Yorubaland (Yoruba: Ilẹ̀ Káàárọ̀-Oòjíire) is the homeland and cultural region of the Yoruba people in West Africa. It spans the modern-day countries of Nigeria, Togo and Benin, and covers a total land area of 142,114 km2 (54,871 sq mi). Of this land area, 106,016 km2 (74.6%) lies within Nigeria, 18.9% in Benin, and the remaining 6.5% is in Togo. Prior to European colonization, a portion of this area was known as Yoruba country. The geo-cultural space contains an estimated 55 million people, the majority of this population being ethnic Yoruba.

Ilẹ̀ Káàárọ̀-Oòjíire
Southwest & part of North Central Nigeria, Southeast & Central Benin, East-Central Togo
Cultural region
Ilẹ̀ Oòduà
Yorubaland Cultural Area of West Africa
Location of Yorubaland (green)

in West Africa (white)

Part of Benin
Earliest dated Ifẹ̀ artefact500 BC
- Ifẹ Empire11th century
- Oyo Empire1300
- British Colony1862
- French Colony1872
- Dahomey (Now Benin)1904
- Nigeria1914
Founded byProto-Yoruba and Proto-Edekiri speaking peoples
Regional capitalÌbàdàn (Political)
Ilé-Ifẹ̀ (Cultural/Spiritual)
Èkó (Economic)
Former seatỌ̀yọ́-Ilé (Old capital of the Oyo Empire)
Composed of
 • TypeMonarchies
Ọba (King)
Ògbóni (Legislature)
Olóye (Chiefs)
Balógun (Generalissimo)
Baálẹ̀ (Village/Regional heads in Western Yorubaland)
Ọlọ́jà (Village/Regional heads in Eastern Yorubaland)
 • Total181,300 km2 (70,000 sq mi)
Highest elevation
1,055 m (3,461 ft)
Lowest elevation
−0.2 m (−0.7 ft)
 (2015 estimate)
 • Total~ 55 million
 • Density387/km2 (1,000/sq mi)
 In Nigeria, Benin and Togo
 • LanguageYoruba, Yoruboid languages
 • ReligionChristianity, Islam, Ìṣẹ̀ṣè
Time zoneWAT (Nigeria, Benin), GMT (Togo)
PeopleỌmọ Yorùbá
LanguageÈdè Yorùbá
CountryDemocratic Republic of the Yoruba

Geography edit

Hill forest near Ikogosi
A hill lake near Ikole, Ekiti

Geo-physically, Yorubaland spreads north from the Gulf of Guinea and west from the Niger River into Benin and Togo. In the northern section, Yorubaland begins in the suburbs just west of Lokoja and continues unbroken up to the Ogooué River tributary of the Mono River in Togo, a distance of around 610 km. In the south, it begins in an area just west of the Benin and Osse (Ovia) river occupied by the Ilaje Yorubas and continues uninterrupted up to Porto Novo, a total distance of about 280 km as the crow flies. West of Porto Novo Gbe speakers begin to predominate. The northern section is thus more expansive than the southern coastal section.

The granite outcrops at Idanre, the tallest geographical feature in the western half of Nigeria

The land is characterized by mangrove forests, estuaries and coastal plains in the south, which rise steadily northwards into rolling hills and a jagged highland region in the interior, commonly known as the Yorubaland plateau or Western upland. The highlands are pronounced in the Ekiti area of the region, especially around the Effon ridge and the Okemesi fold belt, which have heights in excess of 732 m (2,400 ft) and are characterized by numerous waterfalls and springs such as Olumirin waterfall, Arinta waterfall, and Effon waterfall.[1][2] The highest elevation is found at the Idanre Inselberg Hills, which have heights in excess of 1,050 metres (3,440 ft). In general, the landscape of the interior is made up of undulating terrain with occasional inselbergs jutting out dramatically from the surrounding expanse. Some include: Okeagbe hills: 790m, Olosunta in Ikere Ekiti: 690m, Saki and Igbeti hills.

