Front Cover
 Title Page
 Table of Contents
 Part I: General
 Part II
 Map of the Yoruba-speaking peoples...

Group Title: Ethnographic survey of Africa., pt. 4
Title: The Yoruba-speaking peoples of south-western Nigeria
Full Citation
Permanent Link: http://ufdc.ufl.edu/UF00072121/00001
 Material Information
Title: The Yoruba-speaking peoples of south-western Nigeria
Series Title: Ethnographic survey of Africa
Physical Description: 102 p. : ;
Language: English
Creator: Forde, Cyril Daryll, 1902-
Publisher: International African Institute
Place of Publication: London
Publication Date: 1951
Subject: Yoruba (African people)   ( lcsh )
Joruba (volk)   ( gtt )
6.275   ( gtt )
Genre: non-fiction   ( marcgt )
Bibliography: Bibliography: p. 84-102.
 Record Information
Bibliographic ID: UF00072121
Volume ID: VID00001
Source Institution: University of Florida
Rights Management: All rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.
Resource Identifier: oclc - 00414063
lccn - 52065548

Table of Contents
    Front Cover
        Front Cover 1
        Front Cover 2
    Title Page
        Title Page 1
        Title Page 2
        Foreword 1
        Foreword 2
    Table of Contents
        Table of Contents 1
        Table of Contents 2
    Part I: General
        Page 1
        Tribal and sub-tribal groupings and demography
            Page 1
            Page 2
            Page 3
            Page 4
        Language and physical environment
            Page 5
        Main features of economy
            Page 6
            Page 7
            Page 8
            Page 9
        Social organisation of political structure
            Page 10
            Page 11
            Page 12
            Page 13
            Page 14
            Page 15
            Page 16
            Page 17
            Page 18
            Page 19
            Page 20
            Page 21
            Page 22
            Page 23
            Page 24
            Page 25
            Page 26
        Main cultural features
            Page 27
            Page 28
            Page 29
            Page 30
            Page 31
    Part II
        Page 32
        Tribal and sub-tribal groupings and demography
            Page 32
            Page 33
            Page 34
            Page 35
            Page 36
            Page 37
            Page 38
            Page 39
            Page 40
            Page 41
        Egba, egbado, tsha, ana(ife) and related groups
            Page 42
            Page 43
            Page 44
            Page 45
            Page 46
            Page 47
            Page 48
            Page 49
            Page 50
            Page 51
            Page 52
            Page 53
        Ekiti and related groups
            Page 54
            Page 55
            Page 56
            Page 57
            Page 58
            Page 59
            Page 60
            Page 61
            Page 62
            Page 63
            Page 64
        Yoruba in the colony
            Page 65
            Page 66
            Page 67
            Page 68
            Page 69
            Page 70
        Yoruba in the northern provinces
            Page 71
            Page 72
            Page 73
            Page 74
            Page 75
            Page 76
            Page 77
            Page 78
            Page 79
            Page 80
            Page 81
            Page 82
            Page 83
        Page 84
        Page 85
        Page 86
        Page 87
        Page 88
        Page 89
        Page 90
        Page 91
        Page 92
        Page 93
        Page 94
        Page 95
        Page 96
        Page 97
        Page 98
        Page 99
        Page 100
        Page 101
        Page 102
    Map of the Yoruba-speaking peoples of south-western Nigeria
        Page 103
        Page 104
Full Text








Price 8s. 6d. net




edited by







*C.3.- (L S'.SI/


9 4

This study is one part of the Ethnographic Survey
of Africa which the International African Institute
is preparing with the aid of a grant made by the
Secretary of State under the Colonial Development
and Welfare Acts, on the recommendation of the
Colonial Social Science Research Council





The preparation of a comprehensive survey of the tribal societies of
Africa was discussed by the Executive Council of the Institute as far back
as 1937, but the interruption and restricting of its activities caused by
the war resulted in the postponement of the project. Events and develop-
ments during the war led to a wider recognition of the need for collating
and making more generally available the wealth of existing but uncoordin-
ated- material on the ethnic groupings and social-conditions of African
peoples, particularly in connection with plans for economic and social de-
velopment. It appeared also that the International African Institute, as
an international body which had received support from and performed ser-
vices for the different Colonial governments, was in a very favourable
situation for undertaking such a task.

The Institute, therefore, in 1944, applied to the recently establish-
ed British Colonial Social Science Research Council for a grant from the
Colonial Development and Welfare Fund to finance the preparation of an
Ethnographic Survey of Africa, and a grant was allocated for a period of
five years from 1945. A committee, under the Chairmanship of Professor
Radcliffe-Brown, was appointed to consider the scope and form of the sur-
vey; and collaboration was established with research institutions in
South Africa, Rhodesia, East Africa, French West Africa, Belgium and the
Belgian Congo.

The aim of the Ethnographic Survey is to present a concise, critical
and accurate account of our present, knowledge of the tribal groupings,
distribution, physical environment, social conditions, political and econo-
mic structure, religious beliefs and cult practices, technology and art of
the African peoples. The material is to be presented as briefly and on as
consistent a plan as possible, and the text will be supplemented by maps
and comprehensive bibliographies.

The Ethnographic Survey will be published as a series of separate,
self-contained studies, each devoted to one particular people or cluster of
peoples. It is hoped that publication in this form will make the results
more quickly and readily available to those interested in specific areas or
groups. The sections of the survey will be published as they are com-
pleted, and a list of those in course of publication is given on the cover
of this section.

Since the unequal value and the generally unsystematic nature of the
available information constituted a chief reason for undertaking this sur-
vey, it will be obvious that the material here presented can make no claim
to be complete or definitive. Every effort has been made, however, to
scrutinise all available literature and to check it by reference to unpub-
lished sources and to workers actually in the field; thus it is intended
to present a clear picture of our existing knowledge and to point out the
directions in which the need for further studies is most pressing. Any

assistance from those who are in a position to remedy deficiencies and cor-
rect inaccuracies by providing supplementary material will be greatly ap-

The International African Institute expresses its thanks to the Colo-
nial Social Science Research Council, for recommending the grant which has
made possible the initiation of the work, and also to the many scholars,
research workers, administrative officers and missionaries in Europe, South
Africa and the various African territories who have so generously responded
to our appeals for information and who have spared time to correct and add
to the drafts.

I am especially grateful for help given in personal communications and
in the checking of drafts during the preparation of the present volume, by
Dr. W. R. Bascom, Mr. O. Biobaku, Mr. H. J. Braunholtz, Mr. W. B. Fagg, Mr.
H. D. Gunn, Mr. E. L. Lasebikan, Mr. P. Lloyd, Monsieur P. Mercier, the
Rev. G. Parrinder, Mr. E. C. Rowlands, Mr. W. B. Schwab and Mr. N. Weir;
thanks are also due to Mr. Kenneth Murray, Director of Antiquities, Nigeria
and to the Nigerian Secretariat for making available to us manuscript notes
on a number of Yoruba groups. I am happy to acknowledge the valuable as-
sistance of Miss Barbara Pym in collating the widely scattered material
consulted for this study and preparing the bibliography.




Tribal and Sub-Tribal Groupings and Demography 1

Nomenclature 1
Location 1
Grouping 2
Population Estimates 3
History and Traditions of Origin 4

Language 5

Physical Environment 5

Main Features of Economy 6

Agriculture 6
Cocoa Farming 7
Palm Products 7
Trade 8
Crafts 8

Social Organisation and Political Structure 10

Local and Kinship Grouping 10
Kinship Terminology 13
Forms of Settlement 15
Age Sets 15
Associations and Guilds 16
Women's Associations 17
Cult Groups 17
The .State 19
Administration 21
Personnel of Government 22
Military Organisation 23
Legal Procedure 24
Inheritance of Goods 24
Slavery 26
Pawning 27

Main Cultural Features 27

Dress and Tribal Marks 27
Birth 27
Circumcision Rites 28
Marriage 28
Divorce 28
Religious Beliefs and Cults 29
Shamanism 30
Magic 31


1. Oyo or Yoruba Proper 32

2. Ife-Ilesha 34

3. Ibadan 38

4. Egba, Egbado, Tsha, Ana(Ife) and related groups 42

5. Ijebu 48

6. Ekiti and related groups 54

7. Ondo 62

8. Yoruba in the Colony 65

9. Yoruba in the Northern Provinces 71






The term Yn1bha is sometimes said to have been derived from a foreign
nicknrme mnng ing nning given to the subjects of the Alafin of Oyo by
the Fulani and Hausa. The Hausa word for the Yoruba language is Yarbanci.
Yoruba has been commonly applied to a large group, united more by language
tan43y iiiiu whose members speak of themselves as UT- v Ega, ijebu,
Ife._Ilesha and the other names of the various tribes.

The Yoruba of Dahomey are known to the administration as Nago (Nagot);
this name, as also the terms Anago, Anagonou, may have been given to them
by their enemies the Fon of Abomey. The Yoruba of French Togoland are
called Ana, a name of unknown origin which is not used by the people them-
selves. The Yoruba in the west, (Dahomey, Togo) consist of (a) the
southern groups, mainly of Egba and Egbado origin, the Ketu, Tshab6, Itsha
and Dassa, doubtless of similar origins, who traditionally came from
Ilesha possibly about a thousand years ago, and (b) the Ife in central
Dahomey, who say that they came direct from Ile-Ife. To these must be
added (c) the Dj6 (Holli), found between (a) and (b).

Yoruba immigrants in Sierra Leone are called Aku by the French in
Senegal and the descendants of Yoruba slaves in Cuba are known as Lukumi.(1)

South Western Nigeria, from the Guinea Coast west to the Niger Delta,
200 mile inland to he Niger wie- i flowssouth-east to join the Benue,
and extending west into Dahomey and French Togoland. The most westerly
groups are on the right bank of the Mono, to the north and south of Atak-
pamf. Yoruba-speaking populations occupy all or most of the Colony,
Abeokuta, Ijebu, Ondo and Oyo Provinces in South Western Nigeria, and
Ilorin and Kabba Provinces in Northern Nigeria. The Yoruba populations
of the Colony have received numerous accessions from other areas. In
Benin Province the ruling lineage of the city of Benin claims to be of
Yoruba origin and to have migrated from Ife. The population of Ilorin
Province is mostly Yoruba but a Fulani group, participating in a successful
rebellion against old Oyo, secured political domination early in the 19th
century. In Dahomey the Yoruba occupy the area in the east and north of the

(1) Fadipe, 1939; Migeod, 1913, Vol.I, p.44; Parrinder, I, 1947; 2, 1949, p.9;
Ward Price, 1933, p.1; Bascom, 8, 1949; Bertho, 2, 1949; Mercier, 1, 1950.





The term Yn1bha is sometimes said to have been derived from a foreign
nicknrme mnng ing nning given to the subjects of the Alafin of Oyo by
the Fulani and Hausa. The Hausa word for the Yoruba language is Yarbanci.
Yoruba has been commonly applied to a large group, united more by language
tan43y iiiiu whose members speak of themselves as UT- v Ega, ijebu,
Ife._Ilesha and the other names of the various tribes.

The Yoruba of Dahomey are known to the administration as Nago (Nagot);
this name, as also the terms Anago, Anagonou, may have been given to them
by their enemies the Fon of Abomey. The Yoruba of French Togoland are
called Ana, a name of unknown origin which is not used by the people them-
selves. The Yoruba in the west, (Dahomey, Togo) consist of (a) the
southern groups, mainly of Egba and Egbado origin, the Ketu, Tshab6, Itsha
and Dassa, doubtless of similar origins, who traditionally came from
Ilesha possibly about a thousand years ago, and (b) the Ife in central
Dahomey, who say that they came direct from Ile-Ife. To these must be
added (c) the Dj6 (Holli), found between (a) and (b).

Yoruba immigrants in Sierra Leone are called Aku by the French in
Senegal and the descendants of Yoruba slaves in Cuba are known as Lukumi.(1)

South Western Nigeria, from the Guinea Coast west to the Niger Delta,
200 mile inland to he Niger wie- i flowssouth-east to join the Benue,
and extending west into Dahomey and French Togoland. The most westerly
groups are on the right bank of the Mono, to the north and south of Atak-
pamf. Yoruba-speaking populations occupy all or most of the Colony,
Abeokuta, Ijebu, Ondo and Oyo Provinces in South Western Nigeria, and
Ilorin and Kabba Provinces in Northern Nigeria. The Yoruba populations
of the Colony have received numerous accessions from other areas. In
Benin Province the ruling lineage of the city of Benin claims to be of
Yoruba origin and to have migrated from Ife. The population of Ilorin
Province is mostly Yoruba but a Fulani group, participating in a successful
rebellion against old Oyo, secured political domination early in the 19th
century. In Dahomey the Yoruba occupy the area in the east and north of the

(1) Fadipe, 1939; Migeod, 1913, Vol.I, p.44; Parrinder, I, 1947; 2, 1949, p.9;
Ward Price, 1933, p.1; Bascom, 8, 1949; Bertho, 2, 1949; Mercier, 1, 1950.

Cercle of Porto Novo, the region of Ketu and a large part of the Cercle of
Savalou; in French Togoland there are Yoruba settlements in the eastern
part of the Cercle of Atakpame.


The Yoruba are for the most part grouped in a large number of loosely
connected chiefdoms. According to Johnson, they all formerly owed alle-
giance to the Alafin of Oyo (more correctly written 0yo ), but other tradi-
tions assert that the Oni of Ife, perhaps at an earlier period, held suzer-
ainty over the Yoruba chiefdoms. Thus Bascom reports concerning Iganna
and Oke Iho in Oyo Province, within the domain of the Alafin of Oyo, that
the Alafin was formerly subordinate to the Oni and sent him tribute. In
some outlying areas the establishment of Yoruba ruling groups among formerly
alien peoples, such as the Edo-speaking Bini, has implanted many features of
Yoruba culture and social organisation.

The Itsekiri, commonly known as Jekri, numbering some 20 -25,000 mainly
in Warri Province in the north west part of the Niger Delta, speak a diver-
gent Yoruba dialect said to be akin to those of Oyo and Ekiti. But their
social organisation like their speech has been much modified by Edo (Bini)
connections, their ruling lineages being held to be descended from an early
Benin Oba, while their economy is similar to that of the Sobo (Urhobo) and
Ijaw. They are therefore considered in another section of the survey.

The Igala, of whom there are about 200,000 in the Igala and Idoma Divi-
sions of Kabba and Benue Provinces respectively, also speak a Yoruba dia-
lect, and among the many traditions regarding their origin there is one as-
cribing them to a Yoruba source. Nevertheless, their other cultural affini-
ties would seem to be rather with Jukun or even Bini and they too will be
considered in a separate section of the survey.

Fadipe divides the Yoruba-speaking peoples into two main cultural
groups, the Ife-Ijesha-Ekiti, who consider themselves descendants of the
aboriginal inhabitants of Ife but who doubtless include many accretions oc-
curring at various times, and the Oyo-Yoruba (in which he includes Egba),
held to be descendants of later immigrants from the east. These two groups
are said to differ in dialect, in customs concerning marriage and burial,
and also in political organisation. He admits, however, that this classi-
fication is incomplete, and it is obvious that further research is needed
before any systematic cultural classification can be attempted.

The modern administrative divisions correspond generally to major
'tribal' sections, which, according to Talbot and Fadipe, are as follows:

Chiefdom, tribal group or Distribution by
modern territorial unit Province

Oyo or Yoruba proper Oyo and Ilorin Provinces
Ife-Ilesha Oyo Province
Ibadan Oyo Province
Egba and related groups ) Abeokuta Province and Dahomey
Tsha, Ana (Ife) and related) Dahomey and central French
groups ) Togoland

Chiefdom, tribal group or Distribution by
modern territorial unit Province
Ijebu Ijebu Province and the Colony
Ekiti and related groups Ondo, Benin and Ilorin
Ondo Ondo Province
Yoruba in the Colony The Colony and Lagos
Yoruba in the Northern Ilorin and K

The distinctive features of these main groups are outlined in a series
of later sections.


No accurate data on population are yet available. The total number
of Yoruba in Nigeria was estimated at 3,116,164 in the 1931 Census, as
against 2,113,411 in the 1921 Census. Other figures for 1931 are as fol-

Southern Provinces: 2,667,164
Northern Provinces: 498,212
3 is y7-(
Yoruba in the separate Southern Provinces: Oyo 1,332,843; Abeokuta
- 434,410; Ondo 381,013; Ijebu 305,568; Colony 205,563; Owerri -
3,346; Onitsha 2,099; Benin 2,055; Calabar 824; Ogoja 195;
Cameroons 35.

Estimates of the number of Yoruba in Dahomey are: Cercle of Porto-
Novo c.90,000; Ketu 10,028; Cercle of Savalou 55,566; in French
Togoland c.13,000.

Yoruba speakers in the Northern Provinces of Nigeria were estimated by
Meek (c.1925) at about 630,000.(1) For more recent estimates of separate
groups, see the relevant sections.


Estimates of Provincial densities per square mile (1931) are as follows:
Oyo 94, Abeokuta 102, Ondo 56, Ijebu 125, Colony 235.

Some incomplete figures given in Bridges' Oil Palm Survey for rural
areas more remote from large towns indicate that in the Ilaro Division of
Abeokuta Province densities of 82, 63 and 61 per square mile are recorded,
while in the Meko group of Ilaro Division and the Aiyede group of Ekiti Di-
vision densities are as low as 4 and 5 per square mile respectively.

The mixture of peoples in Dahomey makes it difficult to give more than
approximate densities for Yoruba groups. In some areas of the CerJ'- of

(1) Census, 1931, Vol.III, p.27; Talbot, 1926, Vol.IV, p.52; Mercier, I, 1950; Meek,
2, 1925, Vol.I, p.24.

Porto Novo their density may exceed 400 persons per square mile, but is sel-
dom greater than 25 persons per square mile in central Dahomey, except in
the Dassa area, where a density of 125 persons per square mile may sometimes
be found.(l)


he town of Ife as their place of origin and the Oni
QfIfe ha he gnprally accepted as their ritual l-ader. The present
royal lineages of the various Yoruba chiefdoms trace their descent from
Ouduawa or Odua, the denied culture hero whom Ife mythology credits with
the creation of the earth, and from whose seven grandsons the various
branches of the Yoruba-speaking peoples claim descent.

The sphere of influence of the Oyo Yoruba chiefdom (an agglomeration of
lesser chiefdoms under the suzerainty of the Alafin of Oyo) is held to have
extended at its greatest as far as the south of the present Gold Coast on
the west and to the banks of the Niger on the east. The Alafin is regarded
in Oyo tradition as the descendant of Oranyan, the youngest son of Oduduca
to whom passed control of the land and people of the true Yoruba, i.e. the
Oyo, and whose vassals the chiefs of other groups became. The establishment
of the first Oyo capital (Old Oyo) is ascribed to this period while Ife re-
mained under the guardianship of Adimu as the sacred city. But whatever the
extent of the early Yoruba state, it was already in decline by 1700.

During the 18th century there were constant wars with Dahomey and there
was internal disintegration from about 1810, with civil wars in which the
Fulani intervened, overrunning the country as far south as Abeokuta. There
was also constant slave-raiding, as Lagos had become the chief slave depot
in West Africa. These wars continued throughout the 19th century and from
them Yorubaland emerged divided into a number of virtually independent

The first Europeans known to have travelled in Yoruba country were Cap-
tains Clapperton and Pearce with Dr. Morrison and Richard Lander, who arrived
in 1825-6. Clapperton's account of this journey was published in 1829. The
first white missionaries arrived in the 40s.

In 1849, when John Beecroft, who had been Governor of Fernando Po, was
appointed consul for the Bights of Benin and Biafra, direct British influence
began to be felt. Lagos was declared a British possession in 1861, created
a colony or 'settlement' in 1862 and set up as a separate colony under its
own Governor in 1866.(2)

(1) Census, 1931, Vol.1, p.99; Bridges, 1, 1939; Mercier, 1, 1950.
(2) Burns, 1942, pp.33, 121; Fadipe, 1939. Accounts of Yoruba history are given
by Burns, Talbot and Johnson. See also bibliography and separate sections and
Dunglas, 1, 1948 and 2, 1949.


Yoruba is a dialect cluster of the Kwa languages of West Africa and
forms a single unit within these languages. The main dialects, which cor-
respond approximately to the tribal divisions and are closely related, are
Oyo, Ijebu, Egba, Ife, Ijesha, Ekiti, Ondo, Owo, Owe and Akoko. Yagba and
Jekri may be added, but the latter is less closely related to other members
of the cluster. A dialect of Yoruba is also spoken by the Igala. These
dialects are said to be not altogether mutually intelligible, though border-
line peoples tend to pick up and speak the dialects of the main tribes on
either side of them. Written Yoruba is based mainly on the Oyo dialect,
but forms taken from Lagosian, Egba and Ijebu speech are quite commonly in-
troduced. (1)


Yorubaland falls into three zones roughly parallel to the coast:-

(1) The coastal zone, about 12 miles wide, raised only slightly above sea
level, consists of peninsulas, islands, sandbanks, lagoons and swamps. The
surface is composed of marine and river sand with alluvium and decaying
vegetable matter and the whole area is more or less covered with aquatic
plants, mangrove and forest vegetation. A lagoon system, running the full
length of the Yoruba coastline and providing an inland waterway from
Cotonou in Dahomey to Benin in the east, is a striking feature of the
coastal zone.

(2) The plain, about 40 miles wide, ends inland a little south of Abeo-
kuta and Ondo, where it has risen to about 650 feet. There are extensive
deposits of red clayey and mainly unstratified sand, known as Benin sand.
This zone is in the rain forest belt, and iroko, oil bean, rubber, mahogany,
silk cotton and other trees are found. There is some open parkland among
the forests. There is much laterite, a bituminous deposit in the southern
part of the Ijebu country and a phosphate deposit about 40 miles north west
of Lagos, but their economic value is not reported. Gold was discovered
in Ife-Ilesha Division in 1938 or 1939 and considerable quantities have
been produced.

(3) The interior plateau, rising to a height of 500-1,200 feet, consists
of dissected granitic hills. Deciduous trees appear and gradually increase
northwards, ending in the forest which, further north, thins out consider-
ably and is replaced by tall grass.

The climate throughout Yorubaland is cooler than in corresponding-areas
of the Eastern Provinces. The heavy rains from April to August are follow-
ed, after a break, by lighter rains from August to October. The annual
totals vary from 70-100 inches at the coast to less than 50 inches in the
north western parts of the plateau.

(1) Languages of West Africa, ed. D. Westermann (Handbook of African Languages) O.U.P.
for International African Institute; E. C. Rowlands, personal communication, 1948.

The country is traversed from north to south by numerous streams and
rivers, though many of these dry up in the dry season. Some of the'larger
rivers are the Ogun, Oshun, Oni, Owena, Ona and Sasha, but navigation is
confined to the lagoons.(1)



The main food crops are yams, maize, bananas and cassava. Coco-yams,
beans, pumpkins and peppers are subsidiary crops in most areas, while
groundnuts are grown in the north and millet has been introduced into the
grass country. Kola nuts are grown in the forest areas and a surplus is
exported to areas further north. Short-handled hoes with large iron blades,
and cutlasses are the principal farming tools.

Yams are planted in February, and corn, groundnuts and pumpkins in
April-May. The first crop of yams is dug in August and in September a se-
cond crop of corn, beans and groundnuts is sown. After three or four years
of cultivation the land is allowed to lie fallow for a period which varies
from 2-15 years. In areas where cocoa farming and trading have not been
strongly developed and where the population density is low, as in Ekiti and
Owo Divisions in the north of Ondo Province, small farms with long fallow
periods are the rule. In large areas round Ibadan and Abeokuta, many farm-
ers have planted all their land with cocoa and kola, and either borrow land
for the production of food crops or buy all their food in the market.

Most of the actual farm work is done by men, a division of labour which
differs from that of the Eastern Provinces of Nigeria. Women take little
part in farming, but devote more time to marketing surplus produce, prepar-
ing palm oil,.brewing beer and cooking; shea butter is manufactured in some

Livestock, generally tended by women, is of minor importance for food
and trade, although sheep, chickens and smaller numbers of guinea fowl,
ducks and turkeys, small black goats and occasional dwarf cattle are found
in most villages. Pigs, horses, dogs, cats, guinea-pigs and rabbits are
also reared in some areas. An experimental mixed farming unit and training
school, using Gold Coast and cross-bred dwarf cattle, has been established
at Oyo and a similar experiment in stock-fattening carried out at Ilorin.
Livestock and poultry are not eaten by many Yoruba, except after sacrifices.

Small game is hunted in the grasslands and the limited areas of unfarm-
ed forest, and there is fishing along the coast and in the rivers; smoked
and dried fish and game are traded into other areas. Snakes, rats, snails
and locusts are eaten. Before the modern cattle trade from the Northern
Provinces, beans and palm oil were the main source of protein and Yoruba diet
still consists mainly of starches. The food crops are supplemented by
limited quantities of wild green vegetables and fruits, by palm-wine from
the oil and raphia palm and by maize beer.(2)

(1) Fadipe, 1939; Bascom, 8, 1949.
(2) Forde, 1946, p.81; Bridges, 1, 1939; Bascom, 8, 1949, 10, 1951.


Nearly all the cocoa exported from Nigeria is produced by the Yoruba.
It is grown on the heavier and more fertile soils, mainly in the Ibadan and
Ife-Ilesha Divisions of Oyo Province, in Ijebu-Ode and Abeokuta Province
and in parts of the Colony. Production is most highly concentrated in
Ibadan and nearly 60% of the total amount of cocoa is grown in Oyo Province,
a quarter of the farmers there being dependent on cocoa and growing practic-
ally no food crops once their cocoa-trees are bearing.

