The Original Slay Queen: Meet the Powerful Ooni Luwoo Gbagida,The Only Woman Who Ruled Ife

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Ooni Luwoo Gbagida was a woman who ruled as the Ooni of Ife. She was crowned spiritual leader and chief custodian of the source of the Yoruba race around 1100CE. As reported, she was a woman of immense physical beauty – a proper “slay queen” who took pride in her attractiveness.

Her reign was said to be filled with terror and fear especially by the men. She was an effective ruler who took the beautification of the city to a higher level and she put everyone to work regardless of status or ranking in the society; men were not spared, she applied appropriate force to get people to attend to the job assigned to them.

She was noted to ride lazy men as horses for violating her laws and was a terror to slackers. There was no distinction between slave or ‘child’. She wasn’t an easy woman.

Because she did not like walking on bare soil, she commissioned the construction of this unique pavements (now property of the Ife Museum) and several open-air courtyards to beautify her environment and other Yoruba towns she visited – she loved the ‘red carpet’ treatment.

The tiles were handmade (must have required intensive labor), and truth is; it would have been impossible to bring to life a project of such size at that time, without a level of high handedness.

Ooni Luwoo helped her son Adekola Telu to establish the city of Iwo – of which he became the first Oluwo of Iwo. But, for all her achievement as a ‘moderniser’ and even helping to co-found a town, she was tagged “uncontrollable’ by her council of chiefs.

13 of her descendants (all identified as male) have taken the throne after her. Not bad for a “wicked” person.
There was Orompoto who reigned for 20 years as Alaafin of Oyo and kickstarted the expansion of the Oyo Empire. Also, Ooni Luwoo ruled as a female Ooni of Ife. There have also been 3 past female Awujale of Ijebu: Oreyeye, first female Awujale of Ijebuland, Oregeje, and Rubakoye.

Based on this, is it possible to say that a Yoruba system of rulership existed that was based on solely on male-interest and male-only succession? So, whose idea was it that a woman cannot become an Oba in Yoruba land?

Most of Yoruba histories were given by Arokins (royal bards) to ‘westerners’. They recorded our history as based on undefined male interest, & d virtual absence of women is there for all to see. It’s very possible that a long list of female rulers was wrongly identified as male.

One important thing to note is that d Yoruba word for the ruler (Oba) is not gender-specific; therefore it does not translate as King or Queen. A lot must have been lost due to the gender conceptual gap in the cultural translation of Yoruba sensibilities into English and vice versa.

We’ve not had a female Oba (except the Ondo/Ekiti regents) in Yoruba land the since the post-colonial era. It just suddenly became ‘abnormal’ for a woman to lay claim to a Yoruba crown. It becomes comfortable to promote such an idea if only you begin the history of the Yoruba/Nigeria with the arrival of the Portuguese.[Adxpillar/Twitter]

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