Oduduwa: A Rejoinder To Chukwu Eke

by Femi Olawole

Since the beginning of the Yoruba-Bini ethnic origin imbroglio, there have been several vain attempts by some non-Yoruba and non-Bini individuals to cash in on the issue. One such individual was Chukwu Eke who wrote, in the Vanguard of June 3, 2004, an article titled “Oduduwa: Saving history from ethnic propaganda”. That one Chukwu, in writing such a ridiculous tale, could jump into a bandwagon even while being ignorant of its destination did not really come as a surprise. What else would one expect of a Chukwu in a matter between the Yoruba and the Bini?

I was however surprised that an organization going by the name Media Watch Nigeria would forward the Chukwu Eke article to me. What could have been its motivation? As champions of an ethnic interest, the faceless members of the group have their antecedents in a previously failed campaign to make me answer to a different name (Femi Fani-Kayode). My first reaction was to wonder if any of my articles in recent times had made me step on their paranoid ethnic toes again? It occurred to me that I had not even written anything about the raging Yoruba-Bini palaver. Therefore I could only arrive at two conclusions: That the organization had gone into all that trouble merely to gloat because I’m one Yoruba they love to hate. Or they probably have assumed (again?) that I was the writer of that article parading as Chukwu Eke.

As far as the forwarded article was concerned, here, in a nutshell are my views:

By writing that piece (Chukwu Eke), being an Igbo man, did not achieve anything except to shoot himself in the foot. Although, his primary target was the jugular of the Yoruba ancestry, he also did not spare the Bini who he described as merely “having lesser of the Yoruba sin of making spurious historical claims.” Worse still, that article, if anything, was not a compliment to the Igbo race. It was just a confirmation of an oral history that the Yoruba people, at one time, occupied the land of a people who were branded “ara Igbo” (bush people), so-called because they lived as barbarians in the bush. To the Yoruba of those days, any race of people without a King or organized way of life was viewed with scorn.

Just as the lawless barbarians of old constituted themselves as a nuisance to the civilized Roman people, so also did these Igbo (according to the Yoruba history) constituted themselves as a menace to the Yoruba people of Ife. These bush people never followed the norms in warfare. Rather, they would pretend to be evil spirits while launching sporadic attacks against the Ife people, mostly women and children in market places until the matter got to a head. To unravel the mystery and stop their menace once and for all, an Ife woman (Moremi), who also had roots in Offa (in the present day Kwara State), offered to go on a special espionage mission into the Igbo land. To achieve this feat, she allowed herself to be captured by the Igbo.

The leader of the Igbo fell in love with the beautiful woman and being a “woman wrapper” that he was he unwittingly exposed the secret behind the raffia costume of his women-attacking marauders. With this secret in hand, the woman escaped from Igbo land to leak the secret to her people. Upon their subsequent “visit” the raffia costume of the Igbo marauders were simply touched with fire and this resulted in their massacre. The Ife Army subsequently invaded Igbo land, captured their leader and enslaved the people.

If Chukwu Eke’s article was intended to ridicule the Yoruba, it was unwittingly a rude joke on his Igbo race. Here are samplers:

1. If he (the writer) insists that the name “Oduduwa” is not legitimate just because the “autochthon (sic) Igbo” he colonized had a different name for him, are the Yoruba supposed to address their progenitor by the nickname given to him by the subjects in his colony?

2. The writer wanted us to accept that the “aboriginal inhabitants” of Southwest were Igbo. From where then did the Yoruba come to invade them, the Southeast? In line with Yoruba history however, the said Igbo marauders were from “Ila orun” (land of the rising sun).

3. Quoting ignorantly from one Robert Smith (an American for God’s sake!), to back his claim, Chukwu asserted that the conquest of the Igbo had since been celebrated by the Yoruba at the annual Eid festival. Yet, “Eid” not being a Yoruba word can only be linked to Eid El Fitril, an Islamic festival.

