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Oduduwa, Olofin Adimula, Emperor and First Suzerain of the Yoruba, was the Oba of Ile-Ife. His name, phonetically written by Yoruba language-speakers as Odùduwà and sometimes contracted as Odudua or Oòdua, is generally ascribed to the ancestral dynasty of Yorubaland because he is held by the Yoruba to have been the ancestor of their numerous crowned kings.[1] Following his posthumous deification, he was admitted to the Yoruba pantheon as an aspect of a primordial divinity of the same name.

Ife bronze head (British Museum)
Ife Kings Head.jpg

About Oduduwa[edit]


  • Oduduwa is the power of the womb.
  • Oduduwa represents omnipotency, the ability to affect and reconstruct the physical reality at will.
  • Oòdua first appears as one of the divinities of the Yoruba theogony.
  • The narrative indicates that Oduduwa denotes “the essence of Reality” (Odu-ti-o-da-Iwa)or "the reservoir of existence"(Odu -ti-o- du Uwa).[2]


Ife Traditions[edit]

When Oduduwa rose to be a prominent citizen of ancient Ife, he and his group are believed to have conquered most of the 13 component communities and deposed Obatala, then evolved the palace structure with its effective centralized power and dynasty. Going by the tribal records, he is commonly referred to as the first Ooni of Ife and progenitor of the legitimate Kings of the Yoruba people.

Oduduwa and his role in creation[edit]

Main article: Yoruba religion

Some oral traditions claim that Oduduwa was Olodumare's favourite orisha, and as such was sent from heaven to create the earth.

There is much controversy concerning him and his place and names in the Yoruba pantheon, and consensus on the subject is as elusive as it is with any other "creation myth". However, the Ife are known for telling the following story:

A certain number of divinities were to accomplish the task of helping earth develop its crust. On one of these visits Obatala, the King of White Clothes, took to the stage equipped with a mollusk that held in its shell some form of soil; two winged beasts and some cloth like material. Having made palm wine from the palm trees he caused to grow after shaping the planet, he began to drink ; soon falling into a drunken stupor, he was unable to accomplish the task he was originally given. Olodumare then sent Oduduwa to save what was left of the mission.

When Oduduwa found the Obatala in a "tipsy" state, he simply took over and completed the tasks. The place which he leaped onto from the heavens and which he redeemed from the water to become land was named Ile-Ife and is now considered the sacred and spiritual heart of Yorubaland.

Due to this experience, Obatala is said to have subsequently made it a taboo for any of his devotees to drink palm wine.

Forgiven by Olodumare, he was later given the responsibility of molding the physical bodies of human beings; the making of land in this story is said to be a symbolic reference to the founding of the Yoruba kingdoms, and this is why Oduduwa is credited with the achievement.[3]

Later years[edit]

Upon the ending of Oduduwa's time on Earth, there was a dispersal of his children/grandchildren from Ife to the outposts that they had previously founded in order for them to establish effective control over these places. Each is said to have made his or her mark in the subsequent urbanization and consolidation of the Yoruba confederacy of kingdoms, with each child or grandchild fashioning his or her state after Ile-Ife.

Oduduwa and the line of Olowu[edit]

Main article: Owu kingdom

First Child of Oduduwa, Iyunade marries a priest and later gives birth to the future crowned king of Owu. He is believed to have acquired his crown as a toddler while crying on his grandfather's laps.

Oduduwa and the line of Alaketu[edit]

Main article: Ketu (Benin)

Omonide, Oduduwa's favorite wife gives birth to Sopasan, the father of the future crowned kings of Ketu. Sopasan was the first to leave Ile-Ife with his mother and crown. Soposan settled at such temporary sites as Oke-Oyan and Aro. At Aro where Soposan died and was succeeded by Owe, the migrants stayed longer and broke camp in the reign of the seventh king, Ede, who revived the westward migrations and founded a dynasty at Ketu

Oduduwa and the line of Omo N'Oba[edit]

Main article: Oba of Benin

The son of Oranmiyan is crowned king of Benin...

Oduduwa and the line of Òràngún[edit]

Main article: Orangun

Ajagunla Fagbamila Orangun is crowned king of Ila.

Oduduwa and the line of Onisabe[edit]

  • A prince is crowned king of Sabe.

Oduduwa and the line of Olupopo[edit]

  • A prince is crowned king of Popo.

Oduduwa and the line of Alaafin[edit]

Main article: Alaafin

Oranyan founds Oyo-ile and his sons Ajaka, Sango and Aganju rule Oyo.


Main article: Oranmiyan

Oranmiyan was the grandson and the most adventurous of the members of Oduduwa's household; taking the title of Alafin, he succeeded in raising a very strong army and expanding his kingdom to an empire. Regarded as being founder of the Oyo Kingdom, some accounts state he was also the third ruler of Ife.

Moremi and The Ugbo[edit]

After the dispersal of the family of kings and queens, the aborigines became ungovernable, and constituted themselves into a serious threat to the survival of Ife. Thought to be supporters of Obatala who had ruled the land before the arrival of Oduduwa, these people turned themselves into marauders. They would come to town in costumes made of raffia with terrible and fearsome appearances, and burn down houses and loot the markets. It is at this point that Moremi Ajasoro, a princess of the Ooduan dynasty by marriage to Oranmiyan, is said to have come onto the scene; she subsequently played a significant role in restoring normalcy back to the situation through a spying mission.[4]

Alternative views[edit]

Sheikh Adelabu[edit]

Among the critics of Yoruba traditions about Oduduwa is the London-based Yoruba Muslim scholar, Sheikh Dr. Abu-Abdullah Adelabu, a PhD graduate from Damascus whose followers run several publications. In an interview with a Nigerian media house Sheikh Adelabu, the founder and spiritual leader of Awqaf Africa Society in London, dismissed the common myth that all Yorubas are descendants of Oduduwa as a false representation by Orisha worshippers to gain an unjust advantage over the spread of Islam and the recruitment of Christianity".[5] The Muslim scholar advised his followers at his Awqaf Africa College London against using phrases such as Omo Oduduwa i.e. Children of Oduduwa and Ile-Oduduwa i.e Land of Oduduwa. He argued that the story that all the Yorubas are children of Odua was based only on word of mouth, and that it does not conform with the science and the reality of logic conducted on objective principles which usually consists of systematized experimentation with phenomena, especially when examining materials and functions of the physical and spiritual worlds of the African people.[5]" It must be stated, however, that his views represent those of a small minority of fundamentalists. Adding that Sheikh Dr. Abu-Abdullah Adelabu is entitled to be conceited with his jaundiced and parochial views. He may seek a more meaningful investigation or research of his real roots (i.e. before slavery was brought upon his ancestors) coupled with a presentation of scientifically proven evidence about the authenticity of his findings.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ *Obayemi, A., 'The Yoruba and Edo-speaking Peoples and their Neighbors before 1600 AD', in JFA Ajayi & M. Crowder (eds.), History of West Africa, vol. I (1976), 255-322.
  2. ^ OPC's the History Of Oodua
  3. ^ E. Bolaji Idowu Olódùmarè: God in Yoruba Belief (ed Hardcover) Wazobia, 1994 ISBN 1-886832-00-5
  4. ^ Yoruba Alliance:Who are the Yoruba!
  5. ^ a b DELAB International Magazine, July 2010 1465-4814

Further reading[edit]

  • Ojuade, J. S., 'The issue of 'Oduduwa' in Yoruba genesis: the myths and realities', Transafrican Journal of History, 21 (1992), 139-158.