I Insist, We Are Sons, Daughters of Oduduwa, Not Yorubas

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Fani-Kayode

SATURDAY POLITY 

Femi Fani-Kayode

just read the contribution of Professor Stephen Banji Akintoye, a notable and respected historian, to the burning debate about the origin and meaning of the word Yoruba. I scrutinised his arguments and I considered his sources. I welcome his submissions but I respectfully disagree with his conclusions. I maintain my original position and I stand by what I wrote in my essay: I am not a Yoruba but a son of Oduduwa.

 There are two demeaning and insulting names and words that the Fulani gave and used to describe southerners. Firstly came “Nyamiri” (meaning ‘fetcher of water’) in reference to the people of the South-East and secondly “Yariba” in reference to the people of the South West. 

 The South East rejected that name but the South West accepted theirs. The name “Yoruba” derives from the word “Yariba” and it means “shady and unreliable”. I reject that strange name and label and I hope and pray that the good people of South Western Nigeria will see the wisdom in doing so too. 

I am not a “Yariba” or “Yoruba” but an “Omo Karo Jire” or an “Ooduwan” 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 that are given to us by our historical adversaries.

 Any Omo Karo Jire or Ooduwan 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’s, rejected it due to its origin and meaning. The word “Yoruba” is alien to our culture and not known in the Anago language. Ooduwans please take note.

 The first time the word “Yoruba” was used as a generic term for all the people of the South West Nigeria was in the 19th century by Bishop Samuel Ajayi Crowther. He did us a great disservice there given the fact that it derives from the word “Yariba” which the Fulani used to describe our people. 

The meaning of the word “Yariba” is “usurper, deceitful, shady, treacherous, cheating usurer and double-dealing bastard”. Once again I reject that name. The good people of South West Nigeria are “Anagos” or “Omo Karo Jire’s” or “Omo Oluabi’s” or “Ooduwans” and we are not ‘Yaribas’ or ‘Yorubas’. I, FFK, a proud Ife, an Anago, an Aku, an Omo Karo Jire, an Omoluabi, an Ooduwan and a son of Oduduwa, will never answer to the name “Yoruba” again or use it to describe my people. We are better than that. 

The British named our nation “Nigeria” meaning “area of darkness” and the Fulani named our ethnic nationality “Yariba”.  Put together, this means “a group of deceitful, shady, treacherous usurpers and bastards from an area of darkness”. Is it any wonder that we are still in servitude and bondage? What a terrible combination. We have been snared by our names. May God open our eyes, may He help us and may He deliver us! We must start helping ourselves by rejecting these deeply demonic names, labels and terms. 

 We are FAR better than the baggage that those horrific names carry. If the Lord can change the name of Jacob (meaning ‘shady character, rogue and trickster’) to Israel (meaning ‘God contends’) then He can change ours too. If Jabez (meaning ‘one who was born in sorrow’) can call on the Lord to break the chains and remove the limitations of his name, to enlarge his coast and to bless him abundantly so can we. Remember: we are, what we call ourselves!

I read the contribution of a northerner by the name of Farouk Kperogi’s to this debate on Facebook and I marveled at his attempt to befuddle the issues and misrepresent my assertions. Surely even intellectual dishonesty and historical revisionism has its limits. To the sons and daughters of Oduduwa and all other southerners, who are my primary concern, I say do not be fooled: the Fulani have been using the words “Yariba” and “Nyamiri” for over 200 years.

Quite apart from that I would appreciate it if someone would please tell this Kperogi that it would be better for him to read what I wrote than to go out of his way to purposely and maliciously misrepresent me. He claims that “it was reported” that I said “Yariba” and “Nyamiri” were Fulani words. Needless to say I never said or wrote that and if indeed it was reported in such a way in any medium then that is nothing but a case of pernicious falsehood, perfidious misrepresentation and pre-meditated and specious mendacity. 

