The former Western state of Nigeria was formed in 1967 when the Western Region was subdivided into the states of Lagos and Western State.Facts about western Nigeria.
Its capital was Ibadan, which was the capital of the old region. These states make up the majority of ethnic Yoruba states.
In 1976, the state was subdivided into three new states, Ogun, Ondo and Oyo. The region now consists of nine states, across three geopolitical zones: Delta, Edo, Ekiti, Kwara, Lagos, Ogun, Ondo, Osun, and Oyo States.
Oyo State is the largest state in South West. It covers an area of 28,454 km2.
Lagos can be said to be the most prominent state with over 20 million people residing therein.
History Facts about Western Nigeria
The Yoruba are one of the largest African ethnic groups south of the Sahara Desert.
They are, in fact, not a single group, but rather a collection of diverse people bound together by a common language, history, and culture. Within Nigeria, the Yoruba dominate the western part of the country.
Yoruba mythology holds that all Yoruba people descended from a hero called Odua or Oduduwa. Today there are over fifty individuals who claim kingship as descendants of Odua.
During the four centuries of the slave trade, Yoruba territory was known as the Slave Coast. Uncounted numbers of Yoruba were carried to the Americas.
Their descendants preserved Yoruba traditions. In several parts of the Caribbean and South America, the Yoruba religion has been combined with Christianity.
In 1893, the Yoruba kingdoms in Nigeria became part of the Protectorate of Great Britain.
Until 1960 Nigeria was a British colony and the Yoruba were British subjects. On October 1, 1960, Nigeria became an independent nation structured as a federation of states.
The Yoruba homeland is located in West Africa. It stretches from a savanna (grassland) region in the north to a region of tropical rainforests in the south. Most Yoruba live in Nigeria. However, there are also some scattered groups in Benin and Togo, small countries to the west of Nigeria.
The occupations and living conditions of the Yoruba in the north and south differ sharply. Current census figures are difficult to obtain. The Yoruba population is estimated to be 5.3 million.
Folklore Facts about Western Nigeria
According to a Yoruba creation myth, the deities (gods) originally lived in the sky with only water below them. Olorun, the Sky God, gave to Orishala, the God of Whiteness, a chain, a bit of earth in a snail shell, and a five-toed chicken. He told Orishala to go down and create the earth.
Orishala approached the gate of heaven. He saw some deities having a party and he stopped to greet them. They offered him palm wine and he drank too much and fell asleep.
Odua, his younger brother, saw Orishala sleeping. He took the materials and went to the edge of heaven, accompanied by Chameleon. He let down the chain and they climbed down it.
Odua threw the piece of earth into the water and placed the five-toed chicken upon it. The chicken began to scratch the earth, spreading it in all directions. After Chameleon had tested the firmness of the earth, Odua stepped down. A sacred grove is there today.
Language Facts about western Nigeria
The Yoruba language belongs to the Congo-Kordofanian language family. Yoruba has many dialects, but its speakers can all understand each other.
Yoruba is a tonal language. The same combination of vowels and consonants has different meanings depending on the pitch of the vowels (whether they are pronounced with a high voice or a low voice).
For example, the same word, aro, can mean cymbal, indigo dye, lamentation, and granary, depending on intonation. Pele o is “Hello”; Bawo ni? is “How are you?”; and Dada ni is “Fine, thank you.”
As many as 20 per cent of the Yoruba still practice the traditional religions of their ancestors.
The practice of traditional religion varies from community to community. For example, a deity (god) may be male in one village and female in another.
Yoruba traditional religion holds that there is one supreme being and hundreds of orisha, or minor deities. The worshipers of a deity are referred to as his “children.”
There are three gods who are available to all. Olorun (Sky God) is the high god, the Creator. One may call on him with prayers or by pouring water on kola nuts on the ground.
Eshu (also called Legba by some) is the divine messenger who delivers sacrifices to Olorun after they are placed at his shrine. Everyone prays frequently to this deity. Ifa is the God of Divination, who interprets the wishes of Olorun to human beings.
Believers in the Yoruba religion turn to Ifa in times of trouble. Another god, Ogun (god of war, the hunt, and metalworking), is considered one of the most important.
In Yoruba courts, people who follow traditional beliefs swear to give truthful testimony by kissing a machete sacred to Ogun.
Shango (also spelt Sango and Sagoe) is the deity that creates thunder. The Yoruba believe that when thunder and lightning strike, Shango has thrown a thunderstone to earth.
After a thunderstorm, Yoruba religious leaders search the ground for the thunderstone, which is believed to have special powers.
The stones are housed in shrines dedicated to Shango. Shango has four wives, each representing a river in Nigeria.
The Yoruba who practice other religions are divided evenly between Muslims (followers of Islam) and Christians. Nearly all Yoruba still observe annual festivals and other traditional religious practices.
Rites of Passage
A newborn infant is sprinkled with water to make it cry. No word may be spoken until the infant cries.
Also, no one younger than the mother should be present at the birth. The infant then is taken to the backyard. The umbilical cord is bound tightly with thread and then cut.
The placenta is buried in the backyard. On the placenta burial spot, the child is bathed with a loofah sponge and rubbed with palm oil. The child is held by the feet and given three shakes to make it strong and brave.
After a specified number of days, a naming ceremony is held. Relatives attend and bring small amounts of money. Male and female circumcision is usually performed in the first month.
