
half of the X I X t h century by the suppression O f the slave trade
,
-

and the s ubstit ution therefor O f legitimat e trade and commerce :


and more especiall y through the labours O f the missionari es wh o
entered the country about the sam e tim e as the springing up into
bein g O f the m odern towns O f Lagos Ab eokuta and Ibadan , , ,

through which western light and civi lization beam into the interior .

The governme nt O f Yoruba Proper is an absolute m onarchy ;


the King is more dreaded than even the gods The O ffice is .

hereditary in the sam e family but not necessarily from father to


,

S on : The King i s usually elected by a body of noblem en know n .

as OY e M E S I the se ven principal councillors of state


, . .

40
G O VE RN M E N T 41

The vassal or provi ncial kings and ruling princes were 1 060
at the time O f the greatest prosperity of the empire which then
included the Popos D ahom ey and parts O f Ashanti wi th por t ions
, , ,

O f the Tap as and B a ri b a s .


The word king as generally used in this country includes
all more or less distinguished chiefs wh o stand at the head of a ,

clan or one wh o is the ruler O f an im portant district or province


, ,

especially those who can trace their descent from the founder ,

or from one of the great leaders or heroes wh o settled with him in


this country They are O f di f ferent grades correspondi n g some
. ,

what to the d i fferent orders O f th e E nglish peerage ( dukes ,

m ar q uises ea I I S Viscounts and barons) and t h eir order of rank is


, , ,

well known among themsel ves The Oni ko yi as head of the


-
.

E ki m Os i O 1 metropolitan province was the first of these kin gs


and he i t was who used to head them all to OY e once a year to pay
homage to the A L AF I N or King O f the Yorubas .

T H E A L AF I N

The A L AF I N is the suprem e head O f all the ki n gs and pri n c es


of the Yoruba nation as he is the di rect li ne a l des cendant and
,

successor O f the reputed founder O f the nation The succession as .

above sai d is by election from amongst the m embers O f the royal


family of the one considered as the most worthy age and nearness
, ,

to the throne being taken into consideration I t might be .

m entioned also in passing that the feelings and acceptanc e of


the deni zens O f the harem towards the king elect are often -

pri vately ascertained and assured O f previ ously .

In the earliest days the eldest son naturally succeeded the father
, ,

and in order to be educated in al l the duties O f the kingship which


must o ne day devolve upon him h e w a s O ften associated more or
,

less wi th the father in performing important duties and th ereby


he O ften p er f o r m ed r o y a l f unctions and thus gradually he practically
,

rei g ned with his f ather under the title of A R E M Q ( the heir a p p a I en t )
having his o wn O fficial residence near the palace but as the ag e
grew corrupt the A R E M e O ften exercis ed sway qu i te as much as or
,

more than the King himself especi a ll y in th e co u rse O f a long r ei gn


, ,

when age has rendered the monarch feebl e They had equal powers .

O f life and death over the King s subj ects a n d there are some

cases on record of the A R E M e being strongly suspected O f termin


ating the father s life in order t o attai n full powers at once I t

,
.

was therefore made a law and part O f the constitution that as the
A R EM Q reigned with his father he must also di e with him , .

This l a w had the eff ect at any rate Of checking parricide I t .

continued to take e f fect up to the last century when (i n 1 8 5 8)


42 TH E H I STO R Y OF T HE Y O R U BA S

it wa s repealed by A T I BA one O f the later Kings in favour of his


A R EM e A D E L U The A R E M e m ay n o w succeed i f found worthy
.
,

but he m ust be elected in the usual wa y but if passed over or


rej ected by the king makers he must leave the city and resort
-

to a private retirement in the provin ces This however is not .


,

really O bligator y but as he must be superseded in his O f fice


, ,

s uch a course is inevitable unless he chooses of his Own accord ,

t o die with the father .

The choice m ay Som etimes fall upon one O f the poorer princes ,

in the q uiet pursuit of his trade with no aspiration after the ,

throne such a one is sent for and unnecessaril y ill used f oI the ,
-

last tim e to his o wn surprise ; t h is was done probably for the


purpose O f testing his tem per and spirit He may not be aware .

O f the intentions O f the O Y O M E S I until he is being admonished

by them as to the duties and responsibi lities of the exal ted position
he is soon to fill .

The nominators are three titled m embers of the royal family ,

vi z the Q N A I § O K U N the O N A A KA and the O M e —


.
,
-

Q L A uncles
,
-

,
-

or cousins o f the King but generally entitled the King s fathers,



.

These have t o submit o r sugges t the names t o the noblem en for


election but the B a eer un s voice is paramount to accept or to
,

rej ect .

Curious and elaborate ceremonies precede the actual accession


t o the throne After all arrangements have been made the
.
,

ceremoni es begin by a sacri fice brought from the house of the


Q N A I § O K UN by a body O f men called Om O n i n a r i these belong
- -

t o a family specially concerned in carrying out all menial duties


connected with the O ffering of sacri fices and in wai ting upon the
King and the priests As soon as they enter the house where .

the King elect is he is called out and he has to stand up with an


-

, ,

attendant by hi s Side He is touched on the chest a n d on the .


,

right and left shoulders with the bowl O f sacri fice the attendant ,

in the mean tim e uttering som e form O f words This is the signal .

that he has been c alled to the throne On the evening O f the same .

day he is conducted quietly into the house of the QN A I § O K U N


,
-

where he spends the first night In order to avoi d the crowd the . ,

attention o f the populace is usually diverted by a procession of the


Kings slaves and others wi th much noise and ado as if escorting

him whilst the king elect accompanied by the A r eg b e d i a titled



-

, ,

eunuch and a f ew O f the Om o mi nari come up qui etly a long way


,
- -

behind .

At the ON A I § O K UN S house he is attended sol ely by the Om e


-

n i nari
-
He is admonished and advi sed by those wh o stand to
.

him in place Of a father S om e ceremoni es of purification ar e g one .


G O V E RN M E N T 43

through propitiatory sacrifices are agai n O f fered which are carri ed


,

to vari ous quarters of the city by the n n i n a r i - -


.

The next night he passes at the house of the Otun I wef a ( the 1 -

next in rank to the chief O f the eunuchs) This O ffi cial being a .

pri est O f S ango i t is probable that the king elect spends the night
,
-

with him in order to be initiated into the sacerdot al part O f his


o ff ice the A L AF I N having as much spiritual as well as secular
,

work t o perform being at once King and Priest t o his people ;


,

an d probably he learns there also the usages and doings of the

huge population in the inner precincts of the palace wi th w h ich


the eunuchs are quite conversant After this he is conducted .
,

into one of the chambers in the Outer Court O f the palace ( Om e ile)
where he resides f o r three months the period O f mourning until , ,

his coronation .

The m ain gateway t o the palace being closed at the demise of


the King a pri vate opening is m a de for him in the outer wall
,

through which he goes in and out O f hi s temporary residence .

D uring this tim e he remains strictly in pri vate learning and ,

practising the style and deportm ent O f a King and the det ai ls of ,

the important duties and functions O f his O ffice D uring this peri od .

he is dr essed in black and is entitled to use a cap of state


,

called Ori kO gbe O f o -

(The head m ay not rem ain uncovered)


- -
. .

The af f ai rs of stat e are at this tim e conduct ed by the B a eer un .

C O R O N ATI O N THE
The coronation takes place at the end O f three m onths really ,

at the third appearance O f the n ew moon after the late King s


death The date is generally s o fixed a s t o have i t if possible


.

before the next great festi val I t is attended wi th a great public .

dem onstrati on It is a gala day in which the whole city appears


.

in holi day dres s V isitors from the provinces and representatives


.

of neighbouring states also flock into the city in numbers .

Thi s day is generally known as The King s visit to the B A R A ’


.

It is the first but m ost important act O f the cerem onies .

The B A R A or royal m ausoleum is a consecrated b uilding in


the outs kirts of the city under the care of a high priestess named
,
-

I Y A M e D E ; there the Kings were formally crowned and there ,

buri ed The King enters i t but once in his lifetim e and that is
.
,

1
Tradi tion says that in the early tim es while the King elect -

is in the Q t u n ef a s house among other dishes brought to


’ ’

him to partake O f is one prepared from the heart of the late King
which has been extracted and preserved After parta king O f .

this he is told he has eaten the King Hence the origin O f the .

word J e Ob a to becom e a King ( lit to eat a King)


, . .
44 TH E H I STO R Y OF TH E Y O RU BA S

at the coronati on with m ar ked pomp and ceremony The .

actual crowni ng does not n ow take place in the B A R A as i t seems


to have been but at K OS O the shrine of S ango but the vi si t to
, ,

the B AR A is so important and indispensable a preliminary that it


has becom e more closely i dentified wit h the coronation th a n that ‘

to the other shrines vi sited on that occasion .

Leaving the I P A D I — h i s temporary c h ambers there are two -

stations at which the Kin g elect has to h a lt before reachi ng the


'

sacred building the fir st is the A b at a or area in f r o n t o f the p a lace


where a tent of beauti ful cloths h a s been erected f o r hi m Here .

he has to chan g e his mourning dress for a pr incely robe He then .

proceeds to the second station at the A l a p i n i s mi d way on his ’

route where a l ar ge tent and an enclosu re have been er ected for


hi s reception Here he i s aw ai ted by a vast conco urse O f people
.

and welcom ed with ri nging cheers Here he receives t h e co n g r a t u .

l a t i o n s and homage O f the princes the nobles the chi efs a n d the , ,

people and is hailed as the King S om e ceremonies are here gone .

through al so whi ch include distri b ution of kola nuts etc to , . ,


-

the princes and chi efs witho ut .

After t hi s he proceeds to the B A R A accom pani ed by the whole


concourse O f people who have to remain outside He enters the .

sacred precincts attende d by the Magaji I y a ji n (his Offici al elder


brother) the p rincesses the On a On se a wo ( an o ff icial ) the Otun
,
- -

wef a ( the nex t to the chi ef of the eunuchs ) wh o is a pri est and
the Om e n i nari a set O f servants Thes e l as t are to Slaughter
- -

, .

and Skin the ani mal s to be O ffered in sacrifice .

At the B A R A he W orshi ps at the tombs O f h i s fathers a horse , ,

a cow and a ram being O ffered at each tomb ; portions are sent
,

out to each O f the noblem e n princes and chi efs w a iti n g outside the
, , ,

B a eer un r eceivi ng the first and the lion s Sh ar e o r the whole



.

He invokes the bles sings O f his deceased fathers and is her eby said
to receive authori ty to wear the crow n The vi sit to the B A R A .

then is for the purpose O f receivi ng a u t h OI i t y or permission from


h i s deceased ancestors to wear the crown hence it is spoken O f as ,

the coronation It is a fix ed rule that the whole O f the m eat is


.

to be tot ally consum ed at the B A R A ; under no circumstance should


any be taken hom e .

This over the King returns hence wi th great pom p and Show
,

to his temporary chambers ami d t h e firin g O f f en d e joi e t h e


, ,

bleating O f the Kakaki trum pet drumming etc , , .

On the fifth day after thi s he p roceeds to K O S O the Shrine O f ,

S ango for the actu al cr owni ng Here he i s attended by the


,
.

Otun wef a wh o has the charge Of the Shrine the Bal e (m ayor)
-

of Koso a suburban vi llage the Om e n i n aris and the I § en as


,
- -

,
.
46 T HE H I S T O R Y O F TH E Y ORU BA S

po wer over all m an an d be ast but he is also consec rated a pri est
, ,

t o the nation His pers on therefore becom es sacred


.
, , .

All this having been performed it is now form ally announced ,

t o the assembled public that Ki ng A is dead ( or rather has


,

entered into the va ult O f the ski es — O we Aja ) an d Kin g B


n o w rei gns in his stead .

D uring the interval O f the late King s illness up to the ti m e O f ’

h i s death the busines s O f state is carried on norm ally by the pal ace
,

O fficers the Os i w ef a personating the Ki ng even to the extent O f


'
-

, ,

putting on his robes and crown and Sit ting on the throne when ,

such is req uired but as soon as i t is known that he is dead the


B a eer u n at once assum es the chi ef authority and nothing c an ,

be done without h i m .

The Ki ng havi ng be en crowned he is henceforth forbidden to ,

appear in public streets by day except on very special and extra ,

ordinary occasions ; he is however allowed evening strolls on , ,

moonlight nights when he m ay wal k about i n cogn i to .

This secl usion not only enh ances the a we and maj esty due t o
a sover eign but also lends power and authori ty to his commands
, ,

and is the b est s a fe guard for public order at their pres ent
-

stage Of civi li zation B esi des i t would be very inconveni ent


.
,

to the citizens i t the Ki ng were always coming out for accor di ng ,

to the uni vers al custom O f the country whenev er a chi ef i s out , ,

all hi s subordi nates m ust g O out with him I t is an invi olable .

l aw and custom of the co u ntry and i s applicable to a ll whatever , ,

their ran k : thus i f the B a se r un is out a ll t h e OY e M E S I must b e


, ,

out al so If the B al e of any town is out all the chiefs Of the town
.
,

m ust be out also and if the Kin g is out th e whole ci ty m ust b e


, ,

astir and on the m ove all busines s suspended until he returns


, ,

into the palace .

I GBA I wA

At the comm encem ent O f every rei gn the I GBA I WA or Calabash es ,

of di vinati on ar e brought from I L E I n : to the new King to di vi ne


what sort o f reign his wi ll be .

Two covered cal abashes O f simi lar shape an d S i ze b u t with ,

qui te di f ferent contents ar e brought one contai n ing money , ,

sm all pi ec es of cloth and other articl es of m erchandi ze denoti ng ,

peac e and prosperi ty the other contai ning mi nia t ure swords and
spears arrows powder b ullet raz or knives etc denoti ng wars
, , , , , , .
,

and trouble for the coun try The King is t o choose on e Of them .

before seeing the contents an d according as he chooses so will be ,

the fat e O f the Yoruba co unt ry duri ng hi s rei gn .


G O VE RN M E N T 47

TH E A R EM e

Th e very first O ff i ci al act O f the n ew King after hi s coronation


is t o create an A r em e an d a Princ ess R oyal or an equiv al ent
,
.

The A r em e is the Crown Prince The t erm sim ply denot es an .

heir but it is used as the title O f the Crown Pri nc e of OY e


,
.

The ti tle is conferr ed upo n the eldes t son of the sovereign in a


form al manner the c eremony bei ng t erm ed the chri stening
,

as O f a newly born chil d hence he is often term ed Om e (chi ld)


,

by w a y Of di stinction Th e title O f Pri nc ess R oy al is at the sam e


ti m e and in the sam e m anner conferred upon the eldes t daughter
O f the sovereign as well this however is O f m uch less im portance
, ,

than the other Wh en the Ki ng is t o o youn g t o have a son or hi s


.
,

son is a minor the ti tl e is t em por ari ly conferred upo n a yo unger


,

brother or nex t o f kin that stan ds to hi m in place Of a son but


, ,
'

as soon as the son is Of age h e m ust ass um e hi s title an d be gi n to


,

act u nder the guardiansh ip O f the eunuchs wh o ar e his guardi ans .

The m eth od i s as follows z— B o t h of them m ust have a S ponsor ,

or father as he is called chosen by di vination from am ong th e ,

titled e unuchs thi s done the A r em e rep ai rs t o the hous e o f the


,

On a I eo kun to worshi p at the graves O f the deceased A r em es wh o


-

were all b ur i ed there a n d the princ es s to that O f her dec ea sed pre
,

dec essor in her mother s house the Ki n g supplyi n g them wi t h a


bullock ea ch Th e whole day is thus spent in festivi ti es


. On thei r
return in the eveni ng they bo th proceed di rect to their sponsor s ’

house where they m ust reside four days e a ch day being m arked ,

with festivi ti es the ki ng supplyi n g t w o bullocks every day an d


, ,

thi s is fur ther supplem ent ed by the A r em e hi mself Th e feasts .

ar e O pe n to the general publi c whoever li kes t o repai r to the house,

is a welc o m e gues t po rtions are al so sent out to the princes the


, ,

noblemen an d other di stinguished personages At the end Of the


, .

fourt h day the A r em e inves ted with the robes of hi s o ffi ce an d


,

with a coronet is conducted t o h i s O ffi ci al residenc e where he takes


,

u p h i s pe rm anent abode an d the princ es s suitably clad li kewise


'

repairs to her O wn hom e .

PU BLI C A PPE A RA N C E S or TH E K IN G
The King generall y appears in public on the thr ee g rea t ann ual
festi v al s o f I fa Qr un an d the B er e In t wo at least O f thes e
, , .

festi v al s ( that O f the O run and the B er e) the B a eer un is equally ,

concern ed with h i m .

Thes e festival s have cert ai n feat ur es in common al though ea ch ,

has i ts O wn m arked ch ar acteristics They are all preceded by the .


48 TH E HI ST O R Y OF TH E YO RU BA S

worship O f Og un ( the god O f wa r ) and on the third day after the ,

firing of a royal s al ute and the sound of the ivory trumpet announce
,

to the public that the King m ay n ow be seen in stat e sitting on


, ,

his throne and all loyal subj ects wh o wish to have a glim ps e o f
,

his m aj esty n o w may repair to the palac e .

The festi val of I F A or MeL i; takes place in the m onth of J uly ,

ni ne days after the festi val of S ango The Ifa is the god of divin .

ation On e day in the week is generally gi ven to the consultation


.

or the service O f Ifa but an annual festival i s celebrated in its


,

honour at OY e .

The O RU N festi val takes place in S eptember At this festival .

the King and the B a eer u n worship together the OR I or god of fat e .

The Qr u n from which it appears the Ba se r a n deri ves his n a m e


and title is a curious i f not rather a m ystical rit e The word .

Qr u n signi fies heaven The title in f ull i s Iba Q§ er un i e


. . .

the lord who performs the O run or heavenl y mysteri es .

The King and his Qeer u n are O ften spoken O f as Qb a aiye


and Ob a Qr u n ie King terrestrial and King celestial In
. .
, .

what way His S upernal Highness performs the Qr un or what ,

position he assumes towards the sovereign in this ceremony is ,

not generall y known because it is al ways done in private B ut the


, .

rite seems to deal with a f fairs connected w ith the King s life I t ’
]

is t o him a periodic reminder o f his coming apotheosis and the ,

emblem O f worship is said to be a co f fin made O f or paved with


clay in which he is to be buried I t is kept in charg e of the Iya .

Ob a ( the King s o f ficial mother) in a room in her apartments


Visited by no one and the ceremonies are performed in private


,

once a year by the King hi mself his mother and his Qse r un , ,

the latter taking the chief part consequently very little is actually
known O f the doings O f these three august personages But this .

much is allowed to be known that the B a ser u n is to divi ne with ,

kola nuts to see whether the Kin g s sacrifices are acceptable to


,

the celestials or not if the omen b e favourable the A L A F I N is


, - .

to give the B a serun presents Of a horse and other valuables if


unfavourable he is to di e he has forfeited his right to further
, ,

existence But there can be no doubt that under s uch circum


. .

stances i t can always be managed between them that the omens


,

be always favourable .

F rom this and other circumstances i t would appear that the ,

Kin g on this occasion occupies a humiliating position as one whose


conduct is under review hence the g reat privacy Observed for, ,

it is a cardinal principle with Yorubas that the A LA F I N as the ,

re p resentative of the founder O f the race is to humble himself ,

before no mortal if such a contin g en cy were to occur he is to die , .


50 THE H I STO R Y OF TH E Y O RU BA S

the fir st tim e that year Th is ceremony is brought to a cl ose


.

by presents gi ven to the m en an d then all spectators di sperse , .

F rom nine t o seventeen days are n o w allowed for harvestin g


before the fields are set on fire .

The j elep a is the ceremony of setting the fields on fir e Thi s .

is performed by the B a ser un outside the ci ty wall s B ooths and .

enclosures O f palm leaves havi ng been erected for the purpose ,

the B a se r un wi th a princely tr ai n rep ai rs thi ther on the day


a ppointed He is m et there by a number of wom en from the
.

p al ace bringing a lar g e c al aba sh dr aped with a white C loth and


c ontai ning Ol e l e ( a sort of puddi ng made O f whi te beans and
p al m o il ) and E ke ( a kind O f blanc man g e made O f soaked corn

flour) corn and beans being taken as the staples Of li fe the


, ,

pri ncipal products O f the field .

His S upernal Highness first O f fers a morsel Of these in sacrifice


as a harvest thank o f fering for th e Yo ruba nation after whi ch
-

both himself and those with hi m partake of the rest accompani ed


with palm wine or beer made from gui nea corn th an king Go d for ,

the blessings of the fiel d Thi s over he orders the fiel d s t o be


.
,

set on fire : but if b y an accident the fields have already been fired ,

a bundl e O f dry gr ass brought from home i s used instead for the ,

pur p ose O f the ceremony .

The firi ng of a f en d e joi e n ow serves t o Show that the ceremony


is over and the parti es are returni ng to the ci ty Thi s is d one .

i n stat e .The B a ser un robes in one O f the enclosures : he is


attended by hundreds of horsem en and footmen horsem en gallop ,

ing backwar ds and forwards before hi m the firing and the fifin g ,

an d d rumming are quite deafening With such a right royal pro .

c ession Hi s S upernal Highness r e enters the city On the eveni ng -


.

of the sam e day the King worships the Ogun which is a preliminary
,

to every annual festi val .

