Tuesday, 20 September 2016

How Yoruba Colonised Binis

The Bini-Ife Seniority Crises: Science to the Rescue
In settling the Ife-Bini seniority crises, which has plagued the Nigerian polity since 2005, we must resort to a pure scientific analysis. The issue was sparked off when Oba Erediawa wrote about the Ikaladerhan story in 2005. The problem became magnified when the Alake of Abeokuta threw his weight behind the Ooni in April this year, ranking him as the foremost Yoruba king, and ranking the Oba of Benin as the third in seniority, following the Oonirisa and the Aalafin of Oyo. It is unfortunate that Africans – at least the majority of them – had no written records in pre-colonial times. Few written records existed where the Arabs and the Portuguese traded and carried out the works of religion. In the case of Benin and Ife, they had existed for centuries before the coming of the Portuguese. The Arab chroniclers seemed to be more interested in places where they established trade and Islam – Hausa, Kanem-Borno, Ghana, Mali, Songhai etc. Places like Benin are not chronicled by them.  So in settling the seniority crises between Ife and Benin we have to rely on pure scientific findings.   These parameters are:
1.      Reliance on oral tradition as it was handed to us by the first ancestors. Recent fabricated versions will be jettisoned.
2.      Reliance also on written sources as it came down to us through our forebears. Arab and Portuguese records, especially Roman Catholic documents will serve a good purpose.
3.     Archaeological findings , Art history and preserved artifacts will go a long way to solve some riddles
4.     Linguistic evidence, linguistic mapping and perhaps the use of glottochronology, velar sounds , eternal syntactic symbols and the Swadesh word list
5.     Coronation rituals
6.     Religion
7.     DNA study will be reliable, but in case of Yoruba it might not be much handy as all are of the same stock except Benin, whose ruling class only, is Yoruba.

Oral tradition
This is what most people know as History. Although it is great and magnificent, it has many loopholes. Oral tradition simply means the history that is handed down to us by our forbears by word of mouth, although this History is good in that it came to us by word of mouth and should be reliable, but it has its problems:
a.     People might relay only stories that favour them
b.     People might relay only stories that favour the ruling class, if the place happens to be a kingdom
c.      Telescoping – relating many stories as happening in the reigns of important kings or people
d.     People might naturally forget or refuse to transmit stories which do not favour them
e.     The memory might prove unreliable. People will naturally forget things as time lengthens on
f.       Dating and correct chronology of events become a problem, which can be resolved with real scientific means.
The legions of problems that go with oral tradition are lengthy and tedious. In this study therefore, there will be no lengthy recall of oral traditions, but an itemization of the Bini position and the itemization of the Ife traditions.
1.     The Bini tradition
a.     Ikaladerhan was Oduduwa
b.     Ikaladerhan escaped the axe man from Benin and came to Ife
c.      Ikaladerhan established the Ife state
d.     All further Yoruba civilization flowed therefrom.
2.     The Ife tradition
a.     Oranmiyan was a descendant of Oduduwa
b.     He founded Benin
c.      Benin was formed at the same time with the primal Yoruba states. The primal Yoruba states are   Olowu of Owu, Alaketu of Ketu, Oba of Benin, Oba of Orangun, Onisabe of Sabe, Olupopo of Popo, Alafin of Oyo.  These kings spread from Nigeria to Benin Republic and Togo.
As it stands today  it is almost impossible to determine who is telling the truth among the Ife and the Bini. But like Historians we can subject the traditions of both peoples to some scrutiny and see what findings we can make. We shall now follow the parameters of Oyovbaire.

In December 2008, Prof. Sam Egite Oyovbaire raised some salient questions to prove the historicity of his Okpe clan (a delta Edoid group) a modification of that probe can be used to probe the authenticity of Ekaladerhan being Oduduwa.


According to all the Bini sources – Naiwu, Osahon, Isekhure, his royal Majesty, the Oba – Ikaladerhan was the son of the last Ogiso, Ogiso Owodo. According to all these sources and a legion of others, he was someone who escaped from an “executioner”, or someone who was pardoned by an executioner; and left to migrate in the forest, until he appeared at Ile-Ife. All the sources agree that Ogiso Owodo, the father of Ikaladerhan, was a weak “king” who had just been pardoned by executioners; and he  became an Oba in another “Country” Ife.


