The Oranmiyan Sword

It was generally accepted that Obalufon Ogbogbodirin was the eldest son and Oranmiyan the youngest. Okanbi was the eldest daughter who beget The Olowu of Owu and six other famous kings. The place of Ile-Ife in the hierarchy of Yoruba race was clearly evidenced by the life and death of Oranmiyan, the youngest son of Oduduwa and the fourth Ooni of Ife.

It is a well established fact that Oranmiyan described as “a man of great physical power and mighty conqueror”, founded Oyo and installed his son, Ajaka as the first Alaafin of Oyo. He then went on to become the first Oba of Benin, and installed his son, Eweka (owo mi ka) in his place, “thus giving the Benis the long line of kings from the Oranmiyan dynasty, before returning to Ile-Ife to occupy the throne of his father, Oduduwa, until his death.

On the Oranmiyan dynasty,  is is evident that Eweka was the first Oba to rule in Benin and that he had a Bini mother. The precise date of his reign was however not absolutely certain, because Eghareuba gave the date as 1200 and Talbot and Bradbury around 1300.. In the same manner, one can say that the period of the reign of Oranmiyan as the forth Ooni of Ife cannot be precisely dated. Oral history from our forefathers at Ife told us that even though Oranmiyan was on the throne as Ooni of Ife, he was often away from Ile-Ife on his war expeditions against the neighbouring hostile nations to other parts of the country.

 Although the body of Oranmiyan might be far away from Ife many indigenes believed that his spirit was permanently with them at Ife. Consequently, whenever there was war at Ife, on land or territory or an attack on the sacred city by hostile neighbouring towns, the Ifes would send to Oranmiyan wherever he might be, to come home and save them. Remarkably, each time the Ifes called, Oranmiyan would appear immediately with his mystical sword and vanquish the enemies thus leading to the saying in Ife that “in time of war the Ifes always called on Oranmiyan” (Ijo ogun ni Ife npe Oranmiyan) and he would answer them.

This culture of always looking upon and total reliance on the power and ability of their Oba to solve most of their problems persists among Ife indigenes at home till today. According to Ife oral history, there was a particular incident, when a  fight broke out between two factions in Ife which nearly developed into a civil war. One of the factions decided to invoke the spirit of Oranmiyan, their king by calling on him to come home to defend Ife. Oranmiyan appeared at once with his magical sword thinking that the factions fighting themselves were an external force. He started to fight and kill those he thought were the external aggressors until when he realised that the people he was killing were his own subjects. Oranmiyan angrily and mournfully pitched his mystical sword on the ground and disappeared to the Palace, where he vowed never to use his sword again, when he later joined his ancestors he was buried on the spot where he pitched his sword.

 In remembrance of the Ooni Oranmiyan, a gigantic monument of some ten feet high (an obelisk) was built around the sword which Ifes called “Opa Oranmiyan” (The Oranmiyan’s staff) at a designated area, where Oranmiyan was buried, deified and worshipped till this day. Because it was an acknowledged fact that Oranmiyan the youngest son of Oduduwa reigned, died and was buried in Ile-Ife, all Yoruba kings as part of their ascension and coronation ceremonies were expected to receive and handle the greatest symbol of Oranmiyan’s strength -Oranmiyan’s sword (IDA ORANMIYAN) as representing their sword of office from Ife. It has also been the custom for many years for most crowned Yoruba Obas to visit the grave of Oduduwa in Ile-Ife for blessings during their coronation ceremonies.