The size of the plantations ranges from 1 to 50 acres, but the majority
are quite small and they rarely exceed 10 acres. Hired labour is generally
employed for clearing bush, felling trees and preparing the ground for a
new cocoa farm. Cocoa is best planted on newly-cleared forest land, but a
farmer will generally raise a crop of yams before putting in the cocoa
seeds. Trees are closely planted, usually less than 8 feet apart, giving
5-600 to the acre. Inter-cultivation with food crops in the years before
bearing is the general rule. Inter-planting with kola, widely practised in
the past, was found to lead to a decline in cocoa yields from about the
tenth year of bearing and the custom has now been abandoned. There is no
settled cropping system, though the first crops to be planted after clear-
ing are nearly always yams with inter-planted maize. Cassava and cocoyams
are grown later to provide shelter for the young cocoa-trees. There is an
initial non-productive period of 4 years, the trees reaching their maximum
bearing in their 10th or 12th year. They generally decline after the 15th
year, but have been known to bear up to 25 or even 35 years. There are
generally two or three pickings and may be as many as three in the main
crop season between October and February and one to three in the off season
of March to September. Cocoa beans are dried and fermented on the local
farms and are either transported by head-load and lorry to the nearest store
or handed over on the farm to a middleman. The Yoruba areas of Dahomey and
French Togoland are unsuited to cocoa growing and very little is produced


Palm oil and kernels are produced for local use and export; the former
is important in diet, while the latter is used in the manufacture of locally
produced soap. Both are obtained from wild and cultivated palms, women
doing most of the work of manufacture. The oil is of the more valuable
'soft' type. In parts of Owo Division of Ondo Province, immigrant Sobo
have established oil-collecting camps with the consent of the local chiefs.
The replacement of scattered growths of wild palms by planted groves of
selected trees and also the general use of mechanical-methods of expressing
oil and cracking the nuts are needed before the palm oil industry can be
developed to its fullest extent. An attempt has been made to plant select-
ed trees in the south of Dahomey, where the oil and kernels are the most
profitable and often the only source of wealth. Factories for the mechani-
cal extraction of palm oil are now being built.(2)

(1) Forde, 1946, pp.91-95; Mercier, 1, 1950.
(2) Bridges, 1, 1939; Forde, 1946, p.106; Mercier, 1, 1950.


The Yoruba have earned a reputation for shrewd trading and Yoruba trad-
ers are now to be found in West African markets from Dakar to the Congo.

Internal trade, based on both regional and craft specialisation, has
grown under British rule as a result of improved methods of transport, em-
ployment with government and European firms and utilisation of land for
cocoa growing. The products of the various crafts, foodstuffs from local
communities and from neighboring areas, and imported goods from Europe are
sold in large markets, which are often held every fourth, eighth or six-
teenth day.

Trade in locally produced foodstuffs is in the hands of women. Men
finance and organise trading on a larger scale and control the internal
trade in fresh meat, as well as most of the traffic in imported trade goods
and export produce. Yet almost half of the 'pan buyers', who purchase
cocoa in small lots direct from farmers and re-sell to male cocoa buyers
acting for the firms, are women. The sale of European trade goods was for-
merly controlled by societies of male traders, known in Ife as Panpa, with
a chief (Pakoye); these disintegrated when their monopoly was broken by
the opening of European stores in the inland towns. Farm produce may be
sold by the wife of a producer, but a large part of all trade is in the
hands of true middlemen, who purchase goods from the producer or operate on
a commission basis.

There is considerable commerce between different areas. Yams, maize,
beans, cassava, dried meat, cotton cloth, calabashes and some iron work are
traded south from Oyo Division. In this division the main.cash crop is
yams, which are assembled in large quantities at Oyo and Fiditi for trans-
port by lorry to the cocoa areas of the south. The imports are paid for
from the sale of cocoa; maize, cassava and other foodstuffs are also traded
south to Lagos from the region west of Abeokuta, by lorry, railway or canoe.
In Dahomey maize is sent from the Pobe area to Porto-Novo. The Yoruba of
central Dahomey grow large quantities of yams and export them to the urban
districts of the south. Fish is traded inland from the coast and kola nuts,
palm oil, citrus fruit and bananas from the forest area are exported to the
Northern Provinces. Cattle and sheep are in turn imported from the North-
ern Provinces, being driven overland to Lagos, some animals being sold and
butchered in towns lying along the route.(1)


Local industries, including weaving, dyeing, pottery and metal work,
have held their own remarkably well against European products. Wood-carv-
ing, calabash-carving, bead and leather work are still practised today.

Imported cotton cloth is dyed indigo, in shades which grow progressive-
ly darker with distance from the coast, by Yoruba women, using various 'lost
colour' processes including tie-dyeing, stencilling and wax resist; the
traditional patterns are in white or a lighter shade of indigo on a blue

(1) Forde, 1946, pp.99-100; Bascom, 4, 1949; Jones, 2, 1946; Mercier, 1, 1950.

ground. These cloths., sold in pairs, are almost universally used by Yoruba
women as clothing and are also exported to neighboring tribes such as the
Ibo as well as to such distant territories as Sierra Leone'and French West
Africa. British manufacturers have long produced prints for the Nigerian
trade which are close copies of Yoruba resist-dyed cloths.

Women weave on vertical hand-looms, producing a cloth 30 inches wide
and usually about 6 feet long. Men use the horizontal belt-loom which
produces narrow strips of cloth about 4 inches wide and of indefinite
length which are later cut and sewn together. Homespun cotton, wild silk
and imported threads are used. Designs generally are laid down by the
arrangement of dyed threads in the warp, though in some of the narrow
strip cloths crosswise designs are produced by over-weaving. The predomin-
ating traditional colours are varying tones of indigo; imported dye is
being used increasingly, sometimes mixed with natural indigo. The Ijebu
have a special style of weaving apparently unrelated to the rest of Yoruba-
land; a white cloth 20 inches wide is woven (by women) with many loose
ends giving the effect of a loose pile, and with anthropomorphic and zoo-
morphic patterns in red, black and other colours; imported silk thread in
bright colours is also much used in these cloths nowadays.

Blacksmithing is the principal form of metal-working and locally pro-
duced hoe blades, axe and adze blades, knives and cutlasses are still used
in large numbers; iron staffs with elaborate zoomorphic heads are still
made in honour of Osanyin the deity of medicine. Iron ore is available
in the northern hills, but locally smelted iron has been superseded by
scrap and imported metal bars. Cire perdue casting in bronze and brass
is less important than formerly; brass castings discovered in Ife are evi-
dence of a remarkable technical skill in earlier times. Gold and silver
jewellery is produced in Lagos and some other centres. The Ogboni house
in nearly every Yoruba village still has at least one pair of edan (small
brass figures cast on iron rods) as well as other brasswork, but those made
now are mostly very crude.

Yoruba wood-carving is well represented in the major collections of
African art, though it is often mislabelled 'Dahomean'. It is especially
associated with the following widespread Yoruba institutions: the Ogboni
society (large drums carved with anthropomorphic designs, etc.); the rival
dance societies Gelede and Egungun, devoted tQ fertility and the welfare of
the community (masks); the twin cult (ibeji figures); the cults of Eshu
or Elegbara (small figures); Shango the thunder god (small staffs in the
form of female figures, decorated bowls, ceremonial axes, etc.); Ifa divi-
.nation (circular boards with relief carving and bowls supported on figures);
and the Afin or Palace of the Oba or Bale (and sometimes lesser chiefs) in
each town (anthropomorphic house-posts, elaborately carved doors and other
objects commissioned more for aesthetic than for ritual reasons). In con-
temporary wood-carving the head is conceived as ovoid, and the hair is usu-
ally elaborated and elongated at the back of the head. In many figures
the length of the body is divided into three approximately equal units -
the head, the shoulders to the waist, and the legs. Where groups of
figures are represented, attendants and followers are subordinated to the
principal figure which may be twice or three times as large as the others.
Many Yoruba wood-carvings are painted with several colours, the most common
being blue, red, yellow, white and black. Regional variations in style

can be recognized, making it possible to distinguish wood-carvings not only
from the Egba, Ijebu, Oyo, Ekiti and Ilorin groups, and from the Ketu of
Dahomey, but even from particular villages and individual carvers. Orna-
mental calabash-carving in open-work or relief is practised at a number of
centres such as Abeokuta, Oyo and Ilorin.

Pottery is made by women in most of the larger settlements both for
local domestic use and for the markets. At Abeokuta, Ilorin, Ibadan etc.,
it is carried out in extensive potters' quarters. The principal forms are
bowls, water jars, cooking hearths and large dye vats. The pottery is all
made without the use of the potters' wheel, being built up by the coiling
process or by beating over a mould. For the dye vats a combination of
these techniques is employed. After sun-drying, the vessels are burnt in
an open fire and never glazed. Ornamentation is done by incising, impress-
ing or painting with red slip. Black ware is also produced by a damped
down smoky fire.(l) House construction is briefly described on p.15.


(The smallest social unit is the domestic family which occupies part of
a house (ile) and usually consists of a man, his wife or wives and his un-
married children, and any other persons, such as his mother or a younger
brothel, who may form a basic part of his economic unit.) The only Yoruba
term for this is a descriptive name in terms of the dwelling unit which it
occupies, i.e. ile te mi, lit. 'house that of mine'. It may consist of
one or several elementary families having the male parent in common and can
vary in number from two to as many as forty persons. Its senior male mem-
ber is recognized as its head (bale or baba).

(Several closely and, for the most part, patrilineally related families
(ile te mi) form a larger household or extended family known as an ile (lit.
house) and occupying all or part of a unit of adjacent apartments) Such a
group will include most of the following: an old man and his sons, his
younger brothers and their sons, his father's younger brothers' sons, to-
gether with the wives and children of all these. The old man has moral au-
thority over the group which may include persons ranging over two to five
generations, and performs rituals on its behalf, but it need not be, and
usually is not, an economic unit for production or consumption. In Oshog-
bo(2) the loosely used term ile tiwa is often applied to this group which is
not there regarded as a fixed social entity.

A larger aggregate known as the agbole (agbo ile body of houses i.e.
of extended families), often referred to in English as a compound, is a
wider cluster of extended families for which a common head is recognized.
Territorially it may occupy more than one set of dwellings which, as a re-
sult of the uneven growth and expansion of such units, may be at some

(1) Bascom, 8, 1949; Jones, 1, 1938; Herskovits, 2, 1945, p.51; personal communica-
tions from H.J. Braunholtz and W.B. Fagg, 1951.
(2) W.B. Schwab, personal communication, 1950.

distance from one another. The men of the component families need not,
however, be members of a single patrilineage (idile; see below); two or
more of. these may be represented. In Ife it is regarded as consisting of
three distinct sets of people; the omole (omo ile: descendants of the
house) the members of the patrikin (ibaton) which established the house or,
compound; the wives of male members of the omole and finally 'strangers'
in the compound, i.e. other men admitted as residents, but not assimilated
to the 'owning' patrikin and who may be patrikin among themselves, together
with their wives. The term omole, however, includes daughters even when
they have left the co-resident group at marriage. Such married daughters
of an omole are also referred to as omo osho. The numerical size of what.
is recognized as a single agbole appears to vary widely; Fadipe suggests
an average of 40, Bascom for Ife a range of 70 to 140 and Schwab for
Oshogbo of 15 to 450.

(The oldest male member of the agbole or 'compound', excluding the
'strangers', is recognized as compound head and as such consults the other
elders of the compound and, when necessary, the heads of component extend-
ed families and their senior wives The head of the compound is called
bale, as is the head of the family, but the latter may be referred to as
bale ile temi or baba to distinguish him. In the same way the senior wife
is called iyale or iyale ile temi in the case of the extended family. The
functions of the bale of the agbole or compound include, according to
Fadipe, authority over every member of the group, responsibility for settl-
ing disputes among members and for their general welfare, and the manage-
ment and allocation of land for farming. In Oyo and Abeokuta Provinces
and probably elsewhere tribute in the past and taxes today are collected
through him and he is responsible for providing labour and formerly mili-
tary levies. His rights often include the assistance of young men for
work on his farm, gifts of farm produce from members and, in the past, a
leg of every animal or fowl offered at any sacrifice in the compound.

Within each of the three categories f people inhabiting a compound
there is a system of rank according to set ority, as defined in terms of a
person's affiliation, by birth or marriage with the omole (descendants of
the compound). he terms egbon (senior sibling) and aburo (junior sib-
ling) are used with reference to the 'descendants of the compound'. The
distinction refers to the order of birth and applies equally to males and
females. The terms junior and senior are widely applied to wives of the
compound according to order of marriage. A man speaks of all women who
marry into his patrilineage (idile: see below) as wivess} A woman who
is divorced can usually remarry only into another idile and compound and
she loses her seniority when thus remarrying into another group. Senior-
ity of status depending on seniority of birth,or marriage does not neces-
sarily correspond with age, and the advancement of a man to the rank of
elder (agba) depends, apart from his age, on his having reached an accepted
seniority in the group. Status in this system is often expressed in the
term by which a person is addressed by others and there are many subtle
differences in naming between fathers and children and between a man's dif-
ferent wives, depending, for example, in the last case on whether they have
children or not. Kinship designations (see below) are sometimes applied
to people not related to the speaker, if they are aged or wealthy or hold
certain hereditary titles.(1)
(1) For further details on seniority and status see Bascom, 2, 1942.

When a compound increases in numbers so that it strains resources in
housing and/or land, branch 'compounds' may be formed. This requires the
approval of the head of the ward (Olori Ojogbon) and, if the branch is to be
situated in a different ward of the town or village, of the head of that
ward. The head of a branch 'compound' is subordinate to the head of the
parent 'compound'. More than one idile patrilineagee) may be found living
in a single 'compound' and this is common where, as for example in Abeokuta,
there have been many waves of migrants who fled during tribal wars. Separ-
ate houses are often built by the well-to-do and sometimes form separate
units within the larger group. Fragments of an agbole called 'fragmentary
extended families' by Fadipe, which act independently of the main body at
home, may be found in other towns; there are many such groups in Lagos.
Conversion to Christianity has been a frequent occasion for fragmentation
of compounds within a town.

LThe idile or major patrilineage remains an important unit among the
Yoruba. An idile may occupy a number of compounds scattered through dif-
ferent parts of the town. Ideally an idile is localised in one town, but
if, as is not uncommon, some members have established a new compound in an-
other town they do not thereby establish a new idile. So long as members
can trace patrilineal descent from a common ancestor they regard one another
as patrikinj(ibaton). According to Schwab, the idile in Oshogbo is an
exogamous patrilocal unit, descended from an ancestor known as its Orisun.
Its membership may vary from 50 to 500 people and may cut across compound
boundaries. In principle it is the group within which descent is traced
for succession to chiefly and other offices, for the control of land and the
inheritance of property. But where the idile is large it proves to be too
unwieldy and succession and inheritance pass within two categories of small-
er units, the isoko and the origun, which are recognized within it. These
are segments of the wider lineage. An isoko is a recognized lineage of
descendants of a patrilineal ancestor three or four generations back. Where
the idile is small, it and the largest recognized isoko are coterminous.
Segmentation, with the recognition of separate isoko units, tends to follow
the passage of a headship to the third generation. An origun is a segment
whose members are descended from a single wife of a patrilineal ancestor.
The smallest origun or 'little origun' consists of the children of one
mother by a man of the lineage. Schwab states that these two units are
also recognized in Ibadan, Ife and Ogbomosho, where the origun is known by the
same name and the isoko as isori.-(l)

With the growth of an idile segmentations at successive levels corres-
ponding to ancestors of succeeding generations are recognized. The members
and descendants within any such group retain collective rights to land or
property until the group and the property is divided among newly formed seg-
ments. The agbole, in the sense of 'descendants of the compound', will
usually correspond to one of these segments.

While the men of an idile (major patrilineage) may be dispersed over
several agbole (compounds), they may also be divided into a number of sub-'
groups which cut across 'compound' lines. These may be called 'family name
groups' (oriki, lit. 'source of family name'). The position is obscure,

(1) W. B. Schwab, personal communication, 1950.

and there appear to be several categories of such names, but in each idile
there is at least one pair of 'family names' one for men and another for
women. These are passed on from a father to his children but such names
are also said to be transmissible from the'mother's kin as well as the male
line. These inherited names serve in part to identify a person in respect
of kinship affiliation and the regulation of marriage.

The 'family name group' may coincide with what Fadipe calls the 'totem
group' which, according to his account, has practically disappeared among
the Oyo and consists merely of an aggregate of scattered component groups,
the members of which possess a common name but are not regarded as related.
There is accordingly among the Oyo no bar to marriage as long as no genea-
logical relationship can be traced. Among the Ekiti, however, all members
of a given name group observe a food taboo and the worship of an animal
sacred to that group, and there is a prohibition on marriage between any
two persons who observe the same taboo.

[In tracing kinship in general, as distinct from patrilineal descent,
both male and female ancestors are considered in so far as they are remem-
bered. An individual regards as his kin (ebi, i.e. those whom he may not
marry) not only all members of his own patrilineage (ibaton) but also those
of the patrilineage of his mother and of his mother's mother, his father's
father's mother and so on17 In practice relationships through women are
not traced back or known for more than a few generations.

'Compounds' (agbole) are in all larger settlements grouped in wards
(adugbo) which are sometimes divided into precincts (ogbon) composed of a
number of 'compounds'. These are units based on a common residence alone,
except where they are so small as to be occupied by all or part of a single

The larger territorial groups of 'town', sub-tribe and tribe are, ac-
cording to Fadipe, compact groups of larger settlements with dependent
villages, the inhabitants of which have common peculiarities of speech,
common traditions and ascribe their origin to the same founder. The larg-
er of such aggregations may be regarded as a tribe, or, in the case of more
particularist groups, of which some of the Ijebu and the Egba in pre-
Abeokuta days are examples, a sub-tribe. According to Talbot the divis-
ions between and within tribes are clear, and a Yoruba is usually in no
doubt as to his affiliation.(1)


Yoruba kinship terminology is characterized by stress on generation
differences and on relative seniority among kinsmen of the same generation.
Terms used in addressing or referring to siblings, parents, grandparents
and children are also extended bilaterally to kin of that generation with-
out distinction between relatives through the father and relatives through
the mother or between unilineal and other cognates. Thus members of one's
idile patrilineagee) are not distinguished from other kin in the terminology.

(1) Bascom, 2, 1942; 3, 1944; Fadipe, 1939; Schwab, personal communication, 1950;
Weir, 1 & 2, 1933-4; Lasebikan, 1949; Talbot, 1926, Vol.III, p.556.
(2) Information from 0. Biobaku, 1951.

Terms do not differ according to whether a man or a woman is speaking.
No distinctions are made between terms of address and terms of reference
apart from the use of compound terms in reference, to describe a relation-
ship more precisely, and of personal names in address between some kin.

These features are apparent from the following brief list of usages:

baba, used for f., f.b., f.f.b.sn., m.b., f.m.b.sn., etc., i.e. any
kinsman of the parent generation. "--he use of the term baba kekere (little
father) for f.b. and m.b. appears to be recent and distinguishes these per-
sons from others who may be called baba, including f.

iya, used for m., m.m.sis.d., f.sis., etc., i.e. any kinswoman of the
parents' generation. m. is sometimes called iya kekere (little mother),
especially if m.m. is resident and in a position of authority in the house-
hold, when she will be called iya rather than iya pla.

baba la (Oyo) ) 'old baba', used for f.f., f.f.f.b.sn., f.m.f.sn.,
baba agba (Egba) )
m.f., etc., i.e. for any kinsman of the grand-parental generation.

iya gla (Oyo) )
iya agba (Egba) ) 'old iya', used for m.m., m.m.m.sis.d., etc., and
also for f.m., etc., i.e. for any kinswoman of the grand-parental generation.

egbop, used for senior sibling male or female and any kinsman (bilater-
al) of one's generation senior in birth.

aburo, used for junior sibling male or female and any kinsman (bilater-
al) of one's generation senior in birth.

omo (oan), used in address and reference for child (own or child of a
collateral egbog or aburo) distinguished as male (kunrin) or female (binrin)
and in address for any grand-child of self or kin.

omo omo, used for referring to own grand-child or that of any egbo or

The diminutive suffix de (omode) is added in referring to children or
grand-children when they are young.

aiya, own wife.

yawo, used for a wife of a member of one's idile, herself junior to one-
self. The wife of a member of one's idile, herself senior to oneself, will
be called iya of X (her child).

oko, own husband and men of one's husband's idile (husbands and wives
will address each other with personal names save for a wife very junior to-
her husband).

ana, used for in-law relative.

Collateral kin of the appropriate generation, although addressed by the

same term as a sibling or lineal relative (f., m., gm., etc.,) may be dis-
tinguished in reference by compound descriptive terms, e.g. m.b. egbot
(or aburo) iya mi okunyin; sis. = egboy (or aburo) baba mi obinrin.


The Yoruba are probably the most urban of all African peoples. Al-
most one third live in the fifteen Yoruba towns with populations of over
20,000 inhabitants, while there are some 250 Yoruba towns and villages
with populations greater than 1,000. Ibadan, with 387,133 inhabitants
according to the 1931 Census, is the largest city in tropical Africa. TRn
of the eleven largest towns in Nigeria (over 37,000) are Yoruba, including
Lagos which is two-thirds Yoruba. But the Yoruba in the west (Dahomey
and French Togoland) have a more dispersed type of settlement. Ketu and
Save were formerly the only towns of any importance and they are today no
more than large villages.

The large settlements which antedate British administration were for-
merly surrounded by a bank or wall and outer ditch set at some distance
from the compact group of close-set compounds. Beyond this there was often
a belt of uncleared forest which reduced the risk of a sudden attack.

The houses are generally rectangular buildings with saddle-back roofs,
formerly thatched with leaves or grass, now often covered with corrugated
iron; the walls are of solid clay one or two feet thick. They are built
in groups of four or more facing inward to enclose a compound reached
through a single gateway. Livestock are often kept in the space in the
middle. There is a continuous verandah on the inner side of the house,
surrounding the compound. Each domestic unit, usually an elementary or
compound family, has two or more rooms adjoining each other, with a common
wall between neighboring apartments. Men and their wives each have their
own rooms, the children sleeping either with the latter or in a room by

The residences of chiefs are often large and elaborate and are distin-
guished by ornate gabled porches at the entrance.(1)


There is no information about the existence of age-sets among the Oyo
and Ife Yoruba, but among the Ekiti there were five grades, each with a
distinctive Bini name. On attaining the most senior grade members were no
longer called upon to perform public duties, such as looking after roads
and, more recently, providing firewood and water at rest houses, which fell
to their juniors.

Fadipe states that age-sets, in which members of the community were
grouped from before the age of puberty, existed also among the Ijebu for
many years after the establishment of British administration. Each set had
an age range of three to four years and took its name from some striking
event which had occurred in the reign of the ruling chief within the period

(1) Forde, 1934, pp.148-167; Fadipe, 1939; Perham, 1937, p.168; Bascom, 8, 1949;
Mercier, 1, 1950.

of its formation. Membership was compulsory and functions were almost en-
tirely political. At its regular meetings each set could discuss matters
which required to be brought to the notice of the authorities. Today,
among the literate urban population, their place has been taken by volun-
tary associations which meet for social and convivial purposes.(1) (See
Ijebu, below, p.52).

Age-sets also exist among the Yoruba in the Northern Provinces, par-
ticularly the Yagba, Owe and Bunu groups. (See below p.79).


According to Bascom, the term egbe now denotes, not an age-set, but an
association for recreational purposes, consisting of about fifty persons of
the same sex and usually about the same age. These associations differ
from age-sets in that a person may make his choice among several societies
whose members are of his general age level. A group is formed during
childhood and continues until the members have died out, but an individual
may become a member after he is grown up. Fadipe describes purely convi-
vial associations Egbe Anko ('And Co. clubs') which have developed in re-
cent times. Members meet for social purposes, usually dressed alike and
with a good deal of ostentatious display.

Mutual aid associations are the Aro and Esusu societies. The Aro is
found among farmers and provides a member with the collective help of the
other members. In the Esusu members contribute and save money for a fixed
period and to a fixed amount. Traders and others who have to meet heavy
outlays, as for a funeral, may ask for their share to be drawn from the
pool although only one payment may have been made.

In most Yoruba communities craft specialists, both men and women, are
organised into guilds with recognized heads. Such crafts are often quasi-
hereditary in certain idile or 'compounds', a large proportion of the mem-
bers of which practise the craft in question. In some chiefdoms all the
principal guilds including women's were represented on the State Council.
No one is allowed to practise any craft unless admitted as a member of the
appropriate guild, and an entrance fee is demanded, usually in the form of
kola nuts and drinks consumed by members. Were the guild has a special
orisha (deity) the admission ceremony is performed at its shrine. In
Abeokuta a new entrant to the blacksmiths' guild is still taken to the
granite anvil block which serves as a symbol of the god of iron and war.
The guilds protect the interests of their members and also meet for purely
recreational purposes.

Traders may also be organised in this way and a governing body of the
trading interests, generally known as the Parakoyi, has been represented
in the government of many communities. Disputes and cases of theft occur-
ring in the market were referred to it and it was its duty to keep order.
Although no longer found in most Yoruba groups the Parakoyi still exists in
Abeokuta (Egba).(2)

(1) Talbot, 1926, Vol.III, pp.544-5; Fadipe, 1939.
(2) Fadipe, 1939; Bascom, 8, 1949.


