What you don’t know about Oranmiyan’s Staff

First, before we discuss the significance of the staff of Oranmiyan popularly called “Opa Oranmiyan”, let us answer the question on who Oramiyan is.

Oranmiyan was a warrior, the youngest son of the great Oduduwa (the progenitor of the Yoruba race) and the third Ooni of Ife.

It is believed to be the felled sword-turned-staff of the warrior Oranmiyan which is about 18 feet but can only be accessed at 40 feet away with a square-shaped elevated demarcation made with stones, constructed by the family of Oranmiyan Omoluabi Odede the Great Prince of Ife and King of the Yorubas as a commemorative monument at the place where he died.

The Oranmiyan obelisk is over hundreds of years old and has a significant history. Lawrence Omidiora, an Ife indigene, acted as a guide on the tour of the shrine.

“Opa Oranmiyan symbolizes the essence of Ile Ife, first as the traditional source of the Yoruba people because Oranmiyan is a descendant of Oduduwa, the progenitor of the Yoruba race. He was the grandson of Oduduwa,” he said.

“As at the time the other Yoruba towns were being established, Oranmiyan played a prominent role in the establishment of traditional rulership in these new locations in Yorubaland. It was Oranmiyan that established dynasties in Benin and Oyo. Benin was first before Oyo,” he said.

Although the Oranmiyan staff is said to have been used by Oranmiyan, the round obelisk does not look a staff a human being could carry. Omodiora said he was not aware of any known archaeological research on the obelisk to confirm the veracity of this myth about the staff.

Omidiora explained the myth and story behind the staff.

“Oranmiyan was a great warrior and he had a sword. At the point of his death, he dropped the sword and it transformed into the staff as we see it today. The marks you see on it are letters that some scholars said to have a close relationship with Greek letters.”

According to Omidiora, the obelisk still has strong supernatural powers: “There is a belief that the staff is a living soul and must be appeased. That is why members of the two families, Eredumi and Akogun, are involved in its worship up till today. In the period of the inter-tribal wars, the staff was always consulted before wars and the powers from the staff helped to secure victories over enemies,” he said.

Despite its age and history, the staff still plays an important role in the installation of traditional rulers of some towns and cities. He said: “Before some kings are installed, the sword of office for each of these kings must be removed from the Oranmiyan Shrine and given to them.”

Also, according to the guide, the Oranmiyan Staff plays a role in the installation of a new Ooni of Ife since the staff, an embodiment of not just the spirit of Oranmiyan, but of all the other Ooni that had ruled Ile-Ife.

The guide further said: “The attributes of Oranmiyan must be embraced by the Ooni. He needs these to effectively function. Some of these attributes are within the shrine and with the staff of Oranmiyan. So it is important for a person ascending the throne of Ooni to be familiar with the shrine and staff.” 

OLUWASEUN AFOLABI

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