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Missing Kings and Royal Laundry

Who are the missing 7 grandsons of Oduduwa? 9 of his  16 grandchildren are easily  identified.  The remaining 7 are buried within the oral histories of various Yoruba towns. The version of Yoruba history told by the Oyo dynasty states that he had 1 son and 7 grandchildren. But some versions of Yoruba history state that Oduduwa had 16 sons, not 16 grandsons or 7 grandsons. sons or grandsons.  Anyway, the number 16 is consistent, and so far 9 grandsons ( who may have been sons) have been tracked down.

Oduduwa - Vertical

So who are the myserious 7? Various Yoruba  towns mention  other Oduduwa princes as their founders –

  1. Ikole Ekiti – Ikole was  founded by Akinsale who is believed to have been  a prince of Oduduwa by the Ikole people
  2. Efon Alaaye – The first Alaaye of Efon Alaaye was Obalufon Alaaye who must have been a much younger grandson as it is claimed he was also the third Ooni. Oduduwa was the first.
  3. Ado Ekiti – Biritiokun, Son of Oduduwa was the father of the Awamaro , king of Ado Ekiti according to the people of Ado Ekiti
  4. Ondo – the history of Ondo relates an account where a grandson of Oduduwa’s called Ajaka had a wife who along with her son Aiho founded the Ondo dynasty.
  5. So far unidentified
  6. So far unidentified
  7. So far unidentified

With any luck, the last 3 will turn up without having to read through all of the history of all the Yoruba towns.

But where’s the Ooni connection in all this? Is he one of the missing 3? Or is the Ooni line  as widely claimed really descended from the son of an illegitimate wife of Odududwa’s called Orunto? Was there such a thing as illegitimate wife back then?

Okanbi had EIGHT children. SEVEN (Onipopo of Popo, Onisabe of Sabe, Alara of Ilara, Ajero of Ijero, Orangun of Oke-Ila, Owa Obokun Ajibogun of Ijesaland and Oranmiyan) by his “legal” wife, and one (Ooni) by his slave turned wife, named ORUNTO.”- Remi Oyeyemi (IFE/BENIN CONNECTION: THE RELEVANCE OF DATING AND THE BURDEN OF SMALLNESS)

And if it is true, it’s  ironic  to note that the Ooni’s position as Yoruba royalty  and spiritual head has become the most wealthy in modern times. Some of the kings who can recount their lineage directly to the legitimate wife of Oduduwa, are certainly not in the same league in terms of modern wealth. At that time when each of the princes was setting off to conquer other lands and people, it must have seemed to the child who became the Ooni that being made the spiritual head was a consolation prize, you know, sit down in Ile Ife  and look after sculptures and statues etc . But look how things have turned out… The British turned to the Ooni to settle matters among the Yoruba kings and generally it seems the Ooni found favour with colonists and politicians.

Kingdoms of the Yoruba, Robert S Smith
Kingdoms of the Yoruba, Robert S Smith

Perhaps this question of legitimacy and the issue of modern wealth is behind  the recent media  battle of supremacy between the Alaafin, the Oba of Benin, and the Ooni in present times? Is it right to state that the Ooni’s role is as spiritual head over all of Yoruba, while the Alaafin is the political head of Oyo which was once the most powerful dynasty in Yorubaland? And because of this, Ooni’s stronghold being spiritual has never waned, whilst the Alaafin’s has been dependent on winning/losing military and political battles, which in 1895 brought his role into head on clash with  the British colonists who ultimately cut the Alaafin’s role down?

ALAFIN humiliated
Sex and the Empire That Is No More: Gender and the Politics of Metaphor in Oyo Yoruba Religion Paperback – 1 May 2005 by J. Lorand Matory (Author)

sex empire no more

 

 

Even the Oba of Bini also met a similar fate in 1897, whereas the Ooni and Ile Ife went through the colonial period largely unscathed.

Oba of Bini british

According to Ooni Sijuwade in 2009 , the very first Ooni was Oranmiyan who ” owned the Benin and Oyo dynasty as a warrior prince before he became the Ooni.”  So is the Ooni a son of Oranmiyan? And not  a son of Oduduwa?  None of the texts found up till now have quoted the Ooni linking his lineage by blood to Oduduwa… that’s probably a reflection of my research skills, but should it be so hard to dig up?

ooni sijuw

One thing that’s useful, when the Yoruba kings are upset with each other , they fling royal secrets about.  Here’s to more sibling squabbles and airing of dirty royal laundry, it certainly helps with documenting and bringing Yoruba history  from oral methods to the pages of social media.

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