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Yorùbá Identity and Power Politics

Yorùbá Identity and Power Politics

Toyin Falola
Ann Genova
Volume: 22
Copyright Date: 2006
Published by: Boydell and Brewer,
Pages: 380
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.7722/j.ctt81p3p
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  • Book Info
    Yorùbá Identity and Power Politics
    Book Description:

    Yorùbá Identity and Power Politics covers the major issues on Yorùbá identity, history, and politics, thus offering a solid understanding of one of the most important ethnic groups in Africa. Contributors to this volume come from a wide range of disciplines, and they offer their insights into the Yorùbá of Nigeria with an emphasis on contemporary developments. With a careful blend of sources and methods, and narratives on the past and present, the book presents the past as a tool for understanding complicated contemporary struggles for power and resources, as well as the interplay of identity in federal politics. Topics addressed include recent archaeological findings on early Yorùbá groups, the role of Yorùbá chiefs in modern Nigeria, contemporary migrations to North America, and Yorùbá participation in Nigeria's politics, including the controversial elections of 1993. Yorùbá Identity and Power Politics provides readers with an in-depth analysis of politics and history, thus contributing to the literature on ethnicity and politics in modern Africa. CONTRIBUTORS: OLUFUNKE A. ADEBOYE, OLAYIWOLA ABEGUNRIN, JULIUS O. ADEKUNLE, ABOLADE ADENIJI, CHARLES TEMITOPE ADEYANJU, FUNSO AFOLAYAN, TUNDE M. AKINWUMI, R.T. AKINYELE, JEAN-LUC MARTINEAU, TUNDE ODUWOBI, ANN O'HEAR, RASHEED OLANIYI, ARIBIDESI USMAN, AND OLUFEMI VAUGHAN. Toyin Falola is the Francis Nalle Higgenbothom Centennial Professor of History and Distinuished Teaching at the University of Texas at Austin; Ann Genova is a Ph.D. candidate at the University of Texas at Austin.

    eISBN: 978-1-58046-662-2
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. List of Illustrations
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. INTRODUCTION
    (pp. 1-26)
    Toyin Falola and Ann Genova

    In 1897, Samuel Johnson wrote in the preface to his pioneer work, The History of the Yorubas, a significant statement:

    Educated natives of Yorùbá are well acquainted with the history of England and with that of Rome and Greece, but of the history of their own country they know nothing what-ever! This reproach it is one of the author’s objects to remove.¹

    This declaration, made more than a century ago, touches on the very issue that has not only captured the feelings of African scholars, but has also become a quasi-anthem for professional historians among the educated Yorùbá elite in...

  5. Part I: Writing Yorùbá

    • 1 THE YORÙBÁ NATION
      (pp. 29-48)
      Toyin Falola

      The modern map consigns the Yorùbá to the southwestern part of Nigeria, a product of colonial creation reflecting the limitations of maps and the European origins of the modern nation state in Africa. This specific location does not capture the historical geography of the Yorùbá-speaking people, although it has had a substantial impact on how knowledge about them has been constituted. The map is true in the sense that the majority of the Yorùbá population now lives in southwestern Nigeria. It is incomplete because the colonial map does not include the entire “home” of the Yorùbá in West Africa and...

    • 2 ORAL TRADITION AND THE RECONSTRUCTION OF YORÙBÁ DRESS
      (pp. 49-73)
      Tunde M. Akinwumi

      Dress as a human body covering is significant in the daily life of man worldwide. The study of dress generally has received attention from archaeologists, anthropologists, art historians, economic historians, home economists, and physical and chemical scientists, among others. Despite the favorable response to its study, not much is known about the pre-twentieth century period of its form, use, and production in many African communities.¹ For example, little is known about the pre-twentieth century Yorùbá dress traditions beyond glimpses from travelogues. This has created a lacuna in the study of Yorùbá history and culture. Filling this gap has involved, for...

    • 3 DIARIES AS CULTURAL AND INTELLECTUAL HISTORIES
      (pp. 74-95)
      Olufunkẹ A. Adeboye

      A diary is a personal document that presents events from an individual’s perspective. It is rich in detail, particularly details of everyday life that are useful, among other things, for the writing of social history and biographies. The numerous historical volumes produced from the diaries of George Washington, for instance, testify to the usefulness of the diary as a historical source.¹ Although the diary and other autobiographical writings are to be found in most literate societies of the world, the diary-keeping culture is not a recent development. In Europe, diaries from the fifteenth century have survived until the present, and...

    • 4 HISTORIOGRAPHY OF WESTERN YORÙBÁ BORDERLANDS
      (pp. 96-110)
      R. T. Akinyele

      The Yorùbá culture area is very large, and it traverses several political units. Within this area, one can identify layers of identities such as the reference to a Yorùbá nation, a Yorùbá race, and the Yorùbá diaspora. A. I. Asiwaju illustrates this point by using three concentric rings to describe the Yorùbá culture area. The innermost ring depicts the core area, beginning from southwestern Nigeria stretching through the southern and central parts of the Republic of Benin and terminating at the Ufe and Atakpame areas of central Togo. The middle ring embraces groups that are related to the Yorùbá by...

