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Fani-Kayode on Yoruba: More reactions!

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Dayo Johnson, Ola Ajayi, &James Ogunnaike.

We should consider a change of name —Yinka Odumakin—Spokesperson, Afenifere

Fani-Kayode“Fani-Kayode has raised an important issue which we can’t brush aside. No one has been able to explain what Yoruba means in our language. Oodua people should know themselves.

ALSO READ: I am not Yoruba, says Fani Kayode

We need our scholars to go deeper into this and come up with all the facts. Names are so important in our clime that you can hardly find any name without a meaning.

There are nations or countries that have had to change their names. The British named a country Gold Coast after what they profited from. The country changed its name to Ghana which means a warrior King. If our scholars cannot come up with the meaning of the word “Yoruba”; which is the case up till now, we should consider a change.

Fani-Kayode’s position was rather emotional—Prof Olutayo Adesina, Head, Department of History, University of Ibadan.“The Fulanis only described what they perceived the Yariba to be and not what that name connotes.

Fani Kayode’s position was rather emotional. It was not a product of any connection with deep and profound research. It should be discountenanced.

It’s an unintelligent interpretation of serious matter of history —Kunle Adebayo, Language and Literature scholar

Femi Fani-Kayode’s claim is preposterous and a shallow rehash of the hegemonic suggestions of the Fulani traducers of the Yorubas. It is an unintelligent interpretation of a serious matter of history to promote a childish political activism.

The paradox of the matter is that shall we say because the Yorubas in the same vein, originated a derogatory name “Kàràmbàní”, meaning “vandals or vagabonds” and “Gàmbàrí”, a thoughtless zombie, bereft of any sense of civilisation, to describe the Kemberis and Hausa/Fulanis respectively, therefore a stamp of legitimacy is put on the etymology or origins of the victims?

The name Yorùbá or Yariba is not a creation of the Hausas or Fulani and neither does it connote a derogatory description of the Yorùbá people. Rather, it is a name given to identify and describe a particular linguistic group of black African traders from a faraway land, by other ethnic traders on the trans Saharan and Atlantic trade routes that flourished well since the 5th century.

About the 4th century, long before the founding of the city of Ile-Ife# or any other Yoruba city or kingdom in the 8th century, the people of similar tongue, referred to as Yorubas had been existing as participants on the Arabian or Atlantic trade territories. Although much of what is currently referred to as the Yoruba nation states then consisted of very few, loosely strewn settlements which seemed in the eyes of the owners, more like separate, long distance countries in their individual perceptions owing to primitive civilisation.

“Káàróòjíire”, Akú and “Lùkùmi” are mere language signifier of the twists of the tongue of the same language group. What is therefore important to note is that the name Yoruba currently used to define the nationality so defined is an expression or pleasant appellation originated by traders on the ancient marketplace to describe their colleagues whose origin and settlement they knew not.

ALSO READ:: Yoruba does not exist in Ifa ― Elebuibon

In conclusion, by the time the European explorers and traders came to Yoruba settlements about 1468, a clear pattern of Yoruba outline was getting established and was more defined by 1825 when sir Hugh Clapperton, took the first major exploration of the interior of Yorubaland.

Engr Tunji Ariyomo, winner, 2019 Nnamdi Azikiwe leadership prize

“The people that made such revisionist claims about the origin and meaning of the name Yoruba did so out of enthusiastic but infantile appreciation of history and an exaggerated claim to enlightenment whilst being innately ignorant, simplistic and gravely limited. As an ethnic description, the word ‘Yoruba’ was first recorded in reference to the Oyo Empire in a treatise written by the 16th century Songhai scholar Ahmed Baba. Ahmed Baba was from Araouane but lived in Timbuktu, Mali.

It is a fact that literacy or written documentation was not a mainstream in this part of the world at the time, particularly among aboriginal people of the dense rain forests and littoral parts of West Africa. Writing did not gain entrance into our culture in this clime until the period that has now been described as ‘scrambling for Africa’ led by western nations.

The people of the Savannah and the Sahara desert were however a little better off because of their early exposure to Arabic language due to proselytization of Islam. It is therefore logical that there is a higher probability that seemly indigenous written documentations of that era would likely be available in Arabic than in English and be written by elements that were exposed to that particular medium. The availability of such records however is no guaranty that they would correctly represent that era without conveying the biases of the writer – especially when the various ethnic nationalities were historically diametrically opposed and at loggerhead as rival cultures.

Yes, each tribe might have attempted and might indeed have had ostensibly derogatory names or deprecating forms of each other’s names. For instance, the Yoruba and Bariba of Borgu call the Hausa people, Gambari, probably because the first Hausa they knew were traders. Neil Skinner once observed that the Fulanis used to refer to the Hausas pejoratively as Ha’be or pagan and later as Hausanko’en.

