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12 Interesting Things You Never Knew About The Mysterious Opa Oranmiyan (Oranmiyan’s Staff) In Ile Ife

1. THE ORANMIYAN CONNECTION: The oral traditions of the Yorubas state that Oranmiyan Staff was 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. This was to be around the year 1300. However, the most intriguing discovery about the Opa Oranmiyan is that it might actually have absolutely nothing to do with Oranmiyan or even the Yorubas.
Carbondating tests show that the monument was erected centuries before the dynasty of Oduduwa even started. This era is known to the archaeologists as the classical Ife period. Another reason to believe the monolith has nothing to do with Oranmiyan is that the fable says it was erected on the spot where Oranmiyan was buried but excavations have been done in the area and no burial pit or grave was found. So there is a possibility that the great Opa Oranmiyan was erected by an earlier civilization. More archaeological research will have to be done to fully unravel this particular mystery.

 

 

2. DESCRIPTION: The Opa Oranmiyan (Staff of Oranmiyan) as it is called, is a slim carved granite column that is almost six metres tall (more precisely, 5.5 metres). So that makes it quite tall in comparison with the average human height.
Shaped like the tusk of an elephant, this standing stone work has its body ornamented with 123 nails (iron pegs) that are arranged in the shape of an elongated trident leading one to question such a symbolic representation with Neptune the god of the seas whose symbol is a trident. No one really knows how the nails were driven into it and on the same side with the nails are some faded carvings and inscriptions. For now, the meanings of these inscriptions are unknown but are said to be similar to the hieroglyphics of the ancient Egyptians.

 

Tourists feel the energy of the Opa Oranmiyan.

 

3. NOT THE ONLY OPA: Although the Opa Oranmiyan has achieved global fame, it is really not the only Opa (or standing stone work) in Ile Ife. There is also the Opa Ogun (Staff of Ogun, the Yoruba god of war and iron) which is located in the main marketplace. It is however, not as tall and imposing as the Opa Oranmiyan as it stands at 1.8 metres. Opa Ogun is shaped to look like a cylindrical bulb. All over Ile Ife are various stone works (made from local granite or gneiss).
4. WHY IS IT CALLED A STAFF? According to oral traditions, the engraved monolith was used as a walking stick or staff (which means ‘opa’ in Yoruba language) by the giant Oranmiyan. Well, there is no evidence for that and it is obviously too much of an exaggeration for a man to use such an obelisk as a walking stick. But for the sake of tradition, here is a bit of the fable: Oranmiyan was a giant warrior son of Oduduwa (some others say Ogun) and he was the first powerful King (Alaafin) of Oyo.
The warrior Oranmiyan had left Ile Ife and marched south, conquering everything on his path but he had promised the people of Ile Ife that if they ever needed him, he would return from his march of conquests. He said if Ife was threatened, all the people had to do was to congregate and scream his name.
So when the hour of need arrived, the people of Ife did what he had told them and Oranmiyan came storming towards Ife, destroying everything on his way. When he arrived Ife to rescue his people, he unleashed so much power that one of the warriors he killed was his friend. Oranmiyan was so depressed that he had killed one of his own from Ife that out of fury, he plunged his staff (another fable says it was his sword) into the ground where it immediately turned to stone and became a monolith. Oranmiyan then went off into the forest, on horseback, never to be seen again. That is another variation of the fable.
5. IT HAS ITS OWN SHRINE: The Opa Oranmiyan is located inside the Oranmiyan Shrine in Moopa in the Aribidi end of the Ile Ife city. It is one of the major tourist sites and monuments in Ile Ife with the others being the Lafogido Grove, Olokun Grove, Olu Orogbo, Ooni Ilare, Saint David Potsherd (SDP) Pavement and the Yemoo Grove. The staff is still being worshipped till date with the families of the Eredumi and Akogun being some of its most devout adherents.

 

Back in time.

