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 to be the reigning ancestor of the crowned Yoruba kings.[1]

Emperor Odùduwà
Ife Kings Head.jpg
Odùduwà Atewonron "Jingbinni bi Ate'kun"

About Oduduwa


Oòdua first appears as one of the divinities of the Yoruba theogony; The narative indicates that Oduduwa denotes “the essence of behaviour” (Odu-ti-o-da-Iwa).[2]


Oral history of the Oyo-Yoruba recounts the coming of Oduduwa from the east, sometimes understood by some sources as the "vicinity" of Mecca, but more likely signifying the region of Ekiti and Okun sub-communities in northeastern Yorubaland/central Nigeria. Ekiti 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 groupings like Igala, Igbo, and Edo.[3]

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.

Some oral traditions claim that Oduduwa was Olodumare's favourite orisha, 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.


Alternatively, the Benin 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 to rule the Empire around 1,100 AD.[3]

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, the Great Spirit, 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.

Due to this experience, Obatala is said to have subsequently made it a taboo for any of his devotees to drink palm wine.

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.[4]

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.[5]

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.

Oduduwa and the line of Alaketu

  • A princess gives birth to the future crowned king of Ketu.

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.

Oduduwa and the line of Olupopo

  • A prince is crowned king of Popo.

Oduduwa and the line of Alaafin

  • A prince is crowned king of Oyo.


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.


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, 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.[6]

Alternative views


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 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, dismissed the common myth that all Yorubas are descendants of Oduduwa as a false representation by Orisha worshippers to gain an unjust advantage over the spread of Islam and the recruitment of Christianity".[7] The Muslim scholar advised his followers at his Awqaf Africa College London 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.[7]"

See also


  1. *Obayemi, A., 'The Yoruba and Edo-speaking Peoples and their Neighbors before 1600 AD', in JFA Ajayi & M. Crowder (eds.), History of West Africa, vol. I (1976), 255-322.
  2. OPC's the History Of Oodua
  3. 3.0 3.1 Article: Oduduwa, ancestor of the crowned Yoruba kings
  4. E. Bolaji Idowu Olódùmarè: God in Yoruba Belief (ed Hardcover) Wazobia, 1994 ISBN 1-886-83200-5
  5. Bascom, W., The Yoruba of Southwestern Nigeria, New York, 1969
  6. Yoruba Alliance:Who are the Yoruba!
  7. 7.0 7.1 DELAB International Magazine, July 2010 1465-4814

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

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