The Yoruba view of the universe

I am standing here before you today in response to the invitation by the Nile University who has deemed it fit to honour me with the degree of Science (Honoris Causa). As I said elsewhere, the Alaafin of Oyo who is the king and head of Yorubaland, is the custodian of intellectualism and civilisation, developed  and sustained by Yoruba from time in memorial. In the cosmological belief of Yoruba, there are eight planets of manifestations.  In Yoruba language, it refers to ‘Sanmo Mejo, Ile Mejo’ i.e. the eight planetary systems with the sun at the centre while other  planets revolve round it. There are eight planets in the solar  system in order of increasing  distance from the sun; there are four terrestrials, mercury, venus, earth, and mars. Then the four giant planets are jupiter, saturn, uranus and neptune.

The earth is our own world. How our Yoruba ancestors came about this scientific  postulation was unknown. The study of science has enabled man to know this part of Universe called the solar system, meaning the system of the Worlds to which our Earth belong and of which the sun is the centre.  Every time that a planet Earth, for example, turns .round itself on its own orbit it make.: what we called day and night and every time it goes entirely round the sun, it makes what we called a year. Consequently, our World turns 365 times round itself in going once round the sun. There is an axiom in Yoruba Language which says ‘biri biri laye nyi aye ko duro soju kan. ile nsu ile nmo, olojo nkajo’.

Let us now consider the distance of other worlds to the sun. For instance, the distance of Mercury from the sun is 34 million miles (57.91 million km) that of Venus is 57 million miles (108.2 million km).  The planet, which human “beings inhabit i.e Earth, is 88 million miles to the sun (149.6 million km). Mars’ distance from the sun is 134 million miles (227.9 million km). Jupiter is 557 million miles (778.5 million km). The distance of Saturn to the sun is 763 million miles (1434 billion km). The planet Neptune is 4.495 billion km distance to the sun. Planet Uranus is more than 19 times farther from the sun than earth is. Uranus is an average distance of 1,783,939, 400 miles (2,870, 972, 200 km) from the sun.

This is because its orbit is elliptical, the closest Uranus to the sun is 1,699,800,000 miles (2,735, 560, 000 km). When one of the most respected and revered monarchs in Yorubaland (now diseased) once said that his ancestor descended from heaven to earth by chains and I was asked the question by a reporter to comment on the assertion made by the Royal Father, I just laughed and waved the question aside.

This was because my knowledge of science says there is no heaven but the immensity of space that our solar system takes up for several worlds to perform evolution as vividly quoted above ( see Herchei’s outline of Astronomy, part III Chapter xv).  What is space? According to Thomas Paine in his immortal book, The Age of Reason, space is the air or immensity of space, that our solar system takes up for the several worlds to perform the evolutions round the sun. Saturn moves round the sun, which being doubles its distance from the sun, is fifteen hundred and twenty six million miles, and its circular extent is nearly five thousand million, and its global content is almost three thousand five hundred million times three thousand five hundred million square miles.  I distinctly remember the first time I saw the image of the Habble Deep field, it was one of those rare moments when you actually “fee!” the immensity of space and the vast size of the universe. It was one of those humbling moments when I suddenly realised how tiny a speck our earth is, and how much I still had to learn – both about our own corner of the universe and how to protect the fragile world we live on.

In conclusion, I wish to thank most heartily, the authority, the proprietor of the Nile University, Abuja, for deeming it fit to honour me with Doctorate Degree of Science (Honoris Causa). As a researcher, this will further ginger me in my pursuit of knowledge in all ramifications.

  • Being acceptance speech by his Imperial Majesty, Oba (Dr) Lamidi Olayiwola Adeyemi III, the Alaafin of Oyo during an award of Doctor of Science (honoris causa) by Nile University, Abuja on Saturday 27th October and read by his representative, Oba Moshood Aweda Lawal Arowoduye II, Iba Of Kishi.
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