Home The Oyo Empire History A Brief History of the Old Oyo Empire
A Brief History of the Old Oyo Empire

pix-007The old Oyo Empire was one of the earliest and probably, the greatest independent race in West Africa, South of the equator. At the height of its existence, the old Oyo Empire dominated all Yoruba kingdoms namely Ife, Ijesha, Egba, Ijebu, Sabe and Owu. The area occupied by the Yoruba kingdom in South-West Nigeria, is roughly enclosed by latitude 5 and 8 degree north of the equaror and Longitude 5 and 21/2 degree east. There are two versions to the origin of the Yoruba race migration and aboriginality. These two theories may not necessarily be contradictory in the sense that our oral tradition was handed down to us by purely non-natives


But this is a universal phenomenon because if you realize that at one time in history, you have the whites in South Africa, the Eastern and Southern Rhodesia, all living together on the basis of long co-existence. The same experience is also recorded in the case of migration, as there are historical and empirical evidences documented in the famous Lugard lecture series, as well as in the researches of Saburi Biobaku, (the world acclaimed historian) that the Yoruba race is large and wide, that is stands today as the greatest and strongest empire ever, in the continent of Africa.

The reign of Oranmiyan marked a new phase in Yoruba history as it witnessed the executive transfer of political power from Ile-Ife to Oyo, and thereafter, Oyo became the political headquarters of the yoruba race, and that is where the Alaafin presides from.

According to historical studies, the Oyo palace is estimated to be sitting on about 640 acres. We still have excavations of the old Oyo empire, and centuries after, some of the walls of the Capital of old Oyo empire, are still standing in its original form. That is a great testimony of the architectural ingenuity of the Yoruba race.

The old Yoruba Empire distinguished itself in the world, with three very distinctive and unique models. First, it evolved a wonderfully developed constitution, though unwritten. The average Yoruba man is governed by strong convention. Secondly, the Yorubas evolved a military system that allows then to develop weaponry. The Yorubas are the first to smith iron and thus, they built foundries from where they also produced agricultural implements to boost food production. Thirdly, the Yoruba race, evolved a very practical method of administration, by adopting the cabinet system of governance if you are a good student of the evolution of British Constitution, you’d know that the cabinet system came about in Britain only as a matter of temporal expedience, it was not by design, So, as far back as the 16th Century, the old Oyo Empire developed the cabinet system of government. And from the Prime Minister, to the Alaafin, and the various divisional heads, all tiers have thier roles and responsibilities clearly spelt out and adhered to with separation of powers, and inputs for checks and balances.

The military command structure is so unique that the Aare Ona Kankanfo as the generalissimo of the military led the Oyo warlords successfully to many battles between the 13th and 16th century that preserved the territorial integrity of the Yoruba race, and during this time, Oyo extended its territorial limits to Nupe, Dahomey, Abome, Weme, and other parts of Togo land, and today, these people are off-shots of the great Yoruba kingdom.