The story of Moremi Ajasoro of Ile-Ife is not in any way new to Yoruba people as well as people from other parts of Nigeria. The story of the legendary queen has been taught in schools, retold in books, songs, and movies. Today, We bring you a comprehensive and authentic history of Queen Moremi Ajasoro.
Who was Queen Moremi Ajasoro of Ile-Ife?
Moremi Ajasoro was the brave and beautiful Queen of Ile-Ife who saved her people from the Igbo forest raiders who troubled the peace of her town. Moremi hailed from Lukugba compound in Ile-Ife; her mother was a Princess from Offa.
Moremi was the wife of Oranmiyan, a son of Oduduwa and the King of Ile-Ife during the time of the Igbo/Ugbo raids.
Moremi and the Igbo forest raiders
Legend has it that there was a time in Ile-Ife that raiders from the forest robbed the people of their peace and freedom. These raiders were known as Igbo/Ugbo (not the Igbo ethnic group).
The people of Ile-Ife thought the raiders were spirits sent by the gods to punish them. This was because of the scary way the raiders appeared during raids; they were always covered in raffia palms. It should be noted that the Igbo forest raiders were not in any way related to the present Igbo people of eastern Nigeria.
The raid went on for long to the extent that the people of Ile-Ife thought of giving up after several fruitless sacrifices to appease their gods. Queen Moremi was a patriot at heart; she couldn’t endure seeing her people suffer and the unhappiness that beclouded her husband, Oranmiyan who was the king of Ile-Ife. So she sought help from an oracle that instructed her to visit the goddess of Esimirin River.
The goddess promised to help Moremi but at the expense of her most precious possession. Moremi hastily agreed, being a rich queen, she thought that would not be a problem.
The goddess instructed her to deliberately let the Igbo raiders capture her and take her captive during the next raid. The next time the scary-looking Igbo raiders came, Moremi did as she was told, she let them captured her.
Being a beautiful woman, the leader of the Igbo raiders fell in love with Moremi and made her one of his wives. Moremi lived with the forest raiders for some time, it was during this time that she discovered that the raiders were not spirits sent by the gods but humans dressed in masks and raffia palms. Having discovered this secret, she escaped to Ile-Ife and relayed the information to the King and his subjects.
The defeat of the Igbo forest raiders
The people of Ile-Ife were happy and thanked Moremi for her patriotism and bravery. The king instructed his army and the people to be armed with burning torches when next the raiders attacked.
The raiders came, as usual, with the intention of scaring the people but met their waterloo when they were attacked with burning torches. Their raffia palms easily caught fire and they were sent scrambling back into the forest, ablaze!
Moremi’s sacrifice to the goddess
After the victory, Moremi Ajasoro returned to the Esimirin river to thank the goddess and fulfil her pledge. Moremi went with cows and cowries but was horrified when the goddess demanded for her only son, Olurogbo. The goddess refused her pleas and insisted on having her son. She was helpless; in sorrow, Moremi sacrificed her only son, Olurogbo, to the river goddess.
In a short period of time, the sad news had reached the town and the people rushed down to the river, in tears, to sympathize with their Queen. They all pledged to be the sons and daughters of Moremi Ajasoro and that is why till today, natives of Ile-Ife are referred to as the children of Moremi Ajasoro.
However, OldNaija.com gathered from another version of the legend that Olurogbo did not die but was restored back to life by Olodumare who pitied the plight of Moremi. Thus, when the people had departed, Olurogbo resurrected and climbed up to heaven where he is said to have lived ever since with the gods of Yorubaland.
Immortalizing Queen Moremi Ajasoro
To remember Moremi, the Edi festival was instituted. The Edi Festival is a celebration of independence for Ife, it started as a means of celebrating the role the legendary Queen Moremi played and the ultimate sacrifice the Queen Moremi Ajasoro made for the people of Yorubaland.
In recent times, many places are named after Moremi for her heroic deeds. She has been immortalized through books, songs, operas, movies and statues. A 42 feet statue, known as “Queen Moremi Statue of Liberty,” is the tallest statue in Nigeria and the fourth tallest in Africa. OldNaija.com gathered that Moremi Liberty statue is erected in the same compound she lived during her time.