Oduduwa And Yoruba Appropriation

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Written by Osaren Omoregie(Tuesday July 6, 2004) (Last Update June 17, 2021)

First, Oduduwa is not the name of a person and it is not a dynasty. It is the name of a title. It did not originate from Meroe as Professor Jide Osuntokun claimed (New Age 22-06-04). It originated from Uhe where at the peak of Uduwa, the house of God, seat of the Oghene (Ogane as the Portuguese called it); the Oduduwa ruled over the plateau territory of Uheland, which stretched across the Nupe, Igala area of the Niger- Benue confluence expanse, more lately referred to as Central Nigeria. The name Oduduwa did not come from anywhere else except where the word Oduduwa (contracted to Odu’a and meaning the way to Uduwa) was used for the Oghene of then John Afonso D’ Aveiro’s records published by Barros and lately popularized by A.F.C Ryder in his Ife- Benin studies. The details to this effect are well set out, we cannot ‘hijack’ what belongs to Uhe to cover up the historical deficiencies of life.

Second, no one will be attracted to any agenda to hijack Ife history because there is nothing to envy there. Oyo is the place of prominence, which gave the Yoruba the fame it can claim in history. The monarchy of Oyo was founded by Prince Oranmiyan in 1211 Century AD. Oranmiyan was born at Errua, a town on the Uhunmwode route (the eastern route) to Uhe, and was named Omonoyan. He followed his father, Ekaladerhan and his mother Isere to Uhe in 1133 A.D. He grew up there as Oranmiyan. His father Ekaladerhan had abdicated the throne of Benin, following the way Ogiso Owodo, his father, had treated him. At Uhe, Ekaladerhan became a member of the theocratic council under Oduduwa Obaloke, the reigning Oghene of Uhe. After the death of Obaloke, Obalufon became the next Oduduwa and was on the throne till he died in 1198AD.

It was Oduduwa Obalufon who allowed Prince Oranmiyan to be sent to Benin in 117OAD. Ekaladerhan died in 1168AD. Obalufon sent Oranmiyan to Oyo in 1185AD to set up the monarchy whose name became the root of the name adopted for the entire stretch of Yoruba land. According to Professor Ade Obayemi, Ife did not have any identity, which could be envied. It was through the achievements of Oyo that a name was offered for Yoruba people. Ife had nothing to offer.

"In the face of new discovery of obvious affinities, a people who never before had an overall name for themselves adopted the name Yoruba and selected one of the most glorious phases of Ile- Ife cultural history, the Oduduwa Oranmiyan period for purposes of group identity. (JHSN VOL 9/4 June 1979 ‘P. 183) so said Obayemi.

Only Uhe had everything to offer. It was the common center from which Benin people emerged’ as Idu people, and from which Yoruba people emerged also as Olukumi people (See Ajayi and Smith 1964, P. 2.)

Third, Benin monarchy was founded in 900 AD and was ruled by 31 Ogisos before the Oba era started. Ife monarchy was not known until its official Declaration was made in 1800AD by Oba Akengbuda after Eresoyen made public (1750) the new place to which the Staff and Stone Shrine of Oghene was secretly taken soon after 1550AD.

This secret relocation of the Uhe shrine was done to avoid profanations of Odomuornu (Atlantic Slave Trade), which were spreading uncontrolled across the Bight of Benin. It was this relocation of the Oghene’s Shrine that gave Ife a title as a spiritual Center; otherwise it would have remained as the village of Adimu (Iguadima) all through its years of existence. Ife emerged as a product of Odomuomu. Oyo expanded as an empire and made a treaty (the Treaty of Otun) with Benin in 1578AD. Ife (or the new Uhe) was still hiding the Shrine of Oghene.. The local people of Iguadimu refused to recognize the leader as Oduduwa the Oghene. They preferred to call him Ooni (Non-owner) as a guarantee that he had not come to take over their land from them in the name of spiritual protection.

