Old Oyo Empire was a vast and powerful force in the history of the Yoruba’s and Nigeria as a whole.

This great Empire was established in the 15th Century by Oranmiyan, grandson of Oduduwa (known as the father of the Yoruba’s). There are many myths and legends associated with the foundation of the Empire and the infiltration of Oduduwa into Ile-Ife.

The Rise of the Empire

It is pivotal to note that the rich culture of the Yoruba’s cut across the shores of Africa and even to Southern America. Oyo Empire was well known for it’s industrial productions in brass making. Because of its wealth and military skills, Old Oyo was – and still remains – the most important and authoritative faction of all early Yoruba principalities.

Formation of the Empire
The Alaafin was the apex ruler of the Empire. Although not autocratic in nature, (due to the established system of checks and balances), he was undoubtedly a driving force in the growth of the Empire.

The Alaafin is escorted by 3 eunuchs “Efa’s” to the afterlife. Oyo adopted the parliamentary system of governance, and a constitutional monarchy. The Oba’s were the chief administrators of the Yoruba states; they exercised executive powers over all the people of the Empire. Oba’s pay tribute to the Alaafin in respect to their ancestral home, and those tributes were also a source of wealth to the empire.

The powers of the Alaafin were checked by a group of “Kingmakers” called the Oyomesi. They exercised legislative functions and was headed by the Bashorun. The Bashorun plays a vital role in the formation of the empire, and has the power to impeach either the Alaafin of the Oba’s.

Oyo Empire was very decentralized in nature and powers were distributed among several bodies to prevent authoritarianism. The powers of the Oyomesi were in turn, checked by the presence of the Ogboni Fraternity.

The Ogboni was considered to be very scared and commonly referred to as “The Mouthpiece of the Gods”; with their office headed by the Ifa Priest. They were the judicial arm of the empire and were consulted for spiritual solutions, strategy, and prayers. While the Baale’s were responsible for revenue generation.
The main growth of Old Oyo began during the second half of the century, when Alaafin Orompoto started using the wealth garnered from trade to establish a powerful and trained cavalry.
(army of horsemen)

Following the conquer and subjugation of the Kingdom of Dahomey, Oyo’s wealth grew and the empire flourished for many years.

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