History of the Yorubas

History of the Yorubas book by Samuel Johnson
History of the Yorubas Photo: tmblr (NIGERIA NOSTALGIA)

History of the Yorubas is a book of history by Samuel Johnson, covering the earliest times of Oduduwa to the beginning of the British protectorate. Although the writing of Yoruba history dates back to the late 19th Century and many Yoruba sub-groups also have their own oral histories and chronicles, Johnson’s account was naturally attended with more regard.

Johnson based his writing upon the stories of Oyo mendicant minstrels who are mostly flatterers, and on the accounts of such persons like David Kukomi, an Ibadan cleric who fought in the wars during Alaafin Abiodun’s era. Also from Josiah Oni, a trader, and intelligent observer blessed with long enough life to bridge different generations. A contemporary’s review of the book criticizes the author for misrepresenting the histories of the Ijebu and the Ijeshas, and for presenting the Oyo as the proper Yoruba people. The manuscript, which took Samuel twenty years to write, was lost in England in the hands of a publisher in 1899. Samuel died two years later. His brother, Obadaih Johnson, finally, against all the war-time disablements of the British publishing firm, brought the book to print in 1921.

The book is wrapped with a wish for the Yoruba to return to ‘universal peace with prosperity and advancement’ and the welding into one of ‘the disjointed units under one head’, as in the days of Alaafin Abiodun, the Oyo emperor.