THE TRUE HISTORY OF YORUBA - Onyeji Nnaji
In the consolidated publication, The Cultural Unity of Black Africa, edited by Diop Anta (an Egyptian), it is established that all the nations of antiquity among black that have the scarified bronze are termed aboriginal. But in hierarchical rating, the Nri is the oldest and proves the core of the African population.
The world was generally peaceful throughout the generations that experienced Eri as the theosophist of Eridu (The Lost City of the Sun). It was easy because the entire earth were absorbed into the one-government of that age because the population of human on earth were not scattered abroad as in the case today. The human population was concentrated in the east and nowhere else. This peace lasted for four thousand years before the departure of Eri. The remnant of the Eridu kingdom did not see any problem until later, at the decay part of the civilization, for while Eri was alive the earth was witnessed no hunger. According to the Igbo Oral Tales, Eri and his wife descended with five tubers of yam through which his generation were sustained. Added to such a magnitude provision was also another food which Eze Nri referred to as Azu Igwe, a manner from heaven in the nature of fish.
A time came when Eri departed (for he was not buried. That is why the Igbo constantly hold to the saying that the deceased has returned home). Before he left, he relinquished his theosophical position to his eldest son, Nri. This was bases on the symbol of his position as the first man, the power which was trusted on a staff. This he handed over to his eldest son, Nri and thereafter he disappeared and was seen no more. Few days after Eri’s departure, the yam that came with him also joined him. The human population on the then earth lamented the departure of Eri and his accompanied yam. The Igbo oral tradition said that Nri, Eri’s eldest son responded to this challenge and set out to settle the problem. According to Metuh remarked as follow:
When Eri died, this food supply ceased. Nri complained to Chukwu, but was told that in order to get food he would have to kill and bury his eldest son and daughter. When Nri objected, Chukwu promised to send Dioka from the sky to carve the ichi or facial cicatrization marks on the foreheads of the two children. After Dioka arrived and cut the ichi on the faces of the two children, Nri cut their throats and buried them in separate graves.
Three native weeks (twelve days) later, shoots appeared from the graves of these two children. From the grave of his son, Nri dug up yam. He cooked and ate it and found it so pleasing that he fell into a sleep so deep that his family thought him dead. When he awoke, he told his astonished family what he had done. The next day, Nri dug up cocoyams from his daughter’s grave, ate them and likewise slept again. This is why yam is called “son of Nri” and the cocoyam called “daughter of Nri”. The first-born son and daughter of Nri are marked to this day with the ichi to commemorate the event (God and Man. 4-5).
In 1911, Northcote Thomas carried out a research on the Ancient Nri kingdom and also related his findings. From the analysis of the above statement, it is apparent that Nri, the first child of Eri went to settle the hunger problem with God. In the words of Northcote, “Cuku (Chukwu) and Eze Nri talked” in a conversational manner. After the conversation, Chukwu, God gave him a piece of yam. All the account, even the several versions of the Yoruba myth of creation said the same thing about the Igbo father or king travelling to meeting God over the problem that befuddled the entire world of the ancient time.
Now, when Nri wanted to embark on the tour to the realm unseen, he handed his theosophical staff over to his younger brother, Odudunwa (the very Yoruba father whom they refer to as Oduduwa) to hold and stand in for him for the main time. By this authority conferred on him, he became a momentary theosophist of the ancient Eridu. Nri departed for the crucial mission. After several days he came back with a solution. The solution was very task demanding that Nri objected to Chukwu’s request in the first place. Later he had to accept to make the sacrifice since it would not involve him directly in the task of inflicting pains on his own children. Dioka had to do this as the artist of his time. Nri presented his eldest son and daughter for the function he consented to in the presence of God. Dioka created scarification marks on the son and the daughter of Nri. Below is example of the face scarification by Dioka.
