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Oduduwa was the first Ooni, King of Ile-Ife with the titles "Olofin Aye" and "Olufe". His name, phonetically written by Yoruba language-speakers as Odùduwà and sometimes contracted as Ooduwa, Odudua or Oòdua, is generally ascribed to the ancestral dynasties 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.

Oduduwa Statue
Ife bronze head (British Museum)
Ife Kings Head.jpg
Born c.1190 (Uncertain)
Died c.1270 (Uncertain)
Occupation King

About Oduduwa[edit]


  • Oduduwa is the power of the womb, that brings forth into existence
  • Oduduwa represents omnipotency, the ability to affect and reconstruct the physical reality at will.



Later years[edit]

Upon the ending of Oduduwa's time on Earth, there was a dispersal of his children and grandchildren from Ife to the outposts that they had previously founded, or gained influence over 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.

Orunto a child of Oduduwa, born to his maid, is the ancestor of the families that hold the "Obalufe" title - Second in command to the Ooni.

Obalufon II Alayemore was on the throne when Oranmiyan returned from his sojourn and ordered that the kingship be given to him and hence back to the legitimate family of Oduduwa. Oranmiyan's son Lajamisan was therefore the progenitor of all of the Oonis that have reigned in Ife from his time till now.

Ife Traditions[edit]

Ife tradition, relates that Oduduwa was an emissary from the community of Oke-Ora (Ora mountain), the easternmost part of the Ife cultural area towards the Northeastern Ijesa people. He descended from the Hills on a chain, earning the oriki 'atewonro' meaning 'one who descends on a chain', He was a warrior who wore armors made of Iron. At that time, a Confederacy existed between the 13 communities of the valley of Ile-Ife, with each community or 'Elu' with its own Oba; Oba of Ijugbe, Oba of Ijio, Oba of Iwinrin etc.

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, subsequently evolving 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 the line of Olowu[edit]

The first child of Oduduwa, Okanbi Iyunade, marries Obatala 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 lap.

Oduduwa and the line of Alaketu[edit]

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 Soposan died and was succeeded by Owe. The migrants stayed for a number of generations 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 Òràngún[edit]

Ajagunla Fagbamila Orangun, First legitimate son, is crowned king of Ila. Oduduwa wanted more sons to shame his enemies and critics. On advice of Ifa, he went to the Stream, where he met a Lady Adetinrin Anasin naked, she eventually became his Wife and Mother of Ifagbamila (Ifa saves me)

Oduduwa and the line of Onisabe[edit]

  • A prince is crowned king of Sabe.

Oduduwa and the line of Onipopo[edit]

  • A prince is crowned king of Popo.

Oduduwa and the line of Alaafin[edit]

Oranyan founds Oyo-Ile and his sons Ajaka and Sango go on to rule Oyo.


Oranmiyan was the last son and the most adventurous of the members of Oduduwa's household. Oranmiyan was the 31st ruler and first Oba of Benin after the Ogiso era, the first Alafin of Oyo and the sixth Ooni (King 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 Offa, of the lineage of Olalomi Olofagangan, the founder of Offa-Ile and the paramount head of Ibolo region of old Oyo kingdom, of Ooduan dynasty by 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. She allowed herself to be captured and taken away with them. Subsequent to this she got married to the king of the Ugbo. Her new husband wanted pleasures from her but she wouldn't give in because she was married previously and was on a mission. She told him to tell her the secret of the marauders, he didn't want to but after a great deal of prodding, he gave in. He told her that the only thing they fear was FIRE, if they saw fire they would run. After this information she concocted an escape plan. She asked for some oranges and made the juice have a sleeping effect on the palace people. When they woke up after eating them, they found that she had gone to tell her people. They were soon prepared for the marauders.[2]

Alternative views[edit]

Oduduwa and his role in creation[edit]

Some oral traditions claim that Oduduwa was Olodumare's favourite Orisa, and as such was sent from heaven to create the earth upon the waters, a mission he/she had taken from her consort and sibling Obatala who had been equipped with a Snail shell filled with sand and a Roster. These beliefs are held by Yoruba traditionalists to be the cornerstone of their story of creation. Obatala and Oduduwa here are represented symbolically by a Calabash, with Obatala taking the top and Oduduwa taking the bottom. In this narrative, Oduduwa is also known as Olofin Otete, the one who took the Basket of Existence from Olodumare

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. ^ Yoruba Alliance:Who are the Yoruba!

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.