The follo wing day is a very busy one a t Q Y e It is a day of ,


.

payin g tribut es Of B er e grass T h e whole of the OY e M E S I first


.

send theirs to the Kin g the B a ser u n alone W oul d send abo ut
,

2 00 bundl es the subordi nate chi efs send to the seni or chi efs every
, ,

one to his feudal lord or chi ef each man accordi ng to his rank ,

and position and so on to the lowest grades the young men to the ,

heads of compounds so that i t is usual to see loads of B er e passing


,

to and fro all over the town the whole day From the provinces .

al so tributes O f B er e com e to OY e later on e g from the A s eyi n . .

O f Is eyin the Ol ui wo of I wo the B al e O f Og b o m ese and other


, ,

cities of the pl ai n where the B er e grows .

This being the recog ni zed pr incipal festival O f the A L AF I N other


towns in lieu of B er e send con grat ulatory m essages wi th presents ,
G O V E RN M E N T 51

or t ributes the I b a d an s in their marauding days used t o send


slaves from the I jesa s and E kiti countri es com e kola nuts alligator ,

pepper fir ewood and other forest products Towns nearer the


,
.

coast send articles of E uropean m anufacture and S O on during this ,

season .

The day after being the third day of the ceremony O f j elep a a n d
,

the worsh ip of O gun the public festival takes place


,
.

TH E K I N G I N S TAT E
The King generall y appear s in state on thes e three festiv e
occasions .

F acing the l ar ge quadr angle of the outer court are the six
princip al Kobis that in the centre is what is known as the K eB I
,

A GA N J U or throne room where the A L AF I N al ways appear s on


stat e occasions It is al ways kept closed and never used for a n y
.
,

other purpose but thi s .

On such occasio ns the floor is spread all over with m ats and t h e
, ,

f r o n t o f the throne overspread with scarlet cloths ; the posts


.

all around are decorated wi th velvet cloths and the walls with ,

various hangings .

T h e t h r o n e or ch ai r O f state was made of wood at a tim e when


the knowledge O f c ar pentry wa s not common in this country ;
it can not boast O f any artistic m erit but it is highly v al ued for ,

its soli dity hoary age and tr a dition I t is O f a large si ze and


, , .

covered over wi th velvet .

The cr o wn is made O f costly beads such as coral agra and the , ,

li ke which in thi s poor country stand to the people instead of


,

precious stones It is artistic al ly done up by ex perts wi th fringes


O f sm all m ul ti —
.
,

c oloured beads depending from the rim which serve ,

t o veil the face .

The r o bes are us ually Sil ks or velvets of E uropean m anufacture , ,

wh ich were O f m uch greater v al ue in earli er days when inter


course wi th t h e coast wa s not so comm on or ea sy as i t n o w is .

The E ji g ba is the ch ai n O f O ffi ce This is m ade of a string of .

costly beads going round the n ec k an d reaching as far down as


the knees .

The Qp a I Z ekeis the sta f f or sceptre artistic al ly covered all over


with sm al l m ul ti coloured beads -
.

Th e I r te h e e is a Spe ial ly prepared cow s tai l of spo tless whi te ’


r c

w h ich the Ki n g gener al ly holds in front O f his mouth when Speakin g


for i t is considered bad form to see hi m O pen his mouth in public .

He m akes hi s speech s otto voce and i t is repeated t o the a s s em b l y i n


,

a loud voice by the chi ef of the E unuchs The whit e tail is m ore .

over an emblem of peace and grace .


52 TH E H I STO R Y OF TH E Y O RU BA S

T h e S t a te U m br ella s
Umbrellas in this country are part and
.

parcel of stat e paraphernalia In fact there W as a tim e when .

private indivi duals dared n o t use an umbrella ; that wa s in the


days before cheap foreign ones were obt ainable The prohi bition .

was first done away wi th at Ibadan where the W ar boys were ,

allowed to enj oy themsel ves in any wa y they li ked and use any ,

m ate ri al s of clothing and ornam ent they could affor d as i t might ,

be for o n ly a f ew days before they laid down their lives on a


battlefield .

However those O f a chi ef are easily distinguished n ow by their


,

si ze and quality They a r e almost always o f bright colou ri ng


.

usually of damasks The size and number are in pro p ortion t o


.

the rank O f the chi ef usually O f E uropean manufacture n o w , ,

though there is a distinct family of royal umbrella makers kept at


Q Y e Wh o m ake those of the largest size Most O f the umbrellas .

foreign or locally made are decorated with certai n emblems indica


ti ve of rank About t w o dozen o r more are used on these festive
.

occasions .

M us i c The Kobi third or fourth t o the A g a nju is occupied


.
,

by the musicians The m usical instrum ents consist of a lmost


.

every desc ri ption of fl i es tr umpets and drums O f which the ivory , ,

and Kakaki trumpets and Ogidigbo drum are peculi ar to the


sovereign .

The King enthroned is surrounded by his favourite wives one ,

O f whom the Are ori i t e holds a small sil k parasol over his head
,
- -

from behind as a canopy .

About 3 0 or 4 0 fem ale I l a r i s with costly dress and velvet caps


on are seated on the scarlet cloth on the right and on the left in
,

f ront of the throne but in the open air under t wo large umbrellas
, , ,

o n e on either Side a wide space bein g left between them


, .

Then there is a r o w of about t en large umbrellas each on the


right and the left both rows facing each other leavin g a wide
, ,

avenue between from the throne to the main entrance g at e under


those on the right are seated the Crown Prince supported by al l
the princes and the p ri ncipal eunuchs under those on the left
are the youn g er eunuchs the I l a ri s the T etus and other palac e , , ,

O fficials .B ehind these on either Si de are the crowds O f


spectators .

At a considerable distance in front of the throne in the avenue ,

left b etween the t wo groups stand th e B a ee r un and the rest ,

O f the O Y O M E S I to do homage This is done by taking o ff their .

robes wrapping their cloths round their waists leavi ng the body
, ,

bare ; three times they have to run to the main entrance gat e ,

sprinkl e earth on their heads and on their naked bodi es and run ,
54 TH E H I STO R Y OF TH E Y O RU BA S

This usually ends the Show but on the B er e festival the Kin g ,

continues his w al k right on t o the great entranc e gate then half ,

round the quadrangle gi ving the spectators a f ull View Of himself ,

then by a side door disappears into the inner precincts O f the p al ace .

The spectators thereupon di sperse .

These three festivals are concluded by a f ew m ale I l ar i s carrying


sacri fices to certai n quarters in the outskirts of the city in a stat e O f
perfect nudity which is rather a f r yi n g tim e for them there is
,

always a rush O f the W om en clearing out of their wa y on the ,

app roac h o f them the perform ance being symbolic o f som e


religi ous rite If i t is vi olated by any Show of natural excite
.

ment it nr u s t be atoned for and there is but one penalty


, , ,

vi z . decapitation
, B ut there is no record of any such case ,

occurring Wi thin li ving m em ory Their reward for this trying ordeal .

is that after their return being properly d r es s ed t h ey are admitt ed


, , ,
.

into the King s presence wh o si tting in state receives them with


, , ,

m arks O f honour .

'

This ends the ceremoni es O i th e festivals .

B ut at the B er e season one m ore ceremony rem ai ns that known , ,

as the ceremony O f T o uch i n g t h e g r a s s About p m on . .

a day appointed the King issuing from the palace is accompani ed


,

by his slaves wh o have been engaged in piling into t wo or three


heaps the bun dl es of h er e grass scattered about in the area in front
O f the palace inclu di ng those brought from th e provi nces
,
The .

piles are done up in an artistic m anner 8 or I of f high in an open , .

space away from any risk of fire His Maj est y n o w steps forward . ,

and lays both hands upon each of the heaps ma king a Short speec h , ,

invoking blessings on the Yoruba nation congratulating himself ,

for being spared to see another year This brin gs the B er e festival .

to a close .

T H E F UN E R AL O F T H E K I N G

Although the funeral of the King cannot prop erly he said to be


one O f his public appearances yet it i s consi dered more conveni ent ,

t o describe i t in this place along with other public ceremoni es of


which he is the centre .

The Kings are buri ed in the B a r d Th e funeral usuall y takes .

place at night I t is notified to the public by the sounding of the


.

Oki n ki n ( a m usical instrument li ke the b ugle) the i vory trumpet , ,

and the Koso drum a drum which is usually beat en every morni ng
,

at 4 a m as a signal for hi m to rise from hi s bed to beat it at ni ght


. .

therefore is to indicate that he i s retiring to hi s final res ting place


,
.

The body is removed to the B a r d on the back O f those Whose


O ffic e it is to bur y the Kin gs the c h i ef O f whom is a titled personage
'
G O V E RN M E N T 55

known as the On a o n ee a wo and his lieutenants At certain


- -

, .

stations o n the route between the pal a ce and the B a r d eleven in ,

all they hal t and immolate a man and a r a m and also at the B a r d
, ,

i tself four women each at the head and at the feet t wo boys on
, ,

the right and on the left were usually buried in the sam e grave
,

with the dead monarch to be his attendants i n the other W orld ,

and last of all the lamp bearer in whose presence all the cerem onies
-

are performed .

Al l these pr actices however have long bee n abolished a horse


, , ,

and a bullock being used instead O f human beings .

The King is buri ed in black and whi t e dress but the crown
on h i s head the gorgeous robe with which he was laid out in
,

s tate and wi th whi ch his corpse was decked to the B a r d and


, ,

the bracelets on his wrists and ankles are never buri ed with him ,

these becom e the perq ui si tes O f the On a Of ree awo and his - -

lieutenants .

Th e B a r d in which the Kings are buri ed i s di stinguished by its -

aloof situation from p ub li c thoroughfares in the outskirts O f the


city and having to i t as many kg bi s as there ar e Kings lyi n g there
, ,

one being erect ed over each The present B a r a enshrines the bones
.

of Ki ng O LU E WU the last of anci ent OY e with those O f the lat e


Kings of the pr es ent city I t is not open to the public several
.

of the lat e King s wives are secluded here ( as in a convent ) and


charged with the sole duty of taking c a re O f the graves of their


departed husbands .

Their mother superint endent is the I ya m o d e generally styled


B aba ( father) S he is thus style d because being entirely
.

devoted to the wors hi p of S ango one of the earliest deified Kings , ,



she is often inspired or possessed by the god and thus cam e ,

t o be regarded as the embodi m ent of that famous King .

Addi tions are m ade t o their number at every fresh buri al ,

usuall y from among the favouri tes of the deceased husband .

These wom en must all be celibates for life unfortunately among ,

the number are usuall y found som e W ho are virgins and m ust
remain S O for li fe : any misbehaviour is punished With the death of
bot h c ulprits the man on the day the cri m e i s detected and the

, ,

woman after her confinem ent


B esides those W
.

h o are immolated at the death of the sovereign


there used t o be som e honourable suicides consisting O f cert ai n
members of the roy al fam ily and som e of the King s wi ves and ,

others whose title impli es that they are t o di e with the King when
ever that event occurs With the title they recei ved as a badge a
.


cloth known as the death cloth a beautiful silk damask wrapper , ,

which they usually arrayed themselves with on special occasio n s


56 THE HI S T O R Y OF TH E Y O RU BA S

durin g the King s lifetim e Although the significance O f this was



.

well understood both by themselves and by their relatives yet i t


-

i s s urprising to see h o w eager som e O f them used to be to obt ain the


O ffice with the title and the cloth They enj oyed great privi leges .

during the King s lifetim e They ca n commi t any crime with ’


.

imp un ity Criminals condemned to death and escaping to their


.

houses becom e free These are never immolated they are to d i e .


,

honourably and voluntarily .

Of the m embers O f the royal family and others to di e were :


1. The A r em e or Crown Pri nce W ho practically reigned with his


father enj oyed roy al honours and had equal power of life and death
, , .

2. Three princes with heredi tary titles V i z the Magaji I ya ji n ,

the A g un p o p o and the Olusami , .

3 Two titled personages not of royal blood vi z the OS i w ef a



. .
,

and the Olokun esin (m aster O f the horse) wh o is generally styled


-

A b e b a ku i e one wh o is to die wi th the King



. .
, .

4 The female Victims were


.

I y a Qb a the king s O ffi cial mother Iya N aso I yal a gb en ’

, ,

( the Crown Prince s mother ) Iyale M el e (the Ifa pri estess ) the

Olorun ku m et un the I ya m en a ri the Iya l e ori ( these are all



- - - -

, ,

pri est esses ) and the A r e o ri i t e the chi ef favourit e - -


.

It will be O bserved that all the above m entioned are those wh o -

by virt ue of their O ffi ce are nearest to the King at all times and ,

have t h e easi est access t o his person to m ake their life dependent
on his therefore is to ens ure safety for him agai nst the risk of
, ,

po i soning or the dagger of the a ssassin


, .

The custom is that each sho ul d go and die i n his (or her ) O wn
hom e and among h i s family The spectacle is very affecting
, . .


D ressed in their death cloth they issue from the palace to their ,

hom es surrounded by their friends and their drummers beating ,

funeral dirges eager crowds O f fri ends and acqu ai ntances floc king
,

around them pressing near to have a last look at them or to say


,

the final farewell as they m arch ho mewards The house is full .

of Visitors mour ners and others some in profuse tears mournful


, ,

wai lings and funeral O des are heard on all si des enough to break
the stoutest heart While the grave is diggi ng the co ffi n m aking .
, ,

a parting feast is made for all the friends and acquai ntances and
as they m ust die before sunset they en joy themselves as best they ,

can for that day by parta king of the choicest and favourite dishes ,

appearing several times in changes O f apparel distributing presents ,

with a lavish hand around and m aking their last wi ll di sposing ,

of their e f fects When everything is ready the g rave and the


.
,

co ffi n approved of they then take poison and pass O ff qui etly , ,


.

B ut i f it fails or is too Slow to take e ff ect a n d the sun is about to ,


58 T HE H I STO R Y OF TH E Y O RU BA S

h i s l i e ut en a n t s
to th e sixth grade B ut thei r chi ef duty is to carry .

the r emains O f the deceased monarch from the palace to the


B a r d for int erm ent .

4 T h e On a moaeke This is the civil counterpart of the mili tary


.
-

ti tle of S eri ki This O ffi cer is the head or leader of all the yout hs
.
,

in the ci ty and country capable of bea r ing arms W hoever may be , ,

thei r father or master He forms a band of them all and is sup .


,

posed to train them in m anly sports and civic duti es It is his .

prerogati ve to shi eld m embers o f his band from th e penalti es O f


the l a w whenever they have becom e li able to such by any r a sh ,

act .

5 T h e I gug b i n s
. . These are m embers of th e palace orchestra
. .

They number about 2 1 0 persons playing o n fif es the Qki n ki n


,
'

and the Ivory trumpets and the special dr ums Koso and Gb ed u , . ,

etc .

(a ) Th e A la kas o or Koso drumm er s chi ef duty is to wake


up the King ever y morning at 4 a m wi t h h i s drum . . .

T h e A l u d n n d n n o r the Dun d u n drum mer He has to .

attend at the palac e every day withi n cert ai n hours ,

includi ng the visiting o r business hours He has one of .

the front K eb i s assigned to him w h ere he s i t s d i s co ur s i n g ,

events with his dr um all durin g his offi ce h ours With ,


.

it he pre announc es the presence of any vi sitor in the


'

pal ac e S O that in W hatever par t of the palace the King


,

may be he can tell by the sound O f the drum wh o has


,

entered the court yard before the personage is actually


announced This is one O f the peculi arities O f th e Yoruba
.

l a n g u a g e a n d the art of the drumm ers


, _
The nam es . ,

pr ai ses and attributes of every family of note are known


to all drummers and m usicians and they are experts , ,

in eul og i zing and enlarging on the praises of any one they


wish to honour s p ea ki ng it with their drums If f o r
,
.

instance a white man enters the palace the dru mmer ,

would stri ke up : Oyinbo Oyinbo a h O kun se en h , ,

( the white man the white man wh o m akes O f the ocean a ,

high wa y) In strai ns like t hi s he woul d continue for a


.

while enlarging upon his praises .

6 . Th e A r g ki n s
These are the rhapsodi sts or national historians
. ,

an hereditary title they have an apartm ent to themselves where


they repeat daily in songs the genealo g y of t h e Kings the principal ,

events of their lives and other notable events in the hi story O f the
Yoruba country .

T h e I l m ale is the palace surveyor He has charge of all


7 . e .
G O V E RN M E N T 59

the buildin g s Wi thin that vast com po und especi al ly of th e K eb is , .

He is t o see that every part is kept i n good rep ai r He is also .

t o attend to the drains and the grounds especially after a heavy ,

fall of rain He is sai d t o be the principal O ffi cer wh o is to wash


.

the corps e of the King and dress i t before i t is p l a c e d i n the coffi n .

These are the sheri f fs or King s ex ec utioners


8 T h e T et n s

. . .

They are about 1 9 in number each one of them with hi s ,

subordinat es has speci fied duties to perform e g it is the duty . .


,

O f the 1 5 t h with his subordinates to clear the grounds and dishes

after the King has entertained the Q Y e M E S I They number .

about 1 5 0 in all .

I I T h e E u n u ch s The E unuchs are cal led I wef a or Iba afin


. .
-

( contracted to B a afin ) i e lordl ings of the palac e The princip al


. . .

are The Qn a ef a or chi ef O f the E unuchs the Qt un ef a and the


-

,

Os i ef a his principal li eut enants and others to the sixth grade



.
,

B esides these are the unti tled ones and boys , .

T h e Qn a ef a is a high legal personage ; he hears and deci des


suits and appeals brought to the King whenever His Maj esty

cannot sit in person and his decision is as good as the King s
,

whose legal adviser he is We have seen above the principal part .

he plays i n public festivals and state c eremoni es .

T h e Qtu n gf a has the C harge O f the suburban town of K OSO



,

bui lt in honour O f the national god S ango It is hi s duty to worshi p .

at the shrine at stated periods on behalf of the Yoruba people .

He sometim es helps to deci de c ases He is also one O f the chi ef .

guar di ans of the King s c h ildren ’


.

T h e 03 » ef a or Ol os i although the least of the thre e yet is the


most hon oured He represents the King on all occasions and in
.

all matters civil as well as military He sometim es acts as .

commander i n chi ef in military expeditions he is al lowed to use


- -

the crown the state umbrellas a n d the Kakaki trumpet and to


, , ,

have royal honours pai d to h i m On such occasions he is pri vileg ed .

also t o dispense the King s prerogatives His ordinary duties '


.

are : to be near the King s person at all times having free access ’

to every part of the palace includi n g the harem t o see that the
King s bed is properly made b efore he retir es every night ; t o

Visit hi m at midnight and at coc k crow to see if he has had a -

restful night and to call him up at 4 a m before the Koso drum


, . .

'
begins to sound He is t o head those of the Ki n g s wives who
.

are to dance at the A kes a n market once a year after the deity ,

presi ding over markets has been propitiated With Eni ejéi one .
-


of the titled ladies o f the palace h e has charge of the King s market ,

and enj oys i n part the emolum en ts accruing therefrom .

Why these exception al honours are bestowed upon the third


60 THE H I STO R Y OF TH E Y O RU BA S

ii rrank among the E unuchs will be told hereafter in the history


,

of one O f the early kings .

T h e E unuchs are a grade h i gher than the I l a r i s and must b e


respected by them however young a E unuch may be he m ust be ,

addressed as Baba ( father) by any Ilari even t h e Oldest .

The custom of castrating a man is said to have origi n ated from


the puni shment inflicted for the crime O f incest or o f b ea s t i a li t y .

The E unuchs are distinguished by the mann er they wear their


gowns gathered on the Shoulders leavi ng their a rms bar e They , .

ar e now g enerally chosen from boys bought with money and ,

employed first as pages to t h e King or attendants on one of his ,

wives The custom of choosing boys was introduced by one of


.

the later Kings ; his reason for i t W as that before the age O f ,

puberty boys will hardly be cognizan t Of their loss and he would


, ,

thus spare himself the remorse O f conscience which would follow


the mutilation of an adult and also save his Victim from a life long
,
-

m o r t i fica t i o n .

E masculation of an adult is now only resorted to instead of


capi tal punishment in cases of adultery wi th the wife of a ki n g
but in order that the system may not be abused provinci al kings ,

are not allowed to resort t o this mode of punishment nor even to ,

keep E unuchs any one really guilty m ust be sent to the capital
where a special surgeon is kept for the p urpose wh o is s kilful in
the art .

The E unuchs are the guar dians Of the King s children the ’

princes and princesses as a rule are born in the house of one O f the
principal E unuchs for as soon as any of the King s wi ves becomes ’

a mother she is separated from the other women and placed


, ,

under the guardianshi p of one of them and she is not to return ,

to the palace un til the child is weaned .

The titled ones among them are mas t ers of large compounds ,

and they also keep their OWn harem s as well their wives are called
Awew e i e on e with hands tied because they ar e doom ed to
, . . , _

be for ever chil dl ess In cases of adultery di sclosed by pregnanc y


.

both the defaulters in early days were to su f fer capital punishment


the m a n on the day the crime was proved ag ai nst him and th e ,

woman wi th the issue on the day she i s deli vered These extrem e .

measures however have been allowed to di e out in favour of


, , ,

fines or other less severe punishments .