The children died and were buried in different positions from where Nri harvested the first yam and water yam. When Nri ate the first product of the earth, he fell into a deep sleep for a long time. Above are the images of facial scarification notable of the ancient Nri kingdom. The first is a bronze facial scarification, while the second is a live scarification picture taken by the anthropologist Northcote Thomas in the early twentieth century. This may be taken as the most modern scarification of the princes of Nri kingdom. Every first son of the Eze Nri household wore these facial marks to tell people of his personality even without speaking for himself. Every other African proclivity to this form of facial marks remains a clear indication of such part of Africa having her origin traced to the Nri kingdom where it derived its origin. The picture below is a clear proof of the source of the Yoruba tradition even before the enchantment of Ifa (the body that carries the Yoruba tradition and history) gives his explanation of the Yoruba history.
The idea about the disappearance and reappearance of Nri at this trouble period was misinterpreted by the Yoruba in different versions of their creation story. A version of Yoruba oral tradition insists that Obatala (whom Ifa called the father of the Igbo nation) was saddled with the responsibility to create the world. But while he was still preparing to set off, Oduduwa came down and created the world. There arose a misunderstanding between them. To resolve the matter, God then assigned the role of creating man to Obatala. Ruth Finnegan, in her research on Nigerian oral literature captured this aspect of the nation’s history.
The sky is immense, but grows no grass.
That is what the oracle said to Obatala,
To whom the great God gave the reins of the world.
God of the Igbo, I stretch out my hands.
Give the reins of the world to me (Oral Literature, 195).
Since Obatala was the creator of human, as Ifa intones, it stands to mean that Obatala could be the first to be created by the Oracle who gave him the injunction. He is in this poem addressed as the God (father) of the Igbo. From the assistance of this narrative poem, the relationship between the Yoruba and the Igbo is clear. All these may be too engrossing, but it is not. The issue with understanding the Igbo creation story is that the Igbo see creation as the duty of the almighty God, but delegated to lesser gods. Achebe puts it straight thus:
Since Igbo people did not construct a rigid and closely argued system of thought to explain the universe and the place of man in it, preferring the metaphor of myth and poetry, anyone seeking an insight into their world must seek it along their own way. Some of these ways are folks-tales, proverbs, proper names, rituals and festivals.
The misunderstanding which the version of the Yoruba oral tradition mentioned above stated was wrongly told by the postulators of that same oral tale who would want to lend certain credence to the action of their ancestor, Oduduwa. But Ifa, the mouth piece of the Yoruba land and the entity on whom the entire Yoruba tradition rests on, has a different thing to tell. Ifa clarifies that the activity that succeeded the reappearance of the Igbo father was what led to the war of the God-men; the same war Ifa remarked as the highest war ever fought on the planet earth. According to him, the war was fought “over a reclaim of staff.”
The Yoruba oral tales presented the matter in a manner that attempted to elude certain vital characters by replacing their original names with the activities that led to the war. In the first place, Nri was though explained as the eldest son of their father, but given the name Obatala. Secondly, Odudunwa which expressed the position of the Yoruba father was shrouded to a mere sound of meaningless Oduduwa. The matter which the educated Yoruba writers tried to hide from people’s knowledge is the fact that their father, Odudunwa, was ostracized from his legal/paternal home because of his mischievous act which nearly tore his father’s house apart. Issues concerning the staff which Odudunwa claimed were what the Yoruba writers did not want to let people know about. Why? Gaining understanding into that aspect of their life (which of course is sacrosanct) opens the door to the understanding of the entire deceitful lifestyle of every natural Yoruba man.
When the problem that made Nri to travel was settled, Nri requested for his staff of office from his younger brother who refused to hand the staff over to the rightful bearer. This was where the name Obatala came from. Obatala explains a prior intended action targeted at a particular time. In this case, the time was when the travelled man would return. As the interim theosophist, Odudunwa would want to hold to his position. Therefore, he was advised by Idu (the Oba of the ancient city of the sun) that his brother should be gone as their father, Eri. Should he return as promised he should not give the staff to him. Odudunwa accepted this suggestion because it met the desire of his hearth. When Nri returned, the assertive expression that showed that he had arrived was thus Obatala, which later became the appellation held by the Oduduwas for Nri’s name. As he refused to hand the staff over, there was a war between them. The gods took sides, as the Yoruba versions of creation story tell us.
