Afrobeat Culture Federator

BALKANIZATION: YORUBA, HAUSA, IGBO, etc.

Wednesday 15 January 2014 by Mabinuori Idowu (aka ID)

Brothers and Sisters out there; instead of struggling with like minds to UNITE AFRICA, it is a surprise to see that we are being balkanized as: Ijebus, Egbas, Hausa, Igbo, etc. Asked how we can bring everyone together with so much division, they say “It is no division, everyone is celebrating and developing independently – like the Islamic North is doing with their Islamic banks.

North / South dichotomy talk is as old as colonialism on the continent. It is nothing but a diversion that enabled the colonialist to divide and rule (Colo-Mentality apology Fela Kuti). To continue to talk in this manner in a twenty first century world is to perpetrate colonialism. Instead of encouraging the masses to overcome years of fear and apathy and take to the streets like the case with Arab streets peacefully demonstrating and calling for change, we hear a great deal of talks about balkanizing Nigeria. Is this another: “I no want die! Papa dey for house! I want enjoy!” STB – Sorrows, Tears & Blood apology Fela Kuti.

In this age of globalization, it is clear that no nation can survive without a continental approach hence the formation of world organizations such as – World Trade Organization (WTO), Regional Trading Arrangements (RPTA’s), European Union (EU), Asia-pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC), Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), etc. At this point in our history, isn’t it time to look at what unites us as a people than what will potentially tear us apart – an essential part of Fela’s message.

If people’s power could bring down draconian regimes as we can see in the mass uprising in the Arab world, it could do the same elsewhere in other parts of Africa. This is a legitimate democratic aspiration of any people under subjugation. Many of the necessary conditions are already in place: public fury at years of political repression, economy that rewards corrupt elites and keep a majority in poverty, widespread loathing for leaders clinging to office, etc.

The only thing missing is educating the people to fight for their rights. Echoing Dr. Yosef ben-Jochanna in his epic work titled, Black Man of The Nile: “If the European Jews can fight for an arid piece of desert; the Irish for a small emerald Island; the British for a barren Island of misery; protestant Anglo-Saxon Americans for their stolen “Indian” empire; why should the Black man (the African, African – Caribbean and African – American) not fight for the richest piece of real estate on the planet earth – his original homeland – mother Africa?”

Remember the age long saying of our ancestors: A man who does not know where he is coming from can never know where he is going”. Talks of North / South dichotomy are nothing but diversion. Abraham or Ibrahim - the patriarch of both Christian and Moslem religions was not born when our black ancestors built the pyramids. The hieroglyphic writings of Isibidi people of Cross River State and Nok culture of Plateau State are perfect examples of our common ancestry with Egypt of the Black pharaohs. The cultural, linguistic and religious unity of all Africa is no longer in doubt thanks to archaeological excavations and the works of Africans the likes of Cheikh Anta Diop continued by Theophile Obenga

Cosmogony mythologies play an important role in African societies. Though creation myths in African societies are as varied as the many cultures existing in the continent, some scientists and writers without the bias of Africa being the cradle of today’s civilisation, are of the opinion that various groups of Africans originated from the Great Lakes and the Nile valley region, particularly Ancient Egypt. Among the chain of evidence leading to this conclusion are: similarity of language, traditional beliefs, ideas and practices, religion, plus the survival of customs and names, etc.

Concerning the Yoruba, one of the three major groups of people that inhabit present-day Nigeria, archaeological discoveries come in support of this theory. The Yoruba progenitor, Oduduwa, is said to have come from Ancient Egypt. This belief is based on the similarity of works of art (mainly sculptures) discovered in Ile-Ife the mythological centre of Yoruba land, with those found in Egypt. Furthermore, some words belonging to the Egyptian language are also found in other African languages. An example is the word “Ye”, which means “to exist”. Differences do sometimes occur, when “e” becomes “a” or “i” or “o” or ”u” or these vowels are nasalized in some of the languages considered such as Tshi, Ewe, Ga, Yoruba, Edo.