The E unuchs have the exclusi ve right of seizing anything in


the m ar ket with impunity They have also the u nenvi able .
'

pri vilege of mingling with the King s wi ves either in the harem ’

or whenever they appear in public on any festive occasion .

I I I T h e I la r i s The term Ilari denotes parting O f the he a d


.
,
TH E H I STO R Y OF THE Y O RU BA S

5 9 Ob a li a isin 64 Ma d a we t eba lori



- - - -

60 E m i m e l O b a mi 6 5 Ma n i Ob a lara

- - - -

6 1 Igba —ab er e 6 6 M a r O Ob a lo b un - -

6 2 Qb a l olu 6 7 Or i d a g og o

63 A keg b e 68 Apeka
E very m ale Ilari h as a fem ale counterpart wh o is c all ed his
compani on The I l ari s . themselves by courtesy call them their

mother They ar e both creat ed at on e and the sam e time and
.


they are supposed to seek each other s interest although there ,

m ust be no intimacy between them ; the female I l a ri s bein g


denizens of the Kin g s harem the onl y attention they are all owed
'

to pay each other is to m ake exchang e of presents at the yearly


festi val s .

E ach Ilari has a repr es entati ve image m ade of C lay c al led


S ugud u having incisions on i ts head and arm similar to his o wn
, ,

wi th the sam e ingredient rubbed into them .

The I la ri s are to keep the head shaved on e h al f bei n g done ,

from the middl e li ne downwards alternat ely every fifth day except
the ci rcular patch on the occi put where th e incisions were made
there the h ai r is left to g row as long as possibl ebeing always pl aited
and som etim es dyed black wi th in di go .


The male I l a ri s are the King s body g uard or The keepers O f
hi s head .They are of di ff erent grades including hi gh placed -

servants m essengers and m eni als S ome of th e favoured ones


, , .

are made m asters O f large co mpoun d s the King supplyi ng them ,

with horses and g rooms and assigning to them certain gat es where
,

they collect tolls the proceeds bei n g di vi ded between their mas ter
,

and themselves for their m ai nt enanc e they are also feudal lords
O f som e m asters of large compounds in di f ferent parts of the ci ty

wh o serve them in various capacities in war or in tim e of


'

peac e .

Al l the inm ates of their houses are for the most part the King 5

slaves and every newly made Ilari I S handed over to the char g e
,

O f one or other of these hi ghl y placed ones -


.

Thes e favoured ones ri de upon the t a llest hors es Whenever the


King goes out in public forming his body guards ; others are ,

servants to these but their chief work one and al l is that O f house
repair year by year .

On any festive o ccasion when th e King a ppears in state as ,

m an y O f the m ale I la r i s as are requi red to be present must each


one take h i s s ug u d u with hi m to hi s seat They are on such .

oc c asions to be without a headge ar or breeches with only a cloth


over the body passed under the right ar m and knotted on the left
, ,

sho ulder the arms bein g left bare


, .
G O VE RN M E N T 63

It is the especial privilege of the I l a r i s male or femal e to carry , ,

nothin g on the head save their hats or caps .

LA D I E S or THE P ALAC E
The ladies O f the pal ace consist Of eight ti t led ladi es of t h e
highest ran k ei ght pri estesses other ladies of rank besides I l a r i s
, , ,

and the A ya b a s or King s wi ves


'
The whole O f them are O ften Spoken of loosely as t h e King s

wi ves because they reside in the p alace but strictly speakin g the
, ,

titled ladi es and the pri estesses at le a st should not be i ncluded


in the category Again all the ladi es of ran k are O ften Spoken
.
,

O f as I la r i s but there is a m arked di f fere nce between th em


,
.

The following are the ladies O f the highest rank in their due
order

1 Iya O b a 5 Iya fin I ki i - -

2 Iya kere 6 I yal a g b en


3 Iya N aso
-

7 Qr un ku m ef u n
-

4 Iya m enari
-
8 Ar e o ri t e -

T he I y a Qb a is the King s (O ffi ci al ) m other


For reasons
'

1 . .

stated above ( Vi de p 4 8 ) the K ing is n o t to have a natural mother


. .

If hi s mother happens to be li ving when he is called to the throne ,



S h e is asked t o go to sleep and is decently buri ed in the house
,

of a relative in the city All th e inmates of that house are accorded


.

Speci al privileges and enj oy m arked deference as m embers



of the household of the King s mother .

The King sends to worshi p at her grave once a year On e of the .

ladies of the p al ace is then cr eated I y a Qb a and she is supposed -

t o act the p ar t O f a mother to him It is her pri vilege to be the .

thi rd person in the room where the King and the B a ser u n worshi p
the Qr un in the month of S eptember every year .

S he is the feudal head O f t h e B a ser un .

T h e I y a ker e N ext to the King s m other th e Iya kere holds ’


2 .
,

the hi ghest ran k Greater deferenc e is p ai d to the Iy a Qb a indeed


.
_
,

but the Iya kere wi elds the greatest power in th e palace S he has .

the ch ar ge of the King s treasures The r o ya l insignia are in



.

her keeping and all the paraphernalia used on state occasions


, ,

she has the power of wi thholding them and thus preventing t h e ,

holding O f any state reception t o m ark h er di spleasure with the


Kin g when she is o f fended We have seen above that she is the
.

person entitled to place the crown on the King s head at the ’

coronation .

S he is the mother of all the I l ar i s m ale and female for i t is ,

in her apartment they are usual ly created she keeps in her custody
64 THE HI S T O R Y OF TH E Y O RU BA S

all the s ug u d us bearing the marks O f each Ilari in order to


e n sure the safety of the King s life ’
.

Great and honourable as is the Olosi she ex ercises ful l power ,

over even him and can have him arrested and put in irons if he
,

o f fends S he is the feudal head of the A s eyi n Ol ui w o and the


.
, ,

Bal e o f Ogbomoso With the assumption of this o f fice she is of


.
, ,

course t o be a celibate for life


, .

3 T h e Iy a N as o has to d o with the W orship O f S ango generally


-
.

and is responsible for everything connected with it .


The King s private chapel for S ango W orshi p is in her apartment ,

and all the emoluments and perquisites arising therefrom are


hers S he has also to do with the sam e at K O SO
. .

T h e I y a m en a r i is the first lieutenant and assistant to the


4
-

f y a N as o I t is her o f fice to execute by strangling a n y S ango


-
.

worshipper condemned to capital punishm ent as they are not to ,

die by the Sword and hence cannot be executed by the Tetus


, .

5 T h e I y a f i n I ki l is the second lieutenant and assistant


- -

’ ’
t o the Iya N aso S he is the King s A d o su S ango i e the Kin g s
-
.
, . .

devotee to the S ango mysteri es AS a ll S an g o worshippers ar e .

to devote one of their children to the worshi p of the g od she stands ,

in place O f that to the King S he has the charge of the sacred .

ram which is allowed to go everyw here and about the market


unmolest ed and m ay eat with impunity anythin g from th e
,

sellers .

6 T h e Iy a lag bg n
. The mother of the Crow n Prince is always
.
-

prom oted to t h e rank O f I y a lag ben In case she is n o t li vi ng .

whoever is promoted to that O ffi ce acts li ke a mother to him S he .

enj oys great influence and controls a portion of the city , .

T h e Q r i l n ku m e
f n n is also connected with the Ar em o
7
-

. .

8 T h e A r e or i l e Thi s O fficial is the Ki n g s personal a ttendant



-

. . .

S he is to see that his m eals are properly prepar ed and his bed ,

properly m ade and al so to see him comfortably in bed before


,

retiring to her own apartment S he is to hold t h e silken parasol .

over his head as a canopy wh en e n throned and is constantly ,

by his side to perform sm al l services for him on state and other


occasio n s .

These eight ladies h oldin g responsible po sitions are each of


them the head O f a small compound within the palace wall s .

TH E PR I E S TE SS E S
1 Iya le Or i
.

5 . Iya Ol osun
2 Iyale M el e
. 6 . I y a fin Osun
3 : Iya O r i s a n l a 7 . I y a fin E ri
4 Iya Y em a ja 8 I y a fin Qr un f fim i
-

. .
66 T HE H I STO R Y or TH E Y O RU BA S

the head are not spared on these occasions if they are not qui c k ,

at catching the words or if their m emory f ai ls them .

With the assumption of this O ffi ce the f y a mg de is of course , , ,

to be a celi bat e for life .

( 2 ) T h e Iy a le Od n du wa is the priestes s of O d u d uw a the supposed



-

founder of the Yoruba nation A Special tem ple is bui lt in the .

palace for him where his im age is enshrined and worshi pped S he .

is the head of all O d u d uwa worshippers in the city S he r esides .

i n one of the out hous es and does not rank with the eight pri estesses ,

m entioned above .

(3) T h e Qa e is the head of all the worshippers Of the god OsOs i



.

On state occasions S h e appears dressed as a hunter (hence her nam e)


wearin g on her shoulder a b o w ornam ented with st ri ngs of cowri es
neatly strun g .

( 4 ) T h e Qb ag n n t e is not regarded as having a very high po sition ,

although she represents the King in the Ogboni house on ordinary


occasions her work being strictly connected with that frat ern ity
, .

S he ent ers the Ogboni chamber on all occasions and acts in the
’ ’

King s nam e reporting to his m aj esty the events of each day s


,

sittin g Whenever the King wishes to entertai n the Ogboni s


.
,

she has t o undertake tha t duty .

( 5) T h e E n i eja i s at the head of al l the devil worshi ppers in the


- -

town S he also has ch arge of t h e Ki n g s m arket and enj oys all


.

the perquisites accr ui ng therefrom S he wears a gown li ke a .

man on her arms the Ki ng leans on the day he goes to worshi p


,

at the m arket i e t o propitiate the dei ty that presides over


, . .

m ar kets S he has under her ( 1 ) the Olo si wh o h as j oint r esponsi


.

b i li t y wi th her for the market and ( 2 ) the Ar ej a or market keeper , ,

an O ffi cer Whose duty i t i s to k eep order and arrange the manage ,

m ent O f the m arket and wh o actually resides there ,


.

(6) T h e Iy a le ag bo is a private attendant on the King havin g



-

charge O f hi s pri vate pharm acy His ag n n m n (powders) an d ag bo .

(infusions ) are al l in her care she is to see that they ar e i n a


con di tion fit for use when required .

All thes e la d ies except the Qb ag u n t e and I y a le m ol e although


,

generally styled I l ari s are not really S O an d that is kn own from ,

the m anner their h ai r is done up Th ey are really above the .

I l ar i s .

The Iya Ob a and Iya m ed e are al ways shaven the others plai t
-

, ,

their hair in small strips from the forehea d to the top O f the head
and gather the rest from the back to the top tying all into one knot ,

wi th a string This style is term ed the I kO kO r O


. .

The Od e E n i eja I y a fin Iku Iya Ql eeu n and the Iya le


,
-

,
-

,
-

Od ud uw a adorn theirs wi th the red feathers of the par rot s t ai l



.
G O VE RN M E N T 67

T h e I l a r i s — The
fem ale I l a r i s are som ewhat di f ferently shaved
.

from the m ale their incisions being m ade from the front to the ,

back of the head alon g the middle line ; the hair is allowed to
grow along the sam e line and i t i s pl ai ted into two horns front and ,

back being twined with a string or thread and the sides of the
, ,

head shaved al ternately every fifth day .

The following are the nam es O f the principal female I l a r i s ,

every on e O f which is significant


1 Q b al o yi n 1 7 Irebe 33 A r o n u
2 Maj e Ob a koy e 1 8 A g b ejo 34 Apa O ka
- - - -

3 D idun l Q b a f e 1 9 A w u ja l e 3 5 Ina Ob a kOkrI


’ ’
- - -

4 Ire l Ob a i ee 2 0 Or i r e 3 6 Agbala
’ ’
- -

5 Igba e we 2 1 Oju r e 3 7 Ot a kO ri a y e

- - - -

6 Ire k ai ye 2 2 A wi g b a 3 8 Ma dun mi de inu



- - - -

7 O f i O gbo 2 3 A l Og b O 3 9 Ql ed et u

8 Ar esin 2 4 O r i d i jo 4 0 Mad a j e l Ob a

-

9 A j i n d e 2 5 T i j y
o t a e 4 1 A j j fe
i e

1 0 Oju r e 2 6 Aiye f eb a se 4 2 Ol u f e ba
’ ’ ’
-


1 1 A lo s i n 2 7 Aji g b o h u n 4 3 I w ap el e
1 2 A kes i n 2 8 I w a d er e 44 Oh u n g b o g b o
1 3 Om i s u y éi r i n - -
2 9 Om u ye 45 A i y eder e
1 4 B a m w o wO 3 0 A jrg b o r e 46 E hin w a -

1 5 A t eka Mah a— r O t oba 31 Qb a d ar O 47


-


1 6 A woda 3 2 A l an t r On juwen 48
These female I la r i s have the exclusive privilege of usi n g t h e
female head ti es or m en s caps the ordinary A y a b a s or King s ,

,

wi ves are disti n guished by carryi n g their heads bare always ,

Shaved and their head ties used as a belt rou n d the bre a sts
, .

At the demise o f the King the W hole O f the I l a r i s m ale and female
g o into mournin g by dropping their official ( Ilari ) nam es a n d ,

letting their hair grow At a n ew accession the whole O f them .


,

shave their heads On e O f th e earliest acts O f the n ew sovereign .

after the coronation and t h e investiture O f the A r em e ( Crown


Prince) and j ust before the next great festival is to create all
the I l a r i s afresh by batches every 5 days giving a n ew nam e ,

t o each and adding a n ew set of his own o n ly the lances O f the


head are r e done not those of the arm E ach batch is to rem ai n
-

, .


seven days at the Ile M el e Th is distribution of honours is .

eagerly sought after .

M E MBE RS OF TH E RO YAL FA MI LY O CC U PYI N G RE S P O N S I BLE


P O S I T I ON S
As a rule distingui shed m embers of the R oyal F amily except
,

those holdin g responsible positions do not reside in the m etropolis a ,


68 TH E HI S T O R Y OF THE -
Y O RU BA S

great number of them may be fo und scattered all over th e provi nces
especi al ly in the E ki l n Os i o r Metropolitan province W here each

one resides as a lord of the town or village They m ay take no .

part in the administration O f a f fairs in the town lest they over ,

shadow the chief of the to wn wh o is generally the founder Or his


descendant but due d ef er en c e i s loyally accorded them and cer tain
,
.
,

privileges are granted them as befitting their rank O n e such was .

Atiba the son of King A B I eD U N who resided in the town of A g e


with Oja the founder after whose death Atiba becam e practically
,

the m aster O f the town before he was s ubsequently elected King .

S om e O f the princes with a large family and a large follo wing


b uild their own town and becom e lord Of the town S uch was .


A y ei ji n w h o built the town o f S ur t r near the anci ent QY e popularly
kno wn as Ile Gbag er efrom the attributive of the fo under .

There are those ho wever wh o hold hi gh positions in the govern ,

m ent such as the followin g :

1 . T H E ONA I S OKU N . 2 . T HE ONA A KA .


3 . TH E OMe -

OL A .

These are know n as of the Ki n g hence the sayin g


t h e f a t h er s ,

Ona -
I § O ku n baba Q b a
On a -
Aka baba I § O kun
, .

The the Ki n g s f ather the Qu a A ka fath er to th e


O n a I go k u n
-

,
-

I so ku n That is to say that they stand in the relation of a father


.

to the Kin g w h o naturally cannot have a father livi n g T O them


, . _

i t appertains t o a d vise admoni sh or instruct the King especi al ly


, , ,

wh en h e com es t o the throne at a very early age and as such lacks ,

the experien ce indispensable f o r the due performance of his all


important duty The titl es are hereditary . .

We have seen above th at the nomination to the thron e i s in


their hands The ON A I § O K U N seems to b e the most Tes p o n s i b l e
.

O f the three We have seen that the King elect is to Sleep in his
.
-

house the first night after his electi on as the formal call to t h e ,

throne com es from him Lustrations divinations and propitiatio ns


.
, ,

for the new King are done in his house Part also of the ceremony .

of creating the A r em e is per f orm ed in hi s house ; there all the


princes are entertained in festivi ties and there also all crown princes ,

are buri ed if they di e in that position .

N ext t o the above are those wh o are term ed brothers to the


Kin g they are
,

r The Ma g a jI I y ajrn
.
4 The A t i n g i s i .

2 The Olusami
.
5 The A g u n p o p o .

3 The .Arole O b a 6 The Aro l e Iya O b a . .


70 TH E HI S TO R Y OF THE Y O RU BA S

TH E N O BILITY
There are two classes o f noblemen at O Y e ; in th e first t h e ,

title is hereditary ; the second which is strictly military is the


reward of m erit alone and not necessarily heredi tary In both
, .
,

each m ember is styled Iba w hich m eans a lo r d being a d i m un i


ti ve O f Ob a a ki n g .

A . T H E OY e -

M E SI
The first class of noblemen consists O f the m ost noble and m ost
honourable councillors of state term ed the OY Q M E S I They are
, .

also the king m akers They are seven i n number and of the
-
.

following order
( 1 ) The Qse r u n ( 2 ) A g b a ki n (3 ) S am u ( 4) Al a p i n i ( 5) Lagun a
, , , , ,

( 6) A ki ni ku ( 7) A sipa
, .

. The title of each ( as above sai d) is hereditary in the sam e


family b ut not necessari ly f rom father to son i t is within the

King s prerogative to select which m ember of the family is to
succeed to the title or he m ay alter the succession altogether .

They represent the voice O f the n ation on them devolves the


c hi ef duty of protecting the interests of the kingdom The King .

m ust take counsel wi th them whenever any important matter


a f fecting the s tate occurs E ach of them has his state duty
.

to perform and a special deputy at court every morn ing and


,

afternoon and whom they send to the A LAF I N at other tim es when
their absence is unavoidable ; they are however required t o , ,

attend court in person the fir st day of the ( Yoruba) week for t h e ,

J a kut a (S ango) worship and to partake O f the sacrificial feast .

( 1 ) T h e n r un or Iba Q ser un ( contr to B a ger u n i e the lord . . .


,

that performs the Q r un may be regarded as the Prim e Minister


and Chancel lor O f the kingdom and something m ore He i s not .

onl y the president O f the council but his power and influence are
immeasurably greater than those Of the others put together His .

is the chief voice in the election O f a King and although the King ,
'

as suprem e is vested with absolute power yet that power m ust be ,

exercised within the limit of the unw ritten constitution but i f ,

he is ultra tyrannical and withal unconstit utional and unacceptable


-

t o t h e nation it i s the B a ser un s prerogative as the m outh piece



-

of the people to m ove his rej ection as a King in which case His
Maj esty has no alternative but to take poison and die .

His Highness being a prince is practically as absol ute as a King


in his own q uarter of the town .

N ext to the A L AF I N in a uthori ty and power he O ften performs ,

the duties Of a King He takes precedence O f all provincial


.
V RN ME N T
'

GO E 71

kings and princes There were times in the history of the nation
.

when the B a ser u n s were more powerful than the A L AF I N himself .

D uring the long course O f histo r y there have been several alli ances
bet ween the t w o f amilies so that in the O lder line of B a ee r un s
,

at any rate the blood of the royal family runs also in their veins
,
.

S e veral points of Similarity m ay be not ed between the A L AF I N


and his B a eer u n The A L AF I N is Q b a ( a king) he is Iba ( a lor d) .


The A L AE I N S wives are called Ayaba the B a eer un s Ay i n b a

, .

They are Similarly clothed carrying their heads bare and shaven
, ,

and their head b ands used as belts but the A yi n b as are not equally
-

avoided by m en as the A ya b as are .

The I b a Qs er n n has kg bi s to his palace as w ell but a limited ,

n umber ; those of the A L A F I N being unli m ited He too has a .

n umber of I l a r i s as a kin g b ut they m ust be created for him by the


,

A L AF I N .

The A L AF I N has his crown his throne his E ji g b a round his


, ,

neck The O s o r u n
. has a Speci ally m ade coronet O f his own a ,

speci al ly ornam ented Skin called the WAB I on whi ch he sits and a ,

string O f beads round his neck also like the E ji g b a .

We have seen that at the princi pal festivals O f the A L AF I N th e ,

B a ser un al so has minor festivals to observe in conj uncti on and


has hi s part t o play at the m ain O bservance also .

When the A L AP I N r eigns long and peacefully enough to celebrate


the B eb e a festival akin to the royal j ubilee the B a § er un must
, ,

follow wit h t h e Owér a .

B ut i t is a peculiarity of t h e B a ee r un s children that the boys are’

never circum cised .

Although the title is hereditary in the sam e family yet i t is


within the King s power to change the li ne of succession W hen

necessity demands t hat course .

Thus the whole unwri tten constitution of the Yorubas seems t o


be a system O f checks and counter checks and i t has on th e ,

whole worked well for the country .

