Sunday 28 April 2024


Our Benin brothers often lack a deep understanding of Yorùbá culture within the broader context of African culture, yet they are quick to criticize it. It's important to note that in African societies, kings are not simply referred to as "kings"; they hold specific appellations that reflect their roles and statuses.

For instance, the title "Ọọ̀ni" doesn't just signify a king but is a shortened form of "Ọọ̀nirisa," which means the owner of all the gods. Similarly, "Aláàfin" doesn't directly translate to "king" but rather signifies "the owner of the Palace." This naming convention is consistent across all kings in Yorùbá land.

Understanding the concept of "appellation" is crucial here. An appellation is more than just a name; it carries layers of meaning, describing a person's characteristics, origins, or qualities. Just as "The Big Apple" symbolizes New York City's significance, Yorùbá kings bear appellations that embody their roles and identities.

In ancient Africa, kings weren't simply called by generic titles; they were referred to by appellations that highlighted their specific roles and attributes. To say you are the king when you are actually the king is ridiculous and belittling. The question is what kind of king are you? The king that strikes fear into the heart of his enemies when mentioned is preferred to a king that says he is king. That is why Yorùbá kings use appelation that exalt their status and offices.

Appelation also become useful when ọbas gather in a meeting or function. It is easy for identification: Ọọ̀ni is here, Ọ̀ràngún is coming, Aláàfin has arrived, Onípópó is about to dance, Aláketu wants to address, Ajerò sends his greetings. You can see mentioning their appelation saves time rather that repeating ọba all the time.

In Yorùbá culture, the king of Benin would not simply be called "Ọba of Benin"; rather, he might be known as "Uku Aporlorporlor of Benin" or "The Home Leopard of Benin," emphasizing his unique identity and significance.

It's worth noting that the only Yorùbá king using "ọba" as an appellation is ọba Èkó, and this choice serves a purpose they habour. In Yorùbá land, he is known as Elékòó, meaning the one that raids or gathers, or possibly the owner of Èkó. These distinctions in appellation showcase the richness and depth of Yorùbá culture's traditional naming practices.

The argument being marshaled by Bini revisionists that only Ọba of Benin is Ọba, or only him bears the title is lame, because bearing Oba as appelation is out of tune with Yorùbá culture.

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