My question now is why an Igbo man would gleefully give publicity to such a self-immolating story all in a vain attempt to make a silly claim that the Yoruba had their roots in Igbo land? And going by Chukwu Eke’s “historical excursion”, since when has a group of conquerors had their roots in a conquered land? Really, what was Chukwu thinking while writing that article? And what did an ethnic interest-championing group such as the so-called Media Watch Nigeria expect to gain by forwarding such a boomerang of an article to me?

And now that I’ve been dragged into the Yoruba-Bini issue, I might as well make my own contribution. The Oba of Benin has spoken. And the number one descendant of Oduduwa (the Ono of Ife) has disputed the claims of the Benin King. More so, all the known and unknown Ph.D holders in History from both sides have treated us to several academic lessons on the issue. I would therefore like to be objective here. In doing so, the views of both sides will be treated as assumptions, subject to some tests of logic:

The Oba of Benin wrote among other things that, “…Owodo was advised by oracle, so it was said, to have the son (Oduduwa) executed. Owodo (unaware that he had been tricked about his son) got the Oka Odionmwan (the executioner) to perform the act. But the executioner had pity on the son and…let him off…”

In Lagos of the 1960s, there was a house on Herbert Macaulay Street in Ebute Metta that had a bold inscription “A JI SE BI OYO” (we who wake up to imitate the Oyo people). These words did lend credence to a very interesting adage of the proud people of the old Oyo empire that “a ji se bi Oyo la nri. Oyo o se bi enikeni” (we only see those who try to imitate the great Oyo people. The Oyo people have no cause to imitate anyone).

Let us now assume, as the Oba stated in his book that Oduduwa was a Bini prince who ran away to escape from a set up and ended up founding a place called Ile-Ife where he ruled over the people. Logically therefore, one would expect the founded town to bear a Bini name. Going further, the Yoruba people should have assimilated the Bini culture and in fact be speaking the Bini language instead of what they speak. Whereas, there is absolutely no trace of Bini culture in core Yoruba land. This, precisely, is the rug or carpet on which the entire argument should rest.

Going by the Yoruba version of the history however, the relationship between the Yoruba and the Bini commenced when Oduduwa sent his son, Oranmiyan, to rule over the Bini. This has been responsible therefore for the Yoruba cultural presence in Bini land up till now. Even there are some highly titled Bini Chiefs and several Bini men and women bearing Yoruba names. Yet, there is nothing like vice versa in this scenario. For instance, there are no real Yoruba with Bini names. And neither do we see any King in Yoruba land having a title that has a cultural or linguistic bearing to Bini land. On the other hand, even the King of Benin is called Oba (a Yoruba title for King). Does this not strongly suggest something in support of the Yoruba version of the History?

We can also draw some examples from Ilorin in Kwara State where the Yoruba once extended their influence. Till today, there are many descendants of Alimi (the progenitor of the Northern ruling house in Ilorin) who are bearing Yoruba names. Even the current Emir has a Yoruba name. The mother of Sango, one of the most powerful Aalafin of Oyo empire was from Tapa land. And before ascending the throne, the great man once resided in Tapa land. It’s not surprising therefore to see some elements of the Yoruba culture among the Tapa people and vice versa till today. There is also the Itsekiri part of Warri where their King bears a Yoruba title (Olu) and the people speak a language that sounds like that of the Remo people of Yoruba land. These are empirical evidences that no one can fault. It will however be grossly unfair and indeed offensive for anyone, even a King in Ilorin, Tapa land, Itsekiri or wherever else to suddenly wake up one day to state that the Yoruba progenitor came from his part of the world.

Just last week, some friends (both fellow Yoruba and non-Yoruba alike) wondered why almost everybody is suddenly embarking on an ego trip at the expense of the Yoruba. And my answer was in form of a question: Which other ethnic group in Nigeria is really worth riding on its back by a different group? This clearly explains why some other Nigerians would readily blame the political, economic and social woes of their ethnic groups on the Yoruba.