There have been five di fferent families O f th e B a s er un line ,

each one with its distinctive cognom en The first and Oldest .

belonged to the family totem of Og un ( the god O f war) and have


for appellati ves M o r o M a so M a wo M aj a Ogu n This was the .

ori ginal line contem p orary wi th the earli est Kings It covers .

the reign Of 1 8 Kings and ended wi th B a eer un Yam ba in the reign ,

of Kin g O J I G I ,

With the long lease O f pow er and i nfluence enj oyed by this
f amily it became as wealthy and great as or even greater than the
, ,

sovereign himself especi ally as som e of the B a seru n s out lived


,
-

two or three successive Kings Therefore Kin g G B E RU the s u cc essor


.
72 TH E HI S TO R Y OF T H E Y O RU B A S

of Ojrg i transferred the succ ession t o his friend J ambu of another


line whose appellatives were M aja M a r o Th is li n e embraced
, .

the reign of seven Kings and ended with Asam u in A B I eD U N S ’

rei gn .

The third began with Al o b i t o ki in Aol e s reign havin g the ’

appellatives of M aja M ajo O f the totem of A g a n


This line was n o t allowed to contin ue it flourishe d duri ng the



,

reign of o n e Ki n g only for Ojo Abur um aku the son of Oni sigun
,

and grandson of B a § er un C O was of the O lder line The f ourth ;

line began with A ki o eo in King M A J O T U S reign and also ended ’

with himself in the reign of O L U E WU the last O f anci ent QY e , .

This family was rather insi g nificant .

Ol uy el e the first B a ser un of the n ew city was the grandson of


B a ee r un Yamba and therefore O f the O lder Og u n li ne
, .

The fifth and last line comm enced with Gb en l a in the reign Of
King A T I BA the totem is A ve and is the family n o w in O ffi c e
,

and has already last ed through the reign O f three kings .

The B a ger u n s of Ibadan after Ol uyel e are only honorary with


no na t ional duties attached to t h eO fli c e .

A S Y N OP SI S OF THE B A§ QR U N FA MILY
B a ser u n s . Appellatives F amily Totems . .

I .
Ef uf u ko f eri to
Yamba Moro Maso Maj a Ogun ,

2 . J ambu t o A sam u Ma j a Maro (P)


3 . A l o b i t o ki Maj a Maj o Agan
4 . A ki o so E se
5 . Gb en l a to L a y ed e A ye
T h A b k — The duties of this O fficial are not so well
( ) 2 e g a i n

d efin ed but the present A g b a ki n


, has the charge of the worshi p of
Qr a fiya n .

(3) 5 317214 The duti es of the Sam u are not clearly known
. .

T A lap i i — H e is the head of the E g t rg u n m ysteri es and


'

(4 ) h e n .
,

as such h e is at the head of religious a f f ai rs i n general He has


the charge O f the famous J E N J U wh o is the head E g ii g u n of the ,

country and who executes witches ! He is at once a religious


,

and a sec ular personage he shares with the pri es ts all reli gious
O f ferings an d in secular m atters with the noblemen of his class
,
.

By virtue o f hi s pec uliar O f fice he must be a mo n or c h i s .

(5) T h e L ag u n a is the state ambassador in critical tim es .

(
6) T h e A k i n i h u — The real duties of this
. o fli cer are not known .

( 7) T he A s i p a as the last of them performs the duti es of the


j uni o r He is called the Oju wa i e the one wh o di stributes
.
, . .

whatever p resents are given t o the th e M E S I The B a ser u n in .


74 TH E HI ST O R Y OF THE Y O RU BA S

SO m uch is this title thought of by mili tary men and others


and S O great is the enthusiasm i t inspires that even the children ,

and grandchildren O f an E se hold themselves bound to m aintai n


the spiri t and honour of their sires The E s o 1 5 above everything
-

else nobl e in act and deed .

E m i om o Ege ( m e born O f an Ese) is a proud phrase generally


used even to this day by any o f their descendants to Show their
s corn for anything m ean or low or their contempt f or any di ffi cul ty , ,

dange r or even death itself


, .

Most of the Egba c hi efs sprang from the B ees of Q Y e Okukem u ,

the first ki ng O f Ab eokuta was a S a g b u a .

A special notice m ust now be taken O f the Kakanfo who stan ds


at the head of the Eses .

T H E K AKA N FO The ti tle given in full is A r e Qn a Kakanfo


.
- -
.

I t is a ti tle akin to a field m arshal and is conferred upo n the -

greates t soldier and tactician o f the day .

Thi s title was int roduced into the Yoruba country by King
A J A C B O on e of the earli est and m ost renowned of Yoruba Kings
, .

Li ke the I l a ri s at t h e time of his ta ki n g O ffi ce he is first to


, ,

shave his head compl etely and 2 0 1 incisions are m ade on his ,

occi p ut with 2 0 1 di f ferent l a rrcet s and S p eci al l y prepared i n g r ed i


,

ents from 2 0 1 Viols are rubbed into the c uts one f o r each This is , .

supposed t o render him fearless and courageous They are always .

shaved but the hair on the inoculat ed part is allowed t o gro w


,

l ong and when plaited forms a tuft or a sort of pigtail


, , .

K a kan f o s are generall y very st ubborn and obstinate They .

have all been m ore or less troublesome due it is supposed to the ,

e ffect O f the in g r edients they were inoculat ed with In war they .


,

carry no weapo n but a baton known as the King s invi ncible ’

sta f f ” It is generall y understood that they are to give way to


.

n o one not even to the King their master


. Hence K a ka n f o s are
,
.

never created i n the capital but in any other town in the kingdom .

There can be b u t on e Kakanfo at a tim e B y Virtue of h i s O f fice .

he is to go t o war once in 3 years to whatever place the King nam ed ,

and dead or alive t o return hom e a victor or be brought hom e a


, , ,

corpse wi thin three months .

The ensigns of o ffice are


1. The Oji ji ko This i s a cap m ade o f the red feathers of the
.

parrot s t ai l with a proj ection behi nd reachin g as far down a s the


waist .


2. An apron of leopard s skin and a leopard s skin to sit on’

always .

3 The Asi s o or pigt ai l as above described


. .

4 The S ta f f I n vincible
. .
G O VE RN M E N T 75

The followin g are the K a ka n f o s who have ever borne O ffic e


in the Yoruba country
1 .K O ko r O gangan
2 a t ep e
.

3 a bi. A i a se
4 Adet a
. J abata
5 : Ok u Jabata
6 A f en ja l a i y a l eke Il erin
’ ’
.

7 T o y eje
. Og b o m o ee
8 E d un
. Gbogun
9 A m ep O
. Abem e
1 0 K u r i rm i I ja y e
'

1 1. Ojo Aburumaku (s o n O f T o y eje)


Og b o m eee
1 2. La t o s i s a Ibadan t h e last t o hold O ffi ce .

N early the whole Of them were connect ed with stirring tim es and
upheavals in the country Af on j a O f Il erin T o y eje O f Og b o m ege
.
,
'

K u r i rm i O f I ja y e and L a t o s i s a of Ibadan being Specially famous


.
,

Ojo Aburumaku of Og b o m eee fought n o battles there being no ,

wars d uring the period ; the change that has taken place in the
c o untry left the I b a d a n s at this ti m e m ast ers Of al l warli ke oper
a t i on s B ut in order to keep his hand in he fomen t ed a civil
.
,

war at Ogbom oso which he als o repressed with vigour .

PR O V I N CIAL G O V E RN M E N T S A N D T ITL E S
E very town Villa g e or hamlet is under a responsible head
, ,

either a provincial king or a B al e (mayor ) In every case .

the title is heredit ary ( excepting at Ibadan ) as such heads are


inv a ri ably the founder or descendants o f the fo under Of their town .

The provi ncial kings are styled the lords of their town or distric t ,

and from i t they take their title e g , . .

The Oni koyi lord O f I koyi ; A s eyi n lord of Is eyin ; Alake


, , ,

lord or Ake Olowu lord of Ow u Ol ui wo lord of I wo Alakij a


, , ,

lord O f I kij a etc There are a few exceptions to thi s rule where the
, .
,

first ruler had a distincti ve nam e or title before he becam e the


head O f th e to wn or district e g , . .

Timi of Ed e A t a w e ja of Ogo g b o A wujal e O f Ij ebu l r e of


, , ,

S aki On ibode of Igboho ; etc 1 1 1 whi ch case the distinctive nam e


,

beco m es the hereditary title O f th e chi ef ruler .

A provincial king is of course hi gher than a Bal e as a duke or


, ,

an earl is hi gher than a m ayor They are privileged to build .

ko b i s t o their palaces and t o create I l a r i s whi ch B al es are not


,

entitled to d o They are also allowed an Akoro ( coronet ) whi ch


.

B al es are not all owed to have but few of them indul g e in lar g e
76 THE HI ST O R Y or TH E Y O RU BA S

state umbrellas They ar e invested o r iginally with power from


.

OY e whither they usually repair to O btain their titles the sword ,

of j ustice being given them by t he A L AE I N at their installati on .

E very one of them as well as every important Bal e has an o fli ci a l


at OY e through W hom they can comm unicate wi th t h e crown .

They are also invested with an Qp ag a by whi ch they are em


powered to m ake and keep an Ilari The Qp ag a is an iron i n s t r u .

m ent O f the shape of an Qs a i n but taller and is surm o unted wi th the


,

figure of a bird Th is is the Qs a i n worshipped by I l a ri s T O be


. .

depri ved O f i t is equi valent to being deprived o f one s rank ’


.

To dethrone a kingling he is publicly di vested of his robe


,

and sandals and the announcem ent is m ade that X Y Z havi n g


forfeited h i s title he is depri ved O f it by AB his suzer a in or f eud a l
,

lord .

The following are the kinglings in the QY e p rovinces .

1 In the E kun Os i or Metropoli tan province


.

The O ni koyi of I koyi ; Olu g b en of Igb en ; Ar esa of Ir esa


the Om p et u of I jer u Q l ef a O f O f a .

2 I n the E kun Otun province


.

S a b i g a n a of Igana On i w er e of Iwere l
A l a s i a of Asia Onj o
of Oke h o Bagij a n O f I g i ja n l r e O f S aki Alapata o f Ibode

O n a Onibode O f Igboho ; E l er i n p o O f Ipapo ; I ki h i s i O f Ki b isi ;


A s eyi n of Is eyi n Alado of Ado E l er uwa of E ruwa Ql eje of
Oje .

3 In the Ib el e province
. .

The A ki r un O f I kirun Ol o b u of Ilobu Timi of Ed e t h e Ata ,

w ej a of Osogbo A d i m u l a O f I f e Odan .

4 In the E p o province
.

The Olu i wo of Iwo On d es e of Id es e .

Of these vassal kin g s the Oni koyi Ol ug b en the Ar esa and t h e , ,

Timi are the m ost anci ent .

S inc e the wave of F ulani invasion swept a way the first


three those titles exist only in n am e
, Th e Oni koyi h as a .

quarter at Ibadan the bulk of the I koyi people being at Og b o m e ee


, ,

the family is st i ll extant and the title kept u p 2 The sam e may be .

sai d of the Ar esa at Il e rin B ut wherever the repres entati ve head


.

of the family m ay be he is completely subj ect to the ruler of the


,

town h e h e a B al e or a ki ng Thus the Ol ug b en at Ogb o m ese


, .

is subj ect to the Bal e of O gb o m e ee the Ar esa to the ki n g or E mir


,

1
The Alasia is the only m an pri vi l eged not to prostrate before
the A lafin i n salutation according to the custom o f the country .

He sits on a stool wi th his back t urned towards h i m .

The town has been rebui lt and the Oni koyi returned hom e i n
2

1 9 0 6 .
7 8 THE HI ST O R Y OF THE Y O RU BA S

king was subj ect to them The sam e r ule holds good even .

at Ab eokuta for each township .

Amongst the highest Ogboni titles are


The A r o Oluwo Apena N t ew a B ala B a s al h B e ki A § i p a
, , , , , , ,

As al u L a ji l a Apesi E sin kin Ol a B a yi m b o Q d efin


, , , , ,
.

The warriors rank next after the Ogbonis the B alogun and the ,

S eri ki being the most important .

THE I J E B U PR O V I N C E
Among the I jeb us the civil authori ti es are of three divi sions ,

vi z the Osug b o s or Ogbo n i 2 the I p a m p a and 3 the L a m ur i n


.
, , , , .

Without these acting in concert no law can be enacted or repealed , .

Of these bodies the Oeug b o s are the hi ghest for even the ki ng him
,

self must be O f that fraternity The L a m u r i n s are the lowest . .

Amongst the Egbas and I jeb us the Ogbo ni s are the chief ,

executive they have the power of life and death and power t o
, ,

enact and to repe al laws : but in the OY e provinces the Ogbonis


have n o such power they are rather a consultative and advisory
body the ki ng or B al e bein g suprem e and only matters invol vi ng
, ,

bloodshed are handed over to the Ogbonis for j udgm ent or for
execution as the king sees fit .

The actual executioners at Q Y e are the T etus amongst the ,

I b el es the Jagun and in the E p o districts the A ked a s or sword


, ,

bearers of the principal chiefs acting together , .

TH E I J E§ A AND E KIT I PR O V I N C E S
In the Ij esa and E kiti provinces the form O f governm ent is
more or less al i ke with slight modifications The tendency i s t o
, .

adopt the O Y O forms but they have som e admirable systems O f


t heir own The munici pal arrangem ents of the I jeea s are qui t e
.

excellent .

I t has been m entioned above that there are 1 6 provincial


kings recognised in the E kiti province under four principal ones .

The title O f Owa is a generic term for them all includi ng that O f ,

I l ega The Ow a O f Ilesa stands by himsel f f o r the E ki t i s hold the


.
,

I jega s separat e from themselves .

The O rangu n O f Ila is som etim es reckoned am ongst the E ki t i s


but he 1 5 not an E kiti altho u gh his sympathies are wi th them .

He aims at being the head O f the I g b o m i n a tribes but Ila seems ,

t o stand by itself .

Titles in ancient tim es may be Obtained by competition and it ,

w a s not always the most worthy but the hi g hest bidder that
O ften O btained them .
C HAPTE R V

YO RUB A N AM E S

The naming O f a child is an important a f fai r amongst the


Yorubas i t is always attended with som e ceremonies These of .

course di f fer somewhat amongst the di fferent tribes


, .

The naming usual ly takes place on the 9 t h day O f birth if a


m al e or on the 7 t h i f a femal e ; i f they happen t o be twins O f
,

both sexes i t will be on the 8 t h day Moslem childr en O f either


, .

sex are invari ably nam ed on the 8 t h day .

I t is on that day the child is for the first tim e brought out O f
the room henc e the term appli ed t o thi s event— K O o m e ja d e
,

( b r inging out the child) The m other al so .is supposed t o be .

i n the lying i n room up t o that day


-

The ceremony i s thus performed —The pri ncipal m embers


of the family and fri ends havi n g assembled early in the morning
of the day the child and i ts mother being brought out of the
,

chamber a j ug f ul O f water is tossed up t o the roof ( all Yoruba houses


,

being low roofed ) and the baby in the arms of the nurse or an
-

elderly fem al e m ember O f the family is brought under t h e eaves ,

t o catch the spray the baby yells and the relati ves Shout for jo y
, , .

The child is now named by the parents and elderly m embers of


the family and festivities follow ; with presents however t ri fli n g
, , ,

for the baby from every one interested in him .

This is evi dently an anci ent practice a form O f b a ptism whi ch ,

the ancestors O f the Yorubas m ust have deri ved from the eastern
l ands where tradi tion says they had their o r igin and is another
, ,

proof O f the assertion that their ancestors had som e knowledge


O f Ch r istiani ty .

In som e cases there is al so the O ffering O f sacrifice and


cons ultation O f the household oracle on the child s beh al f ’
.

F o r the sake O f conveni ence we call this the C h r i s t en i ng O f the


child There are three sets O f nam es a child can possibly have
.
,

although not every child need have the three one at least will
b e inapplicable .

.1 The A m u tg r u n wa i e the nam e the child i s born with


. . .

2
. The A bi s o i e the ch ristening nam e
. . .

3 The Or i ki i e the cognomen or attributi ve nam e


. . . .

A few rem arks on each O f these sets of nam es wi ll serve to


el ucidate their m ea n ings .
80 THE H I STORY or TH E Y ORU B AS

I . T H E A M U T Q R U N WA

A child is sai d t o be born wi th a nam e (l i t brought from .

heaven) when the peculiar circumstance of i ts birth may be


expressed by a nam e whi ch is applicable to al l childr en born under
like circumstances The most i mportant of these is twi n births
.
-
.

N o condi tion is invested wi th an air of greater importance or has ,

a halo of deeper mystery about i t than that of twin births ; ,


-

the influence is felt even upon children that m ay be born after


them Twins in Yoruba are almost credited wi th extra hum an
.
-

powers although among some barbarous tribes they are regarded


,

as monsters t o be despatched at once .

T a i wo or E bo — The n ame of the first born of twins applicable


.
,

to either sex I t is a shortened form of T o ai ye wo (have t h e


.
- -

first taste o f the world) The i d ea is that the first born was sen t
.

forward to announce the coming of the latter and he is considered ,

the younger o f the two [Compare the stories of E sau and Jacob
.
,

and of Pharez and Z arah in both o f whi ch the fir st born of the twins
,

virtu al ly became the younger of the two ] .

t i nde He who lags behi nd i e t h e second born , . . .

f d o wu The c h ild born after t wins m al e or female I d o wus


.
, ,

are al w ays considered heady and stubborn hence their usual ,

appellation Esu l ehi n ibeji ( the d 1 after twins) There is .

al so a current superstition that the mother who has had twi ns

and fails to get an Idowu in due course may li kely go mad the ,

wild and stubborn Idowu flying into her he a d will render her
insane Hence al l mothers of twins are never at ease until in
due course the Idowu is born .

f dog be The child after Idowu if m al e


.
-
.

A la b a . The chi ld after Ido wu if female


-
.

Thus we see the influence of the t vvi n s a f fecting the second and

third births after themselves .

E t a Glad — The name given to the third of triplets .

'

The nex t to twins in importance is the child nam ed Om On i .

This nam e is gi ven t o a small neurotic child which at its birth


cri es incessantly day and night The child after O n i is called .

Ol a the next Ol u n lu and so on


, ,
.

These names signify t o d ay to mor r ow the d ay af ter to mor row -

,
-

,
-

etc With a small t r ibe t erm ed the I s m people i t is carried on


.
,

as far as Ijg m i e the 8 t h day if the m other have as many


.
. .
,

A s d or Of ay e are names applied under condi tions similar to


those of O n i by som e clans The latter is generally prefer red .

by worshippers of the god Or i s a Oko .

Ig é is a child born with breec h or footli ng presentation .


82 THE HI S TO R Y or TH E Y O RU BA S

signi ficant of somethi ng either with reference to the chi ld itself


,

or t o the family .

A child may have t wo or more christening names gi ven i t


one by each parent or grandparents if living or by any elderly
member of the family Whichever is most expressive of the prese n t
.

circumstances of the family will be the one t o stick .

( a ) N ames havi n g reference t o the child itself di rectly and indi rectly
to the family
A d ele J o y enters the house .

O nip ede T h e consoler is com e .

Mor enik e I have some one to pet .

M o seb g l a t a n

J oy hitherto despaired of .

n t eji A child big enough for two .

Akiny ele A strong one b efits the house .

I b i y em i Good birth becomes m e .

I b i yi n ka S urrounded by children .

Ladi Increase honour ( of children born) .

( 6) N ames having reference to the family directly and indirectly


to the child itself
Og un d a l en u O u r hom e has been devastated by war .

Q t eg b ey e Warfare deprived us of our honours .

O g unm ola The river O gun took away our ho n our .

I ya p o Many trials .

Ol a b i s i Increased honours .

Laniygn u Hono ur is full of troubles .

Kur umi D eath has impoverished m e .

Oyebisi Increased titles .

0) N am es compounded of Ade Q l a Ol u O y e originally belo n ged


( , , ,

t o one of high or princely birth but a r e n o w used more or,

less indiscriminately
Adebiyi The crown has begotten this .

Adegbit e The crown demands a throne .

Olal ey e Honour com es fit t i n gly or is f ull of dignity ,


.

Ol ub i yi A chief has begotten this .

Oy ey em i Title becomes m e .

Oy ew g l e Title enters the house i e where the parent . .

has a title .

NB
. .
— Ade does not alwa ys signi fy a crown i t may be taken ,

from the verb d é t o arri ve i t m ay then m ean coming e g


, , . .
,

Adebisi or
My com i ng causes an i ncrease
A d ew u s i
.

Ade sina My coming opens the way .

A d ep eju My coming completes t h e number (of births)


Adep oj u The coming has become too much .
Y O RU BA N AM E S 83

(d) S om e names a r e compounded with fetish nam es showing the


deity worshi pped i n the family
Sa n g o b u n m i S ango ( the god of thunder and lightning)
gave m e this .

Ogundi p e Ogun ( the god of war) co n soles m e wi th this .

Ogun sey e Ogun h a s done the beco m i n g thi n g .

O m i yale The god of streams vi sits the hou s e .

O b a bunmi
-
The King (i e g o d o f sm all p o x ) gave m e th i s
. .

F a b u n ni Ifa has given m e t h is .

F a t osi n I fa is worthy t o be worshipped .

