Ago that became Oyo and Oyo empire

The ancient Oyo Empire, established by the Yoruba people, controlled a wide area between the Volta and Niger and rivers by the mid seventeen century. The capital of the state was moved from old Oyo (Katunga) in 1930s and the Alaafin (Lord of the palace) of Oyo kingdom still reside in the city. Population: (1995) 250,100. The modern town of Oyo, seat of the Alafin, lies on the site of an earlier settlement named Ago. For centuries the capital of the Oyo empire lay 130 km north of this town on a site that is today completely depopulated, but about 1837 this town, Old Oyo, was abandoned. The Alafin and his followers moved south and settled at the small Egba township of Ago. The new site lay south of direct Fulani pressure but the Alafin’s personal acquaintance with Ago also probably played an important part in its selection as the new capital. A northern quarter of the present town, between the Awerintu and Ishowin streams, appears to lie on the actual site of Ago. The Alafin went to great lengths to make his new capital resemble Old Oyo: apart from the toponymic change and multiplying the town’s area several fold he founded a small religious precinct on the outskirts of the town dedicated to the Yoruba God, Shango. Today he is remembered by one of the grandest buildings in the town, the Atiba Hall, which lies adjacent to the town’s main market and the Alafin’s palace.

The Oyo Alaafin is an integral portion of the Yoruba nation that descended from the historical figure, Oduduwa or Olofin. According to historians, the Yoruba arrived in their present homes in waves from the ancient Meroe of the east of Sudan. Ile-Ife was their first principal centre of civilization. Oranyan (the first Alaafin) was the son of Oduduwa: all of them, met indigenous population that they conquered and assimilated. In different monarchial tradition as they arrived in waves from their original homes in the Sudan, they instituted various kingdoms: Oyo, Ife, Ijesa, Ijebu, Owu, Owo, Ekiti, Ondo, Ketu etc.

As the arrow head of Oyo people and the head of their monarchy referred to as Alaafin, the exercise of power saw him (Oranyan) as touching Ife, Edo Kingdom and eventually Oyo. A fighter and a warrior, the administration of his kingdom came to a bloom under his sons: Dada Ajuwon, Ajaka, Sango, Afonja, Aganju (with regent Iyayun, a female, when the monarch died and before Kori came of age to rule) and Oluaso.

Ajaka enjoyed two terms on the throne before and after Sango. Sango had several distinctions as a monarch:

He shifted the capital from Oko in the vicinity of Ogbomoso to old Oyo on the famous tributary of Nigeria River, called River Moshe.
He established the hegemony of the Alaafin over the Owu near Ogboro and in conflict; the later fled to Iwu Ogbere i.e. an area between Ife and Ijebu.
Sango was the product of intertribal marriage between a Nupe lady and the Alaafin.
He extended the area of Oyo Empire and so was able to exercise power over stretches of Rivers Niger and Ogun;
Particluarly, Osun and Oya waterways were named after his deified wives. They represent viable religions and deities over a wide range of Yorubaland.
Aganju was noted for erecting one hundred and twenty high rise gables and installing bronze and brass pillars as a way of enhancing the beauty of the Oyo-Ile palace.

Oluaso was suave, princely and blessed with about ten twins. Handsome and wealthy, he was the Solomon of the Alaafin monarchy. Allowing for historical telescoping of areas of events forgotten or badly remembered, bards could trim the issues to ensure intelligent presentation. But the areas thus covered could nearly approximate about 100A.D. to 1500A.D.

The Igboho period 1500-1600
Arising from the friction of the time of Sango and Nupe, when Onigbogi had dispatched the 70 Eso to Ita-Ibidun war, Etsu Jubrila of Nupe descended on the city and drove Onigbogi to Gbere in Bariba country near Saki. The unsuccessful introduction of Ifa also caused disaffection. Ofiran who succeeded his father moved other people to Kasu and the deity of Ife and Egungun were decently organized. The later was introduced from Nupe. The corpse of Onigbogi was rearranged in Saki. One item of importance was Sokia, an official with a coat of mail Sokia ti iwo ewu irin.

