Queen Moremi: Celebrating Africa’s Iconic heroine of liberty
Africa’s history is filled with stories of many heroic women. One of them is the iconic Queen, Moremi Ajasoro, famed to be one of the most heroic women that ever lived. Her bravery and selfless sacrifices are quite legendary. This explains why she is celebrated every year in many African countries and other African communities outside the continent.
She is a highly revered heroine among the 200 million Yorubas in West Africa and in other parts of the world. Her bravery and sacrifice, freed the people of the ancient Yoruba capital city of Ife from the oppression of another ancient warlike tribe known as the Ugbos or Ìgbò (forest people)
Centuries later, after about 1700 years of her exploit, she is still being celebrated and honoured by all culturally liberated Africans especially the Yoruba people who originated from the ancient city of Ile-Ife in western Nigeria.
Oloori Moremi Omowumi Ayoka Okin, was born in Offa as a princess. She grew up in Offa to become a ravishingly beautiful young lady who later got married to Ooni Oranmiyan of Ile Ife, the heir to the King and Founding Father of the Yoruba tribe, Oduduwa.
As a result of her beauty and astuteness, she soon became the Aayo (Queen Consort) of Ooni Oranmiyan and the only one who had his ears on vital issues about the kingdom.
During her stay in Ile-Ife, the ancient city was incessantly raided by a group of warriors who were believed to be from the outer space. This was as a result of their weird dressing as they were usually cladded in dried raffia fronds from head to toes. On each occasion, these warriors carted away food items, materials, and humans as slaves. These unrelenting raids on the ancestral home of the Yoruba were giving King Oranmiyan (himself a renowned warrior) a grave concern. Queen Moremi noticed this mood swing of her husband and asked him why he was brooding endlessly of recent. King Oranmiyan told her it was these mysterious raiders that were giving him serious concern. Queen Moremi instantly decided to do all within her power to restore her husband’s happy mood.
She went to consult the goddess of River, Esinmirin (still in Ile-Ife) and made a vow that if she could be granted the power to overcome the mysterious invaders, she was ready to sacrifice anything the goddess of Esinmirin demanded. The goddess told her to allow herself to be captured when next the invaders come around. As instructed, on the next invasion by the mysterious invaders, Moremi unlike the rest of the inhabitants deliberately allowed herself to be captured by the invaders and taken as a slave to their place which turned out to be Ugbo .
Upon setting his eyes on the war booties, the then reigning Olugbo of Ugbo could not take his eyes off the paragon of beauty that was Moremi. He subsequently decreed that she be handed over to him as a wife. Moremi became the Olugbo’s wife and soon got elevated as the Queen Consort in the Olugbo’s palace. During some moments of passion, Moremi craftily told the Olugbo that she was enjoying everything about her new home except the dreadful warriors especially the way they dressed. The lecherous Olugbo told Moremi that the warriors were merely cladded in dried raffia fronds which were highly combustible.
After this all important disclosure, Moremi surreptitiously plotted her escape back to Ile-Ife. She immediately revealed the secret to her original husband, Oranmiyan and some elders of Ile-Ife. The entire Ile-Ife folks then mobilised and strategized against the next invasion of the marauders who were now known to be coming from Ugbo land. As envisaged, the Ugbo invaders came calling again in their usual raffia fronds attire and Moremi, leading the Ile-Ife people carried firebrands made of Oguso (a highly combustible by-product of palm kennel). The Ugbo warriors were attacked and quite a number of them were burnt to death. The remnants that escaped to Ugbo land narrated their experience of the unprecedented defeat and the fact that it was the missing queen of Olugbo that led the counter-attack.
In any case, that was the end of the Ugbo invasion of Ile-Ife.
The Ugbo people were devastated by the number of casualty suffered and the fact that their King must have revealed their secret to his consort. It was then decreed that it has become a taboo for any Ugbo man to marry any fair complexion lady as a result of the Moremi experience with the Olugbo.
Back in Ile-Ife, while the euphoria of the defeat of the Ugbo invaders was still going on, the goddess of Esinmirin demanded that Moremi should fulfil her vow as made before embarking on the mission to Ugbo land. Moremi offered animals, foods, and other items but Esinmirin rejected all. The only sacrifice Esinmirin wanted was Moremi only child and son, Ela Oluorogbo. She eventually sacrificed him to the Esinmirin goddess in fulfilment of her vow. In appreciation, the entire Ile-Ife promised to be her children and fill the gap of the sacrificed Ela Oluorogbo.
However, the other queens in the palace mocked Moremi as being childless to spite her for taking much of their husband’s attention. In anger, Moremi came to Offa to meet her father who was the reigning Olofa then. She got to Offa at dusk when the Olofa had retired and could no longer receive visitors to the palace. The guards could not recognise her (apparently due to her disguise to escape from Ile-Ife palace) and instructed her to wait at the palace gate till dawn when the Olofa would see her. She insisted on entering the palace but the guards stood their grounds. In frustration, she walked few meters away from the palace gate and put her luggage beneath the Araba tree.
By the morning of the following day, the Olofa was informed of the strange female visitor that came the previous night and the king asked that she should be brought before him. However, when the guards went to fetch the visitor, Moremi could not be found. Only her luggage was brought before Kabiesi and he instantly recognised them to be Moremi’s own. The spot where she left her luggage was where the original Moremi’s house was erected directly opposite the Olofa’s Palace.
Moremi was never seen again in Offa or at Ile-Ife. The probability of her disappearance was that she eventually ended up with her beloved son Ela Oluorogbo in the same River Esinmirin. To commemorate her heroic actions, she is celebrated annually in Offa as ONIMOKA and three months after in Ile-Ife as EDI where the people carry the symbolic firebrand.
In contemporary times, many things have been done to immortalize Queen Moremi. Residential halls in the University of Lagos, the University of Ibadan and Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU) have been named after this great heroine. The tallest statue in Nigeria and forth tallest in Africa was erected in her honour by his Imperial Majesty, the Ooni of Ife, Oba Adeyeye Enitan Ogunwusi
Since 2017, a cultural pageant of Queen Moremi for the 17 to 25-year-olds is organized yearly in honour of the heroine and whoever wins automatically becomes the youth ambassador to the Ooni of Ife for that year
Soon, a travelling show tagged A View From The Masters I will go round different cities in Europe, Asia and other continents across the globe o to teach the world about Queen Moremi and. the rich heritage every African should be proud of.