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Oduduwa

Oduduwa

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Oduduwa Omoluabi, Olofin Adimula, Emperor of the Yoruba, phonetically written by his people as Odùduwà and sometimes contracted as Odudua or Oòdua, is generally held among the Yoruba
Yoruba people
The Yoruba people are one of the largest ethnic groups in West Africa. The majority of the Yoruba speak the Yoruba language...

 to be the reigning ancestor of the crowned Yoruba kings.

Etymology


Oòdua first appears as one of the divinities of the Yoruba theogony; The narrative indicates that Oduduwa denotes “the essence of behaviour” (Odu-ti-o-da-Iwa).

Narrative


Oral history of the Oyo
Oyo Empire
The Oyo Empire was a Yoruba empire of what is today southwestern Nigeria. The empire was established before the 14th century and grew to become one of the largest West African states encountered by European explorers. It rose to preeminence through its possession of a powerful cavalry and wealth...

-Yoruba recounts the coming of the Oba
Oba (ruler)
Oba is a West African synonym for monarch, one that is usually applied to the Yoruba and Edo rulers of the region. It is also often used by their traditional subjects to refer to other kings and queens, such as Elizabeth I of England, in their native languages.-Edo account of the word's origin:The...

 Oduduwa from the east, sometimes understood by some sources as the "vicinity" of Mecca
Mecca
Mecca is a city in the Hijaz and the capital of Makkah province in Saudi Arabia. The city is located inland from Jeddah in a narrow valley at a height of above sea level...

, but more likely signifying the region of Ekiti
Ekiti State
Ekiti State is a state in southwest Nigeria, created on October 1, 1996 alongside five other new states by military dictator General Sani Abacha...

 and Okun sub-communities in northeastern Yorubaland
Yorùbáland
Yorubaland, or Yorùbáland , is a cultural region in Nigeria, Benin, and Togo that includes the indigenous territory and cultural reach of the Yoruba people.- History :-Settlement:Oduduwa is regarded as the legendary progenitor of the Yoruba...

/central Nigeria. Ekiti
Ekiti State
Ekiti State is a state in southwest Nigeria, created on October 1, 1996 alongside five other new states by military dictator General Sani Abacha...

 is near the confluence of the Niger and Benue rivers, and is where the Yoruba language
Yoruba language
Yorùbá is a Niger–Congo language spoken in West Africa by approximately 20 million speakers. The native tongue of the Yoruba people, it is spoken, among other languages, in Nigeria, Benin, and Togo and in communities in other parts of Africa, Europe and the Americas...

 is presumed to have separated from related ethno-linguistic groupings like Igala
Igala
Igala are an ethnic group of Nigeria. Igala practice a number of different religions, including animism, Christianity, and Islam.The home of the Igala people is situated east of the river Niger and Benue confluence and astride the Niger in Lokoja, Kogi state of Nigeria...

, Igbo
Igbo language
Igbo , or Igbo proper, is a native language of the Igbo people, an ethnic group primarily located in southeastern Nigeria. There are approximately 20 million speakers that are mostly in Nigeria and are primarily of Igbo descent. Igbo is a national language of Nigeria. It is written in the Latin...

, and Edo
Edo language
Edo is a Volta–Niger language spoken primarily in Edo State, Nigeria. It was and remains the primary language of the Edo people of Igodomigodo. The Igodomigodo kingdom was renamed Edo by Oba Eweka, after which the Edos refer to themselves as Oviedo 'child of Edo'...

.

When Oduduwa arrived ancient Ife, he and his group are believed to have conquered the component communities and to have 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 Yoruba people
Yoruba people
The Yoruba people are one of the largest ethnic groups in West Africa. The majority of the Yoruba speak the Yoruba language...

.

Some oral traditions claim that Oduduwa was Olodumare's favourite orisha
Orisha
An Orisha is a spirit or deity that reflects one of the manifestations of Olodumare in the Yoruba spiritual or religious system....

, and as such was sent from heaven to create the earth. This is generally seen as the Ife-Yoruba version of events, and is described in detail below.

Ekaladerhan



Alternatively, the Benin
Benin City
Benin City, is a city and the capital of Edo State in southern Nigeria. It is a city approximately twenty-five miles north of the Benin River. It is situated 200 miles by road east of Lagos...

 believe that he was a prince that was banished by his father, the "Ogiso" of Benin. His name, they claim, is derived from "Idoduwa", meaning "fortune's path", symbolizing the painful exile from his ancestral home. In support of this view, they claim, Oduduwa's grandson Oranmiyan later returned to Benin
Benin Empire
The Benin Empire was a pre-colonial African state in what is now modern Nigeria. It is not to be confused with the modern-day country called Benin, formerly called Dahomey.-Origin:...

 to rule the Empire around 1,100 AD.

Oduduwa and His role in Creation



There is much controversy concerning him and his place 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
Obatala
In the religion of the Yoruba people, Obàtálá is the creator of human bodies, which were supposedly brought to life by Olorun's breath.Obàtálá is also the owner of all ori or heads. Any orisha may lay claim to an individual, but until that individual is initiated into the priesthood of that orisha,...