Rivers edit

View of The Ogun River

With coastal plains, southern lowlands, and interior highlands, Yorubaland has several large rivers and streams that crisscross the terrain.[1] These rivers flow in two general directions within the Yoruba country; southwards into the lagoons, estuaries and creeks which empty into the Atlantic Ocean, and northwards into the Niger river. Some southward flowing rivers include; The Osun and Shasha rivers which empty into the Lekki Lagoon, the Ogun River and its major tributaries; the Oyan and Ofiki which empties into the Lagos Lagoon, the upper Mono River, Oba River, Erinle River, Yewa River which discharges into the Badagry creek, Okpara River which forms part of the Nigeria-Benin border before fully re-entering Benin to join the Ouémé River (Ofe in Yoruba) which drains into Lake Nokoué and the Porto-Novo creek. On the eastern flank, the Owena (Siluko), Ofosu and Ose rivers empty into the Benin river creek. Those which flow in a northerly direction into the Niger include the Moshi river, Oyun, Oshin, Awun, Asa, Ero and Oyi.[3]

Subnational divisions edit

The Nigerian part of Yorubaland comprises today's Ọyọ, Ọṣun, Ogun, Kwara, Ondo, Ekiti, Lagos as well as parts of Kogi.[1] The Beninese portion consists of Ouémé Department, Plateau Department, Collines Department, Tchaourou commune of Borgou Department, Bassila commune of Donga Department, Ouinhi and Zogbodomey commune of Zou Department, and Kandi commune of Alibori Department. The Togolese portions are the Ogou, Anié and Est-Mono prefectures in Plateaux Region, and the Tchamba prefecture in Centrale Region.

Vegetation and climate edit

Coastline near Badagry
Interior of central Yorubaland in the wet season

The climate of Yorubaland varies from north to south. The southern, central and eastern portions of the territory is tropical high forest, known as the Yoruba lowland forests ecoregion.[4] The characteristic vegetation is verdant closed-canopy forests composed of many varieties of hardwood trees including Milicia excelsa which is more commonly known locally as iroko, Antiaris africana, Terminalia superba which is known locally as afara, Entandrophragma or sapele, Lophira alata, Triplochiton scleroxylon (or obeche), Khaya grandifoliola (or African mahogany), Symphonia globulifera, and numerous other species. Some non-native species such as Tectona grandis (teak) and Gmelina arborea (pulp wood) have been introduced into the ecosystem and are being extensively grown in several large forest plantations.

The coastal section of this area features an area covered by swamp flats and dominated by such plants as mangroves and other stilt plants as well as palms, ferns and coconut trees on the beaches. This portion includes most of Ondo, Ekiti, Ogun, Osun, Lagos states and is characterised by generally high levels of precipitation defined by a double maxima (peak period); March–July and September–November. Annual rainfall in Ijebu Ode in the middle of Ogun state, for example, averages 2,020 millimetres or 80 inches.[5] The area is the center of thriving cocoa, natural rubber, kola nut and oil palm production industry, as well as lucrative logging. Ondo, Ekiti and Osun states are the leading producers of cocoa in Nigeria,[6][7] while the southern portions of Ogun and Ondo states (Odigbo, Okitipupa and Irele) play host to large plantations of oil palm and rubber.

The northern and western portions of the region is characterized by tropical woodland savanna climate (Aw), with a single rainfall maxima. This area covers the northern two-thirds of Oyo, northwestern Ogun, Kwara, Kogi, Collines (Benin), northern half of Plateau department (Benin) and central Togo. It is part of the Guinean forest–savanna mosaic ecoregion, a transitional zone between West Africa's coastal forests and interior savannas.[8] Part of this region is derived savanna which was once covered in forest but has lost tree cover due to agricultural and other pressures on land. Annual rainfall here hovers between 1,100 and 1,500 millimetres (43 and 59 in). Annual precipitation in Ilorin for example is 1,220 millimetres or 48.03 inches.[9] Tree species here include the Blighia sapida more commonly known as ackee in English and ishin in Yoruba, and Parkia biglobosa which is the locust bean tree used in making iru or ogiri, a local cooking condiment.

