Ekiti people

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Total population
~ 4,175,608 (2011-'16)
Regions with significant populations
Ekiti State - 3,270,798 (2016)[1]

Ondo State - 775,420
 • Akure North: 151,930
 • Akure South: 418,570
 • Ifedore: 204,920

Kwara State - 129,390
 • Ekiti: 63,200
 • Oke Ero: 66,190
Primarily: Christianity
Also: Yoruba religion • Islam

The Ekiti people are one of the largest historical subgroups of the larger Yoruba people of West Africa, located in Nigeria.[2] They are classified as a Central Yoruba group, alongside the Ijesha, Igbomina, Yagba and Ifes. Ekiti State is populated exclusively by Ekiti people; however, it is but a segment of the historic territorial domain of Ekiti-speaking groups. Which historically includes towns in Ondo and Kwara state, including Akure (the current capital and largest city of Ondo state), Ilara-Mokin, Ijare, and Igbara-oke. Irun, Ogbagi, Ese and Eriti in the Akoko region, as well as some towns in Kwara state.

The name Ekiti is a derivation of an earlier term, Okiti, which means "Hilly" in Yoruba, as characterized by the generally hilly terrain of the areas which the Ekiti inhabit. [3]

Language and dialect[edit]

The language commonly spoken by the Ekiti people is a distinct Yoruba dialect also named 'Ekiti'. Despite its comparatively large geographical spread, Ekiti remains relatively uniform within the areas where it is spoken. The dialect generally transients into Ijesha speech towards the west beyond the Effon ridge, and into Igbomina in the north and northwest towards the town of Omu Aran, both of which still fall within the Central Yoruba Continuum. Towards the northeast, away from the town of Ikole and Omuo, the dialect gradually fades into Yagba and Ijumu types respectively.


The Ekiti covers an area of 8,557 km², and are culturally bound by the Igbomina to the north, the Ijeshas to the west (The traditional Ekiti-Ijesha cultural boundary is at Ipetu-Ijesha). The Ondos are located to the southwest, the Owos to the southeast, and the [Akoko North-East|Akokos], Yagbas and Ijumus to the northeast.

Ekiti state is generally an upland zone, with elevations being generally above 450m throughout. Around Akure, elevations drop to around 360m. It lies on an area underlain by metamorphic rock, and is generally an undulating country with a characteristic landscape that consists of old plains broken by steep-sided outcrops that may occur singularly or in groups or ridges. Such outcrops can be seen in places at Aramoko, Efon-Alaiye, Ikere-Ekiti, Igbara-odo and Okemesi-Ekiti among others. Rugged hills dot the landscape, notable among which are the Olosunta hills of Ikere-Ekiti in the south, Effon ridge which runs longitudinally around Efon-Alaiye on the western boundary, and Ado Hills in the centre. The topography was perhaps the single strongest reason why the Ekitis never became a single unit politically. The area enjoys a tropical climate with two distinct seasons, these are the rainy season -which lasts from April to October- and the dry season which commences in late November and ends in March. Temperature ranges between 21°C and 28°C with high humidity. In the South, the vegetation is primarily Tropical hardwood forest, while a mixed/derived type savannah can be observed in the northern peripheries.

Local administration and population[edit]

After 1854, Akure and other Ekiti towns came under the rule of Ibadan and many settlements were destroyed. This lasted until a rebellion in 1876 followed by a prolonged war between the Yoruba states,[4] in which the Ekitis combined forces with the Ijeshas and some Akoko towns as Ekiti Parapo,[5] to resist Ibadan rule, led by Fabunmi Oke-Imesi and Ogedengbe of Ijeshaland.

Towards the end of the 19th century, the British, based on their Lagos Colony, had established a protectorate over the area; although they ruled through "native" administrations. The British sought to combine the Ekiti kingdoms of the region into a single administrative unit, against resistance by the Ekiti people who preferred local autonomy. In 1899, Ekiti and Ilesha formed the north-eastern division of the protectorate. In 1915, Ekiti, Owo and Ondo were combined to form the Ondo Province with headquarters at Akure.[6]

In looking at the creation of Native Authorities at Oke-Imo, Ilesa in 1900 by Major Reeve Tucker and the re-organization of North East District in December, 1912; the separation of Ijesa, Ekiti and other areas on 1 January, 1913, and the creation of Ekiti Native Authority with its headquarters at Ado-Ekiti, conflicts and agitations for local autonomy had pervaded politics of traditional institutions in Ekitiland. When the British moved their administrative centre for Ekiti District to Ado-Ekiti in 1913 where the Ewi holds sway, the change in political status of Ado-Ekiti spurred a desire in other traditional authorities across Ekitiland to further demand for local autonomies. The heightened struggle did not give credibility to the fact that Ado-Ekiti which was eventually picked was already the official and major administrative capital of Ekitiland since 1 January , 1913, nor did it occur to the agitators that it had over time become a second home for all Ekiti people irrespective of their hometown of the place of origin. Hence, the struggle for relevance and supremacy which continued to rear its head is worth a fuller study and understanding at find lasting solutions.

