DiscoveriesCultures and TraditionsTourismYoruba

12 Amazing Facts About Opa Oranmiyan (Oranmiyan’s Staff) That You Never Knew

Opa Oranmiyan
Opa Oranmiyan (Staff of Oranmiyan) Ile-Ife | © Flickr

Opa Oranmiyan is a popular obelisk erected in the Yoruba town of Ile-Ife, the cradle of the Yoruba race. Below are 12 interesting facts about the mysterious Opa Oranmiyan that you might have not heard before.


The history of Opa Oranmiyan and 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.



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.



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).



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. 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.



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.



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’.



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.



The person in charge of the monument in Ile Ife today is called the Akogun of Ife, Akogun meaning the ‘Brave Warrior’.



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.


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.


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



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.



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.



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 reading,

List culled from Abiyamo.


1. General History of Africa (Volume III) Africa from the Seventh to the Eleventh Century, UNESCO International Scientific Committee for the Drafting of a General History of Africa, edited by M. Elfasi, Ivan Hrbek, page 507.

2. Nigeria: The Bradt Travel Guide by Lizzie Williams, page 175.

3. Art and Risk in Ancient Yoruba: Ife History, Power and Identity, c.1300 by Suzanne Preston Blier, page 38.

4. Perspectives of Yorubaland (Volume 1) by Rotimi Ogunjobi, pages 63, 64, 65.

5. Nationalism and Architecture by Darren Deane, Sarah Butler

6. Third World Modernism: Architecture, Development and Identity by Duanfang Lu

7. The Fourteenth Commissar of Works: The Life and Labour of Rauf Aregbesola by Ayodeji Olukoju, 2007, pages 118, 126.

8. The Handbook of Yoruba Religious Concepts by Baba Ifa Karade

9. Odu, Issues 1-9, Kraus Reprint, 1955.

10. The Oranmiyan Staff, Ile Ife: Memorial Obelisk of An Ancient King, Ife Ooye Blog

11. Collecting African Art by Werner Gillon, Werner Forman, Jo Furman, Eliot Elisofon, 1980.

12. Pan-African Congress on Prehistory, Volume 4, Issue 2, page 363.

Cite this article as: Teslim Omipidan. (August 13, 2018). 12 Amazing Facts About Opa Oranmiyan (Oranmiyan’s Staff) That You Never Knew. OldNaija. Retrieved from


  1. Well , it won’t reveal it’s secrets itself . Archaeology would..
    But then we’ve never paid archaeology any mind….

    1. That is so true and saddening. We really haven’t given archeology the attention it deserves, but OldNaija will keep trying her best. Thanks for your visit and comment, Mr. Yasir. Kindly do check back and speaking of checking back, you can subscribe to our mailing list to get notified of latest updates and exclusive contents.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Back to top button