The monsoon (rainy period) in both climatic zones is followed by a drier season characterized by northwest trade winds that bring the harmattan (cold dust-laden windstorms) that blow from the Sahara. They normally affect all areas except a small portion of the southern coast. Nonetheless, it has been reported that the harmattan has reached as far as Lagos in some years.

Major cities/towns edit

Largest cities or towns in Yorubaland
2016–2018 Estimates[10][11]
Rank Region Municipal pop. Rank Region Municipal pop.
Èkó (Metropolis)
1 Èkó (Metropolis) Lagos State 23,437,435[a] 11 Ọ̀yọ́ Oyo State 602,000[b]  
2 Ìbàdàn Oyo State 3,675,000[c] 12 Gbágli Lagos State 555,162[d]
3 Ìlọrin Kwara State 1,120,000[e] 13 Adó Èkìtì Ekiti State 465,000[f]
4 Ìkòròdú Lagos State 1,005,551[g] 14 Ògbómọ̀ṣọ́ Oyo State 420,400[h]
5 Òṣogbo (Conurbation) Osun State 820,000[i] 15 Òde Oǹdó Ondo State 390,000[j]
6 Abẹ́òkúta Ogun State 777,000[k] 16 Ìkirè-Apọ̀mù Osun State 337,200[l]
7 Ifọ̀-Àkútè-Ìjòkó (Conurbation) Ogun State 750,000[m] 17 Ìṣàgámù Ogun State 325,000[n]
8 Ọ̀tà Ogun State 733,400 [o] 18 Ìkìrun-Ìrágbìjí Osun State 323,900[p]
9 Ilé-Ifẹ̀ Osun State 701,100[q] 19 Ọ̀ghọ̀ Ondo State 300,000[r]
10 Àkúrẹ́ Ondo State 662,800[s] 20 Iléṣà Osun State 292,300 [t]

Administrative divisions edit

A section of the Efon ridge, part of the Okemesi fold belt
Asejire reservoir on the Osun river
Olumirin Waterfall at Erin-Ijesha
Country |   Nigeria
State Area (km2) Regional capital Largest city 2nd largest city
Ekiti State 6,353 Ado Ekiti Ado Ekiti Ikere-Ekiti
Kogi State 9,351 Lokoja Kabba Isanlu, Egbe
Kwara State 17,000 Ilorin Ilorin Offa
Lagos State 3,345 Ikeja Alimosho Ikorodu
Ogun State 16,762 Abeokuta Otta-Ijoko-Ifo Abeokuta
Ondo State 15,500 Akure Akure Ondo, okitipupa
Osun State 9,251 Osogbo Osogbo Ile-Ife, Ilesha
Oyo State 28,454 Ibadan Ibadan Oyo, Ogbomoso
Area = 106,016 km2
Country |   Benin
Department Area (km2) Regional capital Largest city 2nd largest city
Borgu (Shaworo) 5,000 ____ Shaworo Kpakpanin
Collines 12,440 Igbo Idaasha Shabe Idaasha
Donga (Bassila) 5,661 ____ Bassila Manigri
Plateau 3,264 Sakete Pobe Ketu, Sakete
Weme 500 Porto Novo Porto Novo Adjarra
Area ≈ 26,865 km2
Country |   Togo
Region Area (km2) Regional capital Largest city 2nd largest city
Central (Chamba) 2,900 ____ Kaboli Alejo, Goubi
Plateaux 6,482 Atakpame Atakpame Anié, Morita
Area ≈ 9,233 km2
Yorubaland Area ≈ 142,114 km2

Prehistory and oral tradition edit

Settlement edit

Oduduwa is regarded as the legendary progenitor of the Yoruba, and almost every Yoruba settlement traces its origin to princes of Ile-Ife in Osun State, Nigeria. As such, Ife can be regarded as the cultural and spiritual homeland of the Yoruba nation, both within and outside Nigeria. According to an Oyo account, Oduduwa was a Yoruba emissary; said to have come from the east, sometimes understood by some sources as the "vicinity" true east on the cardinal points, but more likely signifying the region of the Ekiti and Okun sub-communities in Yorubaland, Nigeria.[12] On the other hand, linguistic evidence seems to corroborate the fact that the eastern half of Yorubaland was settled at an earlier time in history than the western regions, as the Northwest and Southwest Yoruba dialects show more linguistic innovations than their central and eastern counterparts.[citation needed]