Igboho was founded by Egungun-oju. Here four Obas were buried and the city as Oyo capital subsisted from the middle of 16th Century to about 1600.

Oromopoto’s reign was remarkable for his investment in military resources to cope with the imperial aspirations of the next century. The employment of organized horsemen and foot-men in military formation which he copied from the kingdom’s northern neighbours was the asset of the nation. Under Ajiboyede. The Nupes led by their King Lajuo invaded Igboho and the patriotism of Osi Efa Ahanlapa saved the people. He encountered the observance of Bere, a national festival which include national thanksgiving and propiation to the gods and their ancestors. She was the last of the Kings buried in Igboho.

Abiipa had been instructed by his father, Egungun-Oju, to return the people to Oyo Ile. This was why he was called Oba-moro because the negative antics of the Oyo Mesi to remain in Igboho was deflated and Oyo Ile re-settled in about 1590.

Imperial period, the son of Oba-Moro was Obalokun; whose reign recorded the following:

a. The arrival of the first white man.

b. The sending of envoys to Portugal and France.

c. The introduction of common salt.

The first political agent, “Ajele” was sent to Ijala, near Ilaro. Ajegbo the next Oba succeeded his father Obalokun. He was war-like and launched several military expeditions. He expanded the empire to cover. Weme in the Popo country. Ile Olopa, Onko and Ikereku, his maternal town. Under him the first Aare-Ona kakanfo, Kokoro-gan-gan of Iwoye was appointed. He led the Eso and everybody in war.

Ojigi was another Oba of this period who demonstrated both military and administrative prowess assisted by his Basorun, Yau Yamba, the empire expanded in all directions while the economic buoyancy of the period of Abiodun Golden Age had commenced. Dahomey was conquered and ports secured in the south. Under Onisile, great cultural advances were made. Beads were used on “Sekere: instead of cowries. He was a great warrior and the calvary grew under him. Gaha succeeded Yamba, his father, as Basorun and four Obas were liquidated by him before Abiodun Adegolu (1774-1789), got rid of him. Commerce and Agriculture boomed under Abiodun and the nation assumed its greatness. He kept a zoo of wild lions and elephants.

Under Awole the empire suffered some strain and the Egbas got their independence in 1796. This period to 1837 saw the empire’s greatest trails: the loss of parts of the empire, the loss of trade, the coming of the jihadist Muslims, the coming of the white men and the revolution that forced the population to move to the south to originate Ibadan, Abeokuta, Ijaye and Ago-d-Oyo.

At the height of the empire, the provinces, though fluid, were Ekun Osi, the metropolis and the areas around; the Ekun Otun the western side of the River Ogun: the Ibolo areas and Epo; Egbado, Yewa, parts of Dahomey and Southern Nupe.
A good constitution, buoyed by the Alaafin, Oyo Mesi, the Aare-Ona Kakanfo and the provincial kings.
Control of calvary, trade routes and successful agriculture.
Contacts with the northern neighbours and the ports on the south.
There was peace and good government.
Islam has crept into the country from the time of Oyo Igboho and in Oyo Ile, the trend has escalated with the Afonja’s intransigence and Ilorin’s invitation to Sheik Al-Salah. Oyo City, too was basically converted to Islam. The fall of the Empire in the first half of the nineteen century was as a result of interplay of social forces that zeroed in on it.

The Wars were pamo, Mugba, Kanla, Abodo and Elewure. The best men from Saki, Ede,Ogbomso, Ibadan and Ikoyi were involved in the great exploits. The Egbas moved from Ibadan area to Abeokuta. Epo Region of Akeetan, Iseke, Apaara, Aguo Idode Ojongbodu were bursting at the seams from the population from the north and were eventually transferred by Atiba to populate Ago-d-Oyo.

Afonja allowed the foothold of the Jihadist and made the sacking of Oyo “Ile irreversible, but he lost his hegemony to the Fulani of Ilorin. The British explorer visited Oyo Ile in 1821 and Olewu fell in Eleduwa war in 1837. Oyo city thereby dissolved and re-emerged in the South near Ibadan and Ijaye in 1839.