Other examples are:

The word “amon” which means “to conceal” or “concealed” in Ancient Egyptian language, it has the same meaning in Yoruba language. For example: “fi p’amon” means “conceal it” or “regard it as hiding”.

“Wu” which means “rise up” or “swell”

“Miri” signifies water in Yoruba but is used only as an adverb viz. “miri-miri” - “dazzling like water”. Also among the Igbo people, the next-door neighbours to the Yoruba, “miri” is used to denote water (see: The Religion of The Yoruba, by Olumide Lucas).

Most of the Ancient Egyptian principal Gods were well known at one time to the Yorubas. Among them are: Osiris, Isis, Horus, Shu, Thoth, Khpera, Amon, Anu, Khonsu, Knum, Khopri, Hathor, Sakaris, Ra, Seb. Most of them survive in name or attributes, or in both.

“Ra” for instance, survives in name for the majority of the present–day Yoruba people are no longer Sun worshippers. Yet words like “Irawo”, “Ra-ra”, preserve the idea. The literal meaning of “Irawo” (a star) is: that which appears when “Ra” (the sun) has set (“Wo” means set). The Yoruba expression: “Ra-ra” (Not at all, or no-no), is probably an old form of swearing by the sun-God, Ra.

The word “amon” exists in the Yoruba language with the same meaning as it has in the language of the Ancient Egyptians. The God Amon is one of the Gods formally known to the Yoruba. Moreover, the Yoruba word “Mon” (or “Mimon”), which means holy or sacred, is probably derived from the name of the God Amon. Also, “Thoth” was the Ancient Egyptian God of truth or righteousness. If the initial letters ‘th’ become’s ‘t’, and the final ‘th’ is dropped, the word thus become “to” – which in Yoruba means: “right”, “fair”, or “just”.

Other words presumed to derive from Thoth are: “O-ti-to”, truth, or that which belongs to truth. Also the word: “E-to”, rights, fairness or justice. The apparent survival of indigenous African words in both the Greek and Latin languages lends credence to the impress of African high culture (civilisation) on both Greek and Roman culture and civilisation. The Latin word: “Fere”, which means almost, survives in its entire form in the Yoruba language and has the same meaning.

A common phenomenon among the various groups of people that constitutes the federation of Nigeria is their shared cultural heritage. Be it among the Igbo, Hausa or Yoruba, the naming of a child for example calls for celebration. Be it weddings, deaths, the award of chieftaincy titles, etc. These occasions are celebrated with traditional music and musicians with the heavy rhythms of the talking drum and other types of drums and percussion instruments. Praise singers or griots, add their historic insights to the meaning of the ceremony by either singing in praise of or recounting the lineage of those present at the ceremony.

Though the instruments played by the musicians are as varied as the ceremonies, the ‘Talking Drum’ is an instrument commonly used by musicians from most regions. Called ‘Iya Ilu’ ‘mother drum’ by the Yoruba, ‘Kalangu’ by the Hausa, it has existed since faraway times not only for entertainment but also as an instrument of communication. Before the invention of the telephone technology, the ‘talking drum’ used to serve as a means of communication between communities. In Yoruba land played by ‘Onilu Oba’ (the Oba’s drummer), it was used in the same manner as carrier-birds to convey messages from one king’s messenger to the other or from one point of the kingdom to the other.

‘Apala’ music, sometimes called ‘Sakara’ music because of the leading role of the sakara drum – a round hand-drum made from cow or goat skin. Firmly secured or attached to a pottery top, the sakara drum is played with the fingers putting pressure on the skin to change tones like the strings of the ‘mother drum’, pulled or released to change tones and sounds. It has the sound of the talking drum and can talk like the Iya Ilu (mother drum). It leads the rhythm and other percussion follows.

