Luwoo Gbagida – First And Only Female Ooni Of Ife

History isn’t entirely kind to Luwoo Gbagida and this is primarily because of the lack of written evidence. However, oral tradition attests to the reign of Luwoo Gbagida as the 21st Ooni of Ife. There are various accounts of the reign of Luwoo as Ooni of Ife. Some regarded her as brave and just while others regarded her as arrogant and highhanded.

The stool of the Ooni of Ife is revered and regarded as a position for the male folks. Many people have blamed the reason for this on Luwoo Gbagida. But, we cannot shy away from the obvious fact that in a patriarchal society as Nigeria, it is an almost impossible situation for a woman to reign as King, especially in Yorubaland.

Luwoo Gbagida

Another example in history is Orompoto, the first and only female Alaafin of Oyo. Luwoo Gbagida was crowned spiritual leader and chief custodian of the source of the Yoruba race around 1100CE. As reported, she was a woman of immense physical beauty.

Her leadership was said to be filled with terror and fear, especially among men.

She was an efficient ruler who brought the city’s beautification to a higher level and set everyone to work irrespective of society’s standing or ranking; men were not spared. She applied sufficient force to get people to attend to their assigned job. She was not an easy lady.

Luwoo Gbagida did not like to walk on bare soil, she commissioned the construction of unique pavements (now the property of the Ife Museum) and other open-air courtyards to improve her environment and visited other Yoruba towns.

The tiles were handmade (intensive labour would have been required), and the truth is that at that time, without a degree of high handedness, it would have been difficult to bring to life a project of such scale.

Handmade tiles still in Ife

Ooni Luwoo helped her son, Adekola Telu, establish the city of Iwo. Telu became first Oluwo of Iwo.

One would wonder that despite the achievements of Luwoo Gbagida, she was still referred to as “uncontrollable” by the council of chiefs.

It was reported that after her reign, the council met and vowed not to make a female the Ooni of Ife again as they saw Luwoo Gbagida as being uncontrollable by them.

One important thing to note is that the Yoruba word, “Oba” (King) is not restricted to a particular gender. If the oracle is truly responsible for picking Kings in the Yorubaland and there has been no female king in Ife after Luwoo Gbagida.

Does this mean the oracle is also patriarchal? Do you believe there will be a female Ooni in Ife anytime soon?