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Nation of people who are mostly located in the Midwestern part of Nigeria, Western  Africa.


Yoruba and Benin Kingdoms: 

The missing gap of history


Kunle Sowunmi

culled from VANGUARD Thursday, May 20, 2004

The source of Yoruba from Benin is very authentic.

THE statement credited to Oba Erediauwa Omonoba Uku
Akpolokpolo, that the Yoruba race originated from
Benin Kingdom, was very rich in details and calls for
re-examination by historians of high repute from all
the Nigerian Universities and recognised institutions
not from uneducated and bias sources of chambers or
shrines of some Obas or traditional rulers as
presently being envisaged or contemplated. The
statement from Ooni of Ife disputing the fact of Oba
of Benin was not strong enough.

I was fascinated by the different versions of
uncoordinated folk stories we were told about the
origin of the Yoruba.  As a Yoruba man from Abeokuta I
was told Oduduwa was the first man created by God just
like the Bible said Adam and Eve were the first to be
created by God.

The Bible says Cain the only surviving child of Adam
and Eve went to another city called Nod to marry his
wife. The question is who created the wife, the wife's
parents or the family of the in-law if any. Just like
I asked in my innocent mind as a student in the
primary school then who created Oduduwa and how did
Oduduwa marry his wife? My Teacher never told me the
answer.  We were even told Oduduwa was the son of
Lamurudu from far East in Saudi Arabia and that some
of  ourYoruba cousin can be found in Uganda.  Many
conflicting stories which are very difficult to prove
or  binding on history.

These are some of the missing gaps of history.

 Oduduwa had sixteen children we were told and the
eldest was Orangun of Ila and the Egbas in Abeokuta
were descendants of the female child of Oduduwa named
Alaketu. None ever disputed the fact that Oranmiyan
the last born of Oduduwa also ruled the Benin Kingdom.
Why did Benin allowed the last child of Oduduwa to be
made a king over them or his descendants, if there was
no blue blood connection?  Oba of Benin gave a
detailed account of fact of history that are very
difficult to dispute.

The Yoruba share so many things in common with the
Edo's in names and culture, which must be the reason
why it is very difficult to dispute the version of
Omonoba Uku Akpolokpolo

Again, to the Bible, Adam and Eve never told or shown
Cain the only surviving child the Garden of Eden where
God created them, just like Oduduwa never shown the
place and real evidence how he was created by God.
Archeologically, the Yoruba race is not more than 2000
years meaning other tribes existed before the Oduduwa
appearance. None availability of any other serious
fact to negate this lend credibility to Oba Benin's

Two  versions of  history

Both version of History from Oba of Benin and Yoruba
agreed that Oramiyan the last son of Oduduwa returned
to Ife from Benin after he installed his son, Eweka
the first as Oba of Benin.  He met  his father Oduduwa
who was very advanced in age and blind, more also all
properties had been shared and distributed among his
fifteen brothers and sisters. Alternatively, seven
brothers according to Oba of Benin, Oduduwa was at a
dilemma on what to do because he assumed Benin Kingdom
would be enough as Oranmiyan's inheritance. Both
version of history agreed that the name Benin meant
"the land of the annoyed" because Oranmiyan left the
place in annoyance. Again, Oba of Benin was right on

Oduduwa found an easy way out. He gave Oranmiyan his
staff as symbol to show his brothers and sisters to be
able to collect ten percent of revenue derived from
yearly harvest through out Yoruba land. With this,
Oranmiyan was able to collect over 150 percent of all
the returns throughout the uncoordinated kingdom.
Oduduwa also grudgingly agreed to allow his last son
Oranmiyan to be king at Ile Ife after his death. The
reason for this was unknown as this was against the
custom and tradition of giving priority to first child
or son who was Ila of Irangun.  On the other hand,
could it be said that Orangun was too afraid to
challenge his junior brother or Oranmiyan was indeed
the senior? This is something the present Orangun of
Ila should explain.

Oduduwa was primarily a priest and voodoo man. It is
said until today that it is only one day that is free
of ritual worship in Ile Ife and the day is never made
public. Oduduwa took vacation just for one day. In one
of the ritual ceremonies where nobody was allowed to
be seen outside, a foreign woman of no means of
tracing her background was captured and was to be used
as scarifices for the gods. She was later spared
because she was found to be pregnant beside, it was
against ritual requirement. The child from the woman
was dedicated to the gods and act as a servant to
assist Oduduwa in his day-to-day ritual and voodoo
job. The child was named Ooni: meaning "this is Spared

After the death of Oduduwa his son, Oranmiyan was
invited to take over the job of his father, which was
primarily ritual and voodoo, as well as traditional
ruler of Ile Ife. Oranmiyan refused because he had
succeeded in building an economically viable place at
Oyo Ile with administratively sound method of
government around the Oyomesi council in chief and it
would be degrading to leave this and move to Ile Ife
to be involved in  daily ritual sacrifices.

