Oyo – a schizoid history based on a delusion of grandeur


Their official history has been controversial: that Oranmiyan is their founder and that he did so when he left Ile-Ife and a Nupe king gave him some charms and told him to keep riding on his horse till he got to a place where his horse yo or “slipped” which is where he founded the kingdom, hence the name Oyo. They also claim that as ruler of Oyo he bore the title Alafin of Oyo and that therefore that makes the stool of Alafin of Oyo superior to that of the Ooni of Ife, especially as he was a son or grandson of Oduduwa. There is no record in the Ifa literary corpus of this event ever occurring and it is an uncontested fact that Oranmiyan went to Oko and bore the title Alafin of Oko.

Rather, there is a record in the odu called Ogbe Otura (also Ogbe Alara and Ogbe Jegbe) of someone named Jegbe who was a prince, a hunter and a valiant man (Salami 2000). He was the son of Olofin, a king of Ife and one day told him that he would like to engage in hunting as a profession. Then he went to see his babalawos (Ifa priests) about this as was and is still the custom of his people when intending to engage in projects. They cast Ifa for him and Ifa revealed the odu Ogbe Otura which is the odu of the Osoosi the divinity of precision and marksmanship, strategy and hunting. They assured him that he would be successful but he needed to offer sacrifice in order for his success not to be in vain. But he refused as he thought to himself that he was a very skillful marksman and that since he would be successful there was no need for him to offer any sacrifice. So he set out to begin hunting and in his first expedition he shot and killed an elephant. Then he went home to get help in transporting the animal but by the time he returned with them it was gone without a trace. This happened two more times and he was considered a liar. Then he went to see his babalawos again and offered the sacrifice, but part of it involved burning some things in the forest. While doing the latter, some weary warriors who had missed their way saw the smoke and located him and he offered to take them to his city but upon getting there he was rejected and told to found a new kingdom with his followers. His babalawos told him that he should ride his horse until it yo (slipped) and that the spot where this happened would be the place where he should found his kingdom. This happened exactly as he was told, and that kingdom that was founded by valiant men was named Oyo.

It is also known that the first king of Oyo had previously been of the rank of a community head called Baale whose status was pitied by a king called the Olufon of Ifon Orolu located east of Ile-Ife. This king then sent to him a crown to uplift his status to that of a king. Perhaps Jegbe the prince had been a Baale in his father’s kingdom, founded Oyo and became her first and self-made ruler but not with authorization from Ile-Ife. So far, there has been no record of any explanation by Oyo to deny these.

Since the northern kingdom of Israel was actually the “Oyo Empire” (Lange 2011), a comparison of Oyo’s alleged foundation with that of the former should prove useful in deciphering the facts. The northern kingdom of Israel which was of ten tribes was founded during the 10th century BCE by a certain Jeroboam of the half-tribe of Ephraim (1 Kings 11:26 – 12:33), and the Oyo Empire was founded by the Oyo kingdom who brought under their control some other Aku families all the way to the Ga in present-day Ghana (Johnson 1921). This identifies Ephraim as Oyo. Since Jegbe founded Oyo and became her first king, he must be Jeroboam. When Jeroboam became king, he moved to a place called Shechem (1 Kings 12:25) which was in Ephraim and was one of the places that Jacob, an ancestor of his and grandson of Abraham, dwelt and dominated for some time. Now, Lange has suggested that Jacob is actually Oranmiyan whose grandfather was Oduduwa, which is supported by the assertion here earlier that Abraham his grandfather is actually Oduduwa. Even the name Jacob seems to be derived from that of the orisha Aku:

  • Aku > (J)aco(b).

This implies that Shechem if actually Oko:

  • Oko > (Sh)eche(m).