What I wrote was that the Fulani gave and used those words to describe the people of the South West and South East respectively. Contrary to his assertion, I did not say they were Fulani or Hausa words. Giving or using a name or a word does not necessarily mean that that name or word is native to the language of the user and giver. This appears to me to be obvious and basic logic. The name could derive from another race or language entirely and you can still use it in yours as a term to describe others. This is especially so when you seek to demean and malign them.

As regards the meaning of the words, I would suggest that Kperogi reads a little more widely and he will discover what those that coined them actually meant. It is simply a question of historical and literary research. If you disagree with me on an issue or we have divergent opinions, it is no big deal but at least quote me accurately and do not misrepresent or misconstrue what I wrote. 

 More importantly, if you insist on criticising me or disagreeing with me on an important matter like this, you would do well to actually read what I wrote yourself and not rely on what “was reported” or what others told you that I wrote or said. This surely is a given when it comes to even the most basic, elementary and rudimentary form of intellectual discourse. The truth is that in his post, Kperogi has confirmed virtually everything else that I wrote about this matter other than the mischievous and erroneous assertion that I claimed that the two words in question were from the Fulani or Hausa language. I repeat, I never made that assertion. 

He also dropped the ball when he said that Nyamiri was a word that was created during the Nigerian civil war. This is not true. The word has its origins in the Igbo language but its subsequent corruption, bastardisation, condescending connotation and insulting usage by the Fulani commenced as far back as the 18th century. Needless to say I stand by every word that I wrote in my article titled, “We Are Sons and Daughters of Oduduwa and Not Yorubas”. 

I urge Kperogi and those that share his complex and inexplicable disposition to read it with a clear mind and actually learn something. I wish him well. Permit me to conclude with this. One day all truth, no matter how bitter or hard to accept, will no longer be hidden and ignored and men will no longer be blinded by their own ignorance, pride and folly. The following is a simple and clear contribution to the “Yoruba/Yariba” debate and in my view the highly acclaimed, well-respected and distinguished author, Chief Ifayemi Elebuibon, got it absolutely right. 

The purveyors of falsehood, mendacity, historical revisionism, lies and perfidy in our midst do not want the sons and daughters of Oduduwa, the Aku’s and the Anagos to know the truth about the history of the name that they were given by the Fulani 100 years ago and they are desperate to suppress that truth. Unfortunately for them, the cat is out of the bag and the 100 dark years of bearing a name that is not ours, that has questionable roots and that has a malevolent and deeply insulting meaning will soon come to an end! 

Is it any wonder that when great sons of Ooduwa, the Aku and the Anago, like Sir Adeyemo Alakija and Chief Obafemi Awolowo established the paramount and leading South Western socio-political and cultural organisation in history they named it “Egbe Omo Oduduwa” and not “Egbe Omo Yoruba”. 

 Consider this: Yoruba does not exist in Ifa- Ifayemi Elebuibon.

A renown traditionalist and the Araba of Osogbo, Chief Ifayemi Elebuibon said prior to contact with the Hausa/Fulani, the race is known as the people of Ife, saying it is unfortunate that the people failed to coin a word to call the race before coming into contact with the Hausas.

 According to him, the Yoruba race is usually referred to as ‘aku’ in the very early stage because of the way the people greet 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. Elebuibon added that the race ought to be called the people of Ife, saying that was how Ifa referred to the race.

 He said, “We are Ife people, it is rather unfortunate that we didn’t have one word to comprise all Yoruba before Fulani or Hausa gave us yariba to become Yoruba. Aku is the words they used for us in the beginning because we used to greet each other by saying ‘aku owuro’, ‘Aku asaale’ it is Aku people or Anago that other Africans referred to you.” 

 He opined that since the people originated from Ile-Ife, the race is ought to be known the people of Ife. “Actually since Yoruba origins is at Ile Ife ‘Eni fe abi ara Ile Ife Loye ka ma je’, we are indigenous people of Ootu Ife”, he added.  