, 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
Yorùbáland
Yorubaland, or Yorùbáland , is a cultural region in Nigeria, Benin, and Togo that includes the indigenous territory and cultural reach of the Yoruba people.- History :-Settlement:Oduduwa is regarded as the legendary progenitor of the Yoruba...

.

Due to this experience, Obatala is said to have subsequently made it a taboo for any of his devotees to drink palm wine
Palm wine
Palm wine also called Palm Toddy also called "Kallu" written in Malayalam and கள்ளு in Tamil or simply Toddy is an alcoholic beverage created from the sap of various species of palm tree such as the palmyra, and coconut palms...

.

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.

Embodiment of the Royal Dynasty


Oduduwa is considered as the first of the contemporary dynasty of kings of Ife, a figure who sent his sons and daughters out with crowns to rule over all of the other Yoruba kingdoms, which is why all royal Yoruba lineages claim ambilineal descent from its line of kings and, through it, from Oduduwa. This is also why the Ooni of Ife is regarded as first among equals (popularly rendered in the Latin phrase primus inter pares) when amongst his fellow Yoruba monarchs.

Later years


Upon the ending of Oduduwa's time on Earth, there was a dispersal of his children from Ife to the outposts that they had previously founded inorder 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


  • A princess marries a priest and later gives birth to the future crowned king of Owu
    Owu kingdom
    The ethnic people of Owu are part of the Yoruba tribe of West Africa. Ago-Owu in Abeokuta is where the Owus are mostly concentrated, however large Owu settlements are found throughout the Yoruba kingdom...

    .

Oduduwa and the line of Alaketu


  • A princess gives birth to the future crowned king of Ketu
    Ketu (Benin)
    Ketu is a historical location in present day Republic of Benin. It is one of the oldest capitals of the Yoruba speaking people, tracing its establishment to a settlement founded by a daughter of Oduduwa, also known as Odudua, Oòdua and Eleduwa...

    .

Oduduwa and the line of Omo N'Oba


  • A prince is crowned king of Benin.

Oduduwa and the line of Òràngún


  • A prince is crowned king of Ila.

Oduduwa and the line of Onisabe


  • A prince is crowned king of Sabe
    Benin
    Benin , officially the Republic of Benin, is a country in West Africa. It borders Togo to the west, Nigeria to the east and Burkina Faso and Niger to the north. Its small southern coastline on the Bight of Benin is where a majority of the population is located...

    .

Oduduwa and the line of Alaafin


  • A prince is crowned king of Oyo
    Oyo Empire
    The Oyo Empire was a Yoruba empire of what is today southwestern Nigeria. The empire was established before the 14th century and grew to become one of the largest West African states encountered by European explorers. It rose to preeminence through its possession of a powerful cavalry and wealth...

    .

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


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 survivors of the old occupants of the land that had been 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
Moremi
Moremi Ajasoro, Princess of the Yoruba was a figure of high significance in the history of the Yoruba peoples of West Africa. She was a member-by-marriage of the royal family of Emperor Oduduwa, the tribe's fabled founding father....

, a princess of the Ooduan dynasty by marriage, is said to have come onto the scene; she subsequently played a significant role in restoring normalcy back to the situation through a now fabled spying mission.

Islam


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
Damascus
Damascus , commonly known in Syria as Al Sham , and as the City of Jasmine , is the capital and the second largest city of Syria after Aleppo, both are part of the country's 14 governorates. In addition to being one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world, Damascus is a major...

 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
AWQAF Africa
AWQAF Africa serves all countries of Africa: South, North, West, East, and other territorial geography of the continent including its islands in the Indian and Atlantic oceans and Mediterranean Sea, as well as the West Indies. Awqaf Africa, from time to time, extends its works to all Muslims...

, dismissed the common myth that all Yorubas are descendants of Oduduwa as a false representation by Orisha worshippers
Orisha
An Orisha is a spirit or deity that reflects one of the manifestations of Olodumare in the Yoruba spiritual or religious system....

 to gain an unjust advantage over the spread of Islam
Islam
Islam . The most common are and .   : Arabic pronunciation varies regionally. The first vowel ranges from ~~. The second vowel ranges from ~~~...

 and the recruitment of Christianity
Christianity
Christianity is a monotheistic religion based on the life and teachings of Jesus as presented in canonical gospels and other New Testament writings...

". The Muslim scholar advised his followers at his Awqaf Africa College London
AWQAF Africa Muslim Open College
AWQAF Africa Muslim Open College is an institution of AWQAF Africa's educational department. It was launched in London 2005 to cater for educational needs of the Africans and for people of African origin AWQAF Africa Muslim Open College is an institution of AWQAF Africa's educational department. ...

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."

Further reading

  • Ojuade, J. S., 'The issue of 'Oduduwa' in Yoruba genesis: the myths and realities', Transafrican Journal of History, 21 (1992), 139-158.
  • Charles Spencer King, Nature's Ancient Religion, 2008, ISBN 978-1440417337