In a similar vein, when the British mooted the idea of recognizing a paramount ruler for Ekitiland; as it did in Ijebu and Egbaland where the Awujale and the Alake became paramount rulers; its agents faced resistance from Ekiti Obas who opposed the mode of listing and role of traditional rulers at Oke-Imo meetings. The attempt by British colonial enterprise to impose a sole native authority in Ekitiland in pursuit of its indirect rule policy failed because of the rejection of the supremacy theory among Ekiti Obas. Every attempt to further centralize traditional political authorities under the Ewi of Ado-Ekiti with Ado-Ekiti as the capital of Ekitiland, despite the ingenuity of its experimentation, was also resisted. The creation of colonial territories which transformed into modern statehood after the various colonial interests, left Africa and resulted to the division of existing traditional communities. Ondo Province later became part of Western State. In 1976, the old Ondo State was formed and in 1996, Ekiti State was split off from the modern Ondo State, which has Akure as its capital.



Part of a series on
Yoruba people



  • Ehin Ogbe
  • Bolojo
  • Obitun
  • Biripo
  • Bata Olele
  • Ijala
  • Gelede
  • Ekun Iyawo/Rara
  • Dadakuada
  • Oriki
  • Esa
  • Alamo
  • Gbedu
  • Iremoje
  • Ewi
Notable Personalities
List of Yoruba people
Opon Ifá
Odù Ifá
Awo & Ogberi
Legendary creatures
Ebora & Imale
Abiku & Emere
Ẹbọ & Ètùtù
Festivals & Events

West Africa:


Yoruba bowl from the Ekiti cultural area

Ekiti State, Nigeria was created on 1st October, 1996 along side five other states by the late Head of state and Commander-in-Chief of Armed Forces of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, General Sani Abacha, GCON in a nation-wide broadcast to mark the 36th Independence anniversary of Nigeria. The State, carved out of Ondo State, covers the former twelve local government areas that made up the Ekiti Zone of old Ondo State. [7] Ekiti as a nation within the Yoruba race has her progenitor in Oduduwa, Just like every other major sub-ethnic division in Yorubaland. However, unlike the more centralized kingdoms and city-states to the West, the Ekitis traditionally lived in smaller, less politically centralized kingdoms that were largely independent of one another, although they traded together, and the ruling families of the various kingdoms were involved in dynastic marriages. The boundary of modern Ekitiland was shifted several times within a spate of 23 years without regard for the existing practice and norms for identifying or creating traditional boundaries in the African traditional society. Some of the major Ekiti settlements affected by the shift in boundary for political and administrative realignment are as follows:

Ekiti settlements transferred to Northern Nigeria in the colonial era.[edit]

  • Otun (Awtun) Kingdom - Otun, Ekan, Aaye Ekan, Iloffa, Eruku, Idofin, Ilale, Erinmope, Ipetu, Orota, Ola.
  • Obbo (Obo) Kingdom - Osi, Ora Aiyetoro, Ejiu.
  • Omuo-Ekiti & neighbors - Omuo, Oyin, Iro, Afin, parts of Egbe oba Kingdom.
  • Eka Community - Erinmope Ekiti, Aare Opin, Isolo Opin, Isare Opin, Osi, Ikerin Opin, Oke Opin, Epe Opin, Owaatun Opin, Etan, Obbo-Ayegunle, Onno-Ile, Eruku, Ajuba, Isapa, Ejiu and others.

Ekiti settlements transferred to the Ondo/Owo regions under colonial Nigeria.[edit]

Ekiti used to exist as 16 Principal Kingdoms or Confederation with each Ekiti Senior Oba superintending over its areas - a Kingdom or city-state. There was never a centralized singular political unit among Ekiti people. Even though the Oore of Otun Ekiti, a town to the north of the Ekiti cultural area was considered the most senior of Ekiti Kings since the advent of British occupation of Ekitiland to the later end of Nigeria's colonial rule, the senior Ekiti Obas of Akure (Deji), Ado (Ewi) and Ikere (Ogoga) presided over the largest towns, and Akure was the Ekiti town with the closest links to Benin.

