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Aje Festival 2019: Deconstruction of manufactured myth on Yoruba ancestral ties with Igbos

The proclamations by His Majesty, Oba Adeyeye Ogunwusi, the Ooni of Ife, at the 2019 AJE Festival: first, praising Igbos as most industrious people and second, claiming they originated from Ife, have generated significant uproar among Yorubas around the world. While many wondered why he would thrust such controversy into his young reign, others expect more of this rhetoric to come from Ooni’s office as His Majesty pursues his new agenda.

I come from Ilesha. The native Ijeshas pride themselves as highly industrious and as world-class commerce-specialists (Oso-maalos). Further, they have produced early West-African Business moguls (S. B. Bakare, I. O. Ajanaku, Lawrence Omole), along with Ijebu/Egba (Timothy Odutola) and Lagos-based Yorubas like Mobolaji Bank-Anthony, Shafi Edu, Ade Tuyo, and Talabi Braithwaite. These successful Yorubas all competed with the two most successful West African business merchants of all time: Candido Da Rocha (son of Esan Da Rocha) and Alhassan Dantata. These last two were similar to the top two West African business moguls of today: Aliko Dangote and Mike Adenuga. It is my understanding that Yorubas are industrious and are second to none, from the beginning of time up until today, when it comes to “legitimate” businesses and commerce.

Addressing the first claim, His Majesty, Iku Baba Yeye, Oba Alaafin of Oyo, on May 2, 2019, went deep into history and chronicled the origin of Aje (commerce) and the cowry (owoeyo) which had been used as the medium of exchange for goods and services among Yorubas for thousands of years before the European’s arrival on our soil. He further provided centuries of detailed historical facts and cited our ancient civilisation and the prominent ‘Oyo’ Empire. He further gave examples of Yorubas being first in many human fields, including a Yoruba man translating the Holy Bible from English into Igbo language for our Eastern-Nigerian Igbo brothers. Yorubas have been blessed to be first in Nigeria in almost every human endeavour. Yoruba history, which predates Christ (B.C.), cannot be rewritten overnight into a short story of Nigerian history from 1914.

I intend to help clarify the second claim. I am a third generation physician-scientist, and the nephew of the first Cardiologist in West Africa, Professor Mabayoje, from Fajemisin-Mabayoje-Ariyo compound in Ilesha. It is with utmost respect and humility, that I appear before you today, standing on the shoulders of great scientific scholars that have lived before me, to help review and clarify the scientific and genetic research data available on this matter, to date.

The human genome project was an international scientific research project and the world’s largest collaborative biological project. At its launch in 1990, the goal was to determine the sequence of the structure of all human DNA, identifying and mapping all of the genes of the human genome. The gene donors were Yoruba people in Ibadan, Nigeria, Han Chinese in Beijing, Japanese people in Tokyo, and the French Centre d’Etude du Polymorphisme Humain (CEPH) resource, and Americans having ancestry from Western and Northern Europe. At its completion in 2003, we unveiled the nature’s blueprint of constructing a human being, something that took nature three and a half billion years to create.

Evidence from this research showed that all humans share 99% genetic codes. In fact, we share the same 99% with our human cousin, the chimpanzee. Thus, human genetic variability accounts for less than 1%. However, while we appear to be all the same, the “genome” of any given individual is unique and no two humans are genetically identical. Thus, there is a genetic divergence. In fact, the genetic variability among Africans is more than all the other continents combined. That 1% variability among humans also accounts for the variability among dark-skinned Africans and light-skinned Non-Africans in other continents, as well as brown-eyed people and blue/green-eyed humans in this world. Further, each human has 60 new mutations compared to their parents.

There is no scientific or genetic research that proves that Yoruba and Igbo have a direct common origin, other than the fact that we are humans, and thus, share 99% genetic codes with every human being on the planet, be it Europeans, Japanese, Hausas, Igbos or Fulanis. No scientific or genetic research data is available to support Yoruba and Igbo having a singular origin. There has been a constant misinterpretation of scientific/genetic data and misleading headlines in Nigerian print and social media. Data showed that, as part of an African American Diabetes Mellitus (AAMD) study, the genetic study of four groups: Yorubas in Western Nigeria, two ethnic groups from Ghana (Gaa and Akan-Adangbe) and Igbos in Eastern Nigeria, found the same 99% correlations across the board. Further, the genetic study of Yorubas, Hausa/Fulanis and Igbos, in Nigeria, showed similar 99% correlations.

However, just like every human being is unique, each of these groups is genetically unique within the genetic variability of less than 1%. In 2018, researchers from the University of California, Los Angeles, (UCLA), discovered a new species of ancient Hominin (Homo sapiens) in the genomes of the Yoruba people, in West Africa. This ‘Ghost’ Hominin DNA is found only in Yoruba people of West Africa.

The Western region belongs to Yoruba, it is Yorubaland and no one is going to claim our ancestral land from us. Eastern region belongs to Igbo, it is Igboland and no one is going to claim it from them. We both live parallel in peace in this amalgamated Nigeria. There should be no ambiguity here. There is a reason the British gave each group their regions. Yoruba know where they come from and Igbos know where they come from. Neither Yoruba nor Igbos has Jewish ancestry. The theory of Jewish ancestry in Nigeria has been discredited and abandoned. The Israeli Blood and DNA experts concluded that none of the 250 ethnics groups in Nigeria has Jewish ancestry. The last confirmed African Jews were airlifted from Ethiopia to Israel in May 1991 in “Operation Solomon”, a follow up to ‘Operation Moses’ and ‘Operation Joshua’.

Availability of genetic data has allowed researchers to gain enormous knowledge for future prevention and treatment of diseases like cancer, asthma, hypertension and diabetes. Our physician-scientists at the University of Ibadan in collaboration with the National Institute of Health, USA, have provided a whole new disease-oriented genetic information on Africans, like the first genome scan for obesity, first genome-wide linkage analysis for serum lipids, the first study of genetic structure in West Africans using genome-wide markers and the first genome-wide association study (GWAS) for hypertension and blood pressure in African Americans. This incredible genetic work remains indelible and representative for the entire Black race worldwide.

As I stated earlier, the Wealth of knowledge in Yorubaland is second to none in Nigeria or Africa. We need to apply this knowledge with prudence. It is my hope that this piece will contribute to truth-finding and our two Paramount Obas will find common ground, join with the Young Yoruba Leadership, and help channel a new agenda that will unite us at this challenging time in Yorubaland. The world is counting on us like the weight of the Black race rest on our shoulders.

Ki Ade pe lori; Ki bata pe lese.

Your Obedient Son,

Sincerely,

Abraham Adeniran Ariyo, MD, MPH, FACC.

Omo Owa Obokun of Ijeshaland

Director, HeartMasters Cardiology

Dallas, Texas, USA.

About the author: The Author obtained his Doctor of Medicine degree from the University of Ibadan and Master’s degree in Public Health, from Harvard University, with a concentration in Epidemiology, Biostatistics, Study design, Data analysis and Interpretations. He trained as an Internist at Howard University in Washington, DC, and in Interventional Cardiology at The Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, Maryland. He practices at HeartMasters Cardiology and Baylor Hospital Systems in Dallas, Texas. He has published scientific research in first-class peer-reviewed Journals: The Annals of Internal Medicine, Archives of Medicine, Journal of Cardiovascular Risk, Journal of the American College of Cardiology, Circulation, and The New England Journal of Medicine.

 

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