Saturday 11 February 2023


In 26-12-1640 Columbin de Nantes, Report to Propaganda Fide: proposes a mission. Father Columbin’s has this to say about the language of the inhabitants of Benin: “In this kingdom the people are very easily led to embrace the Faith, and priests can live here with greater ease than in other parts of Guinea because of the healthy climate, the fertility of the soil and because the people are more generous. Their language is simple: it is called the Licomin language and is universally used in these parts, just like Latin in Europe”. A.S.C Lettere di Germania, Francia, Fiandraea, Inghilterra, 1641. vol.83. fol. 379-80. “Licomin’ was a vague name for the inland Yoruba-speaking peoples.

Interestingly, there are still remnants of the Olukunmi (Licomin) speaking people. Their language is closely related to the Itsekiri language than the Western Yoruba language. Let us also see what an eye witness has to say about the language of Warri and Benin in the 18th century.

In Memoires du capitaine Landolpe, contenant l’histoire de ses voyages pendant trente-six ans, aux cotes d’Afrique 1820 Jean Francois Landolphe [(1747-1825)] Said “In the past, Owhère and Benin were one kingdom. ….. The language and customs of the two states are the same. There is however this difference that the king of Owhère does not make any human sacrifice that there are three classes of nobility in Benin, and only two in Owhère.”

It is important for us to note that Jean Francois Landolphe a French captain came to Warri in 1768 to set up a French colony in Warri. He had regular visit to both the king of Warri and Benin and lived in Warri up till 1789. His memo was published into the above mentioned book shortly before he died. So his accounts or Benin and Warri can be accepted as eyewitness report.

From the letter of Father Columbin’s above and the eyewitness account of Captain Landolphe, we have been able to have a better knowledge of the historical background of the Itsekiri language. We can confidently say that the Itsekiri have always spoken a language close to what they speak in this modern day, Yoruboid language.

©️ Oritsẹgbubẹmi Adrian Ẹdẹma

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