Thursday 21 October 2021

The Frontier States of Western Yorùbáland: Circa 1600-1889

The Western Yorùbá  Subgroups

The Şábę [Savè, Shabe], Kétu and Ànàgó form tightly packed clusters astride the Nigeria-Benin border and form a continuous stream with the subgroups within Nigeria. Four other sub-groups, the Áná, Işà, Mànìgrì and Ìdáìşá are separated from the main Yorùbá stream by an upthrust of the Aja people northwards from the region of Porto Novo. The area that can be referred to as Şábęland extends from the Òyán river westwards to the Ouémé. This region covers the administrative districts of Şábę, Wèşè, Kìlìbó and Saworo in the Republic of Benin and extends to present-day Òyó-north and Ègbádó-Kétu region in modern Nigeria. 

However, it is not only in Sábęland that the Şábę can be found. There are large Şábę groups in urban centres like Cotonou, Abomey, Porto Novo and Paraku in addition to a sizeable number of Şábę refugees in the Kétu and Ànàgó regions of Benin, and the Òyó, Ègbádó and Lagos areas of Nigeria. 

The Mókólé, a small group of mixed Ìbáábà and Yorùbá elements around the Ìbààbá town of Nikki had and still have close affinity with the Şábę, and are at times included in the sub-group.In addition, there is some reason to believe that the Şábę form a sizeable proportion of the Yorùbá in diaspora.

The Şábę are one of the most exposed of the western Yorùbá groups to non-Yorùbá influences, especially from Borgu. Their territory is inhabited by the Mahi, Fulani and Ìbààbá,in addition to the Yorùbá. Attention can be drawn to the Ìbààbá system of naming adopted in Şábę, by which children are given specific names according to the order in which they are born.....

There are pieces of evidence which suggest that the various subgroups were known by many collective terms of which the name ‘Yorùbá’ was one. Other collective terms such as ‘Ànàgó’ and Olùkùmi were used among the western and eastern neighbours of the Yorùbá before the nineteenth century. Although up to the middle of the nineteenth century, the term, ‘Yorùbá’, was not popular, there are indications that it was already in use by the turn of the century. 

In the context in which the term first came to us, it appears to have had, originally, a wide applicability, being the term which the Hausa used for various Yorùbá sub-groups.

Yorubaland Cultural Area of West Africa by Bappah -

By Biodun Adediran (1994)


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