Yoruba is one of the three largest ethnic groups in Nigeria.They are concentrated in the Southwestern part of Nigeria.
The people constitute about 40 million in the West African region and 35 per cent of Nigeria’s population making them one of the largest ethnic groups in Africa according to CIA World Factbook.
The people of this ethnic group were regarded as descendants of a hero called Odua or Oduduwa and they are generally called Yoruba and have Yoruba as their common language though they have several dialects. But do the people who are called by that name really know the origin and the meaning of the word ‘Yoruba’? How did the word ‘Yoruba’ come about?
A member of the race and former Aviation Minister, Chief Femi Fani-Kayode has traced the history behind the name. His discovery stung him. He has therefore rejected to be called ‘Yoruba’, which he discovered to be insulting and derogatory and called on all the descendants of Oduduwa to renounce the name given to them by their historical adversaries.
According to Chief Fani-Kayode in his official Tweeter handle, the Hausa/Fulani gave the people of the South West region the name ‘Yariba’, from which Yoruba was derived, which means “shady and unreliable”.
He said “I reject that strange name and label. I am not a ‘Yariba’ or ‘Yoruba’ but an ‘Omo karo jire or an ‘Oduduwan’ and my language is not ‘Yoruba’ but ‘Anago’. We are what we call ourselves. We are not “shady and unreliable”(Yariba) and we must not accept names given to us by our historical adversaries.
“Any Omo Karo jire or Oduduwan that continues to call himself a ‘Yoruba’ is lost and does not know the implications of what he is doing to his own people. He is simply affirming and confirming an insulting label which has deep sinister, mystical and spiritual connotations.
“The word ‘Yoruba’ did not even exist until the 18th century and even then, most of the tribes of the South West, including the Oyo people rejected it due to its origin and meaning. The word ‘Yoruba’ is alien to our culture and not known in the Anago language. Oduduwans please take note”, he said
Many leaders in the South West region agreed with his submissions but argued that the name has become entrenched and it would be a mere academic exercise to try to change it. Some questioned the source and veracity of his claim and rejected it outright, wondering why he just woke up at this time in our political era to say something like this. To them, his claims cannot be divorced from his political sentiments. To some, however, it is time Yoruba paid attention to it and did the needful.
The claim is mere academic exercise—Chief Sola Ebiseni
In his reaction, a prominent member of the Pan Yoruba Socio- political group, Afenifere and former commissioner in Ondo state, Chief Sola Ebiseni said “it is an interesting statement which is certainly not unlike the former Minister as an undoubtedly Yoruba compatriot.
While some of his assertions have historical veracity, they have really become a mere academic exercise because Yoruba has become so entrenched worldwide as both a national and linguistic identity, especially that the name does no harm to the race with which it is identified. It is true that Yoruba may be relatively new since it is indecipherable from Odu ifa.
Even in many parts of Ondo State today, people still refer to themselves as Ondo, Idanre, Ilaje or Ikale but refer to their brethren from Oyo, Osun and Kwara as Yoruba while Lagos and the riverine Yoruba refer to other Yoruba people as Ara-Oke, that is, people of the upland.
To the best of my knowledge, the Anago tribe and dialect which he recommended is not of general application. In fact, Anago is a tribe territorially stretching from the Yewa area of Ogun state to the Ketu Yoruba of the Republic of Benin. As widely accepted as the father-figure status of Oduduwa is, you still find a good number of Yoruba groups who claim different origins from the Oduduwa narratives. As for the claim that the name had its origin from Hausa traders, we are not hearing that for the first time and not new in historical relationships.Alaafin-of-Oyo
You never can tell how the word Hausa emerged. The same Hausa themselves became a Fulani colony which is in an unprecedented assimilation process which has become part of their existence. Bini is said to be a name given by Oranmiyan which is said, literally, to mean anger. Yet Benin waxed stronger as a dominant sovereign.
