Crowns have been won, kings have been made, and kings have passed over and time again in Yorubaland. However it is done, the existence of the Yoruba people is traced to a deity known as Oduduwa. Along the line and through his lineage, several Ooni of Ife have come and gone with the current being Ooni Adeyeye Enitan Ogunwusi who rose to the thrown in 2015.
Right from the earliest times, the Ooni of Ife serves as more than just a physical ruler but his place as the spiritual father of the people has been vital. In the land of 401 deities, Ile-Ife, where Oduduwa reigned but is believed to have never been an Ooni, the pattern to which an Ooni is made has gone through changes a number of times. Currently, however, there are 4 Ruling Houses – the Lafogido House, Okewere; Osinkola House, Iremo; Ogboru House, Ilare; and Giesi House, which is where an Ooni is selected from. Here is a list of all the Ooni in history and what they’re known for.
All The Ooni of Ife From The Time of Oduduwa to the Present Era
51. Ooni Adeyeye Enitan Ogunwusi
- Time of Reign: 2015 – Present
- Nickname: Ojaja II
Currently, the traditional king serves as a spiritual leader to his people. Among his spiritual works is soliciting on behalf of his people to God and the Òrìṣà during annual festivals such as Olojo.
Some Facts about Ooni Adeyeye of Giesi Royal Dynasty
- He has a keen interest in empowering women and youth
- The current Ooni of Ife is a certified chartered accountant and the Chancellor of the University of Nigeria, Nsukka
- He has been linked to several women, including his first wife Adebukola Bombata and the most recent, Olori Ashley Afolashade
- It has been reported that his birth was predicted, hence his mother named him Enitan
- Ooni Adeyeye reportedly almost committed suicide after taking a huge loan but music helped change his mind
50. Okunade Sijuwade
- Time of Reign: 1980-2015
- Nickname: Olubuse II
In 1980 when Alayeluwa Oba Okunade Sijuwade was 50 years old, he was crowned the Ooni of Ife. He is the grandson of Ooni Sijuwade Adelekan Olubuse I. His reign lasted 35 years until it was cut short by death. At the time, the monarch was 85 years old.
His death marked a change in the history of Ife rulers when he became the first Arole of Oduduwa to die outside the shores of Yorubaland. This would lead to debates since it is reported that an Ooni is supposed to die in a Yorubaland. While others see it as accepting the change that comes with time, others see it as a new era in which tradition may be forgotten.
Some Key Things to Know about the 50th Ooni of Ife
- The rumor of his death first came in July 2015 but was debunked
- Oba Sijuwade was a subject of controversy when he reportedly became a Christain even though an Ooni is traditionally a Yoruba diety
49. Ooni Adesoji Aderemi
- Time of Reign: 1930 – 1980
It was in 1930 that the then 41 years old Ooni Adesoji Aderemi became the 49th ruler of Ile-Ife. Prior to that, he served as the first indigenous governor of western Nigeria. His rule has been praised for bringing development into Ife as well as the peace that flourished.
Although his reign ended with his death in 1980 at the age of 90, his deeds have outlived decades in Nigeria. He is often remembered for his pushing for the present Obafemi Awolowo University which was formerly the University of Ife to be located in Ife – a University that would live to be at the top of the best universities in Nigeria.
Facts About Him
- His father was an Ifa worshipper who died when he was about 8 years old and his mother would become a Christian
- Ooni Aderemi was one of the first to attend St. Philips, Ife, one of the earliest schools in Western Nigeria
- He is often regarded as the first literate Ooni
- At the time he became a ruler, he was the youngest Yoruba oba
- He was keen on promoting education and saw to the creation of Oduduwa college two years after he started ruling
48. Ooni Ademiluyi Ademakin
- Time of Reign: 1910 – 1930
- Nickname: Ajagun
Born around 1860 in Ile Ife, Oba Ademiluyi would become the 48th traditional head of the Ife people in 1910 when he was about the age of 50. Only 2 years after his reign started, the descendant of Oduduwa was made the Head of Natie Administration among other positions that he later claimed.
Although he was a warrior who brought security confidence when he first came to power, Ife soon lost its peace that would lead to the killing of the then-Balogun of the town. This would not stop his reign of 20 years until June 24 1930 when he reportedly died of bronchitis and fever.