Pre-Civil War edit

Between 1100 and 1400, the Yoruba Kingdom of Ife experienced a golden age, part of which was a sort of artistic and ideological renaissance.[citation needed] It was then surpassed by the Oyo Empire as the dominant Yoruba military and political power between 1700 and 1900. Yoruba people generally feel a deep sense of culture and tradition that unifies and helps identify them.[citation needed] There are sixteen established kingdoms, states that are said to have been descendants of Oduduwa himself. The other sub-kingdoms and chiefdoms that exist are second order branches of the original sixteen kingdoms.[citation needed]

There are various groups and subgroups in Yorubaland based on the many distinct dialects of the Yoruba language, which although all mutually intelligible, have peculiar differences. The governments of these diverse people are quite intricate and each group and subgroup varies in their pattern of governance. In general, government begins at home with the immediate family. The next level is the extended family with its own head, an Olori-Ebi. A collection of distantly related extended families makes up a town. The individual chiefs that serve the towns as corporate entities, called Olóyès, are subject to the Baálès that rule over them. A collection of distantly related towns makes up a clan. A separate group of Oloyes are subject to the Oba that rules over an individual clan, and this Oba may himself be subject to another Oba, depending on the grade of the Obaship.[citation needed]

In this, government begins at home. The father of the family is considered the "head" and his first wife is the mother of the house. If her husband chooses to marry another wife, that wife must show proper respect to the first wife even if the first wife is chronologically younger. Children are taught to have respect for all those who are older than they are. This includes their parents, aunts, uncles, elder siblings, and cousins who they deal with every day. ... Any adult presumably has as much authority over a child as the child's parents do. All members of a particular clan live in the same compound and share family resources, rights, and possessions such as land

— Bascum 1969[13]

History edit

Ile Oòdua

Government edit

Ife was surpassed by the Oyo Empire as the dominant Yoruba military and political power between the year 1600 and 1800. The nearby kingdom of Benin was also a powerful force between 1300 and 1850. Most of the city states were controlled by Obas, priestly monarchs, and councils made up of Oloyes, recognised leaders of royal, noble and, often, even common descent, who joined them in ruling over the kingdoms through a series of guilds and sects. Different states saw differing ratios of power between the kingship and the chiefs' council. Some, such as Oyo, had powerful, autocratic monarchs with almost total control, while in others such as the Ijebu city-states, the senatorial councils were supreme and the Ọba served as something of a figurehead. In all cases, however, Yoruba monarchs were subject to the continuing approval of their constituents as a matter of policy, and could be easily compelled to abdicate for demonstrating dictatorial tendencies or incompetence. The order to vacate the throne was usually communicated through an aroko or symbolic message, which usually took the form of parrot eggs delivered in a covered calabash bowl by the Basorun the head of Oyomesi (the lawmakers) after Judgements from the Ogbonis which were in the judiciary wing. In most cases, the message would compel the Oba to take his own life, which he was bound by oath to do.

Civil War edit

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 wars, a period when millions of individuals were forcibly transported to the Americas and the Caribbean, eventually ending up in such countries as the Bahamas, Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, Brazil, Haiti and Venezuela, the United States, among others.

British colonization of Yorubaland edit

During the 19th century, the British Empire gradually colonized Yorubaland. In 1892, the British declared war on the Ijebu Kingdom in response to its barriers on trade. The British emerged victorious in the conflict and occupied the Ijebu capital.[14] After British colonization, the capital served as an administrative center for colonial officials as the kingdom was annexed to the colony of Southern Nigeria. The colony was gradually expanded by protectorate treaties. These treaties proved decisive in the eventual annexation of the rest of Yorubaland and, eventually, of southern Nigeria and the Cameroons.[citation needed]

In 1960, greater Yorubaland was subsumed into the Federal Republic of Nigeria.[15]