Jeroboam also sought to prevent all the tribes under his control from ever returning to Judah, so he invented another spiritual system to replace Ifa and he appointed his own priests (1 Kings 12:26-33). This might have required an accompanying schizoid revision of their history as well. If true, he might have moved to Shechem in order to declare it as actual the coronation city of the Akus and thereby claim some sort of legitimacy for Ephraim and himself as the actual heir of this authority rather than Ile-Ile-Ife and the Ooni respectively. And in a display of mass schizophrenia they believed the lies even over 800 years later (John 4:19-22). So, perhaps upon the rebellion of the Aku tribes against Ile-Ife, they appointed Jegbe as their ruler and he was later given a crown out of pity following which he established his capital in Oko and rewrote their history. And the same series of events reoccurred in this age when the Akus and others moved to West Africa.

But in the same Ogbe Otura there is a similar story about a person also named Jegbe who was likewise a prince, a hunter and a valiant man. He was however a son of the Onidiko (Ruler of Idiko). He began hunting was labelled a liar just as the previous Jegbe. But this time when he was sent away with a mock crown, he led a group of warriors who had followed him and became the king of Ikoyi. His father then got to know that he had truly become a king, so he sent him a horse as a gift. Upon receiving it, Jegbe rode it to Idiko to thank his father but the inhabitants were peeved, wondering how they could simultaneously serve both father and son. So they conspired against him and had him sent to the king of Oyo, which was already in existence, for execution. However, he met with his babalawos and they told him what to do about it so that he would emerge successful. He complied and upon getting to Oyo, he was blessed and given gifts. From there he went to Idiko and the inhabitants began singing praises to him as the lies had been converted into honour for him. It can be gleaned from this story that Idiko and Ikoyi were subkingdoms under Oyo, and one might begin to wonder if this story or the previous one was made up.

In the bible (2 Kings 23-29) is a record of another individual named Jeroboam who lived during the 8th century BCE, some generations after the first Jeroboam. He was a man of valour and the great-grandson of a certain Jehu who had staged a coup to become king of the northern kingdom of Israel and then passed on the throne to Jehoahaz his son who passed it on to Jehoash his grandson and then to Jeroboam. Since the Jeroboam who founded the northern kingdom of Israel is actually the first Jegbe who founded Oyo, then the later Jeroboam who became the king of an already existing kingdom is actually the Jegbe who became king of Ikoyi. But, according to the Ogbe Otura account of the latter Jegbe, he became king of Ikoyi not Oyo, and his father was the king of Idiko, both under Oyo. It is possible that Jegbe’s grandfather was the king of Oyo, that Jegbe’s father later left the Idiko throne to succeed him as the next king of Oyo, and that Jegbe later succeeded his father as the king of Oyo.

Not many Akus remember the name Jegbe and the people of Oyo do not list him as one of their kings, which is not surprising since they have tried to deceive others into thinking that Oranmiyan instead is their founder. But among the list of kings of Oyo is the name Onishile of a certain king who was so stubborn that he was struck with lightening as divine punishment and died later. Well, the first Jeroboam was also stubborn and also divinely struck and died later as a consequence (2 Chronicles 13). They must be the same and Onishile is another name or an appellation Jegbe. There is a similar but less remembered name Jerugbe (Salami 2000) of which the name Jegbe seems to be an elision (other similar Aku examples include Oodua and Odudua from Oduduwa, Olodumare from Olodu ikoko to ntan Oshumare, Yemoja from Yeye omo eja, etc.). If true, then the name Yoruba which the Hausas and Fulani call Yarriba might have been derived from it. Perhaps also they remember this name as borne by the founder of Oyo.

When the first Jeroboam founded the northern kingdom of Israel, his people of Ephraim and all the other tribes that rebelled followed him (1 Kings 12:19-20). Thus the domain of the ruler who had ruled the whole of Israel from Jerusalem was restricted to only Judah (Ife Owodaye). Therefore the Ife that was ruled by the Olofin who reigned during the time of the first Jegbe in this age that began upon the migration of the Akus and others to West Africa extended from present Ghana to the region immediately east of Ile-Ife like Ondo, Ekiti, etc. And all the areas that were part of the former Oyo Empire are of the tribes that rebelled. After the Assyrians sacked and deported them, it appears from the passage of John 4:1-42 about the Saviour’s interaction with the people of Ephraim that the Ephraimites had returned. Nevertheless, the oyinbo and some black Africans like the Habesha, Falasha Jews, etc. have been teaching that only some Ephraimites returned while the rest and the other tribes were scattered to different parts of the world, especially the oyinbo-dominated parts, to become the “lost tribes of Israel”. As these Assyrians were actually the Hausa-Fulani, and in this age they did sack Oyo, and other West African peoples like the Ewe, Ga, Gbe, etc., within the region of the former Oyo Empire do remember that they came from Ile-Ife but left due to arrogance from Oyo, these other peoples are the “lost tribes of Israel/Aku”. A major implication is that in the age of the bible, the “lost tribes of Israel” did return to their lands upon the defeat of the Assyrian Empire by Egypt in 605 CE.