Some Important Things to Know about Oba Ademiluyi Ajagun
- He was a hunter and farmer before he wore the crown of Ooni
- The traditional chief of the Yoruba ancestral home had more than 47 wives and about 70 to 100 children
- There are reports that the African Mona Lisa that sold for £1.2m at an auction in London in 2018 is the depiction of the grandaughter of Ooni Ademuliyi, Princess Adetutu Ademuliyi
47. Ooni Adekola
- Time of Reign: 1910-1910
In 1910, after the death of Olubuse I, Oba Adekola became the 47th Ooni of Ife. His reign has been recorded as one of the shortest – if not the shortest in the history of the rulers of Ife. His reign ended only 3 months from the time it started as a result of death.
What to Know about the 47th Ooni
- He is one of the least recorded Ooni of Ife
- The same year that his reign ended, German archeologist Leo Frobenius founded highly sculptural art of the past Ooni
46. Ooni Adelekan Olubuse I
- Time of Reign: 1894 – 1910
- Nickname: Oba Olubuse I
The reign of Ooni Olubuse I is often regarded as the beginning of the reign of modern kings of Ife. Although his contributions to Ife have limited records, it sure has contributed to the growth of the Ife kingdom as one of the most famous and well-established in Nigeria.
45. Ooni Aderinsoye Ologbenla
- Time of Reign: 1880 – 1894
- Nickname: Derin Ologbenla
Ologbenla was born into royalty and started out as a prince who would later mark his name as a warrior. His heroic acts in wars led to him earning the name Olegbenla to mean “one who inflicts heavy wounds”. His deeds and wars he fought were mostly for the oppressed in Oyo amidst other places.
Prior to being crowned an Ooni, he alongside his soldiers founded Okeigbo – a town that reportedly still has many traditions similar to Ile-Ife.
- He became an Ooni at the time when the Yoruba land was visited by the heat of the Kiriji/Ekitiparapo civil war that lasted almost 16 years.
- The Ooni had supernatural powers that made him invincible during wars in order to defeat his enemies
- A foundation, Derin-Ologbenla Foundation (DOF), that is aimed at rendering services to people and empowering youth was created in honor of him
- Ooni Derin belong to the Giesi royal home
44. Ooni Orarigba
- Time of Reign: 1878-1880
The 44th Yoruba people’s king of Ife started his rule after the death of the 43rd Ooni. His reign lasted 2 years until his death. Although he is a descendant of Oduduwa, a lot of details about him have been canceled. More to all of these, Ooni Orarigba is the great-great-grandfather of Oba Adeyeye Enitan Ogunwusin, the 51st Ooni of Ife.
43. Ooni Degbinsokun
- Time of Reign: 1849 – 1878
The reign of Ooni Degbinsokun lasted 29 years until it ended with his demise in 1878. In the year he started his rule, the Ife-Modakeke bloody battles started. However, 10 years into his reign, Christianity grew in the town of Ife with the Church Mission Society (CMS) having its first successful outreach in Ile-Ife.
42. Ooni Adegunle Adewela
- Time of Reign: 1839 -1849
Ooni Adewela began his reign in 1839 and it lasted 10 years. At the time he was the Ooni of Ife, one of the kingdom’s landmarks, The District Officer’s House, Modakeke was established in 1940. Away from his ruling and in his personal life, his ancestor Ooni Adebanle Sojuolu reportedly had an affair with a woman from Owu that ended up producing the ruler.
41. Ooni Wunmonije
- Time of Reign: 1835-1839
In 1835, Wunmonije became the 41st Ooni of Ife and lasted for 4 years before his death in 1839. A year before the end of his rule, a free-standing brass head alongside other heads made of copper was found at the Wunmonije compound in 1938. The heads were believed to be the heads of the ancient Ife rulers from 1200-1400CE.
40. Ooni Gbegbaaje
- Time of Reign: 1823 – 1835
Throughout the history of Ife before 1823, other Yoruba communities around the kingdom had respect for it. Nonetheless, in the 19th century, the people of Owu were known as great fighters. They started with a threat in 1810 in Apomu, a town in Ile-Ife. The reign of Ooni Gbegbaaje turned the new page for Apomu when he waged a war on the people of Owu during his reign and won.
Ooni Gbegbaaje became one of the Kings of Ife to be dubbed a warrior for securing the town even though his reign lasted only 3 years.
- Time of Reign: 1800 – 1823
Gbanlare became the Ooni of Ife in 1800 where he remained the ruler for 23 years. His reign, according to reports, was the last time a member of the Ilare Royal House of Ogboru Dynasty would rule in the kingdom.
- Time of Reign: 1770 – 1800
At the time of his reign as Ooni, Oyo was under attack by the Fulani that would result in the fall of the old Oyo Empire. The people of the empire scattered to other environs, including Ife to get security. Ooni Akinmoyero gave them shelter, farms and recruited some of them into his army. In addition, his helping hand to the Oyo settlers would later reportedly lead to the formation of Modakeke.