The Arabs in Eastern Sudan speak of the Hausa as Fellata most likely with a sub-conscious association with fellahin, because the Hausa community in Sudan tend to be hewers and carriers. Igbos would call Yoruba Ndi ofemmanu (lover of palm oil soup) whilst the Hausa would call Igbo Nyamiri (give me water). The Yoruba would call Igbo Okoro (even though it is just a name) or Ajokutamamomi (one who can literally eats stone without drinking water). The local Fulani and Hausa would call the Yoruba BaYarbe (sounds Beyerebe to the average Yoruba which means Yoruba person) or Ngbatingbati while the modern Hausa would call the Yoruba Yarbawa (meaning Yoruba people – akin to Hausawa or Hausa people).

In the 19th century, nearly 300 years after Yoruba has been established in writing as a name exclusively meant for the people of Oyo Empire, especially when hostility began to brew between the Yoruba and the Fulani (who had hitherto conquered the Hausa country), some Hausas began to call the Yoruba derogatory form such as Yaribanza (Yoruba bastard). So Yoruba or Yariba or Yarbe in the Hausa’ Afro-Asiatic language form did not mean ‘deceitful’ as has been falsely claimed. Not even in those native languages of Arabic, Fulfude or Hausa.

No. rather, as part of the tuft contest, the purveyors of this slant began to deliberately associate such negative characterization in orchestrated culture warfare to the original name ‘Yoruba’. It is important to note that even the Songhai from whence Ahmed Baba wrote his books once dominated the Hausa states for a prolonged period of time and it was the revolt of the Hausa against Songhai that the first and only Hausa Empire had its beginnings.

So, the simple truth is that the original meanings of many names are lost in antiquities as a result of lack of documentation. It’s like asking for how lion came to be called lion in English or kiniun in Yoruba. Attempting an etymological dissection of certain words with contemporary nuances and biases is a warped form of historical reverse engineering that would yield distorted results that would ultimately be at variance with the past.

For instance, have you read about what Ahmed Baba wrote about slavery? He pretty much asserted that slavery was justified for everyone except people born as Muslims. Not even folks who converted to Islam escaped his verdict.

Yoruba is a beautiful name. It is infantile delusion for anyone to call for a name change for a race whose name has come to represent the eponymous spirit of knowledge, acumen, industry, excellence and accommodation in Africa.

—Prof Adebanji Akintoye, a prominent Yoruba leader wonders why people want to know the origin of Yoruba and not Hausa or Fulani

According to him, asking this type of question is very suspicious. “Why not ask where Hausa, Fulani, Kanuri, originated from? “Nobody knows the origin of any name. Who knows the origin of Germans, French. You see, names could be given based on what you wear as clothes. Your neighbour may use that to call you and it becomes your name.”

“Somebody said Yoruba doesn’t exist in Ifa, does that mean Yoruba did not exist? The question that one wants to know where Yoruba originated from cannot be answered just like that. Asking people to answer the question is very suspicious. You must be asking Hausa, Fulani and Kanuri where they originated from.”

“French, Germans don’t know the origin of their names. I suspect there is an agenda to destroy the nationality of Yoruba land so that Fulani, Hausa can be in control. It’s a question with a political objective”, he explained.

‘Yoruba, unlike Igbo, Hausa, are too sophisticated to have one socio-political group’(Opens in a new browser tab)

—Dr. (Chief)Adesoji Aderemi Fajenyo, President, Association of Yoruba Lecturers in Colleges of Education in Nigeria and Chief Lecturer, Department of Yoruba, Federal College of Education, Abeokuta

The name “Yoruba” was derived from “Yariba”, which is a Hausa word.The ancient city of Ibadan was formerly known as “Eba Odan”. It was the Hausas who used to call the race Yariba. It was only Oyo Kingdom that bears Yoruba.

Though there were other town and communities in Yoruba land, but each of them bears different names like Egba, Igbomina, Owo.In 1917, Sir Lord Lugard; having observed that all town and communities in the region had some similarities, including language and culture, he then named the region “Yoruba”On the origin of Yoruba, Chief Fajenyo opined that there were different stories on the origin of Yoruba race.

He said, a school of thought believes that Oduduwa, whom was believed to be the progenitor of Yoruba race descended from God and while coming, God gave him a fowl that had six legs and a pack of sand. When he got to the earth, he discovered that everywhere was covered with water. It was that fowl brought by Oduduwa that spread the sand to cover the water.Another school of thought believed that the Yoruba race migrated from Mecca. He added that this school of thought said “Nimrod” who was changed to “Lamurudu” led the race from Mecca to the present location in Nigeria.

The educationist added that another group of people said the Yoruba race were actually from Nigeria. He said, this group believed that the Yoruba race migrated from River Niger and River Benue Confluence to the present site they occupy.

Yoruba/Hausa clash: Police narrate what happened(Opens in a new browser tab)

On the suggestion of Femi Fani-Kayode on the change of name to “Omo kaaro ojire” or Oduduwa”, the erudite scholar said, since it was Hausa that gave us the name and we do not know the meaning, it will be better to adopt name that has good meaning.

“In Yoruba culture, name is very important. It has great influence on attitude of the bearer. Omo Oduduwa means reliable and responsible people.


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