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Facts About The Only Female Ooni Of Ife, Leader Of Yoruba In Nigeria

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Very few women are seen holding the fort of leadership and lording over a kingdom throughout African history. Women are still struggling to find their place in society’s upper echelons today.

It is no secret that African society does not make enough room, or in some cases, no room at all, for women. However, centuries ago, one woman defied that notion, and to this day, she remains the greatest to ever do so, as well as the only woman to do so.

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Queen Luwoo Gbagidi was a trailblazing female ruler who served as the Ooni (or monarch) of Ife and the most powerful superior ruler of Yoruba land. She was described as a stunningly beautiful woman who took pride in her appearance. Her name is known in history as the Luwo Gbàgdá, a descendant of Otaataa from the Okereke compound of Owode. According to oral tradition, she married Chief Balran of Ilode and became the mother of Adekola Telu, the founding member of Iwo town.

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Queen Luwoo is said to have been the 21st ruler of Ife, a trailblazer far ahead of her time. Ilè-Ife, a town in Nigeria’s Osun state, is revered as the Yoruba people’s ancestral homeland, making any supreme ruler, such as the Ooni, a powerful leader.

The subjects look up to the Ooni as their spiritual guide and Chief Keeper of Traditions. The Ooni royal families have been in existence for hundreds of years, and men were thought to have always possessed the revered stool. Luwoo Gbagida is the only female Ooni in the history of Ile-Ife. Ooni Luwo Gbagida became Ooni around 1100CE.

She was also well-known for commissioning the distinctive Yoruba practice of paving elegant sidewalks and outdoor patios with ceramic shreds. The streets of Ile-Ife were paved with quartz pebbles and cracked pottery to punish anyone who committed an offense. The perpetrators were told to bake the clay before breaking it up with their bare hands and laying it on the ground for the queen to walk on.

She was so refined and picky that she refused to walk on bare floors, and some of the hand-made clay tiles she chose to walk on while on the throne are still accessible in parts of Ife and other Yoruba land she visited while on the throne. According to history, the elders of the land saw her as wicked to the Yoruba people, and she was deemed unmanageable and high-handed.

She was known to resent slackers who broke her laws and were a slacker’s worst nightmare. No distinction was made between slave and child. As a result, when her reign ended, the Obas committee met and agreed never to appoint a woman as Ooni of Ife again. Despite being labeled negatively by her council of chiefs, Ooni Luwoo assisted her son Adekola Tolu in building the city of Iwo, making him the first Oluwo of Iwo. In any case, she joins a short list of women who ruled at various times across the African continent.

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Written by How Africa News

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