Besides the age-sets and guilds already mentioned, women are organised
in most towns, especially among the Oyo, into a political association call-
ed Egbe lyalode (lit. 'the association of the lyalode'), Iyalode being the
official title of its president. It is essentially a town organisation
and its members are mostly traders and craftswomen. The views of this
body are listened to with respect by the political authorities and the
Iyalode is often a person of considerable importance. In Ibadan, down to
1914, the lyalode was a member of the Council of State. On one occasion
at least, owing to the illness of the Bale or Governor of Ibadan, an im-
portant mass meeting was presided over by the Iyalode.

Fadipe also mentions an association of rich women (Egbe Ejidilogun)
which is said to be known in nearly every Yoruba community, but gives no
details of its organisation.(1)


Bascom considers that among the Oyo the Egungun and Oro, two of the
most important groups which have often been classed as 'secret societies',
are no different in essential form from other groups which worship various
orisha (gods) and would place the third major 'secret society'. O boni, in
Awe (Oyo Division), in the same category. But in Ife and elsewhere the
Ogboni is predominantly a political organisation. It is found organised
in local lodges in all parts of Yorubaland. It is generally held to have
originated in Ile Ife, although Frobenius claimed that it was originally
an Egba institution and Fadipe that it reached its fullest development
where the political groups are small, as among the Ijebu and Egba, where
it is known as Oshugbo.

There is difference of opinion as to what classes of persons belong to
Ogboni, Fadipe stating that every freeborn male and female from the age of
about ten should be admitted; Talbot implies that membership was confined
to important men and heads of lineages, and Frobenius that it was originally
a society of men only but that women were later allowed to be members.
These discrepancies may arise in part from the fact that membership of the
higher controlling group or grade is confined to a few, while the great
majority of the initiates, which may include all males, are merely rank and
file or associate members.

According to Frobenius the leaders of Ogboni in Ibadan were always
chosen from the same 'family', the position generally passing first from el-
der to younger brother. The hereditary head was called Oluwo Oba, shorten-
ed to Oluoba or Olue. The executive whose duty it was to elect and control
the bale assembled on important occasions and consulted an oracle called
.unmule; those condemned by the Ogboni were usually-killed. At the initi-
ation ceremony human sacrifices used formerly to be made and no uninitiated
person was allowed to see the procession of the leaders of the society. The
symbol of the society's authority was a replica of a secret pair of tongs,
known as Edan, the handles of which bore images of human figures.

(1) Fadipe, 1939.

In the town of Awe near Oyo, Ogboni members told Bascom that they wor-
shipped an orisha of which the earth is the symbol, which can bring child-
ren to its worshippers; that the reasons for joining the Ogboni in Awe are
the same as for joining in the worship of other orisha, and that Ogboni
members wear leather bracelets comparable to the beads which distinguish
other orisha worshippers. Bascom regards this as distinct from the situa-
tion in Ife, where the Ogboni has important judicial functions and is a
political group comparable to the Ogungbe, which detained and executed
criminals, and the Emese whose members served as official messengers of the
Oni. In Ife both the Inner and Outer chiefs (see below p.22) are Ogboni
members and at their deaths three of their heirs are chosen, one to become
an Emese, one an Ogungbe and one an Ogboni.

The Ogboni society has now lost much of its political importance but
survives chiefly among the Egba and Ijebu for reasons of prestige and recre-
ation; elaborate and expensive funerals are provided for members. A re-
formed Ogboni society, kept alive by educated Yoruba Christians who admire
its ritual, is an important organisation in Yorubaland today and a number
of influential persons are members.

Oro and Egungun are also, according to Bascom, primarily religious
groups and there is, in his opinion, no evidence that Oro is connected with
ancestor worship, as is stated by Fadipe and others. In Ife it is held
that Oro came from heaven and is therefore an orisha. There are here
three separate groups of worshippers, each having its own sacred grove,
priests and festival. Parrinder states that Oro is controlled by the Ala-
pini, one of the principal Yoruba 'families' found in many Yoruba towns from
Oyo to Ketu. All Alapini members belong to Oro from birth; members of
other families pay an entrance fee to the society and cannot hold the high-
est office of Ajina Oro. Among the Ijebu Oro is known as Eluku. An im-
portant function of Oro is the carrying out of Ogboni orders, but it would
seem that Qro is of religious rather than political importance. It is a
men's association and makes use of the 'bull-roarer', the noise of which
terrifies women who are not supposed to know how it is made. Frobenius
claims that Oro is actually the name of the instrument which gave the asso-
ciation its name, and that it originated in Abeokuta, but Bascom gives its
proper name as ape.

Egungun is said by Talbot to have functions similar to those of Oro.
The word means 'bone' or 'skeleton'; robed figures representing the dead
appear in the daytime, in contrast to Oro, who comes out only at night and
is not publicly visible. Egungun is also said to be under the control of
the Alapini 'family'.

Bascom gives five different classes of Egungun followers in Ife:

(1) Omo Egungun ('children of Egungun'), the most common, wear dance cos-
tumes of cloth and leather and go about the town followed by women whose
praise and admiration they seek.

(2) Agba Egungun ('elder Egungun') wear costumes of dirty rags with charms
tied on to them and carved wooden masks on the head. In contrast to the
first type people scatter before them, afraid of their magical powers.

(3) Onidan ('who have tricks') wear masks and costumes representing various
kinds of animals, amusing and astonishing the spectators with rapid changes.
They travel from one town to another.

(4) Egungun Alago, a dance performed to honour a relative recently dead,
in which a long plain costume is worn.

(5) An Egungun, which, during funeral ceremonies of adult males, summons
the spirits of the dead back to eaith for the last time.

Membership of the Egungun cults is handed on in the same way as is that
of an orisha, by calling and by inheritance. The costume is generally in-
herited by the eldest son or other near relative.

Other societies are Agemo, a nocturnal society prominent in funeral
rites, Adamu-Orisha, popular in the region of Lagos, and Gelede, which in
Dahomey has become the most important society among the Yoruba of Porto


There is no evidence that a single political authority has ever effec-
tively controlled all Yoruba groups, although, for a period before the 19th
century, most of the chiefdoms, apart from many of the Ekiti, the Ijebu and
perhaps Ife, appear to have acknowledged the ritual supremacy and vaguer
political suzerainty of the Alafin of Oyo. The Alafin's prestige was de-
rived from his ritual supremacy among the divine chiefs and his reputed
lineal descent from the founder of the people. Ibadan, in which the Bale-
ship is a secular office, is the only considerable state which had no here-
ditary and sacred chiefship.

No adequate studies of Yoruba political systems or of their modifica-
tions under British control have yet been made. According to Fadipe, the
patterns of government fall into four regional groups, showing many similar-

(1) Oyo chiefdoms, where the various units model their government on, and
admit the suzerainty of, Oyo;

(2) Ife, Ijesha and Ekiti, of which the first is the model for the rest;

(3) Ijebu, the divisions of which are governed after the model of Ijebu-

(4) Egba, including Lagos, an 'aberrant' and.simpler type.

There were basic similarities among all varieties and also among the
different Bale-ships. There appear to be three named ranks among Yoruba

(1) Bascom, 6, 1944; Fadipe, 1939; Frobenius, 2, 1913, p.56; Talbot, 1926,
Vol.III, pp.758-763; Parrinder, 2, 1949, pp.120, 129-130, 140-145; Mercier,
1, 1950.

(1) Oba or Alade, all of whom, except for the Owa of Ilesha, may wear
beaded crowns (ade) with fringes, and are reputed to have been derived
directly from Ife; (the crown of Ilesha has no bead fringe but the Owa is
regarded as an Oba or Alade.)

(2) Oloja, who may wear beaded hats (orikogbofo) without fringes. This
rank is said to have developed at a later period from Ilesha;

(3) Bale or town chiefs, with no right to use beads. This comprised the
higher ranking rulers of the outlying and dependent towns within the chief-

Beaded crowns, slippers, gowns, staffs and footstools, and umbrellas
are important marks of status, and formerly any persons, apart from Alade
and Oloja and certain important diviners, were severely punished if they
attempted to use beaded objects.

Everywhere the sacred chief was held in great respect as the possessor
of ritual as well as political power. His person was regarded as sacred
and as embodying the succession through preceding chiefs from Odaduwa, the
founder of the Yoruba people. This is the significance of features in the
elaborate installation ritual which are directed to maintaining a new
chief's continuity with his predecessor; such as eating his heart or re-
taining and worshipping his head. Other rituals sought to ensure that a
new chief was endowed with all the magic of the numerous orisha.

The Alafin of Oyo was chosen from the royal line held to descend from
Oduduwa, by the Council of Seven, the Oyo Mesi, although palace women and
favourites had some influence. Rigid primogeniture was rare, if not un-
known, among the Yoruba; the tradition that he should be killed on his father's
deathbed to discourage parricide, suggests, however, that the eldest son
might be a strong claimant. The chief-elect made preliminary sacrifices
and learned his ritual and political duties from older relatives and the
chief eunuchs of the palace. After a period of mourning and seclusion in
the outer palace quarters he performed the ritual eating of the heart of
his predecessor. The installation ceremonies included rites at the royal
tomb, at the shrine of the deified ancestor Shango, at the shrine of Oranyaw
where the Sword of Justice from Ife was presented to him to be kissed and
returned and finally at the shrine of Ogun, the war god, with prayers for a
peaceful reign. A new gate was made for the new chief to enter the inner
precincts of the palace (Afin) for the first time, an entry formerly made
over the blood of a man and a woman and a number of animals sacrificed there
and buried at the threshold. Henceforth he appeared outside the Afin only
on the three annual festivals of Ife, Orun and Bere (festival of thatching
grass) and then heavily veiled.

Ife is claimed to be the first home of Oduduwa and is regarded as an
especially sacred place by all Yoruba. The Oni is chosen generally in ro-
tation from four branches of the ancient royal line by the State Council.
As with the Alafin, the coronation is a long ceremony since the Oni has to
attend rites at all the 201 shrines traditionally established by Odudaca in

The Awujale of Ijebu-Ode was the paramount chief of the Ijebu group

with real authority among the Ijebu-Ode. The Akarigbo of Ijebu-Reno owed
only ritual allegiance to hin. Elaborate rituals also accompanied the in-
stallation of an Awujale. He was selected in turn from one of four or more
'families' who had this right. He was never seen after installation, com-
munication with him being through a screen and he appeared in public only
with his face heavily veiled with beads.

The present capital of the Egba, Abeokuta, of which the Alake is the
senior chief, was founded by refugees from what are now the Ibadan and
Ijebu areas. Each Egba town had its own chiefs and councils. The ritual
of accession for the four senior chiefs, the Alake, the Oshile, the Agura
and the Olowu, was similar to that of the Alafin:

Save at Ibadan and Ogbomosho, in both paramount and lesser chiefdoms
the chief was regarded as sacred, sometimes even being referred to as an
orisha (god) in his own right. He was responsible for ensuring the safety
and welfare of his people by carrying out the state rituals. The politi-
cal position of the Bale in Ibadan and Ogbomosho was very similar to that
of a chief; he was similarly advised by military chiefs, but he was not
sacred and there was no consecretion ceremony at his installation.(1)


The government of the capital was that of the state also. Lesser
chiefdoms repeated the pattern of the paramount chiefdons subject to con-
trol only in respect of external affairs, revenue-collecting, raising mili-
tary forces and appeals to the court of the senior chief in certain cases.
In Oyo the Alafin also installed political 'residents' who supervised annual
tributes from conquered towns. Towns and villages similarly controlled
their own affairs subject to the same limitations.

The chief presided over a Council of State in Oyo a Council of Seven
chosen by the Alafin from particular lineages and could not act without
its authority. The council combined legislative, executive and judicial
functions. Its members held civil and military offices and were collec-
tively referred to as Ilu. In some other chiefdoms all the principal
guilds were represented, including hunters, traders and often the women's
guilds. Where, as in some of the small Ijebu chiefdoms, there was a strong
Ogboni society, its executive controlled all the business of state; the
chief, although entitled to reject, its advice, interfered only when there
was a deadlock.

In Oyo the Basorun, the leader of the Council of State,-had the main
voice in choosing the Alafin, and could also send a tyrannical or unpopular
Alafin the gift of parrots' eggs, which signified a request, nearly always
obeyed, that he should destroy himself. Most chiefdoms had an elaborate
organisation of palace officials, some with domestic duties and others respon
sible for administration. In Ife, Ijesha and Ekiti they were divided into
'inner' and 'outer' according to their different functions. The personal
servants of the chief, including slaves, could rise to positions of import-
ance and occupy some of the highest offices.

(1) Fadipe, 1939; Bascom, 8, 1949; Perham, 1937, pp.167-9; Johnson, 1921, pp.40-78.

Members of the royal lineage and civil chiefs had lordships over
various towns in the chiefdom, but they were not expected to take any part
in their administration, which remained in the hands of headmen or locally
dominant lineages. These towns and districts were largely autonomous
apart from tribute and external relations, which were controlled by the
government of the capital. But capital punishment was reserved to the
chief, who alone had 'power of the sword'. The State Council and its
functions are repeated on a smaller scale in towns, villages, wards and
even compounds, the headman at each of these lower levels being called


The chief's advisers consisted of a nucleus of chiefs separated into
civil and military groups. The civil chiefs exercised authority apart
from war and, in association with the chief or Bale, formed the Council of
State. Except in Oyo, the military chiefs were associated with the Coun-
cil but had little influence in internal affairs. Religion, health, pub-
lic safety, legislation, justice, external and internal politics all came
under the direct jurisdiction of the Council sitting in different capaci-
ties. It controlled the treasury, public works, trade and defence.

The Council of Seven (Oyo Mesi) of the Alafin of Oyo was drawn from
seven lineages. The chief of these councillors, the Basorun, was head of
one of the wards into which the town was divided. The Basorun was called
'terrestial chief' as opposed to the Alafin who was 'celestial chief'. As
such he had tremendous influence and ruled after an Alafin's death before
the new one was installed. At the annual festival of Ifa, the god of
divination, it was the Basorun who 'divined' with kola nuts whether the
Alafin's sacrifices were acceptable to the gods or not. If a favourable
answer was received the Alafin gave presents to the Basorun; if not, he was
considered to have forfeited the right to further existence and to be ob-
liged to die. The Basorun's title was normally hereditary in one line but
the line of succession could be changed by the Alafin. The Alafin con-
sulted the heir, the Aremo, as well as the Oyo Mesi on all matters of con-
sequence. The chiefs of subordinate chiefdoms in Oyo appear to have had
equal status with the Oyo Mesi and maintained envoys at the Afin. The
Alafin selected their successors from the appropriate lines, usually from
that which had founded the particular sub-chiefdom. There were numerous
non-hereditary appointments attached to the Alafin's court, some of which
were held by slaves and eunuchs.

The hereditary Inner Council of eight chiefs at Ife was led by the
Lowa, who had special rights of access to the Oni and performed rituals in-
side the palace. The Outer Council consisted of ward heads of the capital
and every household in Ife looked to one of them as its patron. These of-
fices were open to all men of merit.

The Awujale of Ijebu-Ode was assisted by his Olisa, who was always
chosen from the same line by the palace eunuchs. The councillors, Lar.urin
were appointed by the Awujale from certain lineages. Honorary members

(1) Fadipe, 1939; Perham, 1937, pp.167-9.

were admitted to this rank for a fee but were not allowed to take part in
discussions. Petty chiefs, Ipampa, were appointed by certain families,
subject to the Awujale's veto. The Oshugbo (Ogboni) leaders ranked after
the Lamurin and had considerable influence.

The distinguishing feature of the Egba state was the great influence
of the Ogboni over the chief and council, which nominally followed the Oyo

The Bale was the head of the civil and the Basorun of the military
organisation at Ibadan. They were elected from the council of sixteen
civil and sixteen military chiefs. When the Bale died the Basorun suc-
ceeded and all the chiefs moved up one place.

Officials attached to the chief as personal servants for ritual and
executive purposes, were mostly of slave origin, and often had the greatest
influence. These bodies of palace officials were common to the Oyo, Ife
and Ijebu states. In Ijebu-Ode they were known as the Odi, and consisted
of slaves and strangers appropriated by the chief. Their ambiguous status
is indicated by Talbot's classification of them as 'nobles' while Fadipe
treats them as 'slaves' inferior to free-born men. The senior Odi were
clearly a considerable power behind the throne. Exercising important
functions in the election of a new chief, they acted as his eyes and ears
throughout his life of seclusion. The Emese of Ife, Ijesha and Ekiti cor-
responded to the Odi in Ijebu-Ode, but included free men among whom were
the sons of the six leading chiefs, as well as slaves. Precautions were
apparently taken against poisoning, such as making the Emese don the crown
before the king, and roll in his bed, declaring 'There are no scorpions

In Oyo the three heads of the palace eunuchs had great influence. They
were slaves, often bought as boys for the purpose, or free men who had lost
their status through committing incest or having adulterous relations with
the chief's wives.(1)


According to Johnson there was no standing army among the Yoruba, ex-
cept at Ibadan, though some chiefs had a number of their slaves trained for
war. Every man capable of bearing arms was expected, but not compelled,
to fight. Organised operations on any scale appear not to have become
necessary until the Fulani raids and the seizure of Ilorin in the 19th cen-

There were senior and junior grades of war titles, known collectively
as Oyo Ile, because they were conferred by the chief or Bale of the town.
The senior grade was headed-by the Balogun or Commander-in-Chief, with the
two principal lieutenants, the Otun and the Osi, commanding the right and
the left wings, and the (Asipa) Ekerin, Ekarun and Ekefa who commanded the
veterans. The Seriki was at the head of the junior grade and he and his
lieutenants commanded the younger fighting men. The leader of the van was

(1) Fadipe, 1939; Johnson, 1921, pp.40-78; Talbot, 1926, Vol.III, pp.566-76.

the Asaju, and of the cavalry the Sarumi. The Chief or Bale did not go to
war himself.

Before going into battle the leaders offered human sacrifices to the
war standard. The forces were led by the Asaju, followed by the Seriki,
the Balogun coming last. Older weapons were the bow and poisoned arrows,
short swords and cutlasses, but firearms came into general use in the 19th

Ibadan, founded by a mixed group of soldiery, was always a strong war
camp and undertook the protection and control of all towns north and north
east of it as well as the subjugation of the Ijesha, Ekiti and the Eastern
Provinces generally.(1)


The administration of justice begins in the compound (agbole), where
the head or Bale is responsible for settling civil disputes between members.
No fees were or are chargeable. There is right of appeal against a com-
pound head's judgment to the court of the ward head, where the field of
jurisdiction was also more comprehensive. The ward head was never, however,
entitled to give judgment in criminal cases which, prior to administrative
reorganisation by the Nigerian Government, had to be referred after a pre-
liminary hearing to a central state tribunal, the membership of which was
usually identical with that of the Council of State.

The Council of State, as the highest judicial body and the final court
of appeal, dealt with civil disputes between chiefs and appeals from the de-
cision of a lower court; crimes, including murder, treason, burglary, arson
and manslaughter, as well as incest, witchcraft and sorcery came directly
before it. The Council generally met weekly but could be summoned at short
notice. According to Temple, those who had committed serious crimes were
detained in the prison of the Ogboni society. Theft was punished in the
first instance by a severe flogging, if recurrent by some form of mutilation,
while an habitual thief might be sold into slavery. The death penalty was
usually demanded for arson, unless it could be justified, as among the Oyo,
where it was regarded as a lawful way of redressing a serious injury, for
example, adultery. Incest was punishable by death except among the Ijesha
and Ekiti. Fines and a large part of damages awarded were retained by the

Since the establishment of British rule, the judicial system has become
more centralised and the jurisdiction of State courts and chiefs has been
curtailed. Native Courts have been recognized, reorganised and graded ac-
cording to the status of the community. Each court has a bench of judges
which in some communities, succeed each other in groups of three or some
other suitable number. Political officers regularly review judgments and
sentences passed and there is provision for appeal to the Nigerian Courts.(2)


Formerly according to strict custom the principal beneficiaries of a

(2) Fadipe, 1939; Temple, 1919, p.1,379.

(1) Johnson, 1921, pp.131-7.

deceased man were his full brothers and sisters, children having only resi-
duary rights to their father's personal property. Over the past genera-
tion, at least among the Egba and probably elsewhere, it has been held that
a man's goods should go to his children and be distributed equally among
his sons by different wives and as appropriate among daughters. Certain
members of the lineage are expected to contribute toward the funeral ex-
penses and having done so are entitled to a share of the deceased's property.
Nobody who has not contributed is entitled to benefit. Those who inherit
have the responsibility of providing for widows and children, widows pas-,
sing to brothers and half-brothers. Although these old customs are by no
means dead, the right of children to be their parents' heirs is said now to
be everywhere recognized.(1)


Land was formerly held by patrilineages and control was exercised by
their heads who apportioned plots according to need, no adult member of the
community being left without land. Occupiers could not alienate any of
their portion without the consent of the whole group. According to Fadipe,
however, the holder had exclusive rights of use, could pawn crops and trans-
fer, temporarily or indefinitely, a portion of his land to non-members of
the lineage. Land could neither be sold nor taken away for debt, though a
man could pawn or pledge the use of his land. The right to collect palm
and kola nuts could then be reserved and the trees protected. Such land
would be redeemable at any time by the original debtor or by any member of
his kin group. If one son among several found means of redeeming a pawned
farm, he could obtain possession, but the other members of his group could
at any time make an offer of their share of the redemption money and claim
a share in the land. A man could, during his life-time, make a present of
part of his land to a friend, but this was not a sale. As there was enough
land for everyone and it had no market value, the question of sale did not

Land hitherto unclaimed, when cleared by an individual, belonged to him
and his patrilineal descendants. If he were a member of the tribe he did
not need to seek consent before clearing land and taking possession of
forest land. If he vacated it, it would revert to forest but he would
still have the right of re-occupation.

Outsiders could be adopted into a lineage and secure land rights as
members. They could also obtain subordinate rights to unwanted tracts of
land by making annual gifts to those who held them, and were welcomed pro-
viding they behaved well.. These gifts (ishakole) were not regarded as rent
but as token of the paramount rights of those granting the use of the land.
Such land was granted on condition that no fruit trees or permanent crops
were planted on it. On the death of the original grantee the land could
pass to his children on the same conditions. Payment of ishakole was a
mark of tenancy.

The eldest son would take the biggest share of land previously held by
his father but children would usually be in effective occupation of certain

(1) Fadipe, 1939.

farmlands during their parents' life-time. Younger children and daughters
unable to farm land would not take possession of their portions; an elder
brother would hold them in trust. Daughters did, however, have the right
to use the land of their lineage. A daughter married to a man of another
group could inherit, and, if her husband took up residence with the group,
he would continue after her death in occupation of his wife's land, even if
there were no children. If there were children they would inherit their
mother's land, but they would then have to reside with, and become meiners
of, the community and tribe. Thus, the children of an Ibadan man married
to an Egba woman would be regarded as Egba and inherit their another's pro-
perty if they continued to live in Egbaland. If, however, the father took
them to live in Ibadan, they could not claim or dispose of their mother's
land unless, and until, they returned to the locality.

Permanent crops and trees belonged to the person who planted them and
could be inherited. Oil-palm trees were generally retained within a sub-
lineage of close patrikin but were sometimes transferred to the lineage head
in return for the services he rendered.

This traditional system of land tenure still persists to a great ex-
tent but, with the increase of commercial agriculture, land has come to
have a monetary value, especially in the forest belt and good cocoa soils.
Land sales began in and around Lagos and were recognized in the native
at the beginning of this century. But the rights of parties are often un-
certain, as a mixture of British Law and Native custom has prevailed in the
Supreme Court. The transfer of title to land to non-kin is generally
looked on with disapproval, for in principle land may not be disposed of as
personal property. In some places, however, outright sale is generally re-
cognised, as at Ibogun in southern Abeokuta Province, where transfers take
place on oath in the presence of witnesses. Usual prices per acre in 1938
were 5 in the Colony and 2.10 and 2 bottles of gin in Ibogun. In Dahomey,
in the area north of Porto Novo, sales of land are also increasing.(1)


Debtors, criminals and war captives were taken as slaves and others
were sometimes kidnapped. They lived in or attached to their master's corm-
pound and were usually employed as farm labourers, often being given plots
of their own. The right of a slave to redeem himself was universally re-
cognised. Fadipe denies Talbot's assertion that they were allowed to ac-
quire property, yet states that they could inherit from their masters. They
could be sold or pawned and used by their masters as sacrifices and scape-
goats but were, on the whole, well treated. The children of slave parents
were slaves and belonged to the master, but if the master married a female
slave the children were free and counted among his heirs. Intercourse with
another man's female slave was a civil offence and any children belonged to
the master of the slave. Marriage between a free-born woman and a slave
was not approved, but an emancipated slave, especially if he were wealthy,
could marry a free woman.(2)

(1) Fadipe, 1939; Ward Price, 1, 1933; Forde, 1946, pp.88-91; Mercier, 1,
(2) Talbot, 1926, Vol.III, p.698; Fadipe, 1939.


A person could pawn himself or a relative as security for debt or to
raise capital for trading. The pawn had to perform certain services for
the creditors, which were considered as interest on the debt, and could not
be released until the capital had been repaid or an acceptable substitute
offered. Fadipe stated that although it had been made illegal, pawning
still persisted.(1)



A man's dress consists of a long cloth gown extending to the knee or
ankle, with a sleeveless, collarless undervest and baggy trousers (shokoto),
wide round the waist, narrowing at the knee and ankle. Women wear a wide
cloth (iro) reaching from above the breasts down to the ankles, a narrower
cloth (ipele) wrapped above the iro and a still narrower strip (oja) as a
girdle. In addition, a tunic or blouse (buba) with long or short sleeves
and reaching to the waist is worn and a thin cloth used as veil (iborun)
and a head-tie (gele).

