Wednesday, August 21, 2013

The Oranmiyan Staff, Ile Ife: Memorial Obelisk Of An Ancient King!

IN Ile Ife, one object of attraction is Opa Oranmiyan (Oranmiyan staff). Oranmiyan the third Ooni of Ife was the youngest of Oduduwa’s sons, the father of Yoruba nation.

He grew up to become a popular man endowed with great physical powers and prowess. Initially popular as a great hunter, he later became a universally acknowledged conqueror, in Yoruba land and far beyond. That he was never a mean man
was evidenced by the fact that he conquered and brought under his sovereignty many territories. Oranmiyan Empire was vast, stretching into Ilorin, present Kwara State in the north, the Ogun River in the south and east of Osun and Dahomey present Benin Republic in the west. The empire was divided into kingdoms all of which owed allegiance to him. He was the first Alafin of Oyo and one the kings of Benin in which his lineage are still ruling the empire up to this present day.

An obelisk called Oranmiyan staff was erected on the spot where he was believed to have been buried. It is a 5.18m stone column (an about 4-feet square at the base), which is believed to have been the walking stick of Oranmiyan.

On one side of the column are several spike nails driven into it and some carvings of ancient characters. The nails are ranged in an orderly manner and render them significantly conspicuous. The nails have been variously interpreted as a diary of events in the life or Oranmiyan or as a record of festivals. After the death of Oranmiyan, it became customary that before Yoruba warriors went to any war, they were duty bound to first make sacrifices to the Oranmiyan staff: this was to enable them win such wars.

The staff and the groove are located at Mopa area in Ile Ife. Any newly ordained king in Ile Ife and environs collects his staff of office in the groove. Visitors are allowed to visit the shrine during the day.

There is a similarity between the Opa Oranmiyan obelisk in Ilé-Ifè. The Opa Oranmiyan was erected at a spot once believed to have been the burial site of Oranmiyan, a grandson of Oduduwa. Archeological evidence has now shown it not to be standing on any burial spot at all, but to be just a visible memorial to the fabled progenitor whose name it bears on its body.

On the Opa Oranmiyan, as has been since its (undated) erection is an inscription in middle-eastern letters that archeologists have accepted as corresponding in sound to “Oranmiyan”.

Oranyan Omoluabi, King of the Yoruba, also known as Oranmiyan, was a Yoruba king from the kingdom of Ile-Ife and heir to Oduduwa. According to Yoruba history, he founded Oyo at around the year 1170 AD and one of his children, Eweka I, went on to become the first Oba of the Benin Empire.

Following the Oba’s death, his family is fabled to have erected the miniature obelisk known as the ‘Staff of Oranmiyan’ at the place where their father died. Radiocarbon tests however show this miniature obelisk was erected centuries before during the “classical” Ife period.

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