F a f u m ke Ifa gave m e this to pet .

O s u n t o ki O sun is worthy of praise o r honour .

It may be noted that nam es compounded wi th Ifa are very


common amongst the I jesa s which shows that th ey are devoted
Ifa worshippers .

(a) Compounds of O d e shows that the father is a worshi pper of


Ogun or E rin l e
Q d ewa l e Od e comes to the house i e visi ts the family . . .

O d em u yi wa O d e has brought m e this .

These nam es are often confounded with Adewal e and


A d em uyi w a .

(1) Compounds of 050 or E f un shows that the family i s a


worshipper of Orisa O ko i e t h e g o d of the fields . .

Oso di p e Oso has granted a conso l ation .

O so d eke 050 has become a roof i e shield and shelter . . .

Ef u n set a n Ef u n h a s done i t ( by grantin g the child) .

E f un l a b i E f u n is the one born .

(g ) Compounds of Oje are peculiar t o the chi l dren of E l ew i of Ado .

N am es peculiar t o the royal f a mily of O Y Q :


Mal e : Af onj a T el a Aj uan
'

.
, ,

F emale z— Ogboj a S i y e Akere , ,


.

Yoruba nam es are with few exceptions common to both genders .

Ojo and A ker el e however are never applied t o females


, ,
Al so .

names compounded of A ki n which means strength and of course , ,

such names as B abatunde B a b a r i m i s a can only apply to m ales


, ,

and Y et u n d e to females .

A B I KU NAM E S

There are som e peculiar nam es given to a cert ai n class of children


called A b i ku i e born to di e These are supposed to belong
. . .

to a fraterni ty of demons living in the woods especially a bout and ,

withi n large Iroko trees and each one of them coming into the
84 THE HI S TO R Y or THE Y O RU BA S
i
world would have arranged beforehand the precise tim e he w ll
return t o his company .

Where a woman has lost several children i n infancy especi ally ,

a f ter a short period of illness the deaths are attributed to this ,

ca use and m eans ar e adopted to thwart the plans of these infants


,

in order that they may stay for i f they can only tide over the
pre arranged date they may go no more and thus entirely forget
-

, ,

their company .

Besides charms that are usually ti ed on them and ugly m arks


they are branded wi th i n order that their old company m ay,

refuse the association of di sfigured comrades which must oblige


them t o stay certain Significant nam es are also given to them in
,

order to show that their obj ect has been an ticipated .

S uch are the follo wing nam es


Mal om o D o n o t g o again .

K os n There is n o hoe ( to d i g a grave with) .

B a n jo ko S it down (o r stay) with m e .

Dur o s i n m i Wai t and bury m e .

J eki fii yi n Let m e have a bit of respect .

A ki s a t a n N o more rags ( to bury you with) .

Apara O n e who comes and goes .

O ku The dead .

I g b ekoyi E ven the bush wont ha ve this .

En u kun onip e The consoler is tire d


- -

A ku ji D ead and awake .

Tij u —iku B e asham ed to die .

D uro ori i ke -
Wait and see how you will be petted
-

Perio di cal feasts are usually m ade for these children of which
beans and a liberal quantity of palm o i l must form a principal
di sh To this chi ldren o f their age and others are invited and their
.
,

company of demons altho ugh unseen a r e supposed t o be present


,

and partake of thes e viands This is supposed to appease them .

and reconcile them t o the permanent stay of their comrade so ,

that they may always have such to feed upon .

This superstition accounts for a rather high rat e of infant


mortali ty for parents are thereby led away from the proper treat
,

ment of their ailments whi le occupying themselves in m aking ,

charms to defeat the purpose of imaginary d emons !


I t is f ai r however to add that thoughtful m en have begun to
,

perceive the absurdity of this superstition for many have been ,

heard to say There is really n o such thing as A bi ka disease and



hereditary tai nts are the true causes of infantile m ortality .
86 THE H I S TO R Y OF THE Y O RU BA S

denotes a pare nt stock The Oril e is not a name i t denotes the


.
,

family ori g in or Totem The real m eaning of this is lost in obscurity


. .

S om e say they were descended from the O bj ect named w hich must ,

be a myth ; others that the obj ect was the ancient g od of the
family the gi ver of the children and other eart hly blessings
, ,

or that the family is in som e wa y conn ected wi th i t .

Th e Totem represents every conceivable obj ect e g E rin ( the . .

elephan t ) Ogun ( the g o d of war) Op o ( post ) Agbo ( a ram)


, , , ,

etc . The n u mber of totems of course is large representing as ,

each does a distinct family S om e families however have becom e .


, ,

extinc t and som e obscure ones there are w h o have lost their tot ems
, .


A marri ed woman cannot adopt her husband s totem m uch ,

less his name Intermarri ages wi thin the same totem was
.

origi nally not allowed as coming wi thin the degree of consanguinity


,

but now the rule is not rigidly observed The children both boys .

and girls take their father s totem except in rare cases where the

, ,

father has lost his or more usually when the mother s indicates
,

a higher or nobler rank S om e girls of noble birth will marry


.

below their rank but would have their children brought up i n


,

their own hom e and among their father s children and adopt
, ,

his totem An ille gi timate c h ild if not acknowledged by the


.


supposed father cannot adopt his totem but the mother s ,

especially i f a fem ale .

The following are som e distingui shed Totems :


E rin the elephant the totem of the original li n e of the Kings
, , .

Ogun the god of war the totem O f the original line O f the
, ,

B a sor u n s .

B oth were m erged in Ki n g Abiodun wh o chose to adopt ,

his m other s totem the B a sor un s being pre eminent in


,


those days Hence the prese n t line of A L AF I N S is Ogun
. .

Op o ( a post ) The totem of a noble Oy Q family


. .

O kin ( the love bird ) Totem of the n f a and the Oloro .

O n i g u s un .

E lese .

On i g b a yi .

Ologbin .

O l u ko y i .

Aj agusi father O f E rinl e .

E n i r a a n d the Onip e .

Q luf a n
E l erin .

Q l e ya n
O n i g b et i .

Ij esa fami lies .


Y O R U BA N AME S 87

When the Oruko ( name ) the O r iki


( attributive ) and the O ri le
( totem ) are gi ven the individual becom es distinctive the family
, ,

is known , and he can at any tim e be traced .

Two m en m ay be found with the sam e name but rarely with ,

the same cognom en together and more rarely still with the sam e
,

totem as well The m a n is universally known by his O ruko


.

( n ame) famili arly by his Ori ki (attributive) The Oriki is always .

used in conj unction with his O ril e ( the family stock or totem ) K
.

expressed or understood : always expressed when endearm ent or


ad m irati o n is intended The Oril e of course is never used by itself
.

as i t would be m eani ngless .

A nam e given in full will appear thus


Mal e . F emale .

O ruk o O ri ki O ril e Oruko O ri ki Oril e


Adewal e Aga n a E r in I b i y em i Ab ebi I ko
Abi odun A ja m u Ogun Q la w ale A sabi Op o
A d ejq Aj agbe Ogu n Mor eni k e A b eje Agan
Oy eb g d e A ku n y u n O p o M o wu m i Agbek e Agb o
Adegboye I sgl a Oki n Lay emi At e Ogun
Fagbemi Ak awo Og g I b i sg t g Akank e Ij i
Moslem children although nam ed f r o m the Arabic calendar
vet must have their O ri ki and O ril e thus .

A li h u I sola Op o I F a t um o Akank e Ojo

IRR E G U LA R ITI E S I N T R O D U C E D
The introduction of Christianity and the spread of British
influence over the country have been the causes of great i r r eg ul a ri
t i es in names wh ich one m eets with now in the Yoruba country .

The early missionaries notably those of S ierra Leone abolished


, ,

native names wholesale considering them heathenish
, and ,

substituted E uropean nam es i nstead : such names are natur a lly


transmitted t o their children a ng li ce hence the inco n gruities ,

of names that puzzl e a foreigner on h i s first l a ndi n g in West Africa .

B ut with more enlightenment and better knowle d ge a gradual


.
,

change is coming over this educated Yorubas cannot see w h y


Philip Jo nes or Geo f fre y Williams should be more Christian than
Adewale o r I b i y em i he knows what these mean the former to ,

him are but mere sounds nor are their m eani n gs — e ven w h cn
,

known — a n improvement on his own .

B ut nothing sticks s o fast as a nam e and not h ing more di ffi cult


,

t o eradicate ; for even i n spite of the bett er knowledge Christians


still gi ve t o their children foreign nam es although i n conj unction
with a Yoruba n ame That an E n glish name should be gi ven at
.
88 TH E HI S T O R Y OF TH E Y O RU BA S

all can hardly be contended to be necessar y but the practice is ,

de f ended by many w h o plead f o r i t a uni versal custom e g that , . .

a convert to Mohammedani sm adopts a Moslem or Arabic


name ; analogously therefore only Biblical nam es ought t o be
given but in the British West African colonies Yoruba and other
, ,

tri bes with Christian nam es include E nglish S cotch Irish Welsh , , , ,

German an d D utch names !


B ut there is another consideration that helps to ri vet the yoke .

It invari ably appears that m ost of those who have E nglish or other
forei gn names are in som e way connected wi th E nglish ed ucation
,

and with Christianity and are certainly in a way m ore enlightened


,

than their p a gan brethren or considered t o be so ; hence it com es,

t o pass that many who ori g inally were free from the brand of a
,

foreign nam e nevertheless still regard it as a mark of enlighten


,

m ent and would voluntarily adopt one or more wi th their own


,

real names in order to be considered u p to date ! N othing - -

but a thoroughl y sound education all round ( and not limited to


individuals here and there) can rem edy this evil ; but i n the m ean
tim e educated Yorubas are losing the knowledge and the g eni us
of the method of Yorubas in naming their children Thus accordi n g .

to the syst em n o w prev ai ling where one E nglish name is gi ven ,

o r adopted i t is used as the first nam e and the Yoruba nam e as


, ,

the second or surnam e e g J am es Ade sina Where two E nglish


, . . .

names are gi ven the Yoruba is placed either in the middle as J am es


Ade sina Willi ams or at the end as J ames Williams Ade sina
, , .

The reason f o r this wan t of system is due to the introduction of _

another element unknown to Yorubas and is therefore a compli , ,

cation vi z the prefix of Mr to the names Thi s is foreign to Yoruba


, .
, . .

g enius a nd language an d m akes a hybri d mixture as i t woul d ,

appear if attached to any histo ri c Biblical nam e 1 The essence of


the incongrui ty in this m atter li eS i n the conversion of Yoruba '

names into a surname or family nam e and i t is i n this p a rticular


that the most appalling absur di ty occurs Thus som e ret ai n .

their own Yoruba nam e as a family nam e to the exclusion of their



father s O thers use their father s nam e as a surnam e and suppress
.

their own native nam e or use i t as a mi ddle nam e S om e adopt .

a brother s nam e as a family name i f he is considered more eminent


thus excluding the father s nam e and suppressing their own ’


.


S om e use the father s A m u t or u n w a as Taiwo Idowu Ige

.
, ,

S om e use the father s A b i s o as Adej um o L a y o d e etc S om e


, .


use the father s Oriki as Ak awo A lade Aj asa som e use the , , ,

father s title as Apena D awodu Mogaj i etc All this in order, , , .

as is al leged— to make the indivi dual di stinctive but as a m atter


O f fact to make the Yoruba co nform to the E ngli sh m ethod ,
C HAPT E R V I

Y O RUBA TO W NS A ND V I LLAG E S
All Yoruba towns with very f ew exceptions are b uilt on o n e
uniform plan and the origin of most of them is more or less the
,

same and all have certain i dentical features A clust er of huts


,
'

around the farmstead of an ent erprising farmer may be the starting


point : perhaps a halting place for refreshm ents in a long line
o f march between t wo towns In any case i t is one indivi dual.

that first attracts others t o the spo t if the site be on the highway
to a large town or in a caravan route so much the better the
, ,

wi ves of the farm ers ever ready to cater refreshments for wearied
travellers render the spot in tim e a recognised halting place the
more d i stant from a town the more essential it necessarily
,

m ust be as a resting place ; if a popular resort a market soon ,

Springs up in the place into which neighbouring farmers bring


,

their wares for sale and weekl y fai rs hel d : market sheds are bui lt
,

all over the plac e and it becomes a sort O f caravanserai o r sleeping


place for travellers .

AS soon as houses begi n t o spring up and a village or hamlet


formed the necessity for order and control becomes apparent
,
.

The m en would thereupon assemble at the gate of t h e princip a l


man wh o has attract ed people t o th e place and formally recogn ise
hi m as the B al e or Mayor of the vil lage ( li t father of the land) .

and thenceforth the mayoralt y becomes perpetuated i n his family ,

with a member of the family either the son or the brother or a


cousin succeeding in perpetuity
, This however is the only .

hered i tary title in the village The house of the Bal e becom es the
.

O fficial residence and i s thenceforth kept in good repairs by the


,

men of the town and the frontage of his house becomes the
,

principal market of the town .

The Bal e having been elected he in t urn appoints his O tun ,

( or right hand man) Os i ( the left) and other civil O fficers of a town
,
.

E ven in this early stage the necessity for defence i s felt ; the
,

bravest m an among them will be chosen as the Jagun or B alogun


and he i n turn picks o ut hi s li eutenants so that in any matter ,

that may spring up either ci vil or military everybo dy knows his


,

duty and whom to look up t o .

The village m ust necessarily be answerable to the nearest town


from which i t spran g and thus an embryo town is formed There .
Y O RU BA T O W N S A N D V I LLAG E S 91

are cases in wh ich an influential personage with a large following


d eliberately built a town and is from the begi nning the recognised
,

head of the sam e .

In fact if there are but half a dozen huts i n the place that of ,

the headman or embryo Bal e would be recognised .

From this we see how it is that the principal market O f the town
is always in the centre O f the town and in the front of the house O f
the chief ruler Th i s rule is without an exception a n d hence the
.

t erm Oma ( one havi ng a market) is used as a generic t erm or title /


of all chief r ulers of a town be he a King or a B a l e .

Minor chiefs also have sm al ler markets in front o f their houses .

M ar ket squares as a rul e m ark out the frontage of a chi ef or a


distinguished man and the princip a l entrance to h i s compound
,

i s marked out by its having a s treet verandah added t o it right


and left and if a King two or m ore kobis are added to the street
,

verandah The larger the town the larger the principal market
.
,

to which everyon e resorts for morning an d eveni ng marketings


an d i s the general rendezvous of the town on every nati on al or
muni cipal occasion It is planted all over with shady trees for
.

sellers and loungers of an evening The central market also .

contains the princ i pal mosque of the town and the fetish tem ple ,

of the chief rul er if he be a pagan


, .

E very town is walled deep trenches are dug all round i t outside
, ,

the more exposed to attac k the more substantial the wall and
for the greater securi ty of smaller towns a bush or t hicket called
Igbo Ile (home forest) is kept about half t o On e mile from the ,

walls r ight round the town Th is forms a security against a sudden


.

cavalry attack and a safe ambush f o r defence as well as hidi n g


, ,

places in a defeat or sudden hostile irruption The tall trees in .

them are sometimes used as a watch tower t o O bserve the move -

m ents of the enem y except in tim es of profound peace i t is penal ,

t o cut trees in the hom e forest Highways are m a de through them


.

straight to the town gate and are always kept in excell ent repair
,
.

Towns in the pl ai n that are greatly exposed to sudden attacks or ,

those that have had to stand long Sieges have a second or out er w a ll
enclosing a large area which is used for farming during a Siege .

T h is w al l i s c al led Od i A l a (wall of safety) som etim es it ,

is called Odi A m o n u (wall of ruin) as the wal l has been t o them


the m eans of safety or has been unavailin g for its purpose
, .

The town gates are always massi ve and a gateman li ves in a


house adj oining t he town wall he co llects the tolls from passers by
, .

Market peopl e have a fixed amount t o pay varyi ng from 4 0 t o ,

2 00 co wries , and f ar m people contribut e a trifle from whatever


they ar e bringing hom e a head or t wo of corn a handful of beans
, , ,
92 TH E HI ST O R Y OF THE Y O RU BAS

a yarn or two a f ew dry sticks and so forth for h i s sust enance


, , .

The gat es are named after the most important town they lead to .

E ach of these g ates is in charge O f a c hi ef who i s responsible to the


town f o r whatever m ay occur there or al ong the rout e to whi ch i t
leads ri ght on t o the frontier also for keeping the wall s Of that
,

part in goo d rep ai rs as well as the hi ghway leading out of the town
, .

Th is c h i ef i t is who is t o put his servant there for collecting tolls ,

the amount to be coll ected from each person being fixed by the Town
Council This servant is expected to pay to his master a certain
.

sum every 9 or 1 8 days being the average of what the gate yields
, .

Whatever surplus there may be in a brisk season he appropriates ,

to himself or i f there is a deficit he is expec ted t o m a ke it good


'

, .

In Yoruba Proper (includi ng the Egbas) streets are not properly


made or named except large thoroughfares leading t o town gates ,

and the squares and markets of ch i efs


'
.

I t does not appear that an y care is ever taken to choose the si te


of a town as the neighbourhood of large streams wells are
,

sun k by indi viduals to supply drin king water The streams that .

may be flowing through the town are fouled beyond degre e and ,

are by no m eans fit for drin king purposes F or keeping the town .

clean every compound looks after its o w n frontage and surround


ings in the m arket place every seller sweeps the space aroun d her
,

stall .

The syst em of sanitary arrangem ents is t h e most primiti ve


imaginable near every large thoroughfare or a mar ket plac e i s
a Spot selected as a dust heap for the disposal of al l sorts of refuse

and sweepings of the neighbourhood and at intervals fire is set , ,

to the pile of rubbish .

Here and there about the town are found leafy groves usually ,

clumps of fig n u t trees the neighbourhood of which i s unsavoury


,

from the disposal of sewage These sit es are al ways i nfest ed by


.

crowds of t hose keen scented scavengers of nature the hungry


-

loo king vultures Important chiefs have a large area of land


.

enclosed withi n their compounds wi thin which spots are selected


for sani tary purposes .

E very c hi ef is responsible t o the town council for the quarter of


the town in which he resides .

When a town has grown up to the town wall the town council ,

has t o determine the amount O f area to be taken in and a n ew wall ,

is built enclosing such area The whole of the town participates


.

in the work even wom en and childr en also are engaged in fetching
,

water to mix the Swish a n d in providing refreshments for the men


folk ; the streets of the area simply follow t h e old line of the
foot paths to t h e farms now enclosed within the town .
94 THE HI ST O R Y OF THE Y O RU BA S

the chief ruler There m ay be several B a lo g u n s or S er i ki s there


.
,

are at least four kinglings and several Ogboni houses each section
, ,

being j ealous of i ts liberty and tenacious of i ts rights Abeokut a .

in short wa s never organized as a single town i ts peculi ar political


o ganization should be the subj ect of another chapter
r
.

I b a ri um — This town was originally a small E gba vill a ge around


the site of the central m arket but occupied by a portion of the ,

army that destroyed the city O f Owu and devastated the E gba
villages After the withdrawal of the E gbas into Abeokuta the
.
,

motley crowd forming the army settled at Ibadan Ibadan has .

s i nce been the mi litary encam pment of Yoruba ; the titles order of ,

precedence etc are chi efly military F o r that reason there is


, . .

not one family in whi ch the title of Bal e is heredi tary and no o fficial
residence for the Bal e The Bal e is always chosen from Ol d
.

retired war c h iefs always by su f ferance O f the B alogun who has


-

, ,

equal authority and more real power B ut when the Balogun has .

becom e o l d an d has already won his laurels he is expected to be the ,

next Bal e A young B alogun with his future to make yields the
.

m ayoralty to an older chief usually the Otun B al e This is the ,


.

only town where such arrangem ent exists Ibadan has no hom e .

forests Attempts were m ade from tim e to tim e to form on e but


.
,

always without success through the habit of firing the fields year
by year at the dry season They are in no fear of invasion To be
. .

in Ibadan is to be in a place of safety H ence the I b a d a n s style their .

town Idi Ibon i e the butt end of the gun for the sam e reason
. .

also the town walls are very indi fferently kept .

I lg r i n —Il or in is in one respect di f ferent from the other Yoruba


.

towns in that the ruling powers are ali ens t o the place H o w i t
,
.

came about that Il orin a pure Yoruba town and one tim e the t h ird ,

city in the kingdom fell into the hands of ali ens and t o this day
owns allegiance to other than i ts rightful sovereign will be told in ,

i ts place but to this day the princi pal m arket and the chief mosque
O f the town remain still in front of the house O f the founder and

rightful owner of Ilorin .

These three towns Ab eokuta Ibadan and Ilorin are the largest
, , ,

towns in the Yoruba country and probably in West Africa and the , ,

three are the outcom e of the revolutionary and intertri bal wars .
C H APTE R V I I

P R I N CI PL E S OF LA N D LAW

THE Land laws of the Yoruba country are simple and e ffecti ve ,

there being n o need of any complicated or elaborate laws a s there ,

is enough land f o r all the members of the various tribes Wh atever .

l and is not eff ectively occupi ed is for the common benefit of all
no one need own any land whi ch he cannot utili ze except farm land ,

l eft fallow for a short period .