Johnson's illustrations show a great variety of tribal marks, consist-
ing of a number of scars on the cheeks arranged in different patterns.
Bascom states that in Ife, where many individuals are unmarked, the pattern
of facial scarification is dependent on patrilineal affiliation. Several
patterns are employed in every town and some are so widely used that they
are valueless for the identification of sub-tribal affiliations.

Formerly the two upper central incisors were chipped at an early age so
as to leave a triangular gap between the outer margins.

Women's hair is cut to a length of about three inches and braided
tightly in a variety of patterns. Men's hair is clipped short to a length
of about a quarter of an inch. Status may be indicated by special forms of
hairdressing, such as those worn by chiefs' wives, the messengers of the
chiefs and the worshippers of certain orisha.(2)


The child is named from 3-9 days after birth; according to Ajisafe on
the 9th day for a boy, the 7th for a girl. As many as four names may be
given: the oruko or personal name, generally involving the name of the in-.
dividual's orisha; the oriki, a pet or nickname, called by Bascom 'praise
name'; and the orile, 'totem' or 'family' name. In addition there are
special names for twins, for a child born after twins, or during the cele-
bration of an annual festival, or with certain physical characteristics.
At the naming ceremony the child's feet are brought into ritual contact with
the Ifa divination nuts.

(1) Talbot, 1926, Vol.III, p.235; Johnson, 1921, pp.126 ff; Fadipe, 1939.
(2) Talbot, 1926, Vol.II, pp.394, 398; Johnson, 19 pp.104-5; Bascom, 8, 1949;
Lasebikan, 1949. 1 \ 8

In Ondo twins were formerly disposed of, and Bascom states that in Ife
the less healthy one of a pair of twins was allowed to die; here the twin
born first is regarded as the younger.(1)


Boys are usually circumcised within the first year after birth. Some
Yoruba, however, do not circumcise until twenty years of age. A rite for
girls involving clitoridectomy takes place before marriage, though some
groups of Yoruba in the west do not practise it.(2)


Betrothal takes place at an early age, after consultation of the Ifa
oracle. For a first marriage the parents of the boy send the first instal-
ment of the marriage payment to mark the formal betrothal (ijohun). The
boy makes periodic gifts of yams and maize to the girl's father and helps
him with manual work. Gifts of goods and services are also made on special
occasions. The final marriage payment is called idana. After idana has
been paid the date of marriage is arranged, the carrying of the bride to her
husband's house being known as igbeyawo. She is accompanied by her age
mates and two wives of her extended family, who remain with her until the
wedding night. She is lifted on the shoulder of a former bride of her ex-
tended family and carried into her husband's compound. This is still the
custom among the Oyo and Egba. Johnson says that a girl may sometimes be
presented in marriage by her father as a sarah (a term adopted from Hausa)
without any marriage payment.(3)


Divorce, in the sense of obtaining a legal decree of annulment of mar-
riage, appears to be unknown in native Yoruba law, though there is a form of
socially recognized divorce outside the court. A husband can put his wife
away either -temporarily or permanently, without her consent, but a wife,
according to Ward, cannot properly leave her husband without his consent,
although in practice she often does.

In cases where the wife runs away with another man, the husband sues
the man through the courts for the recovery of the marriage payment, in-
cluding compensation for manual work and minor gifts as well as the idana.
When this has been paid, the new man is regarded as the woman's husband and
the father of her future children. Cases of this type seem to take up
much of the time of the Native Authority Courts.

Fadipe states that a wife could leave her husband without penalty on
grounds of habitual laziness and drunkenness, keeping bad company and infec-
tious disease. Re-marriage for women was not recognized by Yoruba custom
but men were unrestricted. Today women may remarry but they go through the
formal betrothal and wedding ceremony only once.(4)

(1) Ajisafe, 1, 1924, p.80; Bascom, 8, 1949.
(2) Parrinder, 2, 1949, pp.114-115; Mercier, 1, 1950.
(3) Fadipe, 1939; Johnson, 1921, p.117.
(4) Fadipe, 1939; Ward, 2, 1938, p.110; Bascom, 8, 1949.


The dead are usually buried under the verandah of the house, but the
grave of a wealthy man may be extended by a shaft or tunnel so that his
body lies under one of the rooms. Of late years coffins have been used
for the well-to-do. Food and drink, also cloths contributed by relatives,
are buried with the corpse. Ceremonial feasts are held by the Ogboni,
Oro and Egungun societies at the funerals of members. A.second funerary
ceremony is performed later, the interval varying according to the im-
portance of the deceased, and is followed by a parade in which sympathis-
ers are thanked.(1)


The Yoruba have an elaborate hierarchy of deities, each with special
duties and functions. They believe in a supreme but remote spirit -
Olorun, also known as Olodumare the Lord of Heaven and the Creator.
Some four hundred lesser gods and spirits, known individually and collec-
tively as orisha are recognized, most of whom have their own priests and
followers. These gods include the spirits of hills, rocks and rivers,
and deified ancestors. Bascom was told that an orisha is a person who
lived on earth when it was first created and from whom present day folk
are decended. When these orisha disappeared or 'turned to stone' their
children began to sacrifice to them and to continue whatever ceremonies
they themselves had performed when on earth. This worship was passed on
from one generation to another and today an individual considers the
orisha whom he worships to be an ancestor from whom he has descended.
Orisha worship is not, however, identical with the ancestor worship given
to the founder of a compound or lineage or to a person's father and mother.
For the latter there are shrines in the compounds.

An individual may become the worshipper of a particular orisha in two
distinct ways: (1) by 'inheriting' or (2) by being 'called' or singled
out by an orisha. The first is the more usual. Several orisha may be
worshipped simultaneously by one person and orisha are continually being
abandoned although their followers may be called back by the advice of a
diviner following illness or mishap.

There is not necessarily any identity between the lineage and the
orisha worshipping group. In some of the cases investigated by Bascom
the lineage seemed to be the basis of a group of worshippers but other
orisha cult groups were said to include nearly all the inhabitants of a
ward or of an entire town, while still others were served only by isolated
individuals who had been told to do so by a diviner. Lineages may inter-
marry even when they claim descent from or ritual connection with the same
orisha. Frobenius was probably in error in stating-that the orisha wor-
shippers form exogamous groups.

Ifa, the oracle of divination, is named after the deity who controls
it, who is also known as Olorunmila. It occupies a unique position and

(1) Johnson, 1921, pp.138 ff.; Talbot, 1926, Vol.II, pp.474-81.

no serious decision is taken without consulting it. The basis of its di-
vination is a series of 256 figures (odu) or permutations, each with a name;
one of these is arrived at either by casting a chain of eight seeds or by
'beating' palm kernels. Each permutation has a number of verses associ-
ated specifically with it, each verse being related to a problem which may
be similar to that with which the client is confronted. The client does
not confide the problem or question which has brought him to the diviner.
When, therefore, a throw has been made, the diviner recites the verses of
the figure at random while his client listens for a verse dealing with a
problem similar to his own and interprets it as he will. Each verse con-
tains specific ,instructions for solving a problem, the commonest suggestion
being that the client should offer a sacrifice. The priests of Ifa (Baba-
lawo) are not drawn from any particular lineages. Any adult male, who
feels himself equal to it and to the three years' training required, may
enter, the priesthood. The priests are also skilled physicians.

Eshu is sometimes described as the evil counterpart of Ifa; Bascom,
however, regards him as a trickster and the messenger of the orisha, served
in Ife by isolated individuals and held to be of local origin though every-
one offers sacrifices to him. Fadipe, on the other hand, declares that
Eshu is ubiquitous and universally worshipped and that the name has come to
be used for any orisha regarded by its worshippers with particular fear and

Other important deities whose shrines are found in most parts of the
Yoruba kingdom, are Shopona, the smallpox god; Shango, a reputed early king
of Oyo, the god of the thunder and lightning; and Orisha Oko, the goddess
of farm-land and agriculture. Ogun is the god of war and iron. Black-
smiths sacrifice a dog to him every fortnight or so and scatter the blood
over their tools; in the courts litigants swear upon his symbol in the form
of a knife.

Other widespread cults are those of Obatala or Orishanla, associated
with the colour white; Oshun, goddess of the river of the same name;
Yemoja, another water goddess; Olokun, the god or goddess of the sea; Olosa,
the god of the lagoon; Oya, the god of the heavy wind that precedes rain.(l)


Shamans are said to be possessed by the spirits of former chiefs. They
are the only persons to whom the Alafin of Oyo will bow the knee and they
alone, according to Frobenius, have any defence against evil spirits. Par-
rinder states that possession by spirits may sometimes be considered as due
to a spirit of disease or a haunting ghost of a dead man, and that mediumis-
tic possession shows many of the features found in European mediums. The
person possessed utters messages from the departed spirits of men or from
the gods. Some of the Yoruba priests go into trances but they generally
have attendant mediums with them, many of them women, who go into trance un-
der the direction of the priest.(2)

(1) Perham, 1937, p.165; Fadipe, 1939; Bascom, 6, 1944, pp.21-73; 8, 1949;
Parrinder, 2, 1949.
(2) Meek, 3, 1943; Frobenius, 2, 1913, Vol.I, p.200; Parrinder, 2, 1949,


Charms (ogun, egbogi) or 'medicines' can be used both for good and
evil. There is no clear dichotomy between black and white magic. Even
rain-making magic may be used in an anti-social way, e.g. to spoil the
festival of a rival, rather than for the benefit of the community. When
used for good purposes, magic may be either curative or protective, al-
though magic to protect crops from uncontrollable forces is unknown. Magic
is practised by the balalawo (diviners) and by other specialists known as
ologun as well as by individuals, and the number of charms and medicines in
current use runs into several thousands. This field clearly requires fur-
ther investigation.(1)

(1) Fadipe, 1939; Bascom, 8, 1949.




The Oyo or Yoruba Proper are located in the Oyo Division of Oyo Pro-
vince and the Ilorin Emirate of Ilorin Province. Talbot included Igbona
and Ife in his Oyo 'sub-tribe'. The Igbona, according to Johnson, are mid-
way between Oyo and Ekiti 'Oyo with Ekiti sympathies' but as the major-
ity of them are in the Northern Provinces, where they are clearly differen-
tiated from the Yoruba Proper, they have been grouped with the Northern Pro-
vinces Yoruba (see below, p.71). Ife is regarded as a separate chiefdom
on account of its sacred character (see above p.20 and below p.34).(1)


1921 999,262 (Total in Southern'Provinces)(2)
1931 217,653 (Oyo Division of Oyo Province)(3)
c.1934 215,629 (Ilorin Emirate of Ilorin Province)(4)

Estimates of density of population are available only for Oyo Province
as a whole: 1921: 72, 1931: 94 persons per square mile.(5)


The Alafin of Oyo is held to be descended from the mythical founder of
the Yoruba kingdom, Odudwa (see above p.4), and, according to Johnson, the
kingdom of Oyo at one time included Ife, Egbado and parts of Dahomey as well
as Oyo. The Oyo dynasty had probably reached the height of its power by
1700. Early in the 19th century Afonja, the Governor of Ilorin, led a re-
volt against the Alafin in which Fulani were encouraged to participate. The
decline of Oyo was then hastened by extensive Fulani incursions against
which the Yoruba failed to unite. Ilorin became a Fulani Emirate and,
growing more powerful, secured tribute from the Alafin who was eventually
killed in battle about 1830. Old Oyo was sacked and a new and smaller city
was later founded further south.(6)


Oyo Division is savannah country with outcrops of rock, but there are
forest reserves in the upper Ogun river area and on the Dahomey border round

(1) Talbot, 1926, Vol.IV, p.52; Johnson, 1921, p.109.
(2) Talbot, loc.cit. This figure probably includes Ibadan, which is here dealt with
separately, see below p.38.
(3) Census, 1931, Vol.III, p.20.
(4) The Yoruba Proper in Ilorin Emirate are mixed with Nupe, Fulani, and Igbona
(Yoruba) and estimates of their number in separate districts are available only
for Akanbi 9,478; Igporin 19,566; Igbaja 9,173.
Walsh, 1934. See also Yoruba in the Northern Provinces, p.
(5) Census, Vol.III, p.21. (6) Johnson, 1921, p.16; Perham, 1937, p.167




The Oyo or Yoruba Proper are located in the Oyo Division of Oyo Pro-
vince and the Ilorin Emirate of Ilorin Province. Talbot included Igbona
and Ife in his Oyo 'sub-tribe'. The Igbona, according to Johnson, are mid-
way between Oyo and Ekiti 'Oyo with Ekiti sympathies' but as the major-
ity of them are in the Northern Provinces, where they are clearly differen-
tiated from the Yoruba Proper, they have been grouped with the Northern Pro-
vinces Yoruba (see below, p.71). Ife is regarded as a separate chiefdom
on account of its sacred character (see above p.20 and below p.34).(1)


1921 999,262 (Total in Southern'Provinces)(2)
1931 217,653 (Oyo Division of Oyo Province)(3)
c.1934 215,629 (Ilorin Emirate of Ilorin Province)(4)

Estimates of density of population are available only for Oyo Province
as a whole: 1921: 72, 1931: 94 persons per square mile.(5)


The Alafin of Oyo is held to be descended from the mythical founder of
the Yoruba kingdom, Odudwa (see above p.4), and, according to Johnson, the
kingdom of Oyo at one time included Ife, Egbado and parts of Dahomey as well
as Oyo. The Oyo dynasty had probably reached the height of its power by
1700. Early in the 19th century Afonja, the Governor of Ilorin, led a re-
volt against the Alafin in which Fulani were encouraged to participate. The
decline of Oyo was then hastened by extensive Fulani incursions against
which the Yoruba failed to unite. Ilorin became a Fulani Emirate and,
growing more powerful, secured tribute from the Alafin who was eventually
killed in battle about 1830. Old Oyo was sacked and a new and smaller city
was later founded further south.(6)


Oyo Division is savannah country with outcrops of rock, but there are
forest reserves in the upper Ogun river area and on the Dahomey border round

(1) Talbot, 1926, Vol.IV, p.52; Johnson, 1921, p.109.
(2) Talbot, loc.cit. This figure probably includes Ibadan, which is here dealt with
separately, see below p.38.
(3) Census, 1931, Vol.III, p.20.
(4) The Yoruba Proper in Ilorin Emirate are mixed with Nupe, Fulani, and Igbona
(Yoruba) and estimates of their number in separate districts are available only
for Akanbi 9,478; Igporin 19,566; Igbaja 9,173.
Walsh, 1934. See also Yoruba in the Northern Provinces, p.
(5) Census, Vol.III, p.21. (6) Johnson, 1921, p.16; Perham, 1937, p.167

the Oye and Oyan rivers. Average annual rainfall for the Division is 45-
60 inches.

The main crops are yams, cassava and maize and there is a considerable
export trade southwards. Cotton is also exported from these areas.

There are hereditary lineages of smiths at Iseyin. Much hired labour
in the Colony comes from Shaki in the north of Oyo Division.

The Oyo Division Native Authority today consists of the.Alafin of Oyo
in Council, with the subordinate Native Authorities of Iseyin, Shaki and
Okeiho-Iganna. For the earlier organisation of the Oyo State, see the
preceding General Section (pp.21-2). The external appearance of the state
has been kept up, with a large harem, five hundred so-called 'slaves', a
body of eunuchs and numerous court officials. The old Council of Seven
still functions, though the Alafin today is becoming independent of it.(1)

(1) Nigeria Handbook, 1933, maps 9, 3, 10; Forde, 1946, pp.79, 91; Perham, op.cit.
pp.167, 188; Johnson, op.cit. pp.40 ff.




The Ife, Ijesha and Illa are situated in the Ife-Ilesha Division of Oyo
Province, with the town of Ife approximately in the centre of the Division.
There are also some Ijesha in the Northern Province.

The town of Ife is also known by the full name Ile Ife or Il(e)-Ife,
which may be translated 'earth spreading' and is derived from the creation
myth in which Ife is named as the spot from which the land was spread on the
surface of the primeval waters. It is also sometimes called Ife Oyo Lagbo
meaning 'town of the people who never died'. The town of Ife is the capi-
tal of the Ife people, as Ilesha is the capital of the people known as Ijesha.
The Illa (Igbona) are a third sub-group with a capital of the same name.(1)


Talbot groups Ife and Illa (the latter under the name Igbonna) with
Oyo, but lists the Ijesha separately. Fadipe gives Oyo and Ife as separate
Yoruba sub-tribes, as does Bascom who further regards Illa as a distinctive
sub-tribe. Ife, Ilesha and Illa are all now constituted as separate Native
Authorities within the Ife-Ilesha Division. Modakeke, a ward or suburb of
the town of Ife, is composed largely of Oyo people; small settlements of
Hausa, who are employed as cocoa labourers, are found within the Division.
Men from Illa are the principal palm-wine tappers in Ife District.(2)


1921 23,213 (Ife sub-tribe)
66,149 (Ilesha sub-tribe)
14,568 (Igbonna sub-tribe)
1931 48,000 (Ife Native Administration)
71,000 (Ilesha Native Administration)
13,000 (Illa Native Administration)
1931 126,606 (Ife-Ilesha Division)
1931 24,170 (Ife town, plus 6,199 in Modakeke ward)
21,892 (Ilesha town)

On the basis of the 1931 Census, Ife-Ilesha Division, with an area of
1,558 square miles had 83 persons per square mile; Ife District with 708
square miles had 67 persons per square mile, while Ilesha and Illa combined,
with an area of 850 square miles, averaged 96 per square mile.

(1) The majority of the Igbona are in the Northern Province, see below, p.
(2) Bascom, 6, 1944, p.6; 8, 1949; Ward Price, 1, 1933. Talbot, 1926, Vol.IV,
p.52; Fadipe, 1939.


Ife is accepted by all Yoruba groups and by the ruling lineage of
Benin as their mother city and the source of spiritual authority. The
sword of state, traditionally that of Oranmiyan, must be brought from Ife
for the installation of the Alafin of Oyo and other senior Yoruba chiefs.
According to the origin myth, the earth was created at Ife by Odua (Oduduwa)
when his brother Obatala (Orishanla), who had been given the assignment by
Oludomare, had fallen asleep after drinking too much palm-wine. Odua let
down a chain from the sky and set a five-toed chicken on a small piece of
earth which had been placed on the surface of the water. The chicken
pecked and scratched at the earth, spreading it wherever land is found to-
day. Odua became the first Oni of Ife and was succeeded by his son Oran-
miyan; the supposed grave, staff and sword of Oranmiyan are still shown in
Ife. Other myths account for the founding of Oyo, Abeokuta, Ondo, Ijebu-
Ode, Benin, Popo and other Yoruba chiefdoms including Ilesha and Illa, by
descendants of Odua.(1)


The Ife and Ilesha dialects have not been studied, but the Ife assert
that when they speak in 'deep' dialect, they cannot be understood by other
Yoruba. Standard Yoruba is becoming predominant throughout the Division.(2)



The town of Ife lies to the west of a chain of granite hills. The
soil is fertile and there is considerable forest. Pressure on land is not
serious, although the amount of uncultivated land has been reduced by the
development of cocoa farms. Swampy land at the foot of the hills and in
stream beds is used for coco-yams. Ilesha is several hundred feet higher
and noticeably cooler.

Ife resembles the other forested areas of Yoruba territory in its econ-
omy (see above, pp.6-8), except that cassava is less important because of
the belief, which has been weakened through contact with Oyo, that it causes
a skin disease. Hunting and fishing are of minor importance.

Ife-Ilesha Division is now one of the most productive and prosperous
cocoa growing regions in Nigeria. The cooperative marketing scheme, based
on reorganised indigenous agricultural societies, has progressed most rapid-
ly here. Because of the large areas planted in cocoa, yams and other
foods are imported from areas to the north in considerable quantities.(3)

Alluvial gold mining, started in 1936 in the Ife-Ilesha forest area,

(1) Burns, 1942, p.33; Ward Price, 1, 1933, p.1; Bascom, 8, 1949.
(2) Bascom, 8, 1949.
(3) Bascom, 8, 1949; Forde, 1946, pp.87, 262.

has been developed on a considerable scale by Europeans, Africans and Syri-
ans. (1)


The famous archaeological remains found at Ife include monoliths (one
studded with iron nails), statues and heads of stone, terra-cotta, and
bronze. The bronze and terra-cotta heads differ from most African art in
their remarkably naturalistic treatment. (For contemporary arts and
crafts, see above pp.8-10)(2)



The three Divisions are headed by priest-chiefs (oba), who wear beaded
crowns (ade); the Oni of Ife, the Owa of Ilesha and the Orangun of Illa.
The two latter claim to have been always independent of other Yoruba chiefs.

The Oni of Ife is chosen from one chiefly lineage, generally in rota-
tion among its four major branches. The choice is made by -the Council of
advisory chiefs, which is composed of the eight Inner or Palace Chiefs
(Woye) under the Lowa, the seven Outer or Town Chiefs (Ife) headed by the
Arunto, and one chief, Obalaye, who represents the 'strangers' from other
towns (elu). The Inner Chiefs, who have special quarters in the palace
(Afin), conduct sacrifices for the Oni and serve as his personal advisers
and his representatives in affairs outside the palace. The Outer Chiefs
represent the townspeople, and five of them are at the same time chiefs of
the five wards of Ife; the chief of Modakeke, which now constitutes a
sixth ward, has been added to the group of Outer Chiefs. Formerly the
Outer Chiefs were not permitted within the palace, their only contact with
the Oni being through the Inner Chiefs.

Before the establishment of the present Native Administration Court
the sixteen chiefs of the Council gathered every fourth day at the front
(Geru) of the palace to hear and settle legal disputes. Besides this
court the Ogboni society held secret hearings. The Oni's court was the
supreme court of appeal and dealt with all cases involving capital sentences.
Below these superior courts, minor offences and civil disputes were adjudi-
cated by leading chiefs and ward heads, while 'family' disputes were gener-
ally settled by the head of the compound. The right of appeal to higher
courts could be exercised if any decision was regarded as unfair or unjust.(3)


Many of the people of Ife practised no facial scarification. Otherwise
dress, bodily decorations and the main features of birth, marriage, divorce

(1) Crown Colonist, Dec. 1948, p.690.
(2) Burns, 1942, p.30.
(3) Bascom, 8, 1949; Perham, 1937, pp.173-9.

and burial customs are as described for the Yoruba as a whole. The great-
est differences are to be noted in the deities which are worshipped. Some
orisha, such as Ife, Eshu, Ogun, Orishanla (Obatala) and Shopona, are wor-
shipped both in Ife and in the Yoruba groups to the west. But others which
are important in the west and are worshipped in the strangers' suburb of
Modakeke, have neither priests nor shrines in Ife; it is reasonable to as-
sume that these orisha, including Shango, Oya, Oba, Yemoja, Bayanni, Oshosi,
Orisha Oko and Eyinle, were introduced by the settlers of Modakeke, who
came from Ibadan and Oyo districts. Conversely, some of the principal
gods of Ife are of minor importance or are unrecorded among the western

The orisha (known as ebura in the Ife dialect) worshipped in Ife, fall
into two major groups, namely the 'followers' of Odua and those of Obatala.
This division is related to the origin myth and the quarrel between Odua,
who created the earth, and Obatala, his elder brother, who claimed the
right to rule it. Odua's followers include Olokun, his wife and ruler of
the sea; Oranmiyan, his son and successor; Obameri, his friend; Eshidale,
his servant; Eleshije and Osanyin, his doctors; Ija, his hunter, Agemo,
the chameleon; Moremi, the wife of Oranmiyan;. Obalufon, and others. The
followers of Obatala (Orishanla) to whom palm wine is taboo, include.Orisha
Alashe, Orisha Ikire and Orisha Teko or Orisha Ijugbe. Intermediate be-
tween these two groups is Oranfe, who was sent to earth to settle the qiar-
rel between Odua and Obatala. Although Oramfe is the Ife god of lightning
and, like Shango, hurls thunder-stones, the cults of Oramfe and Shango are

(1) Bascom, 8, 1949.




The population of Ibadan town, in the east of Ibadan Division of Oyo
Province, was given in the 1931 Census as 387,133 of which only 226 were
non-natives, making Ibadan by far the largest negro city in Africa. The
population of Ibadan Division, which corresponds to the Native Authority,
was 989,669 (1931). Density for the western area of Ibadan Division was
estimated at only 40 persons per square mile.(l)


Ibadan, a newcomer among Yoruba states, was founded during the civil
wars and the Fulani attacks about a century ago by a mixed group of soldiery
from Oyo, Ife, Ijebu and Egba, who made their base there. The actual
founder is reputed to have been Lagelu from Ile-Ife. Ibadan became a
strong war camp and attracted refugees and armed bands from a wide area un-
til its army became the most powerful in Yorubaland. In the course of in-
ternal intrigues various chiefs acknowledged the suzerainty of the Alafin
of Oyo, in efforts to circumvent their rivals or superiors. The Ibadan
Native Administration has today been separated from that of Oyo.(2)


The town is built on seven hills in what was once wooded country. The
western area of the Division is savannah park-land with tall grass, broken
by steep, rocky hills and is parched in the dry season.

Ibadan is now an important market centre, especially for cocoa. The
Ibadan Cocoa Co-operative Union includes 49 affiliated societies and does
extensive educational work for the spread of co-operative ideals and methods
Hired labour used in cocoa growing appears to be local. Some men prefer to
work for wages rather than farm themselves and are hired on the Egba system,
being paid a daily wage with a food allowance. Native industries and
westernised crafts flourish.