Based on recordings, the newly formed army amid the existing would help Ife extend to Alakowe – a present boundary of the town with Ilesa.
- Nickname: Lanibuwa
Oba Ojigidiri is from the Oshinkola House of Iremo. Although his reign may have ended in 1770 before Ooni Akinmoyero ascended, there is barely any information available about the time he started ruling Ile-Ife.
36. Ooni Adagba
It was after the death of Ooni Osinlade that Ooni Adagba ascended the throne of Ooni of the Yoruba People’s ancestral home, Ile-Ife. He became the 36th king.
- Nickname: Otutu
The Ooni hails from the Lafogido Ruling House of Ile-Ife. He is one of the only 8 rulers of Ife to hail from his ruling house as at the time of this writing. His rule started after the 34th ruler of Ife, Aribiwoso. Ooni Osinlade served as the 35th king of Ile-Ife.
34. Ooni Aribiwoso
The 34th Ooni is believed to have a lineage in the current Ogun State. Although he may have passed centuries ago, his lineage is still in existence and the 51st Ooni Adeyeye would work towards making an appointment of Olota of Ota in Ogun to foster unity of the descendants of Aribiwoso.
More than 30 rulers of Ife had passed until Lugbade’s head fit the crown of Ife. His service, like a number that came before him, has little written documentation but may not necessarily be out of the oral tradition of the people.
32. Ooni Okiti
There was a call to serve the people of Ife through a king after the previous Ooni Olojo joined his ancestors. This would lead to the coming into power of Ooni Okiti as the 32nd traditional ruler of Ile-Ife.
31. Ooni Olojo
Based on popular opinion, Ooni Olojo was the son of the 30th Ooni, Adejinle. His reign as the 31st Ooni of Ife was cut short when he died and was succeeded by Okiti.
30. Ooni Adejinle
Another descendant of Oduduwa, Ooni Adejinle ruled the land of the people that is currently above 500,000. He is the 30th Ooni of Ile-Ife who ruled after Ooni Ajila-Oorun, the 29th Ooni of Ife.
The Giesi royal family, also known as Giesi House of Moore, produced Ooni Ajila-Oorun as the 29th traditional head of the Oduduwa land of Ife.
Ife was visited by another king when the crown had no head to wear its crown after the 27th Ooni, Ademilu. Omogbogbo was the 28th Ooni.
27. Ooni Ademilu
After the traditional rule of the 26th Ooni came the 27th in the form of Ooni Ademilu. From birth, he was given the name “Ade” that suggested royalty or crown. Following his rule, he was succeeded by Omogbogbo.
26. Ooni Larunnka
If not for the possible death of the 25th Ooni, Lagunja, Ooni Larunnka may not have started ruling at the time that he did. The 26th Ooni did not have a successful rule as the Ogun, Oranmiyan or some other recorded legends of Yoruba land, but his rule may have been successful in its own way as an earlier ruler before colonization.
25. Ooni Lagunja
The life of Lagunja took an entirely new turn when he was crowned as the 25th Ooni of the holy land of the Yoruba people. His rule may not have enjoyed as large documentation as others who came before or after him but his role in leading the town of Ife is vital, and contributions to making it one of the most revered Yorubalands cannot be overemphasized.
24. Ooni Ojelokunbirin
The rise of Ife was contributed by Ooni Ojelokunbirin when he took held the staff of office and wore the Ooni crown as the 24th king of Ife. The powers of Ooni were bestowed upon him following the death of the 23rd Ooni.
22. Ooni Agbedegbede
Descendant of Lajodogun and the scion of the Giesi royal dynasty, Ooni Agbedegbede, marked his name on the sands of time as far as Ife is concerned as its 22nd Ooni.
22. Ooni Lumobi
He was the successor of the only woman to become the Ooni of Ife. The Ooni is the descendant of Lajodogun, the 9th Ooni.
21. Ooni Luwoo Gbagida
- Time of Reign: 10th century
- Nickname: Luwo
Ooni Luwoo changed the phase of ruling in the Ile-Ife kingdom when she became the first and only female Ooni. According to sources, she married Obaloran and birthed Adekola Telu who would later found Iwo Town in present-day Osun State in the 14th century.