Theoretically and tradi tionally we have seen above that


Yoruba land belongs to the A L AF I N of QY Q as the suprem e head of
the race . The la n d belongs t o the Ki ng has passed into a
proverb But i t m ust be understood that i t is not m eant that the
.
,

land is the privat e property Of the King i t is only his as representi n g ,

the race in other words Yoruba land belongs to the Yoruba people
, ,

and to no other hence as the Yorubas are spli t into so many tribes
, ,

the head of each tribe as representing the A L AF I N is the King for


,

that tri be and he holds the land or di vision of th e country for the
,
.

benefit of the tribe and even he has no power to alienate it perm a


,

n en t l y O f his o wn accord to an alien All lands therefore includ


, .
, ,

ing forests and the pl ai n are O wned by some tri be or other and no ,

one belon ging to a nother race or another tri be can m ake use of
the land without the permission of the king and chi efs wh o hold
the land for their tribe Members of the tribe have n o d i ffi culty
.

at present in O btaini ng as m uch land as each requi res f o r agri cultur al


purposes in which every one is supposed t o be engaged with the
increase of population however i t is felt that som e di fficulti es
,

will arise in future but the chiefs c a n cope with such cases
, .

L a n d s a r e n ever s o ld but m ay be granted to outsiders for l i fe a n


, ? ,
'

to their heirs i n perpetuity but where the land so gr anted had


been under culti vation it is understood in every case that the fruit
,

bearing trees especially the palm trees and kola nut trees etc on
, ,
-

, .
,

the land are n o t included i n the grant hence the common



expression The grantee is to loo k down not up i e h e is to , . .

confine his attention to plants he has culti vated and not on fr uit
beari n g trees he m et on the Spot .

Land once gi ven i s never taken bac k except under special


circumstances as treason to the state whi ch renders the grantee
an outlaw and he is driven altogether from that state or tri be
, ,

an d h i s land confiscated E ven when left unutili zed if there


.
,
96 THE HI ST O R Y or THE Y ORU BA S
are marks of occupation on it such as trees plante d or a wall , ,

bui lt etc it cannot be taken back wi thout the consent Of the


,

owner
q
.

There is no subj ect in w h ich the Yoruba m an is more sensi tive


than in that of land This normally qui et and submissi ve people
.

can be roused into vi olent action of desperation if once they per


cei ve that i t is intended to depri ve them O f their land .

We shall see in the course of this history that the n o n ali enation -

of their land forms one of the m ai n conditions of their admitting


a E uropean O ffi cer among them by the I b a d a n s at the beginni ng
of the B r i tish Protectorate .

The forests are under the di rect guardianshi p O f the hunters


wh o form among themselves a frat ernit y recogni zed all over the
land subj ect Of co urse to the town a u t h on t i es Any laws r ul eS
, .
, ,

or regul ations relating to forests that are to be made m ust recogni ze ,

the rights pri vileges and services of the hunt ers especially as
, , ,

i t is by them e f fect can be given to those laws It is their dut y to .

appri ze the chi efs of any town Of any spies expedi tions or raids
, , ,

that have that town or its farms for their obj ective Crimes .

committed in the forests must be traced and the authors tracked ,

and unearthed by them Any ani mal bearing traces or marks of


.

their bullets or arrow wounds must be restored t o them Al l


-
.

information relating t o forests must be gi ven by the hunt ers to the


c hi efs of the town .

The forests are free to every member of the tribe for procuring
building materials medicinal herbs firewood etc
, , , .

I n ker i ta n ce —When a man dies his farms are inherited by his


.
,

chi ldr en and so from father to son in perpetui ty and li ke the house
, , ,

are not subj ect t o sale If his children are femal es they will
.
,

pass on to the male relati ves unless the daught ers are capable of
,

seeing the farm kept up for their Own benefit If minors they m ay .
,

be worked by their male relati ves until the boys are of a g e to take
up the keep of the farms .

N 0 portion of such farms can be ali enated from the family without
the unanimous consent of all the members thereof .

These are the simple fundament a l and universal laws applicable


,

t o all the tribes in general but subj ect to modifications and


,

developm ent according to the local exigencies of each place .

These exigenci es may be due to the proximi ty of large populations ,

and consequently higher value of land the nat ur e of the land , ,

whether forests with economic plants in them or pasture land and ,

the localit y whether near the coast where for eign interco urse a f fects
local habits or far inland where the tribes remain in their sim
,

li i t B ut i every case t h e rul ing O f the loc al chi efs and their
p c y . n ,
C HAPTE R V I I I
MA N N E RS A ND C US T OMS

( a ) S O C I AL P O L I TY
THE ancient Yorubas were very simple in their manners their ,

tastes and habits Their houses all on the ground floor are built
, .

in compounds called A g bo I le (lit a flock of houses) that is to say


.
,

i n the form of a hollow square horse shoe or a circle enclosing


, ,

a large central area with one principal gateway the house being
,

di vided into compartm ents to hold several families all more or less ,

related or unit ed by ties of kinship or friendship ,


On e piazza .

runs ri g ht round the whole and is used for all ordinary purposes
,

by day and for the reception of visitors The central area is


, .

used in common by all the inmat es for general purposes usually


horses sheep and goats are found tethered in it
, .

The compartm ent of t h e head of the house is usually opposit e


the m ai n gat eway or a little t o the right I t is larger the roof
.
,

lofti er and the piazza more spacious than the rest Here the master .

is expected t o be found at all times ( during visiting hours) by a


doorway whi ch leads t o his harem at the bac k of the house This .

particular doorway is known as where the m aster Shows his face


(for the reception O f visitors ) i t is an essential a d ju n c t t o the
houses of chi efs or im portant personages being used for no other
,

for at all oth er times it is kept closed A hi gh wall O ften


.

a garden attached to the back of the building the space ,

en c l o s e d i s always in propor t ion t o the size of the house the rank , ,

and the means of the O wner The houses of great m en contain


.

smaller compounds at the back attached to the main compound ,

these are called K ur d or retiring quarters each devot ed to some


,

purpose from a harem t o stables for horses .

The houses of chiefs are disting uished by a street verandah


( as i t is called) on either side the m ai n gateway on the outside ,

varying in length according to the taste and c apacity of the owner


the roof of which is an extension or proj ection Of that of the m ai n
building It is used for loun ging in the afternoons at the cool
.
,

of the day A small m arket is almost always to be found at the


.

frontage of such houses The walls of the houses rising from 7 t o


.

8 feet in height are built of mud the roof consequently is l o w and


, ,

is co vered with a tall grass called B er e or with Seg e or E kan In .

forest lands where these are not obt ainable a kind of broad leaf ,

98
MA N N E RS A N D C U S TO M S 99

called Gb Od Og i is used instead The houses are without any decor .

a t i on s ; the walls are plastered and polished wi th blac k and


sometimes red earth by the women whose work it generally is .

The houses of Kings and Princes are embelli shed with a sort of
wash which is a decoction made from the skin of the locust
fr uit .

N ow and then attempts are found at artistic decorations by ,

figures traced on the wall but more commonly the front posts of
the verandah consist of carved figures of various ki nds equestrians ,

swordsm en hawkers etc ,


The floor is generally rubbed and
, .

polished once a week .

The household furniture consists chi efly of coo king utensils ,

waterpots and a mortar with pestles all O f which are deposited in


, ,

the front and bac k piazzas of the house .

The use of bedst eads t ables and chai rs bei ng un known they
, ,

squat or lie on mats instead In modern tim es those wh o can .

a fford it keep a few chairs for the accommodation Of visitors i n


E uropean garb wh o find i t di fficult or are unaccustom ed to squat
,

on the ground I t is not unusual to find s kins of buffaloes leopard


.
, ,

li on or a large bullock hung up on the walls of the front piazza


,

which are taken down f o r distingui shed vi sitors to si t on .

All their valuables are kept i n pots or bags m ade Of bam boo
fibres and placed in o n e corner of the sleeping room so that in all
, ,

cases of alarm whether of fire or ni ght att ack by robbers o f slave


, ,

hunters everything of value is soon taken away to a place O f


,

safety whenever possible .

As a ll the houses are invariably built with m ud ceilings which


are themselves fir e proof the losses in cases O f fir e are small and
-

, ,

of h a rdly any account especially if the doors are kept rigidly


,

closed The property of the wom en consists chiefly of cloths


.
,

beads with goats sheep and poultry these usually form a sub
, , ,

s t a n t i a l part of their dowry .


The head of the compound s principal wife is the mistress of
the compound as himself is the master and all heads Of the
, ,

several fami lies wi t h i n the compound are bound to pay their


respects to them the first thing every morning the m en prostrat i ng ,

on the ground and the women sitting on the ground a n d reclining


,

on thei r left elbo w .

[This is the ordinary mode of saluting a s uperior in t hi s country ;


but when great er respect is to be Shown or pardon asked for som e ,

o f fence commi tted the m en w h ile prostrating lay the right and
,

left cheek alternately on the ground and the women wrap t heir ,

cloth lower down loose thei r head tie and recline al ternately on
, ,

the right as well as on the left elbow .


1 00 THE HI S TO R Y O F T HE YO RU BA S

fore Kings and great rulers for a Show of homage they run , ,

t o the porch of the house and back three tim es t h rowing dust on ,

their head or roll on the ground} .

They are chiefs in their respective dom ains where they transact ,

all business a f fecting the welfare or interest of the people i n their


respective households All important cases are j udged and
.


decided in the master s piazza and he is responsible to the town ,

authori ties for the conduct of the inmates Of hi s com pound hence
the saying °

B al e ni n r a n awo
'
( t h e master of the house
must be privy to all secrets) His word is law and his authori ty
.
,

indisputable wi thin his compound hence also another saying , ,

Q b e ti B ale ile ki i je Iyale ile kl i s e e ( the sauce whi ch the


master of the house cannot eat or which is unpalatable to h i m ,

the mistr ess of the house must not cook) which when appl ed ,
i

simply m eans that no one should go contrary to the wishes of the


master of the house .

T O t h is high authority belongs a leg of wh atever is slaught ered


in the compound from a chi cken to a bullock whether kill ed for
,

sacri fice or for a festival or for any other purpose of what ever kind
, ,
-

At the death of the m aster of the house when the per iod of ,

mourning is over his s uccessor be i t his son or his brother or


, ,

cousin as the c ase may be removes from h i s own compartment


,

into that of the mas ter He is installed into his place by his feudal
.

lord or i n case the deceased be a public man by the Town Council


, , ,

wi th a t itle that attaches hi m t o one of the senior chiefs B ut .

before the ceremony can t ake place the roof o ver the late master s ,

compartment ( be i t Old or recent) is taken down and rebuilt afresh


hence the term for a successor Arole i e one wh o r oof s the house
, . . .

P er s on a l A pp ea r a n ce —I n early tim es very little regard was


.

pai d to personal appearance Boys and gi rls up to the age of 8


.

years walked about i n p a r ts n a tu r a li bn s from that peri od up to


the age of puberty they were allowed the use of aprons the cut and ,

shape for either sex being di ff erent the one from t h e other that , ,

for boys being called b a n t e that for girls t ébi The whole peri od
, .

w as regarded as one of un en cu m b er ed f r eed o m which ceases wi th


the act of m arri age It wa s not an uncommon thing to find girls
.

of the age of I 5 when engaged in hard work whether at home or


in the farm with absolut ely nothing on ; and even their mothers
on such occasions were but scantily clothed This custom h ow .
,

ever excepting among some tribes as Ij esa and Et on has com pletely
,

died out The extreme poverty of the people in those early times
.

wa s probably the chief cause of such disregard of personal attire .

In modern times better attention is pai d to their outward appear


ance and although from the standpoint of an enlightened ci vi li z
,
1 02 TH E HI S T O R Y OF TH E YO RU BA S

N o nation is more remarkable for cautiousness and for putting


themselves generally on the safe si de When powerless they would .

submit to oppression and wrong to any extent so long as they find


resistance useless but when an O pportunity O f fers for asserting
their rights and overthrowing their oppressors they are never ,

slow to embrace it The common proverb embodies this trait


in their character Bi Q WQ en i ko t e eku i d a a ki ib ere i ku ti 0

pa baba en i i e if one has n o t grasped the handle Of his sword
,
. .
,

he should not attempt t o avenge the death of his father .

Intercourse with other nations has caused various forms of


vi ce t o creep in among modern Yorubas or n s their natural
timidity and submissive spiri t have produced a degeneracy of
manners s o as to be consi dered essentially lac king in s t r a i g h t f o r
w a r d n es s they can effect by di plom acy what they cannot
accomplish by force in which proceeding the Os
, di ffer wi dely
from the other tri bes som e o f whom are characterised by a pro ud
,

and intractable spi ri t but they are n o less determined in carrying


,

out their O bj ect although the m eans used to e ffect their purpose
is essentially di f ferent .

Yorubas as a whole are soci al polit e an d proverbially h o s p i t


, ,

able Licentiousness is abhorred There are well attest ed cases


. .

where a m ember of a family would be condemned to slavery by a


unanimous vote of all the relati ves when he has brought disgrace
on the family S ometimes forcible emasculation is resort ed to as
.

a punishm ent ( as in cases of incest ) or total banishment from the


town and neighbourhood t o where the O ffender is not li kely t o
b e known .

'

A peculiar custom was prevalent am ongst the anci ent OyQS .

Young men were permi tted to have intim ate friends among the
fai r sex and they were often the guests of each other At the
,
.

annual festi vals the young man and his fem ale friend would m eet
and take an active part in the ceremonies and render pecuniary ,

services or m anual assistance to each o t her At the time o f harves t .

the female friend with the full consent of her parents would go
for about a week or a fortnight to assist her m ale friend in bringing

home his harvest whi le he himself m ay be engaged on his father s
farm Yet not withstanding s o m uch m utual i nt ercourse st rict
.

chastity was the rule not the exception The practice however .
, ,

has long been discontinued owing to the degeneracy of the pres ent
,

age .

F i li a l D u t i es — I t wa s the duty of every m ale child to serve


his father although he might be married and have a family of his
O wn unless he w a s exonerated from the obligation by the father

himself As a general thing a sm all portion of farm work wa s


.
MA N N E RS A N D C UST O M S 1 03

allotted t o him as his day s work aft er attending to which he m ay g o


and see aft er his O wn business S o while servi ng his father every
.
,

s o n had his o w n pri vat e farm also t o m anage and i t w a s o n his


O wn portion of land that the female fri end used t o render assistance

in tim e Of harvest .

All marri ed women were also engaged in their husband s farm ’

and the harmony that usually prevailed between them and the
young people wa s very remarkable .

Young men were not al lowed to m arry until they could give
their father I O heads of cowries equal in those days to I O st erling
, .

They were seldom married before the age of 3 0 and the young
women not before 2 0 Promiscuous marriages were n o t a llowed
'

, . ,

freeborn must be married to freeborn slaves t o slaves and , ,

foreigners to foreigners E xcept amongst the I g b On a s c o n s a n


.

g ui n eo u s a f finity however remot e was n o t allowed .

P r i vi leg es of t h e Grea t — Kings and nobles wh o kept hare m s


were exempted from this rule of a ffinity they were at liberty to
m ultiply wi ves from any tribe and these wi ves might be of any
,

condition of life It was the pride of Kings t o fill their harems


.

with w omen of every description such as foreign women Slaves


, , ,

hostages daughters of crimi n al s given as the price of redemptio n


, ,

or seized in co n fis c a t i o n s dwarfs al b i n o es hunch backs and any


, ,
-

other in whose persons there shoul d appear any signs of l a s n s


n a t a r ce
. S uch beings being considered unnatural were the King s
, ,

peculiar property Hence the saying Ob a n i i je Or g (it is Kings


.

who are t o feed on the uncommon ) .


1 04 TH E HI S T O R Y OF THE YO RU BA S

OY O M A R KS
1 06 TH E HI ST O R Y OF TH E Y ORU BA S

§ (b) FACIAL M A R K S .

The facial marks are for th e purpose of distinguishing the


various Yoruba families Of these only those O f the princip al
.
,

ones can be indicat ed They are designated — (a ) Abaj a ( b)


.
,

K ek e or Gm o (0) Ture (d ) Pele ( e) Mand e and (f ) J a m g b a d i


, , , .

I The O Y O marks are — The Abaj a K ek e or Go m b g


.
,
'

Ture .

(a ) The A b aja are s ets O f three or four par al lel and horizontal
lines on each cheek ; they may be single or double each line ,

being from half a n inch to one inch long


- -

Lines in s ets O f three

The double sets ar e those of the R oyal Family 1 of Oy Q the


Single that of the older line of B a s or un s .

Lines in sets of four

These marks distinguish som e noble famili es of Oy o .

V ariations of these m arks are m ade by adding three p er p en di


c ul ar lines to them as a family distinction thus

'

01

The latter of these is common amongst the I l os and E pos .

b The K i é or G om consists of four or five perpendicular


( ) e k
and horizontal lines placed angularly on each cheek ; they
occupy the whole space between the auricle and the cheek bone ;
three sm all perpendi culars are also placed on the horizon tal
lines on both cheeks thus

1 esides the above broad ribbon m arks termed Ey o drawn


B ,

alo ng the whol e length of the arms and leg s are distinctive O f the
R oyal F amily of Q Y Q F or whereas hom eborn slaves and others
.

closely related to R oyalty may have the facial marks distinctive


of the house t o which they belong the E y e m arks are reserved
,

strictly for those act ually o f R oyal blood .


MA N N E RS A ND C US TO M S 1 07

A vari ation of this is sometimes made by adding on the left


Cheek the I b a m a i e a line running aslant from the bridge of the
. .

nose to the horizontal lines This also is for the purpose of distin
.

g ui s h i n g a family .

When the lines are rather bold the m ark is term ed K ek e


, ,

when fine and faint it is term ed G m 9 The K ek eor Gom b g .

is a common m ark of all n s and o f the E g b a d o tribe .

(0) The T a re consists of four perpendicular lines somewhat like


the Gom b g but longer with the three small perpendiculars
, ,

but without the horizont al s .

(d ) The P ele are three short perpendicular lines over the cheek
bones each about an inch long They are not distinctive
, .

of any partic ular family but are used generally by som e m en


,

who disapprove o f tribal distinctions usuall y Moslems but are , ,

loth t o remain plain faced e g -

, . .

(e) (f ) The Mand e and J a m g b a d i are no longer in use ; the


latt er is said to be distinctive of aliens naturalized amongst
Yorubas .

These are the principal facial marks The other principal .

Yoruba families are distinguished by a slight variation of these


marks
I I Egba m arks
. The A b aja 0r d i e the upright A baja
-
. .

is distinctive of the E gbas They consist of three perpendicul ar


.

lines each about 3 inches l ong on each C heek The younger .

generations however have their lines rather faint or of shorter


, ,

lengths undistinguishable from the Pele .

I I I The Eg b a d o marks are the sam e as the Oy o marks


.

generally as this family remained in close connection w i th QyQ


and in their all egiance to the Al afin long after the break u p O f the -

kingdom and the establishm ent of tribal independence


, .
I 08 THE HI S T O R Y OF T HE Y O RU BA S

IV marks Thes e are of


. Ow u . t wo kinds both being
,

variations of QyQ m arks They are .


-

(a ) A b aja Olow u an d
b
( ) K g kg Olowu .

(a ) Th e Abaj a Olow u are three horizontal lines surmo unte d


by three perpendiculars each about one and a half inches long -
.

( b) The R ake Olowu is like the K ek e or GO m with the lines


discret e or interrupt ed .

V Ij ebu marks are al so of two kinds ( a ) the fir st is m uch like


.

the A baja Ol owu ( the tribe from which they are partly descen d ed)
but with th e horizontals curved .

The other is the Abaj a 0r d of the Egbas


( b) . The form er is
more distinctive of I jeb u s .

V I I f e m arks are three horizontal lines like those of the


.

original B a so r un s marks each being shorter about half inch


, ,
-

long Otherwise If es are usually plain faced


. .

V I I The Ondos and I d o ko s have only one bold line or


.

rather a gash about one and a half inches to two inches long over
each m alar bone .

V I I I The I jesas as a r ule h a ve no distinctive marks they


.

are mostly plain faced ; som e famili es however are dis-

, ,

t i n g u i s h ed by having on each cheek 5 or 6 horizontal lines .

They are closely drawn and m uch longer than any Oy o mark , ,

e .
g .

Amongst the Ef o n s an '

E kiti family the lines are so many


,
1 10 THE HI ST O R Y OF TH E Y O RU BA S

the youn g est present acts the part of a servant and waits on his
seniors and whether the food be sufficient or not care wa s usuall y
taken to leave som e portion for him .

The staple articles of diet are yarn an d yam flour corn and .

corn flour beans of various kinds cassava sweet potatoes etc


, , , , .

Onl y the well to do c an a f ford to indul g e in fl ash diet d ai ly the


- -

poorer people are mostly vegetarians except when animals are ,

slaughtered for sacrifice they seldom par take of meat ; gam e ,

however is pl entiful
, D wellers on the coast have a plentiful
.

supply of fish .