The western district of Ibadan Division, around Igangan, is poor by
contrast. The people are farmers and hunters, exporting surplus foodstuffs
to Abeokuta and Lagos. The main crops are egusi, yams, maize, guinea-corn,
cassava, some groundnuts and tobacco, pineapples, onions and also cotton
for domestic use at Igangan. No cocoa is grown. Egusi, yam flour and
shea butter are exported, but the supply of palm oil and kola nuts is inade-
quate. Many younger men and women are employed as carriers. There are

(1) Census, 1931, Vol.I, p.101; Vol.II, p.20; Childs, n.d.
(2) Johnson, 1921, pp.223-5; Perham, 1937, p.179; Lasebikan, 1949.

male weavers in every village but they are mostly strangers from Iseyin and
Oke Iho. Each village has its own smith and smithy, as well as potters,
dyers, carpenters and tailors. There are markets in every village, held
every five days at central places. Until the 30s tenths of a penny and
even cowrie shells were still used as currency in the markets and little of
European origin, except salt, was bought. Women shell the seeds of the
egusi plant, brew pitto beer from guinea-corn, make indigo dye from the
elu plant, gather nuts for shea butter and, at Igangan, spin and weave cot-



The administration of Ibadan has been in the hands of a Council at
the head of which is the Bale or Olubadan of Ibadan. There is a tradi-
tion that the people of Ibadan refused to have a priest-chief in order to
avoid perpetuating the succession to ritual and political leadership in
one line. Before the changes under British Administration the Bale was
the civil head, the Balogun his deputy and military leader. New chiefs
were co-opted to the council after consultation of the Ifa oracle. The
choice appears to have been governed by a number of considerations; seni-
ority, membership of a leading lineage, wealth (provided it had been used
to 'entertain' the councillors), character and popular approval. When
the Bale died the Balogun generally succeeded, the other chiefs moving up-

Ibadan is not divided territorially into wards under ward heads. Every
citizen offers allegiance to one of the chiefs as his superior and may ap-
proach the Bale and council only through him.

As Ibadan assumed authority over outlying towns from c. 1860,an agent
(ajele) was stationed in each to watch over the interests of Ibadan and to
collect tribute. The government of communities outside Ibadan town may be
illustrated from Igangan, Iwo and.the Ikirun area.

In time of war Igangan had to contribute a quota of armed men, food,
and ammunition for the main army. Otherwise it managed its own affairs
and referred only very serious offences or disputes to Ibadan, through the
Ibadan chief selected by it as its representative and patron. The ajele
was responsible to the patron and the townsmen transacted their affairs
and approached the Bale and council through him. The chief of Igangan
(the Ashigangan or Onigangan) is always chosen from one of two branches of
a senior lineage and is advised by a council of chiefs and military offi-
cials. When the Ashigangan dies, the chiefs of the council meet and, hav-
ing considered the candidates, climb a neighboring hill to submit their
choice to its spirit. The choice is then announced to Ibadan and the pat-
ron visits the town to ask the assembled people if they approve. The
Ashigangan and his council form the local court. The town is divided into
three wards for each of which a chief councillor is responsible. Under

(1) Forde, 1946, pp.91, 252; Childs, n.d.

the ward heads the people are organised in 'compounds' in the usual way.

Iwo, a town of some 52,000 inhabitants to the north east of Ibadan,
was virtually subject to Ibadan in the 19th century, but there is .no record
of any tribute having been paid and apparently no ajele was stationed
there. The chief of Iwo is the Oluwo and a number of subordinate settle-
ments within a ten miles radius of Iwo, some of which are held as fiefs by
princes of the chiefly lineage, come under his jurisdiction and pay annual
tribute to him.

Iwo town contains the lineage of the Oluwo together with those of
other immigrants, many of whom claim descent from Yoruba especially Oyo -
royal lineages. The town's connection with Oyo is shown by the sending of
a representative to the Olawo's coronation by the Alafin, whose approval of
the chosen candidate is also necessary. In theory the Olawo should be
elected from the different segments of the royal lineage in turn, but in
practice the choice tends to be confined to a few segments only or even to
one 'compound'. The names of the candidates are submitted to the Ifa
oracle which selects three; the final choice must be ratified by the com-
moner chiefs.

The Oluwo has ritual and secular powers. He is the priest of the
orisha for the whole town,.he has residuary rights to dispose of land, and
acts as a final court of appeal in disputes. The ritual functions of the
subordinate chiefs do not extend beyond their own lineages. Chiefs are
said to be appointed only in 'certain favoured lineages'; lineages without
their own chiefs owe allegiance to the chiefs of lineages with which they
are matrilineally connected or which are situated in the same locality.
Chiefs are installed by the Oluwo. He may also grant titles, some being
confined to one 'compound', others being hereditary in different segments
of the lineage in turn. The procedure varies slightly in different set-
tlements; in Ajagase, for instance, the Bale is succeeded by the Otun Bale
and the other title-holders all move up in order. The Oluuo's right to
grant titles has made it difficult for the subordinate chiefs to act against
him, though they could try to persuade him to change his mind if they dis-
agreed with him. But it is reported that in 1948 the eldest son of the
Oluwo(the Aremo) was deposed from his headship of the Native Authority
Court, and today there is more equality between the Oluwo and the other

In the Ikirun area the head of a town was an Oba, if he was crowned by
the Oni of Ife, or a Bale. Whether Oba or Bale, he might also make a title
for himself, either from the name of the town or from the name of the origin-
al founder. There were also other titles both military and civil, the
holders of the latter constituting the town council which was divided into
a senior council, with the privilege of entering the house of the Oba or
Bale, and a junior council. Influential men might be given titles to en-
able them to become regular members of the council. The Ogboni society did
not dominate political affairs but all titled men were members and matters
of interest were discussed at its secret meetings. Until 1894 "an Ibadan
ajele was stationed in each town. Each town also had a 'patron' in Ibadan,

(1) P. Lloyd, personal communication, 1950.

but might change its allegiance. The head of a 'compound' or of a quarter,
each with his council, could decide disputes between members of his group
and punish minor offences. In serious cases a report was made to the Bale
and Council of Ibadan through the town's patron. Appeals could be made
from the decision of the compound or quarter head to the town council, or,
through the ajele, to Ibadan.(1)


The development of Ibadan as a great town and trading centre and the
introduction of cocoa in the surrounding farm-land, has given land a scar-
city and commercial value. Men parting with land prefer to be paid for it,
while those receiving it want the security that comes from purchase and the
evidence of sale.

The majority of Ibadan residents have a farm as well as a town compound.
Town land is still regarded as less valuable because less basic to a mainly
agricultural community than farm-land. It also lacks the sacredness of
the soil that nourishes the family. There are no obstacles to the acquisi-
tion of town land by traders who require it for business or residence.

In the country cultivated 'family' land is seldom alienated, but forest,
which, because of work required to clear it, could formerly be had for the
taking, has acquired a new value as potential cocoa land, and the customary
present given for it often amounts to a sum of commercial proportions. This
is generally paid when the trees begin to produce. There are several big
landlords round Ibadan, one of the richest men in the area 'owning' some 30
villages of varying sizes. These men generally 'lend' their land in small
parcels to a number of tenants who give some form of service in return, pre-
senting their landlords with gifts at local festivals, either in kind or
money, according to their means.

In the western district of Ibadan Division, neither permanent crops nor
increase of population have so far raised any serious problems of land

(1) Lasebikan, 1949; Perham, 1937, pp.179 ff; Childs; Schofield.
(2) Forde, 1946, p.90; Perham, 1937, p.196; Childs, n.d.


(including Tsha, Ife and related groups
in Dahomey)



The Egba occupy the Egba and the Ilaro Divisions of Abeokuta Province,
those in the latter consisting of the separate groups known as Egbado,
Awori and Ahori. The Yoruba in Dahomey extend from the mixed town of
Porto Novo northwards, taking in the towns of Saketd, Poba and Ketu and
spreading right across from the Colony to Dassazoum6 and Save. From here
they extend up to the limits of the cercle of Savalou. Bassila marks an
approximate northern limit. In French Togoland they spread into Ewe coun-
try as far west as Atakpam6 and Pagala. The Yoruba speakers in Dahomey are
called Anago, Nago and Nagot by the Fon and variously call themselves Yoruba,
Egba, Sha or Itsha (? = Ijesha). The Sha call the Egba, Omojagun, 'sons of


(Census 1921)
(Tax paying
(Census 1921)

Location by
Administrative Divisions
Abeokuta Province
Egba Division
Abeokuta Province
Ilaro Division

(Nominal Rolls,
1933-4, 1939-40)

Ahori (Holli)

Nago(l) (Anago)
Tshabb 15,400
'Itsha 11,158
Dassa 25,821
Manigri 2,060

87,323 (Census 1921)
16,067 (Census 1921)

Abeokuta Province,
Ilaro Division
Abeokuta Province,
Ilaro Division
Dahomey, Cercle of
Dahomey, Cercle of
Savalou and French

(1) Figures given are from the Censuses taken between 1940 and 1947 and are only
estimates for the 'Nago' of the Cercle of Porto-Novo, which have not been
enumerated separately, and for the French Togoland groups.



Egba proper

Meko )
Eggua )


Location by
Name Population Administrative Divisions

Ana (Ife)(1) 14,127 Dahomey, Cercle of
Savalou and French
Ketu(1) 10,028 Togoland

The Egba appear to have consisted originally of three or four groups
which later corresponded to the 'sections' of Abeokuta, and are now mixed
geographically. Fadipe states that the Oyo consider the Egba Proper to be
their near kin.

The Egbado communities comprise mixed populations of Egun (of Ewe
stock), Anago (Yoruba), and other Yoruba from Dahomey, who had been driven
out in various 19th century raids.

In Dahomey Talbot's Ahori are called Holli by the Egun. They call
themselves Dj6. Their location has tended to keep them aloof from the
Administration and they are a wild people, living between Ketu and Pob&.
They may be of non-Yoruba origin but are now distinctly Yoruba in language
and customs.(2)


Traditions concerning the arrival of the Egba in their present area
suggest successive migrations, most of which are ascribed to movements from
Ife and are associated with three major divisions of the people, viz. Egba
Alaki, Egba Okeona (Ona river), and Gbagura (Egba Agura); each of these
has its chief, the Alake, the Oshile and the Agura being three of the four
chiefly offices at the capital; the fourth is the Olowu of Owu who came
later to Abeokuta. Johnson's account appears to refer only to the Alaki
Division, traditionally the last to arrive from Oyo via Ketu, whose leader
was a younger half-brother of the Alafin.

With the disintegration of the Yoruba the Egba were attacked in about
1810 by armies from Ife and from Ijebu and were compelled to retire in a
south-westerly direction, finally establishing themselves in their present
town of Abeokuta about 1830, where, as mentioned above, they were joined by
the remnants of Owu. Abeokuta is said to have been founded by Shodeke, who
consolidated refugees from over 200 'towns' who had taken refuge in the
vicinity of the Olumo rock of Abeokuta. After his death they split into
factions, until in 1854, largely owing to the efforts of the C.M.S. mission-
ary Townsend, Okukenu was installed as the first Alake of Abeokuta. There
were continual struggles for power between the war chiefs and the Ogboni
society, the latter supporting the Alake, until Governor MacCallum inter-
vened in 1897 and the 'Egba United Government' was formed. The Egba had
signed a treaty with the British in 1893 and in 1914 Abeokuta came under
British protection.

The Ilaro group of Egbado claim to be descendants of migrants from Old

(1) Figures given are from the Censuses taken between 1940 and 1947 and are only
estimates for the 'Nago' of the Cercle of Porto-Novo, which have not been
enumerated separately and for the French Togoland groups.
(2) Parrinder, 1, 1947 and 2, 11949; Talbot, 1926, Vol.IV, p.52; Fadipe, 1939;
Mercier, 1, 1950; Notes on Abeokuta Province, 1934-40.

Oyo, who settled among an earlier Yoruba population and formed two main
chiefdoms, Ilaro and Ijanna, dependent on Oyo. During the middle 19th
century the area was dominated by Egba and also harassed by Dahomey raiders
In 1886 they sought British protection against the Egba.

The settlements near the Dahomey border, in the Idiroko, Ipokia,
Ifonyin, Ado and Igbessa areas, were founded by mixed refugee populations
subjected to raids from Egba and Dahomey. The bulk of their inhabitants
are Egbado, Egun, Ahori and Dahomey Yoruba.

The Yoruba occupation of what is now southern Dahomey, brought about
by successive migrations, mainly of Awori, Egbado and Egba, does not seem
anywhere to date back beyond the 16th century. Their occupation of central
Dahomey is certainly older, but is for convenience also considered here.
The Save area seems to have been populated by immigrants, who, according to
some traditions, came there direct from the north, having broken away when
other Yoruba moved on to install themselves at Ife. The area between Ou~mi-
and the Mono river was occupied by a backwash from the Yoruba settled near
the Mono, especially around Kpessi. The foundation of Kpessi appears to
be very old, though the villages north of Savalou, founded by emigrants re-
turning westwards, date only from the end of the 18th century following
Ashanti pressure. The Ife settled round Tchetti-Djalloukou and extending
towards AtakpamB, probably originated from a mixture of pre-Yoruba popula-
tion with Yoruba from the east. Their language shows marked differences
from that of the Itsha.

Save appears to have been the only kingdom of any importance in central
Dahomey, the other Yoruba there being very scattered. The present dynasty
at Dassa claims an Egba origin, having arrived there about two hundred
years ago. Ketu, the other important kingdom further south, is said to
have been formed independently from a migration from Ile-Ife. The ancient
kingdom of Ketu has been cut in two by the Nigeria-Dahomey boundary. The
Meko area in Nigeria is, however, still regarded as part of it and the
chief of Ketu (Alaketu) visits Meko and villages on the Nigerian coast
during his installation ceremonies.

Porto-Novo too is said to have been a Yoruba town, though all that re-
mains today as a sign of their former occupation is a small temple, possibly
an ancestral shrine. The Yoruba in the Cercle of Porto-Novo have been
steadily driven back during the last hundred years by the Egun and the Fon
of Oudmd. The local Yoruba mingle freely with the Egun inhabitants of the
town of Porto-Novo and are bi-lingual, speaking both Egun and Yoruba. Some
of the royal and secular customs and officials resemble those of the Yoruba
and have Yoruba names.(1)


Rain forest and thick bush found in.the south of Abeokuta Province
give way in the north to undulating savannah and deciduous forest. The

(1) Johnson, 1921, p.17;'Burns, 1942, pp.36 ff.; Parrinder, 1, 1947; 2, 1949;
0. Biobaku, personal communication 1951; Notes on Abeokuta Province, 1934-1940;
Mercier, 1, 1950.

Otta district is very fertile and good crops and cocoa are grown there,
much of the forest having been cut down for this purpose in the last thirty
years. Oil-palms grow well in most areas.

The Egba are well known as keen traders. In 1936 cocoa and palm
products brought nearly a million pounds intc the Egba Division, while a
quarter of a million came from the dyeing industry. The Otta district is
one of the wealthiest cocoa areas in Nigeria. Meko in the north is the
centre of the Ishan Cotton Multiplication scheme with returns of up to
1,000 a year. Aiyetoro is also a wealthy town, exporting cocoa and food-
stuffs to Abeokuta. In the Ipokia area oil and kernels are exported to
Badagry and produce is bought in local markets by Badagry middlemen and
their local agents, the majority of whom are Ijebu. Corn is exported to
Dahomey from the Eggua district. The people are mainly subsistence cul-
tivators depending on cocoa and palm-oil products for their livelihood.
Staple foods in Abeokuta, according to a Medical Census in 1931, are
cassava, corn, yams, and palm-oil, with various peppers and meat or fish
in small quantities.

Palm-oil is the main source of money income for the Yoruba of south
Dahomey and almost the only export. Increase of population has made this
region an importer rather than an exporter of maize. Supplies for Porto-
Novo, which relies on areas north of the Cercle, are difficult to guarantee
during years of bad harvest. In central Dahomey the people, as well as
sending yams to the towns in the south, export cotton (around Savalou) and
tobacco (around Save), and these are the two main cash crops. The Ketu
area is barely self-supporting. In central Dahomey generally, the Yoruba
areas are more backward economically than the Fon areas.(1)



Many large and well built houses are found in Abeokuta town but the
outlying villages are generally groups of mud-walled huts with thatched or
rusty corrugated iron roofs. Though some are built round a rectangle in
the usual Yoruba fashion there is often no definite arrangement, the com-
pounds being merely groups of huts.

Houses in Ketu and Save are square or rectangular, sometimes with a
long verandah which is used by weavers for drying their threads. Women's
looms are fixed against the walls. House groups with many small.inner
courtyards, each surrounded by a verandah and making a kind of impluvium,
are particularly characteristic of Ketu. The palace of the chiefs of
Ketu and Save is called Afin, as at Oyo. These two palaces are in ruins
today. Ketu and Save are now no more than villages, the power of the
chiefs is small and their revenue low, in spite of the allowances made to
them by the Administration. The town of Ketu is surrounded by a wall

(1) Census, 1931, Vol.IV, p.12; Mercier, 1, 1950; Notes on Abeokuta Province

through which a gate (idena) gives access. The straw thatch of the gate
and palace is renewed every five or six years and the work has to be com-
pleted in a single day.(l)


Abeokuta town is divided into numerous sections called townships,
each one representing one of the separate units which assembled to form the
town. There are about seventy, each with its own area of town land.
Abeokuta now has four chiefs, three Egba and the fourth Owu. The Alake is
recognized as the most important. Before the founding of Abeokuta the
Egba were settled in villages each with its own chief, and the monarchy has
not had the same hold on them as on other groups. The Egba leaders came
from a junior branch of the Oyo royal lineage but there has never been one
unquestioned royal lineage. The Ogboni society called here Oshugbo -
formerly played an important part in government.

The Egba of Abeokuta are said to have in some ways the most advanced
form of local government in Nigeria, as a result of the self-confidence and
initiative gained in their period of independence. The Alake works
through a large representative council, which includes Christians and Mos-
lems, and the heads of the various ethnic groups. Twelve of its members
are elected for life and twenty triennially; its debates are held in pub-

Ketu is divided into 15 quarters, At one time there were more but
after the town was sacked by the Dahomeans in 1886 the population was con-
siderably reduced and the town has never recovered. The chief of Ketu
(Alaketu) is assisted by ministers (Oloye) the number of which has varied
from time to time; there are about twenty today. The first two are
called Asaba and Esiki; the third, the Elegba, has the oversight of re-
ligious ceremonies. Similar titles are found in the chiefdoms of Pobe ana
Sak6te in Dahomey.

Save also has lost its former power following the successful raids of
the Fon and Bariba. The other chiefdoms of central Dahomey were never
particularly important and their organisation is simple. The former kings
of Save and Ketu and the more important of the other chiefs are acknowledged
today as 'chefs de canton' by the French Administration, but the old organ-
isation is not officially recognized.

There are traces of the Ogboni society only among the most easterly of
the Dahomey Yoruba, where its executive practically coincides with member-
ship of the Council of State. The Oro society is strong among the Yoruba
of the Cercle of Porto-Novo, among the Holli and around Ketu. The Gelede
society is even more important, particularly at Sakte6 and Pobe. Egungun
is of minor importance. Christians participate in some measure in the
activities of these societies.

There are no age-sets among the Yoruba of Dahomey and French Togoland,
but voluntary associations for persons of the same age and sex are found.

(1) Parrinder, 2, 1949, p.209; Mercier, 1, 1950; Notes on Abeokuta Province,

Mutual aid societies are less common than among the Fon. Co-operative
societies are rare and the guild system is little developed.(1)


Owing to the unusual circumstances in which Abeokuta was established,
which meant that many persons sought land at the same time, the township
chiefs formally allotted sites to each land-holding group. This created
a precedent which appears to have given them more authority over land
transactions than they would normally have had. Almost every Egba in
Abeokuta has occupational rights in the house of his lineage as well as in
the house he may have in the village where he farms or trades. Poorer
men rely almost entirely on borrowed land for food crops; tenants are not
allowed to plant permanent crops.

Egba and Egbado settlers were formerly granted land in perpetuity by
Otta owners, for which they paid only a case or two of gin; no annual
rent was paid or expected.(2)


In general the Egba and Egbado exhibit the usual Yoruba cultural
features, but the Ahori-Ketu show some differences. The Ahori-Ketu women
used to wear studs in their nostrils and discs distending their lower lips,
though the fashion is now dying out. Egba spirits can be parallelled
among those of other Yoruba, though the names are often different and the
shrines more elaborate; they are sometimes set in clearly defined com-
pounds, outside the town, often walled and displaying carefully carved

The gods invoked by the Ketu, Savy and other Dahomean Yoruba are simi-
lar to those of the main Yoruba groups, though Olorun tends to be replaced
by Bunku in the region of Dassa, Bante and Atakpame. Shango, the god of
thunder, is particularly prominent among the Ahori (Holli) and wooden carv-
ings represent him with a two-headed axe shape. Some fine masks, brightly
painted in blue, red and white and covering the whole head, are made by the

(1) Burns, 1942, p.38; Fadipe, 1939; Perham, 1937, p.198; Parrinder, 2, 1949;
Mercier, 1, 1950; Notes on Abeokuta Province, 1934-1940.
(2) Bridges, 1, 1939.
(3) Parrinder, 2, 1949, pp.35-8; Notes on Abeokuta Province, 1934-1940.




The Ijebu are located mainly in Ijebu Province and the Colony, though
some are also reported in Northern Nigeria. In the Colony they comprise
45% of the population of Epe Division and are found in the Ijede and
Ikorodu areas of Ikeja Division.

The name Ijebu (Ije-Ibu) is said to mean 'food of the deep', as the
Ijebu are thought to be descended from victims sacrificed by an Oba of
Benin to the god of the ocean. They themselves claim to be descended
from Oba-Nita who was himself sacrificed by the Olowu of Owu. The Remo
section of the Ijebu is so called because they claim to have come origin-
ally from the Remo quarter of Ife.(l)


1921 225,307 (Total Ijebu in Southern Provinces)
178,223 (Ijebu Province)
46,574 (Lagos and Colony)
139 413 (Ijebu-Ode)
38,810 (Remo)
47,084 (Unclassified)
1931 305,898 (Ijebu Province) (3)
125 (Ijebu in Northern Provinces)

There are numbers of Sobo traders and a few Ijaw and Fanti fishermen
settled in the Ijebu Waterside area.(4)

The scale of local community organisation may be illustrated as fol-

Administrative Extent of Totalon Village Nubers of
DistrictPopulation tax paying
District, Area 1935-1940 groups ales
ljebu-Remo 530 sq. 69,500 Shagamu ) 5,000
miles Akaka ) 300
Ipara ) Hemo 300
Ikenne ) Proper 1,200
Ilishan ) 800
Ilara ) 200
Ode Town) Migrants 1,100
Ishara ) from 1,700
Ogere Ijebu-Ode 1,100
Iperu ) 2,10
Ogijo 900

(1) Johnson, 1921, pp.18-19. (2) Talbot, 1926, Vol.IV, p.52.
(3) Census 1931, pp.20, 21, 27- (4) Bridges, 2, 1940.
(5) Abell, 1, 1935; 2, n.d.; Hawkesworth, 1, 1935; Mackenzie, 2, 1938, 3,1940; Bridges
2, 1940; Bovell-Jones, 1942; McCullagh, 1938; Milne, 1939; Bourne, 1940.




Extent of Total
Area Population

390 sq.


8,000 Ijebu-Ife

35,800 Ijebu-Igbo
Asigidi ('village')
Awa ('small hamlet')

500 sq. 17,500
miles (plus 600

162 sq.

25 sq. 7,100

130 sq. 12,000

40 sq. 7,700

Ilaje Yoruba
Ikale Yoruba
(24 villages)
(27 villages)

11 villages
25 villages

Ijebu Province

Ijebu Province (1931)

Ijebu Waterside
Ago Town

100 persons per sq. mile

303 (excluding forest area)
92 persons per sq. mile
286 "
193 "


All Ijebu claim to have come originally from Ife, the Olowu of Owu
claiming descent by a maternal link from the first son of Oduduwa, the
founder of the Yoruba nation. The various chiefdoms in the area have
their own traditions, generally concerned with Ife, though Idowa is said to
have been founded by the thirteenth Awujale of Ijebu-Ode. The traditions
regarding Remo are conflicting, the Remo claiming that they came directly
from the Remo quarter of Ife, but the Ijebu-Ode maintaining that the first
Akarigbo of Remo was in fact a son of the first Ajalorun of Ijebu-Ife.
Ijebu-Ife tradition would indicate that the migration from Ife took place

Numbers of
tax paying






Aeo Town


about the middle of the fifteenth century

The Ijebu joined in the civil wars during the early part of the 19th
century, and are said by Johnson to have been better armed than any of the
interior tribes, their location near the coast giving them an advantage in
obtaining guns and gunpowder in exchange for slaves. In 1877 the Ijebu and
Egba were attacked by Ibadan. In 1886 arbitrators succeeded in making
peace but in 1891 the Ijebu closed the trade routes through their country,
denying Oyo and Ibadan access to the sea. Eventually they agreed to reopen
the trade routes, but did not do so, and trade was soon brought to a stand-
still again. An ultimatum from the British was ignored and in 1892 a
British expedition from Lagos landed at Epe. A week later Ijebu-Ode was
entered. A garrison and a British Resident remained to preserve order but
the Awujale was allowed to retain his position.(1)


Ijebu Province lies within the rain forest belt, and is mainly fertile,
undulating country, rising to more than 400-500 feet above sea level only
in the north. The Ijebu-Remo area of the north-west is more hilly and
broken than the rest of the Province, with laterite hills and outcrops of
rock. Ijebu Waterside, lying between the Colony and Ondo Province and
bounded in the south by the.sea, is generally flat and liable to become
swampy in the rainy season. It is intersected by lagoons into which the
rivers flow.

