Oduduwa Omoluabi, Emperor of the Yoruba, phonetically written by his people as Odùduwà, and sometimes contracted as Odudua or Oòdua, is generally held among the Yoruba to be the reigning ancestor of the crowned Yoruba kings.
Oral history of the Oyo-Yoruba recounts the coming of Oduduwa from the east, sometimes understood by Muslim sources as the "vicinity" or direction of Mecca, but more likely signifying the region of Ekiti and Okun sub-ethnics in northeastern Yorubaland/central Nigeria. The Ekiti region is near the confluence of the Niger and Benue rivers, and is where the Yoruba language is presumed to have separated from related ethno-linguistic groups like Igala, Igbo, and Edo.
Whatever the case may be, that which is most important is the fact that he is regarded as the founding ruler of the modern kingdom of Ife at a point in the first millennium of the common era that has been variously deduced by scholars to have been the third century, the seventh century or the tenth century. The state he left behind is the original Yoruba kingdom, and thus all crowned Yoruba kings claim ambilineal descent from its line of kings and, through them, from him.
The Ife oral traditions, on the other hand, tell that Oduduwa was the son of the supreme God Olodumare or Olorun, and was sent by him from heaven to create the earth. Another version of this myth ascribes these roles to Obatala, thereby casting Oduduwa as an usurper.
Descending from the heavens via a chain let down to Ile Ife, Obatala brought with him a cockerel, a pigeon, and a calabash full of dirt. After throwing the soil upon the waters, he set the cockerel and pigeon on the pile of dirt who, in turn, scratched and scattered it around to create the rest of dry land that became the Earth's surface.
Oduduwa subsequently became the first of the contemporary dynasty of kings of Ife, and then sent his sons out with crowns to rule over all of the other Yoruba kingdoms, which is why all royal Yoruba lineages claim direct descent from Oduduwa and refer to the Ooni of Ife as first among equals (popularly rendered in the Latin phrase primus inter pares in Nigeria).
Ile Ife is considered the spiritual capital of the Yoruba to this day.
- Ojuade, J. 'Sina (1992) 'The issue of 'Oduduwa' in Yoruba genesis: the myths and realities', Transafrican Journal of History, 21, 139-158.
- Obayemi, A. 1976. The Yoruba and Edo-speaking Peoples and their Neighbors before 1600 AD, in JFA Ajayi & M. Crowder (ed.), History of West Africa 1: 255-322
- Charles Spencer King, Nature's Ancient Religion ISBN 978-1440417337
Full article ▸