The Yoruba civilization is comparable to those of the old Greeks and the Romans. Here are a pace setting people not only in Nigeria but also in the whole of Africa. As I stated in an article written sometimes in 2003, every Yoruba kingdom was based on a parliamentary system of government. The Yoruba were the first to have a textile industry…when many other Africans were still going about stark naked.

The Yoruba were the first to use modern weapons of war such as bazooka, artillery guns and automatic rifles during their intra tribal wars. This was a time others were still going to wars with cutlasses bows and arrows. The Yoruba were the first to adopt a modern military hierarchy from “eso to Are Ona Kakanfo” (soldier to Field Marshal). The Yoruba were the first to have a television station, the first to have an Olympic stadium, the first to build a sky scrapper (Cocoa House), The first to set up Free Primary education etc etc. A people that could achieve all these pace-setting feats have no cause whatsoever to take the historical accounts of their great ancestry from outsiders. More so, when such outsiders are, themselves, victims of identity crisis that borders on inferiority complex.

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Ray June 7, 2017 - 8:55 pm

My question is how can a kingdom who as been ruling their self for more than a thousand years send group of chiefs to another land to beg for a kingship, does such thing exist?? To begged for a Kingship from a kingdom that just had their first monarch, another group of people will just come and be pleading for the King to come and rule them? and the king will refused and send his son to go with them, without asking of royalty?? even when Orominyan couldn’t bear the anger of Ogiemien, couple to the story how his father Oduduwa was exiled by Owodo the last Ogiso, Oronmiyan left Igodomigodo with anger and went back to Ife, the Bini didn’t run after him because he left already behind a son which Bini now crown their King as the Bini culture and tradition demands, he told them that they can crown his son on his behalf, my advise to our brethren Yorubas is stop tangling history, there is no way one can change a true history, the history Bin is a shared history, you don’t have to go to school before you know Bini history, although I know that many Yorubas know the true………..

Sampson Iroabuchi Onwuka September 2, 2010 - 4:54 pm

@Muyiwa…I only live to meet people like you who actually find time to study what is important, and I make time to read deductions made by the likes of you. If I got you right you meant to suggest that I was only used information as it suited me and so on. And the underlisted is your commentary…

“@Samson iroabuchi onwuka. You are so biased that you would twist facts to suit your case. Alase clearly means oni ase. its just the yoruba way of combining words e.g oni ata becomes alata, oni akara becomes alakara. standard yoruba. ekeji simply is another way of saying ikeji. That statement means “The one who cannot be born, King, commander, second only to the gods”. please dont alter words to suit your blind arguments. There’s nothing Igbo about it. I have no issues with you trying to claim a hebrew origin for yourselves but dont drag us yorubas into it.”

So we break down your facts “Alase clearly means oni ase.”, so the question is, what is oni ase, Is it Yoruba? is not.

2, you continued with following examples Oni ata, oni akara, and so on. So what is Oni in Yoruba? it means chief. What you don’t know is that parts of Igbo bear the name and title ‘Oni’, for instance Oni – isha. I bet you can’t despose that Oni-isha (Onitsha) is nothing but Igbo. But Onu-ife ?

These titles; Obi, Oni, Owo, Owelle, are titles used by the kingdom which founded Bini, which founded laid the foundation for ile-ife. Remember that Ile-ife was never yoruba until the civil war ended. There were people who lived there before the ‘oyo chiefs’ as they call them Yoruba.

The Igbos will say Owo-eri, meaning chief of eri, or Owo-ere meaning head of the land or Eri (owerri), whose last king before Aro-ugo was a man called Dada. He ascendency came through Oni-Isha. I bet you didn’t know Igbo chief are also called ‘Owo, with a high o and lower note on o in pronunciation, almost like certain version of Yoruba.