Approximately a quarter of Ijebu Province is covered by forest re-


The inhabitants of Ijebu-Ode are conspicuous as traders and middlemen
and have not a high reputation as farmers. The Ijebu-Hemo, however, are
chiefly farmers and grow maize, cassava, yams,, kola and palm produce, tak-
ing large quantities to the market at Ikorodu and from there to Lagos. The
people of Ijebu-Ife, Owu-Ikija, Idowa, Odo-Alamo and Ago districts are also
mostly farmers, with some hunters, fishers and sawyers. In Odolagaye the
manufacture of cassava flour is a widespread industry, and in Ijebu Water-
side, where farming is confined to cassava, gari is the staple diet and a
large surplus is taken to Lagos.

Cocoa is grown in areas where the soil is suitable and production is
increasing; Ijebu-Ode in particular is now an important centre. Palm
products provide a steady income in the Ijebu-Igbo area; in Ijebu Water-
side production is almost entirely in the hands of Sobo settlers who pay
an 'entrance fee' of 6/- and an annual rent of 15/- for the use of palm-
trees. Timber is also exported from this area to the Colony, use being
made of the Ibu River. Canoe-building and repairing are other character-

(1) Johnson, 1921, pp.18-19; Burns, 1942, p.36 (note) and pp.216-8; Mackenzie, 2,
1938; Abell, 1, 1935; lHawkesworth, 1, 1935.
(2) Hawkesworth, 2, 1938; Abell, 1, 1935; Bridges, 2, 1940.

istic occupations. Before the arrival of European traders, salt-making was
a staple industry of the sea coast villages.

Younger people from all Ijebu areas migrate to Lagos as traders and
clerks and many Ijebu-Igbo engage in the motor trade.(1)


Houses are substantially built with thick mud walls. In towns they
are often of cement with zinc or corrugated iron roofs.

Much cloth is woven locally. Beadwork(2) is practised as a special-
ised craft by one family in Remo, which makes crowns consisting of a
basket or cardboard frame on to which beads are sewn in various patterns.
Boots, staves, fly-whisks, caps and gowns are decorated in the same way.
Many masks of the Ijebu area closely resemble those of the Ijaw.



Little is known about the social structure of the Ijebu except that
there are 'family' and quarter heads known as Oloritun. It is thought
that the quarter heads were formerly heads of extended families but today
they are chosen from the quarter by the village elders.(3)


The political organisation of the Ijebu has always been markedly de-
centralised among the numerous small communities. For administrative
purposes the Province is divided today into two Native Authorities, under
the Awujale of Ijebu-Ode and the Akarigbo of Ijebu-Remo. In addition,
there are numerous minor chieftainships, such as the Ajalorun of Ijebu-Ife,
the Olowu of Owu, the Akija of Ikija, the Dagbure of Idowa, the Ebamawe of
Ago, as well as smaller chiefs some of whose claims to their titles are
denied in Ijebu-Ode, one such being the Moloda of Iloda in the Idowa Dis-
trict. It appears that in the past the granting of petty chief-ships over
small villages was a profitable source of income to the Awujale.

The chief's office is everywhere sacred and the Awujale of Ijebu-Ode
is regarded as the ritual head of all the Ijebu, not only in the smaller
chiefdoms but in Ijebu-Remo as well. In the past an offering was sent
each year from Remo to the Awujale as the Remo people had a shrine in
Ijebu-Ode at which the Awujale made offerings for them to ensure their
peace and prosperity. The Awujale did not usually interfere in the af-
fairs of the smaller chiefdoms, although their members were aware that they
had a right of appeal to him if they were oppressed. The position of the

(1) Abell, 1, 1935, 2, n.d.; Hawkesworth, 1, 1935; Mackenzie, 2, 1923; 3, 1940;
McCullagh, 1938; Milne, 1939; Bridges, 2, 1940.
(2) Mellor, 1938.
(3) Hawkesworth, 1, 1935; Abell, 2, n.d.

subordinate chiefdoms in relation to Ijebu-Ode seems to vary, some of them,
as for instance the Gbegande of Ososa in the Idowa District, regarding
themselves as directly responsible to the Awujale rather than to a superior
chief of their area.

In principle the chief possessed great power, but in practice he could
not act without the advice of his councillors. The Awujale of Ijebu-Ode
was surrounded by officials: the Lamuren, his immediate advisers chosen
from certain lineages of the aristocracy of Ijebu-Ode, and the Odi, who
were the guardians of his person and of secret rituals.

Administrative action was in the hands of three associations: the
Oshugbo (corresponding to the Ogboni society elsewhere), the Opere, and the
Pampa societies. The Oshugbo dealt with all judicial matters, but al-
though it largely controlled the chief it could not properly act without
his authority. The Opere and Pampa associations of young men and warriors
were less important administratively; in some areas the Pampa was respons-
ible for controlling prices and settling disputes in the markets, though
in Jjebu-Ife it was primarily a military association. The societies in
the lesser chiefdoms were generally subordinate to those of Ijebu-Ode and
in some districts the permission of the Awujale had to be obtained before a
lodge of the Oshugbo could be opened. These societies are no longer part
of the administrative machinery, though they have retained a greater degree
of vigour in Ijebu-Ife than elsewhere and exist as private or social clubs.

Fadipe states that the organisation of Ijebu-Ode differed from that
of the smaller Ijebu chiefdoms in that the age-sets (regberegbe) took a
larger part in the government. Elsewhere age-sets appear to exist still
but to have little importance. In Idowa for example they are formed every
three years among youths and girls who have reached puberty. Each set is
given a name, generally denoting some important event, which it retains
for ever. The name should be selected by the Awujale of Ijebu-Ode and
then becomes universal throughout Ijebuland, including, it is understood,
the Ijebu settlements in the Colony.

The administration of villages is generally similar in most areas.
There are naturally small local differences, especially in Ijebu Waterside
where, owing to the nature of the country, small communities have grown up
in semi-isolation. The usual organisation is that of a village council
controlled by a village head, known as Olorilu, Otunba or Bale. In the
Imushin area the priests of the Agemo association act as heads of their
respective villages.

Members of a village Oshugbo society used to hear all cases arising
within their own area, with the exception of murder, and certain Oshugbo
societies were, as in Ijebu-Ife, empowered by the Awujale to try murder
cases. The headman of a village had power to arbitrate between parties
of the same village in minor cases, such as marriage payments and land
disputes. If there was disagreement about a verdict, trial by.ordeal was
resorted to. Most offences were punished by fines, murder by the death
penalty, though a wealthy man could provide a slave as substitute.

Under the modern system each village has its own headman who receives
a salary from the Native Authority and is also President of the Native

Court. He has no council but is generally assisted by a few of the older
titled members of the Oshugbo society. District Councils under the
presidency of the chief of the area have also been formed.(1)


In Ijebu-Remo rights to land may be held communally, or by the chief,
or by the lineage. Communal land (ite), with the exception of market-
places, is always outside the boundaries of a town, generally a strip of
land on the outskirts. The chief and his councillors can grant plots of
land for building or farming, which then become the property of the
lineage to whom they have- been given and the chief has no further control
over them. In Ijebu-Igbo land is held communally by the quarter.

The chief usually holds a plot of land and sometimes a farm in each
settlement of his area, which cannot be sold or given away by him but must
be handed over to his successor. In the same way land apportioned out to
members of 'families' may not be disposed of in any way without the permis-
sion of the whole group. It could be pawned with the group's consent and
redeemed at any time. A temporary holder may reap crops he has planted
but plants economic trees such as cocoa or kola at his own risk. It is
considered both a breach of courtesy and contrary to law to plant kola-
trees without the owner's permission.

Both in Ijebu-Ode and among the Colony Ijebu no plot or area can be
permanently claimed by any individual within the land-holding group of kin
from whose head approval to work the plot has to be obtained. This group
is not strictly speaking a lineage, since rights can be retained in-the
homes of both parents. An allotment is held by an occupier and his des-
cendants in perpetuity so long as they work it. It may be divided up, on
the holder's death, into as many parts as there are men and women claim-
ants. Both sexes may inherit land rights from both father and mother and
individuals sometimes assert rights to land in several kin groups. This
practice is more common in the Colony, where there is communal control of
land,.and is approved by those in control; a similar principle applies
also to family town land. Palms are vested in kin groups, but occupiers
of a plot generally have undisputed access to palms on or near their plots.
Oil and coconut-palms may be offered as security for debt and, if necessary,
a joint effort is made by members to redeem them if the person on whose
behalf the pledge was made fails to do so.(2)

(1) Fadipe, 1939; Abell, 1, 1935 and 2, n.d.; Bridges, 2, 1940; Hawkesworth, 1,
1935; Mackenzie, 2, 1938 and 3, 1940; Milne, 1939; Bovell-Jones, 1942; Bourne,
1940; McCullagh, 1938.
(2) Abell, 1, 1935; Mackenzie, 3, 1940; Fowler, MS. notes, n.d.




The Ekiti proper are located chiefly in the Ekiti Division of Ondo
Province, extending into the Ilorin Division of Ilorin Province. Accord-
ing to Johnson the name Ekiti refers to the hilly nature of the country in
Ekiti Division, the word meaning 'mound'. The Owo-Ifon, Imere and Akoko
groups are found in the Owo Division of Ondo Province, and the Akoko may
extend into the Kukuruku Division of Benin Province, where there is an
Akoko District. The Owo-Ifon and Akoko are said not to regard themselves
as Ekiti, the Akoko especially being a group of mixed origins. Talbot's
Ekiti 'sub-tribe' also includes Ondo, Ikale, Idanre and Mahin, which on
the evidence of Fadipe and others are here grouped separately under Ondo,
(see below p.62)(1)


Population estimates are as follows:-

Name Total Population Location by
SAdministrative Divisions
Ekiti Proper 185,461 (1921 Census) Ondo Province, Ekiti Division
37,419(2) (1931 Census) Ilorin Province, Ilorin
31,800(2) (c. 1934)
Owo-Ifon 39,044 (1921 Census)(3) Ondo Province, Owo Division
Imere 1,205 (1921 Census)
Akoko 33,045 (1921 Census) .

Weir(4) gives estimates (c.1934) of the total population of five of
the 16 Administrative Districts into which Ekiti Division is divided, as

Ado (36 local communities) 47,978)
Akure (30 ) 28,623)
Ikerre ( 1 ) 10,403) (Ekiti Proper)
Itaji ( 4 ) 1,150)
Ogotun ( 1 ) 2,123)

Rowling(5) gives estimates (c.1949) for certain districts of Ekiti and
Owo Divisions as follows:-
Ado-Ekiti (Ekiti Division) 220,000) (Ekiti Proper)
Akure ( ) 46,000)
Akoko-Oka (Owo Division) 110,000 (Akoko)
Owo(6) (" ) 60,000 (Owo-Ifon)

(1) Johnson, 1921, pp.22-3; Talbot, 1926, Vol.IV, p.52; Weir, 2, 1933-4.
(2) Walsh, c.1934. It should be noted that when these figures were estimated Awtun
District was still part of the Northern Provinces; the number of Ekiti in Ilori
Province today is probably about 19 000.
(3) Talbot, loc.cit. (4) op.cit. (5) 1949.
(6) Including the 'associated areas' of Ifon, Ikaro, Imoru, Sobe and Ijagbe.

Walsh gives estimates (c.1934) of the number of Ekiti Proper in the
following districts of Ilorin Emirate:-

Awtun (12 local communities) 13,941
Iloffa ( 1 ) 5,179
Ekan ( 4 ) 4,368
including 1 Igbona
Osi ( 7 local communities) 3,881
including 1 Yagba
and Ehungi

On their eastern boundary the inhabitants of Ekiti Division have
intermarried with Yagba (see below p.71) and Tapa (Nupe) and on their
southern with Bini. There are numbers of Bini settled in Akure and Ikerre.
Igbira farm in the north-eastern part of Owo Division.


The density of Ekiti Division, an area of 2,359 square miles with a
population of 200,143, was estimated at approximately 84 persons per square
mile in 1934. Bowling, however, estimated a higher density of about 100
persons per square mile in 1949.


The present inhabitants of Ekiti Division are the descendants of im-
migrants from many areas, though predominantly from the west possibly Ife
- who colonised by peaceful penetration probably at some time in the 16th
century. Bini came into the southern and central parts of the area, i.e.
the Ado, Akure and Ikerre Districts probably in the 17th century. Two
smaller immigrations are said to have taken place at that time from Ijebu-
Ode and Ifon. There are no records of traditions concerning the earlier
inhabitants; Johnson suggests that the Ekiti include the descendants of the
aboriginal inhabitants of the country, who were absorbed by invaders from
the east. His account also suggests that the ruling Ekiti lineages origin-
ated in Ife. It is held that many of the immigrants from the west later
moved into Ilorin and Kabba Provinces and founded the Yagba group (p.74
below), some elements returning later and mixing with the north-eastern

The Ekiti in what are now the Northern Provinces were raided and over-
run around 1845 by Balogun Ali of Ilorin and the Ibadan Yoruba to whom
they paid tribute. In 1879, following wars and slave raids, a confedera-
tion of parapo was formed in which a large number of the Ekiti allied them-
selves to the Ife, Ijesha, Yagba, Akoko and Ilorin Yoruba, against Oyo and
Ibadan. In 1886 a treaty was signed in which the Ekiti groups were
guaranteed their independence by the British Government,(1) and in 1893,
owing to the intervention of the Governor of Lagos, the long period of war-
fare between Ibadan and Ilorin was brought to an end. It was not until
1900, however, when Northern Nigeria was declared a British Protectorate,
that the Ekiti were really safe from Ilorin raids.(1)

(1) Weir, 1, 1934; Johnson, 1921, pp.22-5; Temple, 1919, p.101; Daniel, 1934.


The Ekiti and Owo Divisions of Ondo Province are hilly, with large
granite formations in the Ado and Ikerre Districts of Ekiti, and dense
forest in the southern areas, i.e. Ise, Ogbesse and Akure of Ekiti Division
and Owo, Ifon, Ala and Okeluse of Owo Division. Mahogany, iroko and sass-
wood are found here.

Household farms in both Divisions range from one or two acres up to
six acres. The main crops are yams, coco-yams, cassava, corn, beans,
groundnuts, tobacco and cotton. The size of farms is often reckoned by
the number of yam heaps, the average being 1,500 to 2,000 heaps, or just
over one acre. Yams are the staple food in Owo. Maize is planted during
the rains, after yams; guinea-corn, which is cheap, is grown only in the
north east. Cassava is grown in the Ifon and Owo areas. Beans, locust
beans and cotton (for local use) are widely cultivated, but groundnuts only
in Ekiti Division. Yams are exported from Ekiti to Ilorin.

In the Irun area of the Owo Division the former large farms of joint
families are being replaced by small individual farms. The people have
the reputation of being lazy, the average adult male cultivating only half
an acre annually. The longest bush fallow is ten years on poor savannah.
Most of their small surplus of food crops, cotton and palm-oil is sold to
neighbours in local markets.

Livestock among the Ekiti is generally owned by women. Cattle from
Ifon in Owo Division are sold to Benin, Sapele and even Warri. Numerous
cattle in the Akoko districts are traded in the Owo, Kabba, Okene and
Lokoja markets.

Cocoa was introduced into Irun (Owo Division) about 1920 and has been
rapidly extended in the high forest, usually by strangers. Exports are
now much larger than those of palm-kernels. Ikare, whose people control
most of the undeveloped cocoa land remaining, is now an important market.
Production is small in Owo and Ekiti but is increasing.

Oil-palms are abundant in most parts of Owo Division. Sobo immi-
grants have established palm-oil camps round Ifon with the consent of the
local headmen, marketing oil at Koko and Sapele. From Ekiti palm-kernels
are carried by lorry to Oshogbo but little palm-oil is manufactured for

Planted kola-trees are a considerable source of income in the Ogbagi,
Ikare and Oka areas of Owo Division. The Gbanja variety, which is
superior to the Abata, yields some 500 1,000 nuts a year from a good
tree over a period of thirty years from the sixth year after planting. The
crop is sold to visiting Hausa traders or taken north to Ilorin and Kabba.

Apart from the men and women engaged in petty trading in farm produce,
trade is confined to a few market centres. Even in large villages there
are very few middlemen in the palm-oil, cocoa and kola trades. Retailing
of imported goods, including native textiles, is in the hands of visiting
hawkers from Ibadan, Oshogbo and other large towns. The largest market
in Ekiti Division, Egosi in Oye District, is the meeting-place for traders

from Ilorin, Nupe, Kabba, Bini, Ondo, Ilesha and other Ekiti centres. Its
principal trade is in the kola nut known as Abidun. Ikare in Owe Division
is also a large market centre.

Four-fifths of the adult women in Owo Division are weavers, making
mostly heavy blue cloth on a wide loom. In Ekiti Division local silk is
interwoven with cotton by men as well as women. Dyeing is universal.
There are a few full-time ironsmiths, tailors, carpenters, shoemakers and
sawyers in most of the larger settlements. Women at Sobe and Arigidi in
Owo Division make pottery.(1)

Osi District of Ilorin Province, an area occupied by Ekiti, is rugged,
hilly country and farming is arduous. The staple crops are yams and
maize; guinea-corn is grown at Idofin on the Igbona border and kola only
at Etan. There is also some cotton and tobacco. Local markets do a
good trade but little is exported except for some cloth to Egbe and Iloffa,
tobacco from Obo to Ilorin and palm-oil from Eruku and Koro Eruku to Egbe.
Trade routes from the north pass through the area. Women are occupied in
weaving and dyeing and children make baskets. There are a few skilled
brass-workers at Obo.(2)



The basic social unit is the compact patrilineage with its associated
extended family (omo-ile), presided over by its oldest member (olori-omo-
ile) who performs rituals on its behalf. In some areas there is now a
tendency for members to move out of the lineage compound and live apart.
In Ado, for example, lineage compounds are now very rare, though a house
containing the lineage shrine still remains. The lineage heads are here
replaced by local heads of the village or quarter, usually the senior
title-holders. Nevertheless, the lineage heads still have the right of
appointing the titled men and allocating land.

Sections of wards (ogbon) are recognized. They are often only con-
venient sub-divisions of a large ward but may sometimes be equivalent to a
large lineage. The ward (adugbo, ilu, eku or ogbon) similarly may be a
purely territorial aggregate or may correspond to a lineage.

The head of the local group is chosen from the senior lineage if it
is predominantly a lineage unit, but any 'chief' may be chosen if it is a
territorial group.

Settlements are distinguished as villages (ileto) or towns (ilu), ac-
cording to size and age. A town usually has three wards divided into a
number of sections in groups of three which a village does not unless
it is the remnant of a town. The organisation of town and village is

(1) Forde, 1946, pp.81-5; Weir 1 and 2, 1933-4; Allison, 1, c.1940; Bridges, 1,
(2) Whiteley, 1916.

usually the same. The term Bale is not used; the chief, taking the name
of the town prefaced by ol-, is generally chosen from the founder's lineage
by the inner council of chiefs (ijoye) who submit names to the Ifa oracle
until a suitable candidate is selected.

The District (agbegbe or okun) is a territorial unit, consisting of a
number of local communities recognizing a common head but not a common

The clan (obi or itan) is a collection of lineages extending over a
number of local communities, recognizing a common head and descent from a
common founder. The head of the clan (oba) is regarded as the embodied
manifestation of the spirit of the founder and as the agent of the gods,
personifying the life of the group. Nevertheless, he has few active func-
tions and there is a separate order of priests. Formerly, if he became
sick or if the clan suffered adversity, his death was hastened. He is
often chosen from a particular lineage, although from district to district
there are differences in the procedure. Three months after the death of
the previous holder, the most important groups of town or village chiefs
presided over by the acting head, request the head of the lineage concerned,
directly or through his quarter chief, to put forward the names of suitable
men. The selectors then decide which names to refer to Ifa.

In the Akure District and especially in Akure town, organisation on a
kinship basis is said to have been almost entirely replaced by one founded
on an association and title system.(1)


Ekiti has 16 traditional districts, each with its own chief, four of
whom were pre-eminent; the Ore of Awtun, the Ajero of Ijero, the Elewi of
Ado and the Elekole of Ikole. A convention of Ekiti in 1900 established
the rank and seniority of the Ekiti chiefs under Ife. The Ore of Awtun
was made president of the Ekiti Council. This council 'became defunct'
when Obo and Awtun were placed in the Northern Provinces, though the unity
of the northern and southern groups is constantly demonstrated. Today
there are still 16 districts, loosely federated, and a regular conference
of chiefs is held. Owo has 9 Native Authority areas, one of which (Akoko-
Oka) is described by Rowling as having 6 administrative .sub-divisions which
are artificially created groups of independent villages.

Weir states that positions of importance are held by titled men
(Ijoye), who are appointed by the lineages in which the titles are vested
at the request of the town, village or quarter council concerned. The
titles are grouped and graded in order of importance. The councillors
(ihare) are divided into inner, outer and quarter councillors. Other
titled men (elegbe) are responsible for town organisation, their relative
status varying from town to town.

Traditionally lineage councils dealt with disputes over lineage land,
quarter councils with misdemeanours, village and town councils with serious

(1) Weir, 1 and 2, 1933-4.

crimes and clan councils with warfare. Criminal offences were of four
classes; offences against the gods, the community, the chieftainship and
the person. The town and village councils meet in the market place or at
the official residence of the village head. Councils of priests (awore)
meet to discuss matters concerning worship, festivals, behaviour of priests
and the issue of ritual orders. Chiefs of women' groups are becoming
increasingly important but do not as yet have much say in public affairs.(1)

In Iloffa District of Ilorin Emirate, which has an Ekiti population,
it is thought that each village managed its affairs independently with its
own head and council until the Fulani conquest, when villages were given to
important persons as fiefs. Today, some districts, such as Ekan, prefer
to stand as separate units of administration directly responsible to the
Emir rather than to a chief of their own. In these cases the position of
district head is a purely nominal one.(2)


Every Ekiti man belonged to an age-set which, according to Weir,
varied in number from two to ten according to the size of the community.
There was a link between the village council (ilu) and the age-sets, the
council being composed exclusively of persons who had reached the apex of
the age-set system.

The names and functions of the sets in Awtun district are given as

(1) Egbe Onode or Igemo youths of c.12-19 who undertake communal
labour. There is no initiation ceremony.
(2) Egbe Eso young men of c.19-25 who do heavier work. There is
no initiation ceremony.
(3) Egbe Ologun formerly the fighting men, who are now entrusted
with the care of sacred places and work for the elders. This
set has an initiation ceremony.
(4) Egbe Oye Ihare senior men who are responsible for keeping
order in their own compounds and are initiated by the elders.
(5) Egbe Oye Agba men of wealth and good character who make up the
village council and who are admitted by initiation.

It is reported that the councils (ilu), until very recently at least,
have continued to be composed solely of persons who have passed through
the various age-sets; the younger generation, many of whom are Christians,
are not represented, since, although willing to take part in communal work,
they object to the initiation ceremonies.(3)


The pattern of tenure in the Ado-Ekiti area is similar to that

(1) Johnson, 1921, pp.22-3; Rowling, 1949; Weir 1 and 2, 1933-4; Native Authority
Ordinance, 1943; Whiteley, 1916.
(2) Daniel, c.1934; Payne, 1 and 2, 1934-5. (3) Weir, 2, 1933-4; Daniel, 1934.

described for the Yoruba generally (see above, pp. ). Each patrilineage
has its own lands, usually in several different places, but the Oba is the
titular owner of all land and can override such rights. The ward head
(olori adugbo) has no status except in an administrative capacity and as an
arbiter of disputes among the lineage. There are no exclusive rights
within the land-holding group save to land that is built on or is under
permanent crops, but priority is allowed to the man who first clears farm-
land. Forest produce is the property of the group. Sales and pledging
of land, although denied, do sometimes take place. Rent (ishakole) from
strangers is generally paid in kind which includes help on the grantor's
farm, but Sobo licencees of palm bush make a payment in oil to the whole

In Owo Division an area once subject to Benin the Olowo 'owns' the
entire region, as the representative of the people. Thus an Oro man is
entitled to farm where he likes, provided that he observes certain rules.
The usual practice is for farm camps to be established, where a number of
relatives or friends, ranging from about 12 to 300 or more, farm together.
The intending founder of such a camp must seek the approval of the 'quarter'
head, who in turn asks permission of the Olowo and Council. Thereafter
farming is controlled by the founder or his successor in the office of camp
headman. Sale and lease of plots are unknown and pledging is rare. A
register of strangers is kept, these being mostly Igbirra farmers and Sobo
palm-oil traders. In towns sale of house plots is unrestricted and
premises can be leased; here the quarter head takes the place of the camp

The Akoko and Oka areas show a different pattern, probably because the
population is a mixture from Owo, Ekiti, Benin, Kukuruku and Kabba. No
right or authority beyond that of the village is recognized and each village
or quarter of a village has its own particular tract of land the boundaries
of which are jealously guarded. Here the quarter (adugbo) appears to be
the land-holding unit and both pledge and sale of permanent crops are recog-
nised. To occupy land strangers (mostly Igbirra) make an initial payment
of 5 and a goat and may rent farms for 12/- a year, in addition to presents
of beer and kola and a certain amount of work on the chief's farm.

In the Akure area land is apportioned by the lineage head in the out-
lying villages, but in Akure itself, although the land is controlled by the
lineages, a. large portion of it is regarded as being in the personal gift
of the Deji and other prominent chiefs.

Among the Ekiti in the Northern Provinces, according to Temple, all
land was distributed and obtainable only through the goodwill of the occu-
pant, who, when he grew old, would often allow a young man to farm part of
his land. Land could not be alienated by gift or sale but a prospective
tenant would bring with him a present of palm-wine. Trees belonged to the
owner of the land and tenants might not touch them, though they were allowed
to use non-fruit-bearing trees for firewood.(1)

(1) Bowling, 1949; Weir, 1933-4; Temple, 1919, p.102.


