The interview granted your paper by the Emeritus Prof J.F.Ade-Ajayi of the University of Ibadan on the Yoruba origin controversy and his views are most disappointing and most unbecoming of an emeritus professor of his calibre. To say the least, it lacked the objectivity, professionalism and decorum which you expected him to bring to the issue. He allowed his ethnic bias and accompanying anger to take the better part of him and it could be seen that he only just managed to restrain himself from resorting to insults and abuse. But the harsh tone of his language were suggestive enough of his disrespect for the Omo n' Oba  n'Edo, Uku Akpolokpolo, Oba Erediauwa who is his elder and a royal father. As a leading light of African history and culture, i started to wonder what kind of African history he was teaching his students and the kind of example he giving to us younger historians who are expected to look up to him.

      A reading of the interview shows that Prof Ajayi have either  not read the portion of the book dealing  with the origin of the Oduduwa published in Nigerian dailies or he was too disoriented by the content as to be able to articulate his comments or replies to the questions posed by the interviewer . Otherwise, he would not have resorted to falsifying the  Omo n' Obas statements as contained in the book. The first and  major falsehood he fabricated is his claim that  Omo n' Oba wrote that Egharevba  "..has Akoko Edo blood in him". There is no where in the book where Omo  n'Oba  made such a statement. What Omo n'Oba wrote was  ".Apart from the fact that Edo n Ekue( Edo-Akure partly Benin and partly Yoruba by birth) blood in the man"(Egharevba) manifested itself.".So one  does  not know how Prof Ade Ajayi got his Akoko Edo which he used to replace Edo-Akure. He went further to ask "Akoko Edo people are no longer under Edo state"? This latter question based on his fabrications was obviously aimed at ridiculing  the Omo n'Oba as one who does not know the ethnic belonging or categorization  of the Akoko Edo.

        Another outright falsehood is Ade-Ajayi's statement that ".there is no doubt that Oranmiyan founded Oyo and he also founded Benin".To state that Oranmiyan founded Benin is a mistake which I am sure an elementary school pupil who studied social studies in Nigeria will not make. For an emeritus professor of African history to make such public gaffe, without retracting it after it was printed is to say the least disappointing. Prof Ade-Ajayi's statement is the big lie of Nigerian history of the twenty first century.

       The most terrible blunder of Prof Ade-Ajayi was the statement that "The Oba of Benin  has no locus standi , as it were to tell the story of Oranmiyan." If the Omo n'Oba , who is a direct descendant of Oranmiyan have no locus standi to tell the story of his forebear, I wonder who has the local standi? Is it  Prof Ade Ajayi,(though a historian) whom I am sure cannot even trace  the relationship between his native sub-Ekiti groups relations with oduduwa.? If anybody have the locus standi anywhere in the world, it is the direct descendants of  0ranmiyan of which the Omo n' Oba  is the foremost.

       On the professional level, Prof  Ade -Ajayi only exposed his ethnic bias and politiking rather than engage in historical analysis. The major areas  of his comments in which he abused professionalism are his use and source of historical evidence,  and definition of a  professional historian. The major plank of Ade-Ajayi's comments is the claim that "His (Omo n'Oba's) father used to attend and meet at the conference of yoruba Obas regularly during the colonial rule.His own father did not object to this." This evidence  of Oba Akenzua II attendance of such meetings  is one issue which many a Yoruba historian have struggled over the years to force down as "fact" or evidence of history) and they cite the seating arrangement in the meetings of  Yoruba Obas (attended by Omo n' Oba n'Edo, Uku Akpolokpolo, Oba  Akenzua II 1933-1978) in which the Ooni sat at the head of the table . This development has been falsified  and projected as evidence of Obas of Benin subordination to the Ooni of Ife. Though Ade-Ajayi  stated that these meetings were taking place under colonial rule, he deliberately refused to state the context and circumstances in which these meetings took place. This silence on the context and circumstance   misleads the public into thinking that the meetings were traditional and customary, and creates the impression that a relationship of superiority and /or affinity have always existed between  the Oba of  Benin and the Yoruba Obas and even within the ranks of Yoruba Obas. Professionally, Ade Ajayi should have told us why and how these meetings came into being, the purpose and interest which they served.