You mentioned Ekeji is just the same as Ikeji meaning “The one who cannot be born, King, commander, second only to the gods”. please Muyiwa go and ask Igbo what you just said. Ekeji is not quite Igbo in the very sense title but Ikeji…is the potential force, that was sent from the most high’ but unlike your Yoruba version that is a toddler to Igbo, Ikeji like Orise/Olise, Orisa/Olisa can also be a human name. Just go and ask any Igbo what Ikeji means. The word ike or ikechi/chukwu means strenght from God…and not strenght second to God. We are the speaker of the language.

Oni is chief like an Obi but like the obi and igwe, they are not Obas as much as obi is Eze. When in the Igbo society we say Iwu-ere or Iwu eri, we mean the laws of the land or the laws of covenant. Just go and ask any Jew or Hebrew or any Arab what ‘eres’ means. Remember Ewu – ere was the first king of bini. The word bini and the binoni are one and the same thing.

The word oni is just part of the saying obi-n oni, literary meaning in Hebrew son of my right hand (Ben oni). As opposed to the ‘son my sorrow’ which is really Benjamin. Oni is Hebrew for right hand or right man or representative and the word Beni/Hebrew, Bini/edo/igbo/hebrew and Obi (Obinna/bina)/igbo are part of the same syllable for sons. is Hebrew, the second.

The Igbo word Oba is chief and the same with Bini and some parts of Yoruba. But the Igbo go the distance of saying Obasi, which means most high, which is also noted in English and Greek as Basil/meaning king. So when we Alafin in Spanish Hebrew we refer to a king warriors, more like Alake. In Medieval Hebrew and in Spanish we can say, Mulad for a Muslim converted to Christianity. That means ‘sons (generic) raised elsewhere’. More like a lad in English, like in lade or ladi in yoruba. What we find in mulad is the very word omolade, sons or native.

So the chief and the land is a corelation, for Ala-Akara in igbo, in hebrew and Arabic, all refer to the land of Akara. Every designated town has a chief/oni who is the Ikeji/Ikeja of the Oba, which in Igbo society is dedicated to God from the beginning in terms of the instrument of God. The idea is closer to the saying oni-baba. So you in Igbo ala for land in English, more like the Turkish saying A la turka/land of Turkey, the Ala akara or alakara means one thing and one thing only in Ile-ife yoruba, land of Akara. Akara has meaning in Hebrew and in Igbo to begin…so is …..I mean we can discuss the evolution of Yoruba society by understanding the culture and the language of the people.

please contact…sunsetstudios@hotmail.com

Muyiwa March 8, 2010 - 5:26 pm

@Samson iroabuchi onwuka. You are so biased that you would twist facts to suit your case.

Alase clearly means oni ase. its just the yoruba way of combining words e.g oni ata becomes alata, oni akara becomes alakara. standard yoruba.

ekeji simply is another way of saying ikeji.

That statement means “The one who cannot be born, King, commander, second only to the gods”. please dont alter words to suit your blind arguments. There’s nothing Igbo about it. I have no issues with you trying to claim a hebrew origin for yourselves but dont drag us yorubas into it.

sampson Iroabuchi Onwuka October 24, 2008 - 9:10 pm

Type errors are unfortunate, there is so much to say…but the Yoruba saying…, ‘Kabiesi Oba alaa se ekeji orisa’ is improper Yoruba language, it is mostly Igbo and partly Hebrew, especially Obasi and Ekeji orisa…”the undisputed power…that is from God”

sampson Iroabuchi Onwuka October 24, 2008 - 8:57 pm


you are really an academic. I think we Igbos have the right to postulate to any claim that was passed to us. I think so because Igbos are Hebrews. Not only Hebrews, they are Jews of Spain. What is missing from Nigerian History is the history that ws passed unto us, and I can tell you that my part of Abia state believe that they came from soem where…and speak of the land far away…. That is seven rivers and seven seas. I wold think that it amounted to fairy tale until I began to discove Hebrew words taht are essentially Igbos.

Bros, I can tell you that my research is going on so greatly that in a few years I can go the distance to publish a book on it. I have seven formulas that link Igbos to medieval Hebrew. In fact Igbo language is Hebrew language and I can go the diatance to claim that the Yoruba language has elements of Hebrew.