Some Facts about the Female Ooni
- Ooni Luwoo was the daughter of Oduduwa’s sibling, Obatala
- She was perceived as a wicked Ooni despite making history and as such, there are recordings that kingmakers swore to not make a woman become the ruler of Ile-Ife
- She reportedly never walked on bare ground as Ooni but hand-made clay tiles that offenders of her land created for penance
- Ooni Luwoo brought about decorations of pavements as well as open-air courtyards through the use of pottery in ancient Ife
20. Ooni Giesi
Ooni Giesi was the maternal grandson of the 19th Ooni Ogboruu. He is the father of other Oonis that came through the Giesi dynasty that has ruled the land of Ife several times.
Like his predecessor Ooni Osinkola from the other ruling house of Ife, Ogburu was named after him and those who fall under the dynasty are his descendants.
18. Ooni Osinkola
The 18th Ooni of Ife would rise to be the rock upon which the Osinkola ruling house was created. He was the successor of Ooni Adegbalu.
17. Ooni Adegbalu
One of the rulers of Ife is Ooni Adegbalu who in spite of the fact that he has recorded his name as the 17th Ooni, there is barely enough documentation about his reign.
16. Ooni Okanlajosin
Ooni Okanlajosin is the 16th Ooni of Ife. He became the ruler of his people as the successor of Ooni Gboonijio.
After the death of Ajimuda, Gboonijio was crowned as the king of Ife as tradition demanded since he is of the lineage of Oduduwa. He lived as the 15th Ooni before his reign ended when he died.
14. Ooni Ajimuda
History records Ooni Ajimuda as the 14th Ooni of the kingdom of Ife. He is reported to be the son of Ekun, the 13th Ooni. As such, he may as well be the direct grandson of Oduduwa and the brother of the man who founded Akure in present-day Ondo State.
13. Ooni Ekun
Although he has been recorded as the 13th Ooni of Ife who succeeded Aworokolokin, there are further reports that claim he was one of the direct children of Oduduwa. The allegations further recorded that the Ooni birthed Asodeboyede.
His said son traveled and founded Akure (initially known as Akunre to mean a place where needs cut).
The 12th Ooni of Ife is believed to have reigned around the 13th century. According to some reports about the oral tradition as regards his rule, one of the vital things to have happened was the beheading of the advisor and assistant of the Ooni, Lajuwa.
11. Odidimode Rogbeesin
He is the 11th Ooni of Ife who started his reign following the death of Lafogido.It is not clear if his reign was as successful as many of his ancestors and successors because the internet has little recording about him.
Being a former prince, brother of Lajodogun and son of Lajamisan, it became clear that Lafogido had a high chance of becoming an Ooni which he did after the demise of his brother. His reign brought about the Lafogido ruling house that produced Ooni Ademuluyi Ajagun, the 48th Ooni of Ife. In addition, the first and only female Ooni is his descendant.
Ooni Lajodoogun succeeded his father to become the 9th Ooni. He was the son of Lajamisan and through him came the Osikola, Ogboru, and Giesi Ruling Houses that have produced numerous Ooni for more than a century.
8. Ooni Lajamisan
Lajamisan started his rule after Ayetise as the 8th Ooni of Ife. He is recorded as the son of Oranmiayan and he fathered Lafogido and Lajodogun who later became the 2 ruling houses of Ife.
Some Facts about the Ooni that You Should Know
- As per reports, he came to power through conquest
- All Ooni after him are said to be his descendants and have ruled over 7 centuries.
Ooni Ayetise was the 7th Ooni of Ife. However, some recordings about him on the internet claim that he succeeded Ooni Alayemore. Other sources on the other hand counter this claim with the report that it was Oranmiyan that he succeeded.
6. Oranmiyan Omoluabi Odede
This king of Ife started as a prince. According to some accounts, he was the younger brother of Ooni Obalufon Ogboodirin, the 2nd Ooni of Ife. According to other reports, he is the last son of Oduduwa and described as a warrior, hunter, and traveler. Other accounts suggest that he is the son of Ogun but was adopted by Oduduwa.
Although it remains shadowy the exact time he started his reign, there are suggestions that he ruled Benin around the years 1200 to 1300. Nonetheless, he would later return to his ancestral home, Ile-Ife, where he became one of the most powerful Oonis of the kingdom. He was a warrior who would go out many times to fight and in his absence, his people would call in times of distress and would appear to fight their battles with his mystical sword.