             Until Oba Akenzua II, no Oba of Benin  attended any conference or meeting of  Yoruba Obas. Such kind of pan Yoruba Obas meeting never existed in history as a pan Yoruba consciousness and state never existed. These meetings were not started until the late 1930s.Attempts by some Yoruba Obas in present day Ondo and Ekiti states to pay customary tributes to Omo n'Oba ,Uku Akpolokpolo,Oba Eweka II after restoration in 1914 were  stopped by the British and prohibited. This shows that the British were not interested in such interactions. But in the late 1930's certain administrative changes were implemented by the British which divided Southern Nigeria into Western and Eastern provinces. The British colonial administration initiated and instituted  these meetings of Sole Native Authorities (wrongly called conference of Yoruba Obas) in the western provinces to discuss and solve common problems of the provinces. Oba Akenzua II as the only Sole Native Authority in Benin Province under the  directive of the colonial government  was always "invited" by the government and was bound to attend. The meetings were held under the auspices of the British  and  it was the administrative mechanism for foisting regionalism and formed the basis of the latter western region house of chiefs which Oba Akenzua II also attended by virtue of his status as a first class ruler. While the house of chiefs lasted, the Egbe Omo Oduduwa and Action group government foisted Yoruba leadership on the house. Late Obafemi Awolowo went as far as trying to control the traditional rulers and forcing them to toe his party line.He did not hesitate to subtly threaten or "advise" Oba Akenzua II  on  8th March 1955 to desist from party politics, and Oba Akenzua reminded him of the partisanship role of the Ooni  and the Alake. What happened to traditional rulers in western region who did not toe Awolowo's party line is well documented. When Midwest was created , the Omo n' Oba stopped attending the meetings. That Oba Akenzua II attended these meetings had nothing to do with any history or traditional affinity  as Ade Ajayi will want to mislead the public to believe. It was sheer colonial administrative politics and later day Action Group influenced ethnic politics.

                  Another major and faulty plank of  Ade-Ajayi's comment had to do with evidence.He haraunge that "He (Omo n' Oba) did nor cite any evidence". But did not ask a similar question in the case of Egharevba and  went ahead to uphold Egharevbas work as some gospel. If  I may ask what is difference between the sources of Omo n'Oba and Egharevba and are both not based on Oral traditions? Egharevba selected the oral traditions which he presented as history and Omo n'Oba did same. Why the double standard and what makes Egharevba   traditions acceptable? Is it because his "traditions" he cite are supportive of Oyo Yoruba biased history of Samuel Johnson. Omo n'Oba even went as far as showing the Akure-Yoruba influence on Egharevba in order to prove the bias and context of Egharevba history  and this is application of historical method. Permit me to further buttress the context and sources of Yoruba biases and influences on Egharevbas work. Apart from the Akure ancestry, Egharevba had part of his early education in Yorubaland, was a benefactor of Bishop James Johnson(a Yoruba),he was Anglican (CMS) and worked with Revd Payne who introduced him to the CMS Press controlled by the Yoruba intellingentsia,his first editor was C.J. Smart, a Yoruba letter writer resident in Benin City, and was also influenced by Ajisafe another Yoruba author with whom he consulted for is publications.

               To claim that Egharevba was right to continuously revise his books was another gaffe .Ade-Ajayi did not explain the kind of revision and their basis expected of a professional. The  revisions were not based on credible evidence and were largely introduction of materials that suited his fancy, pet theories and his mentors. All these are evident in his works. He was continuously challenged for his biases. Even  in his later life, Egharevba stated  that and I quote that "..Oduduwa was not a Yoruba man. Oduduwa found the yorubas already living in Ife when he arrived"(Text of interview 3rd May 1975). I am sure that if Ade-Ajayi (and the yorubas whose cause  he is championing) were aware of this , he(they) will start having a second thought on calling him for evidence to support their case.

              Permit me to ask what qualifies, Egharevba as a better historian on Benin Kingship history than the Omo n' Oba? Is it because Egharevba was the first to write or less educated or less interested politics than Omo n'Oba? Egharevba  selected the tradition  that suited his fancy and published it to the exclusion of other traditions.That he was the first to write  neither  makes his work nor the traditions he selected gospel. Egharevba was no less a politician too and his political leaning was the (CMS/Yoruba initiated Reformed Ogboni Fraternity influenced) Benin Tax Payers Association which was allied to the Action Group.Other traditions have always existed and  Egharevba attention was drawn to them and were used to challenge him too.If these traditions  were not published then, it does not mean that they must be silenced for the sake of the yorubas. Let all the traditions be published for critical examination and enrichment of our history. Ade-Ajayi  cannot just wake up and dismiss one tradition and try to force his favoured version down our throat. What he has done is no history , but politics and an ethnicised one.

B.A(Hons) & M.A.History
Member,Institute for Benin Studies


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