In many cultures, the term”royalty”, depicts a snobby fat king who sits at his large throne, barking orders, or a beautiful queen that sits all day at her throne, attending to political issues, and ceremonial duties. But in Africa, Royalty goes far beyond that. The African royal family, are of the same nature, throughout the continent. They are great political leaders and conquerors and in many cultures, they are seen as bridges to the gods of the land. They serve their people, and do what is right for the overall citizens of their empire, but most importantly, African royals are known for their immense strength intelligence, bravery, and valor. These are warrior kings and queens who have served their people both on the throne and on the battlefield. There are millions of stories about the kings and queens of the past, their conquests, and epic tales, but no doubt the story of Queen Moremi stands out. It tells the story of a woman who bears the title of mother to every Yoruba individual, A woman who sacrificed her greatest gift for her subjects. Who then is Moremi? And what is her story? Well put on your seatbelts as we travel through time.

In the long ago, but not far away, in the early years of life and civilization, Ile Ife was home to peace-loving people who loved and cared for each other. There was peace in the land, and everyone lived life, attending to his or her businesses. Among these citizens was a great hunter named Lukugba. Lukugba was a fierce and brave hunter who never entered a forest without coming out with a kill. No other hunter measured up to him, and he would hunt down games of incredible sizes. One day Lukugba ventured into a town closer to Ile Ife, a town called Offa. There in Offa, he was told about a thick forest that was feared by the citizens in the community. He was told about how deadly the forest was, how most hunters had never returned after an expedition into the forest, and how only a few made it out alive. But Lukugba was a brave hunter, and when many saw death and fear, he saw a challenge. He ventured into the dark and thick forest, and many were certain he had died but were shocked when he came out. Because of how feared the forest was, the animals were very big, and the series of catches he brought back utterly surprised the people of Offa, that they gave him one of the most beautiful maidens of the town in marriage to him. Lukugba was glad at their show of hospitality. He took the woman back to him to Ile-Ife and together, they settled in Lakaye to raise a family. After a short while, they gave birth to a baby girl and called her Moremi

Moremi grew up to be so beautiful that she only attracted kings to her household. She was loved by the people in her community, and she loved them too. After a short while, Moremi got married to the then Ooni of Ife, Oranmiyan, the son of the founding father of all Yoruba people, Oduduwa. But as beautiful as the union was, Moremi was unable to bear a child. At that time, Ile-Ife was threatened by a force they could not understand. The town went through an evil that raided their villages every five days. They were tall-looking monsters that raided the village, taking away those they could capture, and this happened at intervals, every five days. It was at that time that Moremi finally gave birth to a son. The boy was named Ela Oluorogbo. But Moremi was never at peace. Every day there was weeping in Ife over a person that has been captured by these spirits. Moremi felt the pain of her people and vowed to do something about it. She visited the herbalist of Esimirin to beckon the river goddess to help her get the weakness of these monsters to help defend themselves against the spirits. Esimirin granted her request on the condition that she sacrifice her only son and greatest prize to the river after success is given to her. Although painful, Moremi agreed to these terms and went back home. On the fifth day, these vile spirits came yet again, and this time, Moremi went out and gave herself to be captured by these spirits.

Moremi finally found herself in another town called Ugbo. This town was once part of Ile-Ife, but was exiled by the Ife people, due to seditious intent. In this town, she was a slave, and so were many she saw that was from her village. As she watched, many were taken and sold to people from other civilizations, and for a minute she was completely sure that was her fate until she locked eyes with the king. The King of Ugbo laid eyes on her and was so struck by her beauty that he couldn’t sell her off into slavery. Instead, the king of Ugbo married her. And thanks to the river goddess Esimirin, the king fell deeply in love. But he still did not trust Moremi to love him undyingly. To get his trust, Moremi stayed in Ugbo town, married to the king, for three long years. When she was sure the king had completely trusted her, she asked him about his spirit soldiers and how he controlled these uncanny creatures. At this, the king laughed and told her everything she needed to know about the spirits. He explained that the spirits were humans camouflaged in masquerading to easily capture slaves from villages. He explained that the neighboring countries were completely superstitious and would not even put on a fight against these trained captors. Moremi went on to ask the king how the spirit warriors could be defeated, and the king blinded by Esimirin’s love spell, explained that the spirit camouflage was made of palm fruit and rafia and that if his warriors were attacked by fire, they would easily be defeated.

With this new information, Moremi skillfully escaped the town and ran back to Ile-Ife. But when the king of Ugbo noticed she was gone, he went mad with rage and sent all his spirit warriors after her. Moremi managed to get to Ile-Ife and immediately went to her husband to mobilize the people. She knew her captures were coming but this time, she was ready. She got the people of Ife ready, each warrior with his or her touch of fire, and when the spirit warriors came this time, it was a massacre. They were all incinerated. All the spirit warriors of Ugbo died that day, and the Ugbo people never attacked them again.

Moremi had spied against an empire for three long years, escaped a well-protected city, and joined her people on the front line in a war against their intruders, but nothing was harder than what she was to do next. After the success of her people, the priest of Esimirin visited Moremi and demanded the price of her bargain. She was to sacrifice her only son to Esimirin the river goddess. Try as she may to get the goddess to change her terms for a lighter one, the mind of the goddess couldn’t be changed. Moremi eventually sacrificed her son to the goddess Esimirin. Acknowledging her loss, the whole citizens of Ife created a festival in her honor, and a title as the mother of the nation, and they showed her immense love until her death. Although she lost her son, she became a mother to a whole nation.

 

Moremi’s story shows the great lengths that a queen can go to in other to protect her subjects. Her sacrifice for the greater good of her people reflects the selflessness that defines true leadership. Her story teaches leaders today what it takes to be a great leader, and the responsibility that comes with leadership. The narrative also underscores the pivotal role of women in shaping the course of history. Moremi’s influence challenges traditional gender roles, emphasizing the significant contributions women can make to society when given the opportunity. Moremi was a woman of love, integrity, astonishing intelligence, and courage, and for generations after, her story continues to be told. Her statue in Ile-lfe is the tallest in Nigeria, and the fourth tallest in Africa. Her life story has influenced so many works of literature today. Her legacy resonates as a timeless source of inspiration and guidance for leaders navigating the complexities of their journeys today. Indeed, Moremi is the mother of the Yoruba people and will continue to be until the end of time.

 

 

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