Whatever meaning is said to be associated with Yoruba in Hausa language, I am enamored with the beautiful meanings ascribed to it by the Yoruba themselves. I prefer the meaning given Yoruba by Hubert Ogunde in one of his powerful songs: Yoruba yoyo, (shining like light in the night); Yoruba rururu ( roaring like sea waves); Yoruba, baba ni baba nse (Yoruba, leader without blemish).
The earliest people accepted it out of ignorance ——Rt Hon Jumoke Akindele
The first Female Speaker in the Ondo State House of Assembly, Rt Hon Jumoke Akindele said, “the origin of the Yoruba word is too recent to be lost. It is unfortunate that our children have not been given the benefit of history as a compulsory course in our schools. As recently as the 18th Century, there was no word called “Yoruba”. We, as a people were loosely held together by our common source. We identified with each other as brothers and cousins, as children of the same progenitor. We did not have a common name.
It came to be for the first tine in a treaty signed by the then Oyo Kingdom and the Songhai ruling dynasty when they met a brick wall in their conquest campaigns towards the Atlantic. They found us to be smart which they considered as being devious and they also knew that we essentially shared the same source with them, though to them we were no longer of pure blood, hence had become bastards. This wrong perception bred the word “Yariba” (from which the word Yoruba was coined) which of course was largely derogatory.
The earliest people with whom they met might have accepted this because they had not mastered the language of the foreigners at the time. But those who were further south rejected the appellation for a long time and it is on records that the Egbas, Egbados, Ekitis and Ijeshas rejected the appellation vehemently up until as recently as the second half of the 19th Century apparently because the meaning of the word was understood by then. The word Yariba actually meant “shady and unreliable bastards” and to that extent, I wish to align myself with the position of Femi Fani-Kayode to the extent that we must sit down as a people to review what we are called.Yemi Farounbi
It’s high time we rediscovered ourselves——Dr Olajide, Scribe, Yoruba Council of Elders
The Secretary-General of Yoruba Council of Elders, Dr Kunle Olajide said, he has also been feeling uncomfortable about the coinage of the word, Yoruba. According to him, “for a long time I have not been comfortable with the word “Yoruba” because the nomenclature is not self explanatory. Nobody has been able to tell me the meaning of Yoruba. I may not be able to confirm Femi Fani-Kayode’s theory about those who coined the word to describe us but our linguists in the South West must immediately set about finding a new self explanatory word in Omoluabi style to call the descendants of Oduduwa. It is high time we rediscovered ourselves.
For too long, we have continued to live under the shadow of the colonialists. We ought to have in fact changed the name Nigeria, an entirely foreign name which was the creation of Flora Shaw (Lord Lugard’s girlfriend). Until we have the required courage to shed this foreign toga, it is then we can make progress. Unfortunately the Military Constitution with the dysfunctional system of Government we are operating keeps producing mediocre, incompetent leadership class in Nigeria having wrong people in right places.There’s so much hate, drama in Nollywood – Joke Ajadi(Opens in a new browser tab)
Fani-Kayode should be commended for waking us up from our deep slumber. Nigeria remains in the doldrums because we have lacked the courage to get out of the web of conspiracy by the colonialists and their collaborators. Odua citizens must rise up and commence actions to lead Nigeria out of this unfortunate quagmire. Time is running out”, he said.
Why the earliest Hausa/Fulani coined the name ——Aderemi Ajala, Professor of Anthropology
Professor Aderemi Ajala, in his own contribution disclosed that as odd as Fani-Kayode’s position is, it is a fact. He said the term Yoruba has no place in the race lexicon, adding that even Ifa does not make any reference to the race as Yoruba. Ajala added that none of the 256 ifa odus ever mentioned the word yoruba. He however agreed that the term was derived from the word Yariba, which the early Hausa/Fulani that had contact with the people used to describe the race.
He said, “Femi is correct. Up till now, the term Yoruba is not found in Yoruba lexicon. It has no meaning and Ifa does not make reference to it at all in all its odus. Ifa refers to people in a particular geographical area as Eniyan Oyo, (people of Oyo); Eniyan Ife,(People of Ife); Eniyan Egba, (People of Egba); etc. Yoruba came from the term Yariba which the earliest Hausa/Fulani that had contact with Oyo people called the Oyos. Then, they saw Oyo people as very cunning and not straightforward. In Awde’s dictionary of Hausa, Yariba means cunning and deceitful. I stated this clearly in my book published in 2013 titled: “Yoruba Nationalism: Culture, politics and violence in southwestern Nigeria”, 1900- 2013. It was published by Rudigger Koepel, Cologne (Germany)”.
