Saturday 16 July 2022


Okanmbi had just been installed as the Olofin, the Oba of Ile-Ife. He was very popular among his subjects. He was kind, generous, benevolent and sympathetic to the plights of his subjects. He had the fear of Olodumare in his heart. He had several wives, those who he chose to marry on his own and those who were presented to him as royal gifts. Unfortunately, however, none of these wives was able to conceive and beget a baby for him. This was Okanmbi’s major source of sorrow. Consequent upon this, Okanmbi summoned Ikun abinu-gbento and Agbe-n-fi-ibere-soro, his two favourite Ifa priests, for consultation: “Eriwo ya, my exalted Babalawo” Okanmbi started, “you all know my problem in this town. I assumed the throne of my ancestors principally because my father gave birth to me. I do not have any child to this day. The implication of this is that my own ancestral line will come to an end if I do not have a son who will succeed me whenever I die. I do not believe that this is the wish of the deities for me since I never think, speak or do any evil in my life. The fact that all my wives are unable to give me the fruit of the womb up till this time underscores the fact that there is a serious problem. I am convinced that this problem can be solved. I call you today to come and solve this problem for me. Olodumare, the Orisas and my ancestors shall judge and reward me according to my character towards my fellow human beings” Okannibi concluded. The Babalawos assured him that they would do their best to ensure that the problem was solved without delay. They brought out the ancestral Ifa of the Olofin, the Oba of Ile-Ife and Ifa was consulted. During the consultation, Oturupon-Tete (Oturupon -Irete) was revealed. After much deliberation, the Awo declared: ”Kabiyesi, Ifa foresees the ire of child-bearing for you. Ifa says that you shall not die without leaving several children behind you who will continue your ancestral lineage. Ifa, however, advises you to offer ebo and to offer a human being to serve your ancestral spirits.” Okanmbi offered all the ebo. He called for the Aworo (officiating priest) of his ancestral shrine and asked them to look for a suitable person who would be serving in the shrine. “Kabiyesi, there appears to be a misinterpretation somewhere,” said the head of the Aworo. What we need to do is to slaughter the person so picked for the ancestors so as to enable them to bring forth the fruit of the womb for your wives.” “No!, shouted Okanmbi, that I shall never do!” How could you expect me to kill one human being in order to get another? The spirits will not be happy with such an act,” he declared. The Aworo told him, that what they (the awos) had said was the wish of the spirits and it could not be changed by anyone, least of all the custodian of the very tradition which they wished to uphold. After many arguments back and forth, it was concluded that a slave would be used and offered as the sacrifice for the ancestral spirits. Olofin Okanmbi was advised to pick any one of the numerous slaves living in the palace so that the ritual could be performed that very day. Okanmbi refused to use any of his slaves. He said, “They are all very familiar to me. They are all a part of my subjects. I cannot bear the loss of any of them. They are simply part of my household”. He concluded that another slave needed to be purchased so that the ritual would be performed that day. The Aworo sent two Abese (palace domestic staff members), to Ejigbomekun market to go and purchase a slave forthwith. At Ejigbomekun market, there was only one slave in the market that day. The name of the slave was Oluwo, Agbamonu – ile, eru Ikole” Oluwo was captured at Ikole-Ekiti. This slave, a female, was in her twenties. She was of average beauty. “Can we use a female as ritual material for Olofin’s ancestors?”, one of the Ilari who came to the market asked his colleague. “Why not? blood is blood – whether from the veins of a male or a female.” “As long as it is a human being, the wishes of the ancestors and the Aworo will be satisfied”. “In any case, the young woman will be offered to the ancestors today before sunset, so why must we give ourselves undue worry over that?”, The second Ilari responded. All these conversations occurred right in the presence of Oluwo. When they eventually bought her in the market, she knew that she was going to the palace to be offered as a sacrifice. In this wise, she was aware of the fact that she would not live beyond that very day on earth. This realisation made her resign herself to her fate. The three of them, Oluwo and the two Ilari, left for the palace soon after the payment.

At the junction of a three crossroads on the way to the palace, they met four prominent Babalawos who were travelling from town to town and from one village to the other. They had never stayed in one town or village for more than three months at a time. So at this junction, they were confused as to which direction to take. They, therefore, decided to consult Ifa for guidance. The names of the four Babalawo were:

Agirigiri Awo ori ikun,

Ona gbo kanyin-kan ma we, Apankoko pankoko pankoko pa

Kii fee mu t’owo o re wa

Afi ko gba t’owo eni....