Oba Atiba, the son of Abiodun was the greatest human and political factor in the period referred to above. His sons, Adelu and Adeyemi reigned after him. He enlarged Oyo. Enlisted the new energies of Ibadan and Ijaiye, thus bracing up bravely the Oyo monarchy.

The pacification of Captain Bower from 1893, the Kiriji Wars and the rise of Ibadan, the liquidation of Ijaye between 1861-1863 involved in great wars and great men like Adeyemi I, Luyole, Ibikunle, Ogunmola, Kurumi Ajadi, Toyeje of Ogbomoso, Bamigboye of Ede and Aare Mohammed Latosa. The Osogbo War of 1840 had put a stop to the south-ward advancement of the Jihadists and this with the coming of the Christian Missionaries of the Anglicans, the Methodist and Baptists benefited the town including other Yoruba towns. From early 1900s modern-government has taken root. Captain Ross nurtured its growth.

Oyo city today is the centre of a flourishing civilization from its inception under the children of Atiba Adelu, Adeyemi I, Agogo Ija, Ladigbolu, I, Adeyemi II, Ladigbolu II and Adeyemi III.

Orunmila. Deity of wisdom, knowledge & divination.

He is the great benefactor of the humanity and his main advisor. He reveals the future through the secrets of Ifa, the supreme oracle. He is also a great healer, and those who ignores his advices can undergo the ups and downs produced by Eshu.

Orunmila represents the wisdom, the intelligence, and the cleverness that can superpose the badly. When Oloddumare created the Universe, Orunmila was there like witness. It is why it knows the destiny to everything what exists. That is also why he is called the eleri-ipin ibikeji Olodurmare (Witness of all the creation and the second in charge after Olodumare).

“Elerí ipín
Iré keji Olodumare Onatumo agbedebeyo
Alapa siyan iwi Oduduwa
Aché mini ishe, Orunla somo somo
Orunla Iboru, Orunla Iboyá, Orunla Ibosheshé “

Orunmila is the first prophet of the Yorùbá religion, sent by Olodumare to control the births, the deceases and the development of the human beings and other species. Fortune teller and owner of the Oracle and interpret of Ifá. He was in the Earth like prophet with the 16 celestial ancestors (the Meyi of Ifá), between 2000 and the 4000 year a.c. Its cult comes from Ilé Ifé and its name comes from the Yorùbá Òrúnmìlà (“Only the sky knows those who will be saved”).

It personifies the wisdom and the possibility of influencing the destiny, thus is most adverse. Those who doesn’t accept the advice of Orula, being men or Orishas, can be victims of the Osogbos sent by Eshu, close to Shango, who provided with the permission of Olofi the gift of adivination to him, and Eshu, it’s faiftfull ally. Orunmila forms an important trinity with Olofin and Oddúa (Oduduwa). Only those choosing by him can enter their cult through the “hand of Orula” (Awofakan) for the men and the Ikofafun, for the women. Women who receive him are considered women of Orula and receive the name of Apetebí, being this the most important consecration that a woman receives in the cult of Orula. In the case of the men they can arrive if Orunmila therefore decides them to be priests, in which case receive the name of Babalawo (Father of the secrets).

Orunla has the accumulated knowledge of the secret things of the human being and nature, as well as knowledge on the history of the humanity. In the human plane it represents the spiritualities of all the Awó of Orunmila. He is the governing Orisha and interpreter of the Odun of Ifá Oracle. Orunmila isn’t crowned as guardian Orisha and the Oracle only communicates through him. He enjoys the privilege to know the principle and origin all the things, including the Oshas and Orishas. He allows men to know their future and how to influence it. He is very related to Eshu and Osun.