Among the Northern Provinces Ekiti 'woman marriage' is practised,
whereby a wealthy woman with no children of her own 'marries' a young girl
who takes lovers. The girl's children are then regarded as those of the
woman who married her.

Divorce is said to have been unusual and forbidden in many towns.(1)

(1) Temple, 1919, pp.103 ff.





The Ondo group occupies the south-western part of Ondo Province, i.e.
the Ondo and Okitipupa Divisions. The name is said to mean 'the settlers'
and'Ondo was traditionally founded by one of the wives of the Alafin of
Oyo, who gave birth to twins and was ordered to move there.(1)


Name Population Location by
1921 1949 Administrative Divisions
Ondo Proper 28,809 78,000 Ondo Division, Ondo District
(Ondo District)
Idanre 7,958 16,000 Ondo Division, Idanre Distric'
(Tdanre District)
Ikale 29,528 60 000 Okitipupa Division, Ikale
(Ikale District) Distric'
Mahin (?Ilaje) 12,679 Okitipupa Division, Ijale
Total 78,974 154,000

The population of Ondo Division is Yoruba, but that of Okitipupa is
of Bini and Ijaw extraction, though there has been considerable Yoruba ad-
mixture and influence in Ikale, where a dialect of Yoruba is spoken. Al-
most half the inhabitants are now immigrant Sobo. This district also con,
tains the Ijaw-Apoi-Arogbo group and an immigrant group of Bini known to
the Administration as the Bini Confederation.(2)


Approximate densities are estimated by Rowling (1949) as follows:

Ondo District 40 per square mile; Idanre District 30 per square
mile; Okitipupa Division (without Ikale) 50 per square mile; Ikale
District 120 per square mile.


The southern part of Ondo Province, in which the Ondo group is located
is of rain forest type, the Ondo and Idanre areas containing rich belts of
commercially exploitable forest. The coastal area is swampy, with sandy
soils to the north of it.

(1) Johnson, 1921, p.25.
(2) Talbot, 1926, Vol.IV, p.52; Rowling, 1949.

The inhabitants of Ondo Division rely on farming for their livelihood;
the Okitipupa Division is not self-supporting in food crops, the main
occupations being fishing, canoe transport and trading. The Bini Con-
federation is the only group practising serious farming. Okitipupa(l) it-
self, with a population of about 3,000, is linked to Lagos by 100 miles
of creeks, and palm-kernels and cocoa-beans are brought to this market from
other areas to be transported to Lagos. Production and trade in palm-oil
and kernels are largely dominated by the immigrant Sobo. Cocoa is grown
on suitable soils north of the coastal swamp area.

There is no information about social structure for Ondo Division, but
according to reports cited by Rowling(2) for the Ikale District of Okiti-
pupa Division, the exogamous patrilineage there is also a local unit or
quarter (adugbo). Settlements may, however, be widely dispersed. Houses
in the coastal area are built on posts over the water, and, spaced every
few miles along the waterway in groups of about 30, form compact village

Land in Ondo Division is held in trust for the people by the Oshemowe.
Although no personal claims to ownership are admitted, a man may retain the
use of as much land as he can cultivate and cannot be dispossessed unless
he or his kin cease to occupy it. Sale of town, though not of farm, land
is permitted, except to strangers. Wild palms and other trees are regarded
as communal, while permanent planted trees are the personal property of the
planter and his heirs. Hunting rights are said to be controlled in each
area by a kind of 'village gamekeeper'. It may be noted that rights to
land are transmissible by and through women.

In the Ikale District of Okitipupa Division, where the population is
almost half Sobo, these immigrants rent large patches of palm country at
about 30/- per annum after paying an entrance fee of 10/-. These Sobo
camps are coming to be regarded as heritable property and Sobo sometimes
claim ownership against Ikale owners who have neglected to collect rent.
Farm-land is in the possession of different 'families', whose members may,
for farming purposes, be quite widely dispersed, and over whom the head has
little authority.

Conditions of land tenure in the Ija-Arogbo and Ilaje areas, the part
of Okitipupa Division nearest to the coast, are said to resemble those of
the Colony. Court cases are nearly always concerned with fishing rights.
Rights in main waterways are communal to the whole area but village rights
exist over subsidiary creeks and tributaries.(4)

Ondo Division is administered by the Oshemowe of Ondo and Council and
the Owa of Idanre and Council, forming respectively the Ondo and Idanre
District Native Authorities. Okitipupa Division consists of seven District
Native Authorities with subordinate Village Area Native Authorities. There
are six chiefs in the area: the Abodi of Ikoya (Ikale), .the Amapetu of
Mahin, the Agadagba of Arogbo, the Oluhugho of Ijuoshun, the Ahaba of Ajagba

(1) Nigeria, 1949, "Okitipupa...."
(2) 1949.
(3) Nigeria, 1947, "Exploring in Nigeria".
(4) Rowling, 1949.

and the Bale of Akotogbo. Ikale is divided into ten Administrative
Districts, each under an Oloja and Council of chiefs. The Abodi is the
titular head, but his power is negligible. Each 'town' used to be in-
dependent and self-governing and administration was in the hands of the
senior age-sets.(1)

(1) Rowling, 1949; Native Authority Ordinance of 1943.




The Colony outside Lagos is a no-man's-land of sparse settlements on
either side and to the north of the capital. Communities are mostly small
and of very diverse antecedents with traditions of comparatively recent im-
migration. They are the least advanced economically of all Yoruba and
have received little attention. Except for Badagri, which is Egun-Awori,
the population is mostly of Awori or Ijebu origin, with scattered strangers.
Apart from Lagos municipal area, there are three Divisions: -
Total Approximate
Division Popu ation(1) Separate Districts densities per
square mile(l)
Lagos 122,747(2)
(Municipal Area)
Badagri 44,860 Egun-Awori 30,500 212
Awori 14,360 130
Ikeja 79,850 Ikeja 39,830 250
Ijede and 36,540 130
Eti Osa 3,480 67
Epe 27,187 Epe 19,196 81
-Lekki 4,327 98
Ibeju 6,664 62

Lagos is mainly a Yoruba town. Of the 114,193 Nigerian Natives given
in the 1931 Census figures, nearly 100,000 are Yoruba and about 3,500 are
Hausa. There is a small colony of descendants of repatriated slaves from
Brazil and a number of Syrians, nearly all of whom are traders. There are
over 1,000 Europeans in Lagos.

Badagri Division is populated mainly by Awori (see p.42 above), but has
Hausa, Nupe and Ketu as well as other Yoruba settlers. The Awori settled
at the time of the Bini domination of Lagos. They are said to speak a
'corrupt' form of Yoruba and remain Yoruba in custom. There are 8 main
groups, each consisting of a number of virtually independent villages under
the patronage of Lagos chiefs.

Ikeja is mainly Yoruba (unspecified) with Awori, Hausa, Igbua (?) and
other immigrant elements. In the Ijede and Ikorodu Districts, north of
the Lagos-Sapele waterway, the population is mainly Ijebu with small
minorities of others. The Eti Osa District consists of Lagosians with some

(1) Fowler M.S. Notes n.d.
(2) 1931 Census.

Epe is reported as being now 55% Lagosian and 45% Ijebu Yoruba. In
the 19th century a colony of warlike slave-traders established themselves
at this old derelict town to which, later, scattered Ijebu returned, so
that it is now a dual community. Lekki has a population of Ijebu migrants
from Epe. The people of Ibeju area, a 'clan' consisting of three main
groups of kin, are probably of Bini origin but speak a Yoruba dialect.
Their settlements, mainly on the coast, are self-contained and backward.(1)


Lagos was, according to local traditions, first colonised by Yoruba
settlers who established themselves on the island and whose direct descend-
ants are the White Cap Chiefs. Some time later, perhaps in the 15th cen-
tury, a dynasty from Benin established itself, under which the White Cap
Chiefs maintained their position, though Lagos continued to pay tribute to
Benin until 1830. It was much frequented by Portuguese slave traders and
between 1851 and 1894 British efforts to stop slavery led to a series of
treaties and to piecemeal annexations of what is now the Colony. In 1861
Lagos was declared a British possession and in 1862 was created a 'settle-
ment'. In 1886 it was set up as a separate Colony under its own Governor.
Until 1914 the Colony and the Protectorate, later estAblished in the in-
terior, were administered along the same lines.(2)


The Colony is a strip of coast 110 miles long and from 4 to 20 miles
deep, behind a continuous series of lagoons draining into a shallow chan-
nel which enters the sea by Lagos island. Two thirds of the Colony is
only a few feet above sea level and consists of swamp or infertile sandy
soil; further inland, to the north and east of Lagos, there is a belt of
good red loam at 100 feet. The modern city of Lagos is built on the two
marshy islands of Lagos and Iddo and on the surrounding mainland.

Mean annual rainfall at Lagos is 72 inches.(3)



Cocoa is the main cash crop in the more fertile parts of the Colony.
6,692 tons were graded in 'agos in 1940-1. In the past cocoa was inter-
planted with kola but this has generally been abandoned as it was found
to lead to a decline in the cocoa yield from about the tenth year of
bearing. Inter-cultivation with food crops, is, however, universal.
Foreign hired labour, mostly from Shaki in Oyo Province and from Ilorin,
is used on the cocoa plantations. In Ikeja, which had earlier been ex-
tensively cultivated, much land reverted to forest during the disturbed
conditions of the 19th century and was reoccupied in the eighties by cocoa

(1) Fowler, n.d.; Perham, 1937, p.258.
(2) Perham, op.cit. pp.11 ff; Burns, 1942, Chs. X & XI; Talbot, 1926, Vol.I, pp.79ff.
(3) Fowler; Perham, 1937, p.255.

plantations. In addition to cocoa, kola and citrus are grown, but there is
a local deficiency of food crops. At Agege kola has been reasonably profit-
able but Hausa and other middlemen are said to take a large part of the
profits and there is need for co-operative organisation. There is some
palm-oil export from Lekki. In the Epe Division fishing and trading are
more important than agriculture. There are also fisheries at Eti Osa. In
the Ijede area of Ikeja Division the Awo Opa secret society is reported to
be a barrier to technical advances in farming.

Gari (cassava flour) is the staple food of the majority of Lagosians.

Lagos is one of the big meat markets of the south, the trade being en-
tirely in African hands. There are over a hundred meat stalls in Lagos
market; each stall is held by a man and his family, though frequently it
is sub-let to a friend or relation. The bulk of the meat sold is beef,
but fattened lambs are sent from Ilorin by rail for slaughter and sale at
Lagos. Butter made at Vom is sold at Lagos and there is a dairy for the
production of fresh milk.(l)



Houses in Lagos vary from the cement and stucco mansions of profession-
al and business men to the primitive huts and tenements of the poorer class-
es, which are usually made of bamboo or rusty sheets of galvanised iron.
There are slums with dark cavernous rooms housing several families, corri-
dors being partitioned into living rooms by grass mats hung at intervals
from the roof.

In Badagri and Epe and the area between Agege and Lagos there are many
substantial houses, some of attractive appearance, but the majority are
simple huts with roofs of palm-leaf mats. Along the northern fringe of
the Colony huts are usually constructed of mud, but towards the south huts
are badly made of palm-fronds and liable to be infested with insects and


The Colony is directly administered under a Commissioner responsible
to the Governor. Administrative officers are posted to the districts out-
side Lagos and the Supreme Court has jurisdiction throughout. In 1938 a
system of Native administration was started. Councils of chiefs and elders
were appointed for those areas which, by reason of kinship or common con-
venience, regarded themselves as cohesive units.

The municipal area of Lagos is a first class township, the only one in

(1) Forde, 1946, pp.278, 287; Fowler, n.d.
(2) Annual Report, 1946.

Nigeria, and has a municipal form of government. The Town Council has
African and European members and the Commissioner is ex-officio president.

The House of Docemo, which in 1861 ceded its rights in Lagos to the
British Government, is still an important power in local politics and a
source of great interest to the native inhabitants of the Colony. It is
still the custom for various communities in the Colony to bring their
chosen heads to the Iga, the residence-of the Docemo, for confirmation.
The White Cap Chiefs also, although they have no official administrative
position, still exercise considerable influence.

The smaller communities outside Lagos seem to take a keener interest
in local government and some village groups have combined to form their
own councils. The chief usually styled Bale is looked upon as the
proper representative and every settlement has its council. The chiefs
act as arbitrators in settling disputes and some villages recognize White
Cap Chiefs as their patrons.(1)


Land in the Colony is thought of as being the property of the original
settlers, whether still living or long dead. The memory of an ancestral
occupier of the, land of a lineage is held sacred, both house and farm-land
being claimed on this basis.

The right of the head of the land-holding group to allot, and that of
members to receive, a fair proportion of land is inherent in the social
organisation. Community leaders are regarded as being guardians of the
common interests but have no right to interfere with internal allocation
and the use of land by extended families. They have the right to allocate
unappropriated land to late comers and to arbitrate in boundary disputes.
They receive gifts in land, as does the head of an extended family from his
own group. All those living in the community are obliged to contribute
voluntary labour and supplies for practical needs and ceremonial observ-
ances. Formerly communities also made gifts in kind to higher chiefs
whose favour or protection was needed. Thus the Egun communities paid
tribute to the Alafin of Oyo and some Awori to the Olola of Otta.

Although there is still this consciousness of communal needs individ-
ual land rights have begun to emerge and boundaries of family holdings and
individual allotments are marked by quick growing trees. Both sexes may
inherit from both father and mother, though women's claims are sometimes

A difference of pattern is to be noted between Ijebu and other areas
in that among Ijebu there are areas of 'family' land in the village and
open country, while in other areas there are large units, named after the
earliest holder of an allotment, and within these a series of subdivisions,
each associated with the names of persons of successive generations down
to the present. In both patterns land is occupied as a privilege of
'family' membership and rights are exercised in a spirit of equity rather

(1) Perham, 1937, pp.258 ff., 270; Annual Report, 1946.

than on formal terms. But while in the Ijebu system there is no room for
the emergence of individual rights, the other, although in theory conveying
only rights of usufruct, becomes in practice equivalent to a system of
private ownership.

Alienation of land by sale or otherwise did not exist at the time when
this pattern was formed under conditions of subsistence production and
abundant land. As land became wholly appropriated in a given area, groups
with an abundance granted land to acceptable strangers in return for gifts
of palm-wine and kola-nuts and an annual contribution in kind at harvest
time.. These gifts were not related to any economic valuation but were
symbolic of the superior rights of the family granting the use of the land.
In more remote areas these are the only conditions imposed today, but more
generally the former gifts and symbolic contributions in kind have been
commuted to cash payments approaching an economic rent, and occupation by a
stranger is comparable with occupancy at will. In both cases the 'tenant'
is usually left undisturbed so long as he does not offend the family or the
community. Tenants are normally succeeded by their children, who exercise
the same rights and obligations, subject to the approval of the family
head. In this way an inferior class of land-holders has developed, al-
though by marriage into the family affiliation and cessation of payments
could be secured, possibly by the spouse and certainly by the children.
This applies to farm, not house, land. Newcomers have been accorded full
rights to house sites after a token gift in rural areas this is now a
shilling at most. Strangers collectively occupying huts on these terms
have often chosen a leader and developed into a separate dependent community,
a tenant-village.

Pledging of crops and, later, of land as security for debt has emerged
with the suppression of pledging children and personal services.

Formerly there were no individual rights over uncultivated products of
the soil, but the exchange value of palm-oil has introduced new factors.
Generally, where individual rights by inheritance of an allotment are recog-
nised, these apply to palm exploitation as well as to cultivation, but the
former has sometimes been reserved and vested in the family. The planting
of permanent crops does not necessarily confer any claim -to the land, but
planters and their heirs are recognized as having rights to the fruit of
trees planted. Among the Egun in the west, where palm-oil is a main means
of livelihood, both oil-palms and the more recent coconut-palms are the com-
monest security for debt, i.e. the right to collect palm fruit is pledged,
while the right to plant crops, of which little advantage is taken, is re-
tained. The number of palms is often specified. Pledges may be redeemed,
in practice, after several generations; on the other hand some palms are
pledged, for instance by old men, without the intention of redemption. The
Egun hold, however, that right of redemption cannot be lost and that the
pledgee's title can never expand into full ownership. The head of a family
may pledge trees on behalf of a member in need, hut responsibility for re-
deeming lies on that member, who otherwise loses access to all palms on
family land. Among the Awori pledging is more recent and often for a fixed
term; no right is given to plant permanent crops on pledged land.

The cultivation of permanent crops, rights over which have been
generally heritable and derived from the original planting, has vitally

affected land custom; while the needs and opportunities of commerce, es-
pecially in and around Lagos, have also brought demands for land incompat-
ible with native systems of tenure. After the annexation of the Colony
by the British in 1863, literate Africans, especially traders and lawyers,
secured grants of land in return for gifts of spirits and converted these
verbal assignments into conveyances under English law, in order to secure
full private property rights therein. They industriously improved the
land by planting cocoa and kola. Trafficking in land became general, and
English law was used to consolidate titles of transactions based on mis-
conceptions on the part of the grantors, thus producing confusion of claims
and litigation exploited by lawyers, auctioneers and money-lenders. Land
disputes became an obsession and further land was alienated to pay fees
and costs. Registration of documents was introduced and this, with
judicial decrees,'further consolidated the development of proprietary
rights. Pledging, formerly confined within the community, was extended
outside it as a-consequence of the need for raising funds for litigation
and for the acquisition and improvement of land for permanent crops.
Money-lenders, banks and European firms acquired mortgages and auctioned
the lands of defaulting debtors. This extensive alienation of land, fol-
lowed by re-sales and absentee landlords, has, however, been confined to
urban areas and the vicinity of Lagos. The older system substantially
persists over the rest of the Colony and its abrogation in urban areas is
not characteristic of the economy of the Colony as a whole. In the area
north of Lagos dispossession and refusal of access for subsistence farming
on areas of derelict plantation is, however, serious.(1)

(1) Fowler n.d.; Annual Report, 1946.





The Yoruba in the Northern Provinces are located chiefly-in the
Ilorin and Kabba Provinces and were estimated at 498,212 in the 1931
Census. From available informational) regarding their grouping and dis-
tribution it appears that the term Yoruba as applied to the Northern
Provinces probably includes the following groups:-


Ilorin or Yoruba
Ilorin Town
Igbona (Igbomina)

Population Estimates(2)

224,519 (1921 Census)
215,629 (1931 )
42,212 (1931 )


Emirate only)

Location by
Administrative Divisions
Ilorin Province, Ilorin
Emirate: Akanbi, Igbaja,
Igporin, Afon and Ajasse

) Ilorin Province, Ilorin and
) Lafiagi Emirates: I porin,
Share, Omu, Igbaja, ~ ase
and Lanwa Districts.FAT


Kabba Yoruba


16,592 (1921 Census)
19,987 (c.1934)
c.93,000 (c.1950)
88,693 (1949-50)


Aworo (Akanda)(6)


(1921 Census)
(1931 )
(1949-50" )

1,799 (1931 Census)
4,209 (1949-50

5,681 (1931 Census)
9,509 (1949-50

Ilorin Province, Ilorin
Emirate: Offa District.
Kabba Province, Kabba
Division: Ilorin Province,
Pategi-Lafiagi Division.
Kabba Division, East and
West Yagba Districts;
Pategi-Lafiagi Division,
Erufu District.
Kabba Division, Aworo
District; Koton-Karifi
Division, Kakanda District
Kabba Division, Bunu

(1) Temple, 1919, pp.6, 34-6, 71-2, 101-7, 376-91; Meek, 1925; Hermon-Hodge,
1929, pp.36-9: Census of Nigeria 1931, Vols.I and III; Walsh, 1934; Daniel,
1934; Mercer, 1934; Bridel, Kennett and other MS. Notes.
(2) Population estimates for 1934 are from Walsh's notes, for 1949-50 from tax
assessment records.
(3) Generally known as Yoruba or Yoruba 'proper'; customs said to be identical
with those of Oyo in the Southern Provinces. See above, p.46.
:4) Estimates of population for separate districts are: Akanbi 9,478; Igporin -
19,556; Igbaja 9,173; Ajasse 16,589 (Walsh, 1934).
,5) Estimates of population for separate districts are: (1934) Igporin 964;
Igbaja 5,820; Ajasse 23,288; (1949-50) Omu 18,784; Ajasse 12,606;
Omupo 11,554; Idofian 8,614; Share 10,317. Two thirds of the population
of Lafiagi Emirate is said to be Igbona, but no detailed estimates are available
apart from 6,679 'adult male Igbona and Yoruba farmers' given by Budgen, 1912.
6) According to MacBride, Akanda is the correct name. They should not
be confused with the Kakanda of Koton-Karifi Division, who are


Population Estimates(1)


Jjumu (Igbedde (
and Adde) 2


(1931 Census)
(1949-50 )

Location by
Administrative Divisions
Kabba Division, Kabba town.

Kabba Division, Ijumu

5,671 (1931 Census) Not located.

3,979 (1949-50)
Bida Emirate
315 (1949-50)
Agaye Emirate

Niger Province, Bida
Division and Agaye Emirates

In addition to the groups listed above, Ade, Eki, lyara, Aiere and
Ogidi are named by various writers as being Yoruba, but no further informa-
tion is available about them. It is possible that some of these are place-
name's and that the people inhabiting them are included in one of the larger

Some idea of the scale of local community
from the following figures: -

Igbola in Offa District, Ilorin Emirate,
Ilorin Province (c.1935)

Name of local community
Offa Town

Adult Males

organisation may be gained

Total Population

Bunu in Bunu District, Kabba Division,
Kabba Province (1935-6)

Name of local community
(Akpara or Akpa)
((including Woha)

Adult Males

Total Population

(1) Population estimates for 1934 are from Walsh's notes, for 1949-50 from tax
assessment records.
(2) The Ijemu are divided into Igbedde and Adde, each consisting of 3 units or
village groups. The Igbedde were estimated at 9,547 in the 1931 Census.
(3) But cf. Amgawa or Ehungi, said to be akin to Igbona, of whom there are 2,392 in
Osi District, Ilorin Emirate, at Idofin; cf. also An-ungi and Emwugi, below,
p.74, who may be connected.
(4) Names bracketted together are listed as single village groups.


1921 1931
Ilorin Province 49.01 29.7 persons per square mile
Kabba 43.75

No detailed figures of density of population are available apart from
the following for Kabba Province:

District Persons per sq. mile
Kabba (Owe) District (1930) c.28
Yagba District c.26
Igbedde area of Ijemu
District c.48
Bunu District c. 6
Ijumu District (1950) c.78.


The name Ilorin is derived from Alo Erin, 'home of elephants', and the
town is said to have been fairly recently founded by hunters. The Ilorin
Yoruba, the Yoruba 'proper' of the Northern Provinces, regard themselves
as originally from Oyo, but it is not known for how long or to what extent
the Alafin of Oyo exercised suzerainty over them. In 1810, however,
Afonja, the Yoruba Governor of Ilorin, rebelled against the Alafin and by
1817 was effectively independent of Oyo. To achieve this he had invoked
the aid of the Fulani and was killed in an attempt to rid himself of them.
In 1831 the Fulani Abdul Salami became the first Moslem Emir of Ilorin and
was so powerful that he is said to have 'subdued all Yoruba proper'. There
now began a .long struggle between the Fulani of Ilorin and the Yoruba of
Oyo and Ibadan, in which the Fulani exploited the internal dissensions
among the Yoruba groups with good effect, until they were defeated in 1843
at Oshogbo. Ibadan and Ilorin then joined forces but it was not long
before they quarrelled again. The Fulani rulers of Bida also became very
powerful and between 1860 and 1870 over-ran all that part which is now
Kabba Division, raiding the Aworo, Yagba, Bunu and other tribes in turn.
In 1897 the Royal Niger Company sent an expedition against Bida and Ilorin.
The Emir of Ilorin was forced to surrender but was reinstated after a
treaty had been signed.

The Igbona were a powerful tribe before the rise of the Fulani and it
is probable that they also came from Oyo, though at a different date from
the Ilorin Yoruba. The people of Illa,(1) in Ife-Ilesha Division of Oyo
Province, are also said to be Igbona, but they regard themselves as having
come from Ife and the Northern Provinces Igbona prefer to be independent
of them. The Northern Provinces Igbona are said to be practically identi-
cal with the Ilorin Yoruba in customs and language, apart from their accent,
and have intermarried extensively with them. Their chief is the Olupo of
Ajasse, but their allegiance to the Alafin of Oyo has apparently never been
disputed.(2) The Igbona in Lafiagi Emirate claim that they were hunters

(1) See Oyo Section above, p.32.
(2) Hermon-Hodge, 1929, p.37. There is no later information to indicate whether
this is still so.

brought from Old Oyo by a Balogun of the Alafin. Ora was their principal
town and the Olora of Ora their Paramount Chief until 1855, when the king-
dom was broken up by Ibadan slave raiders and the inhabitants fled to Oke
Odde. Davies(l) mentions 'a small sub-tribe of the Yoruba race', Au-ungi,
in Lanwa District of Ilorin Emirate, who originally came from Old Oyo many
years ago and settled at Aun on the river Oro, now in Oke Odde District.
Aun was then a large walled town but was broken up by Ibadan raids in the
19th century, some of its inhabitants fleeing to Ilorin. Others presum-
ably remained behind, for another report(2) describes the people of Aun
today as 'an Igbona sub-tribe named Emwugi' who are said to have come from

The Igbolo, who were formerly regarded as non-Yoruba, should probably
be included with the Northern Provinces Yoruba because of the similarity
of their language and customs. The name means 'a palm-oil gatherer' or
a man from the palm or Kurmi country, i.e. the Offa area in the south of
Ilorin Emirate.