Marriages are arranged for Yoruba people back in the day. A man must negotiate with the girl’s father.
If he is approved he must bring the family a payment called a bride wealth, paid in three instalments. Wedding ceremonies begin at the bride’s house after dark.
There is a feast to which the groom contributes yams. The bride then is taken to the groom’s house. There she is washed from foot to knee with a herbal mixture meant to bring her many children.
For the first eight days after marriage, she divides her time between her husband’s and her parents’ compounds. On the ninth day, she moves to her husband’s home.
Burials are performed by adult men who are not close relatives but belong to the clan of the deceased. The grave is dug into the floor of the room where the deceased lived.
After the burial, there is a period of feasting. Many of the rituals associated with burial are intended to ensure that the deceased will be reborn again.
Kinship is the most important relationship for the Yorubas. Best friends are very important as well. A best friend is referred to as a (Kori-ko-sun) “friend not-see-not-sleep.”
This means that one does not go to sleep without having seen his best friend. When approaching death, a Yoruba person shares his last wishes with his best friend.
Also important are clubs that grow out of childhood associations. When a group of young friends starts spending time together, they form a club.
They choose a name and invite an older man and woman to serve as advisors. The clubs continue through adulthood. They hold monthly meetings, with the members serving as hosts in turn.
Every Yoruba is born into a clan whose members are descended from a common ancestor.
Descent is patrilineal—both sons and daughters are born into the clan of their father. Clan members live in a large residential area called a compound. The males are born, married, and buried in it. Females live in the compound of their birth until they marry.
Then they go to live with their husbands. The eldest male, or Baale, is the head of the compound. A husband is responsible for settling quarrels within his own family.
However, if he is unsuccessful or if an argument involves members of two different families, it is referred to as the Baale.
Within the compound, the immediate family consists of a man, his wife, and their children.
The Yoruba practice polygyny (having more than one wife). Each wife and her children are considered a sub-family. They have a separate room within the husband’s and they share possessions.
Each mother cooks for her own children only. A man is expected to treat each wife equally. However, wives compete to gain additional favours for their own children.
The father is strict and distant. Often, he sees little of his children. When they are young, children of co-wives play together. However, as they grow older, they usually grow apart because of quarrels over possessions.
Clothing Facts about western Nigeria
Western-style dress is worn in urban areas. Traditional clothing is still worn on important occasions and in rural areas. It is very colourful and elaborate.
Traditional fabrics were block printed with geometric designs. Women wear a head tie made of a rectangular piece of fabric.
Yoruba people carry babies or young children on their backs by tying another rectangular cloth around their waists. A third cloth may be worn over the shoulder as a shawl over a loose-fitting, short-sleeved blouse. A larger cloth serves as a wrap-around skirt.
The Yoruba diet consists of starchy tubers, grains, and plantains. These are supplemented by vegetable oils, wild and cultivated fruits and vegetables, meat, and fish.
The daily family diet relies on cassava, yam, taro, maize, beans, and plantains. One of the most popular foods is pounded yam (Iyan), similar to a dumpling, but made of yam (white yam or cocoyam). Rice is eaten on special occasions. The recipes are very popular and are usually served together.
The Yoruba oral tradition includes praise poems, tongue twisters, hundreds of prose narratives and riddles, and thousands of proverbs.
Yoruba music includes songs of ridicule and praise, as well as lullabies, religious songs, war songs, and work songs. These usually follow a “call and response” pattern between a leader and a chorus.
Rhythm is provided by drums, iron gongs, cymbals, rattles, and hand clapping. Other instruments include long brass trumpets, Ivory trumpets, whistles, stringed instruments, and metallophones.
Perhaps the most interesting musical instrument is the “talking drum.” The “talking drum” features an hourglass shape with laces that can be squeezed to tighten the goatskin head, altering the drum’s pitch.
Crafts include weaving, embroidering, pottery making, woodcarving, leather and bead working, and metalworking.
All individual weave, using different types of looms. Cloth is woven from wild silk and from locally grown cotton.
Men also do embroidery, particularly on men’s gowns and caps, and work as tailors and dressmakers. Floor mats and mat storage bags are also made by men.
Women are the potters. In addition to palm oil lamps, they make over twenty kinds of pots and dishes for cooking, eating, and carrying and storing liquids.
Woodcarvers, all of whom are men, carve masks and figurines as well as mortars, pestles, and bowls.
Some Yoruba woodcarvers also work in bone, ivory, and stone. Blacksmiths work both in iron and brass to create both useful and decorative objects.
A noticeable aspect of Yorùbá social customs which remains visible is that of facial scarification.
The characteristic facial marks are the three long vertical strokes or the three short horizontal strokes on three or four short vertical strokes called pélé and àbàjà respectively.
There are variants of these two types and it is not impossible to identify the sub-group to which a bearer belongs simply by looking at the way the marks are made.
Among the Ànàgó, and the Kétu, evidence of Aja influence is to be seen in the adoption of two short vertical strokes at the temple and forehead in addition to the pélé or àbàjà.
Apart from the two popular types of facial marks, there is the long vertical stroke on each cheek characteristically called Ondó marks by the Yorùbá in Nigeria and called màlé by the local indigenes.
This type is seen mainly among the Áná, Işà and Ìdáìşà as well as a few Şábę lineages which have ancestral links with these sub-groups