Obatala and Oduduwa quarreled and all the other Gods took sides. In the end, Olorun settled the dispute by giving Obatala the power to create mankind. Oduduwa was allowed to rule the land that he had created. Oduduwa became the first Yoruba king, ruler of the ancient city of Ile-Ife, the place where he was first believed to have climbed down from the sky.
While the fight continued among the gods, God had to settle it by returning the staff to the rightful bearer, while Odudunwa who could not bear the shame of his action left the city and settled in the western part of the land. Nri could not bear the unexpected action by his brother. Out of annoyance, he placed a curse on him thus, as a helpless follow depends on people for survival, you will prosper only through what you acquired from others. Therefore, he called his linage Yoru-Baa, translated as beg-and-prosper. From that day till date, the Yoruba life had been that way. They are never reliable and every of the citizens see Igbo as his fatal enemy.
The punishment did not end with Odudunwa (otherwise called Oduduwa), it also included the architect of the incidence, Idu. Oduduwa left alongside his cohort, Idu. Idu settled in the middle between east and west, while Oduduwa lived in the west. Idu was the father of the present day Edo (Benin City) and others that descended from them. This was the genesis of the spread of the African nations in the ancient time. Idu went to the mid-west and established his kingdom of Oba which was his position in the Eridu City. His new home was called after his name, Idu just as the abandoned kingdom was called after Nri; the name of Oduduwa’s elder brother. Only Oduduwa lost his name as a city. Rather than Ife retaining his name, it was called after Oduduwa’s cursed word, YORUBA. Therefore, for establishing the Oba title as a structured kingship reign, the Igbo refer to the Idu city as the City of Kings, for the Igbo were people without king. He was the first Oba of Benin, for he retained his office as he left the lost city of the sun. Because of his departure, the inhabitants of Umudiala (the Igbo heartland) lost their position in the Theosophism. From that day and hitherto, the seat of the Oba in Nri kingdom had been vacant: nobody had occupied the seat till date. It was revealed in various early researches on Benin kingdom that the Oba of Benin were formally crowned ritualistically (not ceremoniously) by the Eze Nri. That was the only time the seat of the Oba was occupied in Nri kingdom, for the coronet seats on it during the ritualistic invocations by the Eze Nri. It was discovered that Oba Iweka I (Eweka) was the last Oba of Benin to pay such homage to the ancestral kingdom, Nri. Iweka I was the Oba who carried out the latest reform on the nature of the Oba dynastic tradition which has lived till this day.
The role of Nri as the foundation ground of African Theosophism positioned the kingdom properly as the maker of the kings of other nations with kings. In 1906 for instance, Major A. G. Leonard wrote in his book, The lower Niger and its Tribes, that “the reverence in which the Nri were held throughout Igboland, the fact that they were widely known as ‘King-makers’ and enjoyed the sole right of removing ritual pollution in Igbo land”. As king-makers,
The street of the Nri family is the street of the gods, through which all who die in other parts of Igbo land pass to the land of spirits. One may now know and that it is probably through the corridors of Nri history that the Igbo will come to occupy their proper place in the majestic story of the rise of Negro civilization.
This pact of spiritual or ritual lordship of the Eze Nri was discussed by many researchers. Lawton, for instance, made the following remark:
A marked feature of this (Nri) tribe is its hostility to the European, natural enough, when it is remembered that prior to the British, the Obalike was Eze Nri and crowned the kings of Benin and presided over all the religious observation of surrounding peoples.
People found it very difficult to understand the Igbo story of humanity and his dispersal. One of the reasons is deeply encased in the language spoken by the Igbo themselves, which is Igbo. Igbo language, as revealed by Nnaji in the linguistically analytical paper, “Evolution of Human Tongues: Mother Tongue as Route to the Trace of Human Historical Genesis”, published in the Linguistic Journals by Nnamdi Azukiwe University Awka, is a nature language. And as such, the language is not conditioned to giving any direct reference; instead it fuses within itself a colossus of information, messages and meanings directly involving nature. In order words, one cannot understand the story of the Igbo by the Igbo without understanding the nature of her surrounding and the situation that gave birth to what the language addresses at any given time. Even the Igbo themselves need this knowledge. It is clear in Achebe’s words thus:
Anyone seeking an insight into their (the Igbo) world must seek it along their own way. Some of these ways are folks-tales, proverbs, proper names, rituals and festivals (highlights are mine).