Some Facts about Ooni Oranmiyan
- He was famous as a deity being fathered by 2 gods, Oduduwa and Ogun who allegedly slept with his mother
- While a part of him was light-skinned, his other half was dark to represent the complexion of Oduduwa and Ogun
- History has recorded that he founded Oyo and made his son Ajaka, the first Alaafin of Oyo
- Ooni Oranmiyan went to Benin, married and had a son named Eweka who would become the Oba of Benin, the father of other Obas of Benin
- Every Ooni that came after him was given his sword as part of the coronation
- He is a deity that is worshipped by some Yoruba people
5. Ooni Obalufon Alayemore
Ooni Alayemore was the 5th Ooni of Ile Ife. He is the son of the 4th ruler of Ife, Ooni Obalufon, and remains vital in the history of arts, science, and technology of the Yoruba people.
At the time of his rule, he left his seat for Oranmiyan, and afterward, he turned back to succeed him, thereby becoming the foremost of Ife kings to be crowned twice.
Important Things to Know about the 5th Ooni
- He had one of the most successful reigns having established many towns, helped in the economic growth of the town, and reduces crisis through several means
- The 5th ruler of Ife was transformed into a stone sculpture after his passing away
- Ooni Alayemore’s reign still has an effect on the Oonis that came after him as the sacred crown called Aare must be blessed in his shrine before a new Ooni wears it.
4. Obalufono Gbogbodirin
The Ooni has been described as one who was created in a special way and while he was alive, his contributions towards the arts and fabrics of his people were enormous. He was said to have reigned for centuries and while he grew old, he was transfigured into a metal figurine.
- He has one of the longest reigns in the history of the kings of Ife
- Ooni Obalufon was from the lineage of Obamakin
- He is a deity
- One of the most popular terra-cotta masks gotten from Ife is that of Olubufon which has been kept in the museum and believed to be made in Ife around 12th-15th AD
- He married the historical queen Moremi Ajasoro who was also carried to Obalufon and Oranmiyan
3. Ooni Ogun
- Nickname: Oggun, Ogou, Ogum, god of iron
Like in the case of Osangangan Obamakin, Ooni Ogun’s rule may come with slight differences as reports have it. To others, the reign of Ogun came after the demise of Oduduwa and was the second Ooni but the first after Oduduwa. Other reports have it that the Ooni was the 3rd after Obamakin ousted him.
Nonetheless, Ooni Ogun was a craftsman known for creating high metal-work that would later be discovered in the Yorubaland.
Facts about Obamakin
- He was a warrior and seen as the god of war, metal or iron
- He is an Orisha reverenced in Yoruba religion, Edo religion, Vodun, Santeria, Haitian Voudou, and Louisiana Voodoo in different countries like Nigeria, Benin, US, and Haiti among others
2. Osangangan Obamakin
- Nickname: Oba Makin, Obalufon Ogbogbdonrin
The ruling of Osangangan is controversial. While there are stories that claim he started his existence at the time when Oduduwa was in existence, others claim he became an Ooni after Oduduwa. Nonetheless, a common story is that he traces his existence to Oranfe – the god of lightning and thunder who came to earth based on the orders of Oduduwa.
One other common story is that he is the founder of Olugbo, a kingdom that one of the richest kings in Nigeria, Oba Frederick Obateru Akinrutan serves as a king.
- Time of Reign: 12th Century
- Nickname: 1st Oduduwa, Olofin Otete, Olofin Adimula
Oduduwa is often regarded as the father of all Yoruba people who came to earth to create land from water. The ruler’s gender has been controversial in history as accounts record him as male while others claim him to be female who married Obatala.
Obatala’s exact role in Oduduwa’s life is further controversial as different sources suggest that they were siblings, while others claim they were married. Other sources also claim that Obatala was married to Oduduwa’s daughter.
Whatever the case, none of the suggestions stopped Oduduwa from ruling his people. However, narratives often come up that although he may be the founder of Yoruba from Ile-Ife, he was never an Ooni but ruled Ife and extended his kingdom through his children and grandchildren through which the Alaafin of Oyo and Oba of Benin Dynasties came to existence.
Important Things to Know about Oduduwa
- He is a diety mostly regarded as the favorite Orisha of Olodumare
- He was a warrior who wore war clothes made of iron
- Oduduwa’s reign in Ife was allegedly only temporal
- His death may have been caused by Obatala, Orunmila, and Owa Ilare
Out of the 51 Ooni of Ife to have been recorded, the 4th Ooni, Obalufon Ogbogbodirin, is recorded as the longest-serving Ooni with about 400 years of reign. Nonetheless, all the Oonis are remarkable for their various contributions in Ile-Ife while others have extended theirs to other Yoruba kingdoms as well as Benin of present-day Edo.
In conclusion, the seat of the Ooni of Ife is not expected to be vacant and in this regard, once an Ooni dies, another is quickly installed.