The Opa Oranmiyan (Oranmiyan’s staff) is an 18-foot tall granite monolith in the shape of an elephant’s tusk built in honor of the great Yoruba king, Oranmiyan, Centuries ago. It made its way into existence through mythological events that happened in the past. It is also believed that the staff used to be taller than its current height, but many years ago about four feet was broken off from the top during a storm. The Opa Oranmiyan, is also known to be the tallest obelisk of its type in all of Sub-Saharan Africa.
Oranmiyan is the last born of the founding father of Yoruba land, Oduduwa, and he’s also the fourth Ooni of Ife. Oranmiyan is known to be a mighty and powerful man, it is being said that Oranmiyan, Ooni of Ife at that time was always away from Ile-Ife, going into battles against neighboring nations that may be a threat to Ife. Though Oranmiyan was not always with them in person but the natives of Ife believed that his spirit was forever present with them, and whenever there was a war in Ife, the natives would send for Oranmiyan to come to their aid, every time they called, Oranmiyan would appear almost immediately with his mystical sword to fight off the enemies. This showed how the Ife culture relied totally on their kings for solution to their problems.
According to Ife oral history, a civil war once broke out between two parties in Ife, then one party decided to call Oranmiyan to defend Ife, Oranmiyan immediately appeared with his mystical and started fighting and killing the other party whom he thought were external forces, when he realized his mistake, in anger and pain he drove his mystical sword into the earth and swore never to use it again. Later, when he died he was buried next to his sword.
In his remembrance, a ten feet high obelisk was built around his sword which remains till this day, and is called, “Opa Oranmiyan” (The Oranmiyan’s staff), which is being deified and worshipped. It has also been a custom for many years for most crowned Yoruba kings to visit the site of Oranmiyan’s staff which signifies their sword of office.
The staff has 123 nails driven into its body arranged in a bullet-like manner or in the form of an elongated trident, there are also some faded inscriptions and carvings whose meaning is believed to have been lost in time. Its amazing how the Ife’s of that time presumed to have no technical knowledge where able to build something like that and even 123 nails into a granite monolith, even the kind of tools they used is unknown.
The replica of the staff of Oranmiyan, was built by Arieh and Eldar Sharon the Israeli architects who contributed immensely to the construction of the amazing OAU structures. Inspired by their love for African art, most especially the Yoruba culture, constructed constructed the replica of the Oranmiyan staff directly in front of Hezekiah Oluwasanmi Library. The replica was framed by a tall half-cylindrical obelisk of corrugated-textured concrete more like how its original was constructed but there are still a few differences.
There are still many art works of Yoruba ancient history in Obafemi Awolowo University, which will be shared on this website with time.