In my research on the Igbo history and neighbours, one of the elders told me that the Igbo history cannot be completely documented without oral tales. To assist me in my research, he advised that I should ask for the original, real or first name given to any people or things. According to him, the first name gives information on the origin and purpose of the existence of such a people or thing. The same is what Achebe refers to as “proper name” here. It proves true in the history of Oduduwa here and that of the popular Benin. Several scholars that had given attention to the Oba kingship of Benin had said that the name of their ancestral home is Idu, the same also was the name of Benin’s progenitor according to the Igbo who did not call them any other name but Idu. Afigbo also clarified thus:
In other words I am suggesting that a study of Igbo- Benin relations should not continue to be conceived narrowly as the impact of the Benin Empire on the West Niger Igbo. The impact of Igbo culture on Benin is the other side of that equation and till date it has been neglected. Yet there are suggestions in some surviving traditions of Benin’s contact with Nri, the heartland of Igbo culture, which at one time would appear to have been ahead of Benin in the race for the evolution of advanced civilization in these parts. True, Nri’s influence was ritual and artistic, informal and quiet - that is unaccompanied by the rolling of martial drums. Furthermore, it is known that Benin was aware of the existence of Arochukwu as a center of dreaded occult powers and wide- ranging commerce.
In another part of this same work, he continued to write thus:
If, as has been suggested, Nri theocratic sway could be identified with the culture whose material symbols Shaw recovered in his Igbo-Ukwu excavations, then that factor must be dated to between the 9th and 11th century A.D. or indeed earlier. In that case, Nri influence would be much older than the political and military hegemony centered around Benin and Idah. It may indeed have contributed something to their rise. There are suggestions of this in the tradition, found not only amongst the Nri but also amongst the Bini and the Igala that Nri ritual priests had important parts to play in ceremonies connected with the coronation of the Oba of Benin. Both Jeffreys and Lawton, administrative officers, unearthed evidence to this effect. Thus, it would appear, Nri activities linked much of Igbo-land with the West Niger region up to Benin, and with the region occupied by the Igala and perhaps it also linked Igbo land with Idoma land. Many of these links survived, at least, until the 1930s and may still be there in form of the activities of Nri and related traditional medicine man (highlights are mine).
We have drawn references from the Yoruba oral tradition to prove that even the Yoruba understand their position in the eldership of the African patriarchy, even though they seem to neglect it. The Edo, Benin, case is not eluding, for from the attempts of different researchers, be him Westerner of African and the Benin herself has found laudable proof of her patriarchy. In the work, Evolution of the Black Race and the Babelic Tales, we observe how this little war had contributed in founding other nations in Africa.
Having gone through your Write-up. It will suffice me to say that the story is not true...I will not use the same degrading words / statements being meted to Oduduwa the way you slew him with degenerating words & statements because we are not children of Insult, we are not brought up that way. However, I will forget to tell you the fact, that all what you've written about Oduduwa- the Father of Yoruba are fallacy - pure lies and fabrications. I would like to ask you a question since you've asserted that Obatala is the god-men which is referred to as (Nri) in your Oral tradition. What is the meaning of Obatala because you did not tell us the meaning? I await your answer. Thank you for sharing.ReplyDelete
Dear Oluwatosin, it is very interesting to read your comment on the interlacing familial issues concerning Igbo and Yoruba. The story may appear untrue to you because you may not have taken time to carry out inquiry into the Yoruba theology. Ifa is the mouthpiece of the Yoruba tradition as well as Eze Nri remains the Igbo's. If you dispute what he had said about your people then you are as well as telling us that the cosmological concept that rests the Yoruba tradition on the Ife is false. Again, to dispute this ancient concept, then you will be required to provide us with another version of the Yoruba story that indefatigably nullifies the version of the Yoruba mythology that claims that Obatala is the god of the Igbo race; just as Oduduwa is a god-man. I also believe that the Yoruba elders who supplied Professor Ruth Finnegan with the information she published in Oral Literature in Africa (p.195) which also reiterated the same concept had told her lies.Besides, you did not supply us with the meaning of Oduduwa contrary to my suggestion of "Odudunwa" in Igbo. Moreso, the most widely known Yoruba myth presents Oduduwa as the youngest of the gods, and younger than Obatala. researches: both oral and written will clarify you about all these.Delete
Now, on the meaning of "Obatala". Referring Obatala to the Igbo myth by all the ancient sources directly shows that he was Igbo and had the meaning of his name buried into the Igbo culture. Obatala in Igbo is "O batala", meaning, "He/she has arrived". This meaning explains the rile that threw the ancient fathers apart. Had Omoreghie not written the Great Benin series, we would not know that there had been a theological relationship between the Igbo and Benin. Read Major A. G. Leonard's book,The Lower Niger and its Tribes,you will be surprised about this theological relationship.