When Ifa was consulted, (Oturupon-Irete) was also revealed. As they were analyzing this Odu, Oluwo and the two Ilari passed them by.

“Young woman”, one of the four Babalawo called, “You are going to become pregnant and you shall give birth to a baby boy. Seventeen lunar years after, the boy shall become an Oba. Right now, you have only six pieces of cowries with you. Ifa says that you need to offer them as ebo so that what you have been told will come to pass” he concluded.

Oluwo stopped short in her tracks, she was convinced that the message was certainly not for her. She knew that she would not be around the next day, not to mention the next year. “Exalted Ifa Priests, I am sure a mistake has occurred in your message as that message cannot be for me. Truly, I have only six cowries left with me here and I am prepared to give them to you as my refusal to do so will not make the money useful to me anyway. I am going to meet my death today as all preparations have been made for me to be offered to Olofin’s ancestors this evening”, Oluwo responded. She then handed over the six cowries to the Babalawo.

“Young woman, we have just told you what Ifa asked us to tell you,” the Babalawo said. They asked for her name and she told them. The two Ilari were laughing and rolling on the ground, making jest of Oluwo and the four Ifa priests who they considered to be very stupid people for engaging in an exercise of futility. “Can’t these stupid Babalawo realize that this woman will soon die today? How will she become pregnant, within the short period remaining for her to live on earth?”, they probed. They then resumed their journey back to thel palace. They soon reached the palace.

As soon as they arrived at the palace, Olofin Okanmbi asked another Ilari to go and call the Aworo so that the ritual could be performed without delay. When the Aworo arrived, they forgot to bring along with them the Teetu, the executioner. By the time they got the Teetu it was very late and nothing could be done that day. The head of the Aworo said, “Kabiyesi this ritual cannot be done in a hurry. We, therefore, need to postpone it until the next day so as to be able to do a thorough job for His Royal Highness”. It was agreed that the assignment would be performed the next morning.

When it was clear that everything would have to wait until the next morning, Olofin Okanmbi called one of his wives who happened to pass around the palace at that material point in time.” Olori, please help me take care of this young woman until tomorrow morning”. He pleaded.

This Olori was not aware of the development taking place in the palace in regards to the ritual or even the Ifa consultation which was done earlier that day. She was incidentally the wife in whose room Olofin Okanmbi was supposed to sleep in that night. She retorted to herself:”this is the peak of insult that Kabiyesi is passing on to me. Why is it that when it is my own turn to receive the Olofin in my room that he asks me to go and take care of another woman for him?! Why must he be insulting me like this? Why is he so insensitive to my emotional requirements? As if this is not bad enough, he has ordered me to do this in the presence of his chiefs and office staff. I am sure they are laughing at me by now”, she complained bitterly to herself. “Anyway, I know what to do to him. I will surely make him pay for this. He has asked me to take care of a dirty, stinking, ragged, hungry looking woman when I had just gone to plait my special hair-do which he enjoys seeing on my head. I shall make him pay for this!” She continued on and on until it dawned on her that if she refused to comply with the directive of the Olofin, she would be severely dealt with.

Consequently, she fetched water for the woman. She asked her to go and take her bath. She gave her food and let her (the slave) go and sleep in her own room until the next day. The Olori then went to sleep in another room.

Meanwhile, the instruction that Olofin Okanmbi gave her was for her to take care of the young woman by ensuring that she was kept among the female slaves and to make her comfortable until the next day. He asked this Olori to do it because she was one of his favourite wives.

In the dead of the night, and as is the custom in all Yoruba palaces, Olofin Okanmbi felt his way into his favourite Olori’s room. As soon as he entered the room, even though the room was in pitch darkness, he knew that something was amiss. He could not perceive the fragrance he used to feel whenever he normally entered his Olori’s room. When he entered her bed, he discovered that her favourite hair-do, which she had made and which he saw in the evening of that day, was no longer there. She also did not utter one word or sound while he was in her room. “This is the peak of Olori’s insolence towards me” Olofin thought within himself. “I shall no longer tolerate this, I am going to deal with her. I will teach her one or two lessons which she will remember for the rest of her life!! Why must she remove the Aaso hair-do which she is supposed to have on when I come into her room? And why is she not uttering any words? By the time I finish dealing with her, those who do not know her will weep for her”, he swore. Olofin Okanmbi toyed with the idea of refusing to make love to her but decided not to do this. He reasoned that doing so would have no positive impact at all. It would only make the woman think that he had gone into another room to make love to another woman. He, therefore, made love to the woman on the bed without much interest or enthusiasm and then left for his own room immediately.

