It is very easy to come across male traditional rulers in Nigeria and Africa at large. They are notable figures in most local communities around the continent. But it is very unusual to come across female rulers in Nigeria. Most times, they are either wives or heads of female groups. This is a reflection of the nature of our present day society. These things didn’t start today, it has been happening for a very long time.
When you talk about one of the notable female rulers in the history of Nigeria, you must mention Orompoto. Orompoto or Orompotoniyun, made history as the first and only female Alaafin of Oyo. The Oyo Empire is one of the foremost empires in West Africa that has risen through the outstanding administrative skills of the Yoruba people. Orompoto was responsible for leading the Oyo Empire between 1554 to 1562. She was the daughter of Alaafin Ofinran and the granddaughter of Alaafin Onigbogi, both were rulers of the Empire in their own time.
When her father died, her brother Prince Eguguoju became the next in line to the throne and he stepped into the throne after his father. But he didn’t rule for long before he died without any male successor. Her younger brothers, Prince Ajiboyede and Prince Tella were very young and they couldn’t assume the throne at that point in time. As a result of this, Orompoto was suppose to leave her role as a regent and assume the throne as the Alaafin. This decision did not sit well in with the council of chiefs because they have never had a female rulers in the history of the kingdom.
The chiefs and elders had already started to make plans on who to install as the next ruler of the Oyo Empire, even when she was still ruling as a regent. For every plan that they made, Orompoto was always one step ahead of them. To shut their mouths for good, princess Orompoto summoned the chiefs to discuss plans for her coronation, but they gave her a reluctant response. She asked the elders what she could do to prove that she was fit to rule her people. To ridicule her, the elders told her that she will need to strip n@ked in the palace in seven days from that time.
Princess Orompoto started to wear male clothing’s after the meeting and on the 7th day, she stepped on the podium and removed her hair which she had already cut low. History says that she transformed from a woman to a man after she sat on the throne. It’s alleged that she stripped and people were shocked to see that her body had changed from female to male.
Orompoto became the Alaafin of Oyo and she was very skilled in horseback riding. She created a specialised order with cavalry officers within her army. She fought many battles and died during battle. She’s one of the few Alaafins that died in battle.