The story behind the Opa Oranmiyan (staff of Oranmiyan) of historical relevance to Oranmiyan a descendant of Oduduwa (the first Ooni of Ile ife).
Among his many descendants, Oduduwa had seven most prominent ones who, in turn, became the Olowu of Owu, Alaafin of Oyo, Orangun of Ila, Oba of Benin, Alaketu of Ketu, Olopopo of Popo and Onisabe of Sabe. Some people also like to include the Olu of Warri, Awujale of Ijebuland and Alake of Abeokuta to this list, but they are considered to have come at a later date.
Oranmiyan Omoluabi Odede, Great Prince of Ife, King of the Yoruba, also known as Ọranyan, was a Yoruba king from the kingdom of Ile-Ife. Although the youngest, he became the prime heir of Oduduwa (Arole Oduduwa) upon his return to claim his grandfather’s throne.
There are a lot of controversies surrounding the Arole, one is that it is believed by some that Oranmiyan was two-tone complexioned [half his body was light-skinned (like Ogun’s), while the other half was ebony-black (like Oduduwa’s)]. Due to this, he was given the name Oranmiyan (or Oran ni Omo ni yan, which means “This child has chosen to be controversial”)
According to Yoruba history, he founded Oyo as its first Alaafin at around the year 1300 after he had left Benin where he had been crowned the first Oba of Benin. Ile-Ife is an ancient town with many historic tourist attractions, ranging from the Palace of the Ooni, the Ife Museum and many others.
One of the top attractions at Ile-Ife is the Oranmiyan Staff (Opa Oranmiyan). The staff is above 18 feet and has some intricate designs on it. It has myth, history and culture around it. It is a must-see for tourists. A visit to the ancient city of Ife would not be complete without seeing the staff. The Oranmiyan Staff can be seen at the Oranmiyan Shrine at the Arubidi quarter of Ile-Ife. Although certain traditional rites are performed there, it is still open to tourists. But there are some parts of the shrine that could only be accessed by the initiates.
On entering the shrine, the staff could be seen just about 40 feet away. It has a square shaped elevated demarcation made with stones. From atop the demarcation, there are three steps to walk down and get to the staff. It is further demarcated by a metal chain. The base of staff is covered with white clothes. On the left is a small grove with tall trees shielding it from visitors. Walking further behind the staff will lead to the inner sanctum said to be for only the initiates.
Opa Oranmiyan is said to symbolize the essence of Ile Ife, first as the traditional source of the Yoruba people because Oranmiyan is a descendant of Oduduwa. Although the Oranmiyan staff is said to have been used by Oranmiyan, the round obelisk does not look like something a human being could carry.
Words from the mouth of a traditionalist is that 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 have close relationship with Greek letters.
Although tourists to the shrine are allowed to stand at the elevated demarcation and take pictures, they are not allowed to go near and touch the staff. 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.
Despite its age and history, the staff still plays an important role in the installation of traditional rulers of some towns and cities. Before some kings are installed, the sword of office for each of these kings must be removed from the the Oranmiyan Shrine and given to them.
Also, according to someone at the shrine, the Oranmiyan Staff plays a role in the installation of a new Ooni of Ife since the staff is an embodiment of not just the spirit of Oranmiyan, but of all the other Ooni that had ruled Ile-Ife.
Initially popular as a great hunter, Oranmiyan later became a universally acknowledged conqueror, in Yoruba land and far beyond.