Unknown to Olofin Okanmbi, he had just made love to Oluwo, the slave he was expected to offer to his ancestors as sacrifice the next morning.

While in his room, anger did not allow Olofin Okanmbi to sleep. He was contemplating the most appropriate punishment for his recalcitrant wife. He concluded that the punishment must be made public as a deterrent to other wives. The Olori was equally contemplating the most appropriate response to Olofin’s blatant cheating on her because she knew he had slept with Oluwo. She concluded that she would make it difficult for him to appeal to her. She vowed not to accept him in her room and on her bed for at least three lunar months. Very early the next morning, Olofin was in the palace waiting for his Aworo. The first person he saw was his favourite wife. She was full of anger. But alas, the Aaso hair-do was still on her head! Out of anger and frustration, she shouted “Kabiyesi, why did you do that to me yesterday? Instead of you sleeping in my room, you chose to have another woman instead of me. To add insult to injury, you asked me to make her comfortable for you.”

That was when everything that had happened the night before became very clear to Olofin Okanmbi. He then understood why the odour of her fragrance was not perceived; why the hair-do suddenly disappeared at night; why she had not uttered one word or sound; and why his wife was now very angry and upset. Olofin Okanmbi explained to her that “I did not ask you to keep this woman in your room for me. Instead, I asked you to take care of her and to find her a space in the female slave’s quarter and make her comfortable there” Olofin Okanmbi went further that “immediately I reached your room at night, I noticed that something was amiss. However, I did not wait to find out what it was before I returned to my own room. You need not worry, because of my keen senses, I did not make love to Oluwo. I would never have made love to someone else instead of my favourite Olori.” He concluded.

After being assured that no harm was meant and that nothing was done to slight her, the Olori apologized to her husband and everything returned to normal.

Meanwhile, Olofin Okanmbi was full of confusion. He was thinking within himself. So many thoughts crossed his mind at the same time. So I have made love to this slave woman. If this has been done, then what difference is there between her and my other wives? After making love to her, do I have any moral justification to ask people to offer her as a sacrifice to my ancestors? Do I have any reason to discriminate against her based on the fact that she was a slave? What was the difference in the birth of slaves and freeborn?

After much debate within himself, he concluded there and then that he could not justify the death of this woman and therefore could not order her death. If it was true that his ancestors needed a human being to be sacrificed to them, surely it was not this young woman, he reasoned. In conclusion, he decided to spare this woman.

After this, the Aworo and Teetu came. Olofin Okanmbi discussed the situation with them and told them that he had just discovered something which made the young woman unsuitable for sacrifice to his ancestors.

Olofin Okannibi ordered that Oluwo should instead become the personal staff, servant and aide of his favourite wife. This was very pleasing to the Olori and Oluwo, the slave turned domestic servant. Oluwo soon became Olori’s companion. Olori would treat her as a younger sister.

One month after, Oluwo reported to Olori that she had missed her period. Olori asked her how she managed to become pregnant. She asked, “Were you sleeping with the slaves or any of the other male domestic servants in the palace? She responded that Kabiyesi was responsible for her pregnancy!! Olori nearly fainted.

When she recovered, she inquired, “How did this happen?” Oluwo explained everything that had transpired to her that one night. Oluwo said that when the Olofin entered her bed she decided not to say a word during the whole ordeal because who would dare say anything to the Olofin? And also, what did it matter anyway since she would be executed the next day? “Let us go and meet this cheating double-crossing and shameless man!” Olori screamed.

Sheepishly, Oluwo followed Olori to confront Olofin Okanmbi. “You are a liar, a cheat and an irresponsible man! Imagine an Oba controlling the whole world making love to an ordinary slave! How many free-born women have you talked to that have refused your overtures that made you condescend so low to the extent of making love to a slave! Your entire subjects will hear of this! The person who all mortals on earth tremble at the mere mention of his name! I will ensure that your name is dragged in the mud! I will …..

“Quiet woman! And mind your utterances before you incur royal wrath on yourself. I shall not sit passively and allow anyone, which includes you, to insult me right in my presence. If you have any problem, explain it quietly and with due respect or keep your mouth shut”, Olofin Okanmbi thundered back at her.