Orunmila is present at the moment at which the spirit who is going to incarnate to an individual is choosing his destiny. It represents the security, the support and the consolation before the uncertainty of the life. With his aid everything is possible. Their priests should be organized, the most mystical and wisest ones. Eshu is its assistant. The priesthood of the Orisha Orula exists in the concept in which the priesthood to other Oshas and Orishas can exist with the difference of which he is exclusive for men and within these for people who do not fall in critical moment. The women can arrive until the consecration of Ikofafún and have the privilege of being listened with the more success than men; the women who are Apetebí Ayafá are the true owners of the foundation of Ifá of the priest who they attend.

(Source: yorubadiaspore, via orichas)

Tags: orishas





Orunmila is the god of knowledge. As it is told, Oludumare sent Orunmila to the earth many years before he sent Obatala and Oduduwa. During that time the earth was covered with water. Orunmila spent 400 years on earth without food. Orunmila opened his mouth once a year and gained nourishment from the air. After 400 years on earth, Orunmila went back to heaven and met with Oludumare. Oludumare then sent Obatala and Oduduwa to the earth. Orunmila gave Oduduwa the cock which was used to create the earth. After the earth was created, Orunmila returned using the Ewon (chain) to descend from the heavens. The place on earth where the chain fell and Orunmila set foot was Oke Igeti.
Orunmila lived in Oke Igeti for many years, however the people of Oke Igeti didn’t appreciate Orunmila’s presence. Orunmila was displeased and prayed for the stunted growth of Oke Igeti, that their compound would always be small. Before Orunmila left, he placed Origi in Oke Igeti.
After Orunmila left there, he went to Oke Ileri. At this place like the other, the people didn’t pay proper honor to Orunmila. Again Orunmila prayed for the stunted growth of their compound, that it would also remain small. Before Orunmila left he gave the people of Oke Ileri the Orisha Dawo.
Next, Orunmila went the compound Ejio. The people in the town also didn’t know how to properly appreciate Orunmila. Orunmila prayed for a limit of 5 years that the Chief could maintain the throne unless the proper sacrifice was made.
After Orunmila left Ejio, he went to Ile Monliki. The people of Ile Monliki honored Orunmila and he gave them Origi. He told the people of this compound that they to would have a stunted growth and that they would have a very small compound.
Orunmila left there and traveled to Oketase. When Orunmila arrived at Oketase the people were prepared for his arrival. They danced, drummed, and sang his praises. Orunmila was happy and made Oketase his home. Orunmila became the leader of Oketase. Since the Ope (palm tree) was the one responsible for taking Orunmila to all the different compounds, Orunmila rewarded him. Orunmila prayed that all the things on the body of Ope would become money. The Ikin, Ewo (palm wine), Epo (palm oil), the broom, Adin (black oil), Adiabo (cream), etc.
Orunmila has knowledge, this is why he became the leader of Oketase. Orunmila used the Ikin, the Opele, the Opon Fa and the Iroke Ifa as elements to divine Ifa.
Ifa is a word that came from the mouth of Orunmila. By the grace of Oludumare, Orunmila created Ifa. Orunmila used Ifa to assist human beings negotiate their life on earth. Orunmila has many wives and many children on earth and in heaven.
Orunmila has many omo Awos. Orunmila initiated all of the Orisa to Ifa. Orunmila separated all of the beads and assigned them to their owners. This is why the Araba can wear any beads. Orunmila is very unique and stands alone among the Orisha.
The Araba Agbaye is the representative of Orunmila on earth and only comes from Oketase. Orunmila stated that all people should come to Oketase to worship Him. In June the world Ifa festival is held in Oketase. All of the world comes at this time to witness the annual divination using the Ikin of Orunmila.
Another name for Orunmila is: Baramiagbonmiregun

Olowere of Ise. The foremost Yoruba sculptor


Olowe of Ise (1875-1937), was the greatest Yoruba carver of the twentieth century. Olowere, now known as Olowe of Ise, was born in Efon-Alaiye, but in his youth, relocated southeast, to Ise, Ekiti. Under the patronage of the traditional ruler, Oba Arinjale-of Ise-Ekiti Kingdom, he began a program of architectural sculptures that established his artistic reputation. He carved hundreds of sculptures over a period of forty years as an active artist. He subsequently received comparable palace commissions from regional leaders throughout Yorubaland. During the lifetime of Olowe, his works were exhibited both in and beyond the African continent. In 1924, a pair of doors carved for the palace of the Ogoga of Ikere in Ekiti, were exhibited in London and acquired by the British Museum. The occurrence consequently launched the recognition of Olowes artistic brilliance, and his works have spread to collections throughout the world.