Prof. Ejite Sam Oyovbaire in Dec 2008, advocated for a thorough look into the source materials of the authors. Today, the greatest advocates of Ikaladerhan-Oduduwa theory are his royal Majesty, the Oba of Benin, Isekhure (the power house of the pristine Benin Empire) and Naiwu Osahon, one of the greatest pan-Africans of all times.The Oba and Isekhure are very great personages. In fact, the Benin throne is one of the most revered anywhere in the world, like Ife, Oyo, Igala, Warri and Ijebu thrones. But the Oba and his Isekhure are not historians neither are they writers. Naiwu Osahon is a writer, not a Historian. His books are well referenced, “God is Black” “Cradle” etc., he is very careful and meticulous in using copious references to prove his points. Anyone who picks his work gets a very satisfactory reading. He resorts to religious, archaeological, written sources, etc to prove his points. In the case of Ikaladerhan-Oduduwa link, Naiwu diverted from his exalted tradition. Like the Oba and the Isekhure, Naiwu (The correct history of Edo), (online) resorted to bare narratives. One, who is known for his most powerful referencing, started criticizing all the source materials of the Oduduwa legend, without bringing other references to authenticate his claims.
                It is clear that the intention of the very modern source materials (about 100 years, Isekhure 2004) is to promote nationalistic spirit. There is some amount of danger if the Benin aristocracy continues to link its origin to a foreign throne. The aboriginal inhabitants (the Ogies) might come up one day to challenge the authority of the present aristocracy. Or where there such dissenting voices already cropping up to warrant a quick resort to a revisionist history? Or was the Oranmiyan advent on Bini soil actually a conquest? The coronation ritual of the Oba with the Ogianvwen waging a mock war with him ; and the Oba being marked with native chalk in Yoruba fashion, might be pointers to a conquest in the dim past. The nationalist spirit of this age and times might lead to the fabrication of other stories to cover up this conquest. It is somehow derogatory for a great Empire like Benin to be constantly reminded of its early beginning of being from Ife. Such a link might be considered glorious by less civilized kingdoms, not a great Empire as Benin. It is clear that the more glorious the civilization of a people, the more they tend to claim that the civilization they have is indigenous rather than foreign. Naiwu Osahon displayed vividly in cradle, that the civilization of the “Greeks”, the “Christians”, Muslims, Indians were not indigenous – they were copied from Egypt. He quoted copious references to prove his points. The same Naiwu upheld the Ikaladeran-Oduduwa story and dished it to the world as spare narratives.


The Binis were able to give some route which Oduduwa (Ikaladerhan) took from Igodomigodo to Ife. The two prominent towns in their narratives are Ife (Ile-Efe) and Ilesa (Ile-Ese).
Apart from these two towns, silence was the order of the day from the passage from Igodomigodo to Ife. David Ejoor, who tried to throw his weight behind the Ikaladerhan story, went as far as saying there was no town between Benin and Ife during Ikaladerhan’s time. Stories from the dim past are hardly reliable. But archaeological findings can stand the test of time. Archaeological evidences have shown that there had been considerable population among the Yoruba before 1170 (Ikaladerhan period) along the routes he would have taken from Benin to Ife. (Shaw 1965, 1977; Obayemi 1977).
          Iwo-Ileru, very close to Akure, has demonstrated the existences of human activity to about 12, 000 – 15, 000 years. Since considerable population existed in Yoruba land, at that time, why was there no Ogiso trace from Ondo, right through to Ife? None of the traditional rulers could remember anyone from the Ogiso dynasty passing through this territory. All that could be remembered at Owo, Ondo, Ekiti, etc are stories and events that took place after Oba Ewuare. Could all these people have conspired to conceal the Ikaladerhan story? Why did the Ondos, Ekos (Lagos), the Owos, Isekiri, the Onitshas, Ogbahs (Rivers) etc display many cultural borrowings they had during the Ewuare period and beyond? Among the Isekiri (the southern neighbours of Benin) there are many stories indicating relationship with the Ogisos. There are even ancient folk songs to that effect. None of these stories portrays the Ogisos as powerful potentates great enough to establish a kingdom in a far distant land. What were the land marks left by Ikaladerhan encounter in Ife?