Thanks for your painstaking observations.
Pathetic ! Igbos and fabrications , they fabricate other people’s products and have taken it a step further by fabricating and twisting Yoruba history to showcase their hate for Yorubas as depicted in this write up. The writer tagged Yorubas beg to prosper, and deceitful wow! Anyways, Jacob used same deceit to take Esau’s birthright maybe we got that from our ancestors, I wouldn’t want to insult or dent the persona of th igbos just as the writer did, I want to be a good example of my proud tribe and will not display disregard for igbos because as Omo Oduduwa , I am well cultured. Igbos should learn to be in their own space and desist from being mischief makers and thorn under the flesh of everyone around them, they have been left alone for so long , no one wants to associate or identify with them, even the Benin’s ( Edo, Togo, Ga ) identifies with Yorubas more than Igbos, if Igbos are seeking attention and empathy there are better ways to go about it than spewing hate speeches which depicts abject hate that has bitten deep into their fabrics for no reason, the writer call yorubas deceitful and the Igbos are know to have a landslide record of 419 activities and scam of all tribes in Nigeria. Igbos should learn to know their place and desist from creating enemies in their own minds, Yorubas have never held any form of resentment against this people yet they come at us with 2 guns blazing.ReplyDelete
They live in our lands for so long and now they claim Lagos is no man’s land. They call us cowards when there’s so much proof and evidence that they have displayed more cowardice acts when Yorubas displayed acts of bravery.
In the history of Nigeria, only two men have returned to Nigeria to face almost certain death even when they had the option of a very comfortable political asylum abroad. Both of them are Yoruba.
In the history of Nigeria , only two men have returned to Nigeria to face almost certain death even when they had the option of a very comfortable political asylum abroad. Both of them are Yoruba.
“In 1985, General Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida toppled the Buhari regime while Major General Tunde Idiagbon (mixed Yoruba/Fulani) was at Mecca yet Idiagbon returned. In 1995, Olusegun Obasanjo (pure Owu Yoruba) was accused of planning a coup by the blood thirsty tyrant, Abacha while he was away in Copenhagen. He returned to face almost certain death. Obasanjo was jailed while Idiagbon was killed. But their actions till today depicts pure bravery.
Now let’s go to the igbo leaders, Nnamdi Kanu fled to U.K after his rant about Biafra, Azikiwe defected to the federal side during the civil war which Awolowo ( A Yoruba leader in same module as Azikiwe but not a coward) will never do, Ojukwu ( A man I still admire till date) fled. Awolowo was imprisoned because of his people and would have been released if he had compromised. Igbos have a way of making Yorubas take the face and place of igbos misbehaviours and I believe all these stems from the laid back attitude of Yorubas who are naturally slow to react after all, giants don’t move till its provoked.
Igbos should learn to know their place and deal with their issues themselves without having to drag anyone’s name in the mud. We are two separate entities , yorubas are not boastful and barbaric, we are silent achievers and I can prove how we have surpassed igbos in many areas even though tagged beg to prosper by the writer.
I reserve further comments.
