The story of Orompoto stands out in history because of the patriarchal nature of the Nigerian society. It is generally believed that the seat of a king belong to the male folks. It is often unusual to hear of female rulers in Nigeria especially in a state like Oyo.
There are traditional laws that bar women from holding such positions in their local communities.
However, against all odds, Orompoto became the first and only female Alaafin of Oyo.
Orompoto achieved this feat even when the mist of partriachy was thick and easy to touch. Oba Orompoto was Oyo’s seventh Alaafin; she was the niece of Eguguoju, her predecessor. Orompoto took the throne, and at that time there was no male heir within the royal family (better still, the available males were too young to rule).
Her brother, Prince Eguguoju, became the next in line to the throne when her father died, and he succeeded his father. However in his youth, he died without a male heir. Her younger brothers, Prince Ajiboyede and Prince Tella, were very young, and at that time they were unable to assume the throne.
As a result, Orompoto would leave her role as a regent (one that was instrumental in driving the Nupe from Oyo in 1555 after a protracted battle) to assume the throne. This decision didn’t sit well with the council of chiefs as there had been no female rulers in the history of the kingdom.
Orompoto was a formidable warrior; even her male counterpart feared her. She made the greatest and final attack to annihilate the Nupe during her former reign as a regent to ensure they never threaten Oyo again.
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The council of Chiefs stood in the way of Orompoto but for every move they made, she remained insistent that she was the next Alaafin of Oyo.
Orompoto invited the chiefs to negotiate preparations for her coronation in an attempt to protect her family interests, and the same careless response was issued. She then asked the elders and chiefs for the chance to prove that she was a man, seeing that this was the only impediment to her coronation.
For the chiefs, this was the perfect opportunity to ridicule Orompoto. They knew she wouldn’t be able to prove that she was a man. So, they gave her seven days to strip herself naked to prove her masculinity. Immediately after this pronouncement, Orompoto started dressing like a man wearing Agbada and fila (cap).
Orompoto revealed her upper part on the seventh day and it was absolutely flat, no breast! They thought it was possible for a woman to have a flat chest, and the Oyomesi were not impressed.
So she went on to remove her trousers, and not only did the Oyomesi see a penis, a scrotum was seen hanging between her thighs, according to oral tradition. All immediately fell on their chest and chanted “Kaabiyesi oooo” — she was enthroned the Alaafin of Oyo immediately.
The mystery surrounding Orompoto’s coronation remains a puzzle till date because no one has been able to prove how Orompoto pulled this off. Oba Orompoto is considered in history to be the first transgender. Popularly regarded as “the custodian of the vagina that kills evil plots”.
It was speculated that her reign lasted from 1554 to 1562. She is said to have died in battle, one of the few Alaafins to have actually died in combat.
The next time someone tells you that the Western world did the first transgender surgery, tell them of Orompoto.