Let those that refuse to accept the bitter truth, no matter how scholarly, elderly or eminent, reflect on Elebuibon’s insightful and incisive counsel and words. 

 It was not only in the south that the Fulani gave those they viewed with disdain and contempt and that they sought to conquer strange and insulting names. In the Middle Belt, they tried to call the Tiv “Munchi”, The Ham/Nok people “Jaba”, the Baju “Kaje”, the Gbwagis “Gwari” etc. It is actually their stock in trade to either adulterate or give people derogatory names instead of the actual name of the person or place. We would all do well to learn the wisdom in rejecting such names because more often than not they are loaded with toxicity and they carry heavy baggage.

 The greatest weakness of the sons and daughters of Oduduwa, the Omo Karo Jire and the Omooluabi’s is our kind, trusting, generous, charitable, liberal and accommodating disposition. Many consider this to be strength but in a jungle and dog eat dog geographical expression like Nigeria, where only the strongest can survive, I consider it to be a weakness. 

 We forgive and forget past hurts easily and we open our hearts and doors to anyone and everyone and love them even more than we love ourselves. This is especially so with the Fulani. We love them to high heavens and constantly and consistently tolerate their excesses. We commend them when they hurt others and we keep silent and act as if it is no big deal when they hurt us. 

 First they gave the Oyos, that unfortunate name and then one hundred years later, despite strong protestations from the other Kingdoms of the South West, it was used to describe us all! 

 And sadly we accepted it with a smile on our faces! It is our ignorance, our child-like naivety and our gullibility that allowed that to happen and we must address the issue and right the wrong. 

 I am a student of European and indeed world history and I can confirm that throughout history and indeed up until today, the English have used the insulting words “Frogs” when referring to the French and “Krauts” when referring to the Germans. Can you imagine the French or the Germans ever accepting either as being their real name? This would never happen because they know who and what they are and they know that they are far better than “frogs” and “krauts”. They certainly would not take kindly to anyone referring to France as “Frogland” or Germany as “Krautland”. 

 Yet we in the South West are so naive and gullible that we accept “yariba” or “yoruba” as our name even though deep down we know its deeply derogatory and insulting meaning and even though we have identified and established its  foul, dubious and nebullous Futa Toro and Futa Jallon origin and source.

 Some eminent and respected scholars have even suggested that we should wear that awful name with pride! Not me! 

 It is this constant fawning over the Fulani and the desire for validation, acceptance and support from them that led to the loss of Ilorin in the first place and that, if care is not taken and if we do not retrace our steps quickly, will lead to the total and complete destruction of our people and race. 

 The  Ooduwans, the Aku, the Anagos and all the people of the South West are proud and noble warriors with an illustrious history and great heritage: we do not need the Fulani or anyone else to endorse us, support us, encourage us or tell us who we are and we certainly do not need them to give us a name. 

 We are masters and leaders and not slaves and followers. Education came to us before any other in Nigeria. So did Christianity. So did Islam. 

 The old Oyo Empire and numerous kingdoms and nation states all over the South West flourished and operated sophisticated systems of commerce, bata, trade and governance with clearly defined laws, rules and regulations for thousands of years before the Fulani Caliphate was established. 

 Why on earth should we then bow to them? Why should they give us our name and why should we accept that name without question and even defend its usage? For hundreds of years our history has been replete with great acts of chivalry, honor, wisdom, excellence, courage, gallantry and nobility. 

 For God sake what more evidence do we need to prove to ourselves who we are? We were born to lead and to rule and so we shall.  We were born to chart our own course, develop at our own pace and have our own nation. Sooner than later, the Oduduwa nation shall rise up like a colossus and she shall fight the battles, serve the purpose and protect the interests of the Ooduwa people. And when that time comes, the usage of the insulting Fulani word “Yoruba” which was used to describe our proud and noble people for 100 long years will be a thing of the past.