Most people who live in the South-West  are the Yoruba. Most people in the Northern part of Nigeria are the Hausa and most people in the Eastern part are the Ibo.

The Yoruba have a long history. When and where the story began, no one quite knows. In the old days, people could not write, so they left behind no written stories for us to read today. How then can we know about distant past? The best we can do is to listen to the stories which people handed down from generation to generation.

These stories or legends as we call them are still told today by parents to their children. They are not all true in every detail. In fact, there are often several different versions of the same story. But, if we take them all together, we can learn what really happened in the earliest days of the Yoruba.

Legends are not the only way we can learn about our past. Students of history or archaeology can also examine remains of ancient cities. They can look at ancient utensils and works of art or antiquities especially pottery. These relics from the past are usually found buried under the ground. After they have been found and cleaned, they are kept in museums.

FAMOUS YORUBA STORIES OF THE PAST

The first story:

ODUDUWA-According to this story, the creator of the world was Olodumare. Before the world was created, there was only  a watery, marshy waste. Olodumare lived in heaven. In order to create the earth, Olodumare sent his son Oduduwa down from heaven. First, Olodumare let his son down a chain carrying a handful l of earth, a cockerel and palm nut. From these things plants and animals grew. Oduduwa spread earth over the marshes, the cockerel scattered it and the palm tree grew up in it. Then Olodumare made a cradle for all mankind at Ile- Ife-a place from which all people came.

The second story:

Yoruba people first came to Nigeria from somewhere in the East. A story goes that Oduduwa was the son, not of Olodumare but of Lamurudu, a king in Mecca. Oduduwa broke away from Islam, the religion of his people, and worshipped idols. He tried to force others to join him. He converted the Muslim Mosque into a temple for worshipping idols. His priest and image-maker was called Asara. The story says that the religion of Islam triumphed in the end. The priest Asara had a son called Braima, who was forced to sell idols even though he hated doing so. When selling his father’s idols, he used to cry out: ‘’who wants to purchase falsehood?’’ When Braima grew up, he found an opportunity to destroy the idols. He poured oil over some of them and set them ablaze. Others he battered to pieces with axe. He left the axe hanging round the neck of one of the idols-a huge figure in a human shape. When the damage was discovered, the people asked Braima what had happened. He replied: ‘’Ask that huge idol who did it?’’. The men replied-‘’Can he speak?’’ ‘’ Then, ‘’ said Braima, ‘’ why do you worship things which cannot speak?’’ Braima was put to death for his actions.

A war broke out between the Muslims and the idol worshippers. The Muslim party won. They killed Lamurudu and drove away his children-including Oduduwa-from the town. Oduduwa then traveled for about ninety days away from Mecca until he and his party came to Ile-Ife and settled there. It was there, too, that he met the founder of the Ifa religion, Agboniregun.

We will see here that these two stories about Oduduwa are different, but they do agree about two things. First, Yoruba people came to their present place from somewhere else. Secondly, the first centre of Yoruba life was at Ile-Ife.

By Tunde Idowu, Source: Nigeria &Her Neighbours-A. Fajana

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