"Ekalederhan and Oranmiyan had nothing to do with Ife. They had much to do with Uhe. Ekaladerhan did not reign as Oduduwa in Uhe as (he died 1168). But Oranmiyan reigned 1199- 1202AD as Oduduwa. As a matter of fact, Benin had nothing to do with Ife, though there was much it did for it to salvage it from the profanations of Odomuomu, when Benin was the imperial lord over all of the Bight of Benin, Guinea, and Rainforest Zone of West African.

Fourth, some time in recent times there arose a battle for supremacy between the Alafin of Oyo and the Ooni of Ife. Ife made the claims that it did not historically have, and it tended to step on, Oyo’s toe. Relief came when the State of Osun was created out of it in 1991. Those of us in the Clifford Eweka Centre for Ubiniology knew the roots of the quarrel. Many of the nearby people put too much of politics ahead of them at the expense of the useful history behind it all.

Fifth, Ife had nothing to do with Yoruba and Benin being cousins. It was Ube that played all the parts. It was there Idu the progenitor of Edo people emerged 550AD, to establish the theocratic monarchy in Uhe and became the first Oduduwa, the Oghene. It was there his younger brother, Olukumi, the progenitor for the Yoruba people succeeded him 599AD and became the second Oduduwa, the Oghene. Between 550AD and 1550AD (when Odomuomu began) a total of 200 monarchs ruled as Oduduwa in Uhe. The last known one, Oduduwa Obasanyo, was on the throne during the Portuguese era and during the time the last royal pilgrimage from Benin was made by Oba Ewuare in 1450AD. Just as Ogiso is not a dynasty and Oba is not a dynasty, so is Oduduwa not a dynasty. They are royal titles. Our children should no longer be confused about this nomenclature.

Sixth, on the British colonial conquest of the kingdoms that made up the bulk of what is now known as Nigeria, it was not only Benin that was affected by the new development. Benin, was most pronounced because it controlled the whole of the Bight of Benin. Ife was insignificant. It would have been strategically unwise for the invaders to turn attention on the minor when the major was healthily around. The blood of Ovonramwen became the source of deliverance for all, including Ife. It is unwise for any person not to appreciate what was achieved through Benin.

Seventh, the aspersions on Omo N’ Oba Erediauwa are clearly uncalled for. It is out of ignorance that such a thing should come out of any person in our time. Erediauwa is the 69 monarch of Benin. He is the 4th of the kings who have enjoyed the benefits of the primogeniture law in Benin. Since the days of Ogiso Oriagba (1050 - 7OAD), the heritage of the monarchy has been unbroken. No one can come out to say that he has no royal blood in him. He claims an ancestry that left behind a name of integrity in the stability and monarchy that ruled with imperial creativity in arts, crafts, commerce, industry and policies. He speaks with the pride of a divinity and ensures that, at every stage, his word is law. The tradition in Uhe was rotational, not by primogeniture. The pattern of the rotational succession continued in Olukumi and which by midstream adoption became Yoruba land. It was only in Benin that progress was made beyond that of the Uhe monarchical succession by introducing the primogeniture system which has become a heritage through 47 reigns so far on the throne. While the Yoruba nations became fragmentary because of uncoordinated political assertions around Ife and even Oyo, the Benin polity is maintained intact under the Benin Monarch. This was part of the secrets of Benin military virility for 1000 years (900- I900AD) prior to the colonial conquest of Nigeria. Since the creation of the Midwest, Benin has begun to evolve new strategies of brotherly care over all its brothers of the Edo speaking bloc. There should be envy about this, it is God given. The Benin monarch is often blessed by his people with the longevity and prosperity prayer of Oba gho to, O kpere. ‘Nobody ever says How is life?

I have tried to use only a 7 point explanation to cast light on the fact that though Uduwa in Uhe was sacked by Odomuomu, the spirit of Oduduwa, founded by the Progenitor of Edo people, should not be misappropriated. It is in the effort to show the indestructibility of that spirit, registered as Erinmwidu, that the Oba of Benin maintains a festival known as Oduduwa Festival every year. It is only in Benin that the prerogative resides for such a festivity.

Omoregie is the President of International Society for the Promotion of Ubiniology (ISPU)

(Source:The Nigerian Observer, Tuesday July 6, 2004)

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