Let us go down to the basics by saying that the Yorubas originated from the descendants of Ham who is the third son of Noah. From the Yoruba language standpoint, the effects of globalization can be felt on Yoruba language too, as Yoruba is considered endangered language.
The Yorubas represented the black descendants of Ham who initially refused to migrate to Africa but rather choose to move and settle in Mecca and Medina in what the world today know as Saudi Arabia. They were there for thousands of years and grew there to form a strong and prosperous minority among the Arab natives.
The Yorubas are known for the deep religious beliefs in the worship of deities which they hold very dear to themselves. This formed the beginning of mistrust and disunity among them and the Arab natives when Islam was introduced in Saudi Arabia.
When Prophet Mohammed introduced Islam to what is now known as Saudi Arabia in 600 AD, the Yorubas were driven out of that region on account of their stubbornness to let go their traditional beliefs and their next point of call was the banks of River Nile in Egypt where to settled among the Egyptian Arabs, the Nubians and the Sudanese of the Nile.
Available records show that the vast majority finally moved away from the banks of the Nile River and settled in the North-Eastern zone of Nigeria. This move began their final move to a country that they will eventually call their own to the present day.
The Yoruba’s are very sociable people and so they mingled with the Shuwa Arabs and the Kanuris of the Borno people who were their landlords. What happened to this race in Saudi Arabia also played out among the Bornu people and on account of religious differences, they again migrated to what is today known as the South-Western part of Nigeria.
The Yoruba’s finally found a home for their deities, a place where they can practice their traditional beliefs of Ifa worship at Ile Ife-South West Nigeria. The progenitor of the Yoruba’s is known as Oduduwa. He established the Yoruba kingdom at Ile Ife.
What Mecca is to the world in terms of religious beliefs is what Ile-Ife is to the Yoruba’s wherever they might be all over the world. The average Yoruba man or woman regards Ile Ife is the source of life because their tradition records it so.
The Yoruba’s are known for their great organizational abilities. Having established their kingdom as landlords in Ile Ife; Oduduwa sent his sons to other parts of the vast forest in South-Western Nigeria to establish their own kingdom.
Thus began the spread and expansion of the Yoruba race in Nigeria and today they represent one of the major tribes in Nigeria controlling six of the states that make up Nigeria.
The kingdoms established by the sons of Oduduwa were among the strongest in world history going by their sophistication and strength. Mention can be made of the famed Oyo Empire whose influence, strength and glory cut across the entire world then.
There was unity among the kingdoms established by the Yoruba’s and it was this harmony that stopped the spread of Usman Dan Fodio’s Jihad from the Northern axis of Nigeria to the western part of the country. The Jihad was stopped at Ilorin; this was responsible for the religious tolerance that exists in South-Western Nigeria.
The greatest undoing of the Yoruba’s even till the present day is lack of trust among them. There is disunity of the highest order among them. Though they are aware of the fact that they are siblings, yet they are not able to forge a common front to achieve a common goal.
The kingdoms were never defeated in war by any external enemy, but they ended up fighting a supremacy battle among themselves and this led to the disintegration of the kingdoms one after the other until the British came in to establish colonial rule over Nigeria.
Yoruba in Present
Coming to the origin of the word Yoruba, it is a mystery because even among us the Yoruba’s, no one can actually tell the meaning of the word even among us. To date, the name of this race has no defined meaning and no living mortal can tell the meaning of the name.
The Yoruba’s are stubborn in nature and you can hardly change their mind when it comes to the issue of traditional religious beliefs. This is the main reason why they are migrants in their early years until they found a home in Ile Ife where they were able to establish their traditional religious beliefs.
However, the aggressive campaign and evangelism carried out by Muslim clerics and Christian Missionaries are gradually eroding the hold of fetish religious beliefs on the Yoruba Nation.
Today, the ratio of traditional worshippers among the Yoruba’s is gradually going down and there is concerned alarm raised by the custodians of this belief that sooner or later their object of worship will go into extinction because of the combined influence of Islam and Christianity on the Yoruba Nation.
There are religious tolerance and harmony among the Yoruba. When you go into a household in a typical Yoruba family, you will find the trio of Christianity; Islam and traditionalist cohabiting together in love and harmony as siblings. There is total religious tolerance among the Yoruba’s.
The history of the migration of the Yoruba’s from the far north to the west is the reason why Yoruba’s are referred to as the ”Sudanese Nigerians” They are also known in some quarters as the ”Bantu Nigerians”.
The Yoruba’s have established them in Nigeria. The first African Nobel Laureate for Literature is Yoruba-Professor Wole Soyinka. The best among the regional governments in Nigeria was the western regional government-owned and run by the Yorubas’ ably led by Obafemi Awolowo.
One of the Yoruba sons was described as the best President that Nigeria never had. In sports, they are a force to be reckoned with. In practically every aspect of Nigeria, the Yorubas are ably represented and today, they occupy the number two position in Nigeria’s political life with their own-Professor Yemi Osinbajo as Vice-President of Nigeria.
You can find the Yorubas in present-day Cuba as well as in Brazil. There is something very exciting to learn from this civilized set of people in terms of their language as well as culture. Undertaking a course of study about this race is worth all the efforts put into it.