Be it traditional ‘Apala’ music which serves as the root or the base of Yoruba urban dance music or its derivatives ‘juju’ or Fuji ‘music’, the talking drum sets the pace or can be described as the heart of the rhythm. As the evolution of apala (sakara) music has influenced both juju and fuji in the present day Yoruba urban music, the same can be said of its influence on Diaspora Yoruba music - particularly in the rumba, salsa and samba music.

Despite the presence of bata drums, congas or Latin percussion as they are known in the Diaspora Yoruba music (like in Haiti, Cuba or Brazil), where they tend to mystify more the bata drum the important role of the Iya Ilu cannot be over-stressed here. The bata drum called the same name, conga-drums or Latin-percussion, the samba-drums called bembe by the Yoruba and other instruments figure prominently in apala music. The heart of apala music is percussion and the call and respond vocal style of the musicians add beauty to the music.

A first time visitor to present-day Yoruba land will notice this heritage in the richness and variety of its culture. This heritage is part of the urbanised social structure in most of the Yoruba settlements. Present-day Yoruba land is situated below the river Niger, starting at the fringes of the northern savannah grassland in the western part of Nigeria, and covering the western high plains, right to the tropical rain forest in the south.

Yoruba cosmogony tells us about a God, Olodumare, who lowered a chain from the sky at Ile–Ife, down which came Oduduwa, the progenitor of all Yoruba people. Another story tells us that Oduduwa came from the East. He, alike several other African people, were forced to migrate from the great lakes region and the Nile valley as a result of wars.

This assumption is based on the resemblance between sculptures and other works of art found in Ile–Ife and those found in temples and pyramids in Egypt. Today, Yorubas still refer to themselves as ‘Omo Oduduwa’: ‘the children of Oduduwa’. After his death, his vast kingdom was divided up among his seven sons that were later divided into numerous independent kingdoms that share a cosmogony origin. The Yoruba kingdom broke up into numerous empires after several internecine wars – for which the slave trade was largely responsible.

A major factor in Nigeria’s political dynamics is the similar cosmogony myth shared by the other two major peoples, notably the Hausa and the Igbo. Hausa cosmogony tells of the ‘Hausa Bokwai’ or the ‘seven Hausa states’, and the ‘Banza Bokwai’ or the ‘seven bastards’ – referring to the ‘seven legitimate’ and ‘seven illegitimate’ children of the Hausa progenitor. After his death, like the progenitor of the Yorubas, his vast kingdom was shared among his children and later broken up into several geographically diverse and culturally varied states and empires – for which the Arab slave trade, or the ‘Jihad’ were largely responsible.

Present-day Hausa land is situated immediately above the Niger River, from the fringes of the northern savannah grassland in the western part, to the eastern end of Nigeria with a frontier with the republic of Cameroon -above the river Benue, up to the fringes of the Sahara desert in the north. The Igbo people of present-day Nigeria occupy the eastern half of the southern part of the country. Historically, they reside in villages and towns smaller than those of the Hausa or Yoruba. Most of these towns and villages are headed by ‘chiefs’ called ‘Obi’ or ‘Eze’, who don’t have the same statute as the kings in Hausa land and Obas in Yoruba land.

In present-day Nigeria, the existence of a Yoruba civilisation is an undisputed reality, alike the civilisations of the remnant states of the Hausa and Igbo kingdoms. One can appreciate the strength and refinement of their legacies, considering the fact that, from the 16th up to the 19th century, the Atlantic slave trade dramatically affected all of Africa. Yoruba slaves for instance, forcibly taken and resettled in Cuba, Haiti, Brazil, the United States, Trinidad and Tobago, still adhere to, and keep alive basic principles of the Yoruba tradition and mode of worship that have existed through all the passing centuries in Africa.

The cultural, linguistic and religious unity of all Africa is no longer in doubt, this in my opinion should be our focus not organizing us in little groups like the: Ijebus, Egbas, Hausas, Igbos and Yorubas. Talks of North / South dichotomy are nothing but diversion.


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