Friday 26 April 2024


Evidence supporting the assertion that the word Ọba belongs to the Yorùbá rather than the Benin people is multi-faceted and deeply rooted in historical and linguistic analysis. Let's delve into each point with a bit more detail and expansion:

Firstly, the acknowledgment from Benin historians and revisionists themselves strengthens the argument that the term "Ọba" has Yorùbá origins. It is widely agreed among them that Ọ̀rànmíyàn, a figure of Yorùbá descent, introduced the title "Ọba" to the Benin kingdom. Prior to his reign, the title of "ogie" was used to refer to a king in Benin.

Secondly, the historical context surrounding the last ogie of Benin, Ogiso Owodo, and Odùduwà, who bore the title of Ọba in Ifẹ̀, supports the idea of the Yorùbá influence. Ogiso Owodo's reign probably coincided with Odùduwà's kingship in Ifẹ̀ according to Benin historian, indicating no shared linguistic and cultural heritage between the two regions. Kings were ogie or Ogiso in Benin then and kings were ọba in Ifẹ and other yorùbá states of the time.

Thirdly, Odùduwà's established kingship as an Ọba in Ifẹ̀ predates Ọ̀rànmíyàn's introduction of obaship in Benin, since they both agree that Ọ̀rànmíyàn was son to Odùduwà. This further reinforces the Yorùbá claim to the title of Ọba as emanating from them.

Fourthly, a semantic analysis of the term "Ọba" reveals its meaning as "king" in Yorùbá, aligning with its use as a royal title. In contrast, in Benin language, "Ọba" holds meanings such as "shining" or "red," while "ogie" is the term used for "king." This linguistic distinction underscores the divergence in royal terminology between the two cultures.

Fifthly, historical records indicate the existence of Ọba figures in Ifẹ̀ even before Odùduwà's time, such as Ọbàtálá. This historical continuity highlights the longstanding tradition of kingship/obaship within the Yorùbá culture, predating Odùduwà reign in Ifẹ and definitely many Ogiso reigns in Benin.

The historical revisionists in Benin made a crucial mistake by assuming that Odùduwà must have been the first ọba solely because we consider him our revered progenitor. Our reverence for Odùduwà in our history stems from his role as the first unifier of what later evolved into the Yorùbá culture. This is akin to how many Yorùbá people view Obafemi Awolowo as a great politician due to his significant role as another unifier during our era.

In like manner, another notable unifier was Ọ̀rànmíyàn, who ascended to the throne in Ifẹ, later extending his influence to Benin and ultimately establishing the ancient Ọ̀yọ́ Empire, the largest empire in Southern Nigeria at the time. These unifiers not only left a lasting impact on our cultural and historical narratives but also shaped the political and social landscapes of their respective eras.

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