The view of a section of Ekiti historians like Atolagbe, who adduced to the pre-eminence of Oore as the most senior Yoruba and Ekiti Oba was linked to the fact that Oore signed the 1886 peace treaty which the British coordinated with Alaafin of Oyo and the Oowa Obokun among others. The Oba of Benin was also made to enter into treaty with the Alaafin of Oyo. Under this treaty, Ekiti, Ondo, Edo were considered part of his traditional areas of influence and it would be free of Oyo territorial incursions, while the Alaafin of Oyo would have the Western and Northern Yoruba territories, including parts of the non-Yoruba speaking neighbours like the Nupe, Ibariba and Aja in Dahomey (Now Benin).[8] Samuel Rowe, the then Governor of Gold Coast Colony documented some useful hints concerning the pre-eminence of Oore of Otun on May 29, 1883, when he said in his own words:

"Ekiti Parapo is a name given to the confederation of "Efon tribes". There are said to be 132 kings among them. The principal of these kings is one Oray (Oore)".

Due to a controversy between the Northern Government and the administration of Major Reeves Tucker, the territories of Otun, Obo, Ishan, Aiyede and Ikole were carved out of the South and then merged with the territories of Northern Nigeria. Subsequently, and following the readjustment of the boundary between the Ekiti (Southern) and Kabba (Northern) divisions in 1909, Ishan, Aiyede and Ikole returned to the Ekiti division while Otun, Obo and others remained in the North, under Ilorin division. In the period of Owore's absence in Ekitiland, the idea of Ekiti council of Obas died away. There was no meeting of the council held throughout the period due to lack of acceptable leadership among all the Obas. Leadership naturally fell to the Ewi of Ado who in fact represented the Ekiti Obas at the conference of Yoruba Obas held at Ibadan in 1939. Following the return of Otun town to the Ekiti Division in 1936, the council of Ekiti Obas was re-introduced in form of Pelupelu from "Pe Olu" i.e. "The calling of Lords", and Oore was again made the president. In the biography of H.R.H. Oba Aladesanmi, the then Ewi of Ado Ekiti, he said:

"I am in the third position in Ekiti Division Council of Traditional Rulers which has Ajero of Ijero Ekiti as the second. The senior one, Oore of Otun had his district transferred to Ilorin Emirate Council which was later returned to Ekiti division of Ondo province after much agitation from the people to the government".

Another school of history, however, contested the supremacy of Oore as the most senior Oba in Ekiti for several reasons. First, is that Oore did not possess the largest kingdom in the pre-colonial era like Ewi of Ado-Ekiti and Deji of Akure. He was more of a mercenary (errand or junior) King at Kiriji war unlike principal kings who hardly leave their palaces ordinarily even in the face of war as attested to the Ewi, except when his town relocated for a while due to Benin hordes invasion. The Ewi controlled territories that are as large as 10 out of 16 Local Government Areas of present-day Ekiti State while Oore controlled only one. Atolagbe noted that Oore was not a Prince of Oduduwa dynastic reign but a friend or benefactor. Hence, he was rather a native personality integrated into Yoruba culture under dynastic reign of Oduduwa and his successors, children and grandchildren including Ewi, Ajero, Alara and Elekole who are direct descendants of Oduduwa. Hence, Oore could not stand in equal stead customarily and traditionally with Oduduwa's sons and grandsons. He could not have been the most senior Yoruba king in Ekitiland, even if he's an Ekiti native Oba that survived or a follower of Obatala that was conquered. Reference to Oore in Ifa tranche only deduced that he was an Ifa follower too, whereas the same Ifa section mentioned that Ado-Ekiti is the home (abode) of Ifa, which invariably made Oore an adherent where the Ewi is a superior custodian of Ifa religion.

Moreover, the pelupelu which Oore chaired at the advent of kiriji war in Otun has few principal Obas in attendance which did not include Ewi, Deji and Ogoga to mention a few. It was a meeting regarded as of less importance except for the coalition of warriors and mobilization of hunters for Ekiti war of liberation spearheaded by Fabunmi. There records that pelupelu held before then were often held in Ado-Ekiti under Ewi, peradventure the Obas never met, because tradition forbade Obas from looking into each other’s eyes in Yorubaland before the arrival of the British. The pelupelu where Oore was recognized by the British as the most senior Oba was an imposition at Oke-Imo in 1900 by Major Tucker, owing to recognition of his heroic contributions to Kiriji wars and signing of its 1886 treaty, the age of the Oore at the time of the meeting, a mistake in the itinerary of Tucker's visit to Ekiti upon which he accorded Oore a higher status and the role Oore played as the first Ekiti Oba to accept British colonial rule in Ekitiland. Otherwise, the history of Oore where he mentioned a co-equal and friendly role with Oduduwa was never accepted in Ile-Ife tradition as true, but a fabrication of traditions.