Among the Kabba Yoruba the Yagba now deny that they are Yoruba, but
they resemble other Yoruba groups in language and customs. Weir reports
that their ancestors came from the west, probably Ife, and then moved
north-east through Ekiti Division into Ilorin and Kabba Provinces. Some
Yagba drifted back and mingled with the Ekiti. They do not seem to have
coherent traditions themselves but it is known that they suffered heavily
from Nupe and Ibadan raids in the 19th century. Egboro in Pategi Emir-
ate, now a Nupe settlement, is said to maintain the chief shrines of the
Yagba Igunu cult and to have been the head-quarters of the 65 sections of
the Yagba group.

The other peoples in Kabba Province Aworo, Bunu, Owe and Ijumu -
are thought to be of common origin, as they are said to be very much alike
in customs and to speak very similar Yoruba dialects. Their own tradi-
tions ascribe their origins to diverse Yoruba groups, the Ijumu claiming
to have come from Ife. The earliest Bunu settlers were probably the
inhabitants of Kirri, who may have come from Ekiti Division. The Aworo,
however, maintain that they are indigenous to the area they now occupy
and that their traditional name Woro Ako ('Spring Woro') should be taken
to mean that while other tribes have a source like a river, the Aworo
are, like a spring, perennial. Meek describes them as 'first cousins
to Bunu' with whom they have intermarried. MacBride is of the opinion
that the Aworo were the earliest known inhabitants of Koton-Karifi
Division and that they were driven across the Niger in the eighteenth
century, some of them returning in recent times.(4)


It seems to be generally agreed that all these groups speak dialects
of Yoruba which are generally mutually intelligible, but no detailed

(1) 1920. (2) Budgen, 1912. (3) Cf. footnote (3), p.72.
(4) Hermon-Hodge, 1929, pp.63 ff; Temple, 1919, p.71; Weir, 1, 1934; MacBride,
1935; Walsh, 1934; Meek, 1, 1917; Daniel, 2, 3, 4, 1934; Kennet, 1, n.d.;
MacLeod etc., 1929; Squibbs, 1935.

information is available. While, for example, an Ilorin Yoruba finds it
difficult to understand an Ekiti, he merely considers that an Igbona speaks
with a different accent. Yagba and Bunu are said to be divergent from the
other dialects spoken by the Yoruba of Kabba Province, and Meek implies
that the speech of the people of Aiere in Kabba Division is also divergent
although he does not give any details.(1)


The northern part of Ilorin Province is rather flat with light wood-
land, shea-trees predominating, while the centre is lightly wooded and un-
dulating, in parts hilly. The palm forest or kurmi country begins around
Awtun. There are ironstone hills in the south-east in the neighbourhood
of Egbe and Odara, where tin, mica and other less important minerals are
found in fair quantity. The Niger is the principal river and the only
one which is navigable. The others are merely deep streams in the rainy
season and mostly dry for the rest of the year.

The Kabba Division of Kabba Province is well wooded and watered, with
an abundance of oil-palms and some rich fertile soil. Rubber, locust-
bean, kola and mahogany are also found.(2)



The majority of the Yoruba in the Northern Provinces are farmers.
Most of the Ilorin Yoruba farm outside the territory of Ilorin town as the
land close to it is exhausted. The soil is generally good in the north
of the Emirate. Men spend from three to ten days on the farms and from
three to four days in the town. The Yoruba in Share District usually
have three farms. They grow maize and dawa together on the first, yams
with cotton and beans on the second, the third is used for minor crops.

Yams, maize and guinea-corn are the staple food crops. Others are
cassava, locust beans, millet, beniseed, bananas, cotton, sweet potatoes,
onions and indigo. Oil-palm and shea-nut trees flourish in many areas.
Three or four successive yam crops are said to be the rule in Ilorin
Emirate. Mound cultivation is practised and the tubers are taken out of
the ground about the beginning of December and stored in a house or in a
mound on the farm in which case they are laid on ashes as a protection
against white ants. Yoruba in Lafiagi and Pategi Emirates grow rice,
the men and boys working in the fields dnd the women doing the winnowing,
transporting, after-preparation and sale.

Staple food crops in Kabba are similar to those in Ilorin. The main
cash crops (including forest produce) are palm-kernels, cotton, beniseed,
castor beans and cocoa. The soil is fertile and rotation of crops is

(1) Meek, 1, 1917.
(2) Hermon-Hodge, 1929, p.16; Meek, 1, 1917.

said not to be practised. In the Igbedde area of Ijemu District yams,
maize or guinea-corn, beans and cotton are all grown together on one or
more farm plots in one year; the farm is then abandoned and lies fallow
for three years. Two crops of maize are grown in a year; tobacco, cotton,
okra and red sorrel are also grown and there are some small cocoa-farms.
As the area is thickly wooded, crops have to be protected against monkeys,
wild pigs.and other animals. Farming is often neglected in favour of
palm production; Meek estimated that the number of oil-palms in the
Igbedde area in 1916 was about half a million but that only a fraction of
these were fully utilised as there were not enough skilled climbers to
secure the fruit.(1)


Livestock seems generally to consist of goats, pigs, poultry (includ-
ing turkeys and ducks) and some sheep; horses are mentioned in Share Dis-
trict. Cattle, which do not appear to be numerous, are generally owned
by Fulani. Dwarf cattle were imported into Ilorin as early as 1932, with
a view to improving the tsetse-resisting breed of the Northern Provinces,
and an experimental stock farm was opened at Ilorin in 1937. A scheme
for fattening young sheep was started in 1938.(2)


Labourers from Ilorin Province go to work on cocoa-farms in the
Colony but generally return after a year or two. In some areas, e.g. Ekan
District, the increasing emigration of youths to Lagos and elsewhere is
said to be having a detrimental effect on agriculture. Boys from Kabba
Division are also in demand in the Southern Provinces as farm labourers.
Much money is brought into the Offa area by men returning from the Gold
Coast and this is said to give the town 'a rather misleading appearance of

The chief exports from the Northern Provinces are yams, yam flour,
henna, guinea-corn and locust beans. Ilorin market is also the centre of
the meat trade between the Northern and Southern Provinces. Lambs are
sent to Lagos for slaughter for the local market including ships in

The Ilorin day market has stalls selling vegetables and staple crops,
meat, caps, shoes, baskets, small hardware, dyes, and 'medicine'; wood
and clothing (mostly European). The night market is more brisk. Wood,
small hardware and cloth disappear, but there are many more women selling
vegetables, staple foods, meat and cooked foods. The young men selling
shoes and hats are replaced by old men selling ropes, carved calabashes
and mats. Live goats and sheep are also brought in and sold by men.
The market is lighted with small lamps made of cigarette or milk tins.
The famous cloth market is held on Sunday nights.(4)

(1) Lethem, 1913; Meek, 1, 1917; 2, 1925, Vol.I, pp.123-4.
(2) MS. Notes on Ilorin and Kabba Provinces; Forde, 1946, p.282.
(3) Harris, 1, n.d.; Jones, 2, 1946; MS. Notes on Ilorin Province.
(4) Personal communication from H.D. Gunn.


Crafts practised by the Ilorin Yoruba include weaving by men and women
from local and imported threads. Men weave out-of-doors on horizontal
looms, women indoors on upright looms. Spinning is mostly a women's craft.
Most of the weaving in Kabba Division is done by women who work as individ-
uals each marketing for herself. Raw cotton from local farms is bought in
the markets and spun by the women themselves. Thread bought in the mar-
kets costs about two shillings a hank, imported thread five or six shillings.
A strip of the best quality cloth fetches about 30s., other qualities pro-
portionately less down to five shillings. There are several distinctive
patterns each with its own name. Dyes are imported or made from indigo,
the sheaths of guinea-corn, and various roots and leaves. Some men weave
and sell cloth in the markets and at Egbe (in Yagba District) there is a
type of weaving from which women are excluded. Among the Nupe there are
guilds of weavers of Yoruba, especially Yagba, origin formerly prisoners of
war (konu) or slaves, who have introduced Yoruba techniques in weaving and
indigo-dyeing. Blacksmiths are reported in some areas of Ilorin, mainly
the north.

At Esie, in Ilorin Province, there is a grove in which several hundred
stone carvings of uncertain age were discovered in 1934. Although now
fragmentary they are preserved in a local building.

The Yoruba in Ilorin town live in rectangular houses, built round an
open courtyard; the inner rooms are roofed with mud and the whole struc-
ture is poorly thatched.(1)



There is no evidence that the local and kinship grouping of the Yoruba
in the Northern Provinces differs from that of the main body of the Yoruba.
(See pp.10-11 and Ekiti, p.57).


In the Emirates of Ilorin Province the indigenous form of local govern-
ment has generally been replaced by that of the Moslem conquerors, though
in many instances elements of the old system have been fitted into the new.

There are six forms of Native Administration in Ilorin Emirate:

(1) Moslems governing Moslems
(2) Moslems Pagans
(3) Pagans Pagans
(4) Pagans Moslems
(5) Moslems Christians
(6) Pagans Christians
(1) Lethem 1912; Nadel, 1942, p.288; Daniel, 5, 1937; Clarke, 3, 1938; Notes on
Kabba Provinces, 1950.

and the 21 districts in the Emirate may be divided into two groups:

(a) 14 districts with a chiefly Moslem population, Yoruba or
Nupe and Fulani;

(b) 7 districts with a pagan population, Yoruba 'proper', Ekiti
or Igbona.

Three of the District Heads of the Moslem districts are Ilorin Yoruba,
while the heads of the pagan districts are three Ekiti, two Igbona, one
Ilorin Yoruba and one Hausa.

Thirteen of the fourteen Moslem districts represent hereditary fiefs
bestowed by the early Emirs on their kinsmen and retainers. The conquer-
ors soon settled down and became racially assimilated to the Yoruba in-
habitants but the indigenous social and religious system gave way to the
Moslem. At the time of the Fulani conquest six of the pagan Yoruba chiefs
were allowed to retain their positions as territorial chiefs and in 1905,
when the Emirate was reorganised into districts, these pagan chiefs became
District Heads in charge of tribal and sub-tribal units.(1) They were
the Olupo of Ajasse, the "Oloffa of Offa, the Ajia Opelle of Omu, the Elekan
of Ekan, the Ilotta of Iloffa, and the Ore of Awtun.(2)

The village council (ilu or agbagba in Moslem areas) which formerly
assisted the chief in the affairs of local government, exists now in only
three of the Moslem districts (Akanbi, Igporin and Igbaja) and even there
in some villages only. Where there is no ilu the District Heads use the
village heads as a district council, take executive action through them
and make them entirely responsible for tax collection. -The village heads
in their turn use the services of the elders or compound heads, especially
for the collection of tax. In the pagan districts, where the village ilu
still exists, the salary which was formerly paid to the village head is
now divided among the members, who are responsible for the general adminis-
tration of the village and for tax collection. Offices in the ilu, in-
cluding that of the District Head, are hereditary in certain lineages. On
the death of an office-holder the family meets and elects a successor.
The appointment is then confirmed by the tribal chief or the ilu. In some
areas, of which the Igbona District of Ajasse is an example, it seems that
the choice of a District Head rests with the women. It has also been
shown here that there may be conflict between the candidate chosen locally
and the one put forward by members of the sub-tribe resident in Lagos, who
try to control affairs from a distance. It may also be noted that in
Igbaja district the Moslem Yoruba who form the majority of the population
have apparently been content to accept the rule of a pagan Igbona chief.
The fact that some of the members of the ilu are now Moslems does not pre-
vent them from holding office. On the other hand, some pagan districts,
of which Ekan is an example, prefer to deal directly with the Emir rather
than have their own District Head.3)

Ilorin town contains the Emir's quarter, the Fulani and Gambari

(1) A list of the old titles of district heads in Ilorin Emirate is given by
Hermon-Hodge, 1929, p.203.
(2) Awtun is now in the Southern Provinces.
(3) Walsh, 1934; Daniel, 1934; Payne, 1934.

quarters, and the Omale quarter, in which the Ilorin Yoruba live and which
has two Baloguns and other Yoruba chiefs over it. The Emir's council
(agbaga) consists of Magaji Are, Baba Isale (of the old Yoruba ruling
stock), the Liman Fulani (spiritual and legal adviser), two Mallams and the
quarter heads. An official called the Magajin Gari supervises the Emir's

Lafiagi and Pategi Emirates are administered similarly, though the
population is mostly Nupe except for the Oke Odde District of Lafiagi
which is partly Igbona.

Ilorin town and the districts of Ilorin Emirates have Courts presided
over by an Alkali, but even in districts with a predominantly Moslem popu-
lation, of which Erin is an example, the Alkali administers local native
law and custom.

The Yoruba groups in Kabba Province seem to have been ruled by heredi-
tary chiefs, assisted by the traditional councils. The Owe (Kabba town),
Aworo and Bunu are said to have developed an organisation in which the
authority of a chief extended beyond his immediate village. But here, as
in Ilorin, changes were made when the Fulani overlords gave out villages
as fiefs and appointed local tax collectors. Age-sets were important in
Kabba, though they are less so today, because positions of authority always
went to members of the Okpajegbo, one of the senior grades. The heredi-
tary chief of the Bunu was the Olu Kirri, who was obliged to live in the
hills of Ike or Kirri and was not allowed to descend. The Yaga were
originally divided into three groups, Ife-Ejuku, Isanlu and Mopa, which
were later united under a District Head chosen from each of the three
groups in turn. The Ijumu, who are divided into two groups, Igbedde and
Adde, had no common chief, each village being separate with its own head
and council, though villages would unite in times of emergency. Lately the
District Head has always been chosen from the Igbedde group, though it is
said that he exercises no authority outside his own village group. It has
been recommended that the office of District Head Ijumu be abolished and
the District administered by a council under the joint presidency of the
Elowa of Igbedde and the Olu of Adde. At the present time(2) the Yagba
and Ijumu are said to be the largest Yoruba groups in Kabba Province and
to comprise very loose confederacies of villages. The Yagba have been
divided into East and West Yagba, with separate chiefs and councils, while
the Aworo and Bunu each have a chief. The Owe are now organised as the
Kabba Native Authority and are administered by the chief of Kabba.(3)


Age-sets which pass through a number of grades are strongly developed
among the Owe, Yagba, Ijumu and Bunu groups and the age-grades have been
described as forming 'the backbone of the social structure'. While the
lower grades provide labour for farming and road-mending, the higher appear
to function like title societies, particularly among the Owe, where member-

(1) Lethem, 1912; Hermon-Hodge, 1929, p.20. (2) 1950.
(3) Hermon-Hodge, 1929, pp.204-5, 215-6; Temple, 1919, pp.71; MS. Notes on
Kabba Province, 1950; Mercer, 1934; Native Authority Ordinance of 1943 and
1947; Watt, 1945.

ship in each of the three.highest grades depends on personal status and
achievement and a separate title bestowed upon an individual. The higher
grades.are also distinguished by the heavy entrance fees, elaborate rituals
and obligations to dispense hospitality characteristic of title societies.

The first grade (Olusele, Qmodi or Omo) includes boys of 6 to about
15 years, who formerly stayed in it until they married at the age of 19 or
20, but now leave earlier and go to work in the south as farm labourers.
An initiation ceremony (Okpelu) is held in the first year of entry but
this does not involve circumcision, which is not a condition of entry into
the grade. Among the Igbedde a boy leaves the grade when about 8 years

The second grade (Omeko, Jagun or Barafu) is generally entered at the
age of puberty or a little later, when the boy's father gives him a large-
sized hoe and expects him to begin to fend for himself. While assisting
his father he can now prepare and work his own farm or engage in trade.
This is the grade from which labour is generally recruited. There is no
entrance fee or initiation ceremony. A man stays in this grade until he
takes a title, which may be from three to ten years, though some individ-
uals remain in it all their lives.

The third grade (Igemu, Ogun, Eronla) carries a title among the Owe
and Bunu and is characterized in all groups by the insignia of a staff
(Opa), a red fez and a cow's or horse's tail. Entrance fees vary from 5
to 10 and there are elaborate ceremonies lasting several days. The first
title grade among the Igbedde and Yagba is called Gemma and carries with
it membership of the village council.

The fourth grade (Oroto, Gemma, Orotita, Okpajegbo) carries a title-
in all groups and has a still higher entrance fee; it is so high among
the Bunu (about 50) that only six members were reported. Among the Owe
it is the first grade to carry with it automatically membership of the
village council. The higher grades above these often consist of single
individuals, on whom titles are bestowed, sometimes, as among the Owe, by
popular choice.

A recent revival of interest in these grades has been reported par-
ticularly in Kabba (Owe group) and Igbedde districts, where Christians
have decided- that participation in the grade activities need not interfere
with the practice of their religion. In two of the Yagba villages
(Isanlu and Ejuku) the old system has practically died out and Nupe in-
fluence is apparent in the names of some of the titles adopted.(1)

The Igbona grades.appear to be very similar to those of the Northern
Provinces Ekiti which are described in the Ekiti section of this survey.
(See above, p.59). There is no information about the existence or
character of grades among the Ilorin Yoruba.


In Ilorin there is a record of the distribution of land district by

(1) Harris, Bridel and Kennett, (n.d.)

district throughout the Emirate just prior to the British occupation. Land
could not be sold or alienated in any circumstances, even by the Emir him-
self. It was held collectively in principle, but in practice there were
generally three classes of ownership.

(1) Landowners living in Ilorin, holding estates in the country and
receiving a yearly rent from their tenants. Such land usually
remained with the 'family' of the man who first rented it.

(2) Small landowners, living on and farming their own land, who had
attached themselves to some 'patron' or influential man in
Ilorin, who obtained the.sanction of the Emir for them to farm
their land.

(3) Those who had held their land under a Yoruba chief before the
Fulani invasion. These were generally small chiefs who had
been followers of the Alafin of Oyo and who, when the Fulani
came, placed themselves under the protection of a Balogun or
influential man, who obtained the Emir's permission for them
to hold and farm their land. Nevertheless, they were regarded
as owning their land and were entitled to dispose of it as they
wished and to receive rent.

In the Ajasse, Omu and Isanlu areas each compound head controlled his
land and each village had its own boundaries. In general the local chief
held the land in trust and allotted it. Usually small payments in kind
(suferi) were made to owners by tenants. In the Osi area the nominal
landlord was the local chief whose ancestor was held to have first settled
on the land. In the case of Osi this was not the Olosi but a certain
ward head whose remote ancestor 'conquered' the land.

Trees generally belonged to the owner of the land. Trees growing on
uncultivated land were regarded as communal property in the Omu and Isanlu
areas, any member of the tribe being allowed to gather the fruit. In the
Afon area uncultivated bush belonged to the Emir of Ilorin. Among the
Gbedde oil-palms belonged to individuals, who could sell, pawn or lease
them as they wished.

Rules of inheritance followed the older Yoruba practice brothers
succeeding in turn, then the eldest son. There was no female succession
unless all the males had died out.

Among the Aworo any member of the community could occupy land. If he
proved undesirable he was twice warned. If he did not amend his ways he
was called before the Oru of Agbaja and his council and, if found guilty,
was whipped. He might be banished if he continued to misbehave.(1)


Circumcision is performed at an early age among the Yagba and Gbedde

(1) Hermon-Hodge, 1929, pp.167 ff; Temple, 1919, p.35; Meek, 1, 1917.

groups of Kabba Province, but among the Owe it is customary to postpone the
ceremony if the boy's mother is known to have borne other children who have


Among the Yoruba of Kabba Province a marriage is arranged either by
the parents or by the young man with his father's assistance, but the
general procedure is similar. The suitor, once he is accepted, makes
gifts to the girl's family and is expected to assist them in building,
thatching and other work. When the girl is ready for marriage, the bride-
groom brings gifts and asks for permission to take her away. On the eve-
ning of the wedding day the girl goes with her friends to the bridegroom's
house and dances are held for men and women separately. The women accom-
panying the bride stay with her from four to six days and assist her in
cooking and household duties. The marriage is not consummated until they
have left.

Among the Yagba and others a rich woman may 'marry' young girls, ob-
serving all the formalities including marriage payment, and let them out
to men, herself being the legal 'father' of any children born.(2)


Divorce was formerly not permitted among the Kabba Yoruba, but in 1918
the Native Courts allowed a woman to obtain a divorce if she refunded the
marriage payment. A man can divorce his wife by driving her from his hut
but cannot claim any refund of marriage payment. In this case the child-
ren of the marriage belong to the husband.(1)


In general the same deities are found among the Yoruba of the Northern
Provinces as in the Southern Provinces (see above, pp.29-30). Shango wor-
shippers in the Ilorin area have a distinctive hair-style and wear red and
white beads round the neck and wrists. The Ifa oracle appears to be
universal among the Ilorin and Kabba Yoruba and it has been suggested(3)
that in this area it resembles in some respects the Bori of the pagan Hausa.
Women are said to be the greatest patrons of Ifa, though there are no women

The chief deity of the Kabba Yoruba is Ebora, though the Omodi(4) ward
of Kabba worship Egun, a sign of slave status in this area.

Religious festivals among the Owe (the only group for which informa-
tion is available) are Eye, held annually to celebrate the ripening of the
yams, Ekiho, an ancestral feast, and, most important of all, Oka, held

(1) Bridel, n.d.
(2) Bridel, n.d.; Meek, 1926, Vol.I, pp.209-10; Temple, 1919, p.368.
(3) Harris, 3, 1927.
(4) The Omodi were originally slaves of the Kabba people and they and their
descendants have always lived apart in a ward to the south of Kabba called

solely for the worship of Ebora. Formerly the town was closed to all
strangers and women and children had to stay indoors during this festival.

The Afoshi women's association which appears to be widespread in Kabba
Division, i.e. among the Aworo, Bunu, Gbedde, etc., is regarded as a form
of supernatural spirit possession. The members are looked upon as official
dancers and singers of the deity Ebora and perform at religious festivals,
at the funerals of members of the Orota age-grade, of the mother of a mem-
ber, or of one of their number, and on the promotion of a man to the Orota
grade. The cult is said to have originated at Olle in Bunu district of
Kabba Province and at present only women whose relatives have been connect-
ed with it in the past may be initiated. At the initiation ceremony a
senior woman member calls the candidate's name into a sacred pot. The
candidate then becomes possessed and runs away into the bush. She is
brought back and undergoes instruction in the languages, songs and dances
of the cult for six months, during which she lives in seclusion. An
Afoshi woman can be recognized by the way she wears her cloth, tucked into
the right side instead of the left. There is a similar women's cult
called Ogun in Kabba town, and Ofoshi or Imale among the Gbedde. The
head woman of Ogun has considerable influence over the members. Ogun
women may intervene in matters like divorce and it is unknown for an Ogun
woman herself to apply for a divorce.(1)

(1) Meek, 1, 1917; Bridel, n.d.


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Journal of a second Expedition into the interior
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Omu: An African Experiment in Education. London,
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Districts of Ilorin Emirate. 1934. (Unpublished

2. Notes on Village and District Administration in
Ilorin Emirate. 1934. (Unpublished MS.)

3. Notes on Ekan District, Ilorin Emirate. c.1934.
(Unpublished MS.)

4. Notes on Kabba and Ilorin Provinces. c.1934.
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7. "Ilorin Province." Nigeria, 15, September, 1938.

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Notes on Lanwa District. 1920. (Unpublished MS.)

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2. The Singing Minister of Nigeria. (Africa's Own
Library, 2). London: United Society for
Christian Literature, 1942.

Official Report of the Niger Valley Exploring
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2. Nigerian Studies, the Religious and Political
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Elphinstone, K.V. Gazetteer of Ilorin Province. London: 1921.

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"Exploring in Nigeria." (Mahin coastal area). Nigeria, 26, 1947.

Fadipe, N.A. The Sociology of the Yoruba. Thesis for Ph.D.
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Fagg, W. 1. "A Bronze Figure in Ife Style at Benin." Man, L,
98, June, 1950. pp.69-70.

2. "A Yoruba Xylophone of unusual type." Man, L,
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Farrow, S.

Folarin, A.

Forde, Daryll

Forde, Daryll and
Scott, Richenda

Fowler, W.

Frobenius, L.

Guichard, L.

Rnably, W.D.

Harris, P.G.

Hawkesworth, E.G.

Hermon-Iodge, H.B.

The Demise of the Independence of Egba-land.
Lagos: 1906.

Egba History: Life Review 1829-1930. Abeokuta:

Habitat, Economy and Society. London, Methuen:

The Native Economies of Nigeria. London, Faber:

Notes on Land in the Colony District. n.d.
(Unpublished MS.)

Auf dem Wege nach Atlantis. Berlin: 1911.

The Voice of Africa. London, Hutchinson: 1913.
2 vols.

Tfe-'lerrakotten. Weimar: 1921.

"Die Atlantische Cotterlehre." Jena, Atlantis. X,
1926. pp.3-318.

Monumenta Africana: Der Geist eines Erdteils.
Frankfurt: 1939.

Hythologie de l'Atlantide. Paris, Payot: 1949.

"Mission du Dahomey: une tourn6e chez les HolLis.'
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Culture Areas of Nigeria. Field Museum of Natural
History Anthropological Series. Vol.XXI, No.3.
Chicago: 1935. pp.363-502.

Notes on Age Grades among the Owe Yoruba of Kabba
Division. n.d. (Unpublished MS.)

Burial'of an Orota. (Member of an Owe Yoruba
titled grade). n.d. (Unpublished MS.)

Notes on Ifa in Kabba District, 1927. (Unpublished

Notes on the Ijebu-Ife District of the Ijebu
Province. 1935. (Unpublished MS.)

"Ijebu Province." Nigeria, 15, September, 1938.

Gazetteer of Ilorin Province. London, Allen and
Unwin: 1929.

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