Information about the Yoruba

The Yorùbá are the second largest ethnic group in Nigeria, after the Hausa and Fulani (21%). The Yorubas constitute approximately 21% percent of Nigeria's total population, and numbering upwards of 30 million individuals throughout the region of West Africa. While the majority of the Yorùbá live in the south-west of Nigeria, there are also substantial Yorùbá communities in Benin, Togo, Sierra Leone, Cuba and Brazil. The Yorubas (or rather the ruling classes) consider themselves to be descendants of Oduduwa, who came from the far northeast. Oduduwa is now revered as a demi-god.

The Yorùbá are the main ethnic group in the states of Ekiti, Lagos, Ogun, Ondo, Osun, and Oyo; they also constitute a sizable proportion of the citizens of the Republic of Benin. Yoruba gods include "Oya" (river goddess), "Ifa" (divination), "Eleda" (destiny), "Ibeji" (twins), "Osanyin" (ifa's constant companion) and "Osun" (goddess of fertility, protector of children and their mothers. Majority of modern day Yorubas are Christians with indigenous churches having the largest memberships. Muslims comprise about a quarter of the Yorùbá population, with traditional Yorùbá religion accounting for the rest.

The chief Yorùbá cities are Lagos, Ibadan, Abeokuta, Akure, Ilorin, Ijebu Ode, Ogbomoso, Ondo, Ota,Ado-Ekiti, Shagamu, Iseyin, Osogbo, Ilesha, Oyo, Ilé-Ifè.


The Yorùbá were the most urbanized sub-saharan Africans in the pre-colonial era, and have a history of town-dwelling that goes back to 500 A.D. The wealth of the Yorùbá came from controlling the important trade routes to the coast. The pre-colonial Yorùbá had recently been forced further south by the Fulani who made extensive use of cavalry. The Yorùbá Empire of Oyo lost the northern portion of their region to the Sokoto Caliphate, and for the most part retreated to the latitudes where tsetse flies made horses unable to survive.

The Yorùbá were a loose confederacy that often saw wars between the city states. In theory, all Yorùbá acknowledge the leadership of the ancient city of Ife in religious matters and the rule of the recently risen rulers of Oyo as political leader. The ruler of Oyo held the power to confirm or reject the leaders of the other cities, but this power could not always be executed.

Most of the city states were controlled by heriditary monarchs and councils made up of nobles, guild leaders, and merchants. Different states saw differing ratios of power between the two. Some had an autocratic monarch with almost total control, in others the councils were supreme and the king little more than a figurehead.

Precolonial Social Organization

Though monarchies were fairly common throughout the Yoruba-speaking region, they was not the only approach to traditional social organization. The various original Egba communities were a notable example, being independent polities each with an elected Oba, though the Ogboni, a legislative and judicial council of notable elders, wielded the actual political power. This was a proverbial trait of the Egba, according to the eminent Yoruba historian Reverend Samuel Johnson, but such gerontocratic leadership councils were shared by other groups like the northern Okun Yoruba groups and some of the eastern Ekiti groups. The Ogboni were, and continue to be, also found in polities where monarchic rule existed.

Occupational guilds, including the Parakoyi (or league of traders); egbe ode (hunter's guild) and so on maintained an important role in traditional commerce and vocational education.

There are also examples of other peer organizations that existed in the region. When the Egba resisted their domination by the Alaafin of Oyo, a local man named Lisabi is recorded to have either formed or revived a covert organization named Egbe Aaro. This group, originally a farmers' union, was converted to a network of secret militias throughout the Egba country and finally rose to defeat the Oyo empire's local representatives in the late 18th century.

Similar military resistance leagues like the Ekitiparapo and the Ogidi alliance were organized during the 19th century wars by the decentralized communities of the Ekiti, Ijesa, and Okun Yoruba in order to resist the imperial rule of Ibadan, Nupe, and the Sokoto Caliphate.

Yoruba Kingship (Obas)

Most towns and cities of the Yoruba kingdom have a structured hiererchy in which the Obas were the ruler kings with powers over property, life and death of the subjects. The Obas held legislative power in their city states before the colonial period. The Kingship of any city state was usually limited to between 1 and 3 families, a family could be excluded from kingship and chieftancy for any family member, servant or slave belonging to the family commiting a crime such as theft, fraud, murder or rape.

The kings were almost always polygamous and many had as many as 20 wives and often married royal family members from other towns/city states, the choosing of kings till this day is a task undertaken by a group of elders, many of whome hold chieftancy positions within the ecity state.

The chief Yoruba Kingdoms include: Oyo, Ife, Owo, Osi Ekiti, Illorin, Ijebu Ode, Ilesha and Ogbomosho.

Ife and Oyo were considered the leadership of the Obas due to religious reasons. In modern times many other Yoruba city states have appointed kings, these kings often commnad little respect ouside their courts and lack the political importance of the kings of the historical kingdoms.


The Yorùbás are one of the few ethnic groups in Africa whose cultural heritage and legacy survived in the west despite slavery. Orisha religion with Shango worship, various musical artforms popularized in Latin America, especially Cuba, are rooted in Yoruba music. Their religious beliefs are complex with a wide variety of dieties. Olorun is the chief god. In the past few centuries, the Yoruba have been also very strong as a Christian group, where their numbers have placed them in prominence in many worldwide Christian organizations. In the United States, they are recognizeable, especially in middle class circles as very strict Christians, observing many of the conservative Biblical views.

The Yoruba are known in many western countries for their strong appreciation for education. In the United States and Britain, they have a disproportionally high success rate in the professional fields.


Yorùbáland stadia include the National Stadium, Lagos (55,000 capacity), Teslim Balogun stadium (35,000 capacity), Liberty Stadium, Ibadan (40,000 capacity). Lekan Salami stadium, Ibadan (25,000)

Retrieved from "http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yor%C3%B9b%C3%A1"

The above includes excerpts from Wikipedia.org, the free encyclopedia:

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