    • 5 THE HISTORY OF THE OKUN YORÙBÁ: RESEARCH DIRECTIONS
      (pp. 111-126)
      Ann O’Hear

      This chapter concentrates largely on the Owe, Oworo, and Bunu (including Ikiri), the Yorùbá speakers closest to the Niger–Benue confluence. In examining the evidence available to me on these groups, I became aware of a number of themes and questions, which I present here with the intention of stimulating discussion on the directions in which the study of these Yorùbá speakers, and of the northeast (or Okun) Yorùbá in general, could profitably proceed.¹

      The first point that needs to be made is that the history of the Okun groups (Owe, Oworo, Bunu, Ijumu, and Yagba) has been sadly neglected.²...

    • 6 ÌLÁ KINGDOM REVISITED: RECENT ARCHAEOLOGICAL RESEARCH AT ÌLÁ-YÀRÀ
      (pp. 127-144)
      Aribidesi Usman

      Most of the archaeological research in Yorùbáland has concentrated on the last thousand years, a period of the development of distinctive features of Yorùbá social complexity and cultures. This early research centered on large states and their capital cities. The urge to conduct archaeological excavation at such centers was often a result of their presumed historical importance as indicated by the oral traditions, the reports of early European visitors, or the presence of artworks or monumental structures such as enclosure walls. In southwestern Nigeria, the interest in documenting prehistoric societies has engendered focus on the large polities of Old `Ọyọ´,...

    • 7 EARLY ÌJ`ẸBÚ HISTORY: AN ANALYSIS ON DEMOGRAPHIC EVOLUTION AND STATE FORMATION
      (pp. 145-158)
      Tunde Oduwọbi

      In precolonial times, the Ìj`ẹbú territory constituted a single kingdom under the Awujalẹ, who was also the titular ruler of Ìj`ẹbú-Ode, the capital of the kingdom. With a land area of approximately 8,130 km² (or 3,139 square miles), the Ìj`ẹbú territory covers the eastern sections of Ògún and Lagos States of modern Nigeria. The Ògún State section is the larger of the two and is made up of about 6,360 km² (2,456 square miles). In terms of present-day local government arrangements, the Ìj`ẹbú section of Ògún State comprises nine local government areas. These are, with their headquarters in parentheses: Ìj`ẹbú...

  6. Part II: Chiefs and Tradition

    • 8 POWER, STATUS, AND INFLUENCE OF YORÙBÁ CHIEFS IN HISTORICAL PERSPECTIVE
      (pp. 161-176)
      Toyin Falola

      Power, status, and influence are dynamic aspects of elite politics in all societies. Because the three are related to a society’s political philosophy and economy, they inevitably undergo modifications as the other aspects of society also change. For instance, the power of a ruler may be affected by economic misfortunes, political changes such as the imposition of a new dynasty, the incorporation of one polity by another, and the redefinition of the concept of power. The forms are as varied as the factors of change. It can be revolutionary, that is, when a totally new structure, with attendant consequences on...

    • 9 CHIEFTAINCY STRUCTURES, COMMUNAL IDENTITY, AND DECOLONIZATION IN YORÙBÁLAND
      (pp. 177-191)
      Olufẹmi Vaughan

      Historians of Africa generally agree that indigenous political structures (chieftaincy institutions) were central to the strategies of governance in colonial Yorùbáland. Although British colonial rule distorted chieftaincy structures, powerful ọbas (monarchs), baalẹs (head chiefs), and Western-educated elites still managed to effectively deploy local political forces to advance their political status in a rapidly shifting colonial context. This dynamic political relationship among ọbas, chiefs, British administrators, and an emergent indigenous Western-educated elite was complicated by the new emphasis on development, democracy, and modern governance that nationalist elites insisted on during the late colonial period. Analyzed in the context of the political...

    • 10 ODOGBOLU CHIEFTAINCY DISPUTE IN HISTORICAL PERSPECTIVE
      (pp. 192-204)
      Abọlade Adeniji

      Of all the known existing kingdoms in Yorùbáland in precolonial times, only the Ìj`ẹbú Kingdom managed to escape from the worst vicissitude of the hundred-year Yorùbá civil wars. In spite of the “splendid isolation”¹ maintained by the Ìj`ẹbú, however, it was only a matter of time before the prevailing exigencies compelled them to respond to the dynamics of instability and disorder prevalent in Yorùbáland at the time.

      As one newspaper remarked in the late nineteenth century, “[T]he Ijebu have preferred to live in small towns always, but for greater security . . . they are manifesting a disposition to bring...