You see todays Yoruba is a mixture of two people one them from what is now Ile ife and the other from Ketu. I have been able to recognise essential moorish element in Yoruba and Igbo, that in fact the artifacts that we can find in Igbokwu in Anambra is actually Moorish proper arts. Ile ife is a Moorish name and at least such names as ‘Orisa’ is actually moorish to the degree that one Orisa Huela was believed to have left Spain, after the fall of Zahara.

To further the truth, the name Orisa is also Igbo, which means God. It is a name and a saying and in Yoruba, you can orisa inly mentioned in terms of the god of iron. It means the name is foreign to them and this orisa was probably a human being, who brought Iron to that part of the would. Look at the artifacts discovered in Anambra state and if you look at the name we can see the sound of the name ‘Alhambra’ creeping in.

Alhambra is or was the epicenter of Granada…Moorish Granada and if you an believe that these people were not ARABS then you can begin to appreciate the possibility that your Yorubas and your Igbos with those scarilised face were moors ejected from spain in 1492. Th eIgbo word ‘Aru’ for instance is Hebrew for ‘evil’…same in Igbo, the Hebrew word ‘Arusi’ means evilspirit or Idol, the exact meaning in Igbo. In fact the word Igbo ir rooted in Hebrew as ‘el gibbor’ meaning the ‘mighty God’ and as such when the Igbos say ‘ala Igbo’ they, like other Jews and Arabs were merely putting God first before thier name. Hence ala Igbo is exercised Jewish meaning of the word ‘el gibbor’ “mighty God””land of the mighty”

The whole truth is that are probably among the Jews forced out of spain and I believe that one day evidence on the antiquity of the Igbos still lie under the sea…especially in the narrow creek that subtends at Ezzaa/proper hebrew pronunciation of Israel. In that area we find Eda, the only Igbo village with exact 72 villages in Igbo society believed to have decended from 72 priestly families. These were none others than the missing Septuagint priest, who made thier way into Spain sometime bewteen 6- 1th century/Qumran and Masoretic.

The word Eda is Hebrew for ‘community’ by Jakob Milgrom Edda is a ‘priestly community’ . the language that we think is Igbo inpsite of Greenberg is actually Hebrew…the pointy hats that we think is Igbo is actually Jewish in origin, the mark on the face that we think is both Yoruba and Igbo is actually Moorish. In a article that I discovered written in a magazine called the ‘American Magazine’/1882 regarding the Moors of Spain…it states” thier faces are barbecued, thier manes are out like the scales of a griffin, and thier legs are bedposts, thier feet being cncealed by the pavement”. In Anambra where Igbo arts were found…they discovered 165 thousand beads of several colors…it will noe appear that the coering of faces with those which an Igbo practice until fairly recently, a practice that still linger with Yorubas of Igbomina and Ile Ife are nothing more than ‘berbecue’ or wires on the faces of the these moors. I can say that there faces were not scarilized, the marks of thier faces where imitation of life.

The works of art discovered at Ile Ife, Benin and Anambra are so correspondingly exact that there is no mistaken its common origin. Given the geographical propinquity of Anambra to Ile ife and the diatribe of charamistic Benin will not be said of arrivals from else where to flames the works of art that lingered ever so slightly on fringes of Igbo society and the Yoruba. The Nok culture and the minning district of Minna and Igbominna are serious portals in the deconstruction of Moorish extraordinary impact in Nigeria, like a ‘buried mirrow’ it was broken by savages.

This whole issue of slave trade is driven by ignorance and a rachetted up ignorance taht now drown the concord of great West African history.We cannot say how these arts were made, but the poetic rendition of the bronze wroughted arts of Igbo Ukwu speak volumes on time and space that it is only betrayed by the acclaim that such arts and instruments for it have to be foreign. If Igbos are not related to yoruba by blood, they are related to yoruba by art and the desposition of the Igbo King from Thurstan shaws digging suggest that he was aware of his own death. That they were recent arrivals, straight from a catatrophe and they were hunted. While all other works are plated in Zinc and Brass alloy (materials found all over Nigeria, minna/plataeu to mention)it is only the Igbo ukwu arts that is entirely made of Bronze alloy, not found anywhere in Nigeria/the chief material of the meditterian.