Some Bini “authorities” maintain that Ikaladerhan reached Ife alone; others postulate that he reached Ife in company of a large entourage. If he was really escaping from “Executioners” he was most likely to have reached Ife alone. If other Oral versions say he came in company of a large entourage, then he could not possibly be escaping from the executioners. Let’s take as a benefit of doubt that he came in company of a large entourage, what were the titles held by the nobilities in his entourage! Did these nobilities assume Bini type titles in Ife? If they did not, why didn’t they? Why are Bini titles so common among the Ondos, Isekiri, Owos, Ekos(Lagos), Onitshas, Abohs etc? All these areas came under the Bini influence after 1440 when Ewuare, the great, ascended the throne. This means the golden age of Bini civilization was after 1440. The Binis, therefore, could not have established a kingdom in Ife by 1170 or thereabouts, because Benin itself at that time was a conglomeration of mini states; the most popular – Ogiefa, Ogiegor and Ogiso (Obayemi 1977).This claim could be haply compared to the Okpe claiming to build the ancient pyramid of Ode-Isekiri, without building one at home.


Who were the offspring or siblings of Ikaladerhan? Did they establish any kingdom in the vicinity of Benin? If they did not establish a kingdom near home, how could Ikaladerhan have wandered all the way to Ife to establish a kingdom? The alternative Bini version that Ikaladerhan died at Ughoton(Egharevba 1948) and was buried there makes more sense.
No single people with a kingdom emerged during the Ogiso period. The Urhobo and the Isoko who claimed to have left Benin during the Ogiso period (except the Western Urhobos – Okpe, Oghara, Uvwie, Jesse, Agbassa) did not develop kingdoms (Ekeh2008, Obayemi1977, Horton1977, Denneth 1907, Osume 2005). This is a clear testimony that the Ogiso were not kingdom builders. The kingdoms which emanate from Benin – Warri (present dynastyPessu2013), Eko(Lagos), Onitsha etc – were established during the Eweka dynasty. This means the Benin kingdom started in earnest during the Eweka dynasty.
Written sources on Bini-Ife relations
Reliance also on written sources as it came down to us through our forebears. Written sources will now come as the second most important source of our History. All the ethnographers, travelers, chroniclers, who were neither from Ife nor Benin – Talbot (1926), Roth (1903), Dennett (1906), Leonard (1916) etc maintain that Bini monarchy is from Ife. To crown it all, the Oba that was on throne in 1486 made a similar claim before the Portuguese which was documented by João de Barros in his chronicles. Various arguments have come whether the writer was referring to the Ooni or somebody else as east was mentioned instead of west. The truth is that every morning in those days the Oba faces the morning sun and greets both the sun and then his ancestors which are in Ife. The Ogane(Oghene) is clearly the title of the Ooni of Ife till this day. Minus the little misconception in direction, the early Bini kings and the other kings of Yoruba go to Ife for confirmation.


Aigbokhai, Alagoa 1977, Ade Obayemi, 1977, Ekeh, Ajayi, etc never mentioned the Ogiso era as a kingdom era. Ekeh showed vividly that during the period of the Ogisos, the Binis had a segmentary system of government. Obayemi (1977) mentions many mini states and their respective head chiefs among these being Ogiegor, Ogiefa and Ogiso. The Ogiso could have been a primus inter pares, but he was still not a king, but the mere head of a mini state as the Ivie in Urhobo today, Ekeh (2006); or the enogie of Esans of today, Obayemi 1977.
         If Igodomingo was a mere city state, how could someone from there establish a kingdom in a more advanced polity? The civilization in Igodomigodo (Benin of the Ogisos) was quite low compared to that of Ife. The Benin of 1170 (the era of Ogiso Owodo and his son Ikaladerhan) had not developed wood carving to any extent. There is no single knowledge among the neighbours: Isekiri, Owo, Esan, Urhobo, Isoko, Anioma- Igbos etc about powerful Owodo, Ekaladerhan or any other Ogiso headman. The Bronze (Brass) civilization in Benin came during the reign of the fourth king of the Oranmiyan dynasty.
        Ife attained the Bronze Age before 1170, (Thurstan Shaw 1977). Benin attained it during the reign of Oguola about 1400.It doesn’t matter if the bronze industry became more developed in Benin than in Ife(Alagoa1977). It started in Ife and the Binis copied it by 1400 from Ife (Egharevba 1948)
           However, could someone coming from a far less civilized society establish a magnificent kingdom in a much more civilized polity? Archaeological evidence about the Ogiso period had not shown any magnificent civilization. (Shaw 1980, in Obaro(ed) 1980).
It is strange that from 1472 when the Portuguese explorers first reached the coast of the Benin River or the Bight of Benin, until 1960 when Nigerians became independent from colonial rule, no single foreign historian, or anthropologist, sociologist, traveler, missionary etc ever mentioned Oduduwa as being Ekaladerhan. It is pertinent to show now that apart from the Isekiri who were visited by the Portuguese between 1472 – 1486, the Binis were the first to be visited by the Europeans in Present day Nigeria.
The first European visited Benin by 1486 (Ryder, Obayemi 1977). Thus, colonial activities were first witnessed in Benin, long, long before Ife. How come almost all the colonial officers favour the story that the Bini Dynasty originated from Ife or in few instances from Oyo? Could the European writers be more biased towards the Ifes they knew very little, than Benin they were frequenting much more often? From the evidence of all the reporters it is clear that the Ikaladerhan-Oduduwa story is fiction. Perhaps there are some written records between 1472 – 1960 purporting that Ikaladerhan was Oduduwa, the world will be glad to see such records. None of the writers have even inferred in their write-ups that Oduduwa or even the founder of any of the Ife or Oyo dynasties had a Bini father.

