History of The Yoruba People – WNTV

History of The Yoruba People

The Yoruba people are a West African ethnic group that mainly inhabits parts of Nigeria, Benin , and Togo. The areas of these countries primarily inhabited by Yorubas are often collectively as Yorubaland.  

The Yorubas constitute more than 47 million people in Africa, are a few hundred thousand outside the continent, and bear further representation among members of the African diaspora.

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Most Yoruba people speak the Yoruba language, which is the Niger-Congo language with the largest number of native or L1 speakers. 

In Africa, the Yoruba are contiguous with the Yoruboid Itsekiri to the south-east in the northwest Niger Delta, Bariba to the northwest in Benin and Nigeria, the Nupe to the north and the Ebira to the northeast in central Nigeria.

The east are the Edo, Ẹsan and Afemai groups in mid-western Nigeria. To the northeast and adjacent to the Ebira and northern Edo groups are the related Igala people on the left bank of the Niger River. To the southwest are the Gbe speaking Mahi, Gun, Fon, and Ewe who border Yoruba communities in Benin and Togo, to the west they bordered by the Kwa speaking Akebu, Kposo of Togo, and to the northwest, by the Kwa speaking Anii, and the Gur speaking Kabiye, Yom-Lokpa and Tem people of Togo. Significantly Yoruba populations in other West African countries can also be found in Ghana, Benin, Ivory Coast, and Sierra Leone. 

Yorubas Diaspora

The Yoruba diaspora consists of two main groupings; the first being that of the Yorubas dispersed mainly to the New World between the 16th to 19th centuries, notably to the Caribbean (especially in Cuba) and Brazil, and the second consisting of a wave of relatively recent migrants, the majority of whom began to migrate to the United Kingdom and the United States following some of the major economic and political changes encountered in Africa in the 1960s to 1980s. 

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As of the 7th century BCE the African peoples who lived in Yorubaland were not initially known as the Yoruba, although they shared a common ethnicity and language group. By the 8th century, a powerful kingdom already existed in Ile-Ife, one of the earliest in Africa. It is called Ile-gbo (capital of the realm of humanity, based on the oldest pre-dynastic traditions of its being associated with Oba Tala, Oro-gbo (Sango) and Otete (Oduduwa). 

Some Yoruba cities of the Middle Ages 

The historical Yoruba develop in ṣitu, out of earlier Mesolithic Volta-Niger populations, by the 1st millennium BCE. Oral history recorded under the Oyo Empire derives the Yoruba as an ethnic group from the population of the older kingdom of Ile-Ife. The Yoruba were also the dominant cultural force in southern and Northern, Eastern Nigeria as far back as the 11th century. 

The Yoruba are among the most urbanized people in Africa. For centuries before the arrival of the British colonial administration most Yoruba already lived in well structured urban centres organized around powerful city-states (Ìlú) centred around the residence of the Oba (king).  

In ancient times, most of these cities were also fortresses, with high walls and gates. Yoruba cities always among the most populous in Africa. Archaeological findings indicate that Òyó-Ilé or Katunga, capital of the Yoruba empire of Oyo (fl. between the 11th and 19th centuries CE), had a population of over 100,000 people.

For a long time also, Ibadan, one of the major Yoruba cities and founded in the 1800s, was the largest city in the whole of Sub Saharan Africa. Today, Lagos (Yoruba: Èkó), another major Yoruba city, with a population of over twenty million, also remains the largest on the African continent. 



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