Also, the -shile stem of Onishile appears similar to Shiloh, the name of the first settlement where the ark of the Covenant was housed (1 Samuel 1:3) and which was located in the territory of Ephraim. Shiloh was later destroyed like the household of Jeroboam (Jeremiah 7:12-16) due to the Jeroboam-like stubbornness of the inhabitants and the ark later taken to Jerusalem in Judah. This Ephraim-to-Judah transfer of power is seen in the transition of seniority among the eponymous ancestors of the tribes from Joseph who was the first among his brothers to wear a crown – and Ephraim who inherited this position and produced the first king, although self-made – to Judah whose portion became the coronation tribe. This has been reaffirmed in this age by the reception of consecrated crowns from Oduduwa and subsequent kings of Ile-Ife to all sub-portions of Ife Owodaye while the other tribes got none including Oyo whose own from Ifon Orolu was lost during the Fulani Jihad and whose present one is actually a mock crown as it is not consecrated.

Ephraim was the eponymous ancestor of Jeroboam and his fellow Ephraimites, i.e. Oyo, but the people of Oyo claim that a certain Shango was this ancestor. They add that a fire-breathing divinity who uses thunderbolts is this Shango. But in Ile-Ife, Aramfe (alsoOranfe, usually shortened to Ora or Ara) is the name they call this divinity.

  • Is Ephraim actually Shango?
  • Is Shango actually Oranfe?
  • Is Ephraim actually Oranfe?

Ephraim was a grandson of Jacob who took him as one of his sons rather than a grandson. However, this name is doubtful because the –im suffix is a linguistic device of the Jews used to indicate a plural noun. When removed the result is Ephra which is the same as Phra, the name of one of the divinities of ancient Egypt. According to Egyptologists, this divinity was also called Ra (or Re) and associated with fire, suggesting that Ra is Ara. Even the name Phra seems to have been derived from a reversal of Aramfe: Ar(am)fe > Efra > Ephra(im). So, it can be argued that the divinity Aramfe was venerated in ancient Egypt and Ephraim is his orisha enikeji who was born in there and became the eponymous ancestor of the Ephraimites who, upon rebelling against Ile-Ife, became known as Oyo. But there is still the issue of the name Shango.

According to Sumerologists, Sanga was the title of those in charge of the temple/religious workforce (Pongratz-Leisten 2012). In some black African groups, Sangoma is the title of traditional healers and priests. Both are similar to Shango, but Aramfe is not associated with such. However, the first Jeroboam was in charge of the workforce of the house of Joseph (Ephraim and Manasseh) before the rebellion, and was appointed thus by Solomon, then the reigning king of all the tribes, who noticed his industriousness and decided to promote him from his previous position as a “servant” of his (1 Kings 26:-29). In the palaces of the Akus are a set of officers of the sixth grade who are called Iwefa (also Iba-afin) of which there are three principals (Johnson 1921). The Otun-Iwefa (usually shortened to Otun-efa) is one of them and is a priest of the divinity in question. What if Jeroboam’s function as a servant of Solomon was as the Otun-efa? If yes what if an alternate title of this post was Shango or another Sangoma-like title? If yes, then Jegbe not Aramfe is Shango and his people schizophrenically initially associated but later and perhaps gradually and posthumously equated him with Aramfe perhaps because he founded Oyo just as Aramfe birthed them and he was a priest of Aramfe, or he equated himself with Aramfe. Support for this is seen in the Aku name for thunderbolts which the divinity uses: in both Oyo and Ile-Ife it is called Edun Ara not Edun Shango.