According to Babatola, the fact that a school of Yoruba history regarded Oore as Prince of Ile-Ife, while others referred to him as a follower of the Obatala, whom Oduduwa deposed as the senior chief among Ife group heads that he met on arrival at Ife, is enough reason to ask more questions. On the other part, Falegan insisted that Oore cannot claim any supremacy or superiority that he did not deserve or enjoy in Ekitiland beyond early colonial rule. He insisted that if Oore is a son of Oduduwa, his prominence or status would be in the listing of the eldest or prominent children of Oduduwa who made spectacular gains in their adventurous sojourn away from Ile-Ife, particularly those who drifted towards Ekitiland. Otherwise, if Oore is an Obatala follower who survived as a native entity that Oduduwa met at Ile-Ife and integrated, he could not promote himself in tradition above the new dynastic reign of Oduduwa and his sons in Yorubaland.

Falegan, therefore, remarked thus: "The supremacy of Oore as the most senior Oba in Ekiti is contestable for several reasons... He was more of a mercenary (errand or junior) King at Kiriji war, unlike principal kings who hardly leave their palaces ordinarily even in the face of war as attested to the Ewi... The Ewi controlled territories that are as large as 10 out of 16 Local Government Area of present-day Ekiti State while Oore controlled only a Local Government". Atolagbe noted that Oore was not a Prince of Oduduwa dynastic reign but a benefactor or friend. How then did he become a king, if he was neither a son of Oduduwa nor his lieutenant? The linkage of Oore to Obatala from other sources shows that Oore was either a prominent Ifa Chief or Obatala follower who came to Ekitiland, if he was not a native king integrated into Yoruba culture under the dynastic reign of Oduduwa and his successors, children and grandchildren... He could not have been the most senior Yoruba king in Ekitiland, even if he's not an Ekiti native Oba or Ife native or a follower of Obatala. Reference to Oore in Ifa section only deduced that he was an Ifa follower too, whereas the same Ifa section mentioned that Ado-Ekiti is the home (abode) of Ifa, which invariably made Oore a follower while the Ewi who superintends over Ado would naturally remain the superior custodian of Ifa religion... The pelupelu where Oore was recognized by the British as the most senior Oba was an imposition at Oke-Imo in 1900 by Major Reeves Tucker. Otherwise, the history of Oore where he adduced to be a co-equal or friend of Oduduwa was never accepted in Ile-Ife tradition as a legend, but a fabrication of traditions.

Babatola similarly reviewed the version of oore history presented by Atolagbe and other Moba historians and submitted thus: "Atolagbe reconstruction of Moba history and the place he advocated for Oore in Yoruba and Ekiti history to boost the status of Oore in the eyes of all the world as the most senior Ekiti Oba is a grievous injury to Yoruba history. Indeed, it has an element of profoundly damaging conjuncture of tradition and culture in our history that should be redressed to the extent of its fallacies or distortion. Though the damage done is reversible through the harmonization of different traditions of Ekiti people to expose his delicacies of concoction and false claims, Atolagbe attempted most likely to also score a point against Ekiti Obas who opposed Oore’s listing ahead of them at Oke-Imo meetings in finding a medium of restoring Oore pre-eminence that was gained at the close of kiriji and early years of British colonial rule in Ekitiland."

With the creation of Ekiti Native Authority (Ekiti Division) at Ado-Ekiti in January 1913, and Akure becoming the provincial centre, and correspondingly with its growth in size and status, the pre-eminence of the Oore and the prominence of Ewi was gradually resolved politically.

Kenyo compiled a list of 104 Ekiti autonomous communities existing in the 1950s with names of their traditional (natural) rulers who came from Ile-Ife or Benin and other places to Ekitiland, though some are now located outside Ekiti State. Despite the fact that the numbers of autonomous communities in Ekitiland was 104 in 1955 (with some of these towns eventually transferred to neighboring Ondo, Kogi and Kwara States), the number of autonomous local communities in present Ekiti state in 2014 has increased to 134 due to official interventions and government proclamations. The latent question to ask here is whether the Ekiti Obas and their communities who later got local autonomy were initially affected by British re-organization of Ekiti towns or they were subjugated under larger kingdoms or communities for a long period of time before they successfully asserted their autonomy or whether other issues resulted to their differences, demand for separation, demand for local autonomies from the time of British colonial rule till now.


  1. ^ http://www.nigerianstat.gov.ng/report/475
  2. ^ "The World Factbook — Central Intelligence Agency". www.cia.gov. Retrieved 2018-06-12.
  3. ^ Johnson, Samuel (1921). The History of the Yorubas. Cambridshire, England: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 9780511702617.
  4. ^ Jeremy Seymour Eades (1980). The Yoruba today. CUP Archive. p. 9. ISBN 0-521-22656-2.
  5. ^ "Ekiti people". Litcaf. 2017-02-02. Retrieved 2017-06-04.
  6. ^ Andrew Herman Apter (1992). Black critics & kings: the hermeneutics of power in Yoruba society. University of Chicago Press. p. 166. ISBN 0226023427.
  7. ^ http://www.ngex.com/nigeria/places/states/ekiti.htm
  8. ^ http://www.otun.ekiti.com/