Ulli Beier talks to Dr. Sophie Oluwole.
U: There are not many people who have tried to study and define Yoruba Philosophy. This is surprising, because you might say that those of us who study the art, the literature, the religion of the Yoruba people are of the basic Yoruba interpretation of life. And yet philosophy was introduced rather late into Nigerian universities and most Nigerian philosophers seem more interested in Greek or British philosophy than in African philosophy. I am curious therefore to hear from you how you became interested in the subject and what problems you faced on the long road towards becoming a leading authority in Yoruba philosophy. First tell me something about your background.
S: Well, I was born in Igbara-Oke, a town that lies on the border between Ilesha and Ondo.
U: I know the place well. In the fifties and early sixties it was a favourite stop-over for truck drivers on the way to Benin city.
That was an excellent interview. It reveals so much about how Edos have been subjected to gradual deculturalization. Many prominent so called Yorubas are actually Edos – many of whom have had to assume Yoruba identity for political survival in British Colonial WAZOBIA Nigeria Very interesting. Very sad. But I was pleased to see that all the grandchildren of Sophia’s father have been given Edo names to ensure they do not forget who they are. Recently one of the children of MA Tokunbo sent an internet “Happy Birthday” message in which she (or he) extolled her (or his) Yoruba ethnicity and upbringing. To the best of my Knowledge MA Tokunbo (Okunbor) is an Edo man to the core. But we live and learn everyday. The struggle continues
His family name is OSUNBOR not OKUNBOR he is my in-law. I was born in sophie’s father ‘s house in Igbarra oke.
Please clarify this for my records: Whether “Osunbor” or “Okunbor”, do you agree with Dan that “MA Tokunboh” is an EDO man? If so one wonders how many “others” are out there?
Yes he is . He is the senior brother to Oba Erediauwa’s Senior wife,who is nee Osunbor. And he is married to oba Eweka’s daughter.
Thanks for the information. It corroborates what I had learnt from other sources. One wonders how many “others” are out there
Do you remember Ebenizer william, the journalist? I think he was one time Editor of the Daily times years ago. He is sophie’s brother she was referring to. His actual name was Ebenizer Aloba (Aileobafe). There are more in Akure. The whole of Alafe family, at Akure,are descendant of Omozuwa who is a grand son of Ezomo Ne Ihenuwa.You see, because of Awo’s petty politics in those days a lot of Edos changed their names by Yorubanising it, in other to get along in the civil service. Do you ever rest? keep fit .
Oh Yes, I remember Ebenezer Williams very well. The political pressure to distance oneself from one’s Edo heritage in Awolowo’s Egbe Omo Oduduwa western region is a phenomenon that more should be written about. I hope you will put all of this in book form someday. Only God knows how many Edo children and grandchildren are drifting around ignorant of their heritage.
Rest? Thats funny. I am in Oregon on “vacation” attending a reunion. I get online every few hours to see if something new has occurred in cyberspace. Its just like switching on TV or picking up the latest paper or stopping by the John. Keep the info flowing. Regards,
Dear Idubor et al:
The posts so far on this topic have gone a long way to reinforce a well known fact about the genealogy of the peoples of Southwest and Midwestern regions of Nigeria. This fact is the close genealogical relationships between the Yoruba, the Edo, the Itshekri and the Ishan.
The fact that some Edo may have ‘gentrified’ their names into Yoruba names may be viewed in two different ways. It may be viewed in a negative light, if the gentrification of the names was necessitated by the need to survive, as one writer has alleged in the case of Ebenezer Babatope. However, I think it may be viewed positively if the change in names was voluntary and done as an acknowledgement of the Yoruba side of the family, even though one side of the family is Edo, Itshekri or Ishan.
Personally, as a full blooded Yoruba I will continue to consider the Edo as my kith and kin, in full confidence of the fact that somewhere along the line, probably in the last few hundred years our ancestors would have shared a common origin.
There is always this chicken and egg theory that crosses the mind whenever the issue of the relationship between the Yoruba and the Edo are considered. I have come to realize that the oral history thought to children in Yoruba and Edo households can be diametrically opposed to one another, even though the oral historians on both sides are talking about the same events and the same personalties. Thus, I have concluded that we may never be able to conclusively prove which came first–the Yoruba or the Edo and which one is a “branch” of the other. Sometimes, I wander if there is a any practical merit in pursuing further clarification of this chicken and egg scenario, beyond the theoretical academic needs of historians, sociologists and anthropologists.
I think it suffices to state that regardless of the underlying controversies, that the bonds that tie the Edo and other Nigerians from the former midwest to the Yoruba are stronger and closer than the relationships of these ethnic groups to Nigerians from other ethnic groups.
Yet, if it is ever possible to push the clock back about a few thousand years, we will undoubtedly find that almost all other Nigerians from the South-south, Southeast and the the North are inter-related, based mainly on the fact that we all share a common broad African heritage.
If the above is true, one is left wandering why there is so much fuss about ethnic identity in Nigeria. It may be that the Nigerian parents, e.g. Edo who give their children Yoruba names and vice versa, know a lot more than most other Nigerians do. When I was growing up in Lagos I had Igbo friends whose parents had given them Yoruba first names (in addition to Igbo and Christian first names), in recognition of the lifelong friendships and long multi-generational tenure of these families in Yorubaland. I have also met the occassional Yoruba man with Igbo first names rwhich reflected their places of birth in towns or cities in the East. It has never crossed my mind that any of those names would have been given to these people by their parents in other that they may have better opportunities in life, as seen for example in the forced anglification of Jewish names in Europe and North America.
In conclusion, I strongly believe that there is a need to celebrate and preserve the varied cultures of all of Nigeria’s ethnic groups regardless of the size of the population. To do otherwise is to encourage complete assimilation of smaller ethnic groups by the larger ones with the unfortunate end result, after several decades, being the potential oss of the language or dialect of the assimilated group as the older members of the population pass into the beyond.
The only question I still ponder in my mind is this: Which comes first, personal identity as a Nigerian or our individual ethnic identities? And what degree of emphasis do we put on each?
Bye, Quincy .