“Did I hear you say if I have a problem? Of course, I have no problem. You are the one who has a problem and your problem is that you condescended so low as to make love to a mere slave! You made yourself cheap. You personally decided to throw your self-respect into the wind. You are the one who needs to explain to the world why you have chosen to make love to an ordinary slave! Shameless man!” She was crying at the top of her voice now.

“If you don’t keep quiet now, I shall order the guards to not only bundle you out of my royal presence but to equally throw you out of the Palace. If there is any problem, let me know and stop ranting. If you must know, I have never tampered with my dignity and self-respect. Both are still and will continue to remain intact as long as I live.

“Maybe you do not know this yet,” said Olori. “The breeze has blown and the anus of the fowl has been revealed. Your illicit love affair with Oluwo has been exposed. There is no secret in this world. Remember, this girl here was supposed to have been offered as a sacrifice to your ancestors the next day after she was brought into the Palace. If you had done just that, maybe your little but cheap secret would have remained a secret forever. But no, the ancestors have a way of exposing people like you. You ordered that she must not be used for that purpose again. Others may think that this is as a result of your kindness; but no, it was because you had already commenced an illicit love relationship, which you wanted to continue with her. Let me tell you this; there is no denial as Oluwo is already pregnant for you!”

Olofin sat quietly for what appeared like an eternity. Afterwards, in the most solemn voice she had ever heard him use in all the time they had been together, he said “Oluwo, is it true that you are pregnant from me?”

Instead of answering, Oluwo was just crying quietly. “Is it true?” Olofin Okanmbi persisted with his question. After some time, Oluwo nodded her head in confirmation.

“What do you have to say to this? Everyone will hear about what you have just done, I can assure you of that. I will personally let the world know that you have polluted your royal blood, and the whole royal household by impregnating a mere slave”! She screamed.

Instead of responding, Olofin Okanmbi stood up very slowly and quietly walked into the ancestral shrine. He was there for quite some time. When he finally came out, Olori and Oluwo were still where he had left them.

“Do you know why I went into the shrine of my ancestors?” he asked Olori. Without waiting for an answer, he continued with his statement; “I went to the shrine to give praises and thanks to my ancestors. Although what happened that one night was most unfortunate, it was through this woman that I was supposed to use as a sacrifice that I have now become a potential father. I feel that my ancestors knew that this was how I’d be able to beget a child. The ways of the deities are mysterious. I thank my ancestors for answering my prayers”. He paused for his message to sink in properly.

“As for you Olori, you do not need to worry yourself about telling the whole world for me. I shall do that by myself, starting from this very moment”. After this, he turned to Oluwo and said; “You have made me a potential father and for this I am forever grateful. As from today, you are now one of my wives. All the necessary formalities shall be concluded within one week. I shall invite the people and the Oba of Ikole – Ekiti to attend the ceremony. As from today henceforth, you are free. You are no longer a slave but a free-born and an Olori. All rights and privileges of Olori are hereby yours. No one shall address you as a slave anymore”!!

That same day, Olofin Okanmbi announced the new status of Oluwo to everyone in the palace. All the other wives and slaves reluctantly accepted her new status. Soon after this, all the other wives became pregnant as well and about nine months later Oluwo gave birth to a baby boy. Soon after this birth, the other Olori gave birth to their own babies. Okanmbi was a very happy man.

Sixteen years after this, Olofin Okanmbi joined his ancestors. Immediately after this, the process of choosing a successor began. Ifa was consulted. After an exhaustive investigation, the son of Oluwo was picked to succeed his father. Thus Oluwo became the Oba’s mother. It was at this moment that Oluwo remembered the predictions of Ifa from several years back and began to give praises and thanks to Olodumare, Ifa and her ancestors. She then insisted fervently that she must be initiated into Ifa! Her wish was granted. She, therefore, became the first woman in the history record of Ifa to be initiated into Ifa.

Soon after the installation ceremony of her son as the next Olofin of Ile-Ife, the four Babalawo who predicted that Oluwo would become pregnant and give birth to a baby boy and that 16 lunar years after, the boy would become the next Oba of Ile-Ife returned from their wanderings. They asked for Oluwo. They were told that Oluwo had become the mother of their new Oba. They sent a message to the Palace that they would like to come and visit Oluwo.

When Oluwo heard of the message, she was overwhelmed with joy. She quickly sent a message back to them, saying that she was eagerly expecting them. She spread a new mat, put her Ifa and that of her son’s on the mat. She put kola nuts, water and gin on the mat and waited for the Babalawo to arrive.

As soon as the four Babalawo appeared, she began to sing....

1 comment:

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