9. SUCCESSION

'A S0CIAL anthropological approach to property as a social institution leads us to the position where we look upon inheritance not as "the entrance of living persons into the possession of dead persons' property", (a), or even as "succession to all rights of the deceased", (b), but rather as the transference of statuses from the dead to the living with respect to specific property objects.'1 A man holds many statuses each of which probably gives rights and duties in respect of property; on his death these statuses do not necessarily pass to a single individual -- they may well pass individually to a number of persons, each of whom succeeds to the rights and duties of the particular status which has passed to him. The status may be transferred or may even disappear. If we analyse the Yoruba customary rules of succession in this manner we shall, I believe, be able to dispel some of the confusion which surrounds the concept of family property, with its attendant problems -- the respective rights of sons and brothers to the deceased's property, the rights of daughters to inherit, the rights attaching to individual and family or inherited property, the rights over individually held houses or cocoa farms situated on the family land.

We have seen in the preceding chapters that there is a considerable variety in the social and political structure of the Yoruba kingdoms. These have produced in the customary rules of inheritance some striking differences of detail within broad uniform principles. These arise from the fact that in Ekiti and in Egba (in the past, though less so today) succession to rights in land is in the male line; the corporate descent group is thus the patrilineage. In Ijebu and Ondo these rights may pass in both the male and female lines and hence cognatic descent groups are formed. In both types of corporate group the succession to rights within the group is basically similar.


O + ̩MO + ̩IYA AND O + ̩BAKAN: SEGMENTATION OF THE DESCENT GROUP

The Yoruba are a polygynous people; therefore the smallest unit of kin is not the biological family of father-mother-children, but the o + ̩mo + ̩iya (children of the mother), the children of one wife in the polygynous household.2 English-speaking Yoruba frequently use the term 'full

____________________
1
Hoebel, op. cit., pp. 59-60, quoting in turn (a) G. D. H. Cole, "Inheritance", Encyclopedia of the Social Sciences, VIII, 1932, p. 35, and (b) Bouvier's Law Dictionary, ed. W. E. Baldwin, 1934, p. 549.
2
The Yoruba use the terms o + ̩mo + ̩iya and o + ̩bakan to describe the relationship between named persons; thus: we/they are o + ̩mo + ̩iya (to one another). I do violence to the Yoruba language in using the terms to refer to a group of people; but this I prefer to repeatedly describing 'the group of people who are o + ̩mo + ̩iya to one another'.

-279-

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Yoruba Land Law
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Maps x
  • Preface xi
  • Part One - Concepts 1
  • 1. Prologue 3
  • 2. Customary Law 13
  • 3. Yoruba Towns 30
  • 4. Some Legal Concepts 60
  • Part Two - Four Kingdoms 95
  • 5. Ondo 97
  • 6. Ijebu 136
  • 7. Ado Ekiti 185
  • 8. Egba 225
  • Part Three - Some General Problems 277
  • 9. Succession 279
  • 10. Land and Credit 308
  • 11. the Sale of Land 326
  • 12. Equity 338
  • 13. Local Government Councils and Land 354
  • Appendix - The Volume of Litigation in Customary Courts 362
  • Select Bibliograph 364
  • Index 368
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