    • 11 YORÙBÁ NATIONALISM AND THE RESHAPING OF ỌBASHIP
      (pp. 205-228)
      Jean-Luc Martineau

      In 2003, Claude-Helene Perrot and F.-X. Faubelle-Aymar published Le retour des rois, subtitled Les autorités traditionelles et l’État en Afrique contemporaine,² taken from a conference held in Paris in 1999. According to this volume, it is necessary to reconsider the role of kings and chiefs in contemporary African societies 40 years after independence. Since the 1980s, there has been a reexamination of the previously accepted model, which postulates a dichotomy between, on the one hand, modernity, represented by the various elites who took over the control of the modern states, and on the other hand, “tradition,” symbolized by the historical...

  7. Part III: Identity and Modern Politics

    • 12 APPROACHING THE STUDY OF THE YORÙBÁ DIASPORA IN NORTHERN NIGERIA
      (pp. 231-250)
      Rasheed Olaniyi

      In 1956, the defunct Western Region government launched the Yorùbá Historical Research Scheme. The main aim was to produce an authentic and coherent history of the Yorùbá, covering all aspects of the people from the earliest times to the present.¹ Despite the fact that a tremendous achievement has been recorded in this enterprise, an enormous lacuna still exists in the study of the Yorùbá diaspora in northern Nigeria. Although accounts of the Hausa impact on Yorùbá history, particularly for the precolonial and colonial periods, have been offered, only passing references have been made to acknowledge the Yorùbá factor in the...

    • 13 YORÙBÁ-NIGERIANS IN TORONTO: TRANSNATIONAL PRACTICES AND EXPERIENCES
      (pp. 251-272)
      Charles Temitọpẹ Adeyanju

      Until the late 1980s, scholars had conceived of international immigration as simply job enrichment for the economically advanced countries of the world. The social phenomenon of migration/immigration was inexhaustibly explored within the framework of a push–pull couplet. In their scholarly works on transnationalism, Glick Schiller, Basch, and Szanton Blanc³ emphasize how international migration is not simply about reproduction of unequal social relations; rather immigrants are social agents who are actively resisting their exploitation by maintaining social ties across geographic boundaries. To this end, they define transnationalism and transmigrants:

      as the processes by which immigrants build social fields that link...

    • 14 YORÙBÁ FACTOR IN NIGERIAN POLITICS
      (pp. 273-296)
      Julius O. Adekunle

      As one of the major ethnic groups in Nigeria, the Yorùbá have played prominent roles in the politics of the country since the colonial period. They came into the frontline of Nigerian politics with their previous experience of sophisticated centralized governments, their closeness to, and participation in, colonial administration, and their access to Western education. Their early interaction with the Europeans, especially the missionaries and colonial officials, helped them to adjust to a Western-styled political system.

      This chapter concentrates on the contributions of the Yorùbá people to the growth of Nigerian politics from the colonial period to the present. It...

    • 15 POLITICS, ETHNICITY, AND THE STRUGGLE FOR AUTONOMY AND DEMOCRACY
      (pp. 297-315)
      Funṣọ Afọlayan

      This chapter focuses on the place of the Yorùbá in the perennial struggle for democratization and national integration in Nigeria. The Yorùbá occupy a strategic position in the scheme of things in Nigeria today. Since 1993, following the cancellation of the result of the presidential elections that were held that year and won by a Yorùbá man, the Yorùbá have been at the center of the sociopolitical crisis that has dominated Nigerian affairs and poisoned inter-group relations in the country. Between 1993 and 1998, more than at any other time since the Biafran Civil War (1967 to 1970), the fate...

    • 16 PETROLEUM AND ETHNO-POLITICS
      (pp. 316-333)
      Ann Genova

      The average person knows two things about Nigeria: that it is a country rife with political instability stemming from ethnic tension and that embedded within it is one of the world’s most valuable oil reserves. What is not widely known is how these two intersect, particularly outside of the Niger delta. In this essay, I introduce the topic of bitumen exploration within Ondó State and insert it into the important discussion of Nigeria’s ethnic and political tension. What needs to be emphasized here is the level to which ethnicity and politics played a role in simply the exploration of bitumen...

    • 17 CHIEF M. K. O. ABIỌLA’S PRESIDENTIAL AMBITIONS AND YORÙBÁ DEMOCRATIC RIGHTS
      (pp. 334-352)
      Ọlayiwọla Abegunrin

      In the history of the Nigerian politics, the Northern political leaders have seen the Yorùbá people as their political rivals and an obstacle to their political ambition to continue the domination of Nigeria. The aim of this study is to examine the power struggle between the Yorùbá people and the other ethnic groups, especially the northerners in the Nigerian political equation, and offer a critical evaluation and analysis of the emergence of geo-ethno-military clique,² and their northern political class, better known as the Kaduna Mafia and the denial of Chief M. K. O. Abiọla’s presidency of 1993. Abiọla was the...

  8. Notes on the Contributors
    (pp. 353-356)
  9. INDEX
    (pp. 357-370)
  10. Back Matter
    (pp. 371-371)