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Oduduwa, Olofin Adimula, Emperor and First Suzerain of the Yoruba, was the King of Ile-Ife with the titles "Olofin" and "Olufe". His name, phonetically written by Yoruba language-speakers as Odùduwà and sometimes contracted as 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

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]



Main article: Yorubaland

Oduduwa is generally ascribed to the ancestral dynasties of Yorubaland due to his position as the earliest of their kings.

According to an Oyo account, Oduduwa was said to have come from the east, sometimes understood by some sources as the "vicinity" true East on the Cardinal points, but more likely signifying the Benin Empire.

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; This contributed a great deal to the urbanization of Yorubaland above anywhere else in Subsaharan Africa.

After the princes left Ife in the custody of Orunto - the illegitimate first son of Oduduwa through an illicit affair with a slave - the family of Obatala led an uprising that aimed to relegate him and make Obamakin the king with the new title of "Oonirisa". Today, Orunto 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, though not the most popular, is considered by competent historians as the most reliable. Oduduwa is said to have been an emissary from the community of Oke-Ora (Ora mountain), the easternmost part of the Ife cultural area. At that time, a Confederacy existed between the 13 communities of the valley of Ile-Ife.

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]

Main article: Owu kingdom

The first Child of Oduduwa, 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 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 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 Omo N'Oba[edit]

Main article: Oba of Benin

The son (named Eweka) of Oranmiyan is crowned king of Benin (Omo n'Oba n'Edo). Benin History records testify to the fact that Oduduwa is the exiled son of the last Ogiso (that was the title of the Kings of Benin before Prince Oranmiyan became the King of Benin and changed the title to "Oba"). Prince Oranmiyan is believed to have been sent to Benin by his father Oduduwa, in order to become the King of Benin after the death of the last Ogiso.

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 Onipopo[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 and Sango go on to rule Oyo. His last son, Olalomi-Olofagangan, founded the Ibolo Kingdom.


Main article: Oranmiyan

Oranmiyan was the first son and the most adventurous of the members of Oduduwa's household. Oranmiyan was also the first Oba of Benin.

Moremi and The Ugbo[edit]

(This is a fable) 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.[3]

Alternative views[edit]

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 upon the waters (this tends to confirm the Edo origin of Oduduwa, indeed Ogiso means "King from the sky", and Ogiso was the title of the Benin monarchs who preceeded Oba Oranmiyan). These beliefs are held by Yoruba traditionalists to be the cornerstone of their story of creation.

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. ^ 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.