 Oranmiyan gave a condition that he must be buried at
Ife to symbolise his right to Ife thrown. It was on
condition of this that Ooni  the son of the slave
woman that was captured and dedicated to gods that was
assisting Oduduwa continued the work of Oduduwa at
Ife. This is the reason why ALafin of Oyo will never
accept Ooni of Ife as a king or a superior in any
Yoruba gathering of Obas.

Ooni's assumed superiority was a British creation
because the King of England assumed a king at Ife, the
 cradle of Yoruba, must be superior to all Obas just
like the British did in Abeokuta by imposing Alake's
superiority over other Obas at Abeokuta. In case of
Egbas, Sorunke who led the Egbas from Ibadan to the
present Abeokuta was from Oke Ona, where Oba Tejuoso
is the King. This is the reason why there is conflict
between Alake and Osile till date.

Oranmiyan was buried at Ife and not at Oyo, which is
the reason for the Opa Oranyan at Ife till today. Ooni
was not a true son or direct descendant of Oduduwa and
his title was not recognised. Ooni was just his name
which became his title. Ooni like other Yoruba Obas
paid duties to Oranmiyan during and after the death of

 This practice stopped after the Oyo Empire was
destroyed. It is rather difficult to accept the Ooni's
version as against the Omonoba Polopolo.  Oranmiyan
was a belligerent person. A war hero and where his
brothers and sister refused to give the yearly ten
percent duty as agreed with the staff of Oduduwa he
would use force. He later appointed his
representatives in each of the kingdoms of Yoruba to
monitor the returns, thus the creation of Oyo Empire
that led to the end of the kingdom Oduduwa created
which was not properly coordinated. The new empire
grew with amazing rapidity throughout West Africa and
was like the Ghana or Shonghai Empire of the medieval
history in the south of Sahara. Oyo Empire started
slave trade to weaken opposition.

An administration like the British

Oranmiyan's administration was the best in Africa and
could be likened to the British system of
Administration during the colonial government. The
empire expanded up to the present Benin republic.
Those who escaped the control of Alafin are the
Yorubas living in Benin Republic, which was formerly
Dahomey, On the East side, Oranmiyan never bothered
Benin Kingdom because of his son, and his son never
looked for him. At least there was no record of
history of any transaction between father and son.
Benin Kingdom continued to progress and Oyo Empire
continued to expand to the west coast. In Lagos, there
could not be a clash, it was a place of reunion for
Edo's and Yoruba it was said Eko, which is Lagos, and
in our local dialect is a Benin word.

Oyo Empire later suffered from over expansion and some
local hero started to emerge to challenge the
authority of the Oyo kingdom or that of the Alafin of
Oyo. Among them was the Lisabi Agboagbo Akala who
liberated the Egbas from Oyo Empire to create a
fearless Egba Kingdom.

 Lisabi was never a king. In fact, he was murdered by
the Alake of Egbaland because of his popularity. Egbas
as a kingdom with its own National Anthem "Lori Oke
ati Pele" was merged with Nigeria by the British
Empire after 1914. In addition, Lagelu emerged from
Ibadan, Ogendegbe from Ijeshaland and Shou of
Ogbomosho and Ilorin through the deserter Chief of
Army Staff of Oyo who was killed by Alimi a Fulani;
thus, the end of Oyo Empire. The attack from the
Sokoto Caliphate from the North finally nailed the
coffin of the Oyo Empire.The collapse of the Oyo
Empire led to the Yoruba Wars.  The present Oyo town
has nothing to do with Old Oyo town, it was just a new
creation to symbolise the memory of the Old.

The Egbas and Ijebus took over the control of
southwest towards the Atlantics because of lucrative
slave trade and closeness to the white man. The
emergence of western civilisation further weakened the
Old Oyo empire, the empire collapsed and the ruminants
of it can still be found at the old site. The irony of
it is  Alafin of Oyo in the present Oyo town
continued to  live in the memory of his ancestors'
glory of the Old Oyo empire.

In conclusion, Ooni who is not a direct son or
descendants of Oduduwa cannot be considered viable in
this discussion, but Alafin of Oyo must examine his
place in history and that of his senior brother
Orangun of Ila the first son who had disappeared into
history because he never challenged Oranmiyan. The
abdication of the thrown is a loss of right. However,
can a son be greater than his father? or can a river
be greater than its source? The source of Yoruba from
Benin is very authentic than Saudi Arabia or Lamurudu,
which cannot be traced, in Saudi Arabian history.


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