Wednesday 12 August 2015

Nigerian Kingdoms: Yoruba Kingdom of Ife (700AD - 1960)

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

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

The Yoruba are among the most urbanized people in Africa. For centuries before the arrival of the British colonial administration most Yoruba already lived in well structured urban centers organized around powerful city-states (Ìlú) centered around the residence of the Oba. 

In ancient times, most of these cities were fortresses, with high walls and gates. Yoruba cities have always been among the most populous in Africa. Archaeological findings indicate that Òyó-Ilé or Katunga, capital of the Yoruba empire of Oyo that flourished between the 11th and 19th centuries A.D. had a population of over 100,000 people (the largest single population of any African settlement at that time in history). For a long time also, Ibadan, one of the major Yoruba cities, was the largest city in the whole of Sub Saharan Africa. Today, Lagos (Yorùbá: Èkó), another major Yoruba city, with a population of over Twenty million, remains the largest on the African continent.

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

Pre-Civil War
Between 1100 CE and 1700 CE, the Yoruba Kingdom of Ife experienced a golden age. It was then surpassed by the Oyo Empire as the dominant Yoruba military and political power between 1700 CE and 1900 CE.

Yoruba people are said to feel a deep sense of culture and tradition that unifies and helps identify them. There are 16 established kingdoms that are said to have been descendants of the Oduduwa. There are countless sub-kingdoms and territories that are branches of the original 16 kingdoms.

There are various groups and subgroups in Yorubaland because of the fact that there are many distinct dialects of Yoruba. The government of this diverse people is quite intricate and each group and subgroup vary, but in general government begins at home within one's immediate family. The next level is the clan, or extended family with its own head, Baálé, then the town chiefs, Baálè rule over clans, and these chiefs are subject to their Oba, and this king may also be subject to another Oba.

Civil War
Following a jihad (known as the Fulani War) led by Uthman Dan Fodio (1754–1817) and a rapid consolidation of the Hausa city states of contemporary northern Nigeria, the Fulani Sokoto Caliphate annexed the buffer Nupe Kingdom and began to press southwards towards the Oyo Empire. Shortly after, they overran the Yoruba city of Ilorin and then sacked Ọyọ-Ile, the capital city of the Oyo Empire.

Further attempts by the Sokoto Caliphate to expand southwards were checked by the Yoruba who had rallied to resist under the military leadership of the City State of Ibadan which rose from the old Oyo Empire, and of the Ijebu city-states.

However, the Oyo hegemony had been dealt a mortal blow. The other Yoruba city-states broke free of Oyo dominance, and subsequently became embroiled in a series of internecine war at a particular period when millions of individuals were being forcibly transported to the Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, Brazil, Venezuela and other parts of the World.

European colonization of the Yoruba
These wars weakened the Yoruba in their opposition to what was coming next; British military invasions. The military defeat at Imagbon of Ijebu forces by the British colonial Army in 1882 ensured a tentative European settlement in Lagos which was gradually expanded by protectorate treaties, treaties which proved decisive in the eventual annexation of the rest of Yorubaland and, eventually, of southern Nigeria and the Cameroons. In 1960, greater Yorubaland was subsumed into the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

According to Yoruba historians, by the time the British came to colonize and subjugate Yorubaland first to itself and later to the Fulani of Northern Nigeria, the Yoruba were getting ready to recover from what is popularly known as the Yoruba Civil War. One of the lessons of the internecine Yoruba wars was the opening of Yorubaland to Fulani hegemony whose major interest was the imposition of sultanistic despotism on Old Oyo Ile and present-day Ilorin. The most visible consequence of this was the adding of almost one-fifth of Yorubaland from Offa to Old Oyo to Kabba to the then Northern Nigeria of Lord Frederick Lugard and the subsequent subjugation of this portion of Yorubaland under the control of Fulani feudalism.

The area of the Yoruba people overflows into the Republic of Benin; with an approximation of 50 million people speaking Yoruba worldwide.

The Nigerian component comprises today's Ọyọ, Ọṣun, Ogun, Kwara, Ondo, Ekiti, Lagos as well as parts of Kogi and Edo states. The Beninese portion consists of Ouémé department, Plateau Department, Collines Department, Tchaourou commune of Borgou Department, Ouinhi and Zogbodomey commune of Zou Department, and Kandi commune of Alibori Department. The Togolese portions are the Ogou and Est-Mono prefectures in Plateaux Region, and the Tchamba prefecture in Centrale Region.

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