Before the 20th century, the Akpe, Akure, Awori, Egba, Ekiti, Ijebu, Ilesha, Ijesha, Ijebu, Ilaje, Ondo, Owo, Oyo, etc., never referred to themselves Yoruba. Michael Crowder in his book, ‘Story of Nigeria’, stated that before the nineteenth century there was no one common term for the peoples now referred to as Yorubas. According to him, the word ‘Yoruba’ is a corruption of ‘Yaboo’, the Oyo people’s dialect. The Europeans of Christian Missionaries Society, the vanguard of the British Colonialist, in Abeokuta used this word to describe the other ethnic groups in the area of their sphere of influence. The Ẹdo people referred to the Oyo people as Olukumi, the Ondo people, as Emwan N’Udo and Akure, and Ẹkiti peoples as Ekhuẹ. Since the 15th-century Owo, Akure, and Ekiti have been vassals of the Benin Empire. Until 1917 there were many Benin merchants and settlers (Ẹdo N’ Ẹkhue), including Benin palace officials, Baale, in many Yoruba communities such as Atigiere, Ado Ekiti, Akure, etc.
Omo N’Ọba Ọrhogbua founded a military garrison (EKO) on an island now known as Lagos and Badagry in the 16th century. The cities remained Benin colonies until the mid 19th century. Ashipa the first Eleko of Eko, (king of Lagos), was a son of Orhogbua. The first Alani (king) of Idoani and Awujale (king) of Ijebu Ode, according to Edo narratives, were sons of Omo N’Oba Ozolua. Ondo was established by Osemwenughe, the Iyase of Udo, in the 16th century after he lost the last Benin/Udo war. The word, Ondo, is from the Edo word ‘Emwan N’Udo or fugitives from Udo. Also, the title of the Ondo king, Osemawe, is an altered form of Osemwenughe. Ikale (Eko Alile)and Akotogbo(Ago Otobo) were military camps established respectively by Alile and Odobo, two Benin war Chieftains, during the Benin/Udo war. Iken, a Benin war Chieftain and the overlord of Uselu, conquered the city-state of Owo in the 15th century. Owo remained a vassal of Benin until the late 1880s. Many communities in present-day Ondo/Akure states such as Itaogbolu, Ikere-Ekiti, Atigiere to mention a few, were founded by immigrants from Benin City during the reigns of the 15th and 16th century Benin warrior kings. Indeed the ruler of Itaogbolu is referred to as ‘odionwere’ and their communal diety is known as ‘Edugie’.
During Omo N’Oba Ehengbuda’s reign, the Owa (king) of Ilesha, Atakunmarha sought refuge in Benin City after his subjects dethroned him. His son was a renowned leopard hunter for the Benin king. He later became the first king of Akure to be addressed as Deji, a word from the Edo phrase Udezi or leopard killer. During, this period Osogboye, the crown prince of Owo, was an Omuada, royal sword-bearer, in the Benin king’s palace. The Ekiti saying ‘Oba Ado ngbogun lodo ile, Ogbomudu ngbe li orun, (The Oba of Benin makes wars on earth while Ogbomudu (thunder) makes war in the heavens testify to the overwhelming influence and supremacy of the Benin kings.
Those who claim and argue that the word Oba is a Yoruba word should make references to history books about Nigeria, and Nigerian Federal and regional governments gazettes before the 1950s. The British Colonial Authorities up till the 1920s referred to the king of Lagos as Eleko of Eko and not as the Oba of Lagos. Also the sane British Colonial Authorities and even the people of these ethnic groups that refer to themselves today as Yoruba never called these rulers or kings as ‘Oba’ prior to the 1940s. These kings were known and addressed as Oni of Ile-Ife, Olowo of Owo, Awujale of Ijebu, Onikoyi of Ikoyi, Alake of Abekuota Alaketu of Ketu, Alafin of Oyo, Deji of Akure, and Timi of Ede, Olu of Ibadan Alani of Idoani and Onisabe of Sabe, Osemawe of Ondo to mention a few. The appellation of Oba was unique to the king of Benin.
The word, Oba, is an abbreviation of the Edo phrase, omo no be uwa, the child who builds prosperity. It was the praise name of Omonoyan(Oronmiyan) son of Ekaladerhan whom the people of Uhe (Ile-Ife ) referred to as Oduduwa.