Archaeology to the rescue

Archaeological findings, Art history and preserved artifacts will go a long way to solve some riddles. The archaeology of Ife depicting a civilization is older than that of Benin. The terraced road in Ife is older than that of Benin; the Ife bronzes are older than those of Benin. It started before 1170AD in Ife; it started in 1440AD in Benin (Obayemi 1977; Shaw 1977). The wood carving tradition in Ife predates that of Benin. Cloth weaving was done in Ife before it was established in Benin. In fact, all the evidences of civilization have been proved to be more ancient in Ife than in Benin using archaeological means. Between 700 and 900 A.D. the city began to develop as a major artistic center.  By the 12th Century Ife artists were creating bronze, stone, and terracotta - See more at: http://www.blackpast.org/aah/ile-ife-ca-500-b-c-e#sthash.vz1Bh3PK.dpuf
. Obayemi 1977, Alagoa1977, Shaw 1965, 1977, are authoritative on this issue. Is the archaeological record a lie?
Dispersal from each city
The first dispersals from Ife are earlier than 900AD, the earliest dispersals from Benin dates to 1440AD, during the reign of Oba Ewuare the Great (Egharevba 1948, Igbafe 1980). Orun Oba Ado in Ife had an archaeological dating of 300AD (Shaw 1977). The terraced road in Ife dates to 900AD (Olubunmi2005), that of Benin came after 1400. The date of dispersal shows to a great extent the level and time of development of two of the greatest cities in ancient Southern Nigeria.
The linguistic evidence

Linguistic evidence, linguistic mapping and perhaps the use of glottochronology, velar sounds , eternal syntactic symbols and the Swadesh word list will go a long way to solve our riddle. Benin was a great empire, so was Ife. There is no need going into over flogged issues of moribund traditions, linguistic evidence are quite more scientifically accurate. Let us see how the linguistic evidence will help us solve this riddle.
The title of the Oba is purely alien. Oba is a Yoruba word not a Bini word. On the other hand, Ooni is purely a Yoruba word, not a Bini word, what this signifies is this, the influence of Ife reached Benin, but the Bini influence did not reach Ife. Naiwu Osahon himself contended that Ogie was the proper Bini word for king. Many Bini words have ogie as a prefix, in all cases; they denote ‘king’ or a man with some divine authority. We had Ogianmen, a man of authority, Ogiego(head man of Ego), Ogiefa(headman of the Efas, ancestors of modern Bini), Ogie-Oyibo(king of the White people) etc. . The Sobo (Urhobo), Igabo(Isoko), Esan(Ishan) etc have morphological  variants of the ogie(ovie, enogie etc). The Yoruba on the other hand has the oba prefix in all their words that connect to kingship and royalty. For instance we have Obatala, Obalufon, Obaloke, Obameri ; all being semi leaders in Ife before the Oduduwan period(Obayemi 1977). This is clear evidence that Bini copied from Ife and not the other way round. Although there are prefixes with oba in benin – Obaze, Obaseki, Obayagbon etc – they do not denote or connote offices. Obaze, Obaseki, etc are just names of people; they are not offices of authority like in Yoruba. Obayagbon, Obayantor are just appellations of the Oba, they do not connote private ‘kingly’ offices. Only in the Yoruboid languages – Yoruba, Isekiri, Igala, Ebu, Olukumi, Iyeghenle etc – that the oba prefix denote a man of authority.