Of frui ts the principal ar e — The shea fruit in the plain the ,

Or o (I r vi ng a B a r ter l H ook) in forest lands The Or i or black .

plum ( ver ben a cea cun ea ta) locust bananas plantains pawpaws , , , , ,

oranges lim e (C itron) pine apples the well known kola nut and
, ,
-

,
-

the bitter kola (g a r ci n i a kola H eckel) ground nuts (A r a ch i s hyp og ea )


'
-

etc Their drink consists of pal m wine bamboo wine and beer
.
, ,

made from the guinea corn or fro m m aize .

(d ) D R E SS
The Yorubas clothe themselves in loose flowing robes like the
people of the E ast whence indeed they trace their origin The
, .

men wear gowns vests and a very free and am ple kind of tro users
, ,

called SOkOt O In lieu of the gown som etimes a Sheet of cloth


.

three yards by two is thrown around the body for a covering ,

passing under the right arm pit and overlapping over the left -

shoulder .

In ancient times the gowns were m ade very plain and were
of purely native m anufacture They were wi thout embroidery .

on the breast and ar ound the neck as at present only kings and
chiefs wore gowns m ade of superior stu f fs richly embroidered .

The covering for the common people is called El eg Od O The .

weavers have a standard of breadths for all home made cloths -


.


Men s coverings are m ade of 1 4 breadths and women s of I O

, ,

of about 5 inches each Cloths of Wide breadths —say about a .

yard— were first imported from Or o or 1 151 in the I g b o m i n a


province and were known as Akoko cloths being chiefly the pro
,

duction of Akoko women hence the practice spread all Over the
country for women t o m anufact ure broad width cloths and men ,

narrow ones Form erly only men were weavers and t ailors but
'

. ,

from intercourse with other nations the women n o w engage in the


same craft .

The vest spoken of above is known as ku kn mg over which the


gown or loose cloth is thrown It is sleeveless and without a collar .
,

and open in front it may be made of any kind of native stu f f ,


MA N N E RS A ND C U S TO M S I I I

but that which is made of Al ari (Crimson dye) or of S fim a ya n


( rough silk ) is the most respectable as it is at the same time most ,

costly .

Another kind of vest is t ermed E wie ; this is m uch li ke the former ,

but with sleeves ; it is more commonly used in modern times ;


in full dress it is often worn under the gown and is always made of ,

white stu f f .

There is another form which seems to be of foreign importation


used only by big men it i s full Of pleats below reaching to the
c al ves but the sleeves are very ample and long about 1 2 inches
, ,
.

longer than the arms very wi de at the end It is called D andogo


,
.
,

and is worn in lieu of the gown .

Togo is a sleeveless dress like kukum g but sm aller and simpl er



it is the soldier s dr ess and is often worn with a turban wrapped
round for a belt .

There are three sorts of gowns the S uli y a Agbada and Gi ri ke , , .

The S ul i ya is the smal lest plainest and lightest always m ade ,

of white materi al it reaches m uch below the knee open at the


, ,

sides with the arm stretched the sleeve woul d reach as far as the
,

wrist but lon g and pointed below The Agbada is a l arger form
, .
,

al ways made of dyed or coloured stu f f It reaches as far as the .

ankles m uch embroidered at the neck an d breast open at the


, ,

sides and quite covers the arms The Gi r i ke is the largest and
, .

heavi est it is like the Agbada but more ample ; it is much


,

embroidered reaching also as far as the an kles and ext ends


, ,

beyond the arms .

Trousers (c alled Sokoto) are made of di f ferent shapes and


lengths but all are kept round the waist by a strong cord They
, .

are worn below the vests They consist of the following .

(a ) L a d ug bo is the commonest worn by young and worki ng ,

men it is quit e free but somewhat tight at the knee where it


, ,

terminates It is now out of fashion


. .

( b) A i bgp o al so common worn by all classes It is free b ut


, , .

tightened towards the knee where it terminates .

(c) The A long o This is tight throughout and is not unlike a



.
,

bishop s gaiters It reaches below the knee and is used chiefly


.
,

by sportsmen .

(d ) The Kaf o I s a tight legged dress like the Alongo but reaches

-

as far down as the an kles It is worn by warriors and r uffian s .

generally .

(e) The K em b e This is m ade like the Ai p o but richl y


.

embroidered about the legs with threads of crimson dye This .

is the kind usually worn by nobles and gentlemen .

(f) The Ef a or A b gn a g ba ng b a The name (wide mouthed) well .


-
1 1 2 THE HI S T O R Y OF THE Y O RU BA S

describes the natur e of the tro users It is a kind that is very .

free longer than the Ai p o is somewhat shaped li ke E uropean


, ,

trousers but stops short a little below the knee


, .

(g ) The Won d o is m ade entirely like the E uropean tro users .

Though once fashionabl e yet is now entirely out of use , .

(It ) The last is the A g a d a n si This is adopted from the N upes .


,

by whom it is commonly used It extends from the waist to .

the ankles it is very free throughout save at the ankles where


it terminat es and is heavi ly embroidered there It is often m ade .

of two or three yards wide (som etim es more ) so that when the feet
are thrust in at either end and the cord drawn above it gathers , ,

into a large volume between the legs .

The men s head gear i s usually a cap ( Fil a) of which there are

-

t wo kinds the ord i nary fil e which is about I O inches long rath er ,

close fittin g an d is ben t upon itself on the top The turban is


, .

gener al ly woun d round it by Mos l ems and full dressed gentlemen -


.

The other kind is used gener a lly by young folks and is c a lled ,

F i laz A b et i i e the ear covering cap
'
. . It is s haped like the sector
-
.

of a circle the pointed ends being used—as its name denotes — for
,

covering the ears in cold weather But when used otherwise the .

pointed ends are tur ned fore an d aft the point on the fo rehead ,

being tilted up in a sporting m anner to Show the under surface -

prettily done up with cloths of bright colourin g it is then t ermed


L a b an ka da .

Hats m ade of straw and ornamented with colo ured leather are
,

worn solely for protection from the sun : the crowns are large
enough to accommodate the turbaned head .

The women s dress is much simpler t wo or three wrappers


and a head dress or circlet complete their toilet Unm arried .

women g enerally use t wo wrappers the under wrapper being fixed ,

abo ve the breasts This is m ade of fine cl oth and is heavier


. .

The upper is fixed about the middl e of the body and i s m ade of
lighter cloth To these m arried women add a third used as a
. ,

shawl or covering for the head and back U nderneath a ll these


,
. ,

an d immediately next the body is worn from the age of puberty

a short apron or petticoat reaching the knees and tied roun d the ,

waist with a strong cord or band This is call ed Tobi . .

F emale headgear consists of a band of about 6 to I O inches ,

wide and 5 feet long (more or less ) This is wound twice round .

the head and tucked on one side It m ay be of plain cloth .

or costly as she can a f ford


,
Well to do ladi es use velvet .
- -

cloths .

Hats are used only as sunshades the crown is sm all for the h ead
but the rim is as wide as a n open umbrella .
I I 4 THE HI ST O R Y OF TH E YO RU BA S

The ceremony of betrothal is a very important one ; it is


g enerally performed in the night when al l the most important ,

m embers of the family on both sides will be at leisure to be present ,

as well as their intimate friends The young man is to present .

4 0 large kola nuts some m oney and several pots of beer for the
, ,

entertainment of those present The kola nuts have to be split .


-

and all present as well as important absentees must have a Share


of them indicating thereby that they are witnesses of the betrothal
, .

From this day the girl is not to m eet her fia n c é or any m ember of
,

his family without veiling o r hiding her face .

Then follows what is known as the A 11 5 or dowry The .

bridegroom elect has to present to the parents of the intended


-

bride choice kola nuts some al ligator pepper and bitter kolas ‘
,
-

, , .

Also a fine wrapper of good qu a lity a large covering cloth , ,

a head tie and some money according to his ability Well to do


, .
- -

famil ies rarely require more than I O heads of cowries in these


days in earlier times one head was considered ample— only as
,

a token .

Whatever variations m ay be in these presents the kol a n u t s of ,


~

both kinds and the alligator pepper are inv a riable and essenti a l .


If the girl happens to be doing debtors service at the time the ,

young man will pay the debt and releas e her before t h e marriage ,

can take place .

This event (the betrothal) is also an occasion of rej oicing ,

feastin g and o ffering of sacrifices The parties themselves are


,
.

to carry special propi t iatory sacrifices o ff ered to the evil one .

This is term ed Eb Q Iya wo i e A bride s sacrifice . .



.


3 M a r r i ge
. a ( I g b eya wo) Marriages may be solem nized at
. .

any tim e of the year except during the fasts but the most usu a l
, ,

tim e is after the season of harvest and following the E g figu n ,

festival .

The bride is conducted to her new hom e a lways in the night ,

attired in her best with a thin white cloth for a veil and attended ,

by her companions al l well clothed with drums a n d singing a n d , ,

dancing The bridal party is met at the entrance gate of the


.


brid egroom s compound by a female band of the house speci a lly
selected for the purpose a n d by them the ceremony of w as hing ,

the bride s feet is performed and then the bride is liter a lly lifted

and borne int o the house Hence the term for marri a ge Gbe .

Iyawo i e lifting or carrying the bride S he is then conducted


. . .

into the bathroom where she is washed rubbed down perfum ed , , ,

This is really n o t dowry but symbols of fu ture rel ationship


1

between both families .


M A NN E RS A ND C US T O M S 1 1 5

and dr es sed up afresh and th en conducted into the apartment of


,

the head lady of the house S he n ow becom es the inmat e of that .

house for life .

The bride is usual ly brought with her idols and furnished from ,

her hom e with every thing that appertains to the fem al e depart

ment of house keepin g includin g cooking utensils brooms and


-

, , ,

other articles for house use .

If she gives satisfaction t o her husband and fri ends presents , ,

are sent on the next day t o her parents S h e herself is covered ,

wi th trinkets ( consisting chiefly of corals and other costly beads ,

gold nec klaces where they are obtainable etc ) and the festivities , .

continue for at least three days .

A bride wh o is found unchast e is rather h ardly used and som e


times severely punished to the extent of havin g her tied 1 and
severely flogged thus compelling her to name h er violator so as
,

t o have him severely fined N o orn aments are allowed h er .

an d Sh e m ay be ordered to perform errands out of doors unveiled ,

the next day or m ay be sent out with a pitcher f o r water 1 Other


,

wise a bride is n e ver seen out of doors for I 2 m onths at least


,
'

after her marriage except closely veiled and wi th attendants


, , .

In the case of Moslems lit urgical forms of ceremonies are per


'
,

form ed by t h e p r i es t in the house or in the mosque This is .

termed I s oy ig i S uch women alone in former times had the


- -

privi lege of covering their head with a light shawl when out
of doors but the practice has n o w been extended to all mar ried
women .

Wi d owho od a n d R eni a r r i ag e —Three m onths is the period of .

mourning in Yoruba during which tim e widows rem ain closely


,

indoors they m ay Spin dye or do any hom e work but must d o , , ,

nothing that will take them out of doors Am ong other Signs of .

widowhood is an entire absence of personal attention they neither ,

bathe n o r d o up their hair nor C hange t h e C loth they had on at ,

the tim e of the husband s death ’


.

This period over they are O pen t o o f fer of m arriage from m embers
,

of the deceased husband s family Where there are several ’


.

wom en the heir ( usually the eldest son or younger brother) who
,

succeeds to th e headship of the house usually inherits the m aj ority ,

of the wom en except o f course his o wn m other The custom


,
.

is for each man to send his chewing stick ( tooth brush) round t o
the woman of hi s choice S h e is expect ed m odestly t o decline ,

1
Th i s gave rise t o the proverb Tani d e 9 ti o nka Oko i e . .

w h o has tied y ou that y o u begi n to nam e a vio l ator The eq ui va


lent O f Ou i s exca s e s a ccn s e
’ ’
-
.
1 6 THE HI S T O R Y OF TH E YO RU BA S

it once or t wice but if she refused it the third time the refusal ,

is ta ken as final .

The following peculiarities m ark Yoruba wedded life


I Wom en are never really m arried twic e they m ay be inherited
.

as widows or taken for a wife outside the late husband s family


,

but the m arriage ceremony is never gone over again under any
circumstances .

2 Once m arried they are att ached for ever to the house and
.

f amily of their deceased husbands hence it is more usual for widows


to C hoose another husband from the sam e family .

3 N o woman is without a husban d except in extreme old age


. , ,

but every woman must in any case have a m ale protector who is
responsible for her .

4 D ivorc e is very rare


. so rare as to be practic al ly considered
as non existing I t is by no m eans easily obtained especially
-
.

when there are children O f the union .

The causes that m ay lead t o a divorce are — Adultery with th e


husband s blood relation kleptomania repeated ins olvency

, , ,

especially such as m ay brin g trouble to the house A ”woman .

m ay apply for a divorc e for extrem e cruelty which can be testified ,

to and ill usage


,
-
.

B ut these causes notwithstanding a divorce is never granted by


the r ulers of the town until all possible m eans of reclamation have
been exhausted .

5 A wom an divorced from her husband can never be m arried


.
,

or taken up leg al ly by another m an ; hence the saying A ki i § u


Op o al aye ( no one can inherit the r el i ct o f a living m an )
'

U nder purely N a t i ve Go ver n m en t the above rules still hold


.

good .

OTH E R R E C O G N I Z E D FO R M S OF M A RR IAG E
There are cases in which all the above forms and ceremonies are
not g one through and yet the wo m a n i s regarded as the lawful
, _ _

wife of the man of her C hoice Mutual consent is the only thing .

indispensable Of such cases som e m ay be girls who when of


.
,

a ge will not accept the m an chosen for them from childhood


, ,

except on e of thei r o wn Choice S ome m ay be wi dows who fai led .

to be m ated at the house of her late husband S ome may b e .

slaves wh o have redeemed themselves or a capti ve of war or , ,



one bought t o be made a wife of In all such cases the wom an s .
,

free consent and the recognition o f her by the m embers of the


,

man s family are all that is required for her to be regarded as the

m an s lawful wife
'
.

There is a third form of mar riage which is more comm on amon g


1 1 8 THE H I ST O R Y OF THE YO RU BA S

s p ecies Sweet potatoes koko (colocasia an t i q uo r um ) pepper piper


, , , , ,

c a labashes and other kinds of gourds co f fee cocoa kola nuts , , , ,

vegetables of all sorts for home consumption cotton for weaving , ,

etc .

When a plot has been worked with rotation of crops for a


f ew years it is left to lie fallow for some years whilst contiguous
,

plots are put under cul tivation and so on alternately manuring ,

is unknown Th e soil is rem ar kably fertile under present system


. .

Women and ch i l d ren assist in reap ing and in brin ging harvest
home N o beasts of burden are employed in agricultural operations
. .

All farmers and men of any importance have generally smaller


-

farms nearer home Oko E ti le and a more distant one generally


in the fores t Oko Eg an When engaged in the nearer one
.
,

they work from 6 or 7 a m to 5 p m with intervals for me a ls and


. . . .
, ,

then return home but at the distant farm they invariably ,

remai n there for weeks and months before returning home .

R egular farmers do so only at the annual festivals In these .


.

farms not only are fruits of the earth cultiv ated but also po ultry
,

and smaller cattle are rear ed for the market F airs are held period .

i call y in some central farm markets where these products are dis
posed o f to market women from surrounding towns and villages .

Although the soil is well adapted for raising fruits yet fruit ,

trees are rarely cultivated for the supply of markets .

C o mmer ce — Commerce com es next in the order of importance


. .

Yorubas ar e keen traders they are to be found in every part of


,

neighbouring cou n tries for that purpose A large trade is carried .


on by barter Cowry shells the medium of exchange being t o o


.
, ,

C lumsy for lar ge transactions are used only for sm al l exchanges ,

locally ; t h e very sm all Species are used by travellers Costly .

beads are used by many on distant j ourneys for trade they are ,

val ued as precious stones Thus the products of the north are
.

given in exchange for those of the south and those of Yoruba ,

land for those of neighbouring states always by barter Both .

sexes a r e engaged in trade but each in his own line .

C u r r en cy —Metallic cur rency was unknown previously to the


.

arrival of E uropean traders and even as lately as 1 8 9 7 in places


,

far o ff from the coast coins were regarded more or less as a curiosity .

S ilver was better appreciated than gold or copper because it ca n ,

be converted to ornaments S ilversmiths abound in the country


.

whilst there were no goldsmiths S hells then stood for money .

and are thus c al culated


4 0 co wries
5 0 strings
I O heads
MA N N E RS A ND C UST O M S I I
9

The value of a cowry was never fixed Countries nearer th e .

coast can obtain them with greater facility than those inland ,

and therefore they are of higher value in the interior but Since
the B r itish occupation of Lagos the princip al port of the Yoruba
country and E nglish coins began to circ ulate in the co untry
, ,

the rate of exchange became practic al ly fix ed at 6 d for a head .

( the usual standard of calc ul ation ) i e cowries hence 3d . . .

Cowri es But copper s being considered inferior in val ue on e


.
,

penny is taken at 300 co wr ies each 3 d in coppers then woul d be .

900 cowries . Co wries are an absolute necessity at the present


stage of the country and shoul d be used p m p as s u with coins
,

for purchases below one penny Fr uits herbs and small articles
.
, ,

of food m ay be purchased for a f ew co wries beggars collect them ,

by two s and thr ee s from passers by and thereby earn enough


’ ’

to keep life going to what extent they are rare to that ex t ent ,

the hardships of life are felt in the land .


.

The custom of stringi n g C owries was for the facility of counting


large sums they were usually strun g by 2 00 in 5 strings of 4 0
each three of 6 6 or two of 1 00 each and with a discount of one per
,

cent .

E s a s a is a univers al custom for the C lubbing together of a number


of persons for monetary ai d A fix ed sum agreed upon is given
.

by each at a fixed time ( usu a ll y every week) and place under a ,

president the total amo unt is pai d over to each membe r in rotation .

Th is enables a poor m an to do something worth while where a


lump sum is required There are laws regulating this system
. .

Wea vi ng — This al so is carried on by both sexes but in diff erent


styles of manufacture Men weave cloths of narrow breadths
.

about 5 5 inches wi de called A la wg The loom is O perated upo n .

w ith both ha nds and feet the thr eads of the war ps are so arranged
that they open and close by a mechanic al contrivance worked
by both feet moving alternately as the pedals of a n harmonium ,

whilst the shuttle about 8 by 2 inch es carr ying the woof is


tossed and caught by the right and left hand alternately through
the opening the disengaged hand being rapidly used in rammin g
,

in the thread The cloth is woven in one long strip and then cut
.

to the require d lengths and tacked together .


T a i lor i n g is done mostly by m en only as it is only m en s dress
which requires a tailor It includes embroidery made in the neck
.

a n d breast of men s gowns



Women being wrapped in plai n
.

cloths hardly require tail oring The stitches are made the
.

contrary way to that of E uropean tai lors the needle being pushed ,

away from the seamster and not toward himself, .

I r on S m ell i n g was carried on more largely in earlier t han in


1 20 TH E HI STO R Y O F TH E YO RU B A S

modern times Certain districts are rich in iron ores its iron
.
,

production gave its name to the city of Il orin from I to i r i n iron . ,

grinding also to El et a a district of Ibadan E ta being the term


,

for iron ore Cert ain distri cts in the E kiti province are also famous
.

for their iron ores from which good steel was made such as O KE ,

M E S I Charcoal from hard wood and the shells of palm nuts are
.
,

the m ateri als generally used for generating the great heat re quired
for the fu rnace ( called I ler u) which is kept going all the year round .

Iron rods and bars of E uropean comm erce being C heaper are fast
displacing home m ade products and here and there al l over the
-

country the furnaces are being closed and soon will doubts begin ,

to be expressed as to whether Yorubas ever knew the art of smelting


iron from the ores
Other products of the mines e g gold silver tin etc are not . .
, , , .
,

known among the Yorubas .

S mi th ery is c arried on lar g ely B efore the period of intercourse .

with E uropean s all articles m ade of iron and steel from weapons
, ,

of war to pins and needles were of hom e manufacture but the


cheaper and more finished a rticles of E uropean m ake especially ,

cutlery though less durable are fast displacing home made wares -
.

There are also brass and copper smiths wh o make ornaments


from thes e mat eri als for this pur po se brass and C Op p er bar s are
import ed from foreign parts .

Wor ker s i n lea ther were formerly their own tanners each one ,

learns to prepare for himself whatever leather he wants to use ; ,

black white green yellow and brown are the prevailing colours
, , , ,

given to leather They are n o w largely imported from Hausa


.

land principally from Kano


, .

E very worker is expected to know and to be able to execute ,

the various crafts performed with leather e g saddlery sheaths , . .


,

to swords and knives leather ornaments on hats waistbands for ,

C hil dren leather cush i ons bolsters boots and shoes sandals etc
, , , , ,
.

It may be remarked that shoes and boots are used only by riders
on horseback and therefore they are always made with spurs
,

immovably fixed upon them .

M u s i c is a favourite pastime and gives occupation to many ,

bo th men and boys .

Musician s al so have fir st to learn h o w to manufact ur e the '

instruments they have to perform upon hence each one can easi ly ,

repair a damaged instrument .