Dear Abiola, your comment is a clear indication that you are vast in your research; but I am afraid that your sources might have been guarded by sentiment. For instance, you appear to mean that Awolowo was imprisoned because of Ojukwu. If that is really what you mean, dear, I don’t think any text supports this idea. From my reading of Inside Nigerian History, page 43 reveals that Awolowo was imprisoned because of the 1962 failed coup led by him. No Igbo person was involved in the issue that led to Awo’s imprisonment. Of course, Ojukwu became involved in this aspect of Awo’s story because, when the government of the then south east fell on his shoulder – after the 1966, military coup led by General Kaduna Nzogwu, the country was in chaos – Ojukwu went to the Calabar prison and released Awolowo against the wish of General Gowon. I would like you to research on this and feed us back with the sources that support your claim, if there is any. If you are among the people angered by the portrayal of Awolowo in Achebe’s There Was a Country, then you should have pointed that very blank. My advice to those who claimed they are deconstructing Achebe by singling Awolowo to conclude that Achebe had said what he did or did not say, is that they should understand the serial discussion of the same character by Achebe before they can actually deconstruct. Of course, if you are emotional, the fact that one is educated is that he is also emotional intelligent. You must not insult another before you can make your points known.Delete
Over your general claim of this work maligning the Yoruba race, I wish to tell you that it was not intended; perhaps you approached the work with a bellicose mind. See, history is history and can never be separated from real life stories told through mouths which must have certain evidence on the bearers’ culture, language, myths and other facets of life obtainable within the setting of the people. What I have written here is the history of the Igbo-Yoruba consanguinity as they had existed in time memorial. The truism in any oral tradition and myth lies on its ability to tell stories that connects the inheritors to others settling or who had settled around them. This is one remarkable feature of African oral traditions continentally. Just like Diop Anta, the Egyptian Author of African Origin of Civilization: Myth or Reality states,
No matter where we collect legend on the genesis of the Black African people, those who still remember their origins say they came from the east and their forbearers found pygmies in the country. Dagon and the Yoruba legends report that they came from the east (p.179).
Olumide Lukas, the oldest Yoruba history author, moved me to research when I read his book and heard him stating that the Yoruba had migrated from ancient Egypt. It would be in your interest to hear that Lukas rather presented an upside-down flow of the history ladder. For according to history, Yoruba rather contributed in the peopling of ancient Egypt, not the other way round. I have only interpreted the term “Yoruba” using the Igbo language. Your part here, as one who pledges allegiance for the honorable tribe of yours, is to tell us what Yoruba means in your own language. You did not do this, neither have you been able to ascertain the characters involved in what Ifa refers to as the “War of the Gods”. I would like you to do this; use that time you have proposed to insult others to do the work of a scholar. Post it here as your reply that counters what has been said here; I shall be glad to read it and find out your proofs in your cited sources. Criticism is for literature, not history; history is fact based and source dependent. Meanwhile, I gladly appreciate your comments for it shows me your animosity for the Igbo race, even without the intention to exonerate you hallowed race.
I immediately knew this writer was Igbo the moment he said Yoru-baa means beg to survive, why are you Igbos so mischievous? Why write a long article based of lies and fabrications? First of all, the appellation YORUBA was created nothing less that 200 years ago, Bishop Samuel Ajayi Crowther a Yoruba man who codified Igbo Language and provided Igbo with their first crop ( Cassava sticks) gotten from Yoruba land by Portuguese which was the first thing Igbos planted because they were hunter gatherers in ancient times. Samuel Ajayi Crowther gave Yorubas the name YORUBA.
Not what the writer put up there. Yorubas were known as Ervehs, later changed to Eyeo, later changed Eveo, later to Anago, Later Yoruba .
Igbos have immensely used social media for smear campaign against Yorubas and never will never point out their misdeeds in any way shape or form. This writer should do something better with his time !
For the reply to this detraction, go to the write-up on the topic: The True Source and Meaning of "Yoruba". Thanks for your criticism as it had helped us to dig more about the all-concerned topic, Yoruba.Delete
From our findings it is apparent that the Yoruba do not know the source of their appellation, nor do they know the meaning.