Friday, October 25, 2019

"Yariba," "Nyamuri," and "Sons and Daughters of Oduduwa"

By Farooq A. Kperogi, Ph.D.
Twitter: @farooqkperogi
I've been deluged with so much work these past few days that I've not had the time to come on social media. I just became aware of Femi Fani-Kayode's response to my preliminary response to his claims about how the names "Yoruba" and "Yamuri" came about.

My Saturday column in the Nigerian Tribune will respond, with facts, not emotions, to his totally ahistorical claim that the Fulani "gave" the names "Yariba" and "Nyamiri" to Yoruba and Igbo people. They did NOT!
Nonetheless, I'm glad we're having this conversation. When I wrote in 2005 that most contemporary collective identities in Nigeria, including the "Yoruba" identity, are as constructed and as relatively recent as Nigeria itself, I got a lot of predictable pushback from some of the same people who're now recognizing this fact. That's progress.
Fani-Kayode talks of the "sons and daughters of Oduduwa" as if this were an unproblematized identity category. It's not. As my friend Professor Moses Ochonu showed in his work, even the Oduduwa myth of origin for Yoruba people—along with other popular myths of origin such as the Bayajidda myth for Hausa people, the Kisra myth for Borgu people, etc.—was a colonial project.
Colonialists commissioned folklorists, Ochonu pointed out, to record myths of origins of different Nigerian communities. They then isolated and privileged some myths and suppressed others. The Oduduwa myth of origin wasn't the only myth of origin in Western Nigeria and wasn't originally shared by everyone in the region. Nor was the Bayajidda myth by everyone in Hausaland.
This fact doesn't, of course, invalidate the utility of the myths. Every society needs its myths for internal cohesion and for the politics of group and inter-group identity.

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