Kiriji War was the decisive war that prevented Ijesas and Ekitis from being subjugated by the Ibadan bullies. It was the war that put an end to all manners of wars and semblance of wars in Yorubaland. It is a war that restored the dignity of certain parts of Yorubaland. Kiriji War was a battle for supremacy between Ijesa/Ekiti and Ibadan. It started on 30th July, 1877.
The excesses of Ajele (District Overseer) from Ibadan in Ijesa/Ekiti domain were too much to bear. They terrorize everywhere just because their army is unstoppable and formidable. In 1870s, the Ekitis started grooming a formidable army that will help liberate themselves from the Ibadan dominance; they formed an alliance which they termed Ekiti Parapo (Ekiti Confederation) to challenge the Ibadan hegemony. The Ekitis contacted their Ifa oracle severally and it revealed on each occasions that it was only Ogedengbe Agb’ogungb’oro, Adikakaaka L’oju Ogun, who could conquer the Ibadans and without Ogedengbe, the battle would not be won.
Ekiti Parapo army headed by Prince Fabunmi of Oke Imesi conveyed the message of Ifa to his able warlords, like Faborro of Ido, Famakinwa of Erin, Aruta, Odole Oloyombere, Oluborode of Ikogosi, Aduloju dodondawa, Falowo, just to mention a few. Several rituals were prepared and later Opiliki Asodedero was sent to convey the message of Ifa to Ogedengbe Agb’ogungb’oro.
Ogedengbe was said to be in Igbara-Oke where he was intending to settle down after his exploits to Ekiti, Akoko and Benin Kingdom. Ogedengbe was a-bit reluctant to join the Ekiti Parapo army due to his disappointment from his kindred (Ijesa people). He was persuaded and later joined the Ijesa army with the Ekiti Parapo army in their campaign against Ibadan hegemony. Ekiti people were happy seeing Ogedengbe, the great warrior and his formidable army merged with the Ekiti Parapo army.
Ogedengbe was appointed the “Seriki Meyaki”, making him the Generalissimo of Ijesa/Ekiti Confederates Army. He announced the commencement of the battle. To cut the story short, the Kiriji War was won by the Ijesa/Ekitiparapo Army led by Ogedengbe Agb’ogungb’oro Adikakaaka L’oju Ogun, which led to the ending of Ibadan hegemony in Ekiti and Ijesa fortresses.
Historically, during the inter-tribal wars in Yorubaland, the whole of Ijesa army would not go into combat against an enemy without a warrior from Ikeji firing first shot in order to ensure victory. Then, I was beginning to think that Ikeji warriors are the people behind the triumphs of Ijesas during the inter-tribal wars.
Moreover, Ogedengbe being an Ijesa man, leading Ijesa army, would not dare go to any battle without any warrior from Ikeji firing first shot in order to ensure victory; it means the Ikeji warriors were the people behind Ogedengbe’s accomplishments during the inter-tribal wars in Yorubaland in the 19th Century.
When Ogedengbe led the Ijesa army to join the Ekiti Parapo army in their campaign against Ibadan, Ikeji warrior fired first shot in order to ensure victory, though it was not emphasized; Ogedengbe would not have won the Kiriji War without an Ikeji warrior. So, I cannot but say that an Ikeji warrior won the Kiriji War with his first shot that ensued victory before starting the war. Ijesa/Ekiti Parapo army was only led to victory by Ogedengbe.
The Kiriji War ended on 23th September, 1886 with signing of “Peace Treaty” between the twenty-four Yoruba Obas for the cessation of war among Yoruba people and in Yorubaland.



