The History Behind the Yoruba Name
- Post By Dura Johnson
- 8 months ago
There is a myth surrounding the meaning of the word Yoruba, a name claimed to have been given by the Fulani or Hausas to the Oyo people, which means cunning, Just like most myths, this is false and there is no evidence to prove this.
The problem with this myth this that, around what year or what scenario occurred that brought about the people of Oyo being called Yoruba? Also just as we know 100s of years ago there was no such thing as Hausa-Fulani as we have this day, The Hausa and the Fulani were two distinct tribes(though they still are upto this day but for political calculations, they are called Hausa-Fulani). If that is the case, then which of these tribes gave the Oyo people Yoruba? This is the question many people are unable to answer to this day - this is because it was just a myth.
This article is to talk about the verifiable true history behind the word Yoruba and the circumstances that birthed that name.
Oja Igbomekun(The Market of Igbomekun)
For us to be able to have a clear understanding of the circumstance that made the Oyo people to be called Yoruba then we need to go back to 800 years ago in a town called Ile-Ife. Ile-Ife was the headquarters or the capital of all Yoruba towns at that time, Every Town that we have today originated from Ile-Ife, so Ile-Ife was a really big kingdom hence it has one of the largest markets in Africa at the time which is called Oja Igbomekun, which translated to English means Igomekun Market.
Everyone came from all parts of the Ile-Ife Kingdom to other surrounding areas to trade in the Igbomekun market, even europeans like the portuguese were constantly at the market, also the Arabs were not left out, The most notable of the Arabs were the Yemenis who often come to buy Adin(Wax) at Igbomekun. So Igbomekun was a market opened to all in Africa, Europe, and the Arabian world.
When the Arabs started coming to trade in Igbomekun, it appears they seem not to be in good terms with the Oyo people at the market, this is not strange as we all can not have the same way of doing business and also our culture will often influence how we run a business too. The Yemenis who frequented the market at that time didn’t find this cool enough and they decided to call the Oyo people Yarubaw which means bush people, this became a way for the Yemenis(Arabs) to describe the Oyo people when they come to Igbomekun market to trade. It is not clear whether they weaponized the name to ridicule the Oyo people but what is clear is that the name-calling didn’t lead to confrontation at the market as no history proves this.
It is unclear whether the Oyo people knew the meaning of the name being given to them by the Arabs but they always hear the Arabs referer to them as Yarubaw then the Oyo people in the market retaliated by calling the Yemenis(Arabs) Larubawa. It is on record that there is nowhere else on earth where Arabs are referred to as Larabuwa except Yorubaland in Nigeria.
The Oyo people over time started to accept the name, I want to believe that other tribes like the Ijesa or the Ijebu or the Ekiti people must have heard the Arabs call Oyo people Yarubaw and decided to call them that name too, I also want to believe that it started jokingly like an Alias, However, the pronunciation started to change till it got to this present age and time, Then in 1913, the British who were already colonizing Nigeria at that time advised all Otu people(Oyo, Ife, Ektii, Ijesa, Igbomina, Ijebu..etc) to adopt the name Yoruba for easy administration and representation.