The Ọ̀yọ́ Empire was a powerful Yorùbá empire of West Africa that covered parts of present-day eastern Benin and western Nigeria and was one of the most politically important states in the entirety of Western Africa, lasting from the mid-7th century till the early decades of the nineteenth century.
Oníkòyí played an important part in the political and military administration of the kingdom, defending the Ọ̀yọ́ Empire against external forces and leading the army to battle as their Field Marshal. It was also his responsibility to lead all provincial kings to the metropolis at Ọ̀yọ́ on the annual festival when these chiefs paid homage and tribute to the Aláàfin, ruler of the empire.
His title of Oníkòyí is hereditary and is borne by members of his lineage.
Tell them about an unflappable warrior
A warrior both at home and on the battlefield
The bird’s offspring on Ìrókò tree
Akalamagbo’s child with magical sight (1)
One who walks ahead and notices people approaching from behind
Oníkòyí, who used a thread to bind the rock
With the witchery lines of Ayajo (2)
Oníkòyí, who is undeterred by gunshots
Death’s son, disease’s son, who can never become ill.
Oníkòyí who is assertive on the battleground
One who enjoys nothing more than conflict
The combatant who never takes a break
The child of the squirrel who cannot be apprehended by onípàkúté (3)
Oníkòyí who is unfazed by adversity
The offspring of the resolute Akọni (4)
One who walked on the earth and rattled it
The child of the coconut root
That wreaks havoc on the soil
Oníkòyí who made a war garment out of spider web
A combatant with psychic powers
One who stays at the crossroads
And commands feral creatures from the forest
One who commands rainwater
And fills the barren akèrègbè when he is parched. (5)
Oníkòyí, a jungle dweller who struts like a king
Oníkòyí journeyed to terrifying bush,
And caused such a ruckus in the woods.
where two hundred spirits stood against him.
He summoned the unhittable breeze,
Which he harnessed to bind them.
Oníkòyí a powerful figure
Who arrived in the dark forest
And came face to face with the cruel warriors,
He recited incantations and set the dried grass on fire,
Which he used to burn them.
Oníkòyí, who goes for night walks
And notices the baby’s missing nails
Oníkòyí, who walks during the day
And refuses to notice passers-by
Because he sees just what he wants to see.
He’ll eat Ologini if you bring it to him (6)
Bring him Alapandede; he’ll gobble it up (7)
Bring the alligator to him, he’ll devour it
But he’ll never be able to devour the squirrel
Because it’s a forbidden subject
For the squirrel represents his forefathers.
by Amore David Olamide
- Akalamagbo’s child: Akalamagbo refers to the ground hornbill (Bucorvidae) bird. Traditionally, Onikoyi was praised as the child of various birds of prey — the vulture, eagle and hawk.
- Ayajo: Myth-incantations contained within the oracles used in Ifa divination.
- Onípàkúté: A setter of snares.
- Akọni: Meaning ‘Hero’.
- Akèrègbè: A gourd.
- Ologini: A cat.
- Alapandẹdẹ: A swallow.