Ile-Ife is an ancient town with many historic tourist attractions, ranging from the Palace of the Ooni in Enuwa, 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 complex designs on 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. 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 chamber said to be for only the initiates.
The Oranmiyan Staff is hundreds of years old and has history behind it. According to Pa Lawrence Omidiora, an Ife indigene who also acted as a tour guide of the shrine, “Opa Oranmiyan symbolizes the essence of Ile Ife, first as the traditional source of the Yoruba people because Oranmiyan is a descendant of Oduduwa, the progenitor of the Yoruba race.
He was the grandson of Oduduwa. As at the time the other Yoruba towns were being established, Oranmiyan played a prominent role in the establishment of traditional rulership in these new locations in Yorubaland. It was Oranmiyan that established dynasties in Benin and Oyo. Benin was first before Oyo.”
His name Oranmiyan was taken from his appearance, as he fair on one side of his body and dark on the other side. Oranmiyan means a beast. As he grew, it turned out that he was a giant, hence he needed the aid of a walking stick or staff to move around very well.
He was also a renowned warrior, therefore the staff served also as a shield whenever he is fighting. The dots or holes on the staff are bullets holes from guns he was shot at. During his lifetime, he led various war campaigns all the way to Edo. It is understood that after each victory, he takes a wife from the conquered city. So after his conquest of Edo, he took a wife there and had a son, named Eweka (meaning my hand(s) can take care of all these places). When Eweka came of age, Oranmiyan made him a king of that city, hence the title Eweka of the Benin Kingdom till date.
Oranmiyan left Edo and went to Ile Ife and decided to embark on another war campaign to Oyo. After consulting the oracle, he was told that he should go ahead and that where ever his horse slips and falls he should start his war campaign there. Where the horse slipped is where in our present day is where the Alaafin of Oyo resides. After conquering Oyo, he again took another wife named Atiba and she bore him a son named (Ojaka) and made him the Oba. After that, he again went on a war path to Niger and conquered Bida and took another wife who bore him another son.
Oranmiyan’s resting place is just about 200 meters away from where his staff is situated. The staff was not a stone in the first place. It was after he felt he has had enough of war that he spoke to the staff and recited some incantations that the staff turned to stone and he went into his chambers afterwards.
Not long, he also turned to stone while sitting on his horse. The only people allowed to see his stone statue are those children he made kings in different cities. Whenever one king dies, it is mandatory that the new king comes to the resting place of Oranmiyan to carry out some rites before he can ascend the throne. And that has been the case ever since.