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.[16]

See also edit

Notes edit

  1. ^ Metropolitan Lagos comprises 16 of Lagos State's 20 LGA, which excludes: Badagry, Epe, Ibeju-Lekki and Ikorodu
  2. ^ Comprising Oyo East, Oyo West and Atiba LGAs
  3. ^ Summing the 11 LGAs of Ibadan Metro
  4. ^ The Badagry Local Government Area
  5. ^ Ilorin consists of 3 LGAs, namely: Ilorin East, Ilorin South & Ilorin West but has grown suburbs into parts of Asa
  6. ^ Population based on the Ado Local Government Area of Ekiti State
  7. ^ Ikorodu Local Government Area, 2018 LASG Estimate
  8. ^ Comprises Ogbomosho North and Ogbomosho South LGAs
  9. ^ The Osogbo conurbation comprises Osogbo, Irepodun, Olorunda, Orolu and Egbedore LGAs
  10. ^ Ondo township is based on Ondo West Local Government Urban Area
  11. ^ Summateion of Abeokuta North, Abeokuta South and Odeda
  12. ^ This is the summation of Irewole, and Isokan LGAs
  13. ^ Large urban sprawl based on Ifo, including Akute, Ijoko and Ajuwon townships
  14. ^ A large township whose population Center is based on Sagamu township but also urban sprawl spilling over from Ikorodu
  15. ^ A large and growing exurb of Lagos metropolis based chiefly on the city of Ota
  16. ^ Summation of Boripe and Ifelodun LGAs
  17. ^ Summation of Ife North, Ife East and Ife Central but excluding Ife South which is not within the Ife metropolitan area
  18. ^ Based on the Owo, Local Government Area
  19. ^ Summation of The Akure North and Akure South LGAs
  20. ^ Encompassing Ilesa West, and Ilesa East LGAs

References edit

  1. ^ a b c Defence Language Institute, Curriculum Development Division: Yoruba Culture Orientation, 2008
  2. ^ "Taking a short road trip through Oke-Mesi Fold Belt (Part 1)". olokuta.blogspot.ca. 5 October 2012. Retrieved 13 April 2018.
  3. ^ Delineation of Groundwater Potential Zones in Awun Basin and Its Environs Using Remote_Sensing_and_GIS_ Techniques Ayanniyi, Jimoh, Bilewu and Kolade, University of Ilorin, 2017
  4. ^ "Yoruba lowland forests". World Wildlife Federation. Retrieved 3 January 2022.
  5. ^ "Ijebu Ode climate: Average Temperature, weather by month, Ijebu Ode weather averages – Climate-Data.org". en.climate-data.org. Retrieved 2021-08-16.
  7. ^ "Ondo State of Nigeria:: Nigeria Information & Guide". Nigeriagalleria.com. Retrieved 13 April 2018.
  8. ^ "Guinean forest-savanna mosaic". Terrestrial Ecoregions. World Wildlife Fund.
  9. ^ "Climate Ilorin: Temperature, Climograph, Climate table for Ilorin - Climate-Data.org". en.climate-data.org. Retrieved 13 April 2018.
  10. ^ Lagos Bureau of Statistics. "2018 Abstract of Local Government Statistics" (PDF). Retrieved September 23, 2021.
  11. ^ "Nigeria: States, Local Government Areas, Cities and Agglomerations - Population Statistics in Maps and Charts". Citypopulation.de. Retrieved 31 January 2022.
  12. ^ "Article: Oduduwa, The Ancestor Of The Crowned Yoruba Kings". Archived from the original on 5 February 2011. Retrieved 31 January 2022.
  13. ^ William R. Bascom:The Yoruba of Southwestern Nigeria, Holt, Rinehart and Winston, New York, 1969. page 42. ISBN 0-03-081249-6
  14. ^ "Ijebu History". LitCaf Encyclopedia. 17 January 2016.
  15. ^ Gat, Azar. "War in human civilization", Oxford University Press, 2006, p. 275
  16. ^ Ishokan Yoruba Magazine, Volume III No. I, Page 7, 1996/1997


External links edit