Yoruba m usic has yet t o be st u di ed and reduced t o a s ys t em


by a competent musician ; h ow essential this is c an easily be
recognized when we consider h o w much time and trouble is spent
in acquirin g the art and h ow much the practice of it ent ers into
,
1 22 THE H I STO R Y OF TH E YO RU BA S

they being under the special protection of the King They are .

expect ed to be at the King s service when required but it m eant


death to any of them i i the poison given to the King for his use
-

upon his enemies did not take fatal e f fect .

There was also a particular family of E f on descent living at


one time at O Y o sai d t o have belonged to the On d a s a tribe Their .

great ancestor wa s said to have been invited to the capital by


one of the early Kings of O Y o for medic al advice when all his

wi ves were barren His prescriptions were successful a n d so he


.
,

was detaine d at O Y O a n d rewarded with a high rank and position


in the p al ace am ongst the cers His descendants .

are now distinguished from O Y Q by the tot em Og e


( a club) being a ffixed
The art o f medicine is ( 1 secr et by those who

profess it ; an incr ease of knowl edge can only be gained by an


interchange of thoughts between brother professionals ; many
die without imparting their secrets to others and thus much ,

valuable knowledge i s entirely lost But som e do impart their .

secret to those of their C hildr en male or fem al e wh o Show special


aptit ude for such knowledge and whom they particularly l eve .

On the whole we can unhesitatingly assert that those men


who are specialists in on e or t wo particular branches but wh o do
not make the practice o f m edicine a profession c a n be more con
fid en t l y relied upon .

C a rp en t ry is i n a very backward condition O f j oinery they .

have no idea what ever Carpenters are c al led Gb en a g b en a


. .

They are the crudest and most primitive of h andicraftsmen their


services are n o t much in requisition .

C a r vi ng in wood is executed in a rather primitive wa y but such


natural genius is displaye d by some m en t h a t i t is a matter of , '

surprise that such artistic achievements can be displayed by an


illiterate person and with tools so simple and primitive
, .

T h e Yorubas of the Eg b a d o district are said to be the best artists


.

in the country They certainly have i n


.

suitable for carving purposes .

C a la b a s h dressers are always found in


plying their trade all sorts of geometri
cut in calabashes some designs are
beautiful N ames mottoes and phrases are burnt into calab ashes
.
, ,

by educated artists figures only by the uneducated These


,
.

designs are recently being imitated by E uropeans under the term


of P oker Wor k .

S ea m an s h ip — There are very f ew large rivers in Yoruba land


and nearly all of them fordable during the dry season consequently ,
MA NN E RS A N D C U ST O M S 1 2 3

o n ly in coast towns and on the N iger are ca n o em en found who


make any pretence t o seamanship .

When the inland rivers are swollen by rains large bowls a n d ,

very large calabashes are used in ferrying passengers across The .

passengers S i t on them with their luggage with the ferryman in the ,

water pushing the freight across


, .

All canoes ar e dug out from large trees Our ca n o em en canno t .

really be called experts as they rarely sail out of sight of land


, ,

and canoes can ill endure any storm or tempest ; nevertheless ,

when war canoes are rigged up and m anned they are handled with ,

no little s kill in their fights sham or real In the title of A rom i r e .

( i e one in friendly terms W I t h water ) we have preserved a C hieftain


. .

who ranked as an admiral in the olden days of sea fights .

F i s he r i es — D eep sea fishing is but little practised t h e rivers ,

a n d lagoons fur nish a ll that they can harvest S hrimps and oysters .

ar e plentiful in their season The fishing industry is of course


.

confined to coastal tow ns and as ther e are no means of supplyi ng


,

inland towns the con sumpt i on of the fresh article is confined t o


the coast .

B u i ld i n g as a profession is almost unknown houses as a rule


ar e bui lt by men clubbing together but there ar e always a f ew,

experts among them in particular lines either i n buildi ng the mud ,

w a ll s or in roofing and they distribute themselves accor dingly .

Thes e ar e always in r equisition wh enever they can be spared


from their farms Large works are u n d er t akefi i d arranged for
. ,

when all hands can conveniently be spar ed from their farms .

P a s t or a l Wor k as a profession is carri e d on o nl y in the northern


provinces m oTe suited f or that purpose from the extensive plain
and pasture land of those regi ons B ut very few Yorubas are .

found engaged in it Ga m b a r i s (i e Hausas) are generally engaged


. . .

by the chiefs t o tend their cattle .

The b a r bers and r op em a ker s are also mostly Hausas and


F ul a n i é: these ar e crafts rarely practised by Yorubas
'

These Hausas al so perform som e minor surgic a l operations


such as cupping bone setting tapping hydroceles etc S ome
,
-

, , .

are even oculists and profess to be able t o oper a te for cataract


, .

It goes without saying that much mischief is often done by their


crude performances They are unskil led and the instruments
.

u sed are rather clumsy I t is a wonder that more mischief


.

is not done or that they occasionally get good results at all


, .

O CC U PATI O N S OF WO ME N
I t i s specially the province of women adva nced in a g e to see d
cotton and spin thread The former is do n e by rolling out t h e
.
1 24 TH E HI S T O R Y OF TH E Y O RU BA S

seeds from the wool between a smooth log of hard wood and a
polished iron rod the latter by weighting a thin rod of about
,

1 2 inches long with a small ball of clay about 1 inch distant from one

end attaching the cotton to the other end and se t ting the ball spin
,

ning like a top the wool being rapidl y drawn out to the required
,

fineness S eeded cotton is rendered fluf fy for spinning by being


.

attached to the strin g of a bent bow and the string constantly ,

pulled as if shooting an arrow These operations being an occupa


.

tion of a sedentary nature and more suitable for old women are
,

performed by them leisurely all d a y R eels of spun thread are .

s old to dyers .

Aged women who reside in the farms also employ t heir time
in shelling the kernels from the p al m nuts and also tending ,

poultry goats and sheep for the market


, .

Dy ei n g is done by women They buy a quan tity of the yarn


.
,

bleach and dye them in various colours and sell them to the ,

weavers male or fem al e The commonest colour is blue or blue


, .

black from the indigo dye The preparation of indigo balls for
.

the market is also an important ind u stry Women are equally .

with m en engaged in tradi ng and weaving ; but where as men


weave in small breadths and carry on their occupation in courtyards
or secluded squares in the streets where they can stretch their
warp 2 0 yards or more the women on the contrary fix their
,

looms in the piazza of the house close to the door of their apart ,

m ents where they may be seen sitting on the ground with their ,

legs in a hole under the loom they weave the cloths in broad
pieces called Ki ji p a two or three breadths forming a covering .

The warp is wound round t wo stout bamboo poles fix ed athwart


t wo strong upright posts top and bottom , There is a mechanism .

by which the threads can be m ade t o cross each other The .

woof in rods o f about a yard long i s p as s ed slowly right and left


as the warp is opened and separated one wa y and the other being ,

ramm ed down each tim e by a flat smooth sta f f .

B esides indigo dyes of light blue a n d dark shades the scarlet ,

called alah ar i and ro ugh silk S fim fiy a n in grey ar e the prevailing


,

colours of Yoruba yarn .

P a lm oi l making and nut O i l making from the kernels of the p al m


nuts as well as shea butt er from the shea fruit are exclusively
,

female industries .

B eer b r ewi ng from guinea corn or maize is done also by women


-

for this they have a sheltered place within or near the compound
to insure protection against fire .

A large class I S engaged I n preparing articles of foo d They ar e .

purveyors of cooked food keepers of refreshment stalls and other


,
1 26 THE H I STO R Y OF TH E YO RU BA S

are kept in the roy al service and are well supported The office .

is hereditary .

Like m any other heathen nations the Yorubas have their


tradition about the creati on and the deluge It is their belief .

that at the creation m en fed on wood and water that they had a ,

long proj ecting mouth that the bat was origin al ly a creature in
human form and wa s a black —smith by trade and that with his
, ,

instrument he reduced m en s mouths to their present shape for


which cause he w a s condemned to lose the hum an form an d to


assum e that of a beast and to use one and the sam e m outh for
,

receiving food as well as for evacuation The allegation that .

water wa s the original food of man is supported by the fact that


it is the first thing taken by a new born babe as well as the las t -

,

t h ing taken at a man s dying moments .

( h ) WE ALTH Y PE RS O N AG E S
There were certain historical personages in Yoruba wh o were
noted f or their great we a lth viz A m o l o ki I of Or o Ged eg b e of

.
, , ,

ore La p em Q of Ij em u near Or o On i b i ye of Gug ur u Mini m i


, , ,

of Er u b u There is also a sixth spoken of who resided at Gbudu


. .

There wa s also a lady known as the Olowo of Ij ebu .

(i ) T H E I WQ F A S Y S T E M A N D T H E L AW S R E G U LATI N G I T
The term I wgf a has no equivalent in E nglish It denotes one .

wh o serves another periodically in lieu of the interest on m oney


lent In Short it is one in service for interest
.
,
.


It has been mistranslated a pawn by those who fancied
they s a w a resemblance to it in that system and are trying t o ,

identify everything native with those that are foreign and conse ,

quently as in other Similar cases m uch mischief has been done


, ,

thereby .

The Yoruba m an is sim ply Shocked to hear of pawning


a man as is done with goods and chattels to pawn in Yoruba is

f i d og o whi ch term is never applied t o a hum an being .

I t has also been com pared to Slavery by those ignorant of


the legal conditions ruling the system but an I we f a is a free
man his social status rem ains the same his civil and political rights
, ,

are intact and he is onl y subj ect to his m aster in the sam e universal
,

sense that a borrower is servant to the lender .

I wef as are held quite distinct from slaves the verbs applied
to each system m ark the distinction e g r d to buy is applied to . .

a Slave y et to lend or engage ( a hand) to an I wof a consequently


,

you c an b uy a slave but engage an I wof a o r service man


, .

The derivation o f the ter m is probably from I w e the enteri ng


MA NN E RS A ND C US T O M S I 2 7

into and Ef a a period of six days ; hence an I wof a is one wh o


,

enters into a recurrent sixth day servi ce .

The I wef a system i s a contract entered into in the presence


i

of witnesses cal l ed On i g b ewe i e Sponsors t h e money lender . .


,
-

is term ed Ol u wa i e master and the worker I wef a i e a service


. .
, , . .

m an .

It is a legal transaction recognized and protected by the laws of


the country Whatsoever the amount of money lent h i s the
.
,

la w that the service rendered goes f o r the interest and only the ,

principal is paid back whenever payment is made whet h er after


a f ew days or after m any years .

An I WQf a m ay be a man or a woman a boy or a girl and the , ,

laws for each di f fer accordingly .

A man I wo f a lives in his Own house and plies his own trade
'

but he is required to clean a piece of land equal to 1 00 yam


heaps o r a n equivalent in his m aster s farm once a week the ’

Yoruba week consisting of five days .

Th e people being m a inly agric ul tural farm cleaning is the ,


-

work of their daily life and is the recogn ized ordinary system of
,

labour .

Cleaning three hundred heaps is the ordinary amount of an


average man s day s work consequently a strong m an often
’ ’

found it possible to work in three di f feren t farms on the sam e


/
day for di ff erent m as ters or to do three we ek s work at a tim e i n
, ,

one far m a nd have I 4 o ff days at a stret ch in which he is free


, ,

to follow his o wn trade without interrupt ion S pecial arrange .

m ents can also be m ade if a longer period is desired but the ,

I wef a is bound to make up for the number of days lost .

This is the ori g inal law but it is subj ect t o slight modification
,

or variation in various places according to the local value o r the


, ,

am ount of money l ent e g am ongst the Eg bas a whole day s



. .
,

work is required ins t ead of a morning s wo rk B ut whatever ’


.

m odification of the origi nal law is m ade in any particular locality ,

the law for that tribe is al ways fixed by a uthority and n ever subj ect ,

to the whims and caprice of an indivi dual m oney lender -

The m a ster is to treat the service m an as his social rank dem ands ,

he mingles freely with his equals in the h ous e or in the field a s


a m ember of the household A ki nd master o ften a llows him
.

his breakfast before he quits the field although he is n o t bound to


do so and if a m aster be too ex acting or disagreeable he m ay be
, ,

Changed any day without any previous notice once the m oney ,

lent is paid back in f ull .

Where the m aster is a great chief or a rich m an the service man ,

m ay live under his prot ection a n d o wn him his feudal lord he n ce “


1 28 TH E H I STO R Y or TH E Y O RU BA S

som e m en never troubled themselves to pay back the m oney ,

but m ay rather incur further obli g ations being safe and free under ,

the protection of a great nam e S om e men there are wh o are .


,

better able to do another m an s work than their o wn ’

An I w o f a is never subj ect to punishment physical or otherwise ,

if he fail in his weekly service the sponsors are called upon to m ake
,

good the deficiencies .

In fine an I wef a differs from a slave in that a slave must live


with his m aster an I wof a in his o wn house A slave can be
, .

compelled to work f or his m aster every day an I w g f a for a limited ,

amount of work f or h a lf a day in the week and that not by com ,

pulsion but from obligations of honour A slave can be punished .


,

an I w e f a cannot be A slave has los t his independence and


.

political rights an I wo f a retains both


, A slave has no one .

responsible for him an I w o f a has t wo at least In fine an I wo f a


, .

can go and com e as he likes a Slave cannot , .

F or wom en the same law holds g ood generally b ut with som e


modifications on account of their sex ; they work generally as
char women once a week and have a m eal in the house before
-

returning home In som e cases they may live among t h e wom en


.

folk in their m aster s house carrying on their own work and lendin g
'

, ,

a helping hand in the housework and in harvest time do their o wn


share of the day s work in the field along with the other wom en

.

S ome are engaged in trade in which they sell for their m aster at
,

the sam e time and bring him th e proceeds of his o wn articles


,

as the allotted service rendered When the trade is done in the .

hom e m a rket payments are m ade every nine days which are
,

market days when out of town at the return of the caravan , .

If a service woman is tampered with by the master the m oney ,

is thereby considered absolutely paid and the debt discharged , .

If forced against her will not only is the debt cancelled but he
, ,

also liable to prosecution and heavy fines besides to be paid


both to the woman s husband as damages and to the town author

ities as court fees .

If a young unmarried woman is tampered with not only is ,

the debt i p s o f a cto discharged but the master has to repay the ,

f i a n ce all the money he has sp ent on her and also a betrothal


do wry to the par ents besides .

I f the matter is not arranged amicably and the c as e has to g o


before the town authorities the m aster has to pay and heavy , ,

fines are inflicted on him besides O ften has a rich man been .

reduced to poverty by this means and consequently they are


always very careful .

If a betrothed girl becom es m arriag eable whilst in service


1 30 TH E HI ST O RY OF TH E YO R U BA S

his son t o learn a partic ular trade would put him under the crafts
man for the p urpose and obtain from him a certain am ount of
,

money ; the master wishing to get his interest o ut of the boy


,

wi ll s ee that he learns speedily and well so as to be of som e use


to him In this wa y both are benefited


. .

A C hief or a well to do gentleman with a wild a nd unruly son


- -

who m he wi shes to tame or wh o is ind ulged at home wo ul d al so


, ,

resort to this m ethod for training and discipline ; in such a case


the boy will remai n with such a handicraftsm an until he is able to
earn his o wn livelihood by his craft then the money is paid back ,

and the b oy returns hom e .

This m ethod of lending m oney is the only one know n for invest
m ent and is therefore resorted to as their banking system .

S o the I w e f a system m ay be reg ar ded at one and the sam e


time as one for banking apprenticeship and domestic service
, , .

S ince the establishment of the British Protectorate t here


h a s been more than one attempt m ade to abolish the system as
«

a species of slavery ! The Yorubas themselves neve r at any


t i m e regarded it as such ; t o so regard it m ust be due either
t o an ignorance of t h e l a ws regulating it or because an exact
f ,

equivalent cannot be found in any E uropean system It can .


,

however be imagined what chaos will result in any E uropean


,

country if the banking system apprenticeship and dom estic , ,

service were abolished at a stroke— i f that be possible Like any .

other system it may be reformed if given to abuse that is more ,

reasonable and statesmanlike B ut t o abolish it outri g ht bec a use .

it has no foreign analogue would be t o disorganize the soci al li fe


of a people with no com pensating advantage to borrower or lender .

If such were done in this case the greatest suf ferers wi l l be those
.
-

it wa s intended t o benefit viz the service men themselves B ut , .

with the cou ntry n ow settled and everyone free to prosecute his ,

busi ness there must be less of money borrowing and service for
,

interest and thus a gradual change or modification is nat urally


,

e f fected in this system with no ten d ency to abuse


, .

§ (j) DI S T R AI N I N G F O R D E BT
The Yorubas have a peculiar m etho d of forcin g payment out
of an incorrigible debtor Wh en a creditor wh o has obtained .

j udgment for debt finds it impossible to recover any thing out


of the debtor he applies t o the town authorities for a licensed
,

distrai n or This individual is c alled Og o he is said to d og o ti


.
,

i e to sit on the debtor ( as it were)


. . F or that purpose he enters .
,

the premises seeks out the debtor or es co n ces himself in his


'

, ,

apartm ent until he m akes his appear ance and then he makes ,
MA N N E RS A ND C US TO M S I 3I

hi mself an intolerable nuisance t o him and to the m embers of the


house g enerally until the m oney is paid .

The distrainor is a man of imperturbable temper but of a foul ,

ton g ue a veritable Thersites He adopts any measur es he likes


,
.
,

sometim es by inflicting his presence and attention on the debtor


everywhere and anywhere he m ay g o denyin g him privacy of ,

any kind and in the m eantim e using his tongue m ost foully upon
,

him his o wn person being inviolable for touching him implies


, ,

doing violence to the person of the authorities wh o appoint him


t he task He dem ands and obtains whatever diet he m ay requi re
. ,

however s um ptuous and m ay help himself if not quickl y served .

I f he thinks fit he m ay lay hold on any poultry or cattle he finds


,

in the premises and prepare himself food and all at the expense
, ,

of the debtor He m ust not take an ythin g away but he m ay enj oy


.

the use of anything he finds in the house .

Loud in his abuses intolerable i n his m anners to all in the


,

house whilst going in and out with the debtor he goes on in ,

thi s wa y all day an d from day to day if needs be until even the
, ,

inmates of the compound get tire d of this and then m eans will ,

quickly be found of getting rid of the distrainor by payi n g o ff the


debt .

k
( ) WA R
In early times war expedi tions were sent out every other year by
the A L AF I N of OY Q to distant countries ch iefly am ongst the Popos .

War then was for spoils and t o keep t h eir hands in and not for ,

captives the victors rarely pursued the vanquis h ed those wh o


conce al ed themselves behind heaps of rubbish or in any hiding ,

place in the town or in the fields were quite safe When a town .

w a s taken the shade trees about the principal m arket — which is


always in front of the o fli ci al residence of the chief ruler o f the
town — are cut do wn as a Sign of conquest S lave rai ding and the .
-

t r a fli c in hum an beings did not then e xist Long Sieges were .

un known for whether vi ct orious or defeated the pres ence of the


, ,

Kakanfo or his corpse wa s expe cted hom e within 60 days .

There never was or has been a standin g arm y nor any trained ,

soldiers ( except at Ibadan latterly w here the idea began t o


germinate a n d som e of the C hiefs had a num ber of their slaves
,

trained solely for war som e chiefs had also a corps of boys not ,

t o bear arms b ut t o be attendant on them in battle in order to


, ,

fam i li ari z e them with the horrors of war I) B u t according to the


c ustom of the country every man capable of bearing a rm s is
,

ex pected to serve in war but the l a w did not make it compulsory


except for m en of rank and title and for hom e defence , .
I 32 TH E HI S T O R Y OF THE Y O RU BA S

At the C lose of every war each one goes away t o his farm , ,

and except on an occasion of importance as when the King s


, ,

m essengers are to be received even the B al e and the B al ogun ,

could not be found at hom e during the day at the busy seasons .

B efore the introduction of fir e ar ms ( a comparatively recent -

a ffair) their weapons of war consisted of b o w a n d poisoned arrows ,

a short sword called J em e and Ogb o a kind of heavy cutlass


used chiefly by the comm on people .

As Sieges then were of Short duration and always carried on


in the dry season there wa s n o necessity t o provide against severe
,

weather ; the Chieftains generally used awnings made of A y i n


m ats Spread on four poles S ince Sieges began to be carried on .

for m ore than 60 days booths of palm branches have com e into ,

use and in later times even these have given wa y t o huts and
,

houses built of swish .

The preserved food used in earlier expeditions consist ed of .

parched beans and a sort of hard bread m ade of beans and corn
,

maize flour c l led A ka r a ku r u


( ) a -
.

B y the rules of warfare p iy e or foragin g wa s permitted The .

I b a d a n s wh o more than an y of the others carried on war operations


, ,

for longer periods and over wider regions were accustom ed to


, ,

cultivate the lands all around their cam ps and in the neighbourhood
whenever a long sie g e wa s anticipated .

WA R T ITL E S A N D M E TH O D S
War titles are of t wo grades senior and j unior but both , ,

are modelled on one and the sam e plan .

S en i or Gr a d e — The B ALO G UN or Comm ander i n Chief com es - -

first with his principal lieutenants the Otun and Os i that is ,

Generals commanding the right and the left wings then the ,

A ipa E k rin E ka r u n and E k efa i e the fourth fift h and sixth


( s ) , e , . .