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Title: Yorubaland  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
Language: English
Subject: Yoruba religion, Share taxi, Oduduwa, Yoruba culture, Letra del año
Collection: Cultural Regions, Geography of Benin, Geography of Nigeria, Geography of Togo, Yoruba, Yoruba History
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia


Southwestern Nigeria, Southern and Central Benin and Central Togo
Cultural region
Yorubaland (green) indicated within Nigeria, Benin and Togo.
Yorubaland (green) indicated within Nigeria, Benin and Togo.
Part of  Nigeria
 Benin  Togo
Seat Ile-Ife
Composed of
Time zone WAT (UTC+1)

The cultural region of the Yoruba people is commonly referred to as Yorubaland (Yorùbáland in Yoruba orthography) (Yoruba: Ìlẹ-Yorùbá). It spans parts of the modern states of Nigeria, Benin, and Togo.

About 5.3 million people are estimated to practice Yoruba worldwide[1] with the largest numbers found in Nigeria.[2]


  • Prehistory and oral tradition 1
    • Settlement 1.1
    • Pre-Civil War 1.2
  • History 2
    • Civil War 2.1
    • European colonization of the Yoruba 2.2
  • Geography 3
  • References 4

Prehistory and oral tradition


Oduduwa is regarded as the legendary progenitor of the Yoruba.

According to an Oyo account, Oduduwa was a Yoruba emissary; said to have come from the east, sometimes understood by some sources as the "vicinity" true East on the Cardinal points, but more likely signifying the region of Ekiti and Okun sub-communities in Yorubaland, Nigeria.[3]

Pre-Civil War

Between 1100 CE and 1700 CE, the Yoruba Kingdom of Ife experienced a golden age. It was then surpassed by the Oyo Empire as the dominant Yoruba military and political power between 1700 CE and 1900 CE.

Yoruba people are said to feel a deep sense of culture and tradition that unifies and helps identify them. There are 16 established kingdoms that are said to have been descendants of the Oduduwa. There are countless sub-kingdoms and territories that are branches of the original 16 kingdoms.

There are various groups and subgroups in Yorubaland because there are many distinct dialects of Yoruba. The government of this diverse people is quite intricate and each group and subgroup varies, but in general government begins at home within one's immediate family. The next level is the clan, or extended family with its own head, baálé, then the town chiefs, Baálè rule over clans, and these chiefs are subject to their oba, and this king may also be subject to another oba.

In this, government begins at home. The father of the family is considered the "head" and his first wife is the mother of the house. If her husband chooses to marry another wife, that wife must show proper respect to the first wife even if the first wife is chronologically younger. Children are taught to have respect for all those who are older than they are. This includes their parents, aunts, uncles, elder siblings, and cousins who they deal with every day.[4] Any adult presumably has as much authority over a child as the child’s parents do. All members of a particular clan live in the same compound and share family resources, rights, and possessions such as land [4]


Ile Oòdua

Civil War

Following a jihad (known as the Fulani War) led by Uthman Dan Fodio (1754–1817) and a rapid consolidation of the Hausa city states of contemporary northern Nigeria, the Fulani Sokoto Caliphate annexed the buffer Nupe Kingdom and began to press southwards towards the Oyo Empire. Shortly after, they overran the Yoruba city of Ilorin and then sacked Ọyọ-Ile, the capital city of the Oyo Empire.

Further attempts by the Sokoto Caliphate to expand southwards were checked by the Yoruba who had rallied to resist under the military leadership of the City State of Ibadan which rose from the old Oyo Empire, and of the Ijebu city-states.

However, the Oyo hegemony had been dealt a mortal blow. The other Yoruba city-states broke free of Oyo dominance, and subsequently became embroiled in a series of internecine war at a particular period when millions of individuals were being forcibly transported to the Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, Brazil, Venezuela and other parts of the world.

European colonization of the Yoruba

These wars weakened the Yoruba in their opposition to what was coming next; British military invasions. The military defeat at Imagbon of Ijebu forces by the British colonial Army in 1882 ensured a tentative European settlement in Lagos which was gradually expanded by protectorate treaties, treaties which proved decisive in the eventual annexation of the rest of Yorubaland and, eventually, of southern Nigeria and the Cameroons. In 1960, greater Yorubaland was subsumed into the Federal Republic of Nigeria.[5]

According to Yoruba historians, by the time the British came to colonize and subjugate Yorubaland first to itself and later to the Fulani of Northern Nigeria, the Yoruba were getting ready to recover from what is popularly known as the Yoruba Civil War. One of the lessons of the internecine Yoruba wars was the opening of Yorubaland to Fulani hegemony whose major interest was the imposition of sultanistic despotism on Old Oyo Ile and present-day Ilorin. The most visible consequence of this was the adding of almost one-fifth of Yorubaland from Offa to Old Oyo to Kabba to the then Northern Nigeria of Lord Frederick Lugard and the subsequent subjugation of this portion of Yorubaland under the control of Fulani feudalism.[6]


The area of the Yoruba people overflows into the Republic of Benin; with an approximation of 50 million people speaking Yoruba worldwide.

The Nigerian component comprises today's Ouinhi and Zogbodomey commune of Zou Department, and Kandi commune of Alibori Department. The Togolese portions are the Ogou and Est-Mono prefectures in Plateaux Region, and the Tchamba prefecture in Centrale Region.

Geophysically, the area of Yorubaland spreads north from the Gulf of Guinea and west from the Niger River into Benin; dividing into costal plains and jagged highland region.[7]

With coastal plains, interior plains, and highlands, Yorubaland have several large rivers and streams that crisscross the terrain.[7]


  1. ^ Every Culture Online
  2. ^ CIA World Factbook
  3. ^ Article: Oduduwa, The Ancestor Of The Crowned Yoruba Kings
  4. ^ a b William R. Bascom: The Yoruba of Southwestern Nigeria, Holt, Rinehart and Winston, New York, 1969. page 42. ISBN 0-03-081249-6
  5. ^ Gat, Azar. "War in human civilization" Oxford University Press, 2006, pg 275.
  6. ^ Ishokan Yoruba Magazine, Volume III No. I, Page 7, 1996/1997
  7. ^ a b c Defence Language Institute, Curriculum Development Division: Yoruba Culture Orientation, 2008

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