By Adejumo Kabir
The story of Moremi which captures the heroic deeds of a woman, who dared the odds to save her people, is very alive in Ile-Ife.
The story revolves around the life of Moremi Ajasoro, a beautiful woman from Offa, who was married to Oranmiyan, who was Ooni at a time Igbo invaders, dressed in raffia palms, used to harass Ile-Ife.
This took place in an unrelenting fashion, year after year, and all this occurred at a distant time in the history of Ile-Ife. At a point in time, Oranmiyan was so disturbed that Moremi asked him what the problem was.
He then replied that it was the constant raids by the Igbo warriors and the havoc it caused, that was giving him much food for thought.
Consequently, Oranmiyan became nervous and troubled. Moremi now reflected on a course of action to restore her husband’s happiness, and bring peace to the people of Ile-Ife.
She went and approached the river goddess Esimirin to find a solution to the incessant problem. Esimirin offered to help her, but at a price to which Moremi agreed and said if the goddess is going to help her, then she is ready to pay any price.
The goddess then said that she will take a most prized possession from Moremi, to which she agreed, thinking that that the goddess wanted an animal sacrifice like a Cow or Goat.
The goddess advised Moremi that when next the Igbo raiders came, she should allow herself to be captured and being a very pretty woman, the next time they came, she was captured and taken as a war slave. When the king of the Igbos saw her, he fell in love with her and made her one of his wives. Within a short period of time she had integrated herself within the palace and the society, and soon found out that the raffia palm was simply a disguise the Igbos used to make themselves invisible while attacking Ile-Ife.
She also discovered that a fire brand can destroy the Igbo raiders who always came covered in raffia palms.
Having discovered this secret, she waited for a golden opportunity and escaped back to Ile-Ife armed with the information. When she arrived Ile-Ife, she conveyed this information to the King and the elders, for which they were glad and happy, and they all waited patiently for the next time the Igbo invaders would come.
As soon as the invaders came, the people lit firebrands and attacked the Igbo raiders, and they perished.
This significant event turned around the fate of the people as well as that of the town of Ile-Ife. After the rejoicing had gone down, Esimirin appeared to Moremi and asked for the fulfillment of the promise earlier made to which Moremi brought a cow as well as a ram. But the goddess rejected these, saying that it was Moremi’s son, Olurogbo that she wanted as a sacrifice.
Moremi had no option but to offer her only son. As a result of the huge loss to Moremi, the people of Ife, as well as the elders in a remarkable act, all decided that from that day onwards, they would all be her children.
Thus, from that day onwards, the Edi festival was instituted as a rememebrance of the heroic deeds of Moremi who saved her people from the raiding activities of Igbo warriors. This is significant because it depicts a society made up of both male and female, submitting to an exemplary woman, endowed with powerful intuitions and courage, who lived among, and was one of them. The legend of Moremi also demonstrates the early involvement of women in politics in Yoruba society, and it also highlights that heroic deeds.
Furthermore, a number of public places are named after her in contemporary Nigeria, such as the female residence halls at the University of Lagos and Obafemi Awolowo University; and female hostels in some Unity Schools in the country.