Having been adopted, the name remains—— Chief Akin Fasae
The Chairman Afenifere Ekiti state Chapter, Chief Akin Fasae however said the name has been adopted long ago and will remain so. According to Fasae, “Yoruba is a name that has been adopted long ago by the Yoruba’. That is how we met it and we adopted it as the name of our tribe. Fani-Kayode can pick any name if he wants something contrary. He can go and research and come out with his own name”. Chief Fasae said that the Yoruba’ have other important issues begging for attention rather than dwelling on trivial issue. “The Yoruba people have more important national issues to discuss as a people. That is not our problem”, he said
Fani-Kayode’s assertion is political, unacceptable——Col Dansaaki
Also reacting, a former President of the Yoruba Council of Elders, Col S.A Dansaaki Agbede(retd), faulted Chief Fani-Kayode in his assertion which he described as political and therefore unacceptable. He said, “I don’t know where he got this from. But, I know that Yoruba had been existing before the coming of Usman Dan Fodiyo. May be he doesn’t know the word Yoruba is in the Bible. I will send the portion of the Bible where you can find this later. To be using political connotation in an issue like this is wrong and unacceptable. I admire him for being exuberant on issues, but as for this subject matter, no.”
This is an unnecessary diversion—Yemi Farombi
Also speaking, Chief Yemi Farounbi, a prominent Yoruba leader, expressed skepticism about the genuineness of the claims saying he felt rather uncomfortable with the claims of Femi Fani-Kayode.
He said, “what I gathered from a write-up by Professor Adebanji Akintoye implied that the claims that it was the Fulani that coined “Yoruba” might not be correct and we will be building on a very faulty foundation”. According to Chief Farounbi “It is an unnecessary argument. What we should be trying to achieve is good governance, jobs for our unemployed youths, good education and development. I see it as an unnecessary diversion which we don’t need at this time”.
It is untrue, unreliable history—Chief Mashood Erubami
In his own comments, Comrade Mashood Erubami, the Convener of Voters Assembly and a human right activist, said with the narrative, we are “bringing him to limelight again. He is somebody who should be on sabbatical. He is just being given undue recognition. He is just bringing it up as part of his agenda. He is bringing back untrue and unreliable history. This is not the kind of people that Yoruba want now. We want people who will bring meaningful progress to Yoruba land”.
Yoruba doesn’t exist in Ifa – Elebuibon
A renown traditionalist and the Araba of Osogbo, Chief Ifayemi Elebuibon said prior to contact with the Hausa/Fulani, the race was known as the people of Ife, saying it was unfortunate that the people failed to coin a word to call the race before coming into contact with the Hausas.
According to him, the race was usually referred to as ‘aku’ in the very early stage because of the way the people greeted each other. He agreed that the race was given the name Yariba from which it became Yoruba, saying the earliest leaders of the race failed to have a collective name.Ms Jumoke Akindele: Outgoing Ondo Speaker
Elebuibon added that the race ought to be called the people of Ife, as that was how Ifa referred to the race.
He said, “we are people of Ife, it is rather unfortunate that we didn’t have one word to call all Yoruba before Fulani or Hausa gave us Yariba to become Yoruba. ‘Aku’ is the word they used for us in the beginning because we used to greet each other by saying ‘aku owuro’ (good morning), ‘Aku asaale’ (Good evening), it is ‘aku’ people or ‘anago’ that other Africans referred to us”. He argued that since the people originated from Ile-Ife, the race ought to be known as the people of Ife . “Actually, since the origin of Yoruba was Ile Ife, ‘Eni ‘fe, abi ara Ile Ife loye k’a ma je’, (we ought to be called the people of Ile Ife”), he added.