 

6. IFE UNIVERSITY CONTROVERSY: The construction of the Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU, but initially called the University of Ife) had significant input of the Israeli architects Arieh and Eldar Sharon. In October 1962, they submitted their plans for the building of the new campus celebrated by many as the ‘largest campus in Africa and the most beautiful campus South of the Sahara and north of the River Limpopo’. Work did not start until early 1965. The Ife campus was the first Nigerian university to be established based on the recommendations of an all-Nigerian committee.
Trouble started when the architects swung into action. They wanted to incorporate some features that would reflect the local culture and tradition, and this included a concrete replica of the famed Opa Oranmiyan. The shocked Israeli architects were blasted and the idea was rejected as some felt it was nothing but a way to smuggle a phallic representation of the decadent ‘West’.

 

OPA ORANMIYAN: Mysterious and intriguing even back in time…

 

7. THE STAFF AND POLITICS: In 2005, a sociopolitical group called Oranmiyan was established and this was to be the platform that launched the governorship bid for Rauf Aregbesola in Osun State. This is an example of politicians taking advantage of the legendary status of the obelisk in Yoruba history to advance their own causes.
8. PROTECTION: The person in charge of the monument in Ile Ife today is called the Akogun of Ife, Akogun meaning the ‘Brave Warrior’.

 

The staff today.

 

9. RECORD BREAKER: Standing at 18 feet, the Opa Oranmiyan is believed to be the tallest obelisk of its type in all of sub-Saharan Africa.

 

Back in time…
IFE ANTHEM: According to the Yorubas, Ile Ife is the cradle of all civilizations and humanity so the Opa Oranmiyan located in Ile Ife holds a very significant position in anything related to the Yorubas. Therefore, the Opa Oranmiyan is eulogized in the Ife anthem (called Ife Ooye or the Voice of Ife), the anthem goes thus:
1. Ilé-ifè ni orí’run ayé
Ìlú Oòduà baba Yorùbá
Èdùmàrè tó dá wa sí’fè
Kó máse ba ’fe jé mó wa l’órí
K’Olúwa kó maa ràn wá se.
Refrain
Ifè Oòyè, E jí gìrì
E jí gìrì, k’e gbé Ifè ga
Olórí aye ni’fè Oòyè
K’á múra láti tè s’íwájú
Òràmfè On’ílé iná
Oòduà a wèriri jagun
Òkànlén’írún irúnmolè
E gbé ’fè lé’kĕ ’sòro gbogbo
2. Ilé-ifè b’ojúmó ti mó wá
Ìlú àsà on ìlú èsìn
Gbogbo Yorùbá e káre ’fè
Ká lo w’ohun àdáyébá t’ó jo’jú
Ilé Oòduà Ifè l’ó wà
Opá Òràn’yàn; Ilé-Ifè ni.
’ Boji Morèmi Ilé-Ifè ni
Ará, e káre ’fè Oòdáyé.
Refrain
Ifè Oòyè, E jí gìrì
E jí gìrì, k’e gbé Ifè ga
Olórí aye ni’fè Oòyè
K’á múra láti tè s’íwájú
Òràmfè On’ílé iná
Oòduà a wèriri jagun
Òkànlén’írún irúnmolè
E gbé ’fè lé’kĕ ’sòro gbogbo
In the video below, 51st Ooni of Ife, His Imperial Majesty, Ooni Adeyeye Ogunwusi (Ojaja II) is reciting the Ife anthem with his Olori (Queen) and others:

10. RITUALS: Following the death of Oranmiyan, it was the tradition of the warriors of Yorubaland to go to the Oranmiyan Staff before going to battle to offer sacrifices so they could be victorious in wars and their countless conflicts with neighbouring kingdoms.

 

 

11. THE STONE BOXES: In the past, stone boxes with lids were placed at the foot of the Opa Oranmiyan. These stone boxes were used as containers for kolanuts and other traditional offering items.

 

HEIGHTS: How could a human being use this as a walking stick?

 

12. MORE MYSTERIES: The Opa Oranmiyan could have been standing in that position for thousands of years but there is still a lot not known about it. Some archaeologists believe that the Opa Oranmiyan and other granite monoliths must have been constructed in a quarry by the percussion and pecking method with iron tools (iron is also believed to have been used to drill holes for the insertion of the iron nails) but no one really knows precisely. Standing erect and confidently pointing to the stars, only time will tell when the Opa Oranmiyan will reveal all its secrets to a curious world.
THANKS FOR YOUR TIME.
ABIYAMO.

 

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