There is also a settlement called Igbo-Ora that falls under Oyo and is the twinning capital of the world (http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/africa/2253845.stm), and this divinity is known to have fathered many twins (cf. Mark 3:17). The translation of Igbo-Ora seems to be “grove of Ora” which suggests that that is the location of his and the Ephraimites’ actual home – the seat of Oyo has been moved more than once, just like that of the northern kingdom of Israel (c.f. 1 Kings 12:25, 16:23-29).If true, then the twinning trait might possibly be traced to the Y chromosome that he passed down to his offspring, which is good news for geneticists. Since in Ile-Ife the name Aramfe is used for this divinity more than the name Shango and there is a hill there sacred to him, perhaps the people of Oyo deliberately discarded the name Aramfe in favour of Shango in a schizoid attempt to dissociate themselves from and deny Ile-Ife (cf. 1 Kings 12:26-33).

The people of Oyo also claim that Shango was a grandson of Oranmiyan and he had a twin brother named Ajaka, but they also admit that Oranmiyan had a father with the same name. To resolve this they add that both are different individuals. Now, Jacob was a son of Isaac and he took Ephraim his grandson as one of his sons. Isaac is derived from the name Ajaka: Ajak(a) > Isaac; and, going by the information in the bible about this family, the bearer never had a grandson of the same name and Ephraim had a brother called Manasseh. While there is no mention in the bible of these brothers being twins, it seems they were as their grandfather did something that is peculiar to Aku culture about twins. The Akus name the firstborn of a set of twins Taiwo (or Taiye; short for To aye wo) which means “have the first taste of the world”, and name the second Kehinde which means ‘”s/he who cones next” or s/he who lags behind”. The belief is that Taiwo is actually the junior who is sent out by Kehinde to assess the state of the world they are coming into and Taiwo, upon being born, reports back to the elder by crying. Through this lens Jacob’s action in elevating Ephraim over Manasseh can be understood as both must have been twins. This proves that Oranmiyan had among his grandsons a set of twins whom he regarded as sons, Aramfe and another who was not named Ajaka. Among the West African peoples that used to be under the former Oyo Empire is a Gbe-speaking people called Mina, a name similar to Manasseh and most likely borne by their eponymous ancestor. Therefore, Oyo lied about Ajaka being the twin brother of their eponymous ancestor.

Another trait that links Oyo to Ephraim is the speech marker in the form of an absence of the /sh/ sound. For instance, words like shop and shall are pronounced sop and sall, especially in the Ekun Osi district, while the reverse is the case in the Epo district where same and salt are pronounced shame and shalt (Johnson 1921). Such is termed by linguists as shibboleth, after a word used by some non-Oyo tribes of the Israelites to identify some stubborn Ephraimites whom they sought to execute (Judges 12:1-6). Of all the shibboleths listed by these linguists (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shibboleth) this one is curiously excluded as if it does not exist even though it has been written about by Johnson (1921). The Oyo people are the only ones in the world who possess it, and the only other known mention of it is in the bible, which implies incontrovertibly that the people of Ephraim and of Oyo are the same. It is sad that even though with colonization and the introduction of the bible to the people of Oyo they have ignored the implications of this link.

So, Oyo is Ephraim and the history they claim is a revisionist attempt at overthrowing Ile-Ife and disowning their eponymous ancestor to satisfy their schizoid egos.

Bibliography

Johnson, Samuel. The history of the Yorubas : from the earliest times to the beginning of the British Protectorate. Edited by Obadiah Johnson. Lagos: C.M.S. (Nigeria) Bookshops Lagos, 1921.

Lange, Dierk. “Origin of the Yoruba and “The Lost Tribes of Israel”.” Anthropos, no. 106 (2011): 579-595.

Pongratz-Leisten, Beate. “Sanga.” In The Encyclopedia of Ancient History, 2013. John Wiley & Sons, Inc., 2012.

Salami, Ayo. Yoruba Theology and Tradition: The Genealogy. Lagos: NIDD Publishing and Printing Limited, 2000.

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