Coronation rituals
Some rituals in Bini coronation rite – the Ekiokpagha treaty, where the Ogiamien sells Bini to the Oba denote the Oba as a stranger element in Benin. Hear “I sell Bini to you, when you die I will still sell Benin to your son, you will never be the owner of Benin” (Bini coronation ritual 1979)
Hear Ogiamen “The Ekiokpagha treaty is the compulsory rent a new Oba-elect must pay before he is pronounced an Oba of Benin kingdom and before he is also allowed occupation of the Benin kingdom leased to Oba Eweka 1 by Ogiamien Erebo in 12.00AD. “Put in other words, there can never, repeat, there can never be an Oba of Benin kingdom without the Ogiamien, but there can always be Ogiamien without the Oba. This is sacrosanct. Read more: https://www.naij.com/832915-controversy-crown-prince-eheneden-erediuwa-tenant-benin-kingdom.html
Previous heads of Obas of Benin are taken to Ife for Burial. The place of burial is called Orun Oba Ado(heaven of the Kings of Benin) . Ife dialect was the language of Bini palace until 1897



Bini deities – Ogun, Sango, Olokun, Orunmila, Aiyelala, Ifa , Eshu,  are Yoruba deities’ names and  Yoruba morphemes, this shows direct borrowing and colonization – like French and Latin on one hand and English and French, on the other. No Ife deity originated from Benin. No Ile-Ife deity’s name has Bini morphemes.

DNA testing and mapping
From all the previous analyses – oral tradition, written sources, art history and archaeology, linguistic consideration, Benin clearly copied from the Ife. The last resort is to DNA study. This unfortunately has not been done to settle the Bini-Ife seniority crises. The royal family of both cities should donate people for DNA mapping and sampling. The general populace should also be tested. If that is done we will know which people borrowed a king from the other. Issues to be resolved
1.     Will DNA testing show that Bini borrowed a king?
2.     Will DNA technology show that Ife borrowed a king?
3.     Will the bloodline of any of the two kingdoms show a variance from the local population, thereby confirming an alien coming in to meet aboriginals?
4.     Will DNA testing reveal that both Ife and Benin ruling houses are strangers?
5.     Will DNA study show that each ruler belong to the autochthones of their communities?
6.     Will DNA study show that there is no exchange of personnel, but only transference of ideas?
NB.  The Ife tradition claim that the Bini are not Yoruba, only the ruling class is (Fajana & Biggs 1964)
It is high time this DNA test is conducted, for as it is now, all other available scientific evidence favours Ife as the cradle of the present Benin dynasty.

P. A. Igbafe, “Indirect Rule in Benin”
Vol. 3, No. 3, (1970), pp 29-40.

Enugu Archives Conference c. 168/194 as in P. A. Igbafe, “The Changing Status of the Obas of Benin under Colonial Rule and Since Independence” in M. Crowder and O. Ikime, West African Chiefs: Their Changing Status under Colonial Rule,
(Ile-Ife: University of Ife Press, 1970) pp. 278-279.

J. M. Simpson, Intelligence Report, Benin Division,
Ministry of Local Government, Benin , 1936

N.A.I/BD 13/2 Handing Over Notes, W. B. Ruman to R.D.N
Raikes, 6 April, 1908 cited in P. A. Igbafe, Benin Under British Administration: The Impact of Colonial Rule on An African Kingdom, 1897-1938 (London: Longman, 1979), p. 122.

I.A. Akinjogbin, The Cradle of a Race: Ife from the Beginning to 1980 (Port Harcourt [Nigeria]:Sunray Publishers, 1992); William Bascom, The Yoruba of Southwestern Nigeria (New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1969); Frank Willett, Ife in the History of West African Sculpture (New York: McGraw-Hill, 1967); http://www.oauife.edu.ng/; http://www.historywiz.org/ife.htm; BBC: Ife and Benin; http://www.bbc.co.uk/worldservice/africa/features/storyofafrica/4chapter7.shtml. - See more at: http://www.blackpast.org/aah/ile-ife-ca-500-b-c-e#sthash.vz1Bh3PK.dpuf

A.E. Afigbo, “Igboland before 1800” in O. Ikime (ed.) Groundwork of Nigeria History, (Ibadan: Heinemann, 1980)

African 5wdy Monographs, IS( I): 45-58, September 1997

Augustine Oritseweyinmi Oghanrandukun Olomu(St.Ifa) of Warri Scientific History and Literary Society; a branch of Yoruba Ancient History Society