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The Oyo Empire

The Oyo Empire (1400-1830s) was a powerful Yoruba polity in what is today southwestern Nigeria. Situated in an ideal geographic location between the Volta and Niger River, the Oyo Empire became an important trade centre.

Oyo empire, Yoruba state north of Lagos, in present-day southwestern Nigeria, that dominated, during its apogee (1650–1750), most of the states between the Volta River in the west and the Niger River in the east. It was the most important and authoritative of all the early Yoruba principalities.

Oduduwa was a Yoruba divine king. According to tradition, he was the holder of the title of the Olofin of Ile-Ife, the Yoruba holy city.

According to traditions, Oyo derived from a great Yoruba ancestor and hero, Oduduwa, who likely migrated to Ile-Ife and whose son became the first alaafin (alafin), or ruler, of Oyo. Linguistic evidence suggests that two waves of immigrants came into Yorubaland between 700 and 1000, the second settling at Oyo in the open country north of the Guinea forest. This second state became preeminent among all Yoruba states because of its favourable trading position, its natural resources, and the industry of its inhabitants.

The role of Nigerian women

From precolonial times to the early 21st century, the role and status of women in Nigeria have continuously evolved. However, the image of a helpless, oppressed, and marginalized group has undermined their proper study, and little recognition has been granted to the various integral functions that Nigerian women have performed throughout history.

Women were also central to trade. Among the Yoruba, they were the major figures in long-distance trade, with enormous opportunities for accumulating wealth and acquiring titles. The most successful among them rose to the prestigious chieftaincy title of iyalode, a position of great privilege and power.In politics, women were not as docile or powerless as contemporary literature tends to portray them. The basic unit of political organization was the family, and in the common matrifocal arrangement, which allowed a woman to gain considerable authority over her children, a woman and her offspring could form a major bloc in the household. Power and privileges in a household were also based on age and gender, thereby allowing senior women to have a voice on many issues. Because the private and public arenas were intertwined, a woman’s ability to control resources and people in a household was at the same time an exercise in public power. She could use food production to gain respect. She could control her children and influence men through this power. She could evoke the power of the spirit or gods in her favour. Or she could simply withdraw and use the kitchen as her own personal domicile for interaction with her colleagues, friends, and children.

Decline and eventual Collapse Of The old Oyo Empire

Like all powerful kingdoms and empires in history, the Oyo Empire from the middle of the 18th century began to experience both internal and external crises which eventually to the breakdown of central authority. Some scholars and historians like G.O Oguntomisin have argued that the fall of the Oyo empire was as a result of the weakness of the constitution; as the unwritten constitution conferred so many powers on certain state officials who themselves exercised the powers in ways and manners that were against the interest of the Oyo empire. However, some are of the view that the empire grew so large and vast that it became too difficult to govern. In the points below, we are going to be looking at the reasons and factors responsible for the collapse of a kingdom so powerful that its influence and authority extended as far as Nupe land, Dahomey (Benin Republic), Porto Novo, etc. at the apex of its power.

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