The curved knives elevate the case to level of conflict and from the highest pendulum to dovetail that Arabs were not the original invented on the art of curved Knives. Then there is Skakespeare, William and his play Corielanus…cast of Moorish as Black.

abebi Giwa-Amu April 22, 2006 - 2:34 am

from what i read from the acticle i did not have a view from where the said oduduwa generated from,and i wil also like to know about his mother and father,cos the acticle did not agree that he was from bini.history student

Anonymous September 14, 2005 - 5:05 pm

why would oduduwa's actual name be Izoduwa when there is no'z' in yoruba and oduduwa's ancestor (Nimrod) is even reffered to as Namuradu or Lamuradu

Anonymous August 16, 2005 - 1:54 pm

I don't care what anybody else says……this article is excellent!

prince kennedy Iyoha August 12, 2005 - 7:54 pm

Hello. this is a reply to our last contributor to this very sencitive issue.

I will like to tell our brother the meaning of oduduwa in Edo language.First of all

The right word is Izoduwa. meaning "i have chosen the right path". this character do not have any relation with our Ibos brother.

Anonymous August 11, 2005 - 4:40 am

I am a Yoruba like the author but not a racist/etnicist if such exist. If mankind originated from Sudan/Ethiopa Axis The people of the forest must all be linked together one way or the other. The Igbo may well be the aborigines of present day Yorubaland since Oduduwa is confimed to be an immigrant all of this subject to verification by Archaeolgist/Historians but we Africans are too prejudiced to initiate this type of issues unless with Euro/American support. Let me ask you two Questions.

1. What is the meaning of Yoruba.

2. What is the meaning of Oduduwa in Yoruba.

If your explanations are better than the one supplied by some Igbo Historians. you can send a reply.

prince kennedy Iyoha June 14, 2005 - 1:22 pm

Your view about the imbroglio between the Bini and the Yorubas, is conditioned to the fact that you are a yoruba man and therefore do not write with objectivity. however, you fail to explain the motive why Oduduwa had to send his first son to rule over the Bini kingdom after more than 3 years of the ingdom being a republic.

according to the Bini history, the people of the kingdom realized through an oracle that the king was alife and had to go for him.

an ancient oduduwa could not abadon his new find home,and beside,he put the Bini people through a lot of test to see if they were really ready to accept him as a king after the unwanted ill tretment mented on him by order of the princes, and the understanding he received from the okokhuo(captain) that led the killing army untill.oduduwa knew that his retune to Bini can not be of any good, he therefore fanilly asked his first son to take his place in the Edo or Bini kigdom.

For your memory, eko is an edo word for camping.

meanwhile, i will like to let you know that i enjoyed reading your article "PRIDE AND PREJUDICE".

my warmest regards.

Anonymous June 11, 2005 - 6:36 pm


A. Daramola June 6, 2005 - 8:56 pm

Yes, many points were true in the Yoruba/Edo relationship. However, some points were spurious: While there has been (and is) a strong Yoruba influence on the Bini, the reverse is true also. The Kingdom of Benin periodically attempted (and many times suceeded) in asserting their suzerainty over eastern yorubaland. Some king titles can be traced to benin among the yoruba: Ogoga of Ikere, the "jumu/ijumu" itle of Owo, et cetera. Thank You.

Nkechinyere ONUOHA April 12, 2005 - 8:07 pm

Femi oluwale was realy an angry man when he wqreote his rejoinder to Chukwu Eke so that he failed to address the issues he raised in his article. For instance, Femi did not tell in his artickle whether the simmilartity in namencleture and others which Chukwu talked about was real or not.I do not think the best way to tackle the issue is to go gutter. Igbo asnd Yoruba scholars shouldd44a


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