The late Chief Ogedengbe Agbogubgboro, the Generalissimo of Ekiti Army was born at Atorin, a village about twenty kilometres from Ilesha in the now Atakomosa East Local Government areas.

This was his mother’s village; his father’s village was Oke-Orisa which is about the same distance from Ilesha and in the same present day Local Government areas as Atorin. Before Ogedengbe was born, the Ifa oracle predicted that he was going to be the saviour of Ijeshaland. The name given to Ogedengbe at birth was SARAIBI. He was born as a normal child and he grew up at Atorin as a healthy industrous young man.

From the early years of his life, it became clear that he was very strong and surpassed all his mates in acts of valour, whenever he engaged in wrestling with his mates, he always floored them, hence the name “OGEDENGBE”. In adulthood, Ogedengbe engaged in several campaigns against the Ibadan people who were oppressing and attacking the Ijesha people. During one of such campaigns, he was captured and taken to Ibadan.

It was on this occassion the Ibadan people put tribal marks on his face before releasing him. He fought in the Ibadan army until he became a senior military commander and then returned to fight and lead the Ijesha forces. After this, he gathered a large army of Ijesha young men and engaged in several bitter fightings against the Ibadan people.

Ogedengbe exploits also took him to Ekiti and Akoko areas where he sold a lot of them into slavery. This was why he was often referred to as “O soko Ekiti soko Akoko”. He also went as far as the present day Edo state. The Oba of Benin had to appeace him before he desisted from waging war against his domain. He gave Ogedengbe presents of beads, slaves and other valuable articles.

After this exploit, Ogedengbe returned to Igbara-Oke intending to settle down there. This was the time when the Ibadan people engaged the Ijeshas and the Ekitis in a fierce war at Oke-Imesi. The leaders of the Ijeshas and the Ekitis had to persuade Ogedengbe to come and lead them as his unrivalled exploits had become a legend in the whole of Yoruba land. He agreed and went to the battle field to check the inordinate ambition of the Ibadan people.

The fighting went on for about nine years . It was Captain Bower, the then resident commissioner at Ibadan who finally settled the war by a treaty in 1886 (23rd September, 1886) after he had won the war.

It was due to all these attributes that he possessed that made him into a local hero in his town. Ogedengbe subsequently became one of the most important men in the history of Yorubaland, Nigeria and Africa, hence the name ‘OGEDENGBE AGBOGUNGBORO’ meaning ‘OGEDENGBE THE WARRIOR’

It began in the 19th century, a century of revolution in Yorubaland, after the fall of the old Oyo Empire due to political crisis. Ibadan, a new city founded in the 1820s wanted to dominate and rule the rest of the Yorubaland and as result, there were wars among the kingdoms of the Yorubas.In particular the Kiriji war (also known as the sixteen years war) which started in 1877, it involved the struggle for power, influence and survival.The Ibadan on declared ‘a war to end all wars’ on the Egba on Monday, 30th July 1877, the Kiriji war officially begun.

The Ijebu joined and it began to spread. In 1878, it spread to the east, the Ekiti and Ijesa countries became united and formed an alliance known as Ekiti-parapo (the combined forces of the Ijesa and Ekiti) which was led by Ogedengbe of Ilesha . The Ife and Ilorin later joined. Ibadan now had a string of foes that were ready to fight for their independence and also to free themselves from Ibadan imperialism.

The Yorubas

The first obvious answer to this question is that the Yoruba are a nationality, numbering over 25 million, the majority of whom live in the South Western part of Nigeria in West Africa. Obvious as this answer is, it is not wholly explanatory, and certainly, it is not without its own controversy.

The Yoruba are a black people, of Negro stock and they speak a common language, Yoruba, which belongs to the Kwa group of the Niger-Congo language family. Yoruba is a dialect continuum, i.e. it has many dialects, and the dialect at one end of the continuum is not intelligible to speakers at another end of the continuum, which is why the Ondo dialect is not immediately understandable by someone from say, Lagos or Oyo. If you travel from one part of Yoruba land to another, you will notice slight differences in accent, word for items, etc. The Yoruba are a well urbanized group with genius in arts as symbolized in the famous “Ife Bronzes”. The Yoruba people are also found in neighboring Togo, Benin Republic. Because of the slave trade, the Yoruba can also be found in other parts of the world, including Brazil, Cuba, Trinidad, and the United States.

What makes the Yoruba a nationality, or a nation, not a tribe or clan, and how does one then mark a distinction between Yorubaland and Nigeria? To this last question, there is no better answer than the one provided by Obafemi Awolowo in 1947, to which a later section of this presentation will return. For now, it is necessary to answer the question: “Who are the Yoruba?” by focussing on some critical moments in Yoruba history and thought. Let us address these and other issues by focussing on some critical moments in Yoruba history.

The Oduduwa Dynasty and the Founding of the Nation.

Oduduwa is the legendary progenitor of the Yoruba. There are two variants of the story of how he achieved this feat. The first is cosmogonic, the second, political. The cosmogonic version also has two variants. According to the first variant of the cosmogonic myth, Orisanla (Obatala) was the arch-divinity who was chosen by Olodumare, the supreme deity to create a solid land out of the primordial waters that constituted the earth and of populating the land with human beings. He descended from heaven on a chain, carrying a small snail shell full of earth, palm kernels and a five-toed chicken. He was to empty the content of the snail shell on the water after placing some pieces of iron on it, and then to place the chicken on the earth to spread it over the primordial water. According to the first version of the story, Obatala completed this task to the satisfaction of Olodumare. After creating land, he planted the palm kernels, growing a palm tree with sixteen branches – the original sixteen kings of Yoruba land. Obatala was then given the task of making the physical body of human beings after which Olodumare would give them the breath of life. He also completed this task and this is why he has the title of “obarisa” the king of the orisa. When he completed the task of creating land, he called it “Ile Ife” “This wide / large land”. In this version of the story, Ile Ife is claimed as the ancestral home of the Yoruba.

The other variant of the cosmogonic myth does not credit Obatala with the completion of the task. While it concedes that Obatala was given the task, it avers that Obatala got drunk even before he got to the earth and he was unable to do the job. Olodumare got worried when he did not return on time, and he had to send Oduduwa to find out what was going on. When Oduduwa found Obatala drunk, he simply took over the task and completed it. He created land. The spot on which he landed from heaven and which he redeemed from water to become land is called Ile-Ife and is now considered the sacred and spiritual home of the Yoruba. Obatala was embarrassed when he woke up and, due to this experience, he made it a taboo for any of his devotees to drink palm wine. Olodumare forgave him and gave him the responsibility of molding the physical bodies of human beings. The making of land is a symbolic reference to the founding of the Yoruba kingdoms, and this is why Oduduwa is credited with that achievement.

According to the second version of the myth, there was a pre-existing civilization at Ile-Ife prior to its invasion by a group led by Oduduwa. This group came from the east, where Oduduwa and his group had been persecuted on the basis of religious differences. They came to Ile-Ife and fought and conquered the pre-existing Ugbo inhabitants led by Oreluere (Obatala). Obviously, there is a connection between the two versions of the story. The political one may be the authentic story of the founding of Ife kingdom through conquest. However, the myth of creation lends it a legitimacy that is denied by the conquest story; just as it appears that it is lent some credence by the fact that, as a result of the embarrassment it caused their deity, the followers of Obatala are forbidden from taking palm wine. Indeed the second version of the cosmogonic myth also appears to foreshadow the political variant. The claim that Obatala got drunk and the task of creation had to be performed by Oduduwa already has some political coloration which is now explicit in the political version of the tradition.

What is crucial in both variants of the story is the role of Oduduwa as the founder of the Yoruba nation which is why the name cannot be forgotten. Oduduwa is the symbol of the nation, the rallying point for all those who subscribe to the Yoruba identity. The name Yoruba itself, according to historians Smith, Atanda and others, was fixed on us by our northern neighbors and later popularized by colonial publications. Before then, “Anago”, was used to refer to most of the people called Yoruba today. “Anago” also the name by which some Yoruba in the present Benin Republic and others in the new world still use to refer to themselves, A common origin and language, as well as common political and religious cultures made the Yoruba a nation long before any contact with Europeans and the advent of colonialism.

Moremi ‘s Patriotism and the Survival of the Nation

Upon the death of Oduduwa, there was a dispersal of his children from Ife to found other kingdoms. These original founders of the Yoruba nation included Olowu of Owu (son of Oduduwa’s daughter), Alaketu of Ketu (son of a princess), Oba of Benin, Oragun of Ila, Onisabe of Sabe, Olupopo of Popo, and Oranyan of Oyo. Each of them made a mark in the subsequent urbanization and consolidation of Yoruba confederacy of kingdoms, with each kingdom tracing its origin to Ile-Ife.

After the dispersal, the aborigines, the Igbo, became difficult, and constituted a serious threat to the survival of Ife. Thought to be survivors of the old occupants of the land before the arrival of Oduduwa, these people now turned themselves into marauders. They would come to town in costumes made of raffia with terrible and fearsome appearances, and the Ife people would flee. Then the Igbo would burn down houses and loot the markets. Then came Moremi on the scene – like Deborah of the Old Testament. When no man could dare the Igbos, Moremi asked the Esinminrin river for help and promised to give offerings if she could save her people. The orisa told her to allow herself to be captured and to understudy the Igbo people. She did, and discovered that these were not spirits; only people with raffia for dress. She escaped, and taught her people the trick. The next time that Igbo people came to sack the town, the townspeople set fire on their raffia costumes, and they were roundly defeated. Moremi then had to go back to Esinminrin to thank the gods. Every offering she offered was refused. On divination, she was told that she had to give Oluorogbo, her only son. She did. The lesson of Moremi is the lesson of patriotism and selflessness. The reward may not be reaped in one’s life time. Moremi passed on and became a member of the Yoruba pantheon . The Edi festival celebrates the defeat of the Igbo and the sacrifice of Oluorogbo till today.

The Oranmiyan Adventures, Afonja Treachery, Internal Division, Enslavement and the Fall of the Nation.

Oranmiyan was the last of the Oduduwa offspring. But he was the most adventurous and the founder of Oyo Kingdom. On some accounts, he was the third ruler of Ife as successor to Oduduwa. But he later decided to avenge the expulsion of his father from the East, and so, he led an expedition. After many years on the road, and as a result of disagreement between him and his people, he could not go further. Feeling too ashamed to go back, he appealed to the King of Nupe for a land to found his kingdom. He was obliged, and that land became the nucleus of Old Oyo Kingdom. Oranmiyan, taking the title of Alafin, succeeded in raising a very strong military and effectively expanded his kingdom. His successors, including Sango, the mythical god of thunder, Aganju and Oluaso were also as strong. Peace and tranquility prevailed during the reign of Abiodun, though it also experienced the decline of the army. Awole Arogangan was Abiodun’ s successor and it was during his reign that trouble started for the kingdom. He was forced to commit suicide; but before his death he was said to have pronounced a curse on all Yoruba, that they will not unite and that they will be taken captives.

Afonja was the Kakanfo, the generalisimo of the Army, in the northern Yoruba town of Ilorin, during the reign of Awole and his successor. Afonja refused to recognize the new king, and invited the Fulani who were then leading a jihad to the south, to assist him against the king. They did, but he did not survive himself, because the Fulani, after helping him defeat the Alafin also turned against him. They fired numerous arrows at him and his dead body was stood erect on those arrows as they stuck into his body. The treachery of Afonja marked the beginning of the end of the Oyo empire and with it the decline of the Yoruba nation. Civil war erupted among the various Yoruba kingdoms: Oyo, Ijesa, Ekiti Parapo, Ijaiye, Abeokuta and Ibadan. As this was going on, Dahomey on the west and the Borgu on the north were also posing trouble for the Yoruba kingdoms until the intervention of the British and the imposition of colonial rule.

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