a picture showing moyo okediji poised for the camera



This morning, a friend of mine who is a professor at a university here in Texas woke me up with, “Hey Moyo, what is the meaning of Yoruba?”

This professor called me on WhatsApp video.

Disinformation is as old as the human tongue.

Let me take that back.

Disinformation predates the human tongue.

Disinformation started with the body language of making signs.

When you smile, when you really are plotting to hit a fellow, that is disinformation.

The dictionary describes disinformation as “false information which is intended to mislead, especially propaganda issued by a government organization to a rival power or the media.”

The disinformation first fed the Yoruba people by their northern neighbor is that their Yoruba name started as Yariba, and that they, the smart northerners, named them when they were not smart enough to name themselves.

It is like telling the Igbo people that their name is actually Ibo that the Yoruba people call them, and that we, the smart Yoruba people, named them when they had no name.

It won’t work. The Igbo man would just smile and continue his trading, thinking these Ngbati-ngbati people are going crazy again.

But for some reason, the Yoruba people, especially their intellectuals who have read too many books for their own good, would believe anything.

It is out of this confusion that the learned professor, quite worried, called me this morning and asked me, “What is the meaning of Yoruba?”

“Professor, what kind of question is this so early in the morning?” I responded.

“I’m worried,” He said. “Someone just told me that the northerners gave us that name.”

“Disinformation,” I said.

“Disinformation?” he asked. “But they didn’t have social media back then.”

“They had the grapevine,” I responded. “It was just as effective as your cellphone.”

“But they told me they read it in the white man’s books,” the prof protested.

“Yes, you will find the disinformation in the white man’s book and also in the Arabic writings of northerners. They collaborated in their disinformation propaganda against the Yoruba people.”

“But why would they do that,” asked the prof. “I studied geology. I don’t know any history beyond Mungo Park discovered River Niger.”

“Mungo Park discovered River Niger is just another disinformation,” I said.

“Yeah, I heard about that disinformation,” he responded. “But tell me more about the Yoruba disinformation. They said Yoruba comes from Yariba.”

“Does that makes any sense to you?” I asked.

“Nothing makes any sense anymore in this age of fake news,” he said.

“Fake news is not new,” I said. “You know we the Yoruba call the Igbo people Ibo.”

“Yes, we do,” he agreed.

“Now, can we go about saying we named them? Isn’t that like the MUNGO PARK story, can’t you see?”

“True. They were already Igbo before we started calling them Ibo. Just like the river was already there before Mungo park got there.”

“The same with the Yoruba people,” I explained. “We were already Yoruba before the northerners who couldn’t pronounce the word correctly called us Yariba.”

“If that is true, then what does Yoruba mean in the Yoruba language?” he wanted to know.

“What does Olu mean in the Yoruba language,” I asked rhetorically.

“Olu is olu. It means mushroom in English,” he responded. “What sort of a silly question is that?”

“In the same way, Yoruba is Yoruba,” I answered. “It means us. It is the sound that refers to our collective identity as Ijesa, Ekiti, Ondo, Ijebu, Ife, Ilaje, Igbomina, Egba, Oyo, Owo, Anago, Eku, and other sub-groups.”

“That actually makes some sense,” the professor said. “So Yariba and Mungo Park are just disinformation?”

“Prof, you remember that when we were at the University of Ife, we called you Ẹyẹ